The King’s Emissary

Ova Scott monitored all persons coming and going through the west atrium. The International Public Health Crisis Summit convened a week ago at the famous palatial conference center due north of Jabedelle’s capitol city. Two days remained.

In Scott’s capacity as a member of the security detail for the crowned prince of Glenvai, he was in no way required to interact with anyone aside from those in his detail, the prince, and any other individual necessary to ensure the safety of the prince. These guidelines also generously denied him the task of engaging with garrulous bureaucrats like the short, rotund statesman currently demanding the prince’s attention.

“Your gentlemanly tenacity inspires a great many of us, Prince Tapio,” cried the bright-eyed statesman whose wispy hair resembled a snowcapped peak. “For you to persuade your king—no, your country!—to finally join the conversation on humanitarianism is groundbreaking! Please believe me, sir, when I say it is a delight and honor to have you among us!”

Scott absently listened to the whispers trickling through his earwig. Every word spoken to or around him was recorded for analysis by the Glenvai’s secret intelligence gathering agency. Every word. Especially those uttered by the prince.

Several months ago Tapio had, to the horror of everyone within earshot, disagreed with his father’s isolationist views with such respect and cunning that he succeeded in politely coercing the absolute monarch to consent to and publicly support his attendance to the Summit, marking the first collaborative international gesture of any kind from a Glenvian ruler in 120 years.

The reign of Tapio’s grandfather had been defined by terror; his father’s by strict secrecy, omniscience and control. Both favored neutrality. Tapio, however, expressed interest in the value of transnational community, an understated defiance not lost on the king. Despite outward serenity regarding the issue, which only unsettled his advisors, the king privately worried over the prospect of a waning bond with his eldest son and once closest ally. As a result, he obeyed his instincts and placed a fly on every wall.

Scott was a fly.

When the statesman departed, Prince Tapio straightened his tailored gray suit. “Mr. Scott.”

“Sir.”

“How are you doing?”

“Well, sir.”

Tapio glanced aside at Scott with earnest intelligence and offered a hand, which the agent accepted courteously. “I hadn’t opportunity to thank you earlier for volunteering to join me here.”

Scott felt the prince press something small into his palm before releasing his grip. He immediately recognized the angular item as a foreign brand of chocolate, one of thousands of commodities banned in their home country. A passing flurry of dignitaries prompted both men to behave as though the exchange never occurred; the agent concealed the candy in a loose fist, and the prince carried on unaffected.

With a hand Tapio discretely signed the words, “One guess.”

Scott strategically scratched his nose to secret the candy into his mouth. It didn’t melt but crumbled finely between his teeth. Bitter, not sweet. The percentage of cacao must’ve been quite high—but he only had one guess.

Scott signed, “Eighty.”

Smiling, Tapio bowed his head in greeting to a distant prime minister who met his eye. His hand answered Scott, “Eighty-two.”


Prompt: Fly on the wall

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