Queen of all she surveys

NT; (c) Lanhydrock; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

As the person responsible for overseeing who was released from the Port Naain Insane Asylum, Maljie came across many interesting individuals. Some of them, quite frankly, deserved to be in the asylum. This was a little unfortunate as they were the members of the supervising committee she was supposed to report to.

The patients normally posed fewer problems. Still the problems they did pose were often intriguing, as in the case of the Queen of Prae Ducis.

She was drawn to Maljie’s attention when a letter came from the ‘Queen’s’ brother asking for her release. Maljie summoned the brother to a meeting and also looked at the young woman’s file. Apparently she had been admitted for claiming she was the rightful queen of Prae Ducis, having been stolen at birth from her family and adopted by a simple fisherman and his wife. There was some comment about heirlooms.

The brother, when Maljie met him, was a dwarf. He explained that Etheria was his elder sister, and from a young age had clung to her belief that she was not the child of the simple couple bringing her up. As for the heirlooms, he knew nothing, save that he remembered his mother had a brass ornamental toasting fork that was ‘A present from Prae Ducis.’ The reason he wanted his sister released was that he could no longer afford to pay for her care.

Maljie met the young woman in her brother’s presence and assessed the her. Apart from her strange fixation, she seemed entirely rational. Indeed Maljie was left with the impression that Etheria was a charming young woman, pretty but demure with long auburn hair and a love of violin music. She played the instrument for them and Maljie had no doubt she could find work and support herself as a musician.

After some thought, Maljie granted the request. She couldn’t imagine that Etheria would pose a danger to the citizenry of Port Naain.

Indeed, Maljie had been correct in her surmise. Etheria did indeed earn good money as a musician, but she earned it with an aim in view. The spring after her release, she purchased a palfrey and with her brother walking at her horse’s head, she rode south. Now this was not an entirely wise move, but frankly she got away with it because folk felt she was fey and whilst not avoiding her, treated her with considerable reserve.

It was a few miles north of Prae Ducis that she ran into trouble. A band of men-at-arms in service of some local bandit chieftain came upon her. Now it has often been said that in Partann the difference between a man-at-arms and a bandit depended on the number of witnesses, how heavily armed the witnesses were, and whether or not they would want a share.

But the young captain in charge of the party merely asked her to accompany them to the keep where his lord sat brooding upon schemes of audacious violence and larceny. She smiled gently at him and asked him to lead them to his lord. The young captain kept glancing sideways at his fair prisoner. He had been properly brought up and knew that when a fey maiden, riding a white palfrey led by a dwarf, appear on the scene, strange things are about to happen.

Once in the keep, strange things did happen. The lord made improper suggestions, attempted to lay hands upon her, and the captain cut him down and then apologised to Etheria because her dress had been splashed with blood. The rest of the assembled men-at-arms took this in good part, accepted the captain as their new lord. They then pillaged the old lord’s treasury (as was their right) and waited developments with interest.

Etheria graciously allowed the captain to be lord of the keep, explaining that she was rightful Queen of Prae Ducis and would not wish to usurp a lesser position. It has to be said that one or two of his followers did raise the issue that Prae Ducis had been a republic for centuries. Etheria agreed, commenting only that hers was an old claim.

Etheria spent the rest of the summer at the keep. Nobody is quite sure what she was doing, save playing the violin divinely and talking solitary walks in the area. Still she seemed to have an effect on those in the keep. Without any fuss, she accepted her new companions as men worthy to rub shoulders with the paladins of yore. Much to their own surprise, they tried to live up to the standards she set. Whilst the instinct for self-preservation was too deeply engrained to allow them to set off on foolish and probably fatal quests, there was a general raising of standards. Several much put-upon maids found themselves converted into respectable married women, and a dozen or so children were recognised and legitimised.

This sort of thing is difficult to hide, and causes tongues to wag. Any number of rough fighting men made excuses to visit the keep and went away impressed. Indeed before autumn was out, two towers and their small garrisons had formally petitioned that they be taken under her protection and control.
As an aside, it is regularly commented that the Partannese are a dangerous, violent and duplicitous people, never happier than when they are stabbing each other in the back. But in truth, when you dig down deep into their souls, they are a deeply romantic people who yearn for a golden age than probably never existed. Etheria was their golden age made flesh.

Winter was spent quietly as her influence gently spread. Eventually as spring came once more, she sent a messenger informing the burghers of Prae Ducis that she, as their rightful Queen, wished to address them. She even set a date for the address. There was a lot of frantic discussion within the town. Everybody was agreed that they were, in some form, a republic and didn’t have or need a queen. But they were all impressed by how peaceful their northern marches were.

Eventually she rode side-saddle into town on her white palfrey with her brother leading it. It had been agreed by the burghers that they would have her address them in the main square, so nobody could say that there had been any cunning deals cooked up in secret. She remained sitting on her horse to address the crowd. She explained that whilst she was their queen, she was entirely happy with the way her loyal burghers were ruling her city. She commended them for their wisdom and the care they showed for the poor. Thus she granted them the right to continue to govern themselves, and pointed out that she was there to assist and advise them if ever they needed her.

She was applauded to the echo and various worthies stood up to give pretty speeches of thanks. She was invited to dine with the burghers that evening, and at the end of the evening, on hearing that the mayor had served on the council (at his own expense, Prae Ducis is notorious among petty functionaries for the fact that it never covers the expenses of councillors) for over fifty years, she borrowed a sword and knighted that worthy gentleman then and there.

Meanwhile back in Port Naain, Maljie was told that ‘the mad woman you released is causing chaos in Prae Ducis.’ She was tasked with assessing Etheria and if she showed any sign of madness, she was to bring her back to Port Naain. In chains if necessary, and cast her once more into the asylum. How she was supposed to do this, when it was rumoured that Etheria commanded a hundred lances, was not revealed to her. When she queried the order she was told to ‘use her initiative.’

Eschewing suggestions that she ride south, Maljie took passage on one of the regular mail schooners. At Prae Ducis she was told that their Queen was residing once more in the keep. Thus she hired a horse and rode out to the keep. At this point she was somewhat concerned as to the reception she might receive. She need not have worried. Etheria, seated in state in the great hall, received her gracefully, introduced her to the captain as, “The brave lady who released me from durance vile and enabled me to come south to reclaim my inheritance.”

Maljie chatted to Etheria for some time over a light collation. She also cast an eye over the keep and its inhabitants. Finally she rode back to Prae Ducis and talked for a while with some of the burghers and others she met. This finally decided her and she sailed back home to Prae Ducis on her own.

When asked to report to the supervising committee, she was non-committal. But when asked candidly whether Etheria was mad, Maljie merely replied, “No more than anybody else who gets involved in politics.”


Should you wish to spend more time in the company of Maljie, you might wish to purchase, in Paperback or in an ebook format

As a reviewer commented, “Maljie is indeed a Lady Par Excellence. From mountain climber to pirate, currency inventor to financial genius, balloonist to Temple Warden, and more – much, much, more…
The female reader will want her as a best friend, the male reader would be wise to exercise extreme caution if he knows another lady like her.”

6 thoughts on “Queen of all she surveys

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s