There was a sigh from beside him in the bed, that wasn’t sleepy at all. “So that’s why you’re doing it.”
Startled, Alibaba glanced at Aladdin.
The young magi was sitting up, braid slipping over his shoulder as serious blue eyes studied his friend. “You don’t want to be king. You don’t think you should be king. So… you’re doing things you think people won’t want in a king, because they have to be done and somebody needs to do them.” Thin shoulders shrugged, confused. “Why?”
Oh man. Why? Why would anyone ever think he could be king, his mother had been a palace maid, no one was going to listen to him-
But Aladdin was listening. And he’d seen the smugglers listen.
So I have to tell him the truth. “I’d be a lousy king,” Alibaba admitted, shoulders slumped. “And… it’s got nothing to do with being brave.” I’m not that, either, even if you think I am. If I were, I’d try anyway, right? “There’s a lot of reasons. But two of them are big ones.” Deep breath. Keep it – not simple, Aladdin’s not dumb, just young. Keep it blunt. “First off, a king has to be… hard inside. He can’t help everyone. He can’t. He has to say what the law is, and then do what’s right by it. And come down hard on anyone breaking the law, no matter what. If you don’t do that, then the people never know what might be the right thing to do next. And if they don’t have that confidence, if they don’t know they can do what they planned to do tomorrow without getting jailed or executed or losing everything – then no one can trust anyone else, and the kingdom falls apart. Maybe it exists in name, but if the people can’t trust their own laws, then… then there’s no hope.”
“And you want to help everyone,” Aladdin said, half to himself.
“The other reason – I don’t know enough,” Alibaba said bluntly. “Not about war, or laws, or other countries. Not about everything. My- the king trained me in trade. I know trade. I can be a good merchant. I don’t know the rest of it! If Abhmad would listen to me about trade and economics… then, maybe, together we could make one decent king. But if I were king, I’d have to ask other people for advice, just like Abhmad did. Maybe I’d make better decisions about who to trust than someone like the Banker. But with the Kou Empire trying to take Balbadd over….”
“Maybe isn’t good enough,” Aladdin concluded.