Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Queen on the Holly Throne--Part 4

Right Chamberlain Casawallan sipped his wine. “So then, no rumors of any mistresses?”

Alexandre le Desirous shook his head. “None whatsoever. The Prince seems to live a life of exemplary virtue. No female companions. Barely touches liquor. Spends a great deal of time in church.” The Cupbearer of the Right shrugged. “Either he’s practically perfect, or he works hard to seem that way.”

“In which case he’s a man whose support would be handy,” finished Casawallan. He nursed his wine for a long moment, then glanced again at the Cupbearer. “I understand there’s some issue with his Serjeant-at-arms?”

Alexandre nodded. “Lanval Equitan. He’s an Almacian bandit. A fairly notorious one, in his day. Apparently Amfortas pardoned him on the eve of Shaddad’s invasion, and recruited him into his personal guard. Equitan’s been moving up the ranks ever since.” Alexandre shrugged. “A bit odd, but still--I’d chalk it up to idealism. And it seems to have worked--Lanval’s a reformed character. A bit blunt at times, but reformed.”

“Or so the Prince would like the world to believe,” said Casawallan. Rising from his chair, the Chamberlain walked to the window, and glanced at the Prince’s ship. “I’ve been dreading this day,” he said quietly. “Queen Yolande is getting married.”

“I thought you said that it was the only way to break the eunuchs,” said Alexandre.

“It is,” replied Casawallan, his eyes straying to the Chambers of the Left across the well-paved street. “But it also changes everything. And that is dangerous. Right now, old Milun is plotting in that building, just as we are plotting in ours. If we hesitate--if we make a wrong move--then the Court of the Left shall triumph, and the Court of the Right will fall.” He growled. “Why couldn’t those fools in the Senate have let her marry Terynon?”

Alexandre stepped beside the Chamberlain. “You might as well ask, uncle, for the Seven to come down and turn the entire Court of Left into dust and ashes. The Senate were never going to favor a candidate with strong ties to EITHER Court. It’s only by balancing against each other that they hold what power they possess.”

“And meanwhile, the eunuchs get fat,” spat out Cassawallan. He shook his head, grey eyes flashing with anger. “These are evil days.” He frowned, and turned back to the Prince of Leonais’ boat. “Approach the Prince after the wedding. See what he wants. Try to see what he’ll accept. Then come to me and I’ll see if it’s workable.”

“This is the most worried I’ve ever seen you,” said Alexandre.

“If what you’re saying is true, then I’m left with two obvious possibilities,” said the Chamberlain. “Either the Prince is a pious fool who has been on the whole rather lucky, or he’s an exceedingly clever man. Neither one fills me with hope.”

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