“What is that?” Theodore said.
“A nightmare,” Conrad said, holding the egg up with his armored hand. “More than that, I suppose. Normally, a fairy dream can be experienced only once before it fades to nothing. This one is different. It belonged to Counselor Goldsun the fourth. It is one-hundred and ten years old.”
Theodore did the math. “That means it’s as old as the Redsea Revolt.”
“Exactly,” Conrad said. He spun the egg on its cup and box lit up. A whirlwind howled out of it, and the jail filled with ghosts. Oboe twisted on the floor, startled, as the cell was transformed into an echo of the royal palace. A war room filled with men in strange but fine clothes, speaking in muffled whispers.
Theodore reached out, fascinated. His hand passed through them. “Illusions.”
“Magic projections,” Conrad said. “This dream is a living memory of what happened the last time an heir disappeared.”
The door burst inward. Soldiers poured into the room like smoke. Their shields bore the sigil of a red tidal wave. The ghosts panicked, trying to flee. Oboe yelped as she watched a sword carve through, spraying blood colored ash into the air.
The scene gave way to fire. The city streets of the capital, burning gold in the black night. Wails and screams sounded in the distance, while smoky knights stormed the streets and cut through militiamen, women and children. Their bodies slumped to the ground beside Oboe.
“I don’t like this,” she said. “Why are you making me look at this?!”
“The king was dead,” Conrad said. “The heir was gone. For six months Laien was consumed by civil war. The throne was empty, and the ambitious fought for control.”
The vision shifted. Bodies swung from gallows erected in the scorched streets. Carts heavy with the dead were hauled away on creaking wheels, while phantoms in ragged clothes hammered and laid bricks to rebuild.
“The Stonewall Militia restored order,” Conrad said. “But only after many died in the fighting.” The Knight Detective stopped the egg from spinning with a finger. The projections shrank back into the dream, and they stood again in the dungeon. “Counselor Goldsun was haunted by this nightmare for decades, until he paid to have it surgically removed. But that didn’t change the reality of what happened.” Conrad took off his hat. “Oboe, I don’t want to risk this happening again. Help us find the prince so it doesn’t.”
Oboe was quiet. She stared at him with pursed lips, her eyes fierce. “A bunch of humans fought a long time ago. You want Percy to come back so they don’t fight again. That’s not fair. It’s not Percy’s fault if humans fight! Percy doesn’t want to be king!”
“Oboe, wait,” Theodore said. She was being hasty. “The Knight Detective has a point. A lot of people could get hurt. We should consider what’s best for everyone. Please, you need to help us find the prince.”
“No!” Oboe kicked against her chains. “This is stupid! Percy deserves to live free! Don’t you think that, Theo?! Why are you helping this guy??”
Theodore tightened his fingers. The gallows were still fresh in his mind. “If you don’t help, you’re going to be executed!”
“I don’t care!” Oboe said. “Percy is my friend! You can’t just take his happiness away! It’s not right! Humans can figure it out without him!”
Conrad growled. “If you are so intent on dying then be our guest! We will find the prince, with or without you.” He turned to Theodore. “Let’s go. There’s no reasoning with this beast.”
Theodore lingered as Conrad opened the cell door. Oboe looked away, her face stiff and angry. She was right, but so was Conrad. He tried to find the right words to convince her, to save her. She didn’t deserve to die. It wasn’t fair.
“Come on!” Conrad said.