Nate's eye hasn't moved from the Crown Prince Fyren and Soc. My hope that he would be fun disappears with every mouthful he takes of the urchin secretion.
The footman finally appears with my glass of juice. Its got straws and a teddy bear on a stick in it. Seriously, anyone would think I was five. I wish I was five because then Dad would have spared me this awful evening. I'd be tucked up in bed being read a story by Bessie, my nanny. That would have been preferable to this crap. Bessie’s now the palace housekeeper and we're not allowed to speak anymore.
“All rise,” yells my Uncle Fred. He's wearing his dress Soaring Warrior uniform of shiny leather and sparkling buttons. There's a bugle in his hand.
We all get to our feet. Nate is still mumbling about Soc and Crown Prince Fyren.
“His Majesty, King Lorenzo the second of Covesea Island and Associated Territories. His Highness, Crown Prince Socrates.” Uncle Fred places the bugle to his lips and sounds the King's Blast.
Massive arched shaped walnut doors are opened by two young warriors in their dress uniform.
Dad stands erect and three paces behind him Soc has his head bowed as convention demands. When he is in the presence of the monarch he must show that he defers power to him.
The band in the corner starts playing the Royal March. Dad and Soc walk in time to the music, down the length of the hall to the seats in the centre of the top table. As usual, they have the timing perfect. I’ve never been able to get the rhythm right and I’m always in trouble when I have to take part in a procession.
Dad stands in front of his throne, it's big and gold with claret velvet cushions. He raises his arms. “Tonight enjoy the hospitality of Covesea Island with food created by our internationally renowned chefs; accompanied by the alcohol we are famous for and served with dedication by my servants. Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we must talk about matters serious in nature.” He sits down.
Soc sits down.
"All may now be seated," Uncle Fred shouts.
All of us obey the order.
To Soc's right is Crown Prince Fyren who moves a little closer to my brother and smiles at him – a smile that holds a warmth I cannot describe. A smile that I am sure makes Nate grab his drink and drain it.
Next to my dad is my sister's husband, The President of Cycloneica. He talks to my dad and Dad responds politely. Dad's face is tense but it could be the pain from his wound.
My sister is sitting next to her husband, wearing sea-green, the colour that the Queen of Covesea Island would wear. She is flirting with an incredibly fat man in military uniform. I think it's the dress uniform of The Covesea Island Consort's Guard. We don’t have a consort so they don’t come to the palace very often.
My sister is perfect, elegant and never puts her calculating little feet in any kind of mire. When she catches sight of me her nose wrinkles like she's smelt a dog turd and her mouth purses like a cat's arse that has recently sucked on a lemon.
I stick a tongue out at her. Flash. I pull it back in and pray I haven't been caught on camera. It's a good bet they caught my action but not hers; the press adore our beautiful princess who brought prosperity to the island with her marriage. Her expression sours further like she's spotted a maggot in the turd.
The expression of distaste vanishes as she turns back to the fat soldier she's trying to get into bed. My sister's a total slut and will sleep with anyone who can advance her in someway. It amazes me that the media take issue with the way I pick my nose but they don't care about her dalliances.
My stomach rumbles. I haven't eaten since breakfast. To distract myself, I pick up my butter knife and use it to engrave a picture of a bird into the napkin. It's a bird of prey and not my greatest work. The napkin is linen so Dad will be in a full lava flow if I use the pen in my pocket. There's a flash from a camera and I put the knife down in case it's aimed at me.
“Bastard, bastard, bastard." He throws his drink back and drains the glass. Although his mutterings are under his breath there is anger in them. Nate's eye never leaves my brother.
Crown Prince Fyren has .his hand under the table and it looks like it might be in Soc's lap.
“Socrates loves you.” The last thing I want is the only stable couple in my life breaking up. “Nate, there is nobody else.”
“Except the twenty million other people he’s Crown Prince to. He'll do anything to make sure these talks go right.” Nate clicks his fingers. “And Fyren has wanted to get his hands on Soc since we were teenagers. Valet, I want more to drink. Now!”
Crown Prince Fyren produces a black bottle and pours red liquid into Socrates glass.
Usually Dad moderates Soc's alcohol consumption at these events. He’s allowed two glasses of wine.
Soc looks at Dad. Dad nods.
A night of blood, mayhem and magic thrust Prince Angus, the youngest son of the king, onto the throne of Covesea Island. He's never wanted to be king. Social media calls King Angus a clown. His subjects don't rate his ability to lead them in the trade negotiations with one of the planet's superpowers.