Aden of Aden
It surprised me to see the maid given the duty to tend to my apartment to be present in the parlor where Chancellor Doborry and I were to speak. I was pleased to see her, and acknowledged her presence assuming she was more than some destitute lady in need of a job. She did wear a dress of bright orange, which I felt meant she had been able to afford to purchase it and was not simply some discarded garment. With only a curtsey as a sign of recognizing my acknowledgement, she went back to her work. Accepting that I also needed to focus on the reason for being present, I set my attention on Chancellor Doborry and directed him to a chair as I made a simple statement.
“I am pleased to meet you, but I have to admit that my presence is due to King Lechost.”
He did move to the seat I had indicated, although graciously acted to assure that we sat together before responding. “I have not read the letter Prince Yelnoth sent to his parents. This does put me at a disadvantage, so any background to why my future lord might think he would gain your hand would be appreciated.”
“What I heard was Lechost saying that he wanted me in his land, so was willing to present other candidates beside himself. Considering what I have heard of his own history, he is probably very unsure of his life. I cannot say that I have come to feel any attachment with Lechost, but there is something to him that I want to learn about. As for Yelnoth, I did consider him handsome.”
“You did not consider our king handsome?”
I had to smile at my memories of him while answering, “He has presented himself more as a comical figure. I have detected a core of kindness, but also of boldness and dedication. Whether those are truly virtues in him, or vices, I have not yet determined. As for Prince Yelnoth, he has a good voice and sang the Kippayun for me. A very interesting tune.”
“It’s rather common around here. He had been reprimanded by his mother for doing that.”
“He speaks to his mother?”
Chancellor Doborry seemed surprised at that question, but did answer. “You must understand the turmoil that has come to our land due to the absence of our king. The lands that were once a part of Epperclen have rebelled as each sought to distance themselves from the threat of Belconosk. Our viscount feels that the terror of the dragon will not stop, so staying strong with Epperclen not being an issue.”
“Your monarch seems to have a very practical mind.”
He smiled at me returning a phrase to him, and replied, “I have to say that my presence is from the men of my land finding something good in you. To answer your question, Prince Yelnoth does speak to his mother. His father stays busy, so has little choice but to limit his time with his son to scheduled periods of instruction. It helps us of the land to think of these periods as positive signs of our future, as the two men are not heard arguing. Prince Yelnoth is not so restrained around his mother, but the two continue to interact which we of the land also consider to be a good sign of our future.”
I did not want to respond in a manner that might spoil my presence, so simply said, “Yes, as the rulers of the land should not be closed-minded.”
“He can be hard-headed, but I have found that he does listen even though he might not agree with your conclusion. Now, dear lady, you have mentioned some things, but I would like more information about your background.”
I thought about what Princess Endullae and Queen Debbish had said of their courtships as I answered the questions. My king and queen were not children of nobility. King Terish claimed a baker as his father, which my father stated as one reason for him who was also the son of a baker being recognized by the monarch. Queen Straekin acknowledged that her family had some wealth, but stressed her own education with certain talents enabling her own rise to power. Princess Endullae and Queen Debbish had told me that my having some noble blood already behind me due to my mother being one asset in my favor toward finding a proper husband.
The letters I had read helped me speak of my mother’s family. Mother had never denied her heritage, but even with me had spoken very little of those she had grown up around. I knew some things from the stories she told me, but they were only consistent names as if continuing characters in a series of fictional tales. The letters had troubled me because I came to understand that there were real people behind what I heard from my mother, and it hurt knowing that they had separated themselves from me.
After speaking of my background, Chancellor Doborry closed the interview speaking of my need for rest. I graciously saw him to the door of the parlor, then turned to see the maid indicating for me to move from the room as well. Allowing that I probably did need to freshen up, if not actually gain some rest, I spoke to the maid about what else might need to be done before ending our day.
It surprised me to learn she was close to being twice my age. Considering how young I was, I recognized she was also not very old. She however spoke of having a husband and child killed by thieves. Being alone, and feeling her government was not being responsive to her loss or the crimes that caused her situation, she took up a life of being a thief and prostitute. She was caught after a miscarriage she felt was due to her lifestyle, and spoke of making an obvious theft in order to force a change in her behavior. Princess Turponia however had seen her working hard to restore her dignity, and had given her a chance to redeem herself by becoming my attendant. She then surprised me by softly adding another statement.
“I will gladly be your loyal slave, my lady.”
“What?” I blurted out, then could only add another question to help clarify my first one. “Why?”
“Because the crimes of those who killed my husband and child has not been rectified. If you do right, I will accept my place as your property.”
“But if I accept Lechost –“
“Do right. Have him look into the matter and deal with it. Whether you accept him or not, speak to him of it.”
I felt it a small matter, although also one I did not know whether it was my place. Things about this land were definitely different than I had grown up accepting. I however wondered about other things with this lady, whose name I had learned was Ludene.
“What would Queen Tiolotha or Princess Turponia say about it?”
“Mention it to them. I place myself in your care.”
I had the lady care for me. I barely made it to bed before collapsing into momentary unconsciousness. The night continued with me gaining only limited periods of actual rest. It could not have been the strange surroundings, as I had been sleeping in a number of locations. I would want to say that it was my concern for the men. Whatever the reason, I kept finding myself conscious until finally seeing some light out the window and deciding to get on up. Calling for Ludene to care for me, I started the day.
There seemed to be some type of commotion beyond the castle walls. I however saw the guards simply holding their position as if attempting to ignore it. Wondering about what might be happening, I had Ludene pull from my belongings an outfit that did not have the expansive skirts of nobility about the castle.
After gaining the garments, I had not bothered with the maid. The clothes I was wearing did not require any help in putting on. I however noticed the maid rush from the room, but as I did not need her help I did not concern myself with her absence.
Stepping out of my apartment, Chancellor Doborry asked, “Where are you going?”
I politely answered, “I was thinking of going riding.”
“Riding? Okay, but do you have a horse?”
“I do not believe that the men left mounted, so the horse we brought should be in the stables.”
“Oh, well, I have to admit that I came by horseback. I would like to join you, but I would recommend that we have breakfast first.”
Considering what I felt I heard, I quickly came up with a reply. “I doubt I will be riding long.”
I believe Chancellor Doborry tried to keep from revealing any inner feelings. I however saw movements to his face I recognized as indicating the man accepted a puzzle. He moved to the window, then paused I was certain to watch and listen. As I was about to move on without him, the chancellor turned to come to my side even as he spoke.
“You do not win fights like that, Aden. Those idiots are paid to speak. You want to talk sense, but they only want to yell out what they were paid to say.”
I replied, “My father could win the fight.”
“Your father? I thought you were a momma’s girl, not a daddy’s girl.”
I simply continued moving while asking, “Are you going to stop me?”
“One of us has something to learn. I will join you to find out who.”
Those in the stables also seemed not to want to work until after breakfast. I however had the advantage of growing up among those that worked with animals, and regularly trained with horses myself, so knew things about working with horses. There were now also certain lessons ingrained in me on how to act around people to get them to perform. Without any harsh words, in fact I used some dry humor, those in the stables did the work I requested.
I rode out through the castle gate to move through a city street toward where I heard the loud speech. I did not move fast, but had my mount make a very showy set of steps that had it appear as a spirited animal that wanted to run. When I came near the speakers I saw the surrounding people looking to me, which was what I wanted. I had my horse stop in the middle of the street, and I patiently waited for a certain question.
As hoped, I heard one of those attempting to inflame those of the town ask, “You, what are you doing here?”
I answered, “The same as you. I have a duty, and I am here to do it.”
“A duty? To do what? Show your better status and look pretty?”
“I feel any woman disgraces herself when she does not appear her best. As for my duty,” I raised the volume of my voice to proclaim, “I am Aden of Aden! The dragon Belconosk wants me dead. Do you know why? It is because he feels that I give the people hope. Well, these men are attempting to ruin the spirits of the local people. I came out to see if I could give the people hope and spoil whatever plans of that evil dragon these men are attempting to perform.”
Another of the men asked, “And how are you going to do that?”
I looked around the crowd as I said, “Well, I’m here. What I heard from Belconosk gave me the impression that just my presence would accomplish the task.” I looked to a lad and asked, “Are you feeling hopeful yet?”
He appeared disturbed that I spoke to him, and as if hoping people would ignore him he replied, “Well, I really wasn’t listening.”
“I know. You were cutting purses. I would give them back. These are desperate times, and we should not be about making things worse for people.” I again lifted the volume of my voice to say, “We have men, good men, out attempting to assure your safety. You are here going about your lives because others are out there risking their lives. Yes, there is a fear that they will fail, but you should not make failure a reality should they succeed. I have met your king, some of your nobles, and have come to know the hero Dumourl. I believe in their success, and I came out to do what I could, give you some hope.”
That was all I knew to do. Hearing people speak kindly to me with some men bowing or tipping their hats and a few ladies curtseying helped me keep a smile on my face. While the men attempting to inflame the people did try to return to their loud speech, they found a number of people telling them to hush with most simply going back to ignoring them. I spoke to a few who chanced to actually say something to me, then turned to the chancellor not knowing what else to do.
“I hope that there is a substantial breakfast being prepared. I am now hungry.”
He replied, “I was having toast and jelly with Princess Turponia. Maybe more could be provided for you.”
I started my horse moving back to the castle while replying, “It should be enough to start my day.”
“Ah. Those are words that bring me hope.”
Expecting to see a whimsical smile, I looked back to Chancellor Doborry, but finding him with a serious expression I had to ask, “What?”
“Not thinking your work is done. That was a wonderful presentation, sweet lady, but what brings me hope is hearing you speak of possibly needing to do more.”
And Aden does find she has more to do.