When Steve awoke, he was lying in a soft bed, far more comfortable than his own. His head hurt, his throat was sore, and he was incredibly thirsty. For several moments, Steve couldn't understand why any of these things should be true. Slowly, memories of what had happened before he passed out trickled back to him. He was alive! Steve opened his eyes. He was in the king's bed. His blood-soaked gown had been changed for a fresh one. Tentatively, he touched his neck. The cut had been covered with a thick, rectangular piece of cloth, held in place by another length of cloth wrapped around his neck.
"How does it feel?"
Steve jumped and looked to his right, sending sharp jabs of pain through his neck with the swift motion. Marcellus sat beside the bed, looking right at Steve. Steve shrank away, nervous despite Marcellus' unthreatening expression. "It's... it's fine," Steve said, his parched throat making the words come out in a hoarse whisper.
Marcellus shook his head. "You lie," he said grimly. "Do not lie to me anymore. I will not tolerate it. Do you understand me?" Steve nodded, set even further on edge by Marcellus' harsh tone. "Good," Marcellus said. "Now, how does it feel?"
"It hurts," Steve whispered. "And my throat is dry." Marcellus nodded. He went and pulled the service rope, then returned to Steve's bedside.
"Thank you, Your Highness," Steve said. "And thank... thank you for not giving me away."
Marcellus stepped closer to the bed, his expression growing dark. "Listen carefully to me, knave," he said. "You will have what you asked of me - my help in learning to imitate King Stephen. But do not think that because I have spared your life, I have forgotten what you have done to the crown. What you have done to me. You are alive because I will not risk endangering my king. That is all. Is that clear to you?"
Steve swallowed past the dryness in his throat. "Yes, Your Highness," he whispered.
"Good." Marcellus sat back down and stared at Steve until Steve lowered his eyes. Soon, a tall, elderly man came in, followed by two attendants. They all bowed and the first man came closer to the bed. "Good morning, Your Majesty. It is good to see you awake. How are you feeling?"
"I'm fi- er... could be better," Steve replied with a nervous glance at Marcellus. "My neck feels pretty bad, and I'm really thirsty."
"Would it be all right for him to drink, Dr. Rivell?" Marcellus asked.
"Certainly." The doctor beckoned to the attendants and they hurried forward. They poured Steve some water and helped him to sit up. After a few seconds during which Steve fought off a wave of dizziness, he took the glass and drained it, holding it out for more.
When he'd drained the second glass, Marcellus put a gentle hand on his shoulder. "How do you feel now, my love?"
Steve stared at him. My love?? Then he forced himself to recover. Of course Marcellus called him that. He had to behave as if Steve were really the king while they were in public. He would be worried enough about King Stephen to drop the formal titles in public and so he was dong it now for Steve. He smiled faintly. "Better, thank you," he said.
"Let's have a look at this wound then," the doctor said. He unwrapped the bandage and inspected Steve's neck, touching it gently. Steve winced. "It seems to be healing normally," Dr. Rivell said. He reached into his bag and took a jar of some type of salve that smelled strongly of herbs. He dabbed some of it on Steve's wound, and the pain lessened almost immediately. He bandaged the wound again, then asked, "How does it feel now, Majesty?"
"Much better," Steve said, genuinely surprised. "What is it?"
"An herbal remedy shared with us by our Eastern neighbors. It should help speed the healing process. "However, the excessive loss of blood is of greater concern to me than the wound itself. We will have to take great care to see that your body recovers fully from the loss of so much fluid. You must drink plenty of water and juice to regain your internal balance. I would suggest taking only light foods for the first couple of days, as they will stay down more easily. Also, it would be wise to remain in bed for at least a day. I know how bed rest galls you, Sire, but it is really in your best interest to rest as much as possible until you are fully recovered."
"Okay," Steve said. Dr. Rivell looked shocked. "Surprised that I plan to cooperate?" Steve asked.
"Er... well, n-no, Sire, it's... it's just-
"It's all right," Steve said. "I want to get better. I'm not getting up until I have your express permission."
Rivell still looked amazed, but he smiled. "I am pleased to hear it, Majesty," he said. "I will check on you again tomorrow morning, unless you require me before then. Is there anything else I can do for you now?"
"I can't think of anything," he said. "Can you?" Steve looked at Marcellus questioningly, wanting to let him make the decision to dismiss the doctor.
"No, Sire. You may go, Dr. Rivell. We will send for you if anything changes." Dr, Rivell bowed and backed out of the room. "You may go as well," Marcellus told the attendants. "Leave the water here, and see to it that we are not disturbed."
"Yes, Your Highness."
Steve watched the attendants walk out, not really wanting them to go. He was nervous about being alone with Marcellus again. When the attendants left, Marcellus sat in the chair beside Steve's bed. The grim expression was back on his face and Steve tried to calm the butterflies in his stomach. "What is your native land?" Marcellus asked.
Steve blinked. What kind of question was that? And how was he supposed to answer? America didn't even exist! "Um... I'm... I'm from..."
Marcellus clamped a hand over Steve's wrist and squeezed hard enough to make Steve wince. "It does not require thought to tell me what land you hail from," he said calmly. "Therefore, you are obviously constructing a lie. I have told you that I will not tolerate lies." He squeezed Steve's wrist even tighter and Steve held his breath to keep from crying out. "What is your native land?"
"America," Steve said, his voice tight. Marcellus scowled and twisted Steve's wrist back, squeezing harder than ever. "Aaah!" Steve cried. "Please! I'm not lying, I swear!"
"Explain yourself," Marcellus said darkly.
"It's... it's part of the New World," Steve said. "I don't know if you know about Isabella and Columbus yet?"
"Isabella and Columbus?" Marcellus asked incredulously.
"Yes," Steve said breathlessly.
"Yes, Your Highness. She hired- hires him to-"
"I know the story," Marcellus interrupted. "I'm not asking you to explain the history of Columbia. I want to know why you claim to hail from the American continent, yet you speak fluent English and you are not part of the nobility! Now," he said, twisting Steve's arm even harder and eliciting a sharp cry of pain. "Explain yourself."
Steve could feel panic beginning to rise. He had no idea what Marcellus was talking about, but he wasn't sure how to say that without getting his arm broken. "Please, Your Highness," he said in a quavering voice. "I'm t-trying to tell you the truth, but things are... different here. It's hard to explain."
"Well, s-sir," Steve said, swallowing hard, "I... I think I'm from the future." Steve felt Marcellus tighten his grip even more. "I know it sounds crazy," he said quickly. "But I can't think of any other way to explain it. I was playing the part of a king from the past, and then I was here. It's like the past, but... weird. I mean, everything is like the Middle Ages, except some women wear men's clothes, and-"
"Stop," Marcellus said suddenly. "Did you just say that everything looks like the Middle Ages?"
"Y-yes, Your Highness," Steve said nervously.
To Steve's surprise (and relief), Marcellus let him go. Steve held his arm to his stomach, rubbing it and watching Marcellus warily. The prince was staring at him in disbelief. "Just exactly what year do you think it is?"
"Um... fourteen something? I'm n-not really sure."
"Fourteen?" Marcellus cried. "Are you mad? It's 1984!"
Marcellus winced. "It's 1984," he said again.
Steve gaped at the prince in his leggings, elaborate satin tunic and short leather boots. He shook his head. "That's just not possible!"
"No!" Steve cried. "I'm from 1984!!! We have cars and real streets and electricity and running water! You guys might be a lot more concerned with hygiene than I thought Medieval Europeans were, but you're not from 1984!"
"Do you call me a liar?" Marcellus asked seriously.
Steve gulped. "N-no, Your Highness," he said. "I'm just saying maybe... um... we... have a different calendar! Yeah. There must be a different calendar system here. You see, where I'm from, we use what's called the Gregorian calendar. It's based on-"
"Yes," said Marcellus. "I know what the Gregorian calendar is. It was adopted several centuries ago, and is currently used by all of the major powers, as well as several tribal kingdoms. And right now, it is the year 1984, counting from the birth of the Anglican savior, Jesus Christ." Steve was speechless. If they used the same calendar... "And why did you speak of Europeans?" Marcellus asked, interrupting Steve's thoughts. "We are on the Columbian continent."
Steve stared hard at Marcellus. "The what?" he asked at last.
Marcellus looked puzzled. Then he stood up. "I will return shortly." He went into the study and came back moments later, dragging the heavy antique globe along with him. He put it close enough to Steve so that he could touch it, then sat down. "Look at the globe, and tell me where you think the palace is."
Steve looked. Europe was already facing him, and he easily found Portugal. He pointed to Lisbon. "Here." Marcellus looked at him strangely. "No?" Steve asked.
"No," Marcellus said. He turned the globe so that the Americas were facing Steve. North America seemed to be divided strangely, and the word "Columbia" was printed across the continent. Marcellus pointed to a spot on the west coast. "Here," he said.
Steve gasped. He could feel himself growing cold as the blood drained from his face. "N-no. How... how can that be?"
"What is the matter?"
"That's San Francisco!" Steve cried.
"Yes," Marcellus said. "San Francisco is the capital of Pacificana."
Pacificana? Steve stared at the map, paying closer attention to the way the Americas were divided. South America was divided into several sections, and the whole area was named The Unified Provinces of America. North and Central America were collectively called Columbia. What the hell? Everything west of the Great Plains, including Mexico, Central America, and a substantial bit of Canada seemed to be one country - Pacificana. Juno, Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles were right there on the globe, as if they had no idea that the country they were in shouldn't exist. The rest of Canada looked normal, but the New England states weren't states, and the area was actually called New England on the map.
The middle of what should have been the United States was divided into four "Nations" - Sioux, Navajo, Apache and Cherokee. So those are the "eastern" neighbors, Steve thought. Guess that explains the Native American looking pages. Native Columbian? Steve shook his head and focused on the map again. There was a narrow strip of land that ran along the east side of the Mississippi River and south of Kentucky and Virginia labeled the "Bad Lands". It bordered an area that seemed to be completely barren. There were no city names at all. The words "Forbidden Forest" were emblazoned across the area in red, underlined by a long red dragon.
Steve shook his head, unwilling to believe what he was seeing. Forbidden Forest? Unified Provinces of America? Pacificana? How could any of this be? How could it be 1984? How could he be in San Francisco?? Maybe this was some twisted alternate universe, like they had on "Star Trek". But how had he gotten here!?
As if in answer, Marcellus said, "The magic that brought you here must be very strong indeed."
Steve stared blankly at Marcellus. "You mean... you really think a person did this?" Steve asked.
Marcellus looked surprised. "Of course! What other explanation is there?"
"Well..." Steve stopped. It seemed like madness to believe that a magician was responsible for this whole situation, but if Steve thought about it too long, it didn't seem like such a far-fetched idea. Was the magic theory any less believable than the idea that the universe had experienced some kind of quantum physics hiccup and popped him and the king out of their proper places? Steve looked at the map again and his trembling increased. It was wrong. All wrong. And he was the only one in the whole country - possibly the whole universe - who knew what it was supposed to look like. Steve started to feel sick. He was weak and frightened, and he'd never felt so completely lost or alone in his entire life. "What am I going to do?" he whispered. "How am I going to get home? And how can I impersonate a king if I don't know anything about anything?!?"
"I will teach you," Marcellus said. "We should start immediately."
"Yes, Your Highness," Steve said. He watched Marcellus take the globe away and come back with a huge book that looked like it must be almost three feet long and four or five inches thick.
"Pay careful attention," Marcellus said sternly. "If you fail in these studies, you will be putting not only your own life in danger, but my king's life as well. I will not accept that, and I will not hesitate to resort to some form of punishment if I find you to be inattentive. Is that clear to you?"
Steve gulped. Punishment? "Yes, Your Highness," he said nervously. He could feel his stomach starting to churn. Whatever he was about to learn, he was definitely going to learn it well. He had no intention of finding out what kinds of punishment could be cooked up in a medieval type castle, even if it wasn't really the middle ages. He paid attention to the book and waited for Marcellus to begin.