26 December, 2017 by katelaity
We all quailed at the commandment that would end our lives. A more horrible fate could not be imagined. At least it could not be imagined by me at the moment, though of course taking in the whole of our unusual experiences I had had time to imagine any number of horrible fates that might cut short our breaths.
I was not inclined to consider this classic method as any lesser for being so much more familiar. After all, it was a fate generally reserved for royalty more often than not, so I ought to have been pleased, I suppose.
These are the kinds of thoughts that run through a mind consumed with panic at one’s swiftly approaching doom. I could almost feel the cold brush of the steel on the back of my neck and absurdly my mind coughed up the image of poor Sir Gawain with his own neckbones stretched in the green chapel. I shuddered.
Gradually, we raised our heads. Imminent death not arriving, we looked about to see what delayed it. We peeped about us to see that there was no sign of any guards to carry out the commanded punishment.
The black queen appeared displeased. ‘I am displeased,’ she affirmed.
‘Alas, my lady, there is none but we to command,’ the lady Judith explained offering a curtsey somewhat lesser than the one before but just as dignified in its execution. ‘We hope that we have not discomfited you in some way. That would be much regretted, of course.’
The imperious black queen did not betray any sign of having taken our willingness to bend to her wishes into account. ‘Where are my guards?’
‘We have no idea, my lady,’ Chambers said, looking rather confused, which was quite reasonable all things considered. We were on the run from a capricious king in red whose troops seemed determined to cut short our mortal threads, after all. Taking refuge in this dark castle of thorns had seemed attractive only given the comparative lethality of the pursuit. Now as we stood in the shadows it was very much a case of frying pans and fires, or so it seemed to me.
‘If we shadows have offended—’ There was Tansy again, taking the absurd approach as ever. It was a wonder he had not gotten us killed before this.
To our surprise, however, the queen laughed. ‘You may take my arm,’ she said to Tansy who popped up from his knee to lead the monarch down the steps to the gloomy foyer. We all trooped sagely behind them, wondering what would happen next. Given the oddness of the tapestry that had predicted our coming here, I shrank from considering what it might mean.
Honi soit qui mal y pense, indeed!
‘You were admiring my handiwork,’ the queen announced, her tone clearly conveying that she did not expect any debate on the point.
‘My lady, you have a most expert command of the tapestry skills.’ Tansy spoke with the ease of someone who addressed monarchs daily, which I cannot have imagined to be the case at any stage of his life as far as he had ever told me.
‘The skill is the easy part,’ she said with a scornful sort of laugh. ‘The prognostication, however, is a gift. That I had no say in.’
‘We had been admiring your precipitous insight before you arrived. Have you always been so blessed?’ Tansy certainly had a way with the ladies that I found quite unaccountable, though at this moment I must say I was glad of it and so was my neck. I suspect that his peculiar nature gave him rather more insight into the weaker sex than mere observation could offer.
‘Blessed?’ The lady said with a return of her icy fire. ‘It is no blessing but a curse!’