I really like this. Only just found it and it's a gem. It reminded me just a little of when the English Queen, Margaret of Anjou, met Mary of Guelders, Queen Regent of Scotland. Not that they were related. http://emilystudortalk.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/when-mary-of-guelders-met-margaret-of.html
Queen of Another Country
My entry for the current Flash Fiction Friday challenge (10.10.2012).
F3, Cycle 99: Fortune or Misfortune?
Prompt: Tell us a story about a character facing the end of something–a job, a relationship, their sanity… What is actually ending can be whatever your imagination dreams up, but also let us know how it turns out for him or her. Give us some type of ending (pun intended).
Genre: Whatever lights your fire.
Word Limit: 1,500 words.
Please leave a comment!
'Your Majesty cannot be serious!' The Chancellor stared at me as if I had just grown two heads.
I stared back at him, keeping my expression as neutral as possible. 'I am very serious, Reston.'
'But the King...'
'The King is in no position to argue. He's dying. You know it, I know it... even he knows it. Why else did he appoint me his Regent?'
'I beg your Majesty to reconsider. The King's greatest enemy is camped outside the castle walls. To go down into that camp is suicide!'
'And why is King Lyros our enemy? Who made him so? The King himself with his envy and ambition. He may be my son, but he inherited his father's desire for greatness. You will remember that I counselled against this attempt to seize land from our neighbour but he would not be persuaded. Well, this is the result.
'Now, please, do as I ask and make arrangements for a parley with Lyros' Queen.'
Reston opened his mouth as though he wanted to say more but clearly thought better of it. Instead, he merely bowed and hurried away to make the arrangements.
As soon as he was out of the room, I sat down once more next to my son. He lay stretched out on his bed, the fresh bandage around his head doing little to staunch the blood. My eyes filled with tears as I remembered the other occasions when I had sat here, comforting him through a childhood illness or tucking him into bed for the night. There would be very few nights left to him, now.
And few left to Queen Entonia's husband either. The two Kings had met on the battlefield, hacking and slashing at each other until it was a wonder either breathed. At last, when they could no longer stand and could offer no resistance to their followers, they had been carried away to die in quiet and solitude. My son had agreed to allow me to act as his Regent and I guessed that the other King had done the same for his wife. Now two Queens must decide the fate of their countries.
Presently, Reston returned with the news that Queen Entonia would meet with me in an hour's time. I thanked him and he turned unhappily away. He had been my husband's most trusted advisor but my son rarely listened to him. I would need him in the days and weeks and months to come but first I had to set my country back on the right path.
I went to my room and picked out my favourite gown and a simple white veil to wear under my crown. There was no need for a display of ostentation at this meeting but wearing my crown should make it clear that I was not coming to surrender.
At the appointed time, I headed out of the castle gates, flanked by two spearsmen and accompanied by Reston. A square of turf had been marked out with stakes and ropes and two chairs from the castle Council Chamber had been placed within it. For the purposes of the negotiation, this was neutral ground. Queen Entonia appeared from her tent with a similar retinue and I waited outside the space for her to arrive. As soon as she did, we ducked under the rope at the same time, leaving our attendants outside.
We met in the centre of the square between the two chairs, two Queens full of grace and dignity. As our eyes met, Entonia's face crumpled.
'Oh, Mother! Why? Why did my brother attack us in this manner?!'
And suddenly she was in my arms, another child of my body, another soul in need of comfort. I patted her on the back, making the kinds of soothing murmurs mothers make at such a moment. Then I whispered, 'That's enough, girl. Remember, you are a Queen, now.'
She stood upright, then, brushing the tears away. 'Of course, Mother.'
We both took a moment to survey the spectators who watched our meeting so closely, my people lining the castle walls, hers staring out from their tents. Our eyes met again and we gave one another a quick encouraging smile. And then the masks returned and we were Queens once more.
Sitting down, one in each chair, we began the negotiations. As the senior, it seemed right to me that I begin. I spoke quietly so that only she could hear. The time for announcements would come at the end, when all had been agreed.
'You and I both know that this stupid war has gone on far longer than makes sense. Our soldiers are mostly farmers, more eager to return to their fields and plant crops than to continue to hew down men so like themselves. Your brother was a fool to try to take that land and even more so to resist your husband's demands for its return. We have stores of food and access to fresh water within the castle, as you know, but we have had to begin rationing both.
'Both sides have lost more men than can be afforded, whether they are viewed as soldiers or as farmers. But on our side, at least, desertion is difficult. For you, however, I hear that many have slipped away in the night, returning to their families whilst they are still able. It seems to me, therefore, that your brother's forces are the stronger.
'I think that the best thing for you to do is to surrender to me. As you know, I am acting as your brother’s Regent; I expect to continue in that role until your younger brother comes of age. I will appoint you as my vassal so that you may continue to reign over your country. You will have the full benefit of my guidance and advice until we agree that you are ready to take over full control. Then you may apply for independence. Until that point, I think it best that you do not remarry but once you are independent you may, of course, do as you will.'
I paused then, studying my daughter's face, trying to gauge her reaction. She gazed serenely back, every inch a Queen. I had taught her well.
'You are right in much that you say, Mother,' she said, at last. 'My army grows weary of this war, although they would fight to the last man to regain what was stolen. However, like your men, their thoughts are bent towards their homes and fields.
'Your offer is a sensible one, I am sure, but it assumes that your forces would have been victorious. I see no need for such an assumption. But,' seeing me about to speak, she held up a quieting hand, 'neither do I assume that my army would have won.
'There is also the problem of the land that began this bloody debate. If I surrender to you, surely I must also surrender the land? If that is so, we will have to put down any number of rebellions before you grant my country its independence as my people seek to reunite their country. On the other hand, if you release the land, how can you claim victory over us?
'My proposal is that we broker real peace, forge a real alliance. I would be grateful for your guidance and support but I am a Queen in my own right. I am no longer only your daughter.'
A smile crept unbidden across my face. I had indeed taught her well. She had grown in these few months since I had sent her away to be the bride of our neighbour.
'Very well, I accept your proposal. We will make an alliance and, as a token of faith, the land that your brother stole will be returned in full.
'And I will raise your younger brother to be a better King.'
She smiled, a quiet... almost victorious... smile. 'I have another reason for desiring independence,' she said, placing one hand protectively over her belly.
A shiver of joy spiked through me as I realised what she was telling me. 'A baby? So soon? That is wonderful news!'
We both stood and embraced once more, now more than mother and daughter. Now we were equals. There would be mourning, of course, but it would be tempered by the hope of new life and the strength of our alliance, forged through our family relationship as much through our diplomatic one.
A great cheer went up from those watching as they realised that the war had ended. The details of the peace agreement hardly mattered to them. It was the peace itself that they had wanted for so long.
Both of our Chamberlains recorded the peace agreement, anyway, just to make it official.
We returned then to our Kings and sat with them through the last, cold, lonely hours. We buried them side by side within the square of ground where we had made peace, raising a barrow of stones and turfs over them.
And then my daughter, Queen of another country, returned home to raise her child in peace.
Queen of Another Country
Date: | By: Dave B