I wake up with a sore head and an aching body. I huddle into a ball, wondering how much I truly drank last night. I remember the Jaegerbombs coming out well before midnight, but after the first three or four of them? Nothing much.
I close my eyes tightly. My mouth tastes bad and I'm incredibly thirsty, but moving seems like more trouble than it's worth. Also, why is it so damn hot in my room? I must have drunkenly turned up the thermostat last night.
A cool hand slides onto my brow and my eyes fly open.
I don't know the man looking down at me. He has black hair, cropped short at the back and sides, but longer at the top. The tight black curls frame a thin face and eyes such a deep brown that they're almost black. His skin is the colour of umber. He's wearing some kind of costume, a purple robe underneath what looks to be a pretty expensive gold necklace.
The room isn't my own either, which explains why it's so hot.
Oh man, did I wander into someone else's costume party last night when I was drunk and pass out here?
"Er. Hi?" I offer, glad that the first thing I managed to say wasn't anything particularly damning.
He blinks in surprise, and then gets to his feet quickly. "Songo! Bring water! Fresh clothes! He is awake!"
I wince at the loudness of the voice, though I'm more than a little alarmed by the fact the person who's house I'm in seems to be ordering someone around. In fact, taking in the room a little more, I realise that I've wandered into the house of someone who probably earns what I earn in a year in a single day.
The bed I'm in is clothed in soft silk, and surrounded by a fine mesh gauze that I can only assume is a mosquito net. Strange thing to have in the middle of winter in the UK that's for sure.
I sit up, rubbing my head and reaching for the gauze to pull it aside and get a better view beyond. Marble. Marble as far as the eye can see. Busts of people I have no idea about. Potted leafy plants that look like they're from far off lands and the lingering scent of jasmine reaches my nose.
"Excuse me but-"
The beautiful man turns back to me, walking quickly to a stand by my bed. He lifts a large copper jug, pouring water into a clay bowl before handing it to me. I almost snatch it off him in gratefulness, downing it before I can finish my question.
"Thank you," I manage, finishing the bowl.
There is an inquisitive look in the man's eyes as he pours more water into the bowl. This time, I sip it, trying not to appear rude.
"I'm really sorry. I didn't mean to crash your party," I say, rubbing the back of my neck with my free hand. "It was an accident."
"We are very happy to have you here. It has been a long time since one of your kin visited us." The man sets the jug back down, scowling at the door. "Songo is late. He was meant to be here the moment I called."
"U-Um, it's fine, really. I can... er, go home in these clothes. It's fine," I say, looking down at my clothes. They are kind of crusty, and feel rough against my skin, but I guess that's what I get for sleeping in them all night.
"We will provide. That is what we-"
"Your Majesty! Apologies! I was just-" The door to the room bursts open and the man who enters clatters as he walks. A swarm of what I can only assume are servants follow him.
He's wearing armour. Holy shit, that's a real sword. What the-
"It is fine. Our guest was just telling us that he did not intend to stay," the first man says, and his mouth turns downwards. "I was about to insist that he at least stay one night with us to allow us to show our hospitality."
I have no idea who these people are, but this seems crazy.
"Really. I'm fine. I should-"
"I insist," the first man says and he bows his head. "My name is Prince Amare. You are in my palace, Will Wightman. I insist that you stay for at least long enough to refresh yourself."
His palace?! Don't all the palaces in England belong to the Queen? Are foreign nationals allowed to set up palaces? Or maybe he jsut means that this is his mansion? But then, how the hell did I end up in a mansion?
"I'm not really sure where I am," I say, and reach into my pocket for my phone. It's gone. Typical. "Can I borrow your phone? I'll just call a cab and go."
Prince Amare shares a look with Songo, who shrugs. "I am not sure I understand what you're trying to say. What is a phone?"
I laugh. "You're joking right? Everyone knows what a phone is."
I get blank faces all round. No way. This is an elaborate prank isn't it. Hell, they even knew my name before I told them.
"Alright, very funny. Very clever. Who is it that's recording this? And who hired this hotel room? It's fancy," I say, getting to my feet and gesturing around the room. "Really, top prank, well done."
Prince Amare shakes his head. "You seem not to be understanding me, Will Wightman. We are playing no game with you. You are here, as our guest, and have been the last nine days whilst you slumbered."
"N-Nine days?!" I repeat dumbly. "Oh my god, I've so lost my job!"
Is it even possible to be passed out for nine days and not hooked up to some sort of life support? No wonder I was so thirsty!
"Perhaps it is a good idea for you to sit down again? You seem disoriented and excitable-" Amare suggests, but he doesn't need to bother. I'm already pushing my way past him to the door.
"You're still weak!" Songo tries to call to me, but I push open the door regardless. A wave of heat hits me as I step into a corridor that is open to the gardens in the centre at one side. Beautiful, colourful plants that I have no name for wind and twist through it, but I tear my gaze away from them.
Instead I head to the largest door on the other side of the corridor, guessing that it might lead to a way out.
When I open the door, it is like being punched in the face.
Out there, as far as the eye can see, is nothing but arid acres of fields. It's clear that the palace I'm on sits atop a hill and below it, the valley stretches. Olive groves, villages, a winding river low on water, all of it weaves through the landscape below as I stare.
How on Earth have I...?
"Welcome to my kingdom," Amare's voice comes from behind me, and when I turn to look at him, he seems somewhat amused. "I hope that you will reconsider your decision to leave."