My revisions to the original part 2 post from earlier this week. Sorry to inundate you all with this story, but I do feel I’m onto something and I’m excited by it.
As always, respectful constructive criticism is welcome. Part 1 can be read here.
Uncle Jarlath paused with a smirk on his face allowing me to absorb what he’d said. Algae? How could algae turn my breath to spinning orbs? How could algae wrap around my body and float me around the park?
We stared at each other. The first thing I noticed was a clarity to his mannerisms. His expressions weren’t smearing across his face, each new emotion was crisp; he was sober. His velvet emerald suit was impeccably fitted to his thin frame. He looked like a dapper frog. His black hair, usually greasy from forgetfulness, was trimmed neatly around his ears, and the deep crinkles around his eyes were less pronounced somehow. I looked to his hands: cuticles trimmed and fingernails gleaming. Has he been to a spa?
His smile widened, but his lavender eyes shifted to my left as he continued, “I just woke up one morning and discovered that I could make water turn red simply by imagining Rhodophyta in my mind. Then I found if I pictured the algae in the water multiplying and joining together, I could make the mixture solid and strong. Strong enough, say, to carry a boy around a park. If I pictured each individual alga releasing its oxygen— as it’s wont to do, you know — I found I could make water float in mid-air.”
I don’t believe you, was my only response, but I wasn’t about to say it out loud. So another silence passed between us.
“Smile, my boy,” he said with a pat to my shoulder. “You are the esteemed nephew of a Necessary. Provided the Commission accepts me, of course. We will find out in a week’s time.” The Necessary were the Emperor’s league of magicians. Anyone possessing inexplicable powers—the ability to predict the future, for instance— were required to identify themselves to the government. The Emperor realized early on in his reign that magicians posed a threat to him. He started the Commission to keep track of these threats, to coddle them, and to occupy them with matters of state. That way they wouldn’t instead concoct plant to usurp his power. That’s what I thought, at least. I’m sure my uncle would provide another, more self-important explanation of their purpose.
“I’m sorry, Uncle. It’s incredible news, really. It’s just that I hope it doesn’t mean you’ll be moving back to the city and leaving me here alone in this house,” I said. There is nothing I want more.
“I’m not that sort of Necessary. I cannot tell you what they will do with me after I show them my powers. I merely want to resume my duty in serving the Emperor again the best way I know how.”
And with that statement I began to suspect what my uncle was up to.
# # # #
Years ago, my uncle awoke in a canopied bed. He’d sip his tea out on a prim balcony overlooking the Palisades, the granite cliffs that protect the Emperor’s grounds. His servant dressed him head-to-toe in bronzine, a caramelized orange silk created especially for the uniform of the Emperor’s chief engineer— a prestigious role. It’s purpose was to provide water for the City, and less consequentially for the Emperor, the rest of the Kingdom. Since pollution tainted most other bodies of water, the population relied on several hydrofactories in the Boglands to supply fresh water. They were the Boglands only source of income. The factories filtered the algae out of our water to make it potable. A system of aqueducts designed by my uncle carried the fresh water throughout the Kingdom.
As a man with status, Jarlath seemed kind and gracious. He’d call meetings to discuss how he could further help the people of the Kingdom. But I suspect it was an act. He pretended to care about things in order to maintain his title and dignity. He’d all but forgotten his dreary childhood in the gauche bogs. A single miscalculation with the aperture size of a pump several years ago resulted in his catastrophic loss in status. The fickle Emperor refused to listen to my uncle’s pleas to keep his job. Unemployed and shocked, Jarlath sought refuge in our house. He was wallowed in the bedroom down the hall from mine since. I believe he has shaken his self-pity and concocted a scheme to return to his station as the Emperor’s aide. The suit, the sobriety, the reappearance of his self-worth: it all fit.
I just had to find a way to prove it.