Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Queen on the Holly Throne--Part 33

Lanval Equitan was rather startled how easy it was to enter the Maiden’s Palace. He’d merely taken his squad down the various paths--all of which had exceptionally fancy names--with nary a sign of resistance.

It actually had him worried.

Noseless Leil turned to regard a rather tasteful nude statue of a nymph that was posed by the path. “They let children see that? Little girls?”

Lanval sighed. “It’s art, Leil. It acclimates them to beauty or some such thing.”

Leil spat and then gave a snort that, due to his lack of a nose, came out sounding very unpleasant. “These Tintagelians ain’t got no propriety. When my ma caught me looking at something like that, she used to beat me black and blue.”

And look how well you turned out, thought the Serjeant. For all that Almace had done in forming him into the man he was today, he was rather glad to have left the place, on the whole. Especially when he was around Leil.

“Serjeant Equitan,” came the high fluting voice Lanval had been expecting to hear for some time. “I must state this is not a surprise.”

“Master Mote,” said Lanval quietly, trying, despite himself, to still a chuckle. The eunuch was flanked by a large party of his fellows, all of whom were clad in large scarlet robes, and carrying what appeared to be rather cumbersome swords. “I have been expecting to meet with you as well. I’ve come for the young Queen and her sister.” He gestured to the men behind him. “As you see, I’ve come well prepared, and there are more of my troops waiting if you cause any trouble. So--let’s just make this easy, shall we?”

Mote raised his blade, which the Serjeant realized was more of a polearm than a sword, as well as being considerably less cumbersome than one might think. “That would be a violation of my vows, sir. So, no I will not.”

Lanval stared at him for a moment, readying his mace. “And what do your fellows think of all this? They should realize what we’re willing to do.”

“Fellows of the Chambers, what have you given to the Holly Throne?” recited Mote.

“Our manhoods, and all chance of descendents,” they replied.

“What are you willing to give in the future?” continued the Master of Chambers.

The eunuchs raised their blades. “All else.”

Mote nodded. “There then is your answer.”

“You’ll all die, you know,” said Lanval, with a just a bit of respect in his voice. “These men are trained killers. Not a bunch of castrated babysitters.”

“We are more than that, Serjeant,” said Mote. “As I told you, I was the King’s secretary. And also his bodyguard, and a general, when one was needed.” He smiled. “These men with me are my students, prepared to stand with me in what is in all likelihood our final stand. We may all die in this--but rest assured, you will not get Queen Isabel as you got Queen Yolande.” The man took a deep breath, and began to march forward, singing. “Oh, the Holly it is evergreen, its berries bright and red--and honor is eternal, kept by the blood we shed.”

Lanval and his men prepared as the eunuchs headed towards them--only to hear an answer to Mote’s song coming from behind them.

“Oh, the rising of the sun, and the running of the deer…,” said the force of eunuchs that was marching towards them from the other direction. “The playing of the lute, the sweet sound of the horn.”

“Attack! Attack!” shouted Lanval. “Take as many down as you can!” He charged forward, mace at the ready, suddenly aware that while he’d been expecting something to happen this was… several degrees worse than his most pessimistic imaginings.

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