27 February, 2018 by katelaity
We went forth to bring the queen her defeated enemy—that is, her king—but were almost immediately flummoxed by the tricky problem of opening the portcullis while hanging onto the all-important pennants that assured our lady that proper decorum was being maintained. After a moment or two we decided to let Chambers hold all three flags while Tansy and I worked the crank to lift the heavy gate.
The king and his men were gathered outside, seemingly eager to enter in, which gave me pause. Were we allowing the enemy forces to overwhelm our slight band of protectors? It was a moot point once the heavy metal gate opened, not that it was the work of an instant. Such creaking! We had made our way in with some difficulty, but the portcullis seemed to have sunk further into the flag stone gap. The chains that pulled it groaned like suffering souls.
At last the gate was high enough to admit even the tall king himself. The three of us stood to greet him, banners aloft. Tansy delivered the greeting the queen had specified. ‘Greetings to your, humble enemy of the queen. Your willingness to lay down arms shows a great spirit of contrition. Please allow us to lead you to the great hall, your majesty, where our sovereign lady has prepared to meet you and work out the articles of surrender.’
The king gave us a sardonic look, arms crossed. ‘My lady must be very put out.’
‘On the contrary, your majesty,’ Tansy said with a placating bow. ‘She seems inordinately cheery to me.’
‘Ah,’ he said with a knowing smile, ‘She’s gloating in other words.’
‘Perhaps a little, sire.’
We led the king and his men toward the great hall. Their boots resounded loudly in the empty castle and for a moment I considered yet again the absurdity of our situation. Lost in the land of fairy, caught in a war between a king and queen of these fair lands and now witnessing the signing of accords of surrender.
Maybe we should measure the height from the tower?
The king got into the spirit of the moment, straightening his back and handing his helmet to one of the advisors close to him, then bending to whisper something in the man’s ear. After a moment’s discussion, a ripple of command went through the troops and belatedly someone with a battle standard trotted forward, nervous haste written on his face. The flag looked like it had seen a few too many battles and represented the losing side well with its tatters.
The king with his colour guard marched briskly through the hall as their footsteps resounded. It sounded like a great many more men than were there. Once again I experienced a twinge of worry, but Tansy led the way, resolute as ever, so we joined the other flags displayed behind the queen.
Arriving within an appropriate distance, the king knelt low before his wife and his men followed suit. ‘We yield at once, with humble mien, because, with all our faults, we love our Queen.’
The queen looked very pleased at this show of contrition. ‘You are all forgiven. Now to negotiate the articles of surrender.’
I do not think it was the king who groaned, but it was someone near to him. ‘As you wish, my lady.’
‘Have you your scribe with you?’ The queen gave a hopeful smile.
‘Alas no, my lady queen. I was asleep for some time and being roused suddenly, did not think to prepare for the journey adequately.’
‘You have always been something of a hot head,’ she scolded very much the wife and perhaps less so the queen at that moment.
‘I have missed your quiet counsel these many long years,’ the king said with a softness that would surely melt any heart.
‘If you had not insulted me so, we need never have parted.’
It was as if an icy wind curled through the great hall.