In Serein

3-2-3 New Arrangements

Of course, I was entirely aware of the fact that she would not be too best pleased with the new arrangements.

It must be said that I somewhat underestimated the severity of her responses.

She was entirely irrational and reminded me of my own disturbed states of mind last winter. Then, she had kept me safe from myself and cared for me and I had come back to myself eventually.

I had no doubt that she would, too. She was strong and resilient; and she was young.

The very young are so much more adaptable than they would ever believe themselves to be.

I know this for a fact for I did quite a bit of adapting myself when I was half her age.

Still, it did distress me to see her like that.

Eventually, I procured some herbs that had a very calming effect on the nerves and mixed them with the wine I brought her. After two days, she was thirsty enough to take it and from then on, matters improved dramatically.

I explained her absence by saying that she was with child and had withdrawn to be in a more restful environment; it astonished everyone and it astonished me to receive their congratulations on the forthcoming event.

I must admit I especially enjoyed Catena’s expressions of joy on our behalf. They nearly killed the man. He was also the only one who didn’t believe that she had left to rest and followed me around with suspicion in his mind. I thought about disposing of him a number of times, but considered he might just prove to have his uses beyond the use of having her be more compliant to my wishes. I had mentioned that he lived still and would continue to do so as long as she was eating properly to nourish herself and the child. A few days after she disappeared, he requested leave to return to Headman’s Acre to resume his guard duties there. I saw no reason to have him stay and gave permission. In truth, I was glad to see him go.

During the day, there would be meetings and arrivals, and through the nights, I spent my time with her.

I tended her self inflicted wounds, washed her and dressed her. I cleaned the circle and provided her with lights, food and measures so she would relieve herself.

She pleaded for her freedom in many different ways, even after she had calmed down with the herbs.

She would argue with me, and at another time she would pretend to go along with everything I said. She used her words skillfully and her body too. I enjoyed her efforts whilst they lasted because I was well aware the next explosion would be just around the corner.

It kept me busy.

I brought the blond princess from her house with her attendant, a dour faced woman who thought of trying to tell me how to treat her and then regretted that bitterly.

Niccosia was all undone and with six legs and five arms around her. I pitied the fool but the matter was well under way and didn’t require my actions to any great degree. I did have to tell him however the very basics of what was happening behind the scenes; the man was still very much a soldier and not a politician. However, he was learning and reliable.

In the meantime, I spent time at Tower Keep, studying the maps and finally found the perfect place for my lady’s new home.

It was located beyond the furthest borders of Westland, in a beautiful wilderness situation, at least three day’s travel from any nearby trade route that was still in use.

An island in a good sized inland sea, with a large stone circle and an ancient doorway point that ended in ruins so old they were no walls remaining higher than my thighs.

This is where I created a palace for my lady.

It cost me considerable energy expenditure to raise the walls and have them root deeply into the ground for stability. I remembered her fondness for gold colours and made them white marble veined with rich shades of gold, a most pleasing effect.

The main problem lay in constructing this building in such a way that servants – and I, for that matter – would be able to enter and leave, but she could not.

She had to be kept absolutely confined to the circle and the building within until she was adjusted to the new arrangements; should she get out before this adjustment had been made, serious problems would ensue for all concerned.

She would have to be kept in chains for now and highly guarded at all times so she would not be able to harm herself. She was quite crazed enough to try this as she had proved on a number of occasions.

I decided there should be a central garden so she would be able to walk and see the skies and feel the rain; laid out her apartments beyond that and the servant’s quarters and created the requisite materials as I could not work on the inside of the circle.

These things were accomplished a step at a time on brief visits in between the ongoing meetings at Manoranta; it was my desire to have her new quarters ready before the council broke off and made for the crowning of the new High King in Pertineri. I underestimated the endeavour, however, and had to revise my time schedule in the light of a great many details that had to be observed.

I told her of her new home and she screamed and cried at me until I made her take the wine with the herbs and she subsided once again. I brought ointment for her wrists and regretted that I could not heal them in the normal way; but one has to adapt to circumstances as best as one can.

That night, when I took her, she was unresponsive and crying. I enquired as to the reasons of this and she said she wanted it to be as it had been in Abbey the night before our wedding.

I could understand that sentiment. It had, in truth, been a remarkable experience. But I told her that this kind of thing was no longer a priority, nor even desirable.

“The main objective is that you should get better, and take care of yourself and our child,” I said and she started to moan and wail, which would have become an aggressive outburst if it had not been for the herbs.

I assured her that I understood her difficulties in coming to terms with the new arrangements and held her tightly until her struggling had ended.

After that, I unchained her in my presence, when I would be at hand to physically stem her outbursts.

In the council, Niccosia being the new High King was now an unspoken reality. There was much more concern with existing borders, old disputes and who was to take the throne of Trant’s kingdom of the Eastlands. Three separate groups had arrived to claim the Eastlands and all of them had only the most tenuous links to the throne.

There was also some amazement when I took back my father’s lands which had been a part of Solland now for the past 660 years. Niccosia didn’t give me any trouble because the population was sparse there and much of the land was barren. He was loath to see control of the two river ports go to me and I suggested to give the towns free status which ended that small disagreement.

I wasn’t particularly interested in spending my time running the affairs of a patch of useless countryside but I felt it necessary to make the claim and have it put down in writing.

My son might have a more generational attitude to such things, and of course, one need to have lands to claim one’s seat here in this chamber. It also served to remove my own precarious and illogical standing.

Selter’s granddaughter coped well with her public unveiling. She was nervous but held herself together quite admirably. It was interesting to compare her to my lady who would have a lot to learn to be able to run a keep, never mind cope with the demands of public life.

I had no doubt that she would adapt perfectly well in time.

It had only been ten days, and she was already much calmer, much more co-operative. Her outbursts were shorter in duration and not as intense as once they were.

I told her about my work on her new home and that it was time to find servants for her. They would, of course, be all female; the guards would be branded by me personally and incapable of interacting with her beyond their orders to contain her physically inside the magic circle.

She begged and pleaded with me to allow her to have Marani with her but I dismissed the idea. Marani had developed a personal allegiance to my lady which made her untrustworthy given the circumstances. It reminded me to take exquisite care with her female servants’ brandings too.

My lady had a way with people that would bend them to her will.

On the day that the council signed the declaration that Niccosia was to be the High King and the coronation and his marriage to Princess Camaruna should take part in one ceremony, I made my way to the slave market in Pertineri beneath a shadow shielding and in a brown cloak to acquire in person those who would finish the physical work and guard and serve my lady.

Bar a few details, all was now in place.

I had created the materials required to construct the inside of the Island Palace, as I had taken to think of it. It was unfortunate that one cannot turn  the standing stones on and off for else, it would have been done in an afternoon. As it was, I took the ten guards, branded them within an inch of their lives, and, newly kitted out with exquisite clothing and swords, had them shepherd the workers and servants through the doorway system and onto the island.

I instructed them clearly as what had to be done and left in time for the grand banquet that was the closing of the Manoranta meeting, the one that ended formally Trant’s brief but disastrous reign over the kingdoms.

I must admit that I was most satisfied with the outcomes.

The coronation would take place in a tenday’s time from tomorrow.

By then, the Island Palace should be finalised and I could move my lady from her current and truly, quite unsuitable quarters.

I told Niccosia that I would visit my lady in the interim which he accepted most readily. He send his regards, as did his bride to be, the two of them more like brother and sister than ever a romantic couple, and I had to hide a smile when I told them earnestly that I would pass on their good wishes.

She cried again when I did pass them on, only moments later, only a few men’s length beneath their very feet.

I spend a considerable amount of time on the island, overseeing the work and making personally sure that no shortcuts were taken.

Provisions were going to be a problem.

There were no supplies anywhere near and I would have to personally move everything that anyone here could consume, except for water which the lake supplied plentifully.

This was irritating but could not be helped.

I raised therefore a number of store houses on the far side of the island, well out of view as not to spoil it and coloured to blend with the surrounding trees and boulders, and  I placed a large order for provisions with a discreet merchant in Pertineri. My branded guards collected the wagons and drove them through the doorways, unloaded and I returned them when it was successfully concluded.

It was late at night when I finally returned to my lady. I was tired, and it must be said, somewhat irritable. It had been a very long time since I had personally become involved in the details of such an operation at this level. I should endeavour to find a trustworthy second in command, much as Niccosia had been in Pertineri.

She was dull and when I unchained her, just turned her back to me and rubbed her sore wrists.

I had worked on her behalf since dawn and although I didn’t expect her to be grateful in her current state of mind, I still was irritated at her bearing and behaviour, and I put this to her.

She made strange sounds which I finally identified as a cross between laughing and crying and then she went into her madness routine again.

This night, I was simply not in the mood for it.

I re-fastened her chains and left her to wear herself out.

I would spend the night at Tower Keep and get a good night’s sleep for once.