2 January, 2018 by katelaity
‘A curse?’ Chambers and I quailed at her angry declaration, but Tansy was master of his emotions. ‘How can that be?’
The black queen turned a burning gaze upon us. ‘To see things one would rather not see, to know things one would rather not know—and to be helpless to do anything about them? That is a curse indeed.’
‘But can you not prepare for them having had the image come to you?’ Tansy said with an appeasing air. ‘Were you not ready to see us, for instance. You were certainly ready to remove our heads, fearing we would be a danger to yourself—which I hope we have proved not to be,’ he added hastily.
‘Prepare?’ The word carried as much disbelief as confusion. ‘How could I be prepared for your coming?’
Tansy looked at her very carefully. ‘Did not this image alert you to our coming?’ He gestured toward the tapestry that bore our likenesses. ‘Surely you knew that we would face you here.’
The queen laughed. Chambers and I exchanged a look. Perhaps the woman was mad. I had begun to think as much as soon as she demanded our heads, but it may be a prejudice of mine to doubt the sanity of anyone who wished to deprive me of life so precipitously.
‘I am sorry to laugh, but the suggestion is so absurd!’ She shook her head as if to emphasise the point, then turned to regard the tapestry without likenesses. ‘Ah men, do you have any idea how long it takes to make a tapestry like this, even if one has ladies to help one, which I did, once upon a time.’ Her cool gaze swept us with obvious contempt, which nettled a bit I can tell you.
Why on earth should we know anything about women’s crafts? ‘I’m sure it took…hours,’ I said in a placating manner.
‘Years,’ Tansy said with a firmness that brooked no denial. ‘It must have taken at least a year to complete something of that size—to say nothing of the detail which truly amazes, my lady.’
Leave it to him to butter up a woman when she was in a temper. Tansy’s peculiar nature seemed to give him great reserves of sympathy even for a woman as imperious as this one. I must admit to being a bit in fear of the health of my neck, yet but I ought not let that make me peevish.
The black queen nodded. ‘It took me all one winter and through the next to finish it. In the beginning I had some women to help me with the work—simply keeping the threads in order is an enormous undertaking, to say nothing of the weaving itself. But by the end of the work I was quite alone.’
I was glad to see that her initial anger had faded somewhat as she appeared to be taken over by a fit of melancholy. I could think of nothing useful to say to cheer her up, but as usual Tansy took the lead and managed to cajole her into further revelations. ‘More than a year—and left on your own? Pray what led to such a harsh fate?’
‘A quarrel with my lord,’ the queen said with some brusqueness that did not invite further pursuit of the topic. ‘It has been most inconvenient living in this enormous castle with fewer and fewer people to attend me as time has gone by.’
Though I was not inclined to feel much sympathy for a neglected queen, I could see Tansy stepping up to the tapestry for a closer look. ‘When did you finish this tapestry, my lady?’
‘The winter, she said,’ I muttered to him but he paid me no mind. There was a peculiar look upon his face as if he were on the verge of a great discovery.
The queen looked absently at the woven image, as if her mind had run onto other things. ‘I should say it was about eight years or more ago. Yes, I think eight sounds right.’
We gasped at that. She had foreseen us so long ago!
‘No wonder you were not prepared for our arrival, my lady,’ Tansy said, a hand to his heart to convey the depth of his sympathy. Though much given to dramatic gestures like that, I must say he found it possible to make them seem entirely believable. In school he had been the only one of us to take our required plays as something more than punishment.
‘I could only guess that my gift had deserted me and quite forgot the image.’ The black queen, far from fearsome, looked much smaller and forlorn. It was almost as if listening to her odd story had made her more sympathetic. How very strange!