Marcellus set the giant book on the bed and opened it. An atlas. He turned to a political map of the world and began pointing things out to Steve. "This is Pacificana's Empirical Seat," he said, pointing out the strip of North America that Steve had already seen on the globe. "Pacificana's territories include Japan, Pacifican Russia, Pacifican China, Hawaii, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands." He pointed out just about every little dot-sized island in the Pacific Ocean.
"Wow," Steve said, looking at the scope of what Marcellus had just pointed out. Pacificana controlled almost all the land that touched the Pacific Ocean. In fact, it gave the name "Pacific Ocean" a whole new meaning. Then Steve thought about how he was supposed to be impersonating the man who was in charge of all this land, and his head swam. "I think I'm going to be sick."
"Why?" Marcellus asked.
"It's too much! I can't handle all that by myself!! They'll find me out in ten minutes! Oh my God, I'm gonna die."
"Calm yourself!" Marcellus snapped. "Great Waters, surely you do not believe that you will have to personally oversee the entire Empire?"
"Well... yeah," Steve replied. "Don't I?"
Marcellus sighed and put a hand to his forehead. "No. There are eleven dukes and duchesses in charge of the ten provinces of the country, as well a many earls and barons beneath them who assist the king."
"Oh," Steve said, feeling relieved, and a little silly at the same time.
Marcellus frowned and stared at Steve, his gaze so intent that Steve began to feel uncomfortable. "Why would a sorcerer send a man completely ignorant of politics and to impersonate a king?" he asked softly.
"Beats me," Steve said with a nervous chuckle.
Marcellus stared at him a moment more before shaking his head. "No! I cannot believe it! You know more than you are telling me."
"Come now, out with it! Tell me truly what you know of all this."
"But I don't know anything!" Steve cried, starting to get nervous.
"Impossible! No grown man can know so little about basic politics. You are hiding something!"
"I'm not! And I do know about basic politics, just not yours!"
"Liar!" Marcellus said, jumping to his feet. He stood over Steve, fists clenched, glaring down at him furiously. "You know who sent you here, don't you?"
"Enough! This charade must end. You will not continue to feign ignorance! Tell me who sent you here and where he has taken my king!" Marcellus' clenched fists were shaking now, and his face was red.
Steve edged away fearfully. The last thing he wanted was a repeat of last night. "I'm sorry, Your Highness," he said, trying to keep his voice steady. "But I don't know how to answer you."
"Lies!" Marcellus shouted. He grabbed Steve by the throat and yanked him forward. Pain shot through Steve's neck and the sudden movement made him nauseatingly dizzy. "Tell me the truth! Who sent you here?! Where is King Stephen!? Tell me now or, by the Waters, I shall expose you as the fraud you are!"
"No!" Steve cried, panic surfacing with full force. He struggled to budge Marcellus' hands, but the prince only squeezed him tighter and shook him hard, nearly making him sick with pain and dizziness. "Please," he gasped. "Please stop. I know you're worried about the king, but I didn't do this! If I knew who did, I'd tell you! Do you think I want to die?"
Marcellus scowled at Steve for several moments before finally letting him go. Despite his dizziness, Steve immediately backed as far away as he could without actually falling off the bed. Marcellus continued to glare at him, fists clenched tightly. Fearful of another attack, Steve lowered his head and stared at the bed, hoping that Marcellus would see it for the submissive gesture that it was. After what seemed like a long time, Marcellus finally spoke.
"Clearly, the magician using you to his purposes has not informed you of his identity or his intent." Steve let out a breath he hadn't known he'd been holding. Marcellus sighed heavily and Steve dared to look up. The prince no longer looked angry; just very tired. "It appears now that the only thing I can do to help Stephen is to see to it that you are not discovered by anyone else." He sat down beside the bed and turned to a different page in the atlas. Then he beckoned to Steve. "Come closer."
Steve didn't exactly want to be as close to Marcellus as he already was, but he didn't want to risk his life by disobeying, either. He edged back to his original spot on the bed and turned his attention to the map. The page showed a closer view of the Pacifican Empire. The larger parts of the kingdom were divided into sections, somewhat like large states. The largest of these "states" was the one they were in, which stretched from Vancouver all the way down to Guadalajara.
"This land," Marcellus said, "the king rules directly, without the assistance of any dukes. The areas that he cannot readily travel to are governed by dukes and duchesses. They report to him at stated times, or when requested, and he gives them commands based on their reports and his wishes for the country." Marcellus paused, and Steve nodded his understanding. "There are eleven dukedoms in the Pacifican Empire," Marcellus continued. "This is North Pacificana." He pointed to the division that included Alaska and the western part of Canada north of Vancouver. "It is governed by Prince Marcel Pereira. He is a duke, and his house is in the city of Juneau, so he is called Duke Marcel of Juneau. Understand?"
"Yes, Your Highness," Steve said. "Is- nevermind," he said, not wanting to interrupt the lesson.
"Ask your question," Marcellus said.
"I think I saw this name in one of those genealogy books," Steve said. "Isn't Marcel your father's name?"
"Yes, it is. The Duke of Juneau is my father."
"Does that mean that when he passes away, you have to move to Ala... North Pacificana?"
"It would if I were his oldest child, but I am not. My eldest sister, Lana, will inherit the title when the time comes."
Steve frowned. "I thought titles fell to the oldest male child."
Marcellus looked perplexed. "That is the custom in Great Britain. Is that how it is done in your country?"
"Well, actually, in our country we don't have titles. We vote to decide who rules."
"Ah, a democracy. The Unified Provinces of America operate under that bizarre system of government. In Pacificana, all titles fall to the oldest child, regardless of their gender."
"Gotcha," Steve said, eliciting a sidelong glance from Marcellus. "I understand, Your Highness," he amended.
"Good," Marcellus said. He pointed to the southern dukedom, which included everything south of Guadalajara, down to the Panama Canal. "South Pacificana is ruled by Duchess Tina Ferdinand of Mexico." Steve thought he recognized another name from the family tree. All the dukes must be some kind of distant cousin to the king. Marcellus pointed out Hawaii next. "Hawaii is governed by Duke Victor Pereira of Honolulu. The Islands of the Pacific, by Duchess Marianna Pereira of Suva. New Zealand is ruled by her brother, Duke William Pereira of Wellington. Duke Kiyoshi Raidon Uchida of Tokyo commands Japan. North and South Pacifican Russia are governed respectively by Duchess Marina Tatiana Chekov of Okhotsk and her sister, Duchess Ivanna Valkovitch of Vladivostok. Duchess Lian Jun Chan of Beijing is in charge of North Pacifican China, and her brother Duke Shing Li Chan of Shanghai commands Central Pacifican China. Finally, Duke Shen Pereira of Hong Kong commands South Pacifican China."
"I'm supposed to remember all that?" Steve asked, feeling a major headache coming on.
"You are," Marcellus said. "And you will. In fact, these names and the faces that go with them must be committed to your memory very soon. The dukes will meet for the Biannual Council in a fortnight."
Steve wracked his brains for the meaning of "fortnight". Then he wished he hadn't. "Two weeks?"
Steve's head was definitely pounding now. "Could I have some paper and a pen, please? I'm gonna need to take notes."
Marcellus looked slightly confused. "I can give you paper, but I do not know what this 'pen' is that you speak of."
"You don't know what a pen..." Steve stopped when he realized that he'd said the word "pen" in English instead of Portuguese. So had Marcellus. They didn't even have a word for it yet. "You must still have quills."
"We use something different where I'm from," Steve explained.
"Ah. Yes, I will get you quill and ink." Marcellus went to the king's desk and returned with a wooden tray that reminded Steve of the ones he'd bought so that he and Sherrie could have breakfast in bed. Marcellus set the tray in front of Steve and went back to the desk. When he returned again, he put several sheets of paper on the tray, along with two quill pens and an intricately decorated silver box. When that seemed to be all Marcellus planned on bringing, Steve thanked him and opened the box. Inside was a dark blue velvety casing which held two bottles of ink, several small sheets of paper and what appeared to be a large silver stamp with a curved base. Steve picked it up, noticing that it was fairly heavy and there was no imprint on the bottom. Must be a fancy paperweight, he thought. He set it at the top of his papers and dipped one of the quills in ink. "Okay. Now, could we go through all those names again, Your Highness?"
Marcellus began to tell Steve the names of the dukes and their respective dukedoms again, this time giving him time to write the information down. Steve wrote the first name with difficulty, finding it very hard to adjust to writing with the strange pen. He had to dip the tip in ink about every four letters, and each time he set the pen to the page again, he ended up with a giant ink splotch. When he finally got Duke Marcel's full name and dukedom down, it was hardly recognizable. Steve sighed and glared at the page, highly frustrated. Then, out of habit, he brushed the line with his little finger. The line became an unreadable black smear, and one side of his pinky was now covered with ink. "Dammit." Steve slammed his fist on the page, leaving a pinky-shaped smudge on the page, and nearly spilling the ink. "Shit!" Steve caught the bottle before it spilled, but ended up with ink all over his fingertips. Steve growled and wiped his fingers on the ruined sheet of paper. He glanced at Marcellus, who was watching him with a wide-eyed expression.
"You don't know how to write?" he asked incredulously.
"Yes, I know how to write," Steve said, too frustrated to care that he was snapping at the man who held the power of life and death over him. "I just don't know how to use this fucking stupid glorified feather!"
Marcellus sighed heavily. "Great Living Waters, what task have you set before me?" He pulled his chair closer to the bed and gestured for Steve to move closer as well. He took the first ink-splotched sheet of paper and threw it in the trash. "Let me show you," he said. Then, with more patience than Steve would have given him credit for, Marcellus showed Steve the proper way to use the pen. He dipped the second feather lightly into the ink and scraped the excess on the mouth of the jar. Steve watched with a mild sense of envy as Marcellus wrote a word with no splotches at all. Marcellus waited a few seconds, then took one of the slips of paper from the silver box and gently laid it over the word. He took the thing Steve had assumed to be a paperweight and carefully pressed it to the sheet, rolling the pendulum-shaped base across it twice. Then he lifted the paper, exposing the perfect writing.
"Wow. You're so graceful."
Marcellus chuckled. "You always say..." He stopped and frowned at Steve. Steve got a little nervous, but Marcellus looked more unsettled than angry, and he didn't fly off the handle. He just put the paper and the roller in front of him and said, "You try."
Steve tried again, remembering to scrape away the excess ink, and not wet the pen down so hard. He still ended up splotching a little, but he figured he could adjust the angle next time, and he would avoid that. He set the quill down and got one of the slips. "Wait a moment before you put it down, or it will smudge," Marcellus counseled. Steve waited about four seconds before Marcellus nodded, and he set the sheet down. "Now the blotter." So that's what it's called Steve thought. He tried to imitate Marcellus, carefully rolling the blotter twice over the paper. When he lifted his little sheet, the word looked much better than the disaster that had been his first attempt, although it still wasn't nearly as nice as Marcellus'. He looked at the prince, who nodded his approval. "Good. Now, are you ready to take your notes?"
"I think so." Marcellus started again, and Steve wrote down the names with more success. He developed a rhythm for using the blotter, and by the time he finished the list, he'd gotten the hang of writing without splotching. Writing took longer than he was used to, but at least he could do it without looking like some kid got hold of the finger paints.
"Very good," Marcellus said."
Marcellus took the sheet from him and said, "Tell me who rules the Pacific Islands?"
"Quickly," he said.
Steve racked his brains, feeling like a kid who'd just been slammed with a pop quiz on the first day of school. "Marianna!"
"Of Suva," Steve replied.
"And the ruler of Japan?"
"Um... Kiyoshi Raidon Uchida of Tokyo?"
"Very good. We'll have to work on the pronunciation, but you learn quickly." Marcellus gave the papers back to Steve. "Now. Can you tell me the proper way for you to address him should he come to visit you?"
Steve thought for a moment, trying to remember anything he'd skimmed out of that book on manners for monarchs. Nothing came back to him, and he shook his head. "I have no idea. I'm sorry."
"Nevermind," Marcellus said. "I will teach you." Marcellus went to the book case and returned with the very book that Steve had been trying to remember. "You can refer to this," he said. Then he showed Steve the way a duke should approach him if he were being polite, and taught Steve how he should greet the duke in return. He explained some of the things King Stephen would know about each duke and the land they ruled. For the next several hours, Steve was drilled on names and characteristics of the various territories of the empire.
When, at last, he'd finally recited everything to Marcellus' exacting standards, he was allowed a bathroom break. He was still weak, and Marcellus had to help him stand and support him while he walked. Outside, a total of six guards came to attention. Steve's eyes widened. He'd practically forgotten about the assassination attempt after all the excitement that had happened afterwards. "I have ordered at least six guards to be set about your chambers at all times, Majesty," Marcellus said. "I hope this is to your satisfaction."
"Of course," Steve said. "You know I trust your judgment." Four of the guards arranged themselves around Steve and Marcellus - one in front, one behind, and one on either side. They escorted Steve to the head, and two of them went in before him. Steve wondered if they actually planned to accompany him to the toilet. The guards inspected the wash area and the actual bathroom, then stood on either side of the bathroom door. Marcellus helped Steve to the toilet, then left him alone.
Steve managed to use the bathroom after several moments wherein he struggled not to think about the fact that six people were outside waiting for him. He stepped outside when he'd finished and the young attendant helped him wash his hands. She looked as if she felt the pressure of too many eyes, too. Steve gave her head a reassuring pat, then let them take him back to the bedroom.
"Are you hungry?" Marcellus asked when he'd helped Steve get settled back in bed.
"I am, Your Highness. And my throat is hurting again. Do you think you could ask Dr. Rivell to bring me some of that herbal stuff?"
"Certainly." Marcellus pulled the service rope. An attendant arrived almost immediately, and Marcellus ordered lunch to be brought up, along with a bottle of "pain relieving salve" from the doctor. "Do people have servants of their own in your country?" he asked when the servant had gone.
"No. Well, sort of," Steve answered. "It's nothing like here. Most people don't have nearly so many servants even if they're really rich, and rarely do people have live-in servants. I don't think anyone has their own live-in doctor. I'm considered wealthy, but I just have one maid who comes three times a week, and a gardener who comes once a week."
"You say that you are merely a singer, and yet you claim to be wealthy enough to have servants. How is this possible?"
"Where I'm from, a really famous singer can make a lot of money," Steve explained. "I've been pretty fortunate."
"Ah. Like the Beatles?"
Steve waved a hand. "Nothing like them! They're way out of my- wait a minute! You know about the Beatles???"
"Who doesn't?" Marcellus replied. "They are the most famous and popular minstrels of all time."
Steve started to laugh. He laughed for a long time, unable to stop even when Marcellus started to look at him strangely. "I can't believe this," he said when he was finally able to speak. "They have the Beatles here." He giggled some more, then something occurred to him. "Hey, you said 'are'. Are they still performing together?"
"Not as often as they did before the assassination attempt on John Lennon's life. Now they will play only at limited, highly exclusive engagements, and only when maximum security can be maintained."
"Attempt? John's still alive??"
"Of course." Marcellus frowned. "You speak as if you know of the Beatles, and yet you do not know that they are all alive?"
"Where I'm from... it's weird. I think this is a double world or something, where a lot of things are different, but some things are the same. Like me and King Stephen. We look alike and we sort of act alike, and he even writes the same songs that I do. But our surroundings are a lot different. We have the Beatles in my world, but the assassination attempt succeeded there."
"How unfortunate," Marcellus said, frowning.
Steve nodded, and they were silent for a moment. "Wow," Steve said at last. "John's alive. I would love to be able to see them play."
"Then you are in luck. They are scheduled to perform, among several other minstrels, as entertainment during the Biannual Council Meeting."
"Yes. If you are still here, you will be able to see them."
Steve grinned from ear to ear. "Awesome!"
Marcellus smiled. "Stephen was as excited as you are the first time they performed at the palace. It was his love for them that inspired him to write most of his music in English."
"Ohhh," Steve said. "I was wondering about that."
Marcellus smiled. "Yes, he is quite enamoured of them, and of the minstrel's life. He has always said that had he not been born king, he would have lived as a traveling minstrel."
"Well, I wasn't born a king, and that's what I do, so I guess he was right." Marcellus smiled again, but the smile soon changed to a troubled frown. "You're worrying about him?" Steve asked softly. Marcellus nodded. Steve sighed. He could understand Marcellus' concern. He went nuts when Sherrie stayed on a shopping trip too long without calling. He couldn't imagine what it would be like to know that your lover was nowhere you could contact them, and to have no idea how to get them back. He wished there was something he could do to make Marcellus feel better. Then, he thought, maybe there was. "I think," he said hesitantly, "if my theory about this double world thing is right, maybe the king isn't being held prisoner after all."
"Oh?" Marcellus asked.
"No. I think he's probably where I belong. And if that's true, then he's in a much better position than I am."
"Well, if I get caught by anybody else, I'll be killed. If he gets caught... well, first of all, nobody's ever going to believe that he's not me, even if he walks right up and tells somebody. Where I'm from, most people just don't believe things like this can happen. And even if somebody did believe he wasn't me, the most they would do is try to figure out where I've gone, and where the Steve Perry look-alike came from. But it's more likely that they'll think I've gone crazy, and try to get him to talk to a psychiatrist. I don't even think they can force him to go, unless he starts hurting people. So... I don't think you have to worry so much about him getting hurt."
Marcellus looked thoughtful. "In truth," he said softly, "I have not sensed a feeling of danger from him these past several days, except on the day of the wedding. Perhaps you are right about this. I would still like to know who has done this and how to get Stephen back, but it is heartening to know that he faces no grave danger." Marcellus smiled at Steve. "I must thank you for telling me this. You have eased my mind a great deal."
"You're welcome," Steve said. Before Steve could ask what Marcellus had meant by not having "sensed danger" from the king, attendants arrived with their food. Steve set his papers aside, turning them over so no one would notice that he was taking notes on things that everyone should already know. Marcellus helped Steve remove the dressing from his wound and put some of the salve on, while the attendants set up a tray near the bed for Marcellus. Steve felt much better once the bandage was put back, and decided to keep the little jar handy in case he needed it again.
The attendants served Steve his meal in bed, and he and Marcellus chatted pleasantly like they had the first day he arrived. This time, the conversation wasn't nearly as stressful as it had been when Steve was constantly worrying about being discovered. Marcellus kept the conversation to simple things that Steve could easily respond to while the servants were in the room. They discussed the Council Meeting and the excitement that would be generated by the performers. Steve nearly choked on his drink when Marcellus used the term "Beatlemania", but managed to cover it with the "wrong pipe" excuse.
"Now," Marcellus said when the food had been cleared away and they were alone again. "Back to your education. The Queen will surely wish to see you as soon as possible, and it would be unwise to refuse her an audience again."
"Let's see," Steve said, trying not to sound nervous at the reminder that he'd already been rude to the Queen once. "Great Britain is more powerful than we are, so I should follow these rules, right?" he asked, finding the proper page in his etiquette book.
"Yes, for the most part," Marcellus replied. "But Great Britain is also our closest ally, and our nations will soon be irrevocably allied through your- King Stephen's marriage to Princess Annette. Therefore, the angle of your bow need not be so low, and your speech need not be as submissive as the book dictates." With that, Marcellus launched into a long, detailed lesson on how to treat the Queen. He explained acceptable abbreviations of her title, how low to bow and for how long, when to speak, how to speak, how to invite her to sit, when and if he should sit himself, what to do if she made certain gestures, and how to excuse himself if he made a mistake. Then he told Steve the subjects the Queen would be most likely to discuss - his health, the assassination attempt, and the wedding. He told Steve what he needed to know to answer any questions she might have, and assured him that he would step in if Steve needed help.
By the time Marcellus was satisfied with Steve's knowledge on the subject of the Queen, it was nearly time to eat again. They stopped for another mildly stressful bathroom break turned mini-parade, then had dinner. "Could I ask a question, Your Highness?" Steve asked after the meal.
"What is your question?"
"What is the deal with the salt water!?"
Marcellus looked puzzled. "What do you mean?"
Why do you drink salt water before every meal?"
"It is our method of giving thanks, of course," Marcellus replied, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. Steve's face must have told him that it was not, because he proceeded to explain without prompting. "By taking in a small part of the ocean, we solidify our connection to the Great Waters. We also ask the Waters' blessing over the meal. You do not know this?"
Steve shook his head. "You guys worship water?"
"No," Marcellus said. "Not just water. The Spirit of the Great Waters. The oceans are sacred to us, as are other bodies of water, to a lesser degree." He frowned. "You mean to tell me you have never heard of Aquanism?"
"Nnnnooooo," Steve said slowly, feeling incredibly lost. "We have some religions where people believe in river spirits as well as earth and animal spirits, but we don't have anything like that."
"How strange," Marcellus said. "What, then, is your dominant religion?"
"Well, I think that worldwide, Buddhism is the biggest religion. But most people in Western countries are either Christian or Jewish."
"And what are you?"
"I'm... I was raised Catholic."
Marcellus frowned, then raised his eyes heavenward. "Oooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh," he said, as if the mysteries of life had just been revealed to him. "That explains much."
"What do you mean?"
"Your behavior towards me," Marcellus said, causing Steve to visibly cringe. "Do not Catholic people believe that two people of the same sex should not share love?"
Steve nodded. "Not just them," he said. "Most people think it's wrong to be gay where I'm from. At least, the loudest ones do."
"Gay?" Marcellus asked.
"Yeah. That's what we call people like that. Or homosexuals."
"How strange. Your people have even created special names for this."
"Of course. Don't you?"
"No. A man who binds himself to another man is no different from a man who binds himself to a woman. We do not need a special name."
Steve had never thought about it that way before, but giving gay people a special label did seem to imply that they were somehow fundamentally different from "normal" human beings. "It must be nice not to have to worry about being ostracized," Steve said.
"Your 'gay' people face ostracism?" Marcellus asked incredulously.
"They can. Sometimes they face a lot worse than that. I've heard of people getting beaten, and sometimes even killed because of it."
Marcellus gasped. "Great Waters!"
Steve nodded. "It's not that common, but it's happened. There's a lot of animosity from some people. Laws are different for gay couples than they are for straight couples, too. That's male/female couples," he explained. "And to top all that off, a lot of people believe that if you're gay, you face eternal damnation after you die. That's why..." Steve reddened, still ashamed of the way he'd acted. "That's why I kept trying to avoid you after that first time we..."
Marcellus nodded. "This makes things much clearer to me," he said.
"Your Highness?" Steve asked timidly.
"Remember when I apologized to you after breakfast yesterday?"
Marcellus frowned, clearly not liking the reminder. "I do," he said tightly.
"I really did mean all of that. I was... am ashamed of how I behaved. I thought about things, and I just can't believe that loving someone could be wrong, even if they're the same gender. I think what you and the king have together is really beautiful. I wish my girlfriend loved me as much as you obviously love him." He sighed and looked at his lap, too embarrassed to look Marcellus in the eye. "Anyway, I hope... maybe... eventually... you can forgive me for being so mean to you."
Steve continued to stare at his hands, watching himself twist and untwist a section of sheet. After a moment, Marcellus covered Steve's hand with one of his own and squeezed slightly. Steve looked up and saw that there was a faint, reassuring smile on the prince's face. "If you are indeed some otherworldly twin of my king, then I know that you have a good heart, as does he. I will not continue to fault you because the circumstances in your world taught you to fear what is natural in mine." Steve smiled back, relieved that Marcellus understood. "I think we have learned enough for one day," Marcellus said after a moment. He cleared away the writing materials and books and offered to play a game of Armada with Steve. "This time I will teach you some strategy."
Steve agreed, but the game soon turned into a lesson about naval strategies during deep sea battles and the various parts of a battleship, aided by the detailed game pieces. When the game was over (Steve lost), Marcellus put the board away, and asked Steve if he wanted anything before he left for the evening. "Not that I can think of."
"Just pull the service rope if you require something in the night," he said.
"I will. Thank you, Your Highness."
"You're welcome. Good night."
"Good night." Marcellus left the room, and, even though it couldn't have been that late, Steve settled into the comfortable blankets and went almost immediately to sleep.