The palanquin-bearers entered the Great Tomb by the Eastern Gate, as was their duty, mandated by custom, and tradition. Setting down the Great Palanquin, with its massive ebony coffin, Aedward looked around the room.
“Where are the priests?” he said quietly. “Where are the chanters--the flute players--the mourners? Where is everyone?”
His grandnephew Aedgar looked awkwardly at the floor. “The fires and arrests have… taken many, sir. We tried to gather them, but… none would come.”
Aedward shut his eyes. “I see.” Somehow there was something terribly fitting in the fact that Queen Yolande’s funeral was virtually unattended by all those who should have been there. Abandoned in death, even as you were in life, you poor thing. “Someone must speak,” he announced.
“But who?” asked his grandson Horsa. “A new Metropolitan hasn’t even been sent. And we have no…”
“I will speak,” said Aedward.
“Is that proper?” asked Horsa.
“It may not be customary,” answered Aedward, “but there is no priest here, not even a canon, and I… I have seen many of her kin, interred here. Indeed, I carried her mother, her father, her grandfather…” He choked back a sob. “And now her.” The aged bearer took a moment to recover his calm. “Her entire life has been encompassed by mine, and by my service to the Throne on which she sat. So, yes it is proper. Proper and fitting.”
He strode to the center of the room, cleared his throat and began. “Oh, Holy Seven, we commend to rest the Yolande, daughter of Eric, Queen of Tintagel. May the Earth receive her bones. May Sun and Moon lighten the path of her spirit. May the Wind and Water carry it to the Highest Heavens. May the Storm and Fire protect it from harm. And may the Holy Light…” He paused here. The traditional words were ‘keep Douma Dalkiel at bay,’ and yet they seemed inappropriate. He recalled all Hereward had said, and it seemed to him that the great enemy in Yolande’s life had not been an abstract spirit of darkness and death, but a genuine man of flesh and blood, who had high birth, and a boundless supply of cruelty and malice.
“May the Holy Light keep all evil from her,” said Aedward. “May it bring her to a place where those she loved, and those who loved her are. Her parents. The Master of Chambers and his men. My poor, poor grandson Hereward.” Aedward took a deep breath. “And may she know--may they all know, that one more will join them very soon.” He rested a hand on the coffin. “Tell them to smile on me, when I come.”
His fellows looked at the old man in concern, and Aedward could see it on their faces, the realization that he would pass to in time. He wondered just how he’d become an immortal to them--as constant as the Holly Throne--but then gave it no heed. These things… simply happened, after all. “Evil has been my fortune,” he said softly. “To see such days. To witness the passing of so very much that was beautiful. But that is what my fortune has been, and I must bear it. And if that is so--then I will not let it be said of me I did not perform my duties.” He looked at the others. “Come now. Let us place the Queen with her ancestors.”
The others nodded, and then went to work.