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Monday, September 12, 2016

The Queen

All the inhabitants of the house seemed excited over the news of the audience with the Queen save for one. The others barely noticed as CeCe left the gathering and entered the house. Her heart was racing, when she had agreed to travel to the city, she thought they were coming to be here for the public declaration that the Queen was scheduled to make. Never did it cross her mind that they would be entering the actual palace or meeting with anyone official. 

She could not go to this meeting. She thought about it and decided she would feign illness, let the men go without her. She had no wish for anyone to learn, her true identity, it would serve none of them any good purpose. She decided to turn in, to help in the convincing of illness for the morning. As she crossed the room and started up the stairs she chanced to glance out the window toward the palace in the distance.

Bo had finally got the younger men calmed down so he could instruct them in how they were to act in an audience with her majesty.  He looked to see what CeCe thought of their bows, and it was then he noticed that she wasn’t around. He turned toward Neko; smiling at how awkward he looked trying to bow when he was all arms and long legs. “Neko, have you seen your sister?” Bo asked as he went to try and guide him how best to bow gracefully.

Neko cocked his head first to the left and then to the right, before standing up. “No, where did she go? I haven’t really noticed her since the messenger arrived. You have to admit our attention has been on other things since.” He muttered as he went into another deep bow before Silia, who giggled at his comical face.

“Maybe she went to find something pretty to wear for the Queen. You know how girls are. She’ll want to look her best before someone as beautiful as the Queen.” This was volunteered by Dominic has he took his turn bowing to Silia.

“By the way, how did you get us a private audience. I thought we came for the public declaration, she will be making in a couple weeks. I thought we came early, so you could do research at the archives.” Dominic asked Bo, looking at the older Felis with a puzzled look on his face. “Who do you know that is connected enough for this kind of audience?”

Bo knew sooner or later either Dom or Neko would begin to ask questions, they were just too curious not to. He wasn’t quite sure what to say to them.  As he looked from one quizzical face to the next, he knew he would have to tell them part of the truth. It wasn’t like he was going to be able to keep it unknown come tomorrow.  They would know who he really was as soon as he was announced to the Queen.

“The Captain of the Queen’s guard is an old friend. I called in a favor for him to get us an audience.” Bo told the group before him. “I was once trained at the palace myself, that is where I learned much of my fighting skills. My friend, Azereus was my mentor. I knew if anyone could get us in to see her majesty, it would be him.”

Neko studied Bo for a few seconds, and then circled him slowly. He kept making small sounds of agreement to himself, he stopped once more before Bo looking him from head to toe and finally let everybody know what he was thinking.

“Never saw it before, but it has been there the whole time. The solemn countenance, the overbearing nature, the superb fighting skills. We should have figured it all out, but CeCe always said she found you half dead in an alley, so I just always thought, well it doesn’t matter what I thought. Now that I know, I can tell you were highly born. To be sent to train with the Captain of the Queen’s guard, could only mean you are high ranking as well. So tell us, are you a prince, a baron, what was engraved upon your silver spoon?” Neko went and flopped down and grabbed a flagon and took a long drink. Everybody just stared at him as he wiped the foam off his lips with his arm. “What?” was all he had to say before taking another drink.

Dominic turned and look at the man who he had always called brother. Bo had adopted both Donny and himself, when they were just months old. Their mother had been too weak from the birth to survive. There had been a triplet named Danny but he had passed days later. Bo had been more father than brother to him, and he couldn’t believe he had never mentioned any of this to either him or Donny. “Is what Neko saying the truth? Are you a highborn lord? Why would you adopt two poor alley cats like Donny and I? Did you pity us? Were we a charity case for you? I’m not sure I want to know the truth, but please tell us anyway.”

Bo looked into the grass green eyes rimmed with black, he had always thought Dominic looked like he wore eyeliner. Now those eyes held sorrow and pain. He watched as a tear escaped unnoticed by Dom. “No, I never thought of you as anything but my family. I adopted you because you were all alone, as was I. I am an outcast, with a price on my head. One, that by just entering this city may cause me to lose. You have never been anything other than my brothers whom I love and no, I don’t pity you. There is nothing to pity.” As Bo said this he pulled Dom in for a hug, he then grabbed Donny and the three stood held in a tight embrace.

Soon the three brothers broke from their moment and each took a step back to offer the other a moment of time to gather themselves. “You will know all you need to know of my title tomorrow. I suggest we turn in for the night, so we can look refreshed for the Queen. Neko, do you mind checking on your sister? Bo asked as everyone began to gather their stuff to go to bed.

Neko came over and gave Bo a punch on the arm. “I’m sorry about that. I didn’t mean to upset anyone. I was just being my stupid, old nosey self.” Bo rubbed his arm, acting like Neko had managed to hurt him. Then grabbed Neko and pulled him into a giant bear hug.

“No worries, I shouldn’t have kept it from them. Hell, not from you or CeCe either. You guys are my only family. My birth family is all but gone, and the ones still around want me dead. Let’s just get this taken care of and be out of town before any of them realized I stepped foot in Mandu or for that matter survived the last attack.” Bo finished and pushed Neko up the stairs ahead of him and watched as he entered the room CeCe was staying in. He then went on to his own room and to the bed, that he doubted he would get any sleep in.

The next day dawned sunny and bright and found Neko and the twins doing their best to look good in what clothes they had brought with them. Bo finally came down and watched the three joke and kid around before asking Neko where CeCe was. Neko stopped long enough to point towards the stairs before resuming his primping in front of a small mirror in the corner.

Bo left the young fools and made his way back up the stairs to CeCe’s room. He knocked softly on the door and waited for her to let him in. She opened the door before returning to sit on the cushioned window seat. Bo watched her has she stared out the window, not attempting to get ready to leave. He came over and took a seat beside her.

“It is getting close to the time our escort will be arriving. Why haven’t you dressed? Are you worried about not having anything suitable to wear?” He took one of her hands in his own and noticed that it was cold as ice. “Is something wrong? You know you can tell me anything, right?”

CeCe looked down at where her hand fit into Bo’s much larger one.  She hated to lie, but she just couldn’t bring herself to enter the palace. “Unfortunately, I won’t be joining you at the palace. I’m not feeling well today. I feel it better I stay here rather than risk bringing something contagious to the Queen.” She said this as she placed her other hand upon his arm. “I will be fine here and you will have the boys to act as witness to all you hear. You have no need of me there.”

Bo watched CeCe’s face as she spoke and felt as if she kept something from him, but who was he to say anything about secrets. He gently squeezed her hand before saying “It is of no consequence, it is as you said, fine for just the boys and I to go. I just felt you might enjoy meeting the Queen and seeing the palace. You get some rest while we are gone and we will tell you everything upon our return.” Bo placed her hand back into her lap, and reached up to stroke her cheek.

CeCe smiled and turned her head so she could kiss his hand before he withdrew it.  Bo pulled his hand back and slightly shook it, as if it had shocked him. She laughed before glancing out the window. “I think your escort approaches, it is time. Be careful and return soon.” She watched as Bo jumped up and looked out the window before heading for the door. She didn’t know how to tell him she already had met the Queen and seen more than enough of the palace in her life.

Azereus and a few of his most trusted guards came to escort Bo and the boys to the Queen. Bo was somewhat surprised when they did not head for the palace but were taken to an old abandoned church just outside the palace walls. He did not get a chance to question Azereus as they were led down some ancient stone steps that descended into what felt like the depths of hell. They had only the torches the guards carried for light so their progress was slow.

It felt like they had been walking forever when they stop in an open chamber which was lit all around with candles and some torches along the walls. Azereus told them to take a rest while he went to check to see if the queen was available. Bo looked all around trying to figure out why the Queen would wish to meet him here. Did she not want him seen at the palace? In the amount of time they had walked he ascertained they could be well underneath the palace as it was. All he could do was wait and see. His senses on high alert, he signaled the boys to be as well.

Azereus returned a short time later and told them to follow. They left the chamber and went down a short hall until they stopped before double doors with the Queen’s Crest upon them. Az turned and gave them a look over and then gave the order for the doors to be opened. As the doors swung open, the interior of the room was revealed. It looked nothing like the spaces they had just traipsed through. Azereus led with Bo behind him and the boys falling in line behind him.  As they entered a voice announced the name of those that entered.

Bo looked around at the room truly decorated for a Queen. The walls were lined with gold and silver, while interspersed throughout the area was tapestries woven in rich jeweled tones. He watched as the light flickered off some and realized that they even had the actual gemstones woven into them also. Heavy gold candelabra stood all around casting a soft glow upon the proceedings. So intent on his surroundings and unused to hearing his given name he failed to respond when his name was called.

The herald cleared his throat and called again, “The esteemed Count Borjaeis, son of Suswen.” Bo quickly stepped toward the dais and knelt into a deep bow before his Queen. He continued to bow awaiting her assent for him to rise. He knew he would be lucky if she didn’t leave him in the position for a while. Just to see him sweat. She could be vindictive like that.

When he heard he finally tell him to rise, he couldn’t believe how even after all these years, her voice still played tricks with his heart. He arose and looked upon the face of his first love, Queen LiLith, they had been childhood friends and had had their first touch from Eros’s arrow together. He motioned the boys forward and introduced them, watching her face as she watched them bow.

When he had known her she had just been Lil, neither of them really understanding what their roles would be in the future. His mother Suswen had been the confidant and friend of Lil’s mother, Queen Kaetha.  Bo came back to the present as LiLith gave the boys permission to rise.

 “So you return only to ask for privilege you no longer deserve. You are lucky that I wanted to make certain that it was indeed truly you Borjaeis. Now what is it that brings you within my presence once more?” the queen asked.

Neko stood with the twins watching the interchange between the Queen of all Cameria and Bo. He still couldn’t believe that he was standing in the presence of one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen. Her fur was purest white and she had the bluest eyes he had ever seen. The jewels around her neck and on the crown she wore were baubles in comparison to her beauty. She wore a diaphanous gold sari with dark gold satin pants under it. She even had a jeweled cuff wrapped around the tip of her tail.

“Why should I let you be privy to the information about my quest before all others? Do you somehow think our past relationship garner’s special license? Oh, my poor misguided Bo. Whatever am I to do with you?” Queen LiLith asked of no one in particular. She glanced at the young men that had traveled here with Bo and wondered at his life away from the intrigues of the palace. She wished she could be so lucky. “I will tell you what I know but it isn’t much. That is the whole reason for this quest, to find out more before it is too late.”

They had all moved to a table on which was spread several scrolls and maps.  Bo sat reading over one of the pieces of parchment, confusion marking his brow. “What do you mean the prophecy is gone? How can something that has been archived in the royal library for centuries be gone? Are there no copies to be found elsewhere, in the other kingdoms perhaps?” He placed what he had been reading back on the pile and reached for another. “I remember my old tutor showing me the damn thing when I was just a kit.”

LiLith looked over at the grumpy Felis and felt like slapping him, he was just as big a pain now as he had been when they were young. “As I’ve told you several time now, I have no idea. When the stars aligned it reminded the scholars of the prophecy much the way it did you. When we came to get it, it was nowhere to be found. What is worse, is that everyone who even had knowledge of it, has been turning up dead. Someone doesn’t want us to know what is written in the prophecy. So I have decided to send out several teams on a search for anything that can be unearthed about the prophecy and what it foretold. I figure the more teams sent out, the harder it will be for whoever is trying to kill the knowledge.”

Bo stood and went over to where a small table had been set with an impromptu meal, he stood thinking about what had been shared while he poured himself a glass of wine. “So we shall be one of your teams, think of it this way. I still can gain entry into some of the noble houses of Cameria, even outcast as I am. That will give us an advantage where some of your other teams will not.” He took a drink and then filled a glass and brought it over to the table to where the Queen sat deep in thought.

Dominic was going through a trunk that had been brought in and he made an exclamation as he rose to bring it over to the table. “You have to see what I found! This is an old map of the old Cat’s Eye tunnels; they were used by smugglers back in the day before they started collapsing. I never realized that they ran all the way up under the old monastery, maybe there is a clue or a part of the prophecy there?” He handed Bo the map, while watching as Neko start looking through the chest he had just left.

Bo studied the map and then handed it to the queen. “I think it is worth checking out. I know back in the day, they used to leave rare or important stuff with the priest for safe keeping. Maybe something has been left there. It’s a place to start.” LiLith handed him back the map, before standing.

“I will leave you to study what we have here for a bit longer, but then Azereus will guide you back to your dwelling. Here let me give you a royal decree to state that you are one of my royal investigative teams. That should help get you in some doors. Be careful, Borjaeis. As mad as I am at you for leaving, I wish no ill harm upon you. Safe journey, old friend.” She then went to the table and wrote something before asking for some wax to attached her seal. Bo and the boys watched as they became the first official seekers in the Queen’s Quest.

A short time later Azereus came to guide them back to their rooms. CeCe was waiting out on the veranda watching for them when they arrived.  She had no clue that one of the royal guards would be escorting them back and so she was taken aback when she saw who came with Bo and the others.

Bo and Az had been talking about what the next move should be after the monastery, when Az happened to look up when CeCe rose to meet the men. His draw dropped and he looked closer before dropping to one knee before her. “Your highness, we thought you dead.”  CeCe paled as all eyes were trained on her. “Stand up, Azereus, I do not ask for your subservience.  Tell no one I am here.” Was all she said as she ran into the house.  

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