Rob Does Words
Treating fiction poorly since 2019


“The jungles of South America are no place for someone such as you, Sir,” the local man said. His accent was strong and sometimes hard to understand, but his English was impeccable. He stood quietly as the other fixed him with an unreadable look.

“I know,” the other, one of the most recognisable people in the world, said eventually. “With that in mind, however, and given what my future holds now that my older brother has more than one child of his own, my safety is less important than my interests.”

“Hmm,” the local man said. His name was Damon, or some variation of it. He was known to the family. Not a friend, per se, but someone who was lucky to be connected well enough to allow the Prince to be here with a small retinue and no press. “And your goal?”

“It’s all in the paperwork my PA sent through,” the Prince said. “I wish to explore. Like my uncles, you understand.”

Damon nodded. “I am aware of what your paperwork said. Your uncles, though, they trekked through the heart of Africa. This is altogether different.”

“Different is what I want to be, Damon. My life until now has been carefully propagated. Handled. I was not different. You know what everyone calls me. The Spare. I was not allowed to be me. I had to be another version of my brother. Just in case.”

“And now you wish to fly before you can walk.”

“Damon, I have served for the last decade in the Royal Air Force. I have been through the same level of training as anyone else at my rank. I am not a pampered son of a Queen.”

“Of course not. I apologise. The stories we hear about you down here. The partying. Drugs. Women. It draws a different picture than someone who wants to be an explorer.”

The Prince nodded sagely. “My youth was full of things I should not be proud of. I have regrets. But now I am allowed to be myself. To stretch my legs and try something my father and, more importantly, my grandmother would not allow before. And should the worst happen, my brothers family will not feel the shock in the line of succession.”

“You are quite different to what I expected.”

“Good,” the Prince said with a clap. “That means I’m doing it right. I expect to leave in the morning.”

“Of course, Sir.”

“No, Damon. No no no. From here on out, there will be no Sir. No royal honorifics. Until we’re back at this building, when you have returned me safely from our trek, you shall call me by my name: Rowan.”

As was her habit at this time of day, the Queen sat alone. Her private study sat on the cool side of the palace and was only accessible via a single door, through a room only accessible by her immediate family and her private secretary, none of whom were in residence currently.

She stared out of the window at the coming twilight and sighed in an uncharacteristically melancholy way.

Her annual checkup had been earlier in the day and while she had been given a clean bill of health, she feared that her age was catching up to her quicker with each passing week. Already well into her 80s, almost on the breach of 90, she knew the end would come for her soon.

Her concern wasn't for herself, nor was it for her family. While they never said anything to her, she knew that they, and the many people that surrounded them all, had many different plans for what to do when the day finally came. Her eldest son, the heir-presumptive, had been spending more time here. The two of them had not had the best of relationships for some time now and she could tell he wasn't here to achieve some small measure of reconciliation. He was here to make himself known to everyone. To prime them all for when he was the one who sat in this study. Who answered the bell when someone was waiting to be seen. When he got to wear The Crown.

If she was being honest, she would rather the crown be passed to his eldest. Young, handsome and popular with the people. He and his wife and now their two infant children had made great strides in rebuilding the relationship between the family and their subjects. He would be a good King. But she knew that skipping her son, a man who had been waiting his entire life for what she had, would split the family. Would sour any progress the young Prince had made with the people. When the day came, the crown could only pass to her eldest. From there, it would be up to him.

“There is talk about your family, you know,” Damon said one day, almost a week into the wild jungle. “Allegations. Conspiracies.”

“Isn't there always?” the Prince, Rowan, replied. “It strikes me that anyone who has any kind of influence or power comes face to face with people who would rather they didn't.”

“Yes, but that's not really what I'm talking about.”

The two of them had formed a strange friendship in these few days. They led their small party, a group of five men and two women, through the thick jungle. None of them, not even Damon, had expected the Prince to do anything but follow along, letting the locals do the hard work. But he had, from the start, led them. He was often seen with a large machete, swiping at vines and cutting down dead wood for their campfires. Damon was impressed and had taken to joining him at the head of their queue and the two talked about many things as they traversed the very hard to follow paths.

“Then tell me what you mean,” Rowan said.

“The nationalists, before we took back our land, they spoke of when your people landed here. Took our land, enslaved our people. Enriched themselves with our resources.”

Rowan nodded. “Your people were treated poorly. Still are in some respects.” He stopped walking and turned, looking at everyone in turn. “It’s hard to speak freely about this,” he said. “I am part of the problem you all face, even if while we live off the land out here, we pretend I’m not. I cannot tell you to not talk about how I act or present myself when we return. Which means certain things I believe can’t be spoken of. As much as I am different to my brother, or how much my family doesn't really care what I do now that he has an heir and a spare, I am still one of them and if I say something out of place, the papers will still report it.”

“That is true,” Damon nodded. “At least one of our travelling group is a dyed in the wool nationalist and is waiting for you to say something colonial to justify it. But there is something else you must understand.”

“What is that?” Rowan asked absentmindedly while eyeing the others trying to decided which one of them was the nationalist, the one most likely to leave him out here if things took a turn.

“We know that the people who invaded our land all those generations ago are not the same people who sit upon the throne now.”

“I'm sorry? Are you saying-”

“It was taken from them. During the war. The King, such as he was back then, was killed and the throne was stolen. Who the rightful leader of your commonwealth should be is unknown, but we do know that much.”

“I see,” Rowan said slowly. He had, of course, heard rumours of the same, but none of them had meant anything before. Even if they were true, it didn't matter. No one of any importance had ever tried to make the allegation seriously.

“So it is a little strange that you decided to come out here,” Damon said. “This was the last nation ever invaded by your people before the throne was stolen.”

“Strange, you say?”

“Well, because of what was left behind,” Damon said, pulling aside a curtain of hanging vines revealing a large lake with crystal clear water.

In the middle of it, resting peacefully was a large grey-white rock with a gleaming, pearl handled sword embedded in it.