Stripped naked of her prejudices, Hean has declared Mideer fit now to fulfil the prophecy. Yet, though she knows in outline how she’ll work to unite the Three Lands, the practicalities are another matter . . . Read on
I wanted to go straight to Glyntland, but I knew that I must first return to Madjaria. And as soon as I stepped aboard that boat the anxieties began. My mother: did she still live? But I felt certain I’d have known if she had died. But if she were dead then what chaos might I find? Would the Landed of the Assembly await my return to have me crowned as Queen Mideer of Madjaria? Or would my uncles, maternal or paternal, have hastened to elevate one of their daughters while I was away?
I spent the two-day sailing wondering which daughter they’d chose. At first I thought most likely would be Kilinta, eldest daughter of Landed Lantri, my mother’s eldest brother. But Kilinta already was wed. How then could she honour the tradition of cousin-marriage and wed baby Jon? His next oldest daughter was younger than me. I was certain that the Landed of the Assembly wouldn’t accept her. So what of my mother’s younger brother, Landed Asperin: his eldest daughter, Maygan (named for my mother) was a year older than me. She would be the most suited—unless my paternal uncles won the dispute. Though I had spent my life with my father the king, I knew those uncles less well.
As you, my priests, know my father has—had—three brothers, all younger: Gregon, Dahon and Z’lon. Landed Gregon has three daughters and one son (Jon, the one I was contracted to marry). Only the youngest of Landed Gregon’s three daughters was still unwed: Jaegar. If she were made queen then she must wed a son of the Queens House. Antroni, the sole son of Landed Lantri, seemed most likely. But I thought Mishmaran, eldest daughter of Landed Dahon, would be a more likely choice from the King’s House. She, as you know, was already contracted to marry my cousin Landfol, son of Landed Asperin.
And what would I do if I returned to find this situation? Must I be the ‘named queen’ to unite the Three Lands? Yet were I not I’d not have the authority to invite my Macaran friends to visit. I wouldn’t be allowed the voyage to Glyntland, the next stage in my plan. Moreover—and this I tried not think on—if my throne had been usurped then I must expect an axe to part my body and head as soon as I stepped off the boat.
“It will not happen,” Hean tried to assure me.
“You think my corps of ten enough to save me?”
“You think the world will allow it, after all our efforts to bring you to this?”
I shivered when he said of the world. Did he know what that happened that night with Hensable? We’d not spoken of it. Hensable wanted me to wed Hean but did Hean want that? I knew one thing: I’d no intention of waiting for cousin Jon to put his shoes on. I would break our tradition of cousin-marriage. Wasn’t I anyway a break with tradition? The first, the only, queen’s daughter ever named queen. But on this matter I kept my lips sealed. I had yet to visit Glyntland. Who knows, I could meet someone there, fall deeply in love, become obsessed . . . oh, my priests, how I hear your chuckles, not of humour but of scorn for our neighbours.
No axe swung in greeting. My head remained entirely in tact. And as soon as the pageantry you priests had arranged for me was done, I hastened to my mother’s side, so relieved that she still lived.
She asked where I had been as if I’d not told her, and I said to Macara.
“Ah, the Land of our Source,” she sighed with a distant smile.
Abruptly she pushed herself up (though I swear she hadn’t the strength, so weak she’d become since I had been gone).
“So you are dead?” She sounded so woeful.Disappointed. “Gone before me.” I had to assure her I was still very much alive and breathing.
Exhausted, she again slumped back on her pillows. “Then how came you to there?”
“To Macara? Or to the ‘Source’, to the Abyss, the Holy Land? And I, my mother, might ask you, too, how come you to know of it?”
Again there was that distant smile, and I noticed her eyes seek out and find the heavy-framed painting of the tree. She sighed, “My nursery days. But I’ve told you the story—oh, no I have not.” Her hand came up to cover her mouth. “No, I could not find the book. The priests had taken it!”
She was quiet again. Eyes closed. I thought she had drifted back to sleep. I held on to this last thing she’d said—yes, my priests, she referred to you, did she not—and I turned that over while I waited in the hope that she soon would re-awaken.
Since then I have read that book, with Hean’s help. I know what story you priests would deny me:
There once was a time when we Madja celebrated the same truths as the Macaran. And though we didn’t live always in peace at least we didn’t live ever in the threat of your wars. But our Landed, arguing, contending amongst themselves, sought other things from their holy men.
I find I cannot blame you, my priests, for you have merely inherited from your ancestors; yes, from those same holy men who had helped the Landed to enter the Holy Land, there to find truth, to find connections, find love. Oh, but then, at the instigation of the Landed, they foolishly searched the Abyss for a different entity. An entity? I cannot, in truth, say it began as ‘one’, and it since has multiplied a million-fold.
Those ancient holy men had known of the duality: that for every light there is a dark. It was to that dark side that now they appealed—but not for themselves: no, in support of the Landed. Oh my priests, my foolish priests, though not done by yourselves, by your generation or even your immediate forefathers, yet you are left with it. For in taking and taking and taking the dark side—encouraging, feeding, glorifying—that dark side has now outgrown the light. And being now entirely dark, those entities must be held at bay, to be controlled lest they harm the very descendants of their entreaters.
Is this not so? That you, my priests, are now lodged between your dark gods and the Landed? And there you say you must remain, afraid if you lose control there would be total destruction. But, my priests, how can I and my forces overcome these dark ones without first you release them from your control? But that, of course, requires a high degree of trust. Would you walk that bridge, any one of you? Alone?
A brief interlude for Mideer, and yet one revealing of just how deeply involved her priests are with the dark forces. But at least she is satisfied that her mother, the queen, still lives and that, as yet, no axe will fall to part her body and head. And so to the next part of her plan . . . next episode, Railroaded By Glyntlanders