Aleksey's Kingdom

Aleksey's Kingdom by John Wiltshire Read Free Book Online

Book: Aleksey's Kingdom by John Wiltshire Read Free Book Online
Authors: John Wiltshire
at the cabin this very day. After digesting this news, I asked cautiously, “What have you told them about us, Aleksey? How have you… explained us?”
    “Well, yes, that was… I was going to tell them we were brothers, but then… that would be ridiculous, as we look so different. I was tempted to tell them the truth and dare them—oh don’t look like that. I did not, of course. No one would believe me anyway—that was uncalled for. So, anyway, I might have let slip once something about being at court, and this was seized upon, of course, so I might have given the impression that I was a nobleman, and they then naturally assumed I was from one of the exiled—”
    “Aleksey….”
    “I told them I was a displaced noblemen and that you were my doctor.” He twisted Boudica’s mane, frowning. “Which is true, in a way. If you think about it. Oh, do stop looking at me like that! I had to tell them something—admit you exist. I could not say I lived out here all on my own, could I? Why would I do that, when I could have a very comfortable house in the new town?”
    “Our cabin is not comfortable enough for you, Your Majesty?”
    “I’m not going to dignify that by responding to it.”
    “You just did.”
    He shut me up by leaning over and kissing me, which was not easy to do on horseback.
    Of course, I had no intention of accompanying anyone to a remote (and apparently now empty) colony or fort, and I wasn’t going to let Aleksey go on his own with a pile of soldiers, obviously, so I wasn’t especially worried about having to then listen to his enthusiasm over the whole plan: who was in the rescue party, what provisions they were to take, which colonist families were joining in, and other such things. I interrupted as gently as I could. “Who is going to care for the horses if we join such a force? We have foals, mares in foal. We cannot just up and leave them.”
    “Of course not. Give me some credit, Nikolai. I have owned more fine horses in my life than you, I’d wager. This is the brilliance of my plan—there is a captain in Major Parkinson’s company who cannot ride at the moment as he hurt his back when we were—anyway, he has volunteered—well, I asked him, and he agreed—to come and live here while we are away. He is an excellent chap, and I know you will like him. Or at least tolerate him.”
    “You have it all organized, do you not?”
    “I have not decided what is best for Faelan. What do you think? Should he come with us? Will he be up to it?”
    As none of us were going, I was quite happy to say that Faelan would be fine on such a journey, which clearly made Aleksey happy. I liked being consulted, even if it was this late in the day and my input didn’t matter anyway.
    I felt like something unpleasant to step in, being so false to Aleksey now, and knew I ought to have told him outright of my refusal, but I did not.
    I expect total honesty from him but do not often give it in return—as my lie about the Black Crow proves. Now that I was secure again in having Aleksey, I was quite happy to return to gloomy thoughts that I did not deserve him. It was this self-recrimination that then colored what happened when we returned to the cabin.
    There was a large group of people on the opposite side of the lake, milling around, showing signs of setting up camp. When we went up to them, instead of saying all that I had intended, instead of seeing them out of our little kingdom, I greeted them hospitably.
    I was a little surprised, therefore, by the reception I got from them, given I was making such an uncharacteristic effort to be polite.
    They stared at me, mouths open. The young daughter of the colonists particularly was gaping at me, as if I had materialized from the very earth upon which I stood. It was all very… perplexing. I turned my gaze upon my young man, who had the grace to be looking elsewhere—anywhere but at me, in fact. And then I remembered his confession—how he had told them I

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