Chapter 05

Gift Worthy of a Queen

Queen Abiya could barely breathe, eat or sleep for the tragic turn of her life.

She might have thought King Samard handsome, with his thick tussled, sandy hair, unwilling to be tamed by a brush, his bright green eyes, and his crooked smile. He was not pretty like so many nobles with pale skin and soft hands. He was rough like one who worked and lived outside. Abiya might have admired him, if circumstances were different.

That morning, she’d been married. Later, after the festivities, the king would come to her bed and forcibly take that which she did not want to give him. This was not a marriage of romance, but one of convenience. She had not been courted by a lover or consulted for her opinion. Instead, she’d been summoned like a Heifer to improve a herd of cows.

On the day Samard’s father died, and was crowned King, he immediately sent a letter to Abiya’s father with a proposal of peace in marriage between their warring countries.

“It will end the war,” her father had whined. “You will save lives.”

Lives? He was not concerned for the lives saved, but the money saved in not financing a senseless war. After twenty-three years, no one remembered why or how the war had started. Nor did they care.

The day her father received the letter, he began packing Abiya. The next morning, he sent her to Samard. Less than a month later, she sat on the throne as Queen accepting wedding gifts from peasants and their futile attempts at giving useless gift after useless gift. Cows, ducks, breads, hand-woven baskets, bolts of cotton worthy to be worn by her ladies in waiting. No silks for Abiya. Jewelry made from clay, nothing to adorn her hair, neck or arms. How she wished she were dead.

She looked down the endless procession and resisted the urge to sigh. Cackling chickens gave her a headache, pig smell disgusted her, but it was the cows she envied. They relieved themselves where and when they liked.

The room was stifling hot. The smell of people and sweat, animal fur and hide, made her nauseous. She was hungry, but couldn’t taste the bread. She was thirsty, but couldn’t taste the wine. She was tired, but couldn’t stretch. As queen, it was improper for Abiya to so much as squirm. She was slave to these peasants and their gift giving.

The line was endless and laborious. They dressed in drab browns, grays and blacks with a few yellows and reds splashed in. The procession looked like a wounded worm trying to slither its way to the throne to devour her.

Why do they even live in this godforsaken, perpetually drought stricken land? She came from a city of 5,000. It was a harbor where merchants from around the world came to trade their goods. No one came here. There was nothing to trade for or with, certainly, nothing to war over or to sacrifice her life for.

A red bearded, overweight dwarf waddled like a duck as he made his way up the aisle towards the throne. His eyes twinkled with the excitement of the event. At his side, a thin gnome hopped-walked from one foot to the other like a rabbit, nervous about his surroundings. They looked clean as if they’d bathed recently, but as the came closer, they smelled of musty soil, mushrooms and fungus.

The dwarf knelt before the king and queen. He held his right hand up. A piece of black velvet draped over his stubby fingers and a large bulge in his palm. If this gift was of any value, he should have placed it in an engraved silver case. A wooden box would have been better than to let whatever he offered touch his skin. With a permanently, dirt-stained left hand, he reached up to pull back an edge of the cloth.

Abiya instinctively leaned forward. Something about the dwarf’s demeanor said his offering was worth considering.

Before he had fully pulled the cloth away, Abiya glimpsed a topaz the size of a man’s hand. Jewels that size didn’t exist. A blue topaz was beyond compare, but an orange topaz was priceless. Where had he found it? Truly, it was a gift worthy of a queen.

She reached out a trembling hand. The moment her fingers fully wrapped round the stone, her hand relaxed. Taking the jewel, she gracefully leaned back, slipped it into a pocket her sleeve and placed her hands in her lap.

A soothingly warmth flowed up her arm. She felt it encircle her chest and traveled down the other arm. At the same time that it moved up her neck into her head, it also moved down through her body, to her legs and feet. Her knot in her stomach eased. The dull ache in her lower back was gone. Her head stopped throbbing.

Instead of the commotion of talking, laughing, babies crying, cows baying, horses neighing, she heard the melodious sound of chimes blowing in the wind. Instead of the stench of animals and body odor, she smelled lilies. All discomfort of the day’s ordeal evaporated.

Published in: on May 23, 2011 at 11:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

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