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THE QUEEN WITH A SHADOW CROWN – 1

January 13, 2019


“Father, I don’t wish to get married,” the prince stormed into the king’s chamber, his red cape billowing behind him, a sword in one hand.

The king, a round bellied man with wizened eyes peeking out from beneath his mop of grey hair, looked up from the stacks of papers he had been busying himself with.

“But I do Drykar,” he sighed. “Why don’t you sit down?”

The prince took a seat by the king’s study, not taking his defiant yet reverent eyes off his father.

“Drykar, you are old enough to be wed. At nineteen, you’ve given much more for history to talk of than most kings did in their lives. You’re handsome; elegant and young. You’re brave, chivalrous, have won battles with the deft tip if your sword and the uncommon shrewdness you possess; and you are loved Drykar. Every child, every man takes pride in their good hearted prince. Mothers want to raise their sons like you and maids dream of you with love swaying in their eyes. But it’s about time the people are given a princess to take as much pride in. The state has had no queen since your mother died eleven years ago. It has been long since a woman’s voice rung out in this palace everyday. I fear I will grow too frail and old without ever seeing another flower of a female in this palace. I want to beam at you when you come back wed, and fondle a grandchild of my own.  And princess Eira will suit you most perfectly. A girl as lovable as you. ”

The prince’s mouth hardened. He hesitated at first, then affirmed, “ I don’t mean to question your proposal father. Yet, if it’s a lovable queen that the state wants, there are many shepherd’s daughter and baker girls in ours own state, gold of heart and wise of mind. Much more fit to be my wife than dreadfully courteous princess Eira. I somehow don’t like her much, father; or her father, for that matter. The only thing this wedding will give us in full would be gold, and blood bonds with Eira’s state. But forgive me, I don’t wish to buy my marriage alliances. If it’s lands that we wish, I’ll win them with my sword, and as for friends, I’ll earn you those with the sweetness of my tongue and heart.”

“You will if you say so, I’m certain. But if you wouldn’t ‘buy’ you marriage alliance, what do you mean to do? Die a celibate, or better even, marry a cow’s wench?” The king shook his head and made his way to the end of the room where an arched stone window gave leave to violent winds from outside. The king’s long grey hair danced in the wind.

“No, Drykar. Not every land must be bought with battles and bloodshed. There are other ways to do this. I don’t have to tell you why a promising marriage alliance is important. I agree that princess Eira may not be the best. Yet, this is the sacrifice you make for your state,” the king remarked after a while.

The prince looked down at the floor, chasing the veins on the marble floor with his eyes. Neither said a thing for a minute in which time the winds from the grey sky skirled into the silence.

At last the prince sighed and asked, “what about the prophetess, father? About the return of queen Vinanya? It’s been an year since the crone predicted that.”

The king smiled. “Were you really setting store by the old woman’s words? I would have thought better of you. I don’t deny that my ancestor, queen Vinanya was a great blessing to the land, and indeed we could definitely do with someone like her even today. Yet, prophecies are queer things, slivers from within the thick mist of the future. One strand couldn’t tell a whole picture, Drykar, and you never know what may be lying still inside the deep clouds of the tomorrow, or what you may find when you unravel them. I’d say you better pave yourself a path out of what you understand and not build a city out of expectations of mystical forebodings. Leave the queen Vinanya to her grave, child. It’s Eira you’ve got now.”

The prince opened his mouth, as if to argue. Then he nodded, still disturbed. Another lapse of silence stretched out between the prince and his father.

“I suppose I’ll leave you to your silence then, father” the prince said at last, rising.

***

A blushing dusk was just settling overhead. A horse rider’s silhouette emerged from the horizon, growing larger and sharper with every minute until jaunty, brown haired  Synnefro stood among the lean tree trunks, in front of Drykar.

“King Wyman has sent a parchment, Drykar. His daughter has sailed into the water, he says.” Synnefro informed.

A smile inched its way across the prince’s face. “About time. You sure it’s his daughter though?”

His friend shrugged, “So he claims. God knows though.”

“Only God?”

The two young boys laughed, their laughter bouncing back off the thicket of trees.

“You struggle so much, brother,” observed Synnefro.

“Would that I were you, Synnefro, free to marry any girl I want.”

Synnefro snorted, “and would that I were you, sir royal. Everyone’s bloody darling! However do you manage that? I am almost so sure I am a lot more amiable that you. Yet, it’s you who gets everything you desire, save the choice of a girl.”

A shadow of wistfulness enveloped the prince’s face. “But it’s the choice of a girl that I do desire.”

Drykar rode into the thicket, his friend trailing behind him.

“ I miss Cedra, Synnefro. I miss her so much.”

“ You’ll get back with her. One day”

The prince gave him a sorrow tinged smile. “She’s dead. Exactly an year ago, remember?”

Leaves rustled in the darkness, a chilly wind tugged at their hair and capes.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” the prince muttered.

Synnefro nodded. “ King Wyman’s daughter will be arriving soon, brother. The state already murmurs of a strange woman who is to come; queen Vinanya reborn.”

Drykar nodded, a momentary glow sparkling in his eyes. Then the wonted mist returned to them. Synnefro turned around and left the prince to his quiet redolence.

***

To be continued…

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© 2019 Sahana Narendran

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