Aden of Aden
I had heard from my mother, Mother Mersidda, and other ladies around me about the dreariness of staying and waiting for the return of men. Some would pat their swelling bellies or hold a young child admitting that they had important duties the men could not do. My mother and Mother Mersidda would laugh while telling again about things they had done while their husband was away. I remember the other children, especially the boys, feeling that without the men they could play in areas and in ways without gaining a serious reprimand. I found myself instructed in what needed to be done to assure the return of the men would not have them wishing they would have stayed away.
Officials were questioned about the history of the land, especially concerning Belconosk. I thought of what Yelnoth had said when I found certain pieces of information to not be consistent. I then began asking those in the military, and by challenging some statements using words of previous conversations the officials started mentioning what I felt were established facts. This was not my land, so I accepted that some things might not be told to me, but slowly I felt myself gaining what I felt was an understanding of the local history.
I looked up from a desk in my front room when my maid opened the door wide to allow a number of ladies to come in bearing trays. Two men came in carrying wood, and they set it by the fireplace with one assuring a good blaze. I rose upon seeing the queen mother, but she signaled me to sit even as she directed a couple of maids to bring a well padded chair over near my desk.
As we were both poured tea, the queen mother asked, “Aden of Aden, who taught you to be so inquisitive?”
I answered, “My mother. Her devotion to my father was always extreme. Mother Mersidda would often comment to me about how strong my mother could be when father was away, as she wanted him to be at peace upon his return. I always felt she wanted to speak to my father and learn all about what he had done in his absence, so worked to assure she had things to tell him about what she had done. I have since gained an understanding of her first husband, but it only stresses to me how much she truly loved Father.”
“And if you accept my son, will you be so devoted to him?”
“I believe every lady desires a man that will be deserving of her time and attention.” Hoping to set what I felt was the proper direction for the conversation, I added, “Mother asked for me. She clearly speaks of asking my father for a girl to carry her name. While I understand things, I grew up knowing that my father loved his wives as well and would do everything he could to make them happy.”
“So, you were a gift to your mother?”
“So, have you learned anything that troubles you?”
I had no reason to lie, and actually spoke my answer with pride. “Your land is not corrupt. I expected much more trouble in learning the truth.”
“There were some who came to me speaking of being disturbed by you, but I told them to work with you.”
“But that only proves my point. The land is strong when the people leading it is strong. I would have worried should your permission had not been granted.”
“So, what concerns would you present to me?”
Wondering about the royal lady, I calmly replied, “I’m not doing this for you. I have no idea how successful the men will be, or what complications might arise. When they return I however want access to their discussions, and not to be simply a pretty thing for them to look at. While as a lady I might have a place separate from the men, I will stand among them with just as much honor and share their thoughts as an equal.”
I felt her voice go cold as she said, “I will not have my place reduced either.”
Wondering about the change in the conversation, I stated, “I found no sign of corruption.”
“It has to be there.”
Definitely not desiring to step beyond my place, I replied, “I am a young lady in a strange land. Even if I had found something that troubled me, I would not feel to have the status to make accusations without further substantiation.”
“As the one who has managed this land I should be able to make sense and understand connections of what you have found.”
Wondering about the presence of this lady, I calmly delivered a fact. “As the one who has managed the land, you are the first I should suspect of being corrupt.”
“But you said that you have not found me corrupt.”
“I however am suspecting that you are attempting to accuse me of that vice.”
The smile that came to her face did not calm me, but her words did. “I would not dare do that, Aden of Aden. I heard only voices of support as you went about. I however also heard of a belief that you would find a layer of corruption.”
“I want the men to want to return to us. You did not beset Lechost with a multitude of problems upon his return, but showed his land as having some strength. While I understand that troubles did present themselves, he came to me last night with pride and a display of confidence. Surely there are things you feel he needs to do, but what he is doing is important. When he returns I want him feeling that we ladies had done all we could, and that we can provide some comfort before expecting him to take on other issues.”
“Well, what do you think of my son?”
That was where I expected our conversation to be, so politely answered, “I believe he is a very strong person. I really have not had chances to learn much about him, but what I learned has made a very positive impression.”
“You traveled with him for a number of days, and did not learn anything about him?”
That opened up the opportunity to relate the events of my time with Lechost. It helped my impression of the queen mother that she did laugh at things I found funny as well. It however did bother me when she spoke of something about Lechost that put the events in a different light.
“It should trouble you that Lechost will hide things and use deception.”
I replied, “I accept that there was a need. It will however trouble me should he consider such tactics a normal part of his life. That is one reason I want to gain as much information as possible.”
“You have a good mind, young lady. What is your heart telling you?”
“To listen to my mother. She warned me that her heart failed her, as her first marriage was a very bad one.”
“Ah, and so I gain the information I truly wanted from you. I was telling Lechost not to seek your hand. My daughter and I have definitely provided enough female leadership. I however feel my time passing, and I want to leave this land in good hands. Lechost will either prove himself or not, and how he comes through this difficulty will have me consider what type of lady needs to represent this land. He is enraptured by you, Aden of Aden, and I have to say that I see some of the traits that has pulled at his heart.”
I sought to smile to assure the lady that her words did not trouble me. “I enjoyed speaking to the people. Finding them willing to discuss certain topics had me feel that I could be accepted.”
“We heard about you from those doing what they could to fight the dragons. The creatures spoke of someone who did not fear them. The men came to me speaking of this girl who had the dragons worried, and the name Aden of Aden became someone my daughter and I sought to emulate. It is because of you that we had the power to assert the control to retain some of our dignity.”
“While I will not speak against what I did as a baby, I must credit Sauton for spreading the word of me among his own kind.”
“I have seen too many legends based on imagination. There is something to you, Aden of Aden. I have to say that the dragons whispered your name because they recognized that.”
My training had me keep my composure as I sought a reply. “Well, at the moment we must allow the men to make the dragons fear their names.”
I did spend more time talking with the royal lady. Most of it was just the two of us learning of each other. We were interrupted by Princess Turponia who spoke of men returning. I then spent time with both of the royal ladies as we gained accounts of the battles.
Dragons had been slain. While the men who had dragged themselves back were not showing strength, I stood proud with others to hear them do their best to speak of the battles. They bragged on the efforts of their king and his most notable supporters to lead the assault. We could not help but cheer when man after man spoke of dragon after dragon being slain without reducing the force against them enough to cease the advance.
As those in the castle made changes to become a facility for treating those hurt, I went to work to help with treating wounds. While I did what I could with the men, they had me speak of my earlier encounters with dragons. The way the questions came at first had me think of my life in Thiminy, but then I realized that they needed to hear of their own land. I certainly did not know anything of that, but when I spoke of my first encounters with their king they sounded out a desire to hear more of what I could say of Lechost. I found the groans of the men from their wounds to cease as I spoke of the silly things their king had done in his earlier meetings with me.
I found myself remembering the words of Belconosk. He had not spoken of me killing him, but of giving the people hope. I actually did not consider speaking positively as a threat, but only a point of view intended to prevent anyone from considering despair. In speaking of Lechost, I however realized that was what was supposed to happen to him. Belconosk did not send him to me to win my love, but to spoil any relationship and prevent him from seeing an opportunity to rise above his subservient position.
Lechost however did not present himself as being in despair. He had knowledge of moving through worlds. While Belconosk surely taught him in order to make him a useful servant, I also knew the skill had enabled him to send me from the dragon in order to protect me. Further, Lechost had been intelligent enough to recognize certain traits in bits and pieces of material and how to use them for his advantage. I let all the men around me hear of the assets of their king, and as I told of things I had seen of him I heard many make comments of boldness inspiring others not to fall into despair.
As I moved from one soldier, I found myself before a man. His hair showed gray, but he stood strong before me in robes of light blue with numerous decorations of silver and gold. A hand went around me to have me hold my position. Even though the man continued to stand, I had to accept that his blue eyes studied the soldier when he spoke to me.
“Young lady, where did you learn to treat wounds?”
The fact that he called me ‘young lady’ and not ‘Aden of Aden’ surprised me, although I felt I would have answered his question however he asked. “I grew up on the holding of a gentry. Not having the constant guards of a secured holding, our men at times did face trouble with us ladies needing to care for them.”
“Gentry? So you are not noble?”
“My father is a Knight of Thiminy. My mother was the daughter of a baron.”
Ah, yes, that would be acceptable. Dear lady, may I speak to you later?”
I let some anger show in my voice as I replied, “Sir, I have been speaking to all freely. Why would I seek to be rude to you?”
Laughter sounded from the men around me with the one I had just treated saying, “Aden of Aden, that man is from Koshix and surely seeks things for Prince Yelnoth.”
The one in robes let go of me to bow, then said, “Yes, dear lady. I am Chancellor Doborry of Koshix. This morning a messenger came from riding all night with a letter from Master Yelnoth speaking of one bearing the name Aden of Aden. The viscount and viscountess were both amazed at what their oldest son had to say, and sent me to come and check on you. When I arrived, Princess Turponia directed me to you saying that it was very late and you needed to rest. I believe the intent was to take you away for an interview, then have you retire to your chamber.”
Again I heard the voices of the men around me, and they told me that I should rest. The number of those returning from the battles with dragons had ceased with the later ones mentioning that the others had gone from this world. While there was hope that the lack of further wounded meant the battle went well, all accepted that it could also mean that those hurt could not return. I however accepted that the need for my additional services were no longer needed, so curtsied to the soldiers as a sign of respect before turning back to the official.
As he walked with me into the private areas of the castle, Chancellor Deborry asked, “Is your name really Aden of Aden?”
“I am Aden, the daughter of Sir Berair of Thiminy and Princess Aden of Behammir. Sauton, the dragon that guards the treasure of my king, is noted for making the recognition that I was Aden of Aden.”
“Is it usual for a child to be named after a parent?”
I felt anger rising up in me, but reminding myself that this land did not know me or those of my home I calmed my weary psyche before answering. “No, but it was something my mother asked of my father. Those of the holding simply called my mother Princess, so I grew up being called by my name without any real thought of having my mother’s name. It was not until I went to Thiminy to finish my training that I learned of being Aden of Aden.”
“I can tell that you are tired, dear lady. Would you like to postpone the interview until after you gained some rest?”
“I believe that I have the hope of all, which is that morning will come with further word of our absent men including the heir apparent of your land. It would be best for you to have some information to present to Yelnoth, if not send back to his parents, at that time. That means we should have the interview now.”
“You seem to have a very practical mind.”
I had no clue how to respond to that, so simply replied, “It is up to you to determine whether that is a good thing or not.”
And the chancellor learns things of Aden of Aden.