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Chapter 75
By Goth Kitty Lady Posted in Story on 9 May 2023 3486 words
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In the Land of Stories Old

Chapter 75

All the rest of that day, Snow was a very busy queen. She spoke with everyone in the castle at least once, and with several people multiple times. She sent messages to Magister George and Master Kedge regarding the formal assembly she intended to hold the following day, went down to the docking cavern to see about the ships and listen to Master Klew rant about the triplets having more creativity than sense—Noki and Kio were there helping him fix the damage to the ship and did not seem at all bothered by this, so she made up her mind that Master Klew wasn’t actually angry at them. There was a pile of messages in her office which needed to be dealt with when she went back up, thankfully only one of which was about someone needing help from the Fearless Seven. A meeting with Pino, Jack, and several of the refugees from Vistu followed, and after that she made her way to the cozy sitting room the elves had created for her to have tea with Elana, Serena, and Helga as had become their daily habit. And then a ship’s captain had come up from the town to request a private audience, saying he had information the queen needed to hear without delay, which had turned into yet another meeting that pulled in Merlin, Arthur, Hugin and, after Elana made a quick trip to one of the gardens, a sleepy-eyed Dowager King. Who it must be said was more than surprised to be asked for his royal opinion and in consequence was more helpful than anyone had truly expected him to be.

Dinner that night was fairly quiet because everyone was tired, and they all wandered back to their own rooms afterward. Snow was more than happy to fall asleep in her husband’s arms, delighting in the familiar hum of his magic against her skin.

The next day dawned bright and Snow began it early, although she returned to the royal bedchamber to have a leisurely late breakfast with Merlin before getting them both ready for the assembly, which was to take place at noon. Merlin was a bit bemused by all the arrangements she’d made, truth be told, but came to understand that Queen Helga had been giving his wife ideas. “I don’t object, not at all,” he told Snow as they made their way down to the throne room. “I was just surprised, that’s all. We’d done everything except the wedding fairly simply up to this point.”

“I know,” Snow told him, kissing his cheek. “But that was because the treasury was all but empty and we really didn’t have anything going on that required ceremony. I’m not trying to get back up to the spectacle that was my father’s court, but as the Black Isle comes to be more prominent again we really do need to start acting more like royalty and less like we just moved into the castle and took it over.”

That made him laugh. “I mean, in a way that’s exactly what we did.” He kissed her back. “I agree, though. And I think this is an excellent occasion to mark our first formal assembly.”


The captains and crews of the Rescuer and the Northern Rover had been in the docking cavern doing the work that needed to be done to their ships until an elf showed up on the pier to let the two captains know the queen was ready to see them—and much to their surprise the crews of both ships were also asked to come along. So after some hasty cleaning up all around, the elf led the resultant procession up the winding stairs and out through the door in the side of the mountain, and from there they were escorted into the throne room. Which was already occupied by the entire ‘court’ of the Black Castle and quite a few other people besides, including some of the refugees from Vistu. Another elf fussily directed the crewmen to a place nearer the back of the assembly and then placed the two captains in a spot apparently reserved for them beside a man whose roguish smirk made Roberts roll his eyes. “Well this is certainly a ways from where I thought you were heading, Jamie.”

The other man shrugged. He was slender and just slightly below average height, with wavy dark golden hair and a youthful appearance that belied his actual age. “I said I was heading north, and I did,” he replied. “I’d say you should have expected me to turn up, Will…but you had more important things on your mind, I believe.”

“That I did,” Roberts agreed. “Gerralt, allow me to introduce Captain James Peters of the Second Star,” he said. “Jamie, this is Captain Gerralt Bellegarde of the Rescuer. I don’t believe the two of you got to meet when the Rescuer was in port at Mendekua.”

“That we did not,” Peters said—for safety’s sake, the crew of the Rescuer hadn’t left their ship during the two days the Fearless Seven were on Mendekua. “It’s a pleasure, sir. We’ll have to all sit down with a bottle later—I’ve got a good one I’ve been saving.”

Gerralt nodded but didn’t get a chance to respond, as Queen Snow and Prince Consort Merlin were announced by a guard and Magister George hurried from where he had been talking to Jack and Arthur to take his place on the steps of the dais. Snow swept in with Merlin beside her, both of them wearing formal court dress as well as their crowns, and Merlin saw his wife seated before taking up his place just behind and to the right of her throne, his dark-circled eyes betraying the fact that he still hadn’t recovered from the past few weeks’ efforts. “I have convened the Royal Court of the Black Isle today as we have several matters of official royal business to attend to,” Snow announced. “As I believe you all know, just over a month ago the Fearless Seven returned from a quest which took them into the Broken Lands, having there gained the knowledge they needed to destroy the shadows. Master Kedge found a ship and put together a crew for her, and they went first to Odinson, which had been the first island affected that we knew of. Ten survivors were brought back, and the next morning the Rescuer set sail again, this time to Mendekua as no one had seen the Northern Rover in several weeks and we feared the worst. The Rescuer arrived at Mendekua in time to save most of the people there, and two days later set off for Caray, the Isle of Deer…the place where the shadow taint had come from. I am pleased to be able to announce that the Blood Wood of Caray has been completely destroyed, and both the land and the waters of Caray cleared of taint.” A cheer went up at this, and she waited for it to finish. “But unfortunately, destroying the source of the shadows did not destroy them all. And so the Fearless Seven have taken it up as their duty to seek out and destroy all of the shadows that remain, and to save as many people as they can from the shadow-sickness. The risks they are taking and the sacrifices they are potentially making are terrible in the extreme, but there is nothing else that can be done—if the shadows are not stopped, it is not just the Fairy Isles that are at risk. And so in light of this I formally pledge the support of the Black Isle to this task.”

King Hugin stepped out of his place, which was nearer to the dais than anyone except Jack. “Odinson pledges their support as well!”

Arthur also stepped forward. “On behalf of King Uther Pendragon, Avalon also pledges her support!”

Jack stepped out beside him. “Valeureux pledges her support!”

An older man with stooped shoulders separated himself from the group of refugees. “The people of Vistu pledge their support!”

Captain Roberts exchanged a look of regret with Captain Peters, as they were unable to pledge the support of Mendekua; they weren’t even supposed to be where they were, as they had been ordered by the new magister and his council on pain of banishment to do nothing save search for a ‘cousin’ to replace their dead queen. To his surprise, however, Peters winked at him and squeezed his arm in reassurance before stepping out himself. “Atlantis pledges her support!”

All of the sailors and half of everyone else in the room froze—Atlantis was a destination which existed only on paper, a mythical island some traders declared when they didn’t want anyone to know where they were coming from or going to. Snow, however, was smiling. “You’re sure about that, Captain Peters?”

He nodded. “As sure as I can be, Your Majesty. I am unable to speak for any other island, but once I have spoken with the captains I know who sail to that port I feel certain they will not refuse to lend whatever aid they can.”

She returned the nod. “Very well then, I will rely on you as my representative to the people of Atlantis. Magister Drake,” she addressed the older man from Vistu, “have you had enough time to consider my request?”

Those others who had stepped forward moved back to their places as Drake bowed. “Yes, Your Majesty, I have. I would be willing to take on the position of magistrate to Calabrun for you, at least for the time being. My own people don’t need me in that manner at present.”

“We can always discuss the matter again when that changes,” Snow assured him. “Taking the position on Calabrun means you will have use of the magister’s house and office, of course. I’ve already had someone pack up the former magister’s personal possessions, so whatever is left in the house is also yours to make use of. Your sons will be going with you?”

“Yes, so I’ll have at least two guards I know I can trust, and I’ll be bringing my sister as well…but after reading the report given to me by Magister George last evening, I believe my niece should stay with the others, at least for now. She’s just turned seventeen, I won’t put her at risk.”

Snow raised an eyebrow at George, who shrugged. “I can’t jail a man just because I’m suspicious of him, Your Majesty. There seem to be plenty of rumors about that particular guard, but no one will talk to me about him directly, or to anyone else I’ve sent.”

“So he’s either threatened them all into silence or he’s the victim of some particularly vicious rumors.” She nodded to Drake. “Your niece may remain here in the castle until you’ve gotten to the bottom of that and cleaned up the rest of the mess Mr. Tomoy made on Calabrun. If you need to question him, I can have you escorted down to the dungeon to do so. Mr. Tomoy probably won’t tell you anything, but Mr. Follet isn’t at all pleased with his new neighbor and would happily tell you everything he’s ever heard the man say in his life. Don’t you agree, Magister George?”

George did not quite snort. “Oh I agree, Your Majesty. Mr. Follet has a good many opinions regarding Mr. Tomoy and is very happy to voice them. If the new Magister of Calabrun wishes to get less amusing but more useful information, however, my prisoner in the gaol became a fount of information yesterday after he was told the Rescuer had returned. He’d somewhere gotten the idea that the Prince Consort might stop in for a visit and be…less than pleased with his silence.”

Merlin didn’t say anything to this, but the satisfied look on his face rather spoke for itself. Snow managed not to laugh. “Always a possibility, I suppose. Do with that as you will, Magister Drake. Now, Captain Gerralt.” Gerralt stepped forward and bowed. “When you and your crew volunteered to take the Fearless Seven to Odinson, to Mendekua, and finally to Caray, your position was temporary and I do not believe any of us truly knew what you would be facing. I want you to know that I recognize the fact that you and your crew are all volunteers, and that most of you came out of well-earned retirements to take up this dangerous task. And so first I must ask you if you still wish to continue, with the knowledge that you will be facing more of the same. Know that no matter what decision you make, you will still have the respect of myself and everyone present here today for the great service you and your crew have already provided to the Fairy Isles.”

Gerralt cleared his throat. “Your Majesty…thank you. I have spoken to my crew on this matter, and we do wish to continue. For if we stopped now we might still have your respect…but we would not have our own. We may not be young men, but we are plenty capable of continuing this task until it is finished.”

“Very well, then this task will remain yours,” Snow agreed. “But from this day forward you will be formally known as Captain Gerralt Bellegarde of the Rescuer, the first ship in a hundred years to fly the flag of the Black Isle and sail forth under the authority of her ruler.” An elf popped in and offered the stunned man a neatly folded flag, which he accepted with trembling hands and a wide eye. “I have been assured by Master Clew that your ship will be repaired within a week’s time, Captain Bellegarde, and I have also spoken with Guildmaster Kedge regarding contracts and pay. He will meet with you this afternoon once our other business is finished.”

Gerralt bowed again, more deeply this time. “I am honored by your trust, Your Majesty.”

She smiled. “You’ve earned it, Captain. As has Captain Roberts.” Gerralt stepped back, and Roberts rather nervously took his place and then moved closer to the dais when Snow motioned for him to do so. “Captain, you and your crew posed a bit of a dilemma for me, as I’ve been told it is unseemly to covet another ruler’s subjects.” Several people laughed at that. “You might be interested to know that every single member of the Fearless Seven made an opportunity to speak with me about you yesterday, Captain Bellegarde sent me a message with one of the elves, and apparently seeing him do that led several other people to realize they could do the same. So I am well aware of the potential difficulties you’ve put yourself in by going after the Rescuer and bringing her home. I’d already decided that I didn’t much care about upsetting the ruling council of the Isle of Mendekua when Captain Peters arrived, and what he had to tell me made up my mind.” He started to say something, but she held up a hand to silence him. “You are a brave and honorable man, Captain, and it was because of you that the Fearless Seven were able to find a way to destroy the shadows in the first place; we owe you a greater debt than you realize.” She stood up and took the sword her husband handed to her, then stepped down off the dais. “Kneel.”

Roberts’ eyes went wide, but he lowered himself to one knee. “For the great service you have provided to the Black Isle, asking nothing in return,” she said, touching the blade to his shoulder. “You shall henceforth be known as Sir William Roberts, Knight of the Order of Metra and valued member of my Privy Council.” Royal magic sparkled in the air, and she smiled. “Rise, Sir William, and accept my flag that all ports you sail to might know you have both the favor and the protection of the Black Isle.”

Roberts made it back to his feet and accepted the folded flag from her hands amid much cheering and clapping. He could feel the golden magic…settling into him, a warmth that somehow betokened the respect the queen had for him and his burden of service to her all at the same time. It was not something he had ever felt in the presence of Queen Petra—in the few times he had been in her presence, anyway. He held the flag to his chest and bowed, tears in his eyes. “Your Majesty…I find myself at a loss for words. But I offer my loyalty, and my promise to serve you to the best of my abilities.”

And the magic sparked in a satisfied manner before disappearing. Snow nodded to him. “Sir William, you are most welcome. After supper tonight you and I and Captain Peters will discuss the removal of your families from the Isle of Mendekua to the Black Isle. Or to Calabrun, if you prefer, as it is once again under my rule.” She returned to the dais and gave the sword back to Merlin. “Is there any other business which should be brought to my attention at this time?” No one had any. “Very well. Those of you who have pledged aid or otherwise have need to be part of that discussion will find that a room has already been prepared for us to meet in, and I will join you all there within the hour.”

She left the throne room, taking Merlin with her, and the elves opened the doors to the antechamber. The tight formal groupings began to break apart as people moved to offer their congratulations to the men who had been honored, the crew of the Northern Rover in particular clustering around their captain. Magister George inserted himself into this group to shake a still-shocked Roberts’ hand. “Sir William, let me be the first to welcome you to Her Majesty’s Privy Council. Might we speak for a moment before the meeting?”

Roberts gathered himself. “Of course, Magister.” He gave his wide-eyed son a sideways hug, then placed the flag in his hands. “Go on back to the ship with the others, Elwin, and put this in my quarters—we’ll raise it tomorrow. You might also want to have a think as to how we’re going to tell your mother about this. I’ll be down later.”

Elwin nodded gravely and left the room with Mr. Taylor, and Roberts followed George out through the antechamber and into an empty hall. “I’ll apologize if I’m overstepping,” the other man told him, “but I thought you might need a moment before we went in with the others.”

Roberts nodded and leaned against the wall. “No need to apologize, and I likely need more than a moment but I’ll make due.” He blew out a breath. “I didn’t intend for anyone to…I mean, so far as I knew I was the only one other than Queen Snow who knew where they were headed, going after them was just the right thing to do.”

George copied his lean. “Yes, but according to Her Majesty you’ve rather made a habit of doing the right thing when it comes to the Fearless Seven, and she appreciates that. Not to mention, I was the one who brought Captain Peters up to speak with her as he’d sworn to me it was most urgent, and once he’d said his piece…well, she was so furious we could feel it in the air, I’ve seen her display less anger when confronted with an actual traitor to the kingdom. You should know that she’s already thinking she needs to go with you to get your family, and heaven help Mendekua’s new magistrate if he says a single word with regards to you that she finds objectionable.”

“Let’s hope he’s not that stupid.” Guildmaster Kedge had joined them. “Glad to have you on the Privy Council, Sir William—so far all of us have sense, you’ll fit right in.”

Roberts was certainly hoping he could, as he’d never expected anything like this to happen to him in his life. And he had no idea what his wife was going to say…

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