Bewildering Stories

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Of Noble Blood

by David Marshall

Lord Anasch Darchia XIII knelt before the throne of his monarch, so that she might bestow upon him his just reward. He knew that no honour the Queen could grant was worthy of him, but it would be churlish of him not to welcome Her Majesty’s efforts.

The swarming holocameras ensured that the entire system was watching as Queen Celestia I of Sol raised her ceremonial sword. “Lord Anasch XIII Of Jupiter, Viceroy of Titan, the entire Sol system is grateful for your sterling efforts in crushing the unlawful rebellion of the lower classes.”

“The entire system, apart from those slightly crushed lower classes, of course,” Lord Anasch’s AI implant whispered into his brain. He silenced his AI implant as it began serving him with a summary of the unlawful rebellion, officially encoded in the memes of the cybernet by the Scribes Historical as the Third Interplanetary Civil War (1597-1666 Solar Era).

“...I hereby dub thee Baron of the Oort Cloud, Marquis of Ganymede, Defender of Uranus...”

“Oooh! Watch out for those anal probes, Your Pomposity!” His AI implant would not remain silent! Lord Anasch decided that he would replace the malfunctioning machine immediately after the ceremony. And those commoners responsible for the damned thing would regret the day that Lord Anasch had been born.

“...Knight of the Solar Wind, Earl of Triton, Paramour of Venus, Warlord of the Sea of Serenity, Knight of the Outer Darkness, Duke of Europa...”

“Bloody hell,” cried the AI. “If you have to be announced at the banquet tonight, everyone will starve to death waiting for the heralds to recite all them titles!”

“...Lord of the Very Small Asteroid Cluster, Rajah of the Rings of Saturn, Potentate of Io, Lord of Lagrange Five, Princess of Mars...”

Princess?” His AI implant immediately ran a biosystem check to confirm Lord Anasch’s manhood. “So, are you hiding a sceptre under your robes of state, or are you just pleased to see the Queen, my Lord Princess ?”

The Royal House of Mars had decreed that legitimacy descended from the female line over a thousand years ago, due to their unfortunate tendency to produce female heirs to what had previously been a male-only throne.

Seven dynasties had ruled Mars since those times, and each of them had invested their male heirs with the titles of Princess or Queen. It was easier to disregard the biological reality of manhood than it was to change such an ancient, noble tradition.

“The royal wedding night must be very... interesting on Mars!”

Lord Anasch had neither the patience nor the desire to educate his tittering AI concerning the proper position of concubines within the bedchambers royal, or any of the other onerous responsibilities of the nobility. “Silence, machine!

“...High Plutocrat of Pluto, Magister of Phobos and Deimos, Viscount of Ceres, Lord of the Inner Darkness...”

Queen Celestia’s voice grew hoarse long before she finally bestowed the last of Lord Anasch’s new titles. But unbreakable tradition decreed that she had to recite every single one of them aloud, duly witnessed by the hereditary peerage and slightly crushed lower classes of the Sol system.

Somewhere around the one hundred and fifty-first new title, Lord Anasch had lost count. (Had he been made a Count of something? He wasn’t sure.) But he was gleefully aware that he was now second only to the Queen of Sol herself. And he had earned these titles; they had been paid for in blood during the uprising of those damned serfs!

True, it wasn’t his blood that had paid for it. But more soldiers had died under his command than anywhere else in the system, and that had to count for something!

He dismissed all thoughts of soldiers drowning under rising serfs, and concentrated on what was really important. “I am now second only to the Queen herself!”

“You sure do come a poor second to the Queen, Princess !” Lord Anasch had been entertaining the idea of Queen Celestia I in an improper position within his bedchamber, and then this latest AI impertinence had completely derailed his train of thought.

“You are nothing but a malfunctioning machine! And you will be silent, as your noble Lord commands!”

“You are so noble that the blood of kings runs out of your veins, my Lord,” replied his AI in a deferential tone.

By the time Lord Anasch had realised what his AI had actually said, it was too late.

Queen Celestia I of Sol lowered the ceremonial sword that she had been holding aloft for the past hour and more. Spasms wracked her cramped arm muscles, sending the sword on a downward trajectory so much faster than ceremony and safety required.

Lord Anasch felt his AI implant transmit a data-pulse to the circuitry within the blade.

The plasma sword erupted into glowing life, slashing straight through Lord Anasch’s noble robes of state, and through various parts of his noble anatomy.

“This public service was brought to you in memory of all of the soldiers you commanded in the Civil War!” his AI informed him.

What? Treason ? Striking down the second most noble...

“Or was it?” mused the machine. “Doesn’t the Queen look so incredibly satisfied? She’s just ‘accidentally’ eliminated her only rival, after all.”

Lord Anasch stared up at the Queen. The glare of the holocamera lights and the flickering plasma blade momentarily turned her regal figure into something demonic. And then whatever expression she truly wore was masked from Lord Anasch forever by the encroaching darkness. “Which is it? I must know!”

“Oh, you must, must you?” The last thing Lord Anasch knew in this life was his insufferably smug AI informing him that life, and indeed death, was just full of these little disappointments.

“Oh, bugger!” cried the most noble Queen Celestia I of Sol, as she stared at the fiery plasma blade that had just bestowed upon Lord Anasch a lingering and incurable death. “I didn’t know this thing was loaded.”

Copyright © 2005 by David Marshall

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