by Richard Bowes.
Read by Wilson Fowlie (of the Maple Leaf Singers).
Originally appeared in Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction March/April 2012.
“Silly Billy, The Sailor King,” some called King William IV of Great Britain. But never, of course, to his royal face. Then it was always,“Yes, sire,” and, “As your majesty wishes!”
Because certain adults responsible for her care didn’t watch their words in front of a child, the king’s young niece and heir to his throne heard such things said. It angered her.
Princess Victoria liked her uncle and knew that King William IV always treated her as nicely as a boozy, confused former sea captain of a monarch could be expected to, and much of the time rather better.
Often when she greeted him, he would lean forward, slip a secret gift into her hands, and whisper something like, “Discovered this in the late king your grandfather’s desk at Windsor.”
These generally were small items, trinkets, jewels, mementos, long-ago tributes from minor potentates that he’d found in the huge half-used royal palaces, stuck in his pocket, and as often as not remembered to give to his niece.
The one she found most fascinating was a piece of very ancient parchment which someone had pressed under glass hundreds of years before. This came into her possession one day when she was twelve as King William passed Victoria and her governess on his way to the royal coach.
His Britannic Majesty paused and said in her ear, “It’s a spell, little cub. Put your paw in mine.”
Victoria felt something in her hand and slipped it into a pouch under her cloak while the Sailor King lurched by as though he was walking the quarterdeck of a ship in rough water. “Every ruler of this island has had it and many of us have invoked it,” he mumbled while climbing the carriage steps.
She followed him. “To use in times of great danger to Britain?” she whispered.
He leaned out the window. “Or on a day of doldrums and no wind in the sails,” he roared as if she was up in a crow’s nest, his face red as semi-rare roast beef. “You’ll be the monarch and damn all who’d say you no.”
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