Handmade, Frederick said with a twinkle.
Is that right? The King asked, his eyes darting up from his drink with interest.
Brian sat back in his oversize chair, hoping to sink away from the dim pub and the conversation. After so much seemingly endless time in the white blizzards of the Arctic, every colour, noise, and sharp movement made his old heart contract with fear. He had been trying just to survive for so long that the overstuffed chairs and beer and smoke and even the talking seemed frivolous and set him ill at ease.
And how does it ride? asked the King, turning towards Brian.
Brian startled. It’s…uh…his voice stuck in his throat, unaccustomed as it was to speaking. Smooth, Brian managed. For its size. He quickly averted his eyes.
Brilliant! Exclaimed the King. He looked expectantly at Brian as if waiting for more. Brian kept his gaze locked on the floor, his vision starting to haze over as his mind wandered uncontrollably back to the last time he was in a bar…the last time he saw Artillerie’s pale lips and piercing eyes…
The King and Frederick shifted uncomfortably as Brian’s silence settled over them. They sipped their pints. The jovial mood faded into a somber stillness.
Is there anything we can do? Frederick asked at last.
An unmistakable sadness passed over the King’s face. I don’t know, he said. The deep wrinkles of his brow furrowed. I just don’t know.
Frederick, usually so cocksure and aggressive, looked for a moment scared. Then he shook his head, sending his abundant brown hair tousling about his face. There’s got to be something.
The King’s eyes were far away, joining Brian in an unresponsive stare.
Frederick stood. The Teslacles, he said. What do we know about them?
The King glanced about to see if anyone was listening. They’re big, Fred. Very big. And powerful, too. There’s word that the presidents of America, Russia, and Germany have secretly allied with them, knowing they can’t defeat their power. And now, if what you say is true, if they’re coming for England…well, boys, this just might be the end.
Of England? Frederick asked.
Of everything, the King breathed.