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“Thank you all for coming. It is with great pleasure, and relief, that I announce that the royal family has returned!” A cheer rose up from the gathered citizens as Callee turned to her sister and brother-in-law. “Today I renounce my title as steward and gladly return control of the country to the Empress! She shook hands with Diana and stepped away from the microphone to allow the couple to speak.
“Thank you, everyone, for such an enthusiastic welcome home,” Diana said. The crowd cheered again. “We apologize for leaving without informing all of you, but the safety of our daughter was at stake. Now that she’s old enough to protect herself we’re able to return. During her two week visit, there will be increased security for all royal functions...”
Sam tuned out the rest of the speech as she busied herself with checking out the view from the balcony. The crowd was gathered in the large courtyard in the rear of the palace. She noticed the lawn was comprised of moss rather than grass. Surrounding the courtyard were small servant’s quarters, stacked two rooms high. The top rooms hung out over the courtyard a bit and the overage was supported by white Greek pillars.
As Diana finished her speech a female servant arrived and whispered to her and Matthias, “Excuse me, your majesties, but the president is on the phone.”
“Tell her we’ll be there in a few minutes,” Matthias said.
The servant nodded and hurried off.
“Wait,” Sam said in confusion, “I thought Nakria was a secret.”
“Only the president and a select group of her people know about us. Our country was discovered in the nineteen-fifties and the president agreed to keep our existence a secret in exchange for sharing some of our technology.” Diana turned to leave the balcony. “Walk with us,” she said.
“Technologically we’re about forty years ahead of the rest of the world. We don’t share our tech until it’s about that old. It keeps the deal with the US going,” Matthias said.
“We also trade things with America like TV and movies,” Diana said.
“We can’t make our own?” Sam asked with a slight frown.
“We don’t have the room for a proper studio,” Matthias said as they turned a corner. “We do have our own news broadcast though.”
“Do we grow our own food?” Sam asked.
“Most of it.” They stopped in front of a large door. “We can talk more about all this later,” Matthias said.
Sam nodded and her parents went into the royal office and shut the door.
The night blew a cool breeze over the two men who stood at the beginning of the road to Nakria. “Remember,” said the older of the two men, “She will be resistant. She’s been under their influence for far too long.”
“I know, father,” said the younger man, who was in his late teens. His tone held a bit of trepidation.
The younger man’s father, known to his people as Vasilis, put a comforting hand on his son’s shoulder. “Have faith, son. You’ve trained your whole life for this. We will free your cousin from their lies,” he said with a smile.
The younger man nodded. “Yes, father,” he replied, wincing as he grunted and rubbed his heavily bruised cheek. “I think the servants overdid it.”
Vasilis’ expression was not sympathetic. “They had to. No one would believe you escaped otherwise.”
“Yes, sir.” The young man turned to leave. “I’ll return as soon as I can.” And with that, he walked on down the road.
Vasilis watched him go in silence.
As Sam reached the courtyard she saw a line of partygoers waiting to get in. She also noticed a separate, smaller line with a sign near it that read ‘Telekinetics Please Enter Here’. She shrugged and got in line. She wasn’t standing there for more than a few seconds before a male servant rushed over to her.
“Excuse me, your highness. You don’t have to wait in line,” he said.
Sam gave the man an embarrassed smile. “Right.”
“Follow me, please.”
The servant led Sam to a side door and opened it for her. “Thank you,” Sam said as she walked through.
“You’re welcome, my lady,” the servant said with a bow.
The courtyard was beautifully decorated. Strings of electric party lanterns hung from the overhang created by the second floor of the servant’s quarters. Round tables covered in fancy, lace-edged blue tablecloths made an impromptu dining area. Sam smiled widely when she saw the huge dolphin ice sculpture on the center of the buffet table but that smile fell when she saw Yuji standing next to said table. She stalked over to him and folded her arms. “My mom thinks I need a bodyguard at a palace party? Seriously?” she demanded.
Yuji laughed. “No. I was invited here as a guest.”