January 16, 2019

Eight nights later ,the wind from the sea blew heavy with salt and moist, whispering in Synnefro’s ears. A great black ship swam into view, miniaturised by the distance, its jet hull lacerating the azure waters. Synnefro’s heart thrummed in his ears, loud with excitement. The day his friend had been anticipating for over an year had finally arrived. Fast approached the massive ship whence would alight a strange girl when the black waters leap wild in the thralls of the moon’s height. She will be Queen Vinanya reborn, the prophetess had announced.

A dove white orb of a moon raced over the mast of the ship, looking down on the ship expectantly. Today was the fifteenth from the day of the darkness; the moon was at its height.

Synnefro stood, drinking in the ship fighting its way gallantly over the violently leaping waters. Every wave seemed to want to clasp the ship with its long dark fingers and raze it down. But the ship cut through each one. The wind began to carry little specks of water droplets in its arm as a light drizzle began. The prince’s friend still stood there, soaking and waiting.

The sky skirled with the seagulls’ scream and the dock’s Earth thud with the rolling of goods down various ships and the call of men in many languages.

Ten minutes past, the ship Synnefro had been eyeing anchored at the dock. Serving boys, keepers and goods men clambered down, rolling down heavy white sacks. Behind them came a lady garbed in red silk harem pants and a long sleeved black shirt that crawled up her neck. A necklace of red gemstones hung about her neck, now dark, now gleaming in the moon ray. Her face was covered with a gauze red veil till the end of her nose, revealing only her plump red lips. She walked with a flamboyance, her hips swaying slightly with each step. Two women in grey gowns followed her, carrying her trunks.

Synnefro greeted the woman and introduced himself to her. Princess Miraea, she called herself, the daughter of King Wyman. Her voice was thickly flavoured with a foreign accent – one he couldn’t recognize. Her skin boasted the ripe olive hue of the southern latitudes.

“The king has been informed of your coming, princess. He wishes to extend his hospitality to you. Would you follow me to the royal palace?”

“That would be my pleasure. But tonight I would like to house myself in a modest inn somewhere in the city,” she informed. He could feel her eyes studying him intently from beneath the veil, making him a little uncomfortable. This is a strange woman, he decided. The thought somehow disturbed him. This wasn’t what he had been expecting the whole of this year, yet the prophetess had said as much. And plus, she was the prince’s problem.

He took her to her chariot, but she said that she would prefer a mare instead, and in the end, she and Synnefro rode abreast while her maids followed behind the vacant chariot.

“There is an inn in Winegrave street, adorned with ivy and ember woods. It’s a pretty little place and quiet comfortable. Made for the rich and noble. Might I take you there?” he asked her.

“Mmm… somewhere less lavish would do, Synnefro. Some place meant for commons. I would seek shelter for the night there.”

It was an hour following sunset and the black ink spilled across the sky was still fresh. They rode through the throngs of Commons, through the market streets and settlements. Heads turned around to behold the veiled woman everywhere they went. Despite that her face was covered, a broad smile written over her lips welcomed every onlooker. A wave of buzzing erupted in her wake and often, the words ‘Queen Vinanya reborn’, ‘strange woman’ and ‘prophetess’ were heard.

She got down thrice – twice in markets to buy ornaments and wares and once to gift a coin to an ailing old beggar woman. She had stopped there and talked to the woman in her richly flavored accent and mounted back at the end of a minute with a blessing from the hag. Every now and then she would reply to those who tried to strike a conversation. Yet, keeping it terse she would ride on. This one means to make herself a queen, he noticed. She would sit the throne in the commons’ heart even if not the one in the palace. That made him smile a little. Wait till the prince meets you, girl, he thought.

Finally, near the close of an hour they reached a modest yet comfortable inn and alighted there. The long and slow ride across half the city had fed rumours and gossips for days more, he observed. He could already feel her name with the sweet scent in the air.  The prophetess made her a queen, and she has welcomed herself like one.

“Is there anything else you would like, princess? Any special arrangements that could be made to entertain you for tonight? Showmen, dancers…?” he asked her.

“ Nothing of that kind,” she laughed. “ It won’t be said that the state was not hospitable.”

Synnefro nodded. You talk. “If there is anything at all, please let the innkeeper know and he will arrange for it. Shall I come to escort you to the palace in the morning of the morrow?

“ It is my desire to stay in the city till dusk breaks. Might be I could come to the palace after that? And it would be enough to send just a humble envoy. The prince’s best comrade himself need not trouble to chauffer me,” she smiled politely.

“As you wish. I’ll let the prince know of your arrival as well.”

With that he took his leave and made his way back to the palace. Queen Vinanya reborn!


To be continued…


© 2019 Sahana Narendran

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