I was minding my own business. (Plausible Deniability 101: Always establish innocence BEFORE the volcano errupts. Afterwards no one is listening....being too busy lynching anyone who hasn't established their innocence.)
Of course, as the Pretender to the Throne of Erisky, my business is to cause the good people of Erisky to revolt against Prince Arthur, and make me their princess instead of him. Or to make me his heir, cutting out his repellent brats. That would do nicely.
Prince Arthur isn't a bad prince, uninspiring but honest enough. His oldest son, and the Heir Designate, Cyrus Wayfair is, however, a pompous, lazy, lying, arrogant etc. etc.snake! The thought of Cyrus Wayfair getting the throne always inspires me to try harder. To add even more toxins to his obnoxious personality, he's conspiring with his grandfather, Cyrus Bragg, to turn Erisky into a dumping ground for the Bragg fleet of rusted-out fuel ships, still full of toxic sludge. The greedy fools don't care who dies, as long as they profit!
I MUST stop that! It's bad enough that we have a huge swirling gyre full of plastic waste! (I've been working on ways to clean up the gyre since I was a child!) I can't let Cyrus Bragg add tons of toxic waste to the ocean and to our land! We've only got one world! We simply can't afford to poison the land and ocean we rely upon for sustenance. It's crazy! Sure, maybe I'll be dead before all the fish in our ocean go belly-up and die. That's no consolation since I'll die knowing I failed to stop the pollution.
I hunted and hacked and I found the solution! As one would suspect of a sleaze-ball like Cyrus Wayfair, he cheated on his Service to Country test! (His tour of duty was a farce too! He skipped out to attend his rich grandfather's birthday party...for six months.)
I danced for joy! Failing the Service to Country test means that Cyrus Wayfair should be eliminated from the succession to the throne.
We have a two-tier system, you see. While our history is rather tame, we have had a few princes who put the ding-a-lings in wing-dings! To ensure that never happens again, anyone who wants to hold a position of authority, has to prove basic competence. To do that, you have to pass the exam and faithfully serve for a full year in the militia. Succeed and you're granted a coat-of-arms, listed in the Social Register, and enrolled in the Reserves.
Refuse, or fail, and you are registered in the Comprehensive Register. There you won't be asked to do anything more civic minded than vote. In any emergency, it is vital to know who can be trusted to do what without any arguments or questions!
Anyway, armiger (squire, one having the right to bear heraldic arms) is the entry point to the whole title system. If you don't have that you can't progress to any of the loftier titles from knight to king. Break the foundation stone and the whole building falls down!
Cyrus Wayfair, being a spoiled brat with the morals of a rabid vampire bat, both flunked the test and slacked through his term of service. It was covered up...but I'm pretty darned good at my job. (I spent four years in the military, because of my expertise with computers, and only left because I was called on by my family to take on this job.) I got the proof! I dug out a copy of his test and copies of several others who had taken the same test....proving that Cyrus Wayfair's test had been mismarked. He'd been granted marks for wrong answers! I also found newspaper reports showing him partying thousands of miles away from his post. I had him cold!
I sent the proof to his Masjesty, King Gregory. Did he turn red...and then purple! Cheating on something as important as the Service Test is abomination! Plus, as king, King Gregory is Commander in Chief of the Heraldry Office. This was corruption in HIS private domain!
His Majesty had a long career in the service before his brother became terminally ill with cancer and he had to resign to become the Prince of Rejasky. He was elected King of the Sky Islands just about a year ago and intends to revitalize his role and the islands owing fealty to him.
I know I said King Gregory can't interfere with the succession. Technically, he isn't interfering. He is doing his duty by ensuring the laws are obeyed. Prince Arthur can pick anyone he likes as his successor....as long as that person holds a valid coat-of-arms. (Prince Nicholas I of Damasky inspired the Law of Succession by designating his favourite dog as his successor and trying to run off with the treasury. His younger brother, Matthew I who took the crown, famously said Princess Skippy I was more regal than Prince Nicholas I.) With King Gregory in command of the Heraldry Office, there will be no freebies!
There will be a trial. King Gregory and the four Princes will be judge and jury. It won't take long as this is a priority case. It will be impecably legal.
It didn't take long at all! A Sky Island's wide broadcast was announced.
"People of the Sky Islands," King Gregory said sternly. Everyone's favourite, genial, grandfather was gone; replaced by a king laying down the law. Dressed all in Sky Islands' blue (as opposed to Damasky blue) and wearing his working crown, he was the picture of kingly authority. The huge mace, Royal Justice, was in his hand but no ceremonial trappings were visible. This was serious business not a traditional pomp and glitter display.
"We deeply regret that we must tell you that Cyrus Wayfair, oldest son of Prince Arthur of Erisky, has been found guilty of treason. Cyrus Wayfair failed his Service to Country test and went AWOL during his term of service. He compounded his offences by committing perjury when he accepted the position of Heir Designate. He swore he had faithfully and successfuly passed his test and completed his mandatory service. HE LIED!"
"Cyrus Wayfair conspired against Erisky and against all the Sky Islands by granting permission to Cyrus Bragg for the purpose of using our ocean as a dump for his toxic waste!"
"Cyrus Wayrfair has been tried and found guilty by a jury of his peers: the reigning princes and their heirs. The vote was unanaminous. Cyrus Wayfair has been stripped of all titles and possessions, removed from the succession, and banished (on pain of death) from the Sky Islands. As of today, he is considered dead. Our condolences to Prince Arthur and his family."
"Those who aided and abetted this criminal in his treason, both high and petty, will be punished accordingly." (As in heads will roll!)
"Prince Arthur has two daughters and a son, not resident on Erisky. They are hereby recalled to Erisky to be evaluated as Heir Designate. They have one week to present themselves to Prince Arthur. Disobeying the direct order of their Prince will result in their forfeiting any claim to the throne, their titles, and any property they may have in the Sky Islands."
"Prince Arthur has one son, Nicholas Wayfair, living in Erisky. This son is still a minor. However, Prince Arthur is in excellent health. Accordingly, we will waive the requirement that every candidate must be of age and have completed his or her Year of Service to the Crown to be considered. Nicholas Wayfair, should he be chosen as Heir Designate, must pass his Service to Country exam and serve his Year of Service before being confirmed as Designated Heir."
Arabelle couldn't resist cheering. Cyrus Wayfair is OUT! Three cheers for justice and the environment! No choking smog from Bragg 'reclaimation factories', or toxic spills on our soil. No old rustbuckets moored at our docks and left to decompose. No garbage trucked in as 'recyclibles'.
I'm one step closer to the throne. (Big laugh!) More importantly, I have proven myself a worthy Pretender to the trust fund that pays me. Taking out Erisky's Heir Designate is a feat to make great-grandfather Nicholas Lancaster proud!
I bet I've taken out more than just the loathsome Cyrus! Prince Arthur despises his first wife. He married her for her father's money, which he didn't get. Instead, he got publicly humiliated.
His second wife, his trophy wife, considers the Sky Islands a boring backwater. It is unlikely her children will rush to Erisky. That means I will have taken four persons out of the direct succession!
It's unlikely that I will take out the remaining candidate. He would have to do something stupidly wicked to lose this contest. Nicholas's mother, Princess Mary, is the daughter of Prince Nicholas of Laosky. Her son won't fail if she has to spend every waking moment tutoring him. More power to her.
I am the best Pretender ever! I've done what no Pretender has ever managed to do and eliminated the unworthy heirs to the throne I claim. Success is sweet. You never know. At this rate, I just might end up on the throne. LOL