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Before one may understand the concept of the “Byblow King”, one must first fully comprehend the traditional line of succession. That a father should train the son is obvious, and such is the bedrock of our society. A good king raises his eldest son to replace him. A more perspicacious king will prepare multiple sons, knowing that the scythe swings wide, and no man can truly say that he has prepared enough.
So the succession goes from father to each of his trueborn sons, eldest to youngest. Then, if there are no male heirs, title transfers to the eldest daughter, who holds the position as regent in waiting of a worthy suitor. From her, the rule of law transfers down among her siblings by seniority.
Should there be no children left of the marriage, the mother then can rule as regent, for so long as the search for a new king is underway. Should the mother then be struck down, the burden falls to her eldest living male relative, and so the cycle continues.
In the disastrous, and highly unlikely situation where the entire family is wiped out, parliament is duty-bound to choose a new noble house capable of carrying on with the honor and dignity of royal birth. This duty, though clearly enumerated among the articles of Sovereignty, has never yet needed to be exercised. In scholarly circles, it is said that such deliberations might well dissolve the parliament through argument and filibustering.
It is important to understand this. It is important to see that many safeguards are put in place to ensure a swift and safe transfer of power. It is important because, there is a caveat which, when exercised, can throw the entire clearly described and enumerated process into disarray.
In a situation where the king dies, and leaves no trueborn issue, a bastard may be recognized as king. It is an extremely rare and humiliating case which most of the aristocracy would prefer to leave out of the rule of law altogether. However, the law of the Byblow King is one which carries the full weight of the king’s decree.
Such it has been since the days of good King Sigler, who, when faced with losing his entire family to the very popular and powerful Geary clan, decided by decree that his own bastard child should take the mantle after him. The Geary’s took offense, of course, and the battles fought over it were. . .
– Justin Foote, Archivist and author of “The Veever King”
“We should come home from far, from adventures, and perils, and discoveries every day, with new experience and character.”
— Henry David Thoreau, Walden & Civil Disobedience
Dizzy made haste for the rear hallway, in hopes that the police had not already spotted him. If the Dowager Queen had called them, then it was surely no more than a matter of time. Nonetheless, the rabbit does not stand in the clearing and wait for the fox. Two doors in the hallway he tested, and found locked. The third opened to his hand, and he dived into a squalid apartment. The entryway was cloaked in dim lighting from wall panels, and discarded Chinese food boxes littered the floor. One of the boxes, so long left unattended, had reached it’s biodegradable trigger ages. It sat in the center of a heap of refuse, decomposing. A small plant just sprouted hopefully from the center of the pile. Dizzy shuffled past the collected refuse, and ran for the living room. In a building as expensive as this, there was only one creature who could have such a decrepit room on the first floor, and that would be the manager. Dizzy wasted no time in wondering why the door had been left open.
The short hallway led to a small living room, with only a set panel and a weatherbeaten sofa. The sliding glass doors in the back of the room led to a terrace that had been completely bricked in. Dizzy stopped in the center of the dark, sultry room, blinking at the enclosure, then ran back into the entryway.
As he reached the front door of the apartment, Dizzy slammed into it bodily, locking it. He grabbed a knife from a set of faux-metal cutlery in the refuse and, holding the knife in both hands, he jammed it into the locking mechanism, enlisting all his weight and strength. The complex electronics were undamaged, but pulling the mechanism back a quarter of an inch lodged the lock closed.
Dizzy ran back down the corridor and turned a different way. He stormed into the next room, where he found a stack of cardboard boxes, a mound of dirty clothes, and an inflatable mattress sitting on the floor. He blinked at the tattooed woman lying on her back in the center of the mattress. Her entire upper body was covered with tattoos, her lower body was covered not at all.
She looked up at him as Dizzy held out a single gloved hand to block her from his vision. Years of training in etiquette took over and guided his concern more than his own imminent incarceration.
The woman popped her gum and shouted, “Matt? Got’s visitors!”
A young man wearing only a towel popped out of the bathroom, “Wozzat dearest?” As he looked at Dizzy, they both paused. Dizzy felt a flush rise without even knowing what Matt’s mind. His mouth opened and closed automatically, though no words came out. Would he think Dizzy some sort of attacker? If so how could he explain this? What power on Earth could keep this man from shouting for the police, so near even now? How could he-
The young man took two steps forward and kicked the mattress, “Off that an’ getcher dignity, ye?”
Turning to face Dizzy, he ran his hands through his hair, slicking them back. He stood straighter, holding his head up high, and held his hands behind his back, “I’m terribly sorry, sir. I fear we may have led you to the wrong room. Please allow me to help you..” He continued walking toward Dizzy, using the force of his personal space to make Dizzy step back. The woman snatched clothes from a nearby pile and began pulling them on, swearing at both of them.
The young man continued, “Here at the Westin Hills, we pride ourselves on the cleanliness and service of each member of our staff, and I hope your experience here has not given you the wrong impression regarding the professionalism of our little community.” He continued pushing Dizzy closer to the front door, bowing and scraping as he did.
Dizzy finally stopped backing up and caught his mental balance. In his situation, he knew there would be no reasoning with the police. However he knew how to handle a servant. He pulled out a thousand dollar bill, “Here, James. I need your help.”
“Of course, sir.” The money disappeared as the boy smiled kindly. Dizzy tried not to wonder where the boy secreted the money on his person, given that he was wearing no more than a towel. The boy held his hands behind his back and leaned forward slightly, looking every bit the part of a concierge, despite his state of undress.
Dizzy pointed, “First, your sad excuse for a door seems to have gone and jammed itself. It locked me in before I was even able to recognize I’d got the wrong room.”
He shot a frown quickly at the door, “I’m terribly sorry, sir -”
“Locked me in! Like a damned animal.” Dizzy seethed, but not so much that it would worry the boy.
“Of course, sir. I will have maintenance on it right away.” An angry customer was nothing new, so long as they weren’t too serious about it.
Dizzy shook his head, “Well, I don’t care about that. But dammit, how am I going to get out of here?”
“Well, sir. It may take a few moments for maintenance to show up.” The boy frowned at the door again, squinting in the low light.
Before he could recognize the knife stuck in the door, Dizzy took him by the shoulder. He turned the boy to look at the back of the living room, “I thought I might leave by one of your other exits, but this whole terrace is bricked up. How does something like that happen?”
Matt smiled a thin smile and said, “Management feels that it is best if the workers in the building are seen as little as possible. To that end, they have ensured that these apartments are undetectable by most patrons. If you should wish -”
They heard the thump of running boots outside, and a fist pounding on the door. Matt turned to the front door, but Dizzy grabbed him again, “Don’t worry about that. It’s only the police.”
The young man’s eyes widened, “The police?”
“Yes. They told me there was a madman running around with a gun. Said that I should get to cover. That is’, of course, why I ran in here in the first place. Now I expect they are going room to room, trying to figure out where the villain is.”
“Well, shouldn’t we answer the door?”
“Are you the villain? Is she? I know for a fact that I am not.”
“I told you boy, they sent me in here. They told me to get somewhere safe and stay down.”
“Is that why the door-” Matt pointed.
Dizzy cut him off, “I’m asking you a question.” The boy’s mouth snapped shut as Dizzy pulled himself up to his full height, “Now, how do I get out of here.”
The boy blinked at him, “I’m sorry. What?”
“Now that I’ve seen it, I’ll not stay in this grotty little rat trap a moment longer.” He waited for the boy to protest, but his training was too good for that. “I clearly can’t go through your front door, and you’ve bricked up the back door, so what else is there?”
The woman came stumbling in from the bedroom, “Who’s poundin’ at this hour?”
The boy took Dizzy’s forearm with both hands, guiding him lightly, “It may seem a bit unorthodox, sir, but I believe I can accommodate your egress.”
He led Dizzy through the bedroom to the back bathroom. The room had a toilet with a sink built into the water tank, surrounded by the tile of a shower. Above the toilet was a small, dirty window.
“I’m sure you jest.”
The boy looked torn, “I’m sorry, sir, but that is the only other exit. It leads to an enclosed fire escape which can take you up as high as the second floor. Normally, I would never dream to suggest such a thing to a man of your stature, but… “, he gestured helplessly around them.
Dizzy took a deep breath and patted the boy on the shoulder. He pulled out another hundred and left it on the sink, “Desperate times and all that, what?”
Dizzy gathered up his pant leg in one hand, and stepped onto the toilet seat, his other hand on the boy’s shoulder for support. He reached up and grabbed the window sill.
“Seriously, if they ever hear of this at the club- ”
“It will not leave this room, sir.” The boy tried gingerly to push Dizzy up by his rear.
“Hands off, son. I’m not so feeble that I can’t do this.” In truth, Dizzy knew he could shimmy through a drain pipe, should the need arise, but he wished the boy to think him a dandy for as long as possible. The longer the boy kept his mouth shut, the better it would be for them both.
He stepped onto a metal stairway, expensive shoes clanking on the wrought iron grate. Above him, Dizzy saw iron stairs rise up, level after level, out of sight. On all four sides, the stairway was bricked in. Generations of cold and damp had seeped into the stone. Dizzy held his handkerchief to his face, hoping to mask the overpowering stench of mildew.
He looked down at the window, and saw Matt’s head sticking out. “All right, boy, you needn’t gawp. Go back in and wait for the police to return. And again, not a word about this… “, he ran a gloved hand down one bannister and shook his head at the rust stain it left, “This travesty.”
“No sir. Of course sir. Very good.”
Dizzy took his first few steps, doing his best to stay silent. From inside the brick helix, Dizzy had no way of seeing how high the stairs could go. Despite his best efforts, footsteps clanged and echoed up and down the enclosure. As he passed each level, he saw a window and feared that someone would peek their head out. A few of the windows were already bricked up, which suited him fine. Dizzy continued until he reached the top, where the stairway simply ended at another window.
Stan and Lou stood in the crowd, held back by the police energy barrier. Stan leaned against the frame of it, listening to the crackle of electricity. He sighed, “It would seem, my duck, that you were all too correct.”
Lou towered over him, his scarecrow-thin frame shivering in the oncoming night, “How d’ya figger?”
Stan jogged a meaty thumb at the door the SWAT team was stalking, “Viddies your lord ain’t no such after all.”
Lou nodded, then crossed his arms, “Dunna that’s why the blues showed though. Never seen sucha fuss by the long arm. Could be the lord’s real, but the lady’s not.”
Stan nodded slowly, “Always one for careful consideration, you are. D’ya think, then, the lordling was a blue incognito? Sent here for scopin’, for the 5-0 swoop?”
Lou shrugged, “Guess that depends.”
Stan raised an eyebrow, “Depends on what, my sage?”
“Well Stan, if’n he ain’t a lord, that’s one thing there. But if’n she ain’t a lady-“
“She looked ladylike enough for these tired old eyes, Lou.”
“But if’n she ain’t, well, that would make him a lord then. Someone got reported. The lady would holler at the sight of a cuckoo lord, and only a true lord would report a non-lady.”
Stan grinned, “You’re flamin’ tonight, with that logic of yours. But you’ve forgot one thing, my duck.”
Lou frowned, “Wozzat?”
“What if they’s both not nobs?”
The two of them stared at the hotel in silence for a moment, then Lou said, “Now that is a ponderin.”
Dizzy stood at the top of the stairwell and peeked inside. He could see nothing of the dark, silent room. Dizzy took a deep breath and kicked the window hard, shattering it.
For a long moment, he stood perfectly still. He wondered briefly what he would actually do if someone did come to investigate the noise. How does one explain standing on a grimy, bricked-in fire escape while wearing stylish evening wear?
Once satisfied that no one was coming to check, Dizzy slipped through the window and stumbled into the most opulent larder he’d ever seen.
Rows upon rows of canned goods were sorted in shelves next to dehydrated and quick-frozen meats. Cylinders of PVC contained several casks of beer and mead. For a moment, Dizzy simply took in the impressive sight of it.
He walked slowly past row after row of shelving in the dim room. Dizzy’s footsteps echoed in the immense series of rows, making him wonder if someone had purchased the entire floor for a personal larder. As he moved further on, he saw that it stored more than foodstuffs. Velos and peds rested, powered down and covered with cloth. Ornate furniture was stacked carefully along the walls. In one corner, he saw an immense cabinet with dozens of different types of firearms, hanging from a red velour backing. Dizzy considered it briefly, but discarded the notion. He had little skill at gunplay, and had little regard for carrying a weapon in front of armed police.
A bay window stood in the far distance, casting light into the storage room. It was larger than the one he’d crawled in through, and obviously not bricked in. He ran to the window, and looked down at the police velos surrounding the building. Most were showing their lights, but kept their sirens mute, out of respect for the important people in the building. Further down the street, Dizzy saw the squarish, black shape of a SWAT velopod.
Dizzy breathed, “Rodger me sideways. These people mean business.” He looked across the alley at the office building that butted up against the hotel, its lights dimmed for the night.
Dizzy turned back to the room and scanned the furniture. While his intent was a ladder, his best find was a tall oaken door. A large stained-glass window framed the center of the door. The intricate brass metalwork surrounding the frame was matched in brilliance only by the diamond doorknob.
Dizzy picked up one end carefully and carried it to the window. He moved slowly, hoping that the scraping of the oaken door would not be heard by the tenants below. Once the door was standing next to the window, Dizzy walked back to the gun cabinet. In one of the lower drawers, he found the tool that he needed. Kept in an ornate pen case, the small, thin thumper rested on a bed of red silk. It was longer than his finger, but thinner, and fit in his hand much like a magician’s wand.
Dizzy walked back to the window, and pointed the thumper at the door. As he squeezed the contact points on either side, the thumper let out a powerful, low-frequency pulse that would stagger a man. The thumper, if used against a human, could cause sharp intestinal pain, stabbing headaches, nosebleeds, dizziness, and in some cases, deafness. Dizzy used it against the window, shattering it into glass dust. Dizzy brought his handkerchief up to his face quickly as he leaned out the window.
Above, he could hear the rotors of a quadcopter hovering over the building. A shaft of conical light showed that they were waiting for him to emerge on the roof. Looking down at the alley below him, there was no sign that anyone heard the thumper at work.
Dizzy leveled the weapon at the closest window in the office building, and fired again. Dizzy held his breath and listened to the silence following the explosion. No alarms sounded, no warning lights flashed. Either the office building was utterly unimportant, or it employed only silent alarms.
Dizzy took the oaken door standing next to the window and lay it flat on the window sill. He pushed it slowly out, to bridge the gap. He grunted with exertion, careful not to lose his grip. He had to shift it slightly to get the doorknob over the window sill, but other than that, it moved quite easily.
He put his weight down as it crossed the gap between the buildings, but soon Dizzy heard the clack of it resting on the distant window sill. He looked out again to see that the door had bridged the buildings, then climbed out onto the ledge.
From outside, Dizzy could feel the air rushing through the alleyway. He looked down at the street, hundreds of feet below him. “Oh, my son. What have you got yourself into now.” He slowly dropped to hands and knees, resting carefully on the door.
He shifted out slowly, listening for every creak and possible snap of the door. It was oak, but not solid, and he couldn’t count on it to hold his weight the whole way over. As he reached halfway up the door, near the center of the stained-glass window, a gust of air blew him over.
Dizzy fell sideways, scrabbling at the door edge for purchase. He grabbed the edge and the whole door rotated, lifting one side up to follow him. He grabbed the door close, and tried to make himself one with the glass. He feared the door would turn over completely, dumping him on the sidewalk. Or else the movement would be just enough to pull it away from one of the buildings, and sending the whole door plummeting to the ground.
The wind receded, and the door dropped back down to it’s former place. Dizzy wasted no time in crab-walking his way across the rest of the door. As he reached the office building, another wind caught the door and shifted it sideways, dislodging it from the hotel window. The door toppled and fell, end over end, the hundreds of feet to the ground. Dizzy pulled back from the window as he heard the crash of wood and glass upon the street below.
That would be noticed. They would be looking along this wall soon.
Dizzy crouched next to the window sill and looked around the room. It appeared to be a standard work office, with translucent cubicles holding desktop routers. Large panes of glass with keyboards mounted beneath at each desk. Coffee cups stating, “World’s best Dad” and stuffed bears with jerseys labelling their teams. Photos hanging from the cubicle walls shifted every fifteen seconds between different album images. The room was spotless, the trash cans emptied. So at least he knew the cleaning crew had been through here already.
Dizzy stood slowly, walking away from the window. He walked through a maze of cubes, looking for stairs. Every major thoroughfare led to board rooms, meeting nooks, and mini-cafes. Dizzy stumbled in the dark as often as he walked through the area, always looking behind himself, expecting to see a security detail.
In the distance, he saw a red sign reading “Exit”. Dizzy almost ran for it, trying his best to keep quiet as he moved. When he reached the light, he could see only more of the same cubicles in every direction. He cast about madly, then saw another red “Exit” light in the distance.
He muttered under his breath, “Either these are bread crumbs, or I’m being lead on a ridiculous wild-goose chase.” Seeing no other option, he followed in the direction of the next light. The third light was just as far away, making him think that he may well be moving in circles.
As he proceeded, Dizzy happened to notice a pair of elevators in the center of the room. He stopped dead, then ran over to them. The lights on the elevators indicated that both were in service, and neither was full at the moment.
An elevator was the worst place possible for a person on the run to take refuge, but Dizzy knew he had to find his way down. He put one hand on the wall next to the elevator, and followed the wall in the dark.
The thin carpet stifled his steps as he moved around the elevator block and found what he’d hoped for. Emergency stairs.
Dizzy opened the door carefully, aware of their notorious nature to slam with a resounding crash that could be heard throughout the stairwell. He began running as silently as he could down the stairs. At each level, he listened in at the door. There were no signs of pursuit as far as he could tell. As he reached the first floor, though, he saw something that nearly stopped him in his tracks.
Lights under the doorway were moving back and forth. They weren’t the normal lighting of an occupied room, but rather the cone of a searching flashlight. As he neared the door, he heard one of them say, “Right. You lot take root. Viddie them ‘vators, an’ see no soul escapes this way. Brass says he’s upstairs, so we’re gonna have every exit checked, yeah? The two of you follow. We’ll have eyes on stairwise.”
Dizzy froze, inches away from the doorway. He couldn’t go back upstairs, he just couldn’t. He’d be worse trapped if he tried to escape that way.
The doorknob turned, and three uniformed police officers walked into the stairwell. One shone his light up the stairway, while the other two looked around the landing. “Nothing boss.”
The one in charge shrugged, “Keep ears tuned, lads. Y’can check a whole stairwell by sound. Even when ya can’t viddie nothin’.”
The started slowly up the stairs, with the one cop shushing them every few steps. Far below them, in the stairwell leading to the basement, Dizzy crouched in the darkness and waited.
When he thought they were far enough away, Dizzy took off his expensive leather shoes, and held them in one hand. He tiptoed down another flight to the parking garage. Once he reached the basement level, Dizzy carefully opened the door and looked out.
The garage was completely empty. Row after row of empty spots lined the rows and aisles. Illuminated columns stood equidistant from each other, ensuring safety and convenience for all wage slaves sad enough to work here.
Dizzy began walking away from the elevators, assuming that they were the farthest from the exit. He began running in the brightly-lit concrete cave. Dizzy saw the loading dock in the distance, and better still, saw the catch to open it.
Dizzy’s stocking feet slapped wetly against the concrete as he ran full tilt toward the exit. He slid on his knees as he reached it, grabbing the latch and yanking it into place. Dizzy grabbed the bottom of the garage door, and stood up, pulling the door with him. As it rolled up above his head, Dizzy found himself standing directly in front of three police officers.
“Mornin’ sunshine.” The middle officer said. Dizzy opened his mouth to respond, but the man brought out a zapper, and with one electric touch, switched Dizzy off like a light.
Captain Trumble paced back and forth behind the squad car. Every few moments, he would look up at the entrance to the Westin Inn. They should have had him by now. They should have brought him out so Gallant could question him. Oh, the moment of glory would be beautiful.
White floodlights snapped on behind him, making Gallant jump. He turned around to see a press velo wrapping around a mobile newsdesk, where talking heads were already reporting about the lack of what they saw. Gallant grinned. Calling the press was his idea, after all. He just wasn’t sure if they’d be there to see his moment of glory.
A reporter came over to him, “Are you Captain Trouble?”
“Trumble!” Gallant corrected him, “With an ‘M’.”
“Yeah, so, you’re the guy. So,” The reporter ran a hand through his perfect hair, “Is this real? Do you really have a royal impostor in there?”
Gallant puffed up his chest, “We’ll have him out here in just a moment.”
The reporter nodded, “Great right. Well, we’re setting up over there. I just need to switch on and we can start getting some details.”
Gallant grinned, “Yes, of course. Go right ahead.”
The reporter touched a connection on his shoulder, and a bright light shone out from it. A smaller, blinking light indicated that they were recording. The reporter began quickly, “This is Brad Newbaum on site in front of the Westin Inn with Police Captain Gallant Trouble.” Gallant winced, but the reporter continued, “Now tell us, Captain, what exactly do you have here?”
The police captain opened his mouth, then stared into the blinking red light. Somewhere behind that red light were a million different people. Millions of eyes watched his every facial tic, hung on his every word. He suddenly realized that the commissioner was probably watching. The voting public was watching. His mother might even be seeing this.
He stammered, “Are. Ah. Is this taped?”
The reporter frowned, but kept going, “No sir, we’re on a live emergency cut in. Now, you said you had a royal impostor inside this dwelling?”
Gallant nodded for a very long time. He realized suddenly that they wanted more than that, so he said, “Oh, ah, yes. We have an impostor, a royal impostor, in the- Well, he’s trapped, you see. We have men all around the building and snipers on the roof. In fact, I probably shouldn’t tell you that.” He grinned at the reporter, “Hope he doesn’t have a vidfeed on right now.”
The reporter didn’t smile back. Gallant continued, “Well, he, ah, calls himself the Earl of Viborg, which is, of course, ridiculous.”
The reporter cut in, “And why is that sir?”
“Well, you know. I mean the Earl of Viborg is bedridden. He couldn’t be wandering around an American town when he’s bedridden in Denmark, now could he. No, we’ve got the fellow. Got him here.”
“And you’re sure there’s only one Earl of Viborg?”
Gallant blinked, “I’m sorry?”
“Well, Earl isn’t a unique title among the aristocracy. There could be multiple Earls in Viborg, the same way we have multiple Earls here in New York.”
Gallant blinked at the reporter for a moment, then the reporter asked, “Perhaps you could tell us what steps you took to make sure you had the right man.”
A shout came from far away, “We got him!”
The captain turned to look, and saw two servicemen carrying a man in a sharp suit between them. They dragged him by his arms over to the captain.
Three squad velos with blinking blue and red lights illuminated the center. Outside of the circle, all was dark, but where the headlights pointed into the circle, it was as bright as noon.
Captain Trumble ran over to them as they brought Dizzy into the circle. He grabbed the young man’s collar, as if to take credit for pulling him along. The reporter strode alongside him, saying, “Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m told that the police has just apprehended an Earl of Viborg.”
“THE Earl of Viborg,” Trumble piped up, then shook his head, “I mean, not the Earl of Viborg. This is the one who ISN’T the Earl of Viborg.” As they reached the circle of light, Trumble pointed at the officers, “Here, prop him up. Get him standing.”
The two pulled Dizzy up, with one arm under each of his shoulders. Trumble made sure the reporter had a good view as he walked up to Dizzy and grabbed a tuft of hair. He pulled the boy’s head back and said, “All right, you scum. You’ve been impersonating nobles, and that kind of thing doesn’t go in my town, you get me?”
His eyes flitted over to the reporter, then back to Dizzy. He grabbed the lapels of Dizzy’s jacket, and shook the unconscious man, “We’ve got laws in this town, see? Laws that defend decent, hardworking people like us from scum like you.”
There was a sudden rush of wind that nearly blew everyone over. Powerful floodlights from outside the circle suddenly flashed into view. As Trumble and the reporter looked around, they saw three gunships hovering in the air above them, with fully automatic rail guns trailed on them. The ground shook as they turned to see a company of tanks rolling down the street toward them.
As the tanks reached the circle, they stopped and aimed for the police velos. The reporter slowly turned around in circles, taking in all the firepower that had surrounded them. “Ladies and gentlemen. Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t know what to say. We seem to be under attack by-”
A voice boomed from a loudspeaker above, “This is Lord Ashford Dunem. Put the king down you dirty little man.”
The reporter turned back to look at Trumble, still holding the lapels of Dizzy’s jacket. Trumble had gone all white, and stared, gaping at the gunship.
The reporter continued, “Ladies and gentlemen, it’s too early for confirmation, but it may be that the New York Police have captured our nation’s king.”
In an unconscious move that would later prove to be a source of humiliation, Trumble wet himself on national television.