For All Nails #81A: Youth of the Coronation
by Johnny Pez
Considering that he was about to be crowned King of New Granada, there was surprisingly little for Don Fernando to bother with. Colonel Elbittar's people had done all the planning, and all Fernando really had to do was show up at the Church of Santa Clara and let the Archbishop of Bogotá put the crown on his head.
In the meantime, Fernando was relaxing in a courtyard of the Presidential Palace, seated on the edge of a fountain as he enjoyed the view from the verdant heights of Cerro de Monserrate. The Palace was starting to fill up with all the people who would take part in the procession, and even the Colonel's highly efficient subordinates were starting to have trouble keeping order. Fernando had retreated here to collect himself and mentally prepare for the impending set of rituals.
His solitude vanished when he heard a voice exclaim in English, "Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't know there was anyone about."
Standing to his right, about a quarter of the way around the circumference of the fountain, was a woman his own age, or perhaps slightly older. She had dark hair curled into elaborate ringlets, and was dressed in a light blue gown that matched her eyes perfectly. Her accent was English rather than the North American he was familiar with, and as far as he knew the only English people presently in the Palace were the King and Queen of Great Britain, two of their children, FN1 a handful of their servants, and the British Foreign Secretary. Fernando doubted that the Colonel's people would allow a mere servant to wander unaccompanied about the Palace, so that left...
"That's all right," Fernando replied in English. "Would you care to join me?"
"You're sure it wouldn't be a bother?" said the woman.
"No bother at all," Fernando assured her. As she seated herself next to him, he added, "I'm Ferdinand, by the way."
"Sophia," she answered. "Any idea when this whole do is set to start?"
"The procession is supposed to set out at eleven, so we can reach the church at noon."
"If it's anything like my father's coronation was, we'll be lucky to set out by noon," said Sophia with a roll of her eyes. "And probably not reach the church until two at the earliest." Eyeing the courtyard, she added, "It's so peaceful out here. Astonishing when you consider what a madhouse it's becoming back there." Her ringletted hair bounced as she nodded back towards the rest of the Palace.
Fernando smiled. "That's precisely why I'm here. I imagine relaxation is going to be hard to come by in the next few hours."
With a sudden giggle, Sophia said, "Well, if it's relaxation you're after, I've got just the thing." Reaching into the cleavage of her gown (and leaving Fernando faintly scandalized thereby), Sophia produced a thin, handrolled cigarillo and a small box of lucifers. Striking one of the lucifers against the stone of the fountain, she quickly had the cigarillo alight.
Raising an eyebrow, Fernando said, "Isn't marijuana illegal in Britain?"
Sophia was silent for a moment before finally exhaling. "It is now, yes. Bloody Nats FN2 banned it five years back. Militaristic prigs. Would you like some? It's jolly good stuff, Dahlgren's Delight from Chiapas."
Marijuana was also illegal in the CNA, though that hadn't kept Fernando's classmates at the University of New Orleans from making frequent "road trips" across the border into the USM. Fernando had experimented, but saw little point in acquiring an illegal vice when there were so many legal ones available. Still, it was legal enough in New Granada, and if there was ever a time when he needed to relax, now was it.
Accepting the cigarillo from Sophia, Fernando inhaled briefly. It had been too long, though, and he began to cough. Sophia quickly offered him her handkerchief, and he nodded his thanks. When he was done, he was momentarily unsure whether to hand the cloth back. She waggled her fingers and said, "Keep it. I've plenty more back at our rooms. I'll take the banger, FN3 though."
As Sophia took another drag on her cigarillo, Fernando found himself gazing at the handkerchief. It had a lion-and-crown insignia, above the monogrammed words "confido in fabulositate." The phrase didn't make a great deal of sense in Latin, and made no more after he mentally translated it into Spanish and English. Faith in stories?
Before he could ask her about it, though, the two of them were joined by a third person. "Ah, Serjeant Gomez," Fernando greeted the new arrival in English. "Have you met Her Highness, Princess Sophia of Great Britain?"
Fernando was amused to see that Sophia had already disposed of the cigarillo by some mysterious means and was smiling cheerily at Gomez. "No, Don Fernando, I have not," Gomez answered as he frowned at the British princess.
"We were just comparing my coronation with that of her father," Fernando explained. Turning back to her, he added, "Did you know that Colonel Elbittar is actually using your father's coronation as a model for mine? It turns out he's quite the Anglophile."
"Speaking of the coronation, sir," Gomez interrupted, "the procession is beginning to form up. If you and your guest could just follow me?"
Fernando stood, and offering his arm to Sophia, followed Gomez from the courtyard. It was time to go claim his kingdom.
Forward to FAN #81B (15 June 1974): A Visitor From Outer Space.
Return to For All Nails.