The Muse of Mischief arrives at the bottom of the palace stairs and begins ascending them. She can tell right away that things are different – there are red flowers everywhere. That’s odd, almost all of the flora on Ploosnar is some shade of blue due to the ronaid. At the top of the stairs she’s greeted by the palace guards.
“Good afternoon Muse of Mischief. You will find Emperor Bartala in his private sitting room.”
“OK, thank you.” She makes her way through the maze of palace hallways until she comes to the door of his sitting room. She knocks.
Emperor Bartala called from within, “Come!”
She slowly opens the door and peaks around it, “Hey old man, I hear you’re a daddy now!”
Bartala lights up when he hears her voice and runs to greet her. He scoops her up in a bear hug and twirls her around. “M you’re here! I can’t wait for you to meet him! He is perfect. I am so excited to be a father.” He finally sits her down.
She removes her hat and coat, hanging them on a hook next to the door. Purposely staying silent because she knows it will agitate her old friend.
“Aren’t you going to say anything?” He pleads, raising his the air.
She looks at him and smiles. “Of course, congratulations old friend. I’m happy to see you so excited. How is Empress Nalau?”
“Fantastic. She is of course with him now, she adores him.”
“And have you two decided on a name yet?”
“Well yes, and we will announce it at the ceremony later today. But…”
“Yes, we need to talk, please sit, let us enjoy an espidrun while we chat.”
“It sounds like you’re up to something Bartala.” She said taking a seat.
“Well, I have a favor to ask you.”
“It’s too soon to ask me to babysit.” She just looks at him waiting to hear it. He takes his time and pours them each an espidrun, but rather than drink right away he sits the glasses down on the coffee table and then sits on the table right in front of her.
Now she gets a little worried. Why was Bartala acting so oddly? She quietly waits for his explanation.
“We would like your permission to name our son after you.”
“What? Name him after me? How could that work? And isn’t there more to it than that? A custom of some kind that comes with responsibility?” She asked perplexed.
Yes, it will make you his Autuana. If anything should happen to me and Nalau, you would then become his guardian. M, there is no one else I trust with this responsibility.”
“What about Nalau, how does she feel about it? Surely she has some family that would be a more appropriate choice.”
“No she does not. She has family but she is not close to them. We both trust that you would ensure that he was raised with our values. And that you would not exploit his position in the monarchy for your own gain.”
“Well OK. I understand and yes you can trust me to do those things IF something were to happen to you and Nalau. But really Bartala? You can’t name the future Emperor of Ploosnar the Muse of Mischief!”
“No! That we cannot do.” He turns, reaches behind him for the glasses and hands one to her just as the last of the blue steam spills over the side of the glasses. “We will name him Ezopica Mischievous Wisssdartai, after both of our fathers and you. But we will call him Wisssi.”
She presents her glass to him. “To Wisssi.” They clink the glasses and sip. “That’s a long name. Oh but don’t you have like six names… None of which are Bartala.” She teases.
“Six no, four. And remember when we used to anger my father, he would try to scold me using my entire name and couldn’t. By the time he got to Bartapulnye he’d be laughing.”
I do remember that. Kufeter Whakeclyte Wissswara Bartapulnye doesn’t exactly just roll off the tongue. He was a great father, and you will be too.”
“Thank you M.” He is touched that his oldest friend still knows, and is able to pronounce his entire formal name.
“So tell me about this ceremony.”
“It will be a small gathering with us and the liasons. Nalau and I will make a formal announcement of Wissi’s name and that you are the Autuana. Those things will be recorded in the official record, and that’s it.”
“Where’s Brzko? I would like him and Ferocity to be here.”
“They’re on Utkroria telling the King and Queen that their daughter has relinquished the title of princess and married a Blenia.”
“But isn’t she Spubfurnia?”
“And Spubfurnia live underwater breathing with gills, while Blenia live on the surface and breath with lungs. So how can they be together.”
“Well it turns out that the evolution of the Blenia may have been forced by the Spubfurnia. And the Blenia are evolving again – or is it devolving. I don’t know but there is a small group that have both lungs and gills. The Princess fell in love with one of them and married him.”
“You and Brzko never have a boring day do you”
“No, not really.”
“I envy that.”
“Well it’s not like you have a bad life Bartala! Jeez. You’re the Emperor of one of the most advanced planets.”
“I know, I know. And I am grateful. Sometimes I just miss the excitement of…”
“Thinking you were going to be eaten by a Haplogawa?”
“Haha! No not that.” He leans his head back and laughs while slapping his own knee.
The old friends sit in silence for a few minutes, reflecting on what was to come.
Bartala breaks the silence. “I’m going to go check on Nalau and Wisssi. The ceremony is scheduled to start in two hours, will you contact Brzko and see if he and Ferocity can make it back in time?”
Bartala heads to the door. “Thanks M.”
Once he’s left the room she goes to her rooms, but she didn’t have to walk. The rooms that Bartala keeps for her and Brzko are perfect, always just as they’d been left. She sits down on the large round, purple bed and reaches for Brzko.
“Have you made it Utkroria?”
Instead of an answer, she received the live images from him. She lays down and allows herself to watch the situation unfold in front of her. Brzko is underwater, facing King Plyke and Queen Eyjdra in the same receiving area where they had originally met them. Queen Eyjdra seemed to be crying.
“She is my only child, I will never see her again.” She wails.
“Darling please, restrain yourself. Cluthea has made her choice. She has married a Blenia, she has no place here now.”
The Queen ignores her husband. She turns toward Brzko. “Will she see me?”
“I cannot say. We didn’t ask her that. You could have Nyeeq’r contact Thlethlut, she will be able to reach her and find out.”
“Thlethlut? What has she got to do with this? She used to serve my brother. Surely she’s not still alive, she must be very old.”
“She lives in the community with the Blenia that have developed gills. She was our point of contact for Cluthea.”
“I will have Nyeeq’r contact her, thank you Agent Brzko. You and the Muse of Mischief have been very helpful. We are indebted to you.”
“We will not contact her.” The King insists.
“You have already lost your only daughter, do you want to lose your Queen too?” Surprisingly the Queen lets this projection out where Brzko can receive it rather than projecting it only to the King. She doesn’t wait for his answer, she swims up an over the King and disappears into the grass forest they called home.
“Thank you Agent Brzko, thank you for finding Cluthea.” He turns and swims after the queen.
As Brzko heads for the surface he reaches for M. “Did you get all that.”
“Yes. They actually took it pretty well. I suspect that Queen Eyjdra will eventually be able to get King Plyke to accept Xaycarro.”
“I hope so, it’s the only way they’ll be able to see Cluthea again. Speaking of children, how are Nalau and Bartala?”
“They’re fine, they’ve planned a ceremony for their son’s naming and they’d like you and Ferocity to be here. How soon can you get here?”
“I just need to return the rebreather to Nyeeq’r and dry off. Ferocity, how quickly can you get to Ploosnar?”
“OK, head out now, I’ll see you there.”