Chapter 2: A Princess and a Tinker
“That was a wonderful speech dear,” King Nathan said, his voice sounding thin and creaky. He sat in his wheelchair that looked like a throne and was covered in an afghan that Diana knew her mother had made.
“Thank you great-grandfather. You know I could make you an automated chair.” She put her hand on his arm as she bent down.
“Oh, no no. That would be a waste of your time and talents. Plus what would I do without Martin’s sparkling conversation.” The large man who acted as body guard, nurse, and confidant of the king smiled and grunted softly. “See dear, it’s nearly impossible to get him to shut up.” King Nathan gave a soft laugh and then started to cough.
The coughing fit lasted longer than Diana would have liked, but at least there was no blood this time. She’d spent a lot of time worrying about him and trying to find a cure for what ailed him, but in the end it was just old age. At a hundred and four years of age, he’d outlived three wives, all four of his children, and all three grandchildren. He had ten great-grandchildren all between the age of twenty-six and ten. Diana was the eldest and in all but name she ruled the island kingdom.
When the coughing ended, the old man took a deep breath and said, “You don’t have anything on your calendar for the rest of the day. Don’t waste your free time with this old man. Go have fun.” He winked at her. He was the only one who knew.
The castle was built with both servants corridors and secret passages. Diana had grown up in these halls with her cousins and her twin brother. He’d left when he was fifteen, angry that he’d never be king unless she died. Angry at being born a few minutes too late. And mostly just angry. She hadn’t seen or heard from him since he’d left. She hoped he was okay wherever he was.
Navigating the corridors and passages was easy and she quickly made it to her bedroom. Once there, she cleaned off all the makeup she wore to public events, changed into simple overalls, and tied her curly reddish brown hair into a tight bun. Finally she added a pair of dark rimmed glasses to hide her family’s distinctive green eyes. No good disguise is complete without glasses, she thought.
Once changed, she headed out of the castle through a series of complex tunnels. The servants she passed only smiled and bowed.
Once she’d used her rooms as a workshop, but it was hard to explain why the princesses rooms always smelled of grease and smoke. The seamstresses were particularly cross about the stains in her clothing. Her great-grandfather had given her money and told her to find a small space in town. Her parents were suspicious at the time, but her brother’s running away kept them busy until they died in an airship crash while searching for him.
Her head was in the clouds and she wasn’t paying attention to what was going on around her and she ran into a boy. He had the most beautiful golden skin and full lips. The boy glared at her and put his hand on his sword. He had on novice robes from the Fighting Monks.
“What the hell are you thinking?” he asked. His voice cracking part way.
“Sorry, I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going. I really didn’t mean offence and if you challenge me to a duel you’ll be extremely bored and I’ll be extremely dead, so how about you don’t…”
“You’re a tinker aren’t you?”
“Yes I am. Master Tinker Dee. Pleasure to meet you…” she trailed and stuck out her hand to shake.
The man shook her hand and she couldn’t help but admire his strong lean muscled arms. It was definitely too bad that the Monks took vows of celibacy.
“I’m Novice Arty but that won’t last long. I’ll be a master by the end of the year.”
“That’s a lot of confidence there, Arty. Where are you going in such a hurry?” She smiled at him.
“I’m trying to find the Apollo Shipping Company, but this damned island is worse than a labyrinth.”
Giggling a little, she said, “It’s a little hard when you first start, but it becomes second nature eventually. I’m heading there now. I could walk you there if you like?”
The man blushed and it made Diana happy that she seemed to have the same effect on him that he did on her.
The Apollo Shipping Company owned the biggest, best, and more importantly, fastest airships in the world. They delivered packages and mail to everyone who could pay. They were headquartered in Cillian and she rented a workshop from them. The engineers and airship pilots came to her when they were having technical issues. She’d re-designed most of the technology to use solar powered boilers instead of the old coal engines and the patents would have made her rich is she hadn’t already been.
Sitting behind the desk was Ezekiel. He was her best friend and one of the prettiest men she’d ever met. He was the heir to the Apollo fortune but preferred working in the warehouse and dealing with people. He’d lost his left leg when he was young.
“Hey Ezekiel. What’s new?”
Seeing her he smiled widely and furrowed his brow. “I have a bone to pick with you. The new leg worked great until the pistons started going off and I was hoping around like a deranged toad.”
Diana couldn’t help laughing and it turned into a snort. “I have a look at it. You know what I say…” He joined her in repeating her favourite saying, “Perfection through persistence.”
“It’s in your workshop. Let me know if you need anything.”
“Thanks. I should be good. I want to work on that glider-cycle again. I think If I tweek the air-magic I can get more reliable balance.” Remembering Arty, she added, “Arty here was looking for you. Take care of him, he’ll be a master soon.” She winked at Arty and headed to her workshop.
Thinking about them both as she worked she sighed… so much pretty in the same room.
If you’re enjoying this year’s serial story why not check out those from past years?