Free Write Friday #21: Captive/Temperance
The Winter Palace of Mantara sat in the middle of the Vale of Panshar, next to a tranquil lake. The Helvetian Mountains ringed it all in directions and from the top of it’s tallest spire, it’s occupants could see the entirety of the Vale in all directions.
So, Queen Annika was not at all surprised when there was a knock at her door. She had seen the messenger coming down the high road nearly an hour ago.
“Come,” she called.
The door opened and her Chief Minister Hans entered, a messenger in his wake. “My Queen, I have a messenger who brings tidings from Cormant.”
“Send them in, Hans,” she said. “And then you may go.” A look of surprise flashed across his face, but only for a moment. Then he bowed. “As you wish, my Queen.” He retreated, closing the door behind him and there was silence for a moment before the messenger went down on one knee before her.
“Well?” Queen Annika demanded.
“Cormant has a new Queen, your majesty,” the messenger said. “Queen Shayla was presented to the people four days ago.”
“The girl?” Queen Annika was incredulous. “You can’t be serious.”
“I saw it with my own eyes, my lady,” the messenger replied .
Queen Annika rose from her writing desk, walking over to the window that looked southeast towards Cormant and the frontier with Vascadora. “And the Estates General agreed to this?”
“Yes, my Queen,” the messenger replied. “There were some nobles from the Province of Montar that objected, but they’ve never liked the idea of Queens in Montar.”
“”No nobles from Zalkash Province spoke up?” The Queen asked.
“No, your majesty,” the messenger said.
“Interesting,” she said. She turned from the window. “You may go. Send Hans back in here when you do.”
“Yes, your majesty,” the messenger replied. Then he rose to his feet, bowed deeply and withdrew. Queen Annika watched impassively as the messenger closed the door behind him and then, after a moment, the door opened and Hans came back in.
“My Queen,” he said, bowing deeply. “How may I serve?”
“You can tell me how this absolute disaster took place, Hans.”
“My Queen,” he said, “we did not anticipate that the girl would be successful in retrieving the cure from the Elder Tree. In fact, we didn’t even know she would find the Elder Tree.”
“And yet she did.”
“Oh stop with all the ‘My Queens’, Hans,” Annika snapped. “Thanks to that girl, our plans are ruined. Thanks to that girl, I have to do that which I do not want to do.”
There was a long pause as Hans figured out what she was talking about and this his eyes widened in shock. “Your majesty, we cannot-”
“You don’t get to tell me what we cannot do. Not anymore.”
“If we release him and Cormant realizes that he’s alive and what we’ve done-”
“We have no choice, Hans,” Annika said. “Go to the dungeons and release the captive.”
Shall we run away together?
God, that sounds so dramatic. As if this is a Jane Austen novel or something- and we both know how much you love Jane Austen, right? (I still say the Gwyneth version of Emma is better than this new one, but you’re right about Bill Nighy: he does make every movie he’s in better.) I can’t believe it’s been a week since I saw you in Madison. Brace yourself, because I’m going to unleash another one of those cliches that will make you roll your eyes: it was the most magical night of my life- at least so far.
I honestly thought magical nights like that were something that only happened in the movies. I think probably my favorite part was walking along Lake Mendota and just talking. I’ve never talked to one person so much in my life. You may have noticed that I’m not the most talkative guy around- so when I say I’ve never talked to one person so much in my life, I really mean it. (I know you said I seemed shy- but believe me, I’m really, really shy.)
Before I get too far into the weeds: I looked at the code you sent me. I think you’re right about it’s potential, but you need to work on shoring up it’s defenses a little bit. If it gets out there before it’s ready, it’d be too easy for anti-virus software and governments to hack it. If you can accelerate the replication rates, it may do the trick- but I also don’t know how you can do field testing to prove that one way or another.
You’ll also be happy to hear that I took your advice and ran down a copy of that album. I’m sorry I ever doubted you: Exile On Main Street is an incredible album. Now, I’ll counter with one of my own-- hopefully you won’t find it too lame: Springsteen’s Darkness On The Edge of Town. It’ll rock your world.
I’ve got to finish up my current binge before I start anything new- yes, I’m weird like that. I can only do one thing at a time-- I’ve got a few more episodes to go and then we should pick a show and watch it together. (And if that sounds like I’m asking you out on a virtual date, then I suppose I am? If that’s okay with you?)
There are too many days to go before we see each other again- again, you’ll think it’s lame, but I’ve been crossing the days off on my calendar and hoping that despite the wonders of modern communication available to us, that absence and distance will make the heart grow fonder.
You introduced me to real ramen, cheese balls and ranch dressing in Madison, so when you come down to Austin, I’ll have to introduce you to barbeque, kolaches and Whataburger’s Spicy Ketchup- which will blow your mind, I promise you.
Write me again soon,