Chapter 9: Castles in the Sky

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That night, after checking on the boy who'd fallen from the roof and pronouncing him stable, Robert fell into a deep, healing sleep—at least until someone knocked on his door.


Knock, knock.

"Goddamnit," Rob muttered while pulling a pillow over his head. Maggie stirred beside him, turning her back to the door. "Zev, if that's you, I swear—"

Zev poked his head through the door. "Swear what? Hey, you're awake. Nice save with that kid, dude. Everybody's gabbing about it."

"Zev, it's the middle of the night." Rob said. "Stay out of my room!"

"Yeah, that's sort of what I need to talk about. I'm moving out."

Rob lifted the pillow from his face. "Say what?"

"Moving out, dude," Zev said in what, for him, passed as a whisper. "I got my own place. You might even call it a castle, though it's in rough shape. A fire wrecked most of the inside walls and floors and stuff, and there's not much of a roof so it's pretty dank. But it's a castle with a little moat and drawbridge and everything."

"A castle?" Rob reached for his glasses, then his pants. "Seriously? How'd that happen?"

"Funny story," Zev began. "See, I was playing at some noble's party—a solo gig, the rest of the band bailed on me—and about half-way through my Jimmy Buffet set, some chick stumbles out into the party, all zombie-like. Turns out she'd gotten sick a few months ago, fallen into a coma or something, and she'd just woken up.

"Now I didn't know this beforehand," Zev continued, "but the noble-dude had offered land and a title to whomever could wake up his daughter. They said a couple of your monk-students had been out to see her, but no luck—not until I came along, anyway. So, long story short, I'm a mother-fucking prince now."

"You've got to be kidding me," Rob said, pulling his shirt over his head. "Are you kidding me?"

"For realsies, dude," Zev assured him. "The only downside? I was sorta supposed the marry the sleeping chick. I mean, she seemed nice enough after she woke up the rest of the way, plus she had a set of tits to die for, but you know me, I don't like to be tied down. I told the dad thanks but no thanks, it's me not her, yadda yadda, and to tell you the truth he seemed pretty relieved."

Rob hopped on one foot as he yanked on a sock. "That part I believe."

"The best part is even though I didn't marry her, I still get to be a prince. Which is the reason we need to talk."

"Robert," Maggie's voice mumbled from beneath the covers. "Is he chattering about my tits or somebody else's?"

"Somebody else's, don't worry," Rob said, pulling on his other sock. "Go back to sleep, sweetie, we're going downstairs."

Zev could be annoyingly chatty, especially late at night when everyone else had gone to bed, but he'd also shown up in this world just when Rob needed him the most. Rob had moved into the townhouse he'd bought after trading away his digital watch to the Chancellor, and even with Hans to guide him around town, he'd felt lost and alone. 

He'd also spent a lot of time wondering if this medieval, fairy tale world could be real, or if he'd had some sort of psychotic break.

Rob hadn't known what to do with himself. He'd spent his days searching for a way home, but there wasn't anything to find. He'd thought about helping some of the sick people he saw on his daily wanders, but his grip on reality wasn't steady enough for him to consider treating patients.

Then one day he'd discovered Zev, asleep in the hay pile behind his townhouse. Rob had thrown his arms around his cousin, crying tears of joy and relief at seeing a familiar face. Once Zev was able to pry himself free from Rob's embrace, he'd explained that the TV studio where Rob disappeared had partially collapsed under what the newspapers were calling 'mysterious circumstances.' 

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