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The Arrest of King Albrecht

by Nathan Hicks

To her credit, when Princess Antonia was told her brother had been arrested for selling Shakespeare forgeries in another dimension, she took it extremely well. But then, Albrecht always had been impetuous, and the news wasn"t entirely unexpected. She leafed through the police photocopies of carefully-handwritten manuscript pages, noting (not without a touch of pride) that her brother had achieved spelling, grammar and tone indistinguishable from the playwright"s own.

"How many are there?" she asked General Braunhaus, Chief of Intelligence, who was looking very grave indeed.

"Four," he replied, shortly. "Four plays composed, written and sold to rare-book dealers by His Majesty, pretending they were this... Shakespeare"s. My Lady, this is a national emergency."

"Well," she said, "Albrecht"s been a very naughty boy, but –"

"My Lady, he is King of Inner Alicia! He can"t go around breaking laws! He can"t just disappear only to resurface nine years later in a police cell On the Other Side of the Glass!" General Braunhaus wiped a fleck of spittle from his moustache. "The officer informs me His Majesty could be facing a very long prison sentence."

Officer McGriffin, of the New York Police Department, had had a very strange day. He smiled nervously at the assembled courtiers in their sumptuous brocades and powdered periwigs, and realised they expected him to say something.
"How"s it going, folks?" he began. He coughed. "Now, obviously, we"re gonna be asking a pritt-ee sizeable bail – not that we think uh, King, Albrecht is dangerous, just, you know, we don"t want him disappearing to Myanmar or Brazil or somewhere like that –"

Princess Antonia wondered where Brazil was. "How much?" she asked, interrupting him.

"Oh... uh, how much? Um." Officer McGriffin looked up at the faerie-crystal chandeliers, spun by eighty virgins in a single night three centuries before. "You know, maybe you guys should come down to the station and talk with our lawyers..."

"You mean go through the Glass?" asked Princess Antonia, with a kind of gleeful horror.

Officer McGriffin mouthed helplessly. He"d been sent to talk to the relatives of the Bill Shakespeare Forger – a quiet, pleasant young man with long hair and a British accent – and he"d been met by a deputation of generals who had (politely) manhandled him through a mirror in some rotting New Jersey warehouse. And now this.

"If My Lady wishes –" Braunhaus bowed extravagantly.

"No, I think the officer is right," said Antonia. "I am Albrecht"s sister, and regent of his country. Who better to meet him On the Other Side? I shall, of course, take the Cabinet with me."

She rose up from the throne, handing the papers to General Braunhaus. "Lead the way officer. My poor brother never really wanted to be king, you know," she informed McGriffin, as they set off through the exquisite Royal Gardens, laid out by the Blue Wizard Arramor fourscore years previously. "He used to go in disguise among the peasantfolk, listening to their stories, pretending he was one of them, rescuing foreign royalty from evil warlords... you know."

Officer McGriffin nodded. He did not know, but he had more pressing things to worry about. What was going to happen when he showed up at the station with these guys in tow? The men were wearing high heels! One of them had a freakin' pointy velvet cap on!

"It was Albrecht who proposed the abolition of serfdom," Antonia continued. "He was a Good King. But – well, the World On the Other Side Of the Glass fascinated him. He sent ambassadors to retrieve artefacts from your world, to learn about how you lived. We were most impressed with your horseless carriages – the automobiles – but we never quite discovered how you make them go."

"Gas," said McGriffin, weakly.

"Oh, how interesting,"said Antonia, in the tone of one dissecting a frog for the first time. "Most of all, you know, Albrecht loved literature. We don"t have much of it here – the wizards disapprove, when there are so many dragons to be killed, and elfin poetry is frankly doggerel – but he did love your bards."She paused reflectively, "Actually, there aren"t so many dragons any more. Albrecht had submachine guns imported through the Glass, shortly before he left. I haven"t seen a dragon for oh, ever such a long time..."

They halted. They had come to the Temple of the Glass, tended day and night by three sorceresses who only had a single, grimy eye between them. Currently, two of them were asleep, and the third was trying to extract some grit from the tender surface of their dislocated eyeball.

"My Lady," she gasped, popping it back into her head and blinking myopically, "the Temple has been very busy today..."

"Spot of bother On the Other Side," said the Court Wizard, a portly warlock called Rundergast. "They"ve found the king."

"I"m afraid Albrecht"s broken some of their laws," Antonia explained. "This upstanding young swain has travelled here to help us."

Unsure whether or not to take offence at "swain", McGriffin waved shyly.

The sorceress examined him closely. "Yes, he came through here this morning with the Chief of Intelligence. I s'pose you all want to go back over there, now, do you?"

Antonia nodded brightly. "I always did want to see..." she savoured the foreign-sounding syllables, "... New York. Is it true that your society exists in a low-level state of anarchy?" she asked McGriffin conversationally. "I heard you don"t have a king."

"We don"t," said McGriffin. Through that mirror was the warehouse, and the patrol car parked outside, and beyond that the unsuspecting bureaucracy of the American legal system, waiting to process King Albrecht V of Inner Alicia for forgery. He felt sick.

"I suppose he"ll show up eventually, and pull a sword out of stone or something,"said Antonia kindly. "Kings don"t disappear much longer than five hundred years, give or take a decade."

And with that, she stepped up to the Glass, and crossed over onto the Other Side.




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