man and woman stood in a lavish bedchamber in Imrel palace.
The chamber walls were hung with tapestries of crimson and
gold. The woman wore a pink gown, and her strawberry blond
hair was pulled into a bun at the nape of her neck. Her
face was stony and empty of emotion. The man fidgeted
nervously as he surveyed his queen.
“We’ll see.” Ice was in her
voice now. “Collen, send Hamish to me.”
young man withdrew.
a few moments, a tall, stocky man dressed in a lavish purple
robe swept into the room. “You sent for me, Your Majesty?”
queen smiled at the newcomer. “Yes, Hamish. I need your
Bring me the pistachio nuts, please.”
the log hut, a slender girl rose from the wooden bench on
which she’d been sitting. Her hands were covered with
powdered sugar, and on the table sat an assortment of items:
almonds, sugar, and vanilla. “Yes, Cousin Morel.” She
to a shelf, she took a small bag from its place. Making
sure that her cloth head covering shielded her face from the
sun, she shuffled outside.
Morel was in his small workshop behind their home. He was
bent over a stone hearth from which arose the intoxicating
aroma of pastry. “Pastachio tarts?” Emilia asked hopefully
as she entered the shop.
straightened up from his work. He smiled knowingly at the
girl who was more than a cousin to him. “That’s right.
They’re for King Cedric’s banquet tonight.”
nodded as she handed the bag to Morel. “Another banquet?
The festivals lasted six days already! That’s all he does!”
eyes twinkled. “The Imperial Lord be praised for that! He
could do worse, ya know.”
shuddered. A fleeting image of Hilda Withers entered her
mind: the playmate from Sumril. She’d seen Hilda at social
gatherings all her life until she’d turned thirteen. Then
one day, Hilda had vanished. Of course, Emilia knew where
she’d gone. She thanked the Imperial Lord that she lived in
Priam and not Crimlia or Sumril.
weren’t listening to me. I asked if you’d go next door and
borrow Marvin’s molds. Queen Valerie wants the tarts in the
shape of flowers.”
right.” Feeling a surge of anticipation, Emilia turned to
the way,” Morel called teasingly, “Don’t stay too long.
You’re not married until next week, remember.”
impossible!” Emilia laughed.
bolted toward the neighboring hut. From the back, she
smelled bread baking.
came scurrying from the bakeshop. “Emilia! You’ve come!”
Marvin was short for his seventeen years. He, like Emilia,
was clothed in a simple homespun robe. “The Imperial Lord
smiled. “And you.” She said.
Marvin held out his hand. Emilia clasped it for a brief
moment. “Morel needs to borrow your baking molds.”
Come on in.” Emilia followed Marvin into the small bakery.
Like the confectionery, the shop was cluttered with many
implements of the trade. “Mother has gone to market to buy
talked to Victoria about my dress! I can hardly wait!”
about me?” Marvin grinned. “I’ve waited three long years!
Remember the brook last year?”
could I forget?” Emilia laughed. “You did it on purpose!”
was the jam doughnuts! Morel knows I’m allergic to
remembered the day with vivid clarity: the picnic of fish
sandwiches, apple juice and jam doughnuts, Marvin getting on
his knees to ask for her hand, and then his face growing
red! Of course, she’d thought it was nerves!
you want me to ask you?” she’d said with a grin.
Soon, it had dawned on her
that Marvin had broken out in hives!
the couple laughed with glee.
heaven that Nicole’s cottage wasn’t far from the brook!”
Emilia managed to say between guffaws. “She had the salve
didn’t help matters much. It took you forever to tell her
IN THE NAME OF KING CEDRIC!” Emilia and Marvin froze. The
voice was coming from the front of Marvin’s dwelling. It
was harsh and chilled Emilia to the bone.
worry.” Marvin whispered, “Stay here.”
rushed out of the bakery to the entrance of his dwelling.
“Yes, sir? What can I do for you? Do you need—”
you have any sisters? I have orders from King Cedric. If
you refuse to tell me—”
sir. I have no—”
you think I’m deaf?” the voice snapped. “I heard you and a
do you want, sir?”
order of King Cedric, any girl who has reached her Moon
Phase time is to come with me to Imrel Palace.”
That’s absurd! What is the meaning—”
SILENT! IF YOU WON’T COOPERATE, I’LL SIMPLY SEARCH THE
was shuddering with terror as she listened to the
conversation. She thought for a moment, then she moved
toward the bakery entrance. She stepped out into the sunlit
day. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Marvin dart a
panic-stricken look her way.
The man said. “Come here to me.” Trembling, Emilia
approached the man. He was immensely tall and wore a
vibrant purple robe. He was thick-set, and his face wore an
expression of frank admiration. “How old are you, girl?” he
man’s eyes travelled from Emilia’s white face down to her
chest. Anger rose in her and she turned away from his
scrutiny. “Turn around!” he snarled, “and answer my
questions. Your Moon Phase?”
none of your—” she began.
lightning swiftness, the man slapped her across the face.
“You’ll speak civilly to me, Defiant One, or I’ll make your
life in the harem a living nightmare! I have the power to do
that, you know.”
Marvin cried in panic. He stepped forward to stand between
the man and Emilia.
all this?” a deep voice rang out.
filled Emilia’s heart. Morel! The confectioner hurried up
to the group, his hands covered in powdered sugar. “My lord
Hamish, what is happening?”
out of this, confectioner! This baker’s sister must come
with me, as must all girls in this province. King Cedric’s
face turned deathly pale. “May I ask why?”
the king orders it! Now move aside!”
you’re here,” Morel said quickly, “You might as well take
the pistachio tarts to the palace for the banquet. Marvin,
will you please take him to my shop to collect them? Queen
Valerie requested them especially.”
smirked. “Queen Valerie as you call her no longer has a say
in what occurs in Priam. She’s been banished.”
unfaithfulness. What else? Now, come, girl!”
slammed into Emilia’s stomach as Hamish grabbed her arm.
Morel bestowed a piercing look on his cousin before going to
Marvin’s side. Tenderly, he grasped the hand of the
Emilia was led away, boy and man began praying to their
Lord. “The prophicies say that a Deliverer will come.”
Morel said. “Please send the Deliverer soon, and please
protect my Emilia! Keep her safe!”
mumbled the same words. Then he watched as Morel ran toward
the confectionery, tears flowing from his eyes.
palace was abuzz with talk and laughter. In a large Hall,
crowds of people sat at gigantic tables that groaned under
the weight of many platters of food and goblets of wine. At
the head of the center table, a small man with bloodshot
eyes was downing a cup of wine. Beside him, Hamish sat
eating a large slice of venison. “Sire,” he said, “The
girls are in your royal harem. The contest will begin
yes, Hamish! I leave all the preparations to you!” King
Cedric’s voice was slurred and he spoke with impatience.
“Now, forget palace affairs! Drink! Enjoy yourself!”
Hamish smiled to himself. Slowly, he rose and slipped from
the banquet hall.
the rustling of a silk dress announced the arrival of the
person he was anticipating. “Well done, my loyal servant.”
The woman’s voice crooned. “Excellent job.”
only want to serve you, Great Queen Salak.” Hamish said.
“How else can I thank you for your promises? Already I am
second in command to King Cedric himself!”
Salak smiled and gently drew Lord Hamish to her. “You
deserve to be worshipped! Come, I leave to go back to Plenty
Palace tomorrow.” Hamish’s face fell, and she laughed
tenderly. “Don’t worry. I’ll still be with you, although
not physically for a short time. Let us make the most of
the physical time that is left to us.”
right, girls! Gather round me here.” Emilia, along with a
huge crowd, moved to the center of a vast chamber. The room
was brightly colored in shades of scarlet and pink.
Pictures of lush landscapes, jewel-encrusted tables and
chairs, and vases of flowers filled the place. The scent of
lavender made Emilia’s eyes water.
the beauty in the room, the girls were shaking. Their faces
bore looks of confusion, defiance, and fear.
look sharp!” The voice snapped. “Approach me, all of you!”
surveyed the speaker. He was a slight-built man whose
high-pitched voice left little doubt as to who he was: one
of King Cedric’s eunuchs. His face was covered with sweat,
and his eyes darted nervously around the mass of female
the girls huddled closer together. They did not move.
not going to hurt you.” The man’s voice held a note of
self-mockery. “I couldn’t if I wanted to. You’ll be here
from now on, so we might as well get acquainted.”
Emilia’s heart flooded with fear. What was going on?
herself, she slowly shuffled toward the man. A look of
relief passed over his face as she approached. “Well,
here’s a girl with some pluck!” He looked at her face. “And
quite lovely too, I might add.”
fidgeted nervously, but she was determined to stand her
ground. “Why are we here, sir? What’s your name.”
here because the king wishes it. My name’s Hagoyam. What’s
Why does the king want us?”
snorted. “Because he needs a new queen. Valerie has been
banished for, unfaithfulness.” The last word was said in a
contemptible tone. “You’ll all be presented to King Cedric
one at a time. The one who pleases him the most will become
him? Emilia wondered. What could that mean? She was afraid
you’ll each be given food to build your strength. Tonight
you’ll take lavender baths. Lessons in etiquette and
decorum will begin tomorrow morning. One of you will be
chosen to go to the king tomorrow night.”
by Emilia’s daring, questions began to erupt from all the
girls in a massive torrent. “What about our families?”
father’s sick! I must go home!”
will happen to us if we don’t please him?”
looked sickened by his task. “If you don’t please the king,
you’ll stay here in the harem until he summons you again.
Now, go into the adjoining room. Your food is waiting
girls, still clustered together in a group, began to file
from the room. Emilia started to join them, but Hagoyam
held up a hand. “You. Emilia, is it? Stay here a moment.”
shuddered, but she obeyed.
the last girl had gone, Hagoyam looked at her with
admiration. “You seem to be the only one here with
courage.” He said. “Who are your relations, Emilia?”
live with my cousin, Morel the confectioner.”
“Your parents are—”
both died when I was seven. The Senual Plague.” Emilia
shuddered at the memory: her mother’s delirious fevered
dreams, her father’s convulsions. She, too, had been
stricken with the disease but had survived.
parents died as well.” Hagoyam said simply. “Remove your
frowned. “Why must I? I see no reason—”
an answer, Hagoyam lifted strands of brown bangs away from
his forehead. “Look at me, young one.”
leant forward. On the eunuchs forehead, a picture of a
rectangular baker’s oven shone brightly. The Imperial
pure sweet relief, surged into Emilia’s soul. She whipped
off her head covering and pointed to her own forehead.
grinned at her. “I knew that someone with your
extraordinary courage must have a higher power abiding
within you. We, as all people in this land, are forced to
wear The Mark of Allegiance,” (Here he pointed to his left
arm), “but we Imperialites wait for a better day!”
the Baker will come with Freedom’s Bread.” Emilia finished
smiled. Then his face fell. “Something is going on in this
land. Queen Salak is up to something treacherous. I know
it! Queen Valerie unfaithful? The thought’s absurd!”
thought about the days she’d delivered confections to the
palace. She’d seen the queen often in the royal garden, and
even exchanged pleasantries with her. Valerie was always
kind and talked openly with all the tradespeople.
Emilia asked Hoygam: “What exactly happened?”
it was the fifth night of the banquet. Of course, the king
was drunk!” Hoyagam’s voice held a note of bitterness. “He
ordered that Valerie come and dance before his nobles in her
royal crown.” He paused significantly.
throat was suddenly dry. “You mean—”
nodded. “Of course, she refused. She’s a decent woman.
Somehow, King Cedric got the impression she no longer loved
him. I was in his chamber that night. He had unbelievable
nightmares.” Hagoyam shuddered. “The next morning, Cedric
ordered that Valerie be sent away.”
nodded with understanding.
looked at her piercingly. “I’m assigning the tower room to
you. You’ll be in there alone, but you’ll be with the other
girls during the day. I want you to eat the choicest
foods. And promise me you’ll not tell anyone about your
I don’t want to be queen! I’m engaged to—”
exactly what this kingdom needs! Poison is invading our
land. King Cedric refused to allow the Union Ceremony to
take place in his province. Do you think that was just his
thought for a moment. “I take it you mean Queen Valerie—”
of course. All the other lands enforce it. Salak has
gained such a hold over them they no longer think for
themselves. Cedric allowed the enforcement of the Mark of
Allegiance because he knew people could choose to turn from
its effect. However, the Union Ceremony robs children of
their innocence. He and Valerie could not condone it.
Don’t you see? There’s still hope for him if someone brave
and strong can stand against Salak and her servant, Lord
Emilia remembered the man
who had come to get her. She shivered. “I’m not brave.”
She said. “I want to go home.”
Hagoyam nodded. “You need
some food and some time to think. I’ll show you to your
room was at the top of a spiral staircase. It shone with
the same beauty as the lower chamber. On a table sat a
lavish meal: chicken in an apricot sauce, vegetables broiled
in white wine, bread and a dish of chocolate trifle. In
spite of herself, Emilia’s mouth watered.
left her, and she sat down before the feast. Suddenly, she
heard a pitiful chirping from a corner.
Emilia saw a gilded birdcage. Inside, a goldfinch sat on
his perch. He sang mournfully, filling the little room with
pure music of a piercing sadness.
rose and paced around the tower room. She approached the
cage. “I don’t know why I was brought here,” she said, “But
I can at least help you.”
she opened the cage door and held out her arm. The bird
chirped in surprise but would not come to her. “I know what
back to her tray, she broke her slice of bread into pieces
and took them to the cage. She allowed the bird to gently
peck the crumbs away with his beak.
bird flew from his perch and alighted on her arm.
over to the window, Emilia loosened the catch. Honey yellow
sunlight poured into the room. She gently set the goldfinch
on the sill.
a few seconds, the bird began to fan the air with his
wings. Then he took off into the brilliant light. I wish I
could do that, Emilia thought sadly.
she went back to the tray and began to eat.
the bedchamber of Queen Salak, an enraged lioness paced to
and fro. The queen’s face was red with anger. She stared
into a jeweled mirror that stood on a cherrywood frame: her
Mirror of Revealment. She had fashioned this tool herself.
It not only showed her instances throughout the land, it
also served as her communication instrument.
won’t allow it!” she whispered. “He’ll never come!”
queen looked at the young girl the mirror showed her. She
would make sure that the girl was destroyed. It would be
to combat my plan!” She shouted her defiant challenge into
thin air. “I’ll be ready.”
Five Days Later
the palace garden, Morel stood. His eyes were red, and his
face was ashen. In his hand, he carried a basket of
pistachio tarts, Emilia’s favorites. For five days he’d
tried in vain to find her. Salak and her entourage had
returned to Crimlia three days ago. That was some comfort,
but not much for lord Hamish was here. Morel was beginning
A young page boy rushed up to the confectioner. Morel
recognized him from previous delivery trips. “How may I
leant forward. “How will the Baker, when He comes, provide
Freedom’s bread?” he asked.
page boy nodded in understanding. “He’ll bake it in His
purifying oven.” He said. “How are you, Morel?”
frightened, Anthony. King Cedric must be enforcing the
Union Ceremony now. I prayed it would never come to this in
Priam. My Emilia’s in there!”
know. I’ve seen her. She’s all right.”
face lit up. “You’ve seen her? Where is she? Tell me
Hagoyam’s given her the North Tower Room. I’m assigned to
take meals to her everyday.”
Imperial Lord be praised!” Morel cried. “Please, take this
basket to her. I’ll meet you here everyday, and we’ll use
the same code as today. Understood?”
nodded and took the basket.
her tower room, Emilia knelt in prayer. Her cheeks were
flushed and her eyes swollen. “I’m trying, Lord, but I
don’t understand!” she cried desperately. “Why is this
though she’d been in the harem for just five days, the days
felt like an eternity. Everyday she endured lessons in the
proper way of walking, curtseying, eating, and speaking.
She endured the lavender baths and the meals.
work during the day was fine. Nighttime was when she was
miserable. During the past five nights, she’d endured
horrendous dreams. A honey sweet voice always whispered
terrifying words in her mind: “You poor girl! You do know
that Marvin will for get you. He’ll turn to another, and
you’ll be left alone. Your cousin is pining away. You will
never see him again.”
her dream, Emilia had cried out in fear and panic. “And the
other girls.” The voice crooned, “They’re jealous of you.
They seek to harm you.”
the voice was all she’d had to worry about, she’d have been
all right. However, last night’s dream had contained more
than a voice. She’d seen herself going in to be presented
to King Cedric. He’d lunged at her, his appetite stronger
than his sanity. “Imperial Lord, please protect me!” she’d
screamed, “Remove these poisonous dreams from my mind. Free
me from Salak’s influence.”
the dream had vanished, and Emilia awoke in a tangle of
sweat-soaked sheets, her heart racing.
she was praying in earnest that the agony of palace life
would soon be over.
knock at her door made her jump, and Emilia rose shakily.
“Who is it?”
Anthony, m’am. The one who brought your breakfast this
sighed. “Thank you, but I don’t want any—”
have a delivery for you, m’am.”
to the door, Emilia pushed it open. Anthony held out a
familiar-looking wicker basket! Her heart began to pound in
excitement. “Thank you.” She murmured.
at her bed, she peered feverishly inside her treasure. She
was searching for a note of some kind, but all she saw were
five pistachio tarts. She was disappointed, but at least
the gift showed that Morel was thinking about her.
selected a tart and prepared to bite into it. Suddenly, she
stopped and looked at it closely. On the flaky crust, words
had been written in a violet-colored frosting: RELY ON HIS
excitement, Emilia looked at the other tarts. Each one
contained a message: TELL NO ONE OF YOUR HERITAGE IF THEY DO
NOT WEAR HIS MARK. REMEMBER YOUR GIFT OF HONESTY. I LOVE
made Emilia feel giddy. She picked up the final tart. EAT
THE EVIDENCE! For the first time in five days, she laughed
more days had passed. Emilia turned from the table where
she was arranging flowers.
with me. It is time.”
rose in Emilia’s throat. She tried to swallow, but knew it
would be useless for her to talk. She simply nodded.
followed her guide down twisting corridors to a large
chamber. Hagoyam pulled her aside. “Be yourself.” He said
simply. “My prayers go with you.”
the gilded chamber door, he announced: “Sire, I present to
you the maiden Emilia.” Then he turned away. Emilia wanted
to beg him not to leave, but she knew the futility of that
request. “Lord, please help me.” She murmured.
she shuffled into the lavish chamber. At a table for two, a
slight man sat before a tray of food and drink. He raised
his head as she entered. “Come closer.” He ordered.
approached him and started to curtsy. King Cedric lifted
his hand in impatience. “I’ve endured twenty girls who
always do the same thing! Are none of you able to think for
sorry, Sire. They tell us to do this to show respect, but I
don’t like courtseying. I think its pretentious. I ask
your pardon for my hypocrisy.”
Cedric looked more closely at her. “You’re straightforward,
aren’t you? Do you mean no one should pay homage to their
sir. I mean no one should be forced to endure regulations
that hurt them. Those who pretend to honor you may harbor
feelings of resentment.”
Cedric frowned. “And you? What do you think of me, Emilia?”
he asked sharply.
swallowed nervously, but she met the king’s gaze. “I admire
you for refusing to enforce the Union Ceremony, but I think
you are sometimes easily tricked.”
Cedric threw back his head and laughed uproariously. “You
don’t care who you talk to, do you? I could easily have you
executed for speaking this way.”
know.” Emilia said simply. “But I also know about the
torment you’re facing.”
laughter vanished from him in an instant. “How can you
know?” he snapped. “Has anyone ever betrayed you?”
but I don’t think she betrayed you, sire.”
jumped. “Are you a magician?”
but I know someone told you that Queen Valerie was
unfaithful. It was a lie told in your dreams.”
can you know these things?” Cedric’s voice was hoarse.
had nightmares the first five days I was here.” Emilia
related the final dream to the king. She did not embellish
or sugarcoat the dream, she simply told the truth.
Cedric rose. “I am not a barbarian.” He said. “I will not
hurt you.” His voice was surprisingly tender. “Come with
hesitated. At last, she said: “I cannot, sire.”
I just said I would not harm you. I’m gentle, and you’ll be
quite safe with me.”
has nothing to do with it. I will not go to my wedding bed
king looked at her for a long moment. “You remind me of
Valerie, although you’re less civil than her. You’re
honest. I do not come across that trait often.” Sighing, he
plopped back into his chair.
he said impatiently. “What are you waiting for? Sit down
do you take me for? A brutish animal? I won’t send you back
to the harem without showing you some hospitality. Do you
but I don’t get to eat It often.”
dig in. Steak’s my favorite meat. You’ll need to remember
Of course, Emilia knew perfectly well why.
doesn’t become you. I can already tell when you are
acting. Don’t do that around me, do you hear?” His voice
had an edge to it now. “You’ve tried my patience more than
anyone I’ve ever met. Tell me why you need to remember what
meat I like.”
I’m to be the next queen.” Emilia whispered.
smiled at her. “Excellent, Emilia. Don’t worry. I really
do mean you well.”
In the throne room of
Plenty Palace in the land of Crimlia, Queen Salak peered
into her Mirror of Revealment. The lily-livered milksop,
she thought darkly. He’d let that sniveling, virginal
wretch beguile him! Curse the girl! She thought savagely.
rose in the queen’s throat as she thought about the girl.
Somehow, the pustule had managed to block the queen’s
entrance into her dreams! She’d have her revenge! Salak
grinned in anticipation. “How can you hope to win using
puny followers like that girl, my lord?” she mocked. “I’ll
bring such pain onto her and Morel that she’ll soon forget
knew that Cedric was not a good tool to use at the moment.
The gullible fool was already thinking about what the brat
had told him! However, all was not lost. The queen rotated
her mirror. “Show me Hamish.” She commanded.
mirror clouded, and a picture of a bedchamber in Imrel
Palace came into focus. Hamish lay sprawled under the
covers sound asleep. “Hamish?” Salak crooned. “I’m here.
I need you my loyal servant. Great worker who deserves all
months later, Queen Emilia sat in the royal palace garden.
People on their way to market stopped to chat with her.
Emilia loved talking to everyone in the kingdom, and she was
particularly proud everytime she met a fellow Imperialite.
as queen was mainly uneventful. She made sure to inspect
the harem everyday, and spoke with the royal cooks to ensure
the girls were well-fed. Contrary to Salak’s taunting in
her dream, the girls were not jealous of her. She
attributed this fact to the Imperial Lord’s grace, and to
her own kind treatment of them. In fact, some of the girls
who had never been summoned to King Cedric asked her frank
questions about her wedding night. She’d answered them all,
and regarded herself as the girls’ new mother.
wonderful thing about her new status was that she could go
out into the garden whenever she wanted. This meant that
she often saw Morel and they were able to talk for a while
when noone was around. Marvin also came occasionally
bringing loaves of bread.
picked an apple off the tree under which she was sitting.
As she was about to bite into it, she heard a rustling sound
at her feet.
she looked and saw a scarlet coiled shape. A snake! She
kept perfectly still, knowing that if she moved the snake
snake balanced on its large tail, its bulbous yellow eyes
scrutinizing Emilia’s face. As the snake studied her, it
was as if words of pure venom were eating into her soul:
“You fool! You think I’d allow the Imperial Lord to beat me
using someone as insignificant as you?” The serpent’s
scarlet tongue shot forward as the head lunged. Emilia felt
fangs pierce the flesh on her hand. She screamed, and
watched through blurred eyes as the serpent slithered into
the roots of the apple tree.
to stand, Emilia gasped as fiery pain shot up her arm. Her
head swam and nausea slammed into her stomach.
a blinding flash of white light engulfed her. Rustling
grass announced a strange presence.
felt something soft and wet touch her hand. Drowsily, she
managed to look.
Lamb, snow-white and shining with a blinding brilliance,
stood beside her prostrate form. Tenderly, the Lamb had
placed its front hoof on her wrist to hold the hand still.
With its tongue, the Lamb was licking the wound inflicted by
the serpent’s fangs.
felt strength surge through her body. The Lamb finished its
work and turned away.
Emilia cried desperately. She reached out a trembling hand
to touch the Lamb’s woolly back.
apple tree began to shake as the writhing serpent exploded
from underneath the roots. Emilia stood up to run, but
before she could move, she saw the Lamb turn to face the
Emilia cried in agony. She lunged forward to pick the Lamb
up, but he moved out of her reach. Scarlet serpent and
snow-white lamb were nearly touching now.
could only watch in wonder as the Lamb fixed a piercing gaze
on the snake. The snake seemed frozen in place, unable to
strike or move at all.
quickly as the confrontation began, it ended. The Lamb
walked away, and the serpent slithered back under the tree.
Emilia began to run toward the palace.
stood at the palace gate carrying a large basket of
confections to deliver. His spirits were lighter now that
he knew Emilia was safe.
raised his hand to open the gate.
do it tonight, Bendrix.” A raspy voice was speaking in
urgent, low tones. “You have the potion?” Morel looked and
saw two of the King’s guards standing close together. He
Terence. Course I do. He gave it to me yesterday. Do I
give it to him, or do you?”
idiot!” Terence hissed. “Not so loud. It goes in his
wine. We don’t take it to him. The wine steward does. If
we brought it, he’d get suspicious. Just give me the potion
and I’ll take care of it. It has to look like an accident,
shuddered. Were the two guards planning to…
Bread.” A voice called.
turned and saw Anthony waving at him. Quickly, he grabbed a
chocolate cream puff from the basket. “Anthony! Come here.”
by the urgency in his voice, the page approached Morel. The
older man was squeezing white frosting from a cloth bag to
write words on the cream puff. Anthony, who couldn’t read,
Take this to Queen Emilia. It’s urgent!”
is done, then?” In his private chamber, lord Hamish surveyed
Terence with a steely gaze. His face was flushed, and he
my liege. I poured the potion into his goblet myself!”
grinned. He handed Terence a leather pouch filled with
left the room, and Hamish sighed in contentment. Soon, his
power will be mine. He thought gleefully.
SEIZE THEM!” Outside Hamish’s chamber, scurrying footsteps
were heard. Cedric was ranting and raving.
his face into a concerned expression, the Prime Minister
bolted from his chamber. “Sire? What is it?” he called as
he raced down the crowded hallway.
the throne room, King Cedric was staring at Terence and
Bendrix. They were struggling in the grip of two burly
guards. “It was his idea!” Terence was squealing. He tried
to nod at Hamish, but King Cedric ignored him. “Place them
in the dungeon!” he thundered. “They’ll be hanged in the
the would-be assassins were led away, a guard looked at the
king. “It was fortunate Queen Emilia learned of this plot,
indeed, and she was brave to send the message through
Albert? What is it?”
Majesty said the discovery of the plot should be credited to
a man named Morel.”
Ah yes! The confectioner. Very well, make a note of it in
the records of my reign.”
Sire.” Albert withdrew.
coughed discreetly. Cedric turned around. “Hamish! I did
not see you. I’m quite shaken as you can see.”
course, sire.” Hamish said gently. “Can I assist in any
Conduct morning and afternoon rides around the palace.
Report any suspicious activity to me at once.”
course, my lord king. Should I—”
certainly!” Cedric said with some impatience. “Use the
royal carriage. You’ll do these patrols everyday.
smiled. Everything was working beautifully! By royal
command, anyone who saw the carriage was obliged to bow to
the occupant inside it! His heart hammering with excitement,
he left the throne room to make preparations for his morning
WAY! PAY HOMAGE TO LORD HAMISH, KING CEDRIC’S MOST FAVORED
PRINCE!” Two weeks had past since the revelation of the
assassination plot. A majestic black carriage with the
royal crest clattered into view on the street adjoining
on there way to sell their wares in the marketplace quickly
clatter of horses hooves drowned out any attempt at
surveyed the masses of commoners. He smiled with
satisfaction as they all lowered their heads in respect.
His ferret eyes gleamed with contentment.
he became aware of a murmuring hubbub of voices. He leant
forward in order to see better.
the fringe of the crowd, a dignified-looking man stood
holding a basket. The man looked directly into Hamish’s
eyes with defiance.
Hamish snapped at the servant beside him, “who is that man?”
surveyed the crowd. “That is the confectioner, Morel, my
does not bow. Why?”
is a rumor that he is an Imperialite. They’re a strange
sect in the province.”
I’ve heard. We’ll see about this.”
the horses neighed and were jerked to a stop. A shrill
scream of fright pierced the silent air.
looked out the carriage window. A young girl was cowering
just inches away from one of the horses hooves.
Girl! Stand up!” he bellowed.
Shaking, the girl staggered to her feet. “I-I
beg pardon, my lord.” She quavered, “Mother sent me to
don’t care! How dare you walk ahead of me! Pay a tribute to
your lord! Then you may pass.”
the girl started to bow.
left the throng of people and rushed to the carriage.
“Victoria? Are you all right?”
sir.” She stammered, “The horses were coming so fast I got
true follower of King Cedric would have payed more heed to
people in his province. Come with me. I’ll see that you
reach the market safely.” Bestowing a steely gaze on
Hamish’s purple face, he took Victoria by the hand and
Hamish looked after the departing pair. In his mind, the
honeyed voice spoke: “He insulted you. Will you let him get
away with it? The whole Imperialite nation mocks you. You
are second only to the king! Be a man and demand true
smiled at the praise. The voice of his true ruler was with
him all the time now. Yes, I am owed reverence, he thought.
He turned to his servant.
“Perkins? Organize a banquet tonight. It’s ben a while
since we had a festival.”
played and men feasted. The rich aromas of roasting meats
and rich wine filled the air.
the head table, Cedric and Hamish sat. Cedric was already
consuming his fourth cup of wine. His face was flushed.
Lord King, I must speak to you about an urgent problem.”
At a banquet? Relax, man! Try some of the pomegranate wine.
It’s superb!” Cedric’s voice was slurred.
have sampled it, Sire. It is indeed delicious. However,
this business cannot wait.”
very well. Get on with it.”
is a certain people who are inciting rebellion, Sire. The
yes. I see no evidence of rebellion within them. They do
good work, and they always show respect to me.”
you in person, my King.”
words hung like poison in the air.
lowered the cup of wine from his lips. “What are you saying
have heard them talk of a deliverer. They speak of freedom,
and they tell others of their hope of deliverance.”
speak of an uprising?” Cedric’s voice was sharp.
and it is not just me who has heard them.” Hamish’s eyes
roved around the banquet hall. “I’ve discovered two other
witnesses who’ve also heard these claims.” He lifted his
hand and two men detached themselves from a corner table.
They stumbled forward. “Arthur. Maurice. Two guards in
your service, great King. Tell him what you’ve heard.”
King, live forever—” Maurice began.
flattery! Get on with it!” Cedric snapped. “This is a
party, after all.”
course, Sire. On my patrols around Priam, I see groups from
this strange sect. Everytime they meet, they always speak
of freedom.” Maurice said.
Arthur cried. “And they speak of a time when all rulers
will be overthrown.”
was looking troubled. “You may have a point, Hamish. Are
you quite certain that you’ve heard correctly?”
am Sire. In fact, I am so certain of the danger they pose,
I make bold to request a tremendous favor.”
it please Your Greatness, issue a royal decree that this
dangerous sect be destroyed.”
Are you suggesting extermination?”
am. Is it not prudent to treat sores before they fester? I
will gladly put 20,000 sheckels of my own silver into the
royal treasury to cover the cost of ridding our nation of
if you’re that sure of the danger, keep your money. I will
grant my permission. Write the order whatever way you see
fit. Use my signet ring to seal the order so it can never
nodded graciously. “Thank you, Great King.”
everyone! Have some more wine!” Cedric called. He failed to
notice that Hamish had swept from the room closely followed
by the two guards.
the hallway, Hamish handed each guard a bulging sack of
coins. Then, his face crimson with triumph, he hurried to
his private chamber to put his plan into action.
work, my Lord.” In the throne room of Plenty Palace, Salak
stood before her mirror. The words of praise sickened her
as she said them, but she watched as they formed themselves
into crystalline shards of glass. The shards touched
Hamish’s image in the mirror. When the shards touched him,
they embedded themselves into his brain.
laughed to herself as she watched the pompous fool grow more
prideful every second. Everything was perfect! She’d foil
her enemy’s plan and have her revenge against that
putrifying girl at the same time. Salak still trembled when
she remembered the encounter in Imril’s garden, But now all
would work to her advantage.
Ohh! We are undone!”
the window of the royal chamber, Emilia listened to a
heartwrenching sob coming from outside. She drew in her
breath in surprise.
stood at the palace gate wearing a black robe of mourning.
He cried louder at every moment. What was going on?
young serving maid hurried from an adjoining room. “Do you
see that man outside?”
Your Majesty. I ‘ear he’s been cryin’ for hours.”
gather some suitable garments and send Anthony to him. He
can enter the palace if he puts them on. Tell Anthony to
instruct him to come to me.”
mum.” Felicity hurried away.
Lord? What has happened?” Emilia wondered aloud. She’d
grown accustomed to palace life, but she longed to see her
people frequently. Morel’s pain terrified her because he
rarely ever wept.
knock was heard at her chamber door. “It’s Anthony, m’am.”
Morel with you?” she called.
m’am. He refused to come in.” Emilia noticed the worried
tone in Anthony’s voice.
bewildered, she went into the hallway. “I’ll go to him,
then.” She hesitated when she saw Anthony’s face. He was
pale. “What is it?”
to let Morel tell you, Your Majesty.”
usual, the palace grounds and the streets beyond pulsated
with early morning activity. Emilia knew she couldn’t
reveal that she knew Morel. She rushed to the palace gate.
“You!” Emilia called, “Why do you cause such a disturbance?
Come with me at once!”
sobbing stopped, and Morel bowed his hed in submission. “I
apologize, My Queen.”
signaled with her hand, and the confectioner followed her.
a grove of apple trees, she stopped. “What is it?” she
did not speak. He handed her an official scroll. “This was
delivered to the confectionery yesterday. All Imperialite
people received them.”
was already reading what was written: “By order of Lord
Hamish, Prime Minister to our Great King Cedric, all
Imperialite people will be killed on the fifteenth day of
the second month in the year.”
rose in her throat. She sank to the ground. “Why?” she
don’t know. He’s gone mad. We need your help, Emilia.”
to King Cedric. Hamish cannot do anything without his
permission. Plead for us!”
felt drained of strength. “Go to him? I can’t just go to
him. It’s forbidden. I haven’t been summoned to him in two
weeks. If anyone goes to him unannounced, death is the
sentence. The only hope is if Cedric extends his golden
scepter. This act shows his approval of the person.”
he will receive you.”
“He extends the scepter so
rarely. Don’t you understand? I could die.”
“What can we do, then? Do
you think you will be spared because you live in the palace
now?” Morel’s voice was desperate. “Salak is behind this, I
can you say I don’t care?” Emilia’s voice shook with anger
and panic. “How can I fight her? She nearly killed me
before.” Briefly, she told Morel of her encounter with the
Serpent and the rescue by the Lamb.
enfolded Emilia in his arms. “You’re my daughter, Emilia.”
His voice choked. “I know you’re scared, but I know this
must be happening because of a bigger Plan. The Imperial
Lord is in control. Who knows. Maybe you were brought to
Imrel Palace to fulfill His Purpose.”
thought for a moment. Of course! It all made sense! The
forceful abduction of the girls into the harem. The
assassination plot. Salak had destroyed Queen Valerie’s
reputation in order to place a new queen on the throne: she
wanted someone weak whom she could control because queens
have a great influence on kings.
Salak hadn’t reckoned on
The Imperial Lord’s work. He’d provided Priam with another
queen to protect the land from tyranny.
Furious, Salak had then
tried to dethrone Cedric. When that had failed, she’d
turned her vengeance onto Emilia. Not just her, Emilia
realized. The whole Imperialite nation! Salak strove to
wipe them out and crush the Imperial Lord’s promise of a
Deliverer once and for all!
her shoulders, Emilia faced Morel. She was shaking, but her
voice was strong: “Please gather all the people together in
the confectionery. Fast and pray for three days. I and my
maids will do likewise. Then I will go to Cedric. If I
forfeit my life, so be it.”
cousins who were more than cousins clung together for a long
moment. Then Morel left to carry out Emilia’s orders.
palace was abuzz with talk and preparations. Affairs of
state were being discussed between the provinces of Crimlia,
Priam, and Sumril. This meant that Queen Salak was at the
left her bedchamber on the fourth day. She was weak from
hunger, but a light shone in her brown eyes.
Queen?” Anthony approached her. “Will you eat at last?” His
face was concerned, but he grasped her hand as if to
transmit a silent message. Emilia could tell that he’d
fasted as well.
Anthony. I’ll have some food. Then I’m going to Cedric.”
swallowed nervously. He leant closer to his queen. “The
Imperial Lord protect you.” He whispered.
hour later, Emilia slowly approached the gilded throne room
doors. Her heart was hammering. She raised her hand as she
burly guard turned around. His face registered
surprise. “My Queen? Can I help—”
going in to see the king.” She was surprised at the strength
in her voice.
don’t think, uh, you see. There’s a—”
open the door.”
has His Majesty summoned—”
as I say.” Emilia did not raise her voice, but the guard
recognized the authority within it. Slowly, he moved to
throne room doors opened soundlessly. Oh, merciful Lord,
help me! Emilia thought desperately. Then she stepped
across the threshold.
the room, a large crowd was talking heatedly. Cedric sat on
his throne. Beside him in the second seat of honor sat
saw Salak half-rise then sink back into the plush cushions
of her chair. Salak bestowed a cold-eyed stare of hatred
upon the girl, but Emilia now focused her full attention on
she approached his throne. The room was so still she could
hear her pounding heartbeat. “Great King Cedric? I come to
ask a favor.” Her voice echoed in the stillness.
must say, Cedric, it is highly irregular to have outsiders
barge into state proceedings uninvited.” Salak’s musical
voice filled the room. “Is your new bride ignorant? Does
she wish to die? I hear she was raised by a confectioner.
She’s a commoner, so perhaps she’s not aware of the law
words hit Emilia like physical slaps. She felt dirty and
defiled. The people in the room were murmuring and looking
at her with contempt. Salak turned a triumphant face upon
sound of movement from the king’s throne made Emilia turn to
her husband. Cedric’s hand was clutching his golden
scepter! Slowly, he held the scepter within Emilia’s reach.
feeling of relief was immense! Trembling, Emilia clasped the
tip of the scepter with her right hand. “Thank you, my
Lord.” She murmured.
aware she is a confectioner’s daughter.” Cedric addressed
Salak. “She is also my bride. I will not allow her to be
face glowed crimson, but she nodded.
“It is always a delight to
see you, Emilia. What did you need?”
it pleases you—”
of that! Just be honest as you always are with me.”
looked from Cedric’s kind face to Salak’s livid one. She
knew she couldn’t ask the favor now. Had her courage
failled? Perhaps, but she needed Hamish to be present when
she made her request.
ask that you come this afternoon to a banquet I will prepare
laughed. “A party, eh? Well, it will make a nice change
after this dreary state business.” Then he surveyed her
shrewdly. “I know that isn’t all you want.” He whispered.
but you’ll have to wait to find out.” She smiled
mischievously at him. “And I’d also like to request that
lord Hamish attend as well.”
Really?” Cedric looked slightly disappointed, but he
nodded. “He’ll be there.”
feast is superb, my Queen!” The informal celebration was
being held in a small room that overlooked the palace
garden. The windows were open to allow sunlight to enter.
Large platters of food and goblets of wine were passed
around by servants.
turned to Hamish. He was devouring a piece of chicken in
frenzied delight. His teeth tore at the bloody meat as if
he were a ravenous wolf. She shuddered. “I am glad the
food pleases you.” She murmured.
Emilia.” Cedric was eating a slice of steak. Surprisingly,
he’d not imbibed more than two goblets of wine. He was
still sober. “But you didn’t just invite me for a feast!”
He grinned. “Now, what’s your request? I’ll give you
anything you desire.”
nodded. “Since I’ve pleased you, I ask that you and lord
Hamish come to another banquet tomorrow that I will
frowned. “You’re trying my patience again. I don’t like
games as you know already.”
promise to reveal everything tomorrow.”
himself, Cedric smiled. “We’ll be here.”
the king and Hamish left the room, Emilia noticed that
Hamish looked immensely pleased with himself. Good! That
meant he didn’t suspect anything. “Thank you, Lord.” She
whispered. Maybe everything would work out.
a glorious day! Hamish was buoyant as he made his daily
patrol through Imrel’s grounds and the surrounding streets.
He surveyed the groups of bowing people. As always, he
spotted Morel arranging confections in his basket. The
fool! He thought darkly. His euphoria vanished, and he
glared at the insufferable troublemaker. Something must be
done, he fumed inwardly.
in his bedchamber, he paced furiously. A discreet knock
made his heart leap in anticipation.
the threshold, his mistress waited. She smiled at her tool,
letting her scarlet tongue pass over her crimson lips.
Queen!” Hamish cried in ecstasy. “You’ve come!”
you think I’d desert you?” Salak glided into the room. “You
are my most loyal servant, and I will always come to you.”
She reached out a hand and caressed Hamish’s brow. “You are
tense, great prince. Why is your brow sweat-soaked?”
queen’s bell-like tones acted as balm on Hamish’s wounded
pride. “I want that pompous confectioner to pay for his
defiance!” He burst out like a petulant child.
Salak propelled the man to the canopied bed in the center of
the chamber. “He will die soon enough. Remember your
proclamation. The date for slaughter is next week. Lie
down, now, and let me soothe you.”
wrenched himself from her grasp. “It’s not soon enough! He
must die now!”
grinned at him. “You’re more a man than I first believed.
Good. Tell me who you are.”
threw back his head. “I am second only to King Cedric
himself!” he bragged.
and you can ask anything of him. Simply go to him and ask
that Morel be hanged. Erect a gallows outside the palace
grounds so that he may be executed publicly as an example to
laughed. “Yes,” he whispered, “excellent. I will do as you
suggest.” He turned back to his queen with anticipation.
She did not disappoint him.
pathetic excuse for a king!” The words exploded in Cedric’s
mind. They pierced him like poison-dipped arrows. “Why do
you think your wife requested that Hamish attend the
banquet? She’s a harlot! You are ignorant and weak! Two
promiscuous wives! You cannot satisfy them. You weakling.”
LEAVE ME ALONE! LEAVE ME IN PEACE!”
Lord King! Sire! You must wake up!” Hagoyam’s distinct voice
shattered Cedric’s tormented dream. He bolted upright, his
heart galloping in his chest.
Sire. This elixir will soothe you.” Gently, the eunuch
placed a steaming cup containing a sweet liquid to the
king’s lips. “Can I get you anything else?”
drink restored Cedric’s calm, but he was afraid to close his
eyes again. “Yes, Hagoyam. Read me something. Anything.”
“Will the royal records—”
Yes! Just read. I need to hear something other than my own
thoughts right now.”
began reading from a thick book. Cedric let his mind
drift. He hadn’t had nightmares for weeks. What was wrong
now? Could it be true? Why did Emilia request that Hamish—
plot was revealed by Morel, the Confectioner. The
words interrupted his thoughts. “What was that?”
looked up. “The plot by the two—”
but the man who revealed it. What reward did I give him?”
hesitated. “Um, none, Sire.”
That’s preposterous! A man saves my life, and I do nothing?”
knocking outside the chamber was heard. “Find out who is
opened the door. “It’s Lord Hamish, Sire.”
Good. Admit him.”
Hamish entered wearing his usual ingratiating smile.
He bowed low. “My Lord King, I have a favor—”
a moment, Hamish. I must ask you something first. How
should I reward someone whom I want to honor more than
heart skipped a beat. Who else would he want to honor more
than me? He thought.
“Hamish? Are you listening to me? I asked you—”
Sire. I have an answer for you. Dress that person in a
royal robe you yourself have worn. Place him on your
favorite horse. Then have one of your highest officials
escort that person through the province shouting: This is
what is done for the man the king desires most to honor!”
grinned. “Fantastic! I knew I could count on you! Go and do
it at once for Morel!”
gulped. “M-Morel, Sire? Y-You mean the confec—”
that’s him. Go at once!”
face glowed crimson. As he slouched out of the room,
Hagoyam bestowed a look of triumph upon him. Cedric did not
is what is done for the man the king desires to honor most!”
Hamish had been shouting all day. Anger and bewilderment
made him nauseous. When would this agony be over?
long last, he reined in the chestnut-colored stallion at the
palace gate. Morel, who was still trying to comprehend what
was happening, was left to dismount by himself. Hamish had
rushed into the palace hallway.
the Prime Minister roared, “Come to my chamber at once!”
the servant arrived, Hamish grabbed him by the arm. Perkins
winced in pain. “The gallows!” Hamish hissed.
nearly completed, my Lord.”
isn’t it ready now? The builders were instructed to work
through the night!”
“Well, you see—”
mind! Just inform me the instant its completed.
get out of my sight! I must prepare for Queen Emilia’s
banquet.” In spite of the horrible day, Hamish smiled. All
was not lost.
lavish feast had ended. Now plates of frosted pastries were
making their rounds. Emilia watched Hamish savagely devour
a jam tart. “Lord, strengthen me.” She breathed.
turned to Cedric. He’d eaten moderately, and now he looked
at her with anticipation. “All right, Emilia. Enough
stalling. What is your request? I will give you anything.”
time had arrived. “Cedric, I ask that you spare my life and
the lives of my people!” Her voice was strong, but its
earnestness hit the king like a physical blow. His queen
was a woman, but she was also a child.
are you talking about?” he asked. “Your people? Spare your
removed her head covering. The Imperial Lord’s Mark shone
brightly. “I am an Imperialite, Cedric. My people have
been selected for slaughter in two days time. You must save
rose to his feet. His face was livid. “Who would dare
threaten you?” he thundered.
wine goblet fell and shattered on the chamber floor. Emilia
turned and stared directly at the Prime Minister’s white
face. “The would-be murderer is this vile Hamish!” she
turned to his most trusted adviser. The look on Hamish’s
face was confirmation of the truth. The king could think of
nothing to say. Without a word, he bolted through the
felt fear grip her heart, but she saw that Cedric was not
leaving the palace grounds, he was merely pacing in the
Movement alerted her. Hamish stood beside the
divan on which she was reclining. “Y-You’re an—”
“Yes. Why, Hamish? Why would you—”
beg you, Your Majesty! I didn’t know! Have mercy!”
same mercy you would have shown my people?”
“Please! I’ll do anything you ask. Banish me,
started to stand as Hamish’s frenzied pacing drew him closer
a lunge of panic, the Prime Minister grabbed her wrist and
forced her back onto the couch. “Please!” he bellowed.
“Hamish, let me—”
a hissing sound erupted, causing Emilia to stop speaking.
From underneath the couch, she saw the glint of scarlet skin
and fangs. Hamish was babbling incoherently.
managed to make herself heard over his pleas. “Hamish.
Move away from the couch quickly.” She ordered.
the Prime Minister was beyond reason. He continued to grasp
the queen’s arm. This action proved to be his undoing. The
serpent’s head thrust itself from beneath the couch. The
scarlet fangs bit again and again into Hamish’s ankle.
Emilia screamed. “Begone, Salak! You have no authority
here! Only the Imperial Lord does!”
lidless eyes bestowed one look of hatred and fear upon the
queen, then the serpent vanished.
footsteps announced Cedric’s entrance. “You would assault
the queen in my presence?” His voice was terrible.
realized that Hamish had fallen backward on the couch beside
her. His body convulsed with spasms of agony, but he still
clutched her hand.
King Cedric?” Perkins had entered discreetly. “Lord Hamish
instructed me to tell him when the gallows was completed.”
For what purpose?” Cedric snapped.
hang the confectioner, Sire.”
convenient.” Cedric whispered. “Hang him on it! Now!”
Cedric.” Emilia whispered, “He’s been through enough.”
do you mean?”
Emilia was bewildered. “Can’t you see? He’s been
are no bite marks on him, Emilia.” She looked. The Prime
Minister’s lower leg was free of marks, but he was still
writhing in pain. Was she the only one who saw this?
rushed into the room and forced Hamish to his feet. They
led him away.
the guards pushed him onto the scaffold that stood beneath
an immense gallows. Hamish’s leg throbbed, and he felt
“Hamish!” The familiar
voice filled him with hope. You did not forget me, he
thought with relief.
“Of course I didn’t. I
told you I would never leave you.” His queen’s voice was
smooth and caressing, but where was she?
“I am at the foot of the
scaffold. Lean forward, and I will take you to a place of
Excitement filling his
mind, Hamish bent down. He felt a strange sensation as if a
vital part of himself was slipping away.
“YOU FOOL!” Now the voice
no longer sounded human at all. “YOU FAILLED ME!” Like a
rag doll, Hamish flopped lifelessly to the ground.
In her serpent form, Salak
grinned gleefully. She watched as a peacock with brilliant
multi-colored tailfeathers arose from the ravaged body.
Languidly, the Serpent lunged and wrapped its loathsome body
around the bird. The peacock screeched in terror. “Your
mine forever!” Salak hissed. Slowly, the peacock became
totally enmeshed in the scarlet coils. The Serpent’s mouth
opened, and Hamish’s soul was sucked into a vast emptiness.
The Queen of Crimlia looked
at the sky. “You may have won this battle, My Lord.” She
hissed, “But the war is far from over.”
Then she vanished. On the
scaffold, the body of Hamish hung swaying in the wind.
After Hamish had gone, the
banquet hall was silent for a moment. “Emilia.” Cedric ran
to her. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
time was not right.” She said simply. Husband and wife
must tell me about this mysterious sect to which you
belong. Hamish said your people spoke of rebellion.”
We speak of a Deliverer who will bring freedom from Salak’s
tyranny of these lands. Don’t you see how she manipulates
you and all of us into evil? When the Deliverer comes, he
will destroy her. Until then, we must keep her influence
away from this province.”
thought about his poisonous dreams: his self-doubt and his
fear. “How can we ignore her? I must report the activities
of my province to her.”
soft bleating pierced the silence. Emilia looked around and
gasped in wonder. The snow-white lamb stood by the door of
the chamber. In His mouth, He carried a thorn from a
rosebush. His eyes scrutinized Emilia as if He wanted her
to approach him.
Trembling, she obeyed.
Lamb sank to the ground and placed His face into Emilia’s
hand. Understanding, she removed the thorn from His mouth.
The Lamb held his front hoof before Emilia’s eyes. “I
can’t.” she whispered.
voice like rushing water seemed to envelop her. “You are my
loyal servant. Do this for your protection.”
she drove the pointed rose thorn into His hoof. Blood
gushed forth like a fountain. The Lamb bleated in pain, but
His eyes drifted to a clean goblet on the banquet table.
Emilia took it in shaking hands. The drops of His blood
sorry.” She whispered.
the bleeding ceased, the Lamb surveyed Emilia with piercing
tenderness. Love soaked into her soul. “Sprinkle the blood
on the palace gates and on every house in Priam. Salak
cannot cross the borders the blood will create. Well done,
Emilia.” Then the Lamb left as quickly as He had come.
turned back to her bewildered-looking husband. “Now can you
write another proclamation reversing Hamish’s decree?”
a law has been sealed with my ring, it cannot be reversed.”
thought for a moment. “But there is no law that forbids
that the Imperialites defend themselves.”
smiled at her. “I think you’ve discovered a way.”
night, Emilia lay beside her sleeping husband. She smiled
as she surveyed the Imperial Lord’s Mark shining brilliantly
upon his forehead. The Mark of Allegiance on his left arm
was visible, but it had faded.
smiled as she thought about the journey with Cedric through
the province. Along with the deliverance of the news that
Imperialites could defend themselves against attackers,
they’d sprinkled the Lamb’s blood on every doorpost.
remembered stopping at Marvin’s bakeshop. He’d been
delighted to see her, and they’d clasped each other’s hands
as in olden days.
never forget you, Emilia.” Marvin had whispered. “I’ll
never marry because I’ve lost you.”
back tears, Emilia looked him in the eyes. “You will.” She
said simply, “And you’ll be happy as I am now. I’ll always
remember you, but you have to move on.”
grasped her hand tighter. “I know.” He’d whispered.
she closed her eyes and drifted into a deep sleep.
dream was mysterious and wonderful at once. A plain-looking
man stood over a steaming oven from which flames erupted.
The man was a baker. Emilia watched as he repeatedly
brought forth numerous golden loaves from the flaming oven.
His every movement was purposeful, and he worked
the familiar shape of The Serpent lunged from underneath the
oven. The head groped for purchase on the stone floor of
the bakeshop as the snake tried to bite the Baker’s heel.
His heel slammed downward, crushing the Serpent’s head with
a furious blow.
will come!” a majestic voice reverberated around her.
“Because of your bravery, He will come.”
her dream, Emilia smiled. All was well.
married two years after the events described here. His
descendants took up his trade and taught the Imperialite
ways to each generation. From his lineage, Jamal, son of
Marigold, would be born. His story is chronicled in “The
Battle for Crimlia.”
and Emilia ruled forty years. They were good rulers who
emphasized equality and love to all people in the kingdom.
repeatedly tried to enter Priam, but she could never cross
the border during Emilia and Cedric’s reign. Only those who
allowed her to enter their dreams or removed the Lamb’s
blood from their doorposts were subject to her influence.
was appointed Prime Minister in Hamish’s place, and the
harem girls were sent back to their families.
year on the fifteenth day of the second month, the very day
the mass slaughter was to take place, the Imperialites hold
a feast day to remember Emilia, a queen who trusted her Lord
and saved her people. The Imperial Lord be praised!