To Help Jump The Coup

CM11 To Jump The CoupAlas, alas! While Mideer was busy arranging a better deal with the Glyntlanders her mother has died, her father been killed, and an imposter put upon Mideer’s own throne. Moreover, her uncle has been sent to Glyntland to ensure she never returns. What will she do? . . . Read on

So now, my priests, you know how I knew to come armed on my return to Madjaria. But though things were happening fast, with the eight day journey back I had time and enough to absorb the facts. Time, too, to mourn my mother, my father, and those about to die. For whatever the casualties so far in my uncles’ battles they’d be nothing compared to those inflicted by my Glyntlander Guard.

Did you, too, think that Z’lon would kill me—that Hean would allow it—that I was otherwise undefended in a strange land? Did you spill blood to your gods: to Ma-Land and to Taz-La? Yet see how my ten-man corps remained unaffected by the happenings in Madjaria, and loyal to me. Maybe Z’lon did intend to kill me. At first. Perhaps it was the sight of my loyal corps, and of Hean standing firm beside me, that decided him otherwise.

That very same night I took Z’lon to meet with First Minister Yournin. I had Z’lon relate the full story that he might hear it and understand it.

“But you must return to Madjaria,” he said—as if I needed the telling. “Our trade agreements are with you. Mideer. Queen. At least for the first five years; thereafter, as agreed, we review and renew. As discussed, we hope by then your landed lords will be eager to take up the offer.”

“Huh, if there are Landed left,” Z’lon groaned, even while looking at me for explanation of these trade agreements. I started to explain but he waved it aside. “You think I can return to there now? I now am a traitor: I didn’t kill you. You know what will happen to me? I was hoping to remain here with you, in Glyntland.”

“Your presence is welcome,” Minister Yournin said. “But it will be without Queen Mideer. She’s to return to her land, to claim her throne. I shall personally ensure it.”

“You intend to accompany us?” Hean asked him, no hint in his voice that he much doubted it.

“An ambassador, I shall appoint an ambassador. I also shall send a detachment. Two thousand troops. Your one hundred fifty landed lords—”

“I don’t want them killed,” I snapped. I could too easily imagine it. One of the sights they’d arranged for me while in Glyntland was a review of their troops and an inspection of their latest weapons. I had taken it as a none-too-thickly veiled threat. If Madjaria reneges on the terms . . .

Minister Yournin waved down my sudden panic. “No such intent, Queen Mideer. Pop off a few rounds, your sword-waving warriors soon will lay down. The threat of strength, Queen Mideer—you must learn this—is often greater than the actuality.”

Hean beside me nodded agreement: it was so.

“There is just one thing I need clarification upon before I set it in motion. Your father is dead. The king. His throne now is vacant—and clearly you have uncles eager to act as Regent. But in the interests of our trade agreement we would prefer there were no such beasts between us. You do understand our position, and what I am saying? I am asking who will be your king.”

I laughed. How often we do that when we’re anxious, embarrassed or nervous. For how could I answer him that? I said, “I can assure you I shall not be honouring the contract to wed my cousin Jon—Gregon’s son. And I doubt any will question that now. But as to who? That is not for me to say. Besides, first I must know my choices.”

“You will allow us to guide you?” he asked. “Your husband, this king, will, after all, be party to our trade agreement.”

“I am always open to guidance,” I said. I wanted to add, but Hean warned me not, that I’d not be dictated to.

*

You, my priests, know what happened upon my return. And were you surprised? Did you expect me dead? No mind. In the aftermath I ask only for peace. Peace too for whoever alerted Gregon. As you know, he had a small squad of his men to greet me at the quayside, ready to slay me as I stepped ashore.

It was not an incident I want repeated. The sight was . . . chilling. And though others might say that Ma-Land feasted that day, I believe rather that she retched and vomited upon all that blood. Lo! Even my own corps, men trained to fight, watched in awe. Gawped as the Glynts raked our Madja with their iron bullets. What cold, detached slaughter! A sword can slice, an axe can chop. But bullets shred. And they wanted me to wear red for the . . . No! I think never in my life shall I see red without again seeing that splatter of shredded flesh. And that one man at the back, weapons thrown down, hands held up, calling for cease.

It was Hean who stopped the killing. “No. Let him live. He offers no threat, and we need information.”

I don’t know who the man; I’d never seen him before. One of Lantri’s men (my Uncle Lantri now had joined forces with Gregon despite Z’lon had said he’d been against him). Hean—I had to avert my eyes—waded through the debris of flesh to the weaponless man at the back of the gore-and-blood spread, hunched now against a warehouse wall. What was said I do not know other than what he shouted back to me. My would-be palace was currently held by Asperin who intended the Queen’s Throne for his young daughter Maygan. Meanwhile Gregon and Lantri had laid siege to it.

So now where could we go that was safe? For yes, I know that the Glyntland detachment would protect me, but at the cost of every one of our Landed? No. I had already said this to First Minister Yournin: kill the Landed and there will be no one left to farm the lands and provide the fruit for their trade. I wanted minimum violence, and it was in the interests of Glyntland to ensure it.

“Loyse,” I said. “My lady-in-waiting.” Her family had always been loyal. Her father, Landed Lyndon, had an estate to the west of the port. It was less than a day’s ride.

Ride? But I wasn’t thinking. We had no horses. It was Lantri’s man suggested we took those now milling and riderless at the back of the warehouse. But there were not enough for all my men, not with the Glynts as well.

“Queen Mideer, you must take one,” Hean said looking at the horses. “And Ambassador Brassen.”

“And yourself,” the ambassador said.

“We’ll divide the rest of the horses between your men and ours,” Hean said. “Those without mounts might stay here? Undercover. To hold the port—in case . . .”

Of the remaining 1900 I had no real knowledge. They didn’t travel with us but had their own troop ships. Minister Yournin had liaised with Hean regarding them. Ambassador Brassen had been informed of the plans. “They’ll be on hand should they be needed,” was all I was told. In fact, as I’m sure you are now aware, they remained with their ships, anchored offshore in a state of readiness.

*

Lady Loyse brimmed with relief when she saw me. “My Lady, My Lady, you live, you’re alive!” And then she caught herself, swept a deep courtesy and addressed me formally as ‘My Queen Mideer.’

“I’m not your queen,” I said. “Or at least, not yet.”

Her father, Landed Lyndon was equally pleased to see me; less so at seeing my entourage. “Glynts? You bring Glynts here? I suppose that’s Master Hean’s doing.”

“No,” I said, “it is mine. And were it not for these Glyntlanders I now would be dead, my uncles intent on removing me.”

“Ah, yes,” he said and coloured with guilt.

“Not you, too? Then perhaps I ought leave before your sword cleaves me?” Though if he’d made that move he’d have soon been dead, his wide hall packed with armed men. It struck me as an incongruous sight yet, having been so long with the Glyntlanders, it was Landed Lyndon and the Madja who now looked out of place: like costumed men in a religious pageant. I looked at the Glyntlander guns, I looked at the Madjarian swords and axes. I did not want to see a repeat of the quayside slaughter. “No, I’ll go. Keep the peace.”

He, of course, wouldn’t have it. “I’ll have chambers readied for your and your party. But the corps, Madja and Glynt, must be accommodated elsewhere. The stables. My barns. Just not in my hall with my men.”

I understood his concern, and at least his refusal to open his hall to my guard applied alike to Madja and Glynts. But when Hean translated this to Ambassador Brassen he wasn’t so happy with the arrangement. He wanted a ‘detachment of the detachment’ to remain by his side. “They will share my chamber. They will be as invisible.”

Landed Lyndon allowed him five men. Hean haggled to be allowed double this number for me, comprising five Madja, five Glynts.

I cast a seething glare at him. “They can’t remain in the chamber with me.”

“Oh, but Mideer, they can. They can serve as your chaperone, for I shall be there with you too.”

“No!” Landed Lyndon supported me. “That’s most unseemly. Our would-be queen, to share a chamber with . . . with eleven men?” He threw up his hands, his face again red. “No. No, they may use the chambers to either side of Lady Mideer’s. Yes, that is the answer. In fact . . .” he paused while he considered a further thought. “Yes, it’s better you don’t reside here. There is the lodge. Often I use it for honoured guests. I’ll allocate my own best cook, my own best staff to serve you there. There you may occupy all the chambers. And though I’m reluctant to have her out of my sight, my daughter Loyse shall resume her duties with Lady Mideer—if that suits, my lady.”

It suited well, though I’d no chance to say it.

“And which Pretender is yours?” Hean asked him. “You so hurriedly sweep us out of the way, will you then send men to intrude in the dead of night and . . .?” He motioned throat-cutting. I hadn’t thought of that possibility. And why should I with so many armed men around me.

Landed Lyndon flustered. Did that mean Hean had hit on a truth? I thought not, not with the way Landed Lyndon had arrived at his offer. Yet it drove it in deeper that he hadn’t held out in support of me.

“But I thought Lady Mideer dead,” he said. “I was told . . . I mourned, I swear it. And though it was Landed Gregon who told me, I would not support him and his daughter. What! If he’d left well alone his own son would have been the next king. Why! Why change what has always been? A queen from the Kings House? It goes against the Madja soul.”

“So you support my cousin Maygan?”

“My tongue supports her,” he said. “It is with my tongue only. Were it more I would be there with Asperin now, spilling blood to Ma-Land, holding the palace against Gregon and his men. You do know your uncle Lantri supports Gregon?—hoping your cousin Antroni will be chosen to wed Gregon’s Jaegar. It disgusts me. I’m not alone in this. He blackens the name of Black Taz-La! And so rich his sacrifices that win it or lose it there’ll be no beasts left on his land when all is resolved. But, my Lady Mideer, give me time to digest this change and to think hard upon it. We will yet have you set on that throne.”


Landed Lyndon might be convinced that Mideer will yet sit on that throne but the prospects don’t look so good—not if she insists on a bloodless recovery. Considering the trigger-happy Glynts could so easily attain her throne, how long will they hold true to her desires? Next episode, Stolen, Tuesday 30th September

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A ‘Chronicles’ Supplement

CM Whos Who

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Altered Images

What do you do with a photo that, no matter the tweaks to increase contrast, bring more definition, crop to improve composition, still ends up looking naff? The answer could be this . . .

Brambled

These bramble leaves are given new life

Flowering Oaks

Dried grass caught upon flowering oaks . . . like dancing Medusas

Blue Daisies Pink Plantain

Blue daisies and purple plantain . . , and why not?

Bicoloured Leaves

No matter the treament, the leaves remain . . . bi-coloured

Blue Satin Briars

Blue briars? Or some silken fabric

Butterfly Leaves

Petals, butterflies, leaves . . . which are they?

Colliding Ivy

Kaleidoscoping ivy

Creeping Dawn

The fiery light of dawn

Flamingos

Flamingos in the sky? No, those leaves reveal the truth of it. This is an extensive clamber of hops, in flower

Fractured Vision

Perhaps my favourite: A fractured vision of grasses

Graded Grasses

Graded umbrellas . . . well, umbellifers

Jelly Tots

Rubies, diamonds, emeralds . . .

Nightime Lime

Nocturne in lime . . . or a tangle of grasses?

Rainbow Leaves

A rainbow-coloured shower of leaves

Pinks Pastels

Blooming pinks

Purple Parsley

Purple hedge parsley . . . still discernable

Vibrant Lichen

Not flowers. Lichen

Remaining Hearts

Bindweed, despite the treatment, still unmistakable

Strident Grasses

And here be a medley of grasses

Turgid Water

These were water plants . . . impossible now to tell

Scarlet Streamers

I call this Scarlet Streamer but it began life as yet more grasses

White Bryony

Can you see a face here? Call her Bryony


Next week? Beneath the Wide Sky

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Railroaded By Glyntlanders

CM10 Railroaded by GlyntlandersMideer has set part of her plan: she’s to invite a band of Macarans to Madjaria so her people can see how ridiculous their prejudices. Her people might even want to experience their Holy Land—as now she’s discovered their ancestors did. So now, next on the agenda, the technologically advanced Glyntlanders . . . Read on

Glyntland. Though I wasn’t so long in their land as I’d been in Macara, I was away from Madjaria for an equal time for their land was more distant. But once I’d convinced them that despite I’d a womb I’d also a brain, and that though I was a child in their eyes yet I was soon to be queen of my land, my interests there rolled along. My main problem with the Glyntlanders—the ministers, those few I was allowed to speak with—was their insistence on addressing themselves to Hean as if I’d none of their language. That, and that they preferred for me to see such of their inventions that could never be useful to us—but that had been our prime complaint of them.

In the time of my grandmother they come bamboozling both king and the Landed with tales of how rich we Madja would grow merely by the installation of a railed-road. They would install. They would provide the required expertise and materials. (Our Landed-lords would provide labour from off their lands.) But all of this, my priests, you must know. They had said nothing—or if they’d said then they’d whispered it—of the fuel needed to power the wretched contraptions. And as to their payment: that has been our worst burden and the main cause of anger against them. My prime objective, in visiting their land, was to amend this situation.

I had been in Glyntland seven full days, shown around this and that installation, swamped—ney, drowned—in given statistics, before they granted me a meeting with their First Minister. I was told I was honoured indeed; that such impromptu meetings with visiting . . . (and here the spokesman had paused) . . . dignitaries without prior arrangements (by which he meant where the dignitary had not been invited) were rare. I swallowed a sharp retort and endowed upon him my most engaging smile. (I had rapidly learned how to deal with these people: that appearance meant everything, even if empty of meaning.)

First Minister Yournin—whose name I made a point of using, particularly since he seemed unable to remember mine—smiled and nodded at me. Then, like the other Glyntlanders we’d encountered (including the women), he addressed himself to Hean only.

“I understand you are here to invest in more of our Glyntland technology. While we welcome such foreign interest, there is a matter of outstanding payments. In addition—embarrassing to say—there are outstanding clauses to the original contract yet to address. A matter of—if I remember the figures—263 freighter-deliveries of fuel.”

“Coal,” I said, drawing his attention back to me.

“Coke,” Minister Yournin amended. “Smokeless. We care for the environment here.”

I bit back my retort, that though they might care for the Glyntland environment they had shown a disregard for that of Macara and my own Madjaria.

“First Minister Yournin, there are as yet 263 freighters-full of coke to deliver because my Madja have no use of it, and because we no longer have space to store it. And we, too, care for the environment. And we are aware that the cost of that coke and the freighter-delivery has been added to Madjaria’s indebtedness to Glyntland—Hean has the figures (in Glyntland coinage, though you must be aware, to we Madja that means nothing—”

“Do you deny that you owe—”

“First Minister Yournin, if you’ll allow me to finish. I do not deny what we owe, in Glyntlander terms. Hean has also calculated the debt in terms of fruit had in trade—which to my Madja has more relevance. Now, I have a proposition to make.”

Despite Minister Yournin seemed taken aback by that, yet he now sat back and allowed me to speak—though I thought, at first, he was paying no mind: he would allow me to speak, then drive along as if I’d said nothing. Yet at some point I noticed a look in his eye. Of interest.

“In fact,” I said, “I have three propositions. The first concerns our payments to Glyntland in the form of our fruit.” And I outlined to him the suggestion that Madjaria and Glyntland should form a trading alliance. A partnership.

We then would ship to Glyntland—under the eyes of a Madja agent—an agreed volume of fruit (by season). That same agent would then—in partnership with the Glyntland agent—oversee its sale here in Glyntland. The profits (after cost of shipping and storage) would then be divided equally between both parties. (I will not deny that Hean had much to do with the wording of this.)

“By selling on the open market, I anticipate our half share of the profits will be considerably higher than that which you currently allow us against for fruit-quotas. Half of our profit can then be offset against our debt. If you care to have your numerators check Hean’s figures I’m sure you will find that this trading alliance will fetch for Glyntland a much higher yield of coins. As for my Madja, to see some return on their sweat might incline them to think more favourably of you. You may not answer me yet on this. Yet I shall have an answer before I leave for Madja.” I glanced at Hean.

He told Minister Yournin—with a smile not returned, “You have eleven days to discuss in council Lady Mideer’s proposition.”

“This sounds like a threat,” the First Minister said. “And if we don’t agree it?”

“First Minister Yournin, do you want this debt of ours paid off or not? By my proposition you stand some chance of it. Now, my second proposition. These 263 freighters-full of coke for which we’re indebted, plus that already delivered . . . at the present time we have no use of it.”

“You want us to take it back? Perhaps exchange it for something . . . other?” Minister Yournin asked with a barely-hid sneer. “But the freightage alone would incur more costs.”

But, no, that wasn’t my intention. “I believe we may have some other use of it. Could it, perhaps, be used as fuel to heat water?”

“But of course, that is the simplest use of it. Have you not been using it thus, all these years in storage?” And now he was talking as if I barely was walking.

“It was agreed not to use it, for my Landed-lords hoped that we might yet be relieved of it. But since we are not . . . Could it also be used to fuel, say, a water-pump—to take water from a deep source and deliver it to—“

“Ah! I see where you’re going with this. You want hot and cold running water installed in Madjaria. Every home to be supplied. Simplicity itself!” he declared.

“No,” I said. “You would have us run when rather we’d crawl. No, my thought was rather to install bathhouses—if I lead the way, install a bathhouse on each of my estates, I am sure my Landed-lords soon would follow.” The idea had only recently come to me courtesy of the facilities at the Ambassador Hostelry where I’d been accommodated. Oh the joys of a warm shower or a bath. So I confess, my first thought was entirely selfish. I wanted to take this installation home with me!

“What you ask would be easy. But it would hardly eat into your stored resources.”

“It would be a beginning. But . . . After your mistake regarding the railed-road, I would insist that my Landed-lords are involved in the planning. Sourcing materials. The labour. Indeed, at every step of the way. And materials and labour will be locally got wherever possible. The idea is not to increase our debt to you. Also, I want your planners and managers to reside in Madjaria at least for the first stage of the project.”

“You want Glyntlanders to live amongst the Madja?”

“Excuse me, First Minister Yournin, but is there a reason why they should not?”

He shrugged. “I suppose we could set up an encampment . . . Install at least a basic level of technology . . . But—”

“First Minister Yournin, you said it right when you said ‘amongst’ my Madja. I want no encampment, no ‘segregation’. I want my Madja and your Glyntlanders to work together. To me, that has more importance than any building of bathhouses.”

“Discuss it with your councillors,” Hean inserted. “There are eleven days yet before we leave.”

“And if we . . . refuse?” he asked, his face now beginning to redden.

I smiled my most enchanting. “Perhaps a return of those freighters-full of coke already delivered to us? To be dumped in that pretty green park that fronts this building? Might that persuade you?” Though I have to admit I had not the people nor the vessels to do it.

“Now, as to my third proposition. Your ministers have very kindly shown me astounding examples of your technical abilities. Yet—apart from the baths—what interests me most is one of your most ancient constructions. The Western Canal. That system of locks is quite ingenious. Now –” I allowed him no time to cut in “– had your forefathers installed in Madjaria a similar transportation system (instead of that railed-road) I am sure every Landed-lord would not now be cursing your name—oh, not you personally, First Minister Yournin; we are not so ignorant as to believe yourself to be to blame. But let me explain.”

His face had now turned a very rich red.

“Much of our fruit is grown in the highlands. Yet apart from the farmers, most of our population—and thus the markets—reside in the lowlands. Not to mention, of course, that’s where the ports. Thus to transport the fruit—including the fruit-quotas—our Landed-lords must use asses. (For some odd reason, when installing that unwanted railed-road, such a consideration was not . . . considered. The railed-road connects only lowland estates to lowland ports.) But were we to have something resembling your Western Canal, that would facilitate the portage of fruit from the hills to the markets and ports. And I am sure that would go a long way in removing the tarnish upon your national name.”

*

And now, my priests, I expect you are wondering how I came to return from Glyntland when you knew—of course you knew—that an assassin had been sent to prevent it?

My Uncle Z’lon arrived on the eve of our departure, puffing and panting like he’d run all the way when in fact he’d sat on his arse for the full eight-days of the voyage. He told me at once that my mother had died. It was not unexpected. But when he said of my father too . . . but he didn’t immediately tell me that.

He said, “In your absence your cousin Maygan sits on the throne.”

“What! But . . . And what does my father say to that? No! No, he would not approve it.”

That’s when Landed-lord Z’lon told me the rest. And though Hean held my hand, willing his strength to me, I felt more sickened with every word.

“Your father is dead,” Z’lon said. “I am ashamed to say, killed by our brother, Gregon.”

“Gregon—my contracted father-in-law? But I don’t understand. Or does he intend that Maygan should marry baby Jon? Well, she is welcome to him. Oh, and now I see. Of course. Gregon then must sit as Regent. Him and Asperin both.”

I thought I’d been clever, despite the whirl-pit in my head, that I’d understood the machinations of my uncles. But no, I’d been wrong.

“Gregon wants the throne for his daughter Jaegar,” Z’lon told me.

“He’s against Maygan? But the Kings House doesn’t provide the queen. Besides, Jaegar’s only a child.”

“Yet your Uncle Gregon is not.”

So we were back to Gregon as Regent. And who would he find to marry Jaegar? Which infant barely toddling would he name as the king?

“There is talk it’ll be Lantri’s son Antroni,” said Z’lon.

“Oh, a reversal,” I said not hiding the sarcasm. “We take the king from the Queens House and the queen from the Kings. Huh! And this has the support of the Landed?”

Z’lon nodded mutely, then added, “Though oddly, not Lantri. I believe he wants the queen’s throne for his own daughter. So now he and his supporters have marched on the palace.”

“Armed rebellion,” I said and sighed. “It’s time I was home.”

“No!” Z’lon leapt to his feet in alarm. “No, you must not. I’ve been sent here to kill you. But . . . My Queen Mideer, I cannot do that. But please, please, do not return to Madjaria. You’ll be killed as soon as you set foot.”


Oops! So it’s not to be a happy return. What will Mideer do now? She has with her only the boat’s crew and her personal corps of ten. And Hean, though proving himself a useful adjutant, is not known as a warrior. Perhaps we’ll learn more in the next episode, To Help Jump The Coup

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Trees, what do we see in them . . .

Or if you’d rather: Trees, Up Close and Personal . . .

Definitely a Man Tree

I’ve featured this tree before but it seemed an apt start. Definitely a Man-Tree

Oh Tree

Is this a surprised face? Oh! Or is it something more personal?

Ivy Snake Man

I know that it’s ivy but a slight turn of the eye and I see a man, his limbs become serpents, his naked torso, stretching and contorting,

Tree or Snake

And from the same pit of imagination . . . is that a snake climbing the tree?

To Bend Over Backwards

You’ve heard the expression, ‘to lean over backwards’? Well, apparently even trees do it.

Recumbent Tree

Then again, some trees are just too laid-back. It obviously found the right angled bank for the perfect recline

Together Apart

There once was a pair of thwarted lovers . . . and from their grave grew a tree. And now they’re getting divorced.

Bound Forever Together

While this tree would be falling apart were it not for the ivy that binds it

Tree Hugger

Here’s another tree I’ve featured before, but not from this angle. Can you see the tree-hugger here?

Antlered Tree

You know why the oak is likened to the stag? Here’s why. Perfect antlers.

Again, I have featured this tree before but it’s such a classic.

Blue Witch Tree

The Blue Witch, slyly hatching some devilish scheme. (And that cross in the background is not of my doing!)

Grinning Green Witch Tree

And now the witch is grinning, probably in glee at the human it’s captured (see the head beneath her chin?)

And in Loony Tunes style: That’s all for now, folks.

 

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An Axe To Greet Me

CM9 An Axe To Greet MeStripped naked of her prejudices, Hean has declared Mideer fit now to fulfil the prophecy. Yet, though she knows in outline how she’ll work to unite the Three Lands, the practicalities are another matter . . . Read on

I wanted to go straight to Glyntland, but I knew that I must first return to Madjaria. And as soon as I stepped aboard that boat the anxieties began. My mother: did she still live? But I felt certain I’d have known if she had died. But if she were dead then what chaos might I find? Would the Landed of the Assembly await my return to have me crowned as Queen Mideer of Madjaria? Or would my uncles, maternal or paternal, have hastened to elevate one of their daughters while I was away?

I spent the two-day sailing wondering which daughter they’d chose. At first I thought most likely would be Kilinta, eldest daughter of Landed Lantri, my mother’s eldest brother. But Kilinta already was wed. How then could she honour the tradition of cousin-marriage and wed baby Jon? His next oldest daughter was younger than me. I was certain that the Landed of the Assembly wouldn’t accept her. So what of my mother’s younger brother, Landed Asperin: his eldest daughter, Maygan (named for my mother) was a year older than me. She would be the most suited—unless my paternal uncles won the dispute. Though I had spent my life with my father the king, I knew those uncles less well.

As you, my priests, know my father has—had—three brothers, all younger: Gregon, Dahon and Z’lon. Landed Gregon has three daughters and one son (Jon, the one I was contracted to marry). Only the youngest of Landed Gregon’s three daughters was still unwed: Jaegar. If she were made queen then she must wed a son of the Queens House. Antroni, the sole son of Landed Lantri, seemed most likely. But I thought Mishmaran, eldest daughter of Landed Dahon, would be a more likely choice from the King’s House. She, as you know, was already contracted to marry my cousin Landfol, son of Landed Asperin.

And what would I do if I returned to find this situation? Must I be the ‘named queen’ to unite the Three Lands? Yet were I not I’d not have the authority to invite my Macaran friends to visit. I wouldn’t be allowed the voyage to Glyntland, the next stage in my plan. Moreover—and this I tried not think on—if my throne had been usurped then I must expect an axe to part my body and head as soon as I stepped off the boat.

“It will not happen,” Hean tried to assure me.

“You think my corps of ten enough to save me?”

“You think the world will allow it, after all our efforts to bring you to this?”

I shivered when he said of the world. Did he know what that happened that night with Hensable? We’d not spoken of it. Hensable wanted me to wed Hean but did Hean want that? I knew one thing: I’d no intention of waiting for cousin Jon to put his shoes on. I would break our tradition of cousin-marriage. Wasn’t I anyway a break with tradition? The first, the only, queen’s daughter ever named queen. But on this matter I kept my lips sealed. I had yet to visit Glyntland. Who knows, I could meet someone there, fall deeply in love, become obsessed . . . oh, my priests, how I hear your chuckles, not of humour but of scorn for our neighbours.

*

No axe swung in greeting. My head remained entirely in tact. And as soon as the pageantry you priests had arranged for me was done, I hastened to my mother’s side, so relieved that she still lived.

She asked where I had been as if I’d not told her, and I said to Macara.

“Ah, the Land of our Source,” she sighed with a distant smile.

Abruptly she pushed herself up (though I swear she hadn’t the strength, so weak she’d become since I had been gone).

“So you are dead?” She sounded so woeful.Disappointed. “Gone before me.” I had to assure her I was still very much alive and breathing.

Exhausted, she again slumped back on her pillows. “Then how came you to there?”

“To Macara? Or to the ‘Source’, to the Abyss, the Holy Land? And I, my mother, might ask you, too, how come you to know of it?”

Again there was that distant smile, and I noticed her eyes seek out and find the heavy-framed painting of the tree. She sighed, “My nursery days. But I’ve told you the story—oh, no I have not.” Her hand came up to cover her mouth. “No, I could not find the book. The priests had taken it!”

She was quiet again. Eyes closed. I thought she had drifted back to sleep. I held on to this last thing she’d said—yes, my priests, she referred to you, did she not—and I turned that over while I waited in the hope that she soon would re-awaken.

Since then I have read that book, with Hean’s help. I know what story you priests would deny me:

There once was a time when we Madja celebrated the same truths as the Macaran. And though we didn’t live always in peace at least we didn’t live ever in the threat of your wars. But our Landed, arguing, contending amongst themselves, sought other things from their holy men.

I find I cannot blame you, my priests, for you have merely inherited from your ancestors; yes, from those same holy men who had helped the Landed to enter the Holy Land, there to find truth, to find connections, find love. Oh, but then, at the instigation of the Landed, they foolishly searched the Abyss for a different entity. An entity? I cannot, in truth, say it began as ‘one’, and it since has multiplied a million-fold.

Those ancient holy men had known of the duality: that for every light there is a dark. It was to that dark side that now they appealed—but not for themselves: no, in support of the Landed. Oh my priests, my foolish priests, though not done by yourselves, by your generation or even your immediate forefathers, yet you are left with it. For in taking and taking and taking the dark side—encouraging, feeding, glorifying—that dark side has now outgrown the light. And being now entirely dark, those entities must be held at bay, to be controlled lest they harm the very descendants of their entreaters.

Is this not so? That you, my priests, are now lodged between your dark gods and the Landed? And there you say you must remain, afraid if you lose control there would be total destruction. But, my priests, how can I and my forces overcome these dark ones without first you release them from your control? But that, of course, requires a high degree of trust. Would you walk that bridge, any one of you? Alone?


A brief interlude for Mideer, and yet one revealing of just how deeply involved her priests are with the dark forces. But at least she is satisfied that her mother, the queen, still lives and that, as yet, no axe will fall to part her body and head. And so to the next part of her plan . . . next episode, Railroaded By Glyntlanders

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Water Sprites

A deceptive title maybe for this collection of photos. Perhaps ‘The Spirit of Water’ would be more apt.

Costessey Mill

I wanted to capture the contrasts: the placid and the chaotic. And maybe I’ll forgive the water authorities for turning what had been a deep placid pool, excellent for swimming, into this artificial weir (Costessey, April)

Ras at Saxlingham

Love the reflections. This is the River Tas- (Smockmill Common, Saxlingham, May)

Wash Lane

So why do they call it Wash Lane? When I visited here last October it was a veritable river. I have since bought galoshes that reside in my backpack, always on hand (Saxlingham, May)

Woodland rills 2

Is it a natural stream, or a man-made cut? Everywhere in the Norfolk Claylands are these little rills, and if you peer through the tress you’ll find darkling ponds. But most are too deeply hidden for the camera to find. This one was not. (East Carleton, May)

Woodland Pool Shotesham 2

A woodland pool, where surely those water sprites play (Shotesham, June)

Beneath the Water Shotesham

Same beck. Same woodland. Same enchantment. Same sprites

Shotesham Beck at Common 2

Shotesham Beck losing its magic as it emerges from the woodland glades to flow through the common (see previous photo-blog)

Hellington Run 2

Dark and mysterious, Hellington Run (June)

Tree on the Yare 2

A study in green.: the Yare between Whitlingham and Kirby Bedon (July)

Waterlilies on the Yare 2

Is that tracery of leaves in the sky? Nope, they’re waterlilies, growing here on the Yare at Whitlingham ( July)

Tas at Forncett 2

Tracing back to source . . . or at least upriver. This is the Tas at Forncett St Mary

Tas 2 at Forncett 2

Illogically, this is the Tas yet further upstream. Yet it seems to be wider. Also, see that black dot? That’s a cat. It had its sights fixed on a moorhen that was hiding amid the vegetation. (August, Forncett St Peter)

I don’t know what theme I’ll give my next photo-blog. I am currently collecting photos of ‘fruits’. But that’s to wait till I can include some good shots of acorns and elderberries. Soon, I say, soon.

 

 

Posted in On The Door | Tagged , , | 2 Comments