I looked at the ceiling and watched the rolling clouds, glad to be missing AP Chemistry, when I heard a gathering of voices and footsteps. A holographic map of the world rose before the throne, a few feet from where I sat. The map was so detailed I could see waves breaking on the shores, tiny dots I presumed to be birds flying through the air, and tiny men throwing nets off boats. Advisors hushed as the King began to walk the perimeter.
“The civil war in the dark sector intensifies.” I could hear the King clearly, even though his back was to me. He studied the map, shook his head, and lifted a hand to his cheek as though brushing away a tear.
“Will Josiah Richardson’s team be ready?” he asked.
“Yes, your majesty. The Royal Explorers departed last night and began training today.” The servant stood at the King’s right hand.
“Get a message to Josiah. Tell him to push them hard. They’ll need it.”
“Yes, your highness.” The servant hastened to his assignment.
Lightning seemed to flash from the throne; the floor vibrated with rolls of thunder. The King rounded the end of the map and now faced me. He stared at an expanse of ocean dotted with islands.
“Zoom in,” he ordered. The rest of the map fell away, replaced with an enlarged view of a volcanic island. From my vantage point, I could see its peak and a mass of translucent dark shapes circling the island, a few miles out in the ocean.
“As I foresaw, the dark forces are moving on Green Island, establishing a beachhead today. Michael, take your fastest fliers and do a stealth reconnaissance of the island. Note enemy concentrations. Ascertain battle tactics.”
The tall, solemn warrior on the King’s right saluted, whirled, took two giant steps and seemed to fly down the aisle. The King’s eyes seemed to flicker with bright flashes of light. He walked back and forth, stroking his chin.
“Aye, your grace.”
“Is the Golden Cross battle-ready?”
“Carry on, then!”
“Sir, yes, sir!” The captain saluted and clicked his heels. He stretched his left foot forward, pivoted, and strode away with military precision.
The King issued a few more orders, and the map began to fade.
I shuddered. The King locked eyes with me and nodded once before turning away.