In the Land of Stories Old
That evening, Magister George called a meeting of the guards. “So,” he said. “Can anyone tell me what we’ve learned today?”
“That the women of this town have no self control?” Michel, one of the older ones, answered. He’d been on the boardwalk that morning. “I have to side with Prince Merlin on this one, they were acting like they’d never seen a man before.”
“Even though the traders and the seamen do that very same thing off the floating docks all the time when they’re making repairs,” his duty-partner Lance chimed in. “Should we maybe have them all checked for curses?”
“Oh believe me, I’m considering it,” was the magistrate’s response. “And I’m sure several of their husbands and mothers are as well. Nick, what did your mother say about Widow Firkin?”
“That she’s a horny old bat.” That got a general laugh. “But Mum and the aunts are all going to corner her tonight and give her a talking-to about her antics. Just because Prince Hans is a good sport about it doesn’t make it right, she said.”
“Just so, and tell your mother I said thank you for handling that.” He cleared his throat. “Anything else?”
“Prince Jacques came back from their quest King Jacques de Valeureux,” Joseph said, for the benefit of those who hadn’t already heard it. “And I went to speak to my uncle when my watch was over, about those marks we saw when the three of them went into the water. He said that used to be the mark of the founding lines of one of the old seaport kingdoms, gifted by one of the old sea gods. He also said that if King Jack is wearing one of the medallions then someone on that quest must have recognized him as being of one of those lines. He says they’d have made him prove his worth, and once he had then the Mark would have been presented in ceremony and he was probably crowned at the same time.”
“Did he say why the other two had it on their skin and not hanging around their necks?” Nick wanted to know.
Joseph shook his head. “That one stumped him. According to the stories he knows, back in the day those type of marks were placed by the sea king himself, with his spear and his power. But as the old gods are said to have been asleep since before the Cataclysm, he’d no idea how anyone would come by such a mark in these days.”
“Hmm. All right, keep your mouths shut and your ears open on that one,” George instructed. “We don’t want to start giving people the idea that the old gods are awakening when we’ve no idea whether they are or not, so the less said about that the better. What about Princess Serena?”
“Well, now we know she’s magical or something like to it,” Nick told him. “Her eyes were glowing like stars when she came marching out onto the dock. And King Jacques said they’d need to start planning the wedding, so apparently she and Prince Arthur were officially betrothed before he left on this latest quest.”
George nodded. “King Jacques was probably making them wait. She’s young, and she was quite nervous when he first brought her here.”
“Looks like she’s over that now, at least when she’s defending her claim on the Crown Prince of Avalon,” was Nick’s response. “Oh, and according to Prince Hans, Queen Snow has said even before today’s incident that she was going to turn into a ‘jealous bitch queen’ and start throwing disrespectful women off the docks. He also said that’s why they don’t let she and Prince Merlin come down to the town by themselves anymore.”
“Definitely a good idea, although after today’s spectacle I’d be all for her doing it, truth be told. Those ridiculous women should have known better.” George thought on that for a moment. “If it comes up, and only if it comes up, let it be known that this…situation is making our queen angry. That should stop most of it, and we’ll handle the rest as needed.” That got him some nods, but no more commentary. “Very well, dismissed.”
They filed out, Joseph hanging back behind the others. “Uncle Ennis said he’d be happy to speak with you about what he remembers, sir. You’ll have to go to him, though—his leg’s been bothering him of late.”
“I’ll go see him,” George agreed. “Tomorrow, if we don’t have any more excitement. I’d like to hear more about these Marks, and I don’t think asking the men wearing them would be appropriate.” He snorted. “Especially not now that the one who’d likely know the most about it is newly become a king.” The younger man agreed with that and left, and George frowned at the closing door. He hadn’t wanted to say anything to his men, as none of them had mentioned it, but he suspected that the mild earth-tremor they’d had two nights previous had coincided with the Fearless Seven returning from their quest. Returning by magic, perhaps? He’d wondered a time or two over the past few months if they’d left that way, as no one had seen a single one of them go. Although the sporadic raider attacks on the castle had apparently stopped completely right before they’d left, so it was also possible they’d merely discovered whatever hidden method the raiders had been using and decided to make use of it themselves. He couldn’t really blame them, either way. There were still some in the town who were less than pleased about having rulers again, and the Black Isle had seen raider attacks come right up from the docks in the past. Not to mention, Prince Consort Merlin doubtless wouldn’t have left at all if he’d thought raiders had any chance of surprising his wife in his absence.
There was a part of George that wished the royal family and the rest of the Seven had trusted him to know their plans, and to help protect the queen, but a larger part understood why they hadn’t. Queen Snow and her husband didn’t know their magistrate well enough personally to offer him that sort of trust. He stood with a sigh and set about locking up for the night, deciding he would have to do something about rectifying that. The castle and the magistrate’s office—not to mention the rest of the island—needed to work together more closely, for all their sakes.
In the Land of Stories Old