Prompt: When she arrived, all conversation ceased Written 7 October 2020
He had heard so many tales about the Queen’s royal spellcaster that he no longer knew what to expect. The only thing that stayed consistent was her mask, said to be made of bone. It covered her entire face, with two holes for the eyes and a swirling script burned into it in a spiral. Some said the mask covered burns or other scars, others said it was enchanted to detect lies or simply for the mystery of it all. It did not hide her identity, though, because her name was known across the continent and probably farther. He wondered if it was merely to make disguising herself easier. No one remembered her face, so if she simply took the mask off she could easily blend in with the rest of the court, or indeed any other group.
This theory proved false at his first sight of her. She strode into the hall with the confidence of one who had no equal, despite being a mere slip of a girl in a muddied cloak. He forced himself to close his mouth as she strode down the aisle to the throne. She executed a perfect curtsy that somehow held no particular deference to the monarch in front of her.
“Your esteemed Majesty,” the girl said as she rose. “I return to you with urgent news from the border of Elphane.” The courtiers rustled uncomfortably at the mention of the Folk.
The Queen raised a hand to quiet the room, but kept her eyes on the girl before her. “You may speak.”
“The Seelie are discussing pulling their support.” Gasps went up, but when the girl lifted her head towards them, silence returned before the queen could lift her hand. “They saw our work at the Hills as dishonorable. In their eyes, we broke our word.”
“That’s ridiculous!” cried a general. “The deal was struck under false pretenses!”
“Hold your tongue, general.” the queen said firmly. “The Folk are our allies, and we must respect their customs.” she turned back to the spellcaster. “What do you suggest we do?”
“We must propose a treaty to end this war.” More than whispers erupted at this declaration. Many army officials were outraged at the idea. But her majesty did not argue. She waited for silence and then bid the girl continue. “I am not suggesting we surrender. Merely extend an offer in good faith to prove to the Folk that our interest is not in continuing a senseless war.”
“And the Folk?” the queen asked. “Their outrage must be addressed. We must make amends.”
“With all due respect, majesty, we mustn’t.” He stopped trying not to stare. Until this point, the girl had shown the minimum respect to the queen, waiting for her permission to speak and for her majesty to ask for her advice. Now she contradicted the queen directly.
The queen herself, however, didn’t react. Again, she gestured for the girl to continue.
“Any direct effort to appease the Folk will be seen as a shallow attempt to soothe their pride. We did not directly offend them, and as such they are not with whom we must reconcile.”
The queen nodded. “I see. Our enemies will not take the treaty, but it will show the Folk that we are trying to write a wrong. They will be appeased without a formal apology.” He couldn’t help but think that the girl had allowed the queen to finish her explanation in an effort to maintain order. “If that is all, Aminta, you are dismissed. We welcome you home.” the queen said.
Aminta gave a more reverent curtsy and replied, “May your hospitality never run dry.”
It took all of his willpower not to run after her as she left.