So, there was an opposition. I feel like a fool for not thinking about that possibility. Of course there would be people who don’t agree with the current government, because aren’t there always? Even more, from what Ayba told me, these seem to be loyalists to the Ichau-line. so they were supposed to be on my side. Ayba had managed to find out the time, location, and even pass phrase for their next meeting. So Melia and I went. The pass phrase proved true, and we were led into the inn’s private dining room, where I, with shaking knees, mind you, announced who I am. *gasps*
[Music in background]
This is Nadec, my adventure. Written down in a better way than I can tell it.
[Music louder and solo]
Episode 44: the wobbly wine glass
The inn’s sign moved in the light breeze like the name it depicted.
‘This is it,’ Nadec said to Melia. ‘Are you ready for this’?
Melia gave her a tight smile. ‘I believe the question is if you are ready for this? It is the question of how far you trust that Ayba woman, and her information. It could be a trap.’
Nadec rolled her eyes. It wasn’t the first time Melia had said that. The worst thing was, she could be right. The meeting they were about to intrude on could be either a bunch of people who would adore Nadec, or who would kill her at the first opportunity. Nadec chose to believe Ayba, and squashed down on the small pit of uncertainty again. She would act like the queen she was supposed to become. Her first performance in front of an audience.
‘I got this.’ She opened the door.
The uncovered candles of the plain chandelier in the middle of the room flickered with the gust of wind entering as she and Melia stepped inside. Being nowhere near the Square Market, the inn didn’t have many patrons. That in itself wouldn’t have accounted for for the low attendance, but its location was outside of the four-district. Apparently, although the festivities were celebrated everywhere in the city—centering mostly around the Markets—the four-district was the most popular. It was the section of the city in between the four-cornered walls and the three cornered walls where the castle stood.
A group of four sat in a corner, playing a game of dice. There were a few loners spread about, staring at their cup. Nadec felt out of place with the fancy new dress she wore. She’d been astounded to hear the seamstress had already managed to finish one of the dresses Melia had ordered.
When Nadec had asked how that was possible, Melia merely smiled and said mysteriously: ‘it’s a secret of the trade.’
The serving woman—about Nadec’s age—stopped cleaning cups for a moment when she saw them enter. She recovered and hid her surprise quickly enough.
‘Good evening, fine ladies, what can I do for you?’
‘We are here for a dive in history,’ Melia replied.
The woman kept her smile, but Nadec saw it slip a bit. Despite that, she told them to follow her. She led them to a door at the side of the room, knocked a specific pattern and held it open for them, not even bothering to speak to the people inside first. Nadec and Melia shared a look before Nadec braced herself and walked in.
A person stood with her back turned towards the door. The other people—all seated—stared at Nadec, prompting the standing woman to follow their gazes and fixing Nadec with a hard stare.
‘What is this? We did not expect any strangers today. Temsy, you did not warn us about new members.’
A dark-haired woman uttered an uncertain sound, but Nadec didn’t give her the chance to speak. She pulled herself up, squared her shoulders, and lifted her chin. Flutters in her stomach almost prevented her from speaking, but she managed it without stuttering.
‘I am Nadec Ichau, and I am your future Queen. The throne was taken from my parents, I am here to reclaim it. In eight days, the Wooden Water Crown will fall on my head, and I heard you are the group of people who have been actively aiming to stop Pagewyn—or, really, the Order of the End—from getting it. You are my people.’
A gasp behind her preceded the sound of the closing door. For that matter, there were a few gasps in front of her too. Some people stared at her wide-eyed, others had an open disbelief painted across their faces.
The old woman, who still stood up, eventually spoke.
‘Nadec Ichau? So it is true, you are here in the city. What are you doing, child, you should not be here. Hide somewhere away from here and let it all happen in safety. Why risk your life?’
‘Would you want a Queen who’d rather cower and hide, or would you want one who isn’t afraid to fight for what she believes in? I can’t go and hide. I have a prophecy to fulfill and people to convince to love me. I have a Queenly reputation to make.’’
The old woman nodded and showed a slight smile. Had this been a test? Nadec thought her heart would beat out of her chest and if she didn’t sit down soon, she’d surely pass out from the anxiety of having to appear confident.
‘Please, sit,’ said the woman, pointing towards a high chair closeby, maybe her own chair. Nadec didn’t protest. It was all part of the confidence game.
‘We are very pleased you could join us, and from the moment the prophecy dropped, we’d been hoping, no, dreaming, it meant you were here. And you truly are. It is quite remarkable. I apologise, how rude of me, I should introduce everyone. I am Rieatta O’Elope. This fine gentleman here is…’
She went through the whole room, pointing to everyone around the large table in turn. Nadec did her best to remember all the names and faces, but she knew it was a lost battle. There were a few who stood out enough to have more chance of remembrance.
A tall and broad-shouldered fellow, his posture hunched, as if he tried to hide. He would never be able to do that with his large figure.
A normal-sized and fairly unnoticeable man—but well-dressed—somehow caught her attention while Rieatta introduced him as Krayem O’Birany D’Vermom. She didn’t know what drew her to him, but something tickled her mind. Rieatta said he had been in an unfortunate accident about a year ago, losing his husband and his ability to speak.
As she pondered about why Krayem felt familiar, Nadec also couldn’t help but reflect back on the Rieatta’s family name. O’Elope. Had she heard it mention somewhere, and in what context? She couldn’t put a finger on it. Rieatta kept going around the room, so Nadec snapped out of her thoughtful state. She was pleased to see there were more women than men.
One of the men was Nadec’s innkeeper! She hadn’t seen him when she first entered, nervous as she was. Now at the introduction, it was obvious.
‘So my aunt hadn’t been lying when she called you a proud Ichau supporter,’ Nadec grinned at him.
The man obviously didn’t know what to do, and ducked his head several times, stammering apologies for not knowing who she was, and if she wanted a larger room, and nonsense like that. Nadec couldn’t believe it. Was this how people would treat her once they knew who she was? All the grovelling and silliness? She tried to calm him down, but the more she talked to him, the more he seemed to panic. Perhaps he was remembering the times he’d given her the side-eye.
Ignoring him may be the best course of action. Nadec turned to Rieatta, and invited her to continue.
When she’d received everyone’s introductions, all thirteen names flowed together in Nadec’s mind. She scolded herself. She’d have to practice tricks to remembering names and faces, because she wouldn’t want to be known as the queen who didn’t care.
‘Well then,’ Rieatta continued,’ if you truly are who you say you are, I want to wish you a warm welcome to the Truth Companions. However, and I apologise to have to ask you this, I’m afraid we do need proof that you are the real heir.’
Nadec nodded. She expected this to happen. Forcing a smile on her face, she placed her hands on her knees and said: ‘I’ll be back.’
She Skipped to her room in the inn. She cuddled Kitty, and chuckled at the dazed expression on the cat’s face. ‘Sorry buddy, you go back to sleep now.’ She kneeled in front of her bed, placed a smooch on his forehead and gave him one last stroke. And another one. Bending further down to the floor, she reached under the bed and retrieved her halberd.
It had been two days since she held it last. The comforting weight in her hands lifted her heart. The dress didn’t hinder her when strapping the harness on her back. Nadec reminded herself to give Melia extra praise. Somehow she had managed to convey certain things to the seamstress to help Nadec with Skipping and the halberd. It made Nadec wonder what other practicalities the dress hid.
Reappearing in the private dining room, it was clear she interrupted the Companions having steaming discussions. They quieted. Nadec would ask Melia later about what had been said. It may be important to remember who showed immediate faithfulness, and who doubted it all.
Rieatta stepped up to Nadec, who had held out her halberd for all to see, the shaft fully extended.
‘Powerpooped weapon.’ Nadec finished the woman’s sentence.
Wiping her cheek, the woman looked each of her companions in the eyes. She turned back towards Nadec, gingerly touching the halberd. Using it as a support, she knelt on one knee. In a voice clear and strong, but trembling slighly from emotion, she spoke.
‘My future Queen Nadec Ichau. I have and will always be faithful to the Ichau-line. I hereby swear to follow you in all things, and uphold the values you treasure. Here forever and eternity, that I swear, Rieatta O’Elope, right to the day I die.’
Other voices had joined her straight away. When Nadec took her eyes away from the wondrous sight of an old woman swearing fealty to her, she saw everyone had kneeled and spoke the same words. Her following had just quintupled.
Rieatta’s name still tickled something in the back of her mind. As Nadec helped the woman up, she asked: ‘Your family name sounds familiar. Excuse me for asking, but would you maybe know why it does so?’ She cringed at herself for the formal way she spoke.
Rieatta’s eyes had a twinkle in them, not only caused by the remnants of the earlier tears.
‘Of course. I believe I do know why you may have heard of it. I do not know how long you’ve been in the city, nor how much you know, but you did mention Lord Pagewyn before. So you are familiar with him, the one who sits where you should sit.’
At the mention of Wyny’s name, Nadec knew. Vaguely.
‘Lord Pagewyn is my grandson.’
You have been listening to Nadec, chapter 44 the wobbly wine glass
Narrated, adventured and lived through by myself, Nadec. Written in a better way than I can tell it, by Astrid Jef.
Don’t go just yet, we’ve got bloopers coming up. [music on background]