Basil's Guide to Names and Revolution

Published on 7 October 2023 at 18:36

A companion story to the Wingomia Guide Series



            The World was broken. Phillip learned that at the tender age of four, watching his mother polish silver until her fingers bled while his father pretended they didn’t exist and partied all night.

            “He should be nicer to you,” Phillip stated, pouting as he climbed into bed.

            “He’s the King,” his mother said, tucking him in and sweeping his overgrown hair from his eyes. “I’m a maid. You were never supposed to happen, Phillip.”

            Phillip didn’t see what their status had to do with anything. The King had a son, he should take care of the child and the child’s mother, not leave the mother to slave away all day and the son to help in the kitchens as only a toddler.

            “It’s not fair,” Phillip insisted.

            “It’s just the way the world is,” his mother said. She kissed his forehead. “Now, get some sleep.”

            Phillip rolled onto his side, pulling the threadbare blanket under his chin. If this was how the world was, then it was broken, he decided. And, if no one else would fix it, then he would.



The princess was a year younger than Phillip. He saw her playing all the time, chasing butterflies in the garden and having tea parties with stuffed animals and her nurses.

            He hated the little princess.

            They had the same father and lived in the same palace, yet she was given everything while he was barely acknowledged. The King’s face lit up whenever he saw Princess Selena. When he saw Phillip…


            He never saw Phillip.

            Phillip was six, and with his mother working all day he had too many hours to fill by himself. He helped in the kitchen some, but he was too small to really be of any use. Most of the time, he wandered the Palace, slipping into nooks and crannies to spy on the blue bloods and finding forgotten passages to sneak around in.

            He watched his father and half-sister through these passages, learned how they spent their days, saw how they didn’t spare a second glance at any maid or other servant.

            How could they live so close to other people and never see them? Phillip didn’t understand, and he was glad not to grow up as a spoiled prince. He never wanted to treat anyone the way the royal family treated servants. 



Phillip’s mother died when he was twelve. The maids and other servants arranged her burial, but there was never a proper service to send her off.

            It infuriated Phillip.

            She’d given birth to the King’s son, and the man couldn’t be bothered to pay his respects? Did he even know she’d passed away? Or was he too wrapped up in his own importance to pay any attention to his bastard family?

            Phillip stalked the King for days until the man was alone in his sitting room, the guards posted outside the door while he poured himself a drink.

            The secret passage door scratched the floor when Phillip stormed in, the heavy weight sliding back into place behind him.

            The King dropped his glass, reaching for a rapier at his waist that wasn’t there. “Saints! Who the devil are you?” He’d unbuttoned the top of his shirt, and his fancy jacket lay over the back of the couch. His reddish-brown hair stuck up from where he’d run his hands through it. Despite all this, his regal aura still surrounded him.

            Phillip tightened his fists. “Your son.”

            The King paled, leaning back against the liquor cabinet and wrapping his fingers around the edge. The whole room reeked of brandy and stale cigar smoke.

            “Remember Wanda?” Phillip demanded. “The maid you couldn’t keep your hands off of?”

            “I do,” the King whispered. He pinched the bridge of his nose, shaking his head. “I told her to get rid of that baby, that I could never acknowledge you or treat you as mine, and it would be too hard for her to raise you alone.”

            His mother had never mentioned that conversation, but Phillip wasn’t surprised.

            “I see she’s managed, somehow,” the King went on, reaching to pick up the glass he’d dropped and set it back on the cabinet.

            How could he be so calm now? He spoke as if Phillip wasn’t there, turned his back to pour another glass like Phillip couldn’t be a threat to him if he wanted to be. Like Phillip was nothing to him.

            Phillip’s hands twitched. He wanted to throw something, or punch him. Maybe pour that fresh glass over the King’s head. “She’s dead.”

            The King barely paused before sipping his brandy. “I see. I’m sorry to hear that.”

            Empty words.

            Phillip struggled to control himself. “Is that all you have to say? My mother is dead.”

            The King sighed. He at least had the curtesy to lower his glass and speak first, this time. “Yes, that is all I have to say. She knew we would never have anything more than that night, and even then, the night meant nothing.”

            “Nothing?” Phillip repeated. “I exist!

            “So you do.” The King took a drink. “What do you want me to do about it?”

            “I want you to own up to it!” Phillip yelled. “I am your son, your eldest child, even, and I should be treated as such!”

            Not even a trace of emotion passed over the King’s face. “You were a mistake. You were born out of wedlock and are illegitimate, and therefore can never be claimed as my son.”

            His mother had explained it to him a hundred times. He had no way to prove he was the King’s son, and therefore no claim to his heritage.

            It wasn’t fair.

            “You don’t get to ruin someone’s life and not suffer for it,” Phillip said, the limited control on his temper snapping. If the only one who would make the King pay was him, then so be it.

            He lunged, fists raised.

            “Guards,” the King called, ever so calm, setting his glass down and catching Phillip’s fists to restrain him until two guards burst in. “Please have this thief thrown in the dungeon.”

            “Thief?” Phillip shouted. “I’m your son, you bastard!”

            King Phillip looked him in the eye while the guards dragged him out. “I have no son.”

            Phillip screamed as the guards took him away. He’d dreamed that this father would embrace him once they met, that he’d be ecstatic to have a son. The cold-hearted denial burned. Phillip would see that man to his grave and his legacy destroyed. He couldn’t even stand sharing the same name.

            That’d be the first thing to go.



The day after being arrested, King Phillip visited him in the dungeon. How he’d slipped down here without his guards, William didn’t know or care.

            “You need to leave the palace,” King Phillip stated.

            “Hello, how are you? Great, thanks for asking,” William muttered. “Thought you royals liked your manners.”

            The King took a deep breath. “You can be executed by the end of the week for breaking into my personal chambers, or take your chances on the streets.”

            William stared. “That’s it? How am I supposed to survive on my own?” He might be smart, but he’d hardly ever left the palace. He didn’t know the first thing about living outside these walls.

            “If you don’t want to die, you’ll figure something out.”

            Those were his options? Execution or abandoned on the streets?

            He hauled himself to his feet. At least there was freedom outside the palace.

            King Phillip wordlessly led him out of the dungeons and to a small servant’s entrance next to the woods half hidden in the ivy, taking extra care that no one saw them.

            This entrance was rarely used, and the hinges squeaked sharply when King Phillip pulled the door open. “Follow the wall, you’ll find the city,” he said.

            William stepped out the door.

            “If you find an apprenticeship, I’m sure you’ll be fine,” the King went on. As if one suggestion on how not to die could make any of this better.

            “You’ll regret treating me this way,” William threatened.

            “I regret every mistake I’ve made,” King Phillip said. “You’re nothing special.”

            He shut the door, locking William out. William banged on the door once, not to get back in, but to let out his frustration.

            He didn’t know how yet, but he swore he’d kill his bastard father.



William spent several months at an Ekogin shelter, nearly starving every other week because there was never enough food. Between the orphans who took shelter there, the mentally unsound individuals, and the physically disabled who couldn’t find work to support themselves, the shelter was beyond capacity any given night.

            The world outside the palace was much grimmer than William had ever imagined. The more he learned about it, the more he hated his father. The man was so concerned with his image, but William saw nothing that man should be proud of. Amputees hurt by the new steam technologies had been forgotten and abandoned now that they couldn’t work. Women sold their bodies to make ends meet. Children starved or froze to death in winter, their bodies shoveled aside and dumped in the trash.

            Yet King Phillip raised taxes and demanded more of his people, never giving them anything in return.

            William debated the merits of a king heatedly with the caretakers of the shelter. Surely, if the whole Kingdom rose in revolt, something would change.

            But that wasn’t what Ekogin taught them, apparently. They believed in creation and peace, spreading a message of natural change and adding to the world, rather than taking away.

            “If we take down the monarchy, we can rebuild a better society,” William argued.

            “We’d lose too much in the process,” the caretaker said. “Better to find a way to be happy with what you have, or create something that makes you happy.”

            “Creating a new government would make me happy.”

            “Then find a way to do so without destroying everything. Destruction is the Devil’s path, and you don’t want to be a devil, do you?”

            It sounded like another name, but William dutifully said no so the caretaker wouldn’t punish him again.



As much as he loathed to do anything King Phillip suggested, William did take an apprenticeship with an apothecary, changing his name to Robin in the process.

            He spent five years learning to identify plants and which ones to mix for remedies, and which ones should never be combined because of their deadly properties.

            He tried to pass off his interest in the poisons as cautionary intrigue, but he didn’t think his master was fooled. Master only gave him the basic answers, never going into detail about how to mix ingredients together to make the poisons Robin wanted.

            Of course, that only meant Robin figured things out himself. After learning how best to utilize different aspects of every plant, it wasn’t hard to deduce whether leaves should be ground or petals shredded or what have you. He spent just as much time imagining how he’d slip poison into King Phillip’s food. Or perhaps he’d lace the liquor cabinet in the King’s sitting room. With the secret passages, no one would ever know he’d been there.

            When he turned seventeen, he almost did it. He knew enough to get away with it, he only needed a way into the palace.

            It wasn’t enough to stop him, but he found himself hesitating. Once he killed the King, what then? The Princess would take the throne, but would anything really change? She was more likely to continue her father’s rule.

            He pondered that conundrum, laying back on his cot and watching the candlelight flicker, when he discovered a dark secret.

            The shadows dancing on the ceiling weren’t normal. He tilted his head, and the shadows tilted with him. They didn’t follow the feeble flames that cast them. If he waved a hand, all the shadows gathered in the corner of the room, disobeying every rule of the universe as Robin had ever known them.

            Robin looked at his hand, and when he broke eye contact the shadows returned to normal. Thinking he must be losing his mind, he doused the candle and went to sleep, determined to put the incident out of his mind.

            Come morning, he tried it again, just to see if he’d dreamed the whole thing. The shadows danced to his command again, not the candle that cast them.

            “This is impossible,” Robin muttered. Centuries ago, the Saints claimed they could wield elements like this. But those were the blessed, the lucky few chosen by the gods. He was a bastard, fighting every day for his own right to live. The gods wouldn’t pick someone like him, not when they hadn’t picked anyone in six centuries, at least.

            That day found him wandering back to the Ekogin shelter for the first time since he left for his apprenticeship, looking into the legends of the Saints. A few had been gifted with shadow manipulation, and they’d used it to help crops grow in rough seasons or to protect towns from invaders, back before Wingomia united under one banner.

            It sounded like fairytales. Stories and legends grew when they were repeated over the centuries, and Robin had always believed these people had simply been in the right place at the right time, and maybe they’d had helpful advice, but certainly not power like this.

            But they’d been real people, their birth dates and death dates recorded. And if Robin’s, for lack of a better word, magic, was real, then theirs must have been, too. And that meant all the holy texts claiming every-day people had god-given gifts centuries ago must be true, too.

            He tapped a rolled scroll against his palm. “Magic was—Is—real.” He spoke out loud in the privacy of the record room, trying to order his thoughts. “It used to be everywhere, until it wasn’t.” That made even less sense. Something as common as hair color wouldn’t just go away. Something must have happened.

            Maybe the gods were real after all, and the people had angered them? Believable, but that didn’t explain why Robin would be the first to receive magic, or why now.

            He needed answers, more than these old texts could give him. The caretakers were no help, either, but they encouraged him to seek out other churches. Every church would have different texts available to them, so they all knew different things.

            Robin set out that week, journeying to every church he could find. He practiced his magic on the road when no one was around, learning to twist shadows to whatever shape he desired. It always seemed easier when he stood in direct sunlight.

            His pilgrimage went on for months, but he didn’t truly find answers until he reached a small town in the mountains.

            It was one of, if not the only, town to preserve the history between a civilization blessed with god-like powers and a civilization without it.

            “We call it the Purge,” an old tavern keeper told him at the bar. “Magicians, those who could use magic, were all killed or exiled.”

            The gods had nothing to do with it? “But why?” Robin asked.

            “People who couldn’t use magic were scared. Someone started claiming magicians were devils, and the paranoia set in. Wasn’t long before magicians were being killed or had to flee the kingdom.”

            Wingomia Kingdom was surrounded by water. As far as they could tell, there were no other land masses within sailing distance. If the old Magicians chose to flee the country, they’d chosen to die at sea. “Where did they go?”

            The old man shrugged. “No one knows. They all sailed away and were never heard from again.”

            That couldn’t be the end of the story. Ships full of powerful magicians wouldn’t just disappear like that. If magicians had all the power, they wouldn’t have just left. They could have fought for their home.

            Unless they prescribed to the same ‘Do no harm’ doctrine of the church. Leaving would have avoided bloodshed, and would have been seen as the better choice.

            Still, if all the Magicians were gone, that didn’t explain his power.

            “How were magicians given magic?”

            The old man barked a laugh. “They weren’t given anything. Magicians were either born with it or they weren’t. Strong magicians tended to pass their power down in the family.”

            “So, the chances of someone randomly having magic now?” Robin pressed.

            The man scoffed. “The Purge was six hundred years ago. No family could keep it a secret for that long. What families didn’t flee died out in isolation long ago.”

            Thinking of his own family history, Robin had a different opinion. The current royal family had been ruling since the civil war, eight hundred years ago. The Purge happened during their dynasty, and they’d survived and continued ruling. If a member of the royal family had been born with magic, Robin could almost guarantee they’d have been kept secret. Magic could easily have been passed down generation to generation, with no one the wiser.

            Did the current family know about it? Did King Phillip have any idea it was possible for Robin to inherit this power?

            Considering how well he’d kept Robin’s existence a secret, he shouldn’t rule out the possibility that King Phillip was a fully trained Magician.

            It only made the man even more foolish for sending Robin away instead of accepting him as his own.

            “Thank you for your time,” Robin said, dropping a large tip on the counter. “You’ve been very helpful.”



Even if this small town was more accepting of magic than the rest of the kingdom, Robin didn’t want to advertise his abilities. He went deeper into the mountains to train alone, manipulating shadows to catch rabbit and deer, creating new creatures entirely from the black voids.

            He learned how to send shadows out to spy for him, how to travel between them, how to hold things and carry them. The shadows became extra limbs and his own personal servants.

            The sun’s heat gave him power. The more time he spent in sunlight, the longer he could twist the shadows and the stronger they were.

            But for every inch of progress he made, he knew a proper teacher could bring him another mile. He never would have learned half as much about herbs and remedies and poisons without his Master in only five years. Training alone for another five years would only teach him so much. A Master could expedite what he could teach himself and open his mind to possibilities he’d never think of.

            The problem was, if magic was passed down through bloodline, there was only one person who might be able to teach him.

            Robin’s lip curled in disgust just thinking of asking that man for anything. There was also a glimmer of satisfaction imagining the look on King’s Phillip face when Robin demonstrated his power. The King would never have expected Robin to come so far on his own.

            With that image in mind, he descended the mountains and made his way back to the capitol, picking up a new name along the way. Robin had been the apothecary apprentice. It didn’t suit him anymore. He wanted something powerful, something mystical.       

            A few days before his nineteenth birthday, he shed the name Robin and replaced it with the name Umbra.



Returning to civilization reminded Umbra of everything broken in the world. By the time he made it to the capitol, there was a whole list of things he wanted to see fixed.

            The entire kingdom needed an overhaul, and Umbra doubted the current regime would do what needed to be done.

            He entered the main gates with a group of musicians arriving for a party, and then used his shadows to slip into the secret passages. He wandered around his favorite haunts, allowing himself a few hours of nostalgia.

            There were few staff members he recognized after seven years, but they all had the same worn-out expressions he remembered so clearly on his mother’s face. He couldn’t stop himself from silently helping from afar if he could, sending shadows to help carry heavy trays or sweep dirt out of the way before they saw it. Even if someone were to notice, all they’d see was a moving shadow, and they’d assume it was a trick of the light. Magic wouldn’t even be a possibility to them.

            It wasn’t much, but it was the best he could do until he spoke with the King and demanded necessary changes to save this kingdom.

            He found the princess first, giggling in the garden with some noble boy showboating next to her.

            Umbra rolled his eyes from the window he spotted them through. Selena could be volunteering at a shelter or teaching orphans to read, or any number of useful things, but instead she wasted her time flirting.

            Why did everyone in the royal family have to be so useless?

            He turned from the window and continued through the passages until finding King Phillip in the cabinet room with his council. The passage ran above the room, and Umbra watched the men deliberate from a hidden crack in the ceiling.

            Sound was muffled, and he couldn’t make out distinct words, but there was an awful lot of laughter for a group of men running a kingdom. His blood boiled. Millions of lives were in their hands, and none of them could be bothered to take it seriously. No wonder people outside the palace suffered so much. Had a single one of these councilmen even seen a shelter before?

            He should kill them all and be done with it, force the kingdom to start over from scratch.

            Something to consider, but not yet. He wanted to speak with King Phillip, first. Killing the council could wait that long.

            Umbra moved on from his hiding spot. The council meeting could take hours, and he had no desire to waste his time listening to them debate who they should demand more money from. Instead, he explored the gardens, picking a few plants as he passed. As far as he was aware, nothing in the garden could be combined into a deadly poison, which disappointed him. Some of it would make a victim terribly ill, but there weren’t any lethal combinations of flowers or roots. If he wanted to poison anyone, he’d have to leave the palace and get supplies. He hadn’t come today with the intention of assassinating anyone, but he almost wished he could take advantage of the opportunity.

            As the day grew later, Umbra made his way up to the King’s private rooms. The man would be here sooner or later, and Umbra settled against the wall next to the door to wait. The Queen had passed away some time ago, before Umbra’s mother, even, so he wasn’t worried about anyone else walking in.

            Hours passed before the door clicked open and King Phillip sauntered in, leaving his guards posted outside.

            Umbra stayed exactly where he was. The door latched shut and Phillip relaxed, unfastening his cloak and draping it over a chair as he made his way to his liquor cabinet. Bottles clinked when Phillip pulled one out and set a glass down next to it.  

            It truly was a shame Umbra hadn’t been able to poison the liquor, but he supposed it would have made conversation difficult.

            Phillip drained his first glass and poured a second before he turned around. When he finally did, Umbra wrapped shadows around Phillip’s mouth to muffle the shout.

            “Never thought you’d see me again, did you?” Umbra asked, striding towards him.

            Shaking hands clawed at the shadows around his mouth, but Phillip was helpless in Umbra’s shadows.

            “Never thought I’d have this power, either, I bet,” Umbra went on. He stopped a few feet away from Phillip, pleased to see they were almost even in height. Phillip was broader than him, but Phillip had also had a lifetime of regular meals while Umbra had gone to bed hungry often.

            Phillip seemed to figure out who he was, and his panic settled a little, likely realizing that if Umbra wanted to kill him, he’d have done it already.

            “You thought I’d die on the streets, didn’t you? You wanted me to, because then it would be my fault for not being smart enough or brave enough, and your hands would be clean. You didn’t count on me surviving and coming back stronger.”

            Phillip raised a brow.

            “Oh, I know I’m stronger than you,” Umbra said. “If you could do what I do, you’d have freed yourself by now. Which is a disappointment, I’ll admit. This,” he wove shadows around his hands, “is the only reason I came to talk. I want you to tell me everything you know about magic and how to wield it.”

            Phillip muttered something, but it was lost in the void around his mouth.

            “Yes, yes, I’ll move that, if you promise to be a good king and have a civil conversation with your son. If you call for the guards, I’ll kill you where you stand.”

            Eyes narrowed, and Phillip nodded.

            Umbra tentatively removed the gag. When the King didn’t immediately call out, he allowed the shadows to drop further. Not too far; they hovered around the King’s neck, ready to strangle any unexpected cries at a moment’s notice.

            “It’s forbidden to learn magic,” Phillip stated.

            “Not officially, it’s not. That would mean the kingdom acknowledges magic as real, which it doesn’t.”

            “Not officially,” Phillip agreed. “But if people were to discover the royal family has unimaginable power, they’d demand our blood.”

            “I’d say they’re entitled to it, at this point,” Umbra retorted.

            Phillip went on. “That’s why magic is forbidden. It’s to keep the royal family safe. As long as the rulers are safe, the Kingdom will prosper.”

            Umbra snorted. “Oh, yes, Wingomia is truly prospering. Do you know how many orphans died last year? How many single mothers starved to death or sold their bodies to provide for their children?”

            “Suffering is part of the world,” Phillip said. “My life only looks luxurious because of those in tragedy.”

            “You deliberately refuse to help those in need so your way of life looks better?”

            “Of course not,” Phillip said. “I do what I can for them, but I can’t help every single individual in this kingdom. That’s impossible.”

            Shadows danced around them, taking shape into faceless men. “I bet far fewer people would fall through the cracks if you actually used your magic.”

            “I’m still only one person,” Phillip said.

            “Wrong. There’s you, and me, and I’m guessing the princess is a magician, too, isn’t she? That’s three of us. Three magicians who could save people and change this society for the better, so parents don’t have to slave all day in hazardous jobs and children don’t have to die in the streets.”

            “It would never work,” Phillip argued. “Even when Wingomia overflowed with magicians selflessly offering their services, the people still turned on them.”

            “I think plenty of people would just be grateful for the help. They wouldn’t turn around and stab their benefactors in the back.”

            “You really think that? You lived among the worst of the worst, do you truly believe that?”

            Umbra’s mouth twisted. He’d seen desperate men do awful things, and he couldn’t say it wasn’t possible.

            “You don’t,” Phillip answered for him. “That’s why you haven’t told anyone else about this power, have you? You don’t trust them, either.”

            “Once I’m strong enough it won’t matter what they think,” Umbra said. Their philosophies would never align, he already knew that. It was time he brought this conversation back on track. “That’s why I’m here. There must be books or some sort of training guide you know of.”

            “There’s nothing,” Phillip said. “After the purge, spellbooks were rounded up and burned. My family only passed down the barest of protection spells from one generation to the next.”

            Umbra had been afraid of that. But also… “You’re telling me that this family has had magic for six hundred years and no one taught themselves how to properly use it?”

            “It’s not safe,” Phillip insisted. “And what would we use it for?”

            Umbra sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Spoken like someone who has never struggled for anything in their life.”

            Truly, he didn’t know why he kept this man alive.

            “Magic has no place in our world anymore,” Phillip said. “You are never to use this power again.”

            Umbra scoffed at him. “You can’t tell me what to do.”

            “I’m your King.”

            “Not for much longer. You’ve proven to be fairly useless, so I think I’ll kill you now.”

            The shadows tightened around Phillip’s neck. “Gua--!” The tendrils cut his scream short.

            Phillip thrashed, flailing for anything that could help. He couldn’t grip the shadows, but he found the brandy bottle on the cabinet behind him and hurled it at Umbra.

            Umbra caught the bottle with another shadow. “You’re a rather pathetic king, you know? All this power, all this wealth…you could have truly helped people, but you chose to ignore them. Protected your own interests.” Umbra shook his head. “You make me sick.”

            Phillip crashed to his knees, watery eyes pleading for mercy.

            Umbra quite liked this picture, the king kneeling before him.

            “You want me to spare your life?” Umbra asked.

            Phillip nodded.

            Walking in close, Umbra gripped his chin between thumb and forefinger. “Then you shouldn’t have treated your son like garbage. I have no mercy.”

            He released Phillip and stepped back, watching the king’s useless struggles. Poisoning him would have been poetic justice, using what he’d learned at an apprenticeship he’d only had because the King kicked him out. But he wasn’t dissatisfied doing it this way. Years of hatred burned under his skin, relishing in the way Phillip’s struggles slowly calmed, in the way the man teetered on his knees until collapsing on his side.

            The man only steps away from him was dying, and his survival was entirely dependent on Umbra. The power made him giddy. And when Phillip’s struggling stopped altogether, when he lay still, eyes open and unseeing, Umbra could only laugh.

            He’d just killed the King, and he’d hardly raised a finger to do it.

            Reality knocked on the door, when a guard called in. “Sir, is there someone in there with you?”

            Umbra cut his laughter short, eyes darting between the door and the dead king. He’d killed his father, and unless he wanted to be hanged for it, he needed to leave immediately.

            “Sir?” the guard called. The doorknob twisted.

            Umbra darted back into the secret passage, barely closing the entrance before the hall door creaked open and someone shouted, “Your Majesty!”

            Chaos descended on the palace quickly after that. Even if Umbra felt like murdering the princess or the councilmen tonight, there was no way he could get to them. Guards scoured every hall, and if not for the secret passages, Umbra never would have escaped at all.

            Out on the streets, he strolled away from the palace, still giddy with the events of the night.



            The King’s sudden death was all anyone would talk about for days afterwards. With clear signs of strangulation, the palace guard was in an uproar trying to figure out how an assassin slipped in and out without them noticing. The papers speculated whether the death was political or personal.

            Umbra had never been more pleased in his life, even if he was terrified someone would realize it was him and throw him in a cell again.

            The princess’s coronation announcement wasn’t far off, but it was a surprisingly quiet affair. All the provinces barely had time to send their representatives before it was over, and Umbra let himself hope that maybe Selena was different than her father.

            In the first year, she dedicated time to touring the provinces, learning firsthand what they were like and what they needed. Taxes were lowered after that, the first time in decades, and Umbra sat at a bar that night, thinking things might work out after all. He’d wait and see what Selena did in the next few months before judging her reign.



A few months turned into two years. Selena took a husband in that time, some noble Umbra couldn’t remember. He passed the time opening his own apothecary business and helping as many people as he could, offering free and discounted treatments to those who couldn’t afford it. He kept an empty shed in the backyard for wandering homeless, stocking it with blankets and an iron stove so they wouldn’t freeze in winter.

            He also continued learning magic, pushing the boundaries of what he could do. With his shadow magic he jumped all over the kingdom, finding areas that called to him with dormant magic. His abilities seemed stronger in these areas, like they helped power him. Most often, old, abandoned churches were right over these areas, many crumbling and falling apart now. People of the past must have recognized the energy spots, and considered them sacred.

            He wondered if magic could be brought back, somehow, if there was a way to spread the dormant magic of these old churches to revitalize magic in the people. Queen Selena may be doing her best, but political change was slow, and just because the laws changed didn’t mean people acted differently. New safety measures were created for the rising steam industries, for example, but it didn’t help those already injured or enforce warehouses to upgrade their current systems. Children were still left out on the streets for one reason or another, or shoved into overfilled orphanages and shelters.

            Too many people were still suffering. But if they had magic, like he did? If they could fight for their rights and stand up for themselves, things would be different. Then kids could demand their fathers acknowledge them and support their mothers. The people who abused their power and privileges would have to face their sins and either change or be killed.

            If only he had a way to bring magic back for everyone…



Not long after Selena married, her first pregnancy was announced. Umbra didn’t pay much attention to the news, but the rest of the kingdom celebrated like it was their own family. An heir meant stability, meant the maintaining of the daily lives they were so accustomed to.

            At least, Umbra hadn’t paid any attention until he realized what he could do with the heir.

            The little baby would presumably be born with the same magic ability as Umbra and their little family. This meant the baby would be useful in boosting spellwork, and unlike Selena, a baby wouldn’t be able to fight back.

            So, if Umbra wanted to link all the natural magic pools around the kingdom and then spread that magic across the five provinces, he could force the baby to amplify his magic and make it possible. He didn’t have enough power on his own, but with another magician, even an untrained one like a baby, it should be enough.

            He planned through the duration of Selena’s pregnancy, keeping careful track of the months while he studied in every church he could find.

            Miracle of miracles, after nine months, she didn’t give birth to one child. She gave birth to twins. Twice the boost in his spell to return magic to the kingdom. It was like fate wanted his plan to succeed.

            Still, Umbra waited. He wasn’t fond of children, and he needed the newborns to survive long enough for him to pull the spell off. In his hands, they’d die in days. Besides, security would be through the roof around the new princes. Better to wait until the excitement died down a little and he could finish setting the final pieces in place.

            As the months dragged on, though, he had to admit to himself some part of him was simply uncomfortable with the idea of using infants like this. They’d likely die in the attempt, and as much as he hated the royal family, the princes were innocent.

            Selena had proven to have better empathy towards the common folk so far; he’d attempt to reason with her, first.



Sneaking in wasn’t a possibility. The door he used before now had a guard stationed outside, and his magic couldn’t penetrate the palace walls. He was left with more mundane methods, walking through the front gates on Petitioner’s Day, joining a crowd of commoners there to air their grievances for the Queen to fix.

            Once he was in the gate, he made himself scarce. Demanding the Queen abdicate and set up a new government wasn’t something to request on a day like this. No one would take him seriously. But now he could slip around the passages and bide his time for a few days.

            When he did finally make his entrance, none of them expected it. The King and Queen each bounced a chubby infant in their laps. The princes were old enough to sit up and babble, and both had light tufts of hair.

            He slammed the doors to the throne room open. The sound echoed through the chamber, and heads whipped towards him. The King and Queen cradled their sons to their chests, and several guards rushed to place themselves between him and the monarchs.

            Wrapping shadows around their legs, he yanked all of them out of the way and continued up the middle of the room towards them.

            Selena’s mouth fell open, recognizing the magic for what it was. The rest of the guards and the councilmen called him a devil, and the councilmen scrambled for cover behind the large columns.

            “Good morning,” he greeted them. “I hope I’m not interrupting anything?” Not like he cared if he was. “You may call me Basil.”

            The name didn’t particularly mean anything. He’d simply outgrown how dramatic Umbra sounded and wanted something a little calmer, and ‘Basil’ felt right for the moment.

            “Basil,” the King greeted, inclining his head towards him. “How may we help you?”

            Straight to the point, but at least he was keeping things civil, despite his terror. The King’s hands shook where they clutched his son, and he was half turned away.

            “I’m here to demand your immediate abdication. The monarchy is outdated and unnecessary, and it does more harm than good to its citizens.”

            “You can’t expect us to step down that easily,” Selena said.

            “No, I know how much you crave power. Which is why I’m here.” He allowed the shadows around him to writhe off the floor. “You will relinquish your throne to me so I may lead the kingdom to prosperity, or you will watch this kingdom crumble before your eyes.”

            Selena narrowed her eyes at him. “Are you threatening to destroy the kingdom?”

            “I won’t have to do anything,” Basil corrected. “But you will suffer if you don’t step down. Of that, you can be sure.”

            The one thing he regretted about King Phillip’s death was how quick it had been. Merciful, almost. He should have dragged it out, forced him to suffer for years the way Basil had. He wouldn’t make that mistake again, not with his little sister. She’d had everything he should have, and now she sat on the throne that should be his.

            She would suffer most of all.

            “We will not step down,” Selena stated, standing straighter and relaxing her hold on her son so he was comfortably on her hip.

            Basil rolled his eyes and then attempted to force his shadows at her, just to threaten her a little, but they never reached.

            His confidence shrank. It was subtle, and he’d missed the moment Selena had activated it, but a barrier had grown around him. It condensed inch by inch, trapping his writhing shadows closer and closer to him, and away from anyone else. By cutting him off little by little, it looked as if his own magic was simply shrinking, and not like anyone else in the room was affecting it.

            “Clever Queen,” Basil said. Physical attacks could still go through the barrier, but there were too many guards for him to kill them and escape.

            He chose to retreat for now, letting the shadows settle back where he’d found them and stepping back towards the door.

            “Just remember, your Majesties, I offered the peaceful way, first. What happens next is your fault.”

            “Arrest him!” Selena ordered.

            The guards rushed forward, but as soon as he stepped beyond the barrier, he sank into a shadow and disappeared, popping up in one of the secret passageways of the palace.

            He stayed there for the rest of the day, listening to the sounds of chaos in the halls as they searched for him and upped security. A fruitless attempt, but he admired the effort.

            After nightfall, he sought out the nursery. The passages didn’t connect to it directly, but sinking through the shadows he was able to get in without anyone seeing him.

            Selena and the King talked quietly in the sitting room on the other side, no doubt discussing him.

            Basil turned his attention to the sleeping brats.

            Well, one was asleep. The other stood in his crib, holding the bars to keep himself steady on his uncoordinated feet, and stared at Basil. When Basil took a step towards him, the child screamed.

            “No, hush!” Basil whispered, crossing the room and picking the child up and covering the wailing mouth.

            The damage had been done. Selena and her husband ran into the room, freezing at the sight of him.

            “Put him down,” Selena demanded in a shaky voice. “Please, he’s just a baby.”

            Basil glanced at the other crib, where the second child started to wake with his own cries. He wouldn’t be able to grab that one, too, and still escape. He’d have to make do with one.

            “I warned you,” Basil said, stepping back into his shadows.

            “No!” She raced after them, but she wasn’t fast enough.

            He reappeared in the courtyard. With the barrier around the palace, he couldn’t use magic to travel outside the walls, but he could teleport within them just fine. He brought himself as close to the gate as he could, knocking out the guards on duty before they knew he was there. Picking the lock with magic, he walked out the front gates, just as the first screams of righteous anger drifted out of the palace.

            There was no sense hanging around the capitol city, so he slipped into shadows again and left it all behind.

            He did that twice more, struggling to maintain his grip on the wriggly child he carried. Whichever prince this was clearly knew Basil wasn’t to be trusted, and he hadn’t stopped screaming or squirming.

            It was just unfortunate timing that he finally twisted out of Basil’s grasp just as he slipped into the second shadow jump. When Basil arrived on the other side, it was sans child. The sudden quiet sounded deafening.

            He swore and jumped back to where he’d been, but the child wasn’t there. He must have fallen into the shadows and was spit out somewhere completely random. Basil would never find him, now.

            “Dammit!” He punched the nearest wall. All that planning, all that time…wasted. What was he supposed to do now?

            Stealing the second child was out of the question. Selena wouldn’t let her remaining child out of her sight, and the security around the palace would be impossible to sneak around. Nothing short of a direct attack would work, and if he’d thought such brutal measures were worth it, he would have attempted a frontal assault years ago.

            No, he’d lost his one and only chance of bringing magic back.

            But, he reflected, walking down the street and pulling his hood over his face, if there was any silver lining, it was that Selena was surely suffering now. If he accomplished nothing else, he accomplished that.



By the end of the week, Basil thought the kingdom might implode on itself. Apparently, a stranger sneaking into the palace and kidnapping a baby put everyone on edge. He’d never seen so many guards in his life; every street seemed to have a pair patrolling, striking up conversation with every shop and homeowner they passed. Commoners eyed their neighbors suspiciously, looking for any reason to turn them in. They were all ready to turn on each other.

            Curiously, the missing prince never turned up. He hadn’t reappeared at the palace, and no one had brought forth a lost child. The prince truly had vanished.

            It wasn’t the anarchy he’d intended to bring to the kingdom, but it would do, he supposed. Though this brand of hypervigilance didn’t have much shelf-life. Folks would relax within a few weeks, and things would return to normal.

            The trick was surviving that long. Basil couldn’t stay in town; wanted posters with his face were plastered on every street corner, and with so much distrust in the air, he’d be found within hours. He could escape, of course, but he didn’t want to draw attention to himself in the first place.

            That left the woods and the mountains, and too much time on his hands.

            His plan had failed, and it wasn’t likely he’d ever get a second chance. If he wanted to bring magic back to Wingomia, he’d have better luck finding the descendants of the original magicians who’d fled, assuming there were any.

            There had to be some. He refused to believe that so many magicians together wouldn’t have found a way to survive. Not every magician had shadow-based magic like him, so it should have been a simple matter for them to find another country or maybe even build their own. Or maybe they’d never made land. Maybe they still sailed around the world.

            They had to be out there somewhere. And since he couldn’t show his face in town for a few months, now seemed as good a time as any to try and find them.



It took him a few weeks to secure everything he needed, but only because he was cautious in town. That, and finding a way to steal one of the new balloon ships took some finagling. He had to observe how they were operated for a while before he trusted his own ability to handle it, and then he had to wait for the right moment to steal it.

            The first five minutes were easily the most terrifying of his life. The little ship rose higher and higher, and all that stood between him and the ground were a few pieces of wood. He trusted his magic to save him if something went wrong, but the instinctual fear was hard to silence when he kept fumbling the ropes and levers.

            “They made it look so easy,” he mumbled to himself, tapping some kind of meter. He had no idea what the numbers on it meant, but a section of it was lined off on either side and he assumed the arrow was meant to be inside.

            He’d get it there eventually, as soon as he figured out how.

            “If I can teach myself a dead art, I can teach myself to fly.”

            The ship lost altitude for a moment before settling at a new height. Basil’s stomach was somewhere behind them.

            “Right then. Not my best plan.” He should have made someone explain it to him somehow. Too late now, he couldn’t exactly return the ship and ask for lessons.

            He spent another week drifting over Wingomia and learning the controls before he dared to venture beyond the borders. Restocking at one of the coastal towns, he set his eyes on the horizon and unmoored the ship.




Sailing wasn’t the idealistic adventure he’d thought it would be. He was used to solitude, but it was different choosing to be alone and literally having no one nearby. Food was an issue; even if he caught fish, he needed more than that, and he could only carry so much fresh water on his little ship. He pushed his rations as far as he could, but always, inevitably, he had to turn around and return to Wingomia before he died of thirst. His barrels were always empty by the time he returned.

            He never stayed long in Wingomia, even once it was clear life had moved on and he’d been forgotten by the general population. The prince was still missing, which surprised him a little. He’d have thought people would throw any child roughly the right age at the monarchs to try and claim the reward, and surely someone would have had to find a wandering infant and attempted just that.

            Or perhaps the child died that night, ripped to pieces in his shadows. He’d probably never know.

            Whatever happened to the child, life went on. Basil resupplied and set out again and again, trying different routes and storing as much water as he could in any nook and cranny he found.

            After two years, he refused to turn around when he reached the half-level mark. He’d either find the descendants, or die trying.

            He got lucky. He found land. A green covered island as big as a province in Wingomia. A wooden village to the east had been erected over the water itself, and as he flew closer, he could see people in the towns dotting the lush trees.

            Whether or not these people were the descendants he was looking for was secondary to landing and finding fresh water. He aimed for the docks, easing into his descent. The people below had noticed him, and a small crowd gathered just beyond the docks to watch his arrival.

            The attention made him squirm. For the most part, he’d avoided people for two years now, only speaking to other humans occasionally in Wingomia to check the news. He’d always planned his landings away from towns, in the dead of night when they couldn’t see him. To have this many eyes on him now made him acutely aware of every small movement he made, even though they probably couldn’t see what he did from their perspective.

            He landed on the shore, gently setting the little ship down and throwing a few sandbags over the side to anchor it. The people watching kept their distance, and when he climbed down both sides took a moment to examine the other.

            They didn’t dress like people back in Wingomia. There, most people wore muted colors like brown and gray, and especially black. Leather was growing in style to accommodate the daily use of steam technology, and it was common to see leather bracers around arms or chests.

            Here, the people couldn’t seem to wear enough colors. He stared at a woman’s ruffled skirt, each layer embroidered with a different colorful pattern. She’d pinned a large red flower in her hair, too. The man next to her wore dark green shorts and a white linen shirt under a bright blue poncho, and had a blue headband keeping his hair out of his face. There wasn’t any black to be seen among them, unless it was their hair color.

            “Who are you?” a man in a dark purple tunic asked.

            Basil was relieved to understand his speech, even if the thick accent made it hard. Despite spending six hundred years apart, their language hadn’t warped too much from his. “I’m Basil. I come from Wingomia.”

            Whispers burst among the crowd, and the tension tightened among them. They recognized his country name. Good.

            “Why are you here?” the same man demanded.

            “I’m looking for descendants of the magicians we exiled centuries ago.”

            “Was the banishment of our people not enough?” another man asked. “You’d still hunt us down even now?”

            “You misunderstand,” Basil said. Spinning his hand and twisting his fingers, he gathered their shadows into a ball above his palm. “I’m one of you, and I’m also seeking refuge.”

            “You think we can trust you? How do we know this isn’t a trick?” someone else called.

            “Please, I’ve been searching for you for a long time. I don’t have enough supplies to return to Wingomia or a way to contact them and lead them here. They’ve forgotten magic exists at all, and if they knew I had any they’d hang me the same day.”

            He was playing to their sympathies, making his situation worse than it was. But the sympathy of fleeing their homeland must have passed away with previous generations, leaving distrust and suspicion in its wake.

            “Can you honestly say I’m any threat to all of you? I’m one man. I just want to learn magic.”

            A woman pushed her way forward. She wore an orange and yellow skirt and a white shirt, the sleeves hanging off her shoulders. “Men.” She shook her head. “Violence isn’t always the answer, you know. He has the gift and wants to learn? Then we teach him.”


            “Don’t ‘Esme’ me.” She put her hands on her hips and glared at the man in the purple tunic. “We can afford to share a meal with him. In return, he can share with us what our homeland is like these days.”

            Most were still uncomfortable with the idea, but it was allowed. Esme beckoned him forwards, wrapping her arm around his. “I’ll take you to meet President Haku, and we’ll see what he says after dinner.”

            Dinner included half the island and lasted the rest of the day. Basil shared stories of Wingomia, sparing no love for the kingdom and laying out the dark and gritty facts.

            In return, Esme and President Haku told him about their island, the Harmony Isle, and how their ancestors had worked together to raise the seafloor and craft a new home for everyone to be safe. The following generations worked tirelessly to turn the island into what it was now, learning to live off the land in a way they hadn’t needed to before and adapting their old knowledge with the new environment.

            Magic helped, and without it they never would have survived. It was how they’d irrigated rivers throughout the forests and built their homes from the ground up with minimal tools.

            “What you have is unbelievable,” Basil told him. “I thought your ancestors must have survived on the ships, somehow, but I never imagined an island of this size.” According to the president, there were over ten thousand people on the island.

            And over the centuries, scores of people had led their own expeditions to create new islands. Some had failed, but most were successful, creating their very own archipelago of safety.

            “Everyone works together,” President Haku told him. “I may make the final decision on matters, but I don’t work alone. We all share what we have, to the best of our ability.”

            This was what Basil wanted Wingomia to be like. There was no concept of rich or poor, here, not when they paid each other in favors and food. They cared for one another, and no one was undeserving of help.

            The island had its flaws, of course. Basil wasn’t naïve enough to believe he’d found paradise.

            But he was hopeful enough to think he’d found the closest thing to it.




After the first night, the magicians warmed up to him. He was introduced to a master shadow magician and finally given the lessons he’d wanted years ago, improving in leaps and bounds. Some of what he’d taught himself surprised his master, and in return his master showed him tricks Basil never would have dreamed of.

            When he wasn’t training, he explored the island. There were a dozen villages with easy roads between them all and constant travel. The bulk of their diet came from the sea, like fish and seaweed, but they grew fruit trees all over and most families had some livestock such as chickens or goats.

            While everyone was always working, sewing or fishing, cooking or teaching, there was a lightness in the air around them. They threw jokes at each other as easily as a bread roll, music could always be heard playing somewhere, and kids chased each other through the streets with delight, and even though they all had parents and homes to go back to, the whole village knew every child and was just as likely to scold them when necessary or patch up a skinned knee. The idea of ‘family’ didn’t end with blood.

            That was probably why they welcomed Basil so easily. He was far quieter and reserved than most of them, and he held on tighter to his privacy, but there was always a spot for him at dinnertime, no matter whose house he passed.

            It was the most welcome he’d ever felt in his life. Before he knew it, random kids called him “Uncle” and begged him for stories of Wingomia. Most adults considered him a son, and they thought all his ‘sirs’ and ‘ma’ams’ were adorably polite.

            When he helped Esme clean up dinner one night, pumping water into the sink while she grabbed the soap, she shook her head and said, “I don’t know how that kingdom ever raised a sweetheart like you.”

            “It isn’t easy there,” he admitted. “My father wouldn’t accept me, and threw me out on the streets when I was twelve. Compared to many of the people I met, I was a lucky one.”

            She pursed her lips and scrubbed at a wooden plate. “This is what I mean. That world was so cruel to you, yet here you are helping me with the dishes without even being asked.”

            He took the clean plate and dried it. “I think…because I grew up unable to help my mother, that now when I see someone struggling, I have to step in, if I can. If I don’t…if I just let them suffer, I’m no better than the actual problem.”

            Esme smiled. “How noble of you.”

            He rolled his eyes. “It’s no different than anybody here. All of you are the exact same way.”

            “Yes, but we grew up in a culture that encourages us to share what we have. Wingomia sounds like it teaches people to hoard everything for themselves.”

            “It feels that way sometimes,” Basil admitted.

            “That’s why it’s so admirable that you’re more like us. You could have grown bitter and mean, but you didn’t. You’re kind and sweet.”

            He couldn’t look at her, choosing instead to stare out the window at her vegetable garden. “I’m not any of those things. I’ve done plenty I’m not proud of.” Killing an infant was pretty high on the list of irredeemable acts.

            “Nothing that can’t be forgiven, I’m sure.”

            He let silence speak for him. No one should forgive him for murder, and he wasn’t asking for it. He’d have killed a lot more people if he’d thought it would help.

            “Oh,” Esme said, lowering the serving bowl she was scrubbing. “You weren’t fleeing Wingomia because you have magic, were you?”

            Basil took the bowl from her and answered with a single, “No.”

            They finished the dishes in silence, and Basil was about to leave when Esme caught his hand. “Maybe you did things you can’t be forgiven for, but that’s all in the past, right? You grew up in a world that taught you it was okay. That isn’t your fault. But you’re not like that here. Harmony Isle was created to be a fresh start for our people, and that includes you.”

            He offered a weak smile. “Thank you, Esme, but I don’t think I’ll ever be free from my past.” Everything he’d lived through, everything he’d done, had all defined who he was now. He had no intention of changing.

            The Isle had enraptured him. All the new experiences and environments had distracted him from the real reason he’d sought them out: to bring them back to Wingomia. They weren’t looking to go back willingly, so if he was ever going to succeed, he had to find a way to trick them.





He did not mean to let as much time pass as it did. Every week brought something new to look forward to, and it was so easy to be caught up in this bright world that he could go days without thinking of Wingomia.

            But something always reminded him of it. A child running past with red hair gave him flashbacks to the infant he’d stolen from the royal nursery. The boy would have been seven by now, he thought. Maybe eight. Years had slipped through his fingers without him noticing. His own thirtieth birthday was around the corner.

            Not that he’d ever cared for his birthday. His mother had celebrated with him as a child, grabbing whatever pastry was left in the kitchen and sharing it with him after work. Once he was on the streets, he never bothered. Here, on the Isle, he’d made it a guessing game for everyone else. Some of them were convinced birthdays were no longer celebrated in Wingomia, and he liked to fuel those rumors the most.

            Besides, why should he feel excited for his birthday when he’d officially become a shadow magic master? That was something worth celebrating. His master had taught him all that any of them knew about magic. He was as powerful as anyone who’d been training their whole lives.

            Against anyone without magic? He’d be unstoppable.

            The people on the isle wanted him to lead the next expedition to establish a new island. He was honored by the trust. They believed their people would be safe with him leading the way to a new home, considered him one of them, enough to guide the next generation.

            He could take that offer. He could even be happy, if he allowed himself to let go of everything that brought him to the archipelago in the first place.

            But he wasn’t like them. He didn’t have enough mercy in him to forgive and forget.

            “President Haku, I have a different expedition in mind,” Basil proposed. Haku was nearing the end of his third term, and in two years he’d be forced to retire as someone else took the mantle.

            “Oh? What were you thinking?” Haku swirled wine in his glass, the light bouncing off the blue tint of the sea glass.

            Basil took a deep breath. “I want to lead a team back to Wingomia. The people there are in desperate need of help, and we’re the only ones who can do anything about it.”

            Haku stilled. “Wingomia is no longer any concern of ours.”

            “We can’t just abandon those people.”

            “They don’t want our help.”

            “The people there now aren’t the same ones who exiled our ancestors,” Basil pushed. “They don’t deserve to live in such a broken world. We can help them. Doesn’t that make it our responsibility?”

            Letting out a heavy sigh, Haku set his glass down. “I admire your heart, Lord Basil, and you’re welcome to return alone, if you wish, but I will not sponsor a full expedition. The journey is too far.”

            “It can be done with the right preparation,” Basil insisted. “We know it’ll take six months at sea, but with magic we can cut that time in half.”

            “And what will we do there, hmm? Set off a few spells and scare them into listening to us? Or do you imagine us storming the castle and forcefully taking control?”

            In truth, that was what he imagined. His half-sister needed to be removed before the remaining prince grew up and had heirs of his own. Magicians running the kingdom would prompt a complete turnover of the current laws and regulations, which was exactly what Wingomia needed.

            “You did imagine it that way, didn’t you?” Haku asked. He shook his head. “We’re not warriors, Basil.”

            “Then we train to be,” Basil retorted. “It’ll take time to build the ships we need, anyway.”

            “Absolutely not,” Haku snapped, slapping a hand on the table. “My answer is no. End of discussion.”

            Basil bit back his disappointment. He should have known it wouldn’t be so simple.

            But, as he discovered over the next few weeks, as word got around of his ambitions, not everyone was of the same mind as Haku. A few people wondered if they could really make a difference for the poor people of Wingomia, if they’d really be welcomed back the way Basil told them they would be.

            “Magic returning to the kingdom can only mean good things for them,” he’d say.

            Haku, of course, told him to knock it off and stop encouraging this foolish idea. Basil wouldn’t.

            “You haven’t even been there in years,” Haku argued. “How do you know things haven’t already changed?”

            And, well.

            Basil had no counterargument for that. There was only one thing to do.

            He went down to his old airship. He hadn’t used it much in the eight years he’d been here, only a few sightseeing trips around the archipelago. For a longer journey, there were some minor repairs he needed to take care of first, but those only took him a few days. Then, after stocking up on all the supplies he could fit in the ship, he left Harmony Isle.



The return trip was much faster. He created extra propellors with shadows and streamlined the bow to cut through the air better, and with the shadows created by clouds he carefully sent the whole ship jumping through shadows.

            It still took him three months, but that was even better than he’d been expecting.

            There were more factories than he remembered, people shuffling inside at dawn and leaving at dusk. Prince Alex had never returned, and the king and queen had barely left the palace since then. A fleet of airships was in production near the coast, though for what purpose he had no idea.

            For all the differences, most things were the same. Shelters overflowed. Beggars sat on street corners. People walked like they had something to hide, barely glancing at who they passed. The cold aloofness felt heartless after eight years on Harmony Isle, where people smiled and stopped to talk any time they saw you.

            It was clear nothing had improved while he’d been gone. The best thing he’d found was a naïve little rebel group calling themselves the Chimers, and while they had good goals, they had no clear method of obtaining them, and they were too small to have much effect.

            He may or may not have encouraged them. “Find a truly awful workplace, like a warehouse notorious for onsite injuries, and tear it down in the night. Not when anyone is working there, understand, killing people won’t get you taken seriously. Destruction of property with a proper message will.”

            Wingomia might have been heartless and disappointing, but he fit in so much better here. He didn’t have to hide his disgust at other people or pretend to be better than he was. Didn’t have to fake smiles when he wasn’t in the mood to talk, or talk to anyone at all if he didn’t want to. The anger everything caused him was familiar, an old friend, and his desire to fix everything was back tenfold.

            He had the tools, now. He just needed to convince the Isle. And for those he couldn’t convince…

            He brought back a few choice plants, just for them.




Going to and from Wingomia became a regular thing after that. He shared the horror stories of a miserable kingdom and greedy monarchs, growing support for his quest one by one.

            Haku would not be swayed, and swore that even after he stepped down as president he’d stand against Basil’s plans.

            It was a shame he died of a mysterious illness a few weeks later.

            His support was slow to grow, and he acutely felt the time passing. If he was ever going to make good on his promise to change Wingomia for the better, it needed to happen soon.

            The new elected president, an even-tempered man who’d been close to Haku, was more sympathetic to Basil’s pleas, but unwilling to start an unnecessary war.

            Basil made it necessary.

            A mysterious plague started killing their livestock. Without livestock they had no dairy, and their only meat was fish. The other islands in the archipelago sent extra to them, but they began falling to the same disease.

            “There are fields of cows, hundreds of them just roaming, ready for the taking,” Basil whispered in their ears. “Sheep, chickens, goats…they have more than they know what to do with.”

            Even with this drastic push, it took another year before the new president agreed they’d have to make contact with Wingomia if they wanted to survive.

            Ships would be built, and men trained to fight. Even if the president hoped this would be purely diplomatic, they had to be ready for a hostile welcome.

            Besides that, Basil and the general had their own plans. The president could call it a diplomatic mission all he wanted. They had no intention of maintaining peace once they were there.

            While preparations were made, Basil continued going back and forth between the two countries. He fed information to the general and scouted the kingdom. Stoked the growing embers of rebellion from the Chimers until they were a steady flame. Resumed his Dr. Carl persona to help the lower class. Stayed so busy he barely knew what way was up.

            It felt like a new period of his life, but for once he couldn’t take a new name to define it. Too many people knew him, now, and they’d question why he suddenly wanted to be called something else. It was the longest he’d ever had a name since he’d thrown aside his first one. It might just be his last one, too.



The day the navy left, Basil felt like the most powerful man in the world. Few equaled his prowess in magic, and now he had an army following his directions. Once he brought Wingomia to its knees, he’d have everything he ever wanted.

            While the army sailed towards Wingomia, he shadow jumped back for one last scouting mission. They had their plan of attack, but it never hurt to check on his back up plans.

            It was on this trip, while he was masquerading as Dr. Carl, that he ran into the boy.

            Well, the boy ran into him. A little street rat, nothing but skin and bones and attitude, dusting his hat off and smiling innocently like he hadn’t just picked his pocket.

            The red hair threw Basil for a moment. It was uncommon in Wingomia, maybe a handful of people in every town, if that. Except, notably, Queen Selena. If this boy’s face was a little rounder, less dirty, and the eyes a touch sharper, he could have been looking back in time at the princess.

            The boy offered Basil’s hat to him, and that was when Basil knew.

            He didn’t know how the brat had survived, or how he hadn’t been found, but the little brat he’d kidnapped all those years ago was standing in front of him.

            This opened all kinds of new possibilities. He could try and bleed magic back into the land, like he’d originally wanted to. He could ransom the boy, demand the king and queen surrender, though they’d be unlikely to give up a kingdom for one boy’s life, even their own son’s. Or maybe he could sway the boy to his side, train him in the magic he no doubt possessed, turn him against his parents. If he’d grown up on the street, he probably didn’t have much love for them anyway.

            Before he could decide anything, the boy scampered off. The shadow spies he sent after the brat couldn’t follow him past a certain point, some sort of barrier blocking their path. A magical one.

            Basil spent a few days finding the borders of the barrier and narrowing down where the brat must be living from the perimeter. Then luck smiled on him again.

            The boy came to him, on the back of another dirty orphan, feverish and sick. Basil was almost giddy with his good fortune. He took the boy to the house he’d been operating out of, playing the part of the dutiful Dr. Carl and nursing him back to health.

            Of course, the brat was suspicious, and it was poor timing that the General was waiting for his latest scouting report and made contact with him before Basil was ready. The brat ran off in the middle of the night. Basil let him go, for now. He wasn’t sure which plan he wanted to implement at this point, and he was reasonably sure he could find the boy again.

            Bleeding magic into the kingdom was the only plan that specifically needed the boy and wasn’t already in motion, and he made up his mind to get started with that as soon as found the boy again.

            Miracle of miracles, when he found the boy, his twin brother was with him. What were the chances of the two finding each other in this city, hours away from the palace, without the king and queen around?

            Then again, magic begets magic. The two were probably drawn to each other from the start.

            However it happened, Basil thanked the heavens for arranging it.

            Then he cursed them, because both boys slipped through his fingers in their own transportation spell. He’d never seen King Phillip or Selena use magic, and he’d believed the prince would show the same lack.

            Clearly, the royal family had learned some new tricks while he was gone. How incorrigible. No matter, he knew where they were headed. One way or the other, the prince would want to return home to the safety of his little palace.

            He’d give his half-sister one last chance to cooperate with him. If she refused, he had a few ideas to force her hand.

            Not to mention an army waiting at his beck and call.  



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