Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Queen on the Holly Throne--Part 6

Yolande glanced at the ship before her at the dock--or tried to at least, as the thick curtain of muslin obscured what was before her. She considered parting it, to get a better look at what she was seeing, but that was impossible. She was the Queen of Tintagel, and to view the world without some form of protection between her and it would be both unprecedented, and a hideous failure of her duties as Living Symbol of her nation.

Still, it was a nuisance. Yolande could barely tell what was she was seeing. Was that shape on the foredeck a man or simply a shadow? If it was a man, was it her future husband, or simply some sailor, strolling around, doing whatever it was that sailors did when a ship was at dock? How could she be sure? The temptation to part the curtain came again. She suppressed it again.

Yolande took out the miniature of Prince Amfortas she kept by her heart, and looked at it. Supposedly, it was a good--no, an excellent likeness. That had been the ambassador’s word. Excellent. And if Yolande could not judge her betrothed’s face by an excellent portrait, what could she judge it by, save by seeing it itself? For the hundredth time, Yolande regarded this reproduction of Amfortas, to see what she could discern there.

Once again, she had to admit the Prince had a handsome face, strong and even, with the piercing blue eyes that supposedly were the heritage of the Pescheours. The Prince’s eyes were half-lidded in the portrait, which instead of making him look sleepy, made him look… Yolande wasn’t sure. Confident? Taunting? Alluring? Enigmatic?

Perhaps all at once. But definitely the last. The Prince of Leonais was a mystery to her. Of course, so were most men, but something in this portrait suggested that Amfortas was more so than most, that there was something he kept buried at the heart of himself that very few people got to see.

But she would see it. How could she not, when they be so close to each other? She was to be his wife. The Senate had at last agreed to it--she was to marry him, the Prince and Regent of Leonais, as well as the Lord Protector of the Free Cities, and the Synod’s Legate in both Leonais, and the Concordat. She’d seen it on a map, this vast territory that her husband-to-be ruled. It was three times the size of the whole of Tintagel even when you added in the Scale Islands.

Yolande wondered how he managed it. Tintagel was smaller, but required so much to be done, even though her duties were largely matters of form and ritual. The Courts ran things, and the Senate, and all Yolande had to do was agree to what they had done. Even so, they did so very much, that sometimes that agreeing in that formal, ritual way took hours and hours of her time, and left her tired.

She looked at the miniature again. No, Amfortas didn’t seem tired at all. She would have to ask him for the secret, after they were married. Perhaps--if it wouldn’t be too much of a bother for him.

Yolande had been taught from an early age not to be a bother. Not being a bother was a large portion of her job. The Chamberlains of the Left and Right had made it clear that they did not want to have a queen who caused trouble and raised a fuss, and Yolande had made sure to be exactly the sort of queen they asked for.

There was a polite scratching at her curtain. Yolande turned to see her First Lady in Waiting of the Left kneeling by her palanquin--Lucinda, that was her name. “My apologies, Your Highness,” said Lucinda in the half-whispered tones that were best for addressing the Queen, “but there is a delay. His Highness, the Prince has brought… some Knights of the Tower with him, and insist they be allowed to accompany him to our land. The Courts are hoping they may be allowed to our nation with… minimal fuss, and that will require your assistance…”

Yolande frowned. “Isn’t this a matter for our Cosmopolite?”

“Indeed, Your Highness, but that will take some time.” Lucinda smiled lightly. “For the moment, if you would kindly sign a Writ of Protection and Visitation, that would let them enter for the few days that it would take the Cosmopolite to officially allow them entry…”

Yolande nodded. “Of course. Have the Courts write them up, and I will sign them.” Her Lady in Waiting turned to leave. “Oh, and Lucinda…?”

The woman paused. “Yes, Your Highness?”

Yolande shut her eyes, and took a deep breath, as she gathered her thoughts. “That man on the ship’s deck? Is that the Prince?”

Lucinda regarded the figure for a moment. “I believe he is captain of the Prince’s guard, Your Highness.”

“Oh.” Yolande nodded. “Very good.”

She felt… oddly disappointed.

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