Previously: Nadec and Melia walked into a meeting by the people opposing the Order of the End. After introductions, the person leading them says she is Wyny’s grandmother.
Read all the previous chapters here.
ps: this is the real and raw first draft, including spelling and grammar mistakes, unnamed characters, awkward bits, … If you’d prefer to read a slightly better version, I can suggest going to the podcast section, where the transcripts are. Or you can read the complete 2nd draft version in it’s totality (hey, it’s over 70k words now, a proper novel, weeee!)
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‘Wy— Pagewyn is your grandson, and you’re opposing him, in secret?’
Nadec couldn’t help keep the incredulity out of her voice. She busied herself shortening the halberd’s shaft, placing it on her back, and removing the [thing]. Rieatta didn’t say anything, which made Nadec feel even more awkward. All those eyes staring at her. Balls. It wasn’t until Nadec looked around at a place to sit and put the halberd, Rieatta pointed towards two empty chairs at the head of the long table. Melia had already found a chair against the wall, where a few other—presumably—servants, sat.
‘It is hardly a secret,’ the older woman barked a laugh as she sat herself next to Nadec. ‘My grandson knows well enough I’ve never agreed with the Order of the End, and he should have never accepted the throne. But he—‘
The door flew open. All heads swirled aside to look at the barwoman standing in the doorway, slightly shrinking in on herself. She held a large [plate] of pitchers and cups.
‘What are you doing, Meralda?’ The voice came from one of the men at the table. Nadec tried to recall his name but failed miserably. Something with Keedy, Beleeny, Veleeny?
‘I’m, I’m only bringing more drinks, for the new arrivals,’ she nodded her head towards Nadec, almost tried to curtsy while stepping towards the table, but nearly lost the balance of the pitchers on the [plate]. Her face, already blushing from the attention, turned a shade redder. ‘I couldn’t hold this [plate] with only one hand, so opening the door wasn’t easy. Sorry if I frightened you.’
She looked at Nadec as she spoke. Her eyes didn’t seem to be able to look away from Nadec. A big sigh escaped her lips when she managed to put the pitchers down on the table. Before the sigh ended, she was on the floor on one knee, hands on top of her other one, head bowed in front of Nadec. Here we go again, Nadec thought.
‘My dear princess Ichau, can I please swear my fealty to you? Because I do swear it. Fealty, I mean. I swear it know, I will be loyal to you. And can I please also apply for work at the royal court, I can—‘
‘Meralda!’ The same man as before now jumped to his feet. His face betrayed a mixture of embarrasmnet and anger. Meelan, Breelan, Veleenan?
‘I’m sorry, Bronsom,’ Really, Nadec though, that’s not even close to my options, ‘I am really grateful for you to give me the opportunity here, but If I can improve… My lady, please, I have five years of experience working as a servant and pourinf drinks, helping the chef. Do you kow how versatile being a bar woman is? I promis there are many good skills you could use, and—‘
‘That’s enough,’ Riealla’s voice cut the woman off. ‘Did you truly barge into a meeting of us to harrass the future queen for work? Leaving the door open in the process, so all the patrons can look in and see, and hear what you’re doing. This is supposed to be a secret, and I am certain our lady Ichau would like to keep her presence secret still for the moment.’
Meralda shrank back further from every word until she sat on her arse, her face no longer red. Instead, a pale tinge had replaced it.
‘Oh, no, my Lady O’Elope, it is not like that. I have sent the patrons away for the night and closed the inn.’
‘You what?’ Yelled Bronsany. Nadec cursed softly. She forgot his name again.
‘I… just… yes… but… oh.’ Meralda hung her head and mumbled: ‘I got so excited when I heard lady princess Ichau say who she was, I could not possibly not do anything at all. I am sorry, it was a mistake, I suppose.’
‘You square sure it was a mistake. Go pack your bags, girl, this was strike three. I don’t need you here anymore.’
Meralda’s eyes filled with tears, and she picked herself up from the floor. That Breensy fellow was certainly an angry one. The poor woman kept her head down as she made her way out of the room.
‘Hold on,’ Nadec commanded, surprised at the way her voice sounded. She’d have to try and reproduce it, this was the good queen voice. Meralda stopped, but didn’t turn around. Instead, she hunched her shoulders forward even more.
‘I believe I can use another servant, what do you think Melia?’
Nadec turned to look at Melia, who nodded with a smile and glistening eyes.
‘That’s it then. Meralda, I hereby apoint you the duty of official servant to me. Go get your things and join Melia there against the wall. Thank you.’
Meralda did turn around then, a hopeful expression transforming the tears of sadness into tears of glee.
‘Go on,’ Nadec waved a hand to urge her along. She addressed the companions again. ‘Now, where were we? I believe you were about to tell me why you oppose your own grandson, Riealla?’
The old woman gave a dignified nod, the corners of her mouth turned upwards.
‘Yes, so I was. He himself never agreed with the values of the Order of the End. But when your parents disappeared, the kingdom was without a ruler for the first time in hundreds of years, perhaps even thousands. Several families pushed their candidates forward, and Lord Pagewyn was one of them. With the difference that the order stood behind him, and not the other candidates. Only two weeks later, Lord Pagewyn was inaugurated. We believe it had been the Order’s intention all along. We also believe, and I am sorry to say this, that the order was behind your parent’s dissapearance.’
‘That,’ Nadec said, ‘doesn’t sound like a surprise to me [check if she knows]. But you keep saying disappearance, don’t you mean death?’
‘We have never found any proof of death. So we keep the hope they are still alive somewhere. The day we discovered they had a child, and she would be Water Crown Age a few years later, was the best day since the news of their disappearnce. Your aunt and uncle did a great job of keeping it secret, but we have good people among us.’
‘Wait, you knew about them? I thought even their own existence was supposed to be unknown?’
‘Yes, they would like to think that.’ Rieatta’s smile deepened. ‘I am still fascinated by how they truly believed no one would discover the queen’s own sister living closeby the city. Did they believe no one would be watching them?’
‘Did you know my uncle, the long-lost brother, Jodec, is still alive?’ Nadec asked.
Gasps and murmurs rose around the table. Rieatta smile melted. Balls, Nadec thought, I suppose they didn’t know this one.
‘Jodec lives?’ Rietta’s voice trembled, but Nadec couldn’t be certain from which emotion. She laid a hand on Nadec’s arm. ‘Please, how can you know of this? Are you certain, is this true?’
‘It is,’ Nadec said slowly. She hadn’t expected such a strong reaction. ‘He’s part of the ones from the Order who’s been trying to kill me. And I’ve seen him do his camouflage thing, and Skipping.’ Nadec frowned. ‘I’m surprised you didn’t know, actually. I’m quite sure he openly walks around in the Order. I don’t know what position he has, but it seem fairly high. Since he’s in charge of finding and killing me,’ she ended wryly.
Rieatta’s grip on Nadec’s arm grew tighter with every word. In the end, all blood seemed drained from her face, and she gripped the edge of the table with her other hand. Nadec steadied her at the shoulders, staring at her in concern, looking for signs of a heart attack.
‘It’s been so long,’ the old woman finally said softly. ‘Fifty years since he dissapeared. I was…’ She blinked rapidly. ‘Was I eighteen when he disappeared? I believe so. We were, from a young age, meant to marry each other. They encouraged us since we were merely children. Marrying him would mean I would become the new Queen, once he received the crown. I didn’t realise that at my young age, and by the time I did, we were smitten for each other. It…’ Her eyes focussed on Nadec, and she looked around the room.
Some of the faces looking back seemed sumpathetic, others embarrased. A few avoided her gaze when it swept over them. Rieatta cleared her throat. She let go over the table and Nadec. Nodded her thanks for the support, and straightened her back again.
‘So he’s trying to kill you, is he? That’s not very smart of him. He should know better. I see the Order has corrupted his mind, as it does to everyone. Square! Such a vile organisation. As if we didn’t have incentive enough already to stop them.’ She eyed Nadec sideways. ‘With your help, we will be able to execute some plans we had. And of course, we can help you make the prophecy reality. We are not certain where that prophecy had sprouted from all of a sudden, but we do know it will need to come true, all of it, to get the people on your side. It doesn’t hurt to help it a bit, does it?’
Nadec smiled a sly smile back. ‘No, it certainly doesn’t hurt,’ she said. She thought about telling them where the prophecy had come from, and that it’s really a fake, but she wanted to give these people some real hope. They’d done enough good things to help her cause, and Nadec knew they’d be doing much more, if what Rieatta said was true.