I stared down at the two graves before me. I knew retaining my composure was essential in this situation. I took a deep breath and glanced quickly at the group of five older men stood off to one side. They appeared suitably saddened by the events of the day.
We moved away and back towards the castle. One of the men approached me. Grey haired and with an impeccably combed moustache and a suit that never quite seemed to fit. I looked up at him. “The advisers and I were talking about the rival kingdom and what our plan is. I understand this is a very difficult time for you” he put his hand on my shoulder. I turned away, I’m sure he took it to show my loss. “We are willing to manage this situation for you until you feel ready” he offered, insisted.
I took a deep breath and met his eyes again. “I would appreciate a meeting with the advisory board and the ruler of our neighbours at the earliest moment” I replied
It took only one day to gather a representative from the neighbouring kingdom who had been advancing into our farmland and injuring or killing our civilians who protested.
During that one day, I had lost more farmers, according to my Lieutenant, and despite the ruling of my parents to send more guards to protect our boarders, nobody had been dispatched as of yet. I had snuck to the advisor’s claimed chamber – regardless of that having been my mother’s study before her untimely death – and listened at the door.
I winked at my lady’s maid as she fastened my cloak and fixed the tiara on my head. I wouldn’t be officially coronated until next week, the standard grieving time and allowance for a rival heir to pop out of the woodwork. Although I wouldn’t put pulling a surprise rival heir out of the woodwork past some of my enemies.
Sophia smiled at me and gave me a nod of encouragement. She had been my mother’s maid before mine. I knew she would be hurting too.
I swept into the war chamber, the only room besides the ball room that was large enough for all of the advisors from each kingdom.
Advisor Dellal had come up to my rooms the previous night to reiterate his offer that the advisors would handle everything if I felt that I was not ready.
I sat at the head of the table, Dellal to my left, Malmon to my right. They had both moved up the table. My mother used to head the table – being the truest heir to the throne upon her parent’s retirement. My father had sat in Dellal’s position and I had sat in Malmon’s current chair. This seat had always seemed so big when my mother had been sat here, and now it seemed so tiny.
I stared at the man across the table from me. The representative from the neighbouring kingdom. He looked to be their prince. His advisors surrounded him with two guards stood behind his shoulders. I had no guards. This was my kingdom after all.
I waited, testing the waters.
Dellal got impatient and began talking. “As you know, we have just lost our beloved King and Queen” he began, as if the neighbouring prince who could get here in only one day wasn’t the lead suspect in their murder. “and your kingdom has been infringing on our boarders, our princess is willing to do many things to come to a peaceful conclusion. Nobody wants war”
I couldn’t help the smile that tugged at the corner of my mouth. I would do anything, would I Dellal? I wondered benignly if Dellal had some kind of plan to marry me off to that kingdom, unite the lands and what? Then he would lose his position, surely?
The foreign prince leaned forward, his guards leaned with him.
I waited for them to debate further, to decipher where this was going.
I sat and listened, watching the prince become disinterested and his advisors beginning to take over. Dellal shuffled his chair towards the head of the table.
“So its agreed” he declared “we will relinquish a small piece of farmland to you, in return you shall cease attacking our land”
“No” I spoke shortly, quietly. Dellal turned to me slowly, moth open, as if he had forgotten that I was there at all. I stood. “We will not be relinquishing our land to you. You cannot bully your way into my land and take it as you please. Should we follow Dellal’s course of action this jumped up little brat” I gestured at the prince, who could very easily have been older than I “will think he has us under his thumb. Dellal, I am beginning to think that you are not true to the kingdom, Francis!” I called out for my Lieutennant but was shocked when the Captain of the Guard entered with him. The Captain had never really liked me, something about picking all of his flowers as a child. He was likely to be on Dellal’s side which was going to throw some custard in the works.
“Take Dellal away” I ordered. The Captain refused.
“Am I not your ruler?”
“Yes my lady”
“Should you not therefore follow my orders?”
“You have just lost your parents, my lady”
I took a deep breath, glanced at Francis and squared my shoulders
“If you will not take him to our holding cells until his loyalty can be ascertained, I shall assume you and he are both disloyal and you will receive the standard punishment for treason”
I saw Francis’s eyes widen over the Captain’s shoulder as I looked directly into his eye. He did not step up to the task so I drew the short sword from my belt. It had been well hidden by my cloak. I slit Dellal’s throat over the table.
The foreign prince puched away from the table and retched. All of the advisors at the table stared at me. I ignored them and stepped toward the ex-captain.
“No wait!” he started but I slit his throat anyway.
I looked down at the foreign prince, who could barely meet my eye. “I advise that you tell your daddy that you stop harassing my farmers or you will be subject to similar actions.” I stepped towards him until I stood above his cowering form, all justice and vengeance and covered in blood, sticky and wet on my face and hands. “And, just in case your guards don’t get that message, note that they will be met with force should they try again.”
I stood tall and addressed the remainder of the room. “Gentlemen, I take my leave. If any of you feel my actions unjust, or believe the same as Dellal – that I am to be spoken over – I advise that you take your leave with this prince and hope he lets you into his own country. If I find any of you did not take this easy road out you will find yourself with the same fate as that of the captain and advisor Dellal”
With that I swept from the room.
I kept my pace to the stairs where I hiked up my skirts and ran. Sophia had drawn me a bath, as I had asked her to do beforehand. I had been fairly certain that I would end up needing one after that meeting.
She stared at me a moment before opening a cupboard and pulling a box off the top shelf. “These were your mothers supplies for just such a situation. They should get the blood out of your hair and leave you feeling clean”
“Thank you Sophia” I smiled
She nodded, curtsied and took her leave, throwing over her shoulder “I’ll help Francis get the war room cleaned up”