Guided by the spirit-light of the loyal Loyse to the only possible means of escape—an underwater passage giving onto the sea—Mideer has still to claim her inheritance, the throne of Madjaria . . . Read on.
It was Hean discovered my abduction and that soon after the event. He had woken with a start and had known at once that something was wrong. He found my guards not sleeping but dead. He barged through the door, there to find Loyse in like condition in a blood-soaked but otherwise empty bed. Blood trailed the floor.
It seemed obvious to everyone called—which meant mostly the Glynts—that I, too, was dead. Yet as Hean reasoned it, why steal my body? Why not leave me, bleeding to death, beside my faithful Lady Loyse? Ambassador Brassen allowed him the point and then proceeded as if it hadn’t been said. New plans must be made: how to proceed now there was no queen to restore to the throne? Ought Glyntland talk now with the side that they favoured most? But which side was that?
Apparently it was Asperin. Not that Hean lingered to hear any more. Disgusted by Brassen’s inaction, he called together my men, those same ten of the corps who had accompanied us to Macara and Glyntland, and moved them into action.
At first they followed the trail of blood, which took them away from Landed Lyndon’s hunting range. To Hean’s mind that cleared our host of any involvement (Ambassador Brassen had hinted at it even while staring at Loyse’s dead body). For a while outside the gates they lost the trail—until they discovered the fresh marks of horses and a cart. And guess where they seemed to be heading. To the Queens House estate.
Two of the Landed-lords were entitled to a residence there: Lantri—who was in support of Landed Gregon; and Asperin, who was currently occupying my palace with his daughter, my cousin Maygan.
“Asperin!” Hean reasoned, he must be the abductor. Already he had possession of the palace; his daughter, though not yet undergone the rites, already was sitting upon the queen’s throne. Asperin had the most to lose if I should be found. Yet how had Asperin known where to find me? But Hean reasoned that out. Servants are renowned for their talk, and Landed Lyndon, a former supporter of Asperin, had provided us with his.
Hean found the Queens House estate effectively guarded by (of all people) Gregon’s and Z’lon’s brother Dahon. How were his men to enter? How were they to search? The ‘how’ was surreptitiously in the dark of night, a cosh to the head taking down the guards, then bound and gagged and left out of sight. Asperin had moved his family and his men to the palace, Lantri with his son Antroni and his daughter were temporary guests of Gregon, the better to coordinate their attack on the palace. There remained but the servants, and those servants had always been loyal to my mother. Once told what had happened, they now were loyal to me. They helped with the search. Of course, no one thought to open the Queens Sepulchre.
It was the third day of searching when Hean hit on the beach. Why he thought to search there . . . yet there he found me. He thought me dead. Hardly surprising. How long had I lain there? Unconscious, my body cold, he gathered me up and returned me to Landed Lyndon’s hunting lodge, there to heal me. He and my corps had the place to themselves, Ambassador Brassen and his Glynts were gone.
“They deserted soon after you left,” a servant told Hean. “I overheard their talk. Ambassador Brassen thinks he’ll marry Queen Maygan.”
And so came the day of the coronation. You, my priests, must have wondered what was happening. So secretive we’d been, hiding out at that hunting lodge, bringing in our Macaran allies in the dark of the night.
Zean (my new lady-in-waiting) dressed me in robes, my regalia legitimately taken from the Queens House. They had been my mothers, they now were mine. She accompanied me to my carriage. She rode beside me looking gloriously dark in her ivory-pale gown. Behind and before us rode my faithful corps. Before and behind them, trotted an entire two bands of Macaran in full warrior gear. Oh how ferocious they looked!
And what a fool, my uncle Asperin, to not have the palace guarded on this his daughter’s coronation day. Not even a hint of a Glynt. Had Ambassador Brassen returned them to Glyntland? Was he so confident now that the day had come? Certainly those who had anchored far out to sea had offered no hindrance to the incoming boats from Macara.
As we drew round to the back of the palace Zean exclaimed, rather mischievously, “Oh look! Your uncle has prepared for you the arena.”
Indeed, my uncle had. As you are aware, on the parade ground (where such state occasions have always been held) there were tier-upon-tier of wooden stands ranked to three sides of the square. But my eyes were distracted from there.
I had told Hean there was to be no bloodshed. Enough had been spilled. So, true to my wishes, his Macaran warriors had loaded their pipes with darts. And those darts were dipped into Honapple’s potion. “I think some Glynts are making acquaintance with the Daughter,” Zean observed. For they lay in sprawling bundles around the arena’s entrance they were supposedly guarding. Meanwhile, my carriage trundled on—to the far end of the arena where the dais was set where I would be crowned.
Need I describe to you, my priests, the scene within? And yet I will, for maybe some few of you, living far from there, were not present.
We had timed our arrival well. No pre-vision in that. The queens’ coronations were always scheduled to coincide with the height of the sun—so that Taz-La might look on. Every Landed-lord was present, his wife, his sons, his daughters, all decked in their glittering best and squeezed into the stands especially erected. But they stood to the rear. To the front were the previously absent Glynts, somewhat short of two thousand. A guard of honour? Or was Ambassador Brassen expecting trouble? But there was no trouble.
Hean led in his Macaran men. They raised their pipes even before the Glynts had time to notice and in rapid succession they sent each one to sleep—to wake a while later in the Holy Land. Though I had intended to introduce both my Madja and my Glyntlander allies to the Daughter of the Holy Land—and to those little green men with their infinite gifts—yet this wasn’t quite the way I had planned it. But while mostly the Source waits for us to act she does occasionally take over. I grinned, and hugged Zean. We both were laughing. It would do the Glynts no harm to encounter the Truth.
All this had proceeded me by five breaths and a half. Now as I entered the arena there came the reaction. My own people, the Madja, stunned, confused, torn in their loyalties, eager to cover their guilt. Their support for Asperin was quickly withdrawn. A raucous cry for me was let out. My cousin Maygan looked crestfallen, and definitely undecided of what she should do. Her father hastened her away, perhaps afraid that my men might kill her. And that left on the dais Ambassador Brassen and Asperin’s own priest, Pinlappan.
Hean escorted me from my carriage; his sister, Zean, my lady-in-waiting, attended the arrangement of my robes. But not red robes! Those I had refused. Instead I wore a robe of green, deep oceanic green, the green of the Source, the green of the abyss. Hean led me to the carpeted steps. He climbed them beside me.
By now an anxious hush covered the arena. While at first Ambassador Brassen had looked bewildered it seemed he now had processed the proceedings and had come to his own private conclusion and probably decided how best to play it. Perhaps he still hoped to marry me. Alas, dear Brassen, he was too late.
Hensable stepped as if out of nowhere—and that silenced the crowd. He wore those same feathers he’d worn before. He wore that cloak of the world. I had sudden memories of a night spent in his arms. I sighed. I smiled.
He held up a staff and, casting his voice all about, he declared, “Behold! Mideer, Queen of Madjaria!”
The response to that at first was erratic. Yet soon everyone was cheering and calling my name—until Hensable held up his staff again and a sudden hush fell.
“Behold!” he repeated. “Hean the Holy Man of Macara. The man Mideer now chooses to wed!”
The reception for Hean wasn’t exceptionally ecstatic, not even after they’d time to think. Yet it was genuine and warm.
Hensable then nodded to me. It now was my turn to make declaration. Hensable ‘stage managed’ it, holding again his staff to quieten my audience and draw their attention.
“King Gehon is dead,” I said—belatedly. “Long live King Hean!”
And that, my priests, is my story: how I brought the Macaran and Glynts together with my Madja in the hope that through familiarity, and by following the example I set, they might one day open their arms, if not their hearts, and allow those who had previously been strangers to enter in. Meanwhile, my priests, I would that you do the same with the Source and allow my Macaran holy men to take care of your dark gods.
Coming soon, King’s Wife the last of the Asaric Tales.