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Challenge #01306-C211: One Wrong Word

"In my defense, I didn't know calling the Prince a 'dummy' would be considered an act of treason." -- OohLookShiny

In a sense, her defense was a compliment. The artisans responsible for the Prince's artificial body had done such work that the simulacrum holding his soul to the mortal realm looked amazingly lifelike.

She hadn't known that he was a human soul residing in a constructed body. And they were so rare, so expensive, that they were a last resort against worse circumstances than the heir passing at a young age.

Prince Ceramique had almost passed on to the other realm on the day he was born. His mother had already gone when he was struggling to live. The nature of peace between his kingdom and its neighbours decreed that his father could never marry again.

And the next heir to the throne would have destroyed the kingdom as certainly as they were destroying themselves. So the king commissioned a magical simulacrum to hold the prince's soul.

Alice hadn't known that 'dummy' was a slur against such magical golems. She'd just meant to chide her friend for something silly that he'd said.

Words that were forgotten, now.

"That's it?" said Prince Ceramique. "You didn't mean it that way?"

Alice, kneeling and still in stocks, had shed all her tears days ago. "Yes, your highness. I can only beg your forgiveness and hope that you spare my family."

Family was the magic word. The king had encouraged their friendship, knowing that a simulacrum could not marry. And even though Prince Ceramique could inherit the crown, he would only be allowed to rule for fifty years before naming a successor. Legally, he could name anyone in the kingdom. And since they were fast running out of royal family...

A wise commoner may well be the kingdom's best bet. The King had taught his son well. Politics and intrigue and the Game of Power. And the knack of being a good monarch.

Prince Ceramique had spent many a happy day in Alice's house, enjoying the chaos of her family and her home. He could do what he liked, as he had all the power. But that power came from the willingness of the people to support his rule.

And, more to the point, Alice's fateful word had been preceded by the words, "Of course I like you."

"I still don't like that word. And... I overreacted. You have your freedom and your family has a boon from my house. Ask of me anything."

Alice waited seventy years to cash it in. By then, she had a granddaughter who had also learned the Game of Power. She was young, strong, and could think circles around people. She had never needed to fight since the day she learned to argue her case.

She would defend against the enemy with great aplomb.

And King Ceramique abdicated his crown to become a knight and advisor by her side. The last defense against those stupid enough to send assassins against the new Queen.

Magical simulacrums were, of course, ridiculously difficult to kill.

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