Blooding a Queen, Making a Monarch

  • Story by Leo Capella for the Sandra and Woo and Gaia Artwork Contest 2016

It was midnight in Greendew as a man with silver hair emerged through a portal. Waiting on the other side was a woman with friendly yet sharp brown eyes. The man gave a nod.

I haven’t been here for a long time. It’s good to get some fresh air even if I’m in for a rough debate.

“Salacea, it’s good to see you”

The woman was equally happy to see him.

“Likewise, Gradus. Ready for our meeting?”

After all it’s nice to see a “dead” man walking around at least once in a while

As founding members of The Shadowdancers, Gradus or one of the other Founders had occasional meetings with the two leaders of the resistance to discuss how the Shadowdancers were progressing in Aracona. Normally the meetings were a routine, sometimes even a jovial, affair with Salacea or her husband Milos. However tonight Gradus was troubled by something. And as the meeting progressed it was obvious to Salacea.

“What’s wrong Gradus?”

Gradus started to pace.

“Jael has asked me to teach her how to use a certain rainbow knife.”

Salacea cocked her head but supressed the urge to roll her eyes. If Gradus is talking about a certain rainbow knife it can only be…

“The rainbow knife of Asram?”

Gradus nodded

“The very one and I have to wonder are any of us ready to wield it – let alone her? We don’t know much about it at all. However, according to the pieces of Mithran history that we’ve found, after using it in the aftermath of one major battle during The Darkness, Asram was supposed to have shed ten thousand tears at the destruction that he caused.”

Salacea looked out towards the window giving a small shrug of her shoulders, preparing to counter Gradus.

“Then it’s probably the best weapon for her to have. A weapon befitting a future queen”
Gradus wasn’t so sure

“If she becomes queen. Independence isn’t as sealed up as Bhaal yet.”

Salacea swept her hand down in a firm motion.

Now that I won’t let stand, whether in the short or long term…

“When she becomes Queen Gradus Adamus, not if. Ileasaar will face a lot of challenges when it becomes independent, Both Cania and Midgar will be looking for weaknesses in our government as we set out to restore Ileasaar to prosperity.  After all the celebrations, the days ahead will be difficult, potentially dangerous for our country. Who knows, we could run the risk of our country splitting into East and West in a decade if we get things wrong. Gaia doesn’t guarantee everything. ”

Gradus sighed

“I know that. I was in the Kings Guard during the final years before the occupation began remember? Far too many berks in high places there. To the point that at times it was a case of The Council of Dragons being led by toddlers. And out of all of us that have been part of the resistance Jael is the best one to reign given all that she’s done for the cause. That, as you’re aware is why I stepped aside as leader of the Shadowdancers when Jael reached the age that she is now and had proved herself worthy of being a leader.

But what happens when it’s time for her to share the reins of power with the General Assembly or a new council after negotiations? The Ileasaarian people have had enough of trading one powerful monarch for another whether it’s a Canian one or ours. And they won’t want one that thinks she’s invincible. ”

Salacea parried the point easily

“Which is why Jael has to be one to wield such immense power. She has to experience its immense consequences if it’s not used properly.”

Gradus was still not convinced.

“But what if she does something that will undermine people’s confidence in her through her a misplaced swipe with that knife? We simply don’t know how powerful it is. Which was why all of the weapons in our armoury none of us ever wielded it until Jael decided to. If she makes a mistake using it then the people could ended up hating the person who liberated them.”

Salacea nodded, positioning herself, letting the old soldier make his conclusion. And then she began.

You’ve made some good points my comrade in arms but now it’s time to set you right. And I think Jael’s probably made an attempt at doing just that.

“I see your concern and that you care for her as well as our country”.

Gradus nodded.

“However I think you’re confusing that happens in a time of peace with what happens in a time of war – which is rather unusual for you.”

Salacea continued sweeping through as Gradus reeled from the accusation.

“Let me put something to you. In an ideal world we would have sent Jael to the Academy in Cania for her to study and train effectively”.

Gradus nodded remembering the first discussions that he and the founding members had on establishing The Shadowdancers, including Jaels future.

“However we don’t live in an ideal world and from everything that I’ve heard Jael has been doing well learning “on the job” through the missions that she’s undertaken for the Shadowdancers. She’s also used powerful weapons such as crossbows and inflicted her fair share of wounds too. So why pull something back from her now on the grounds that she has suddenly become incapable of using a powerful weapon? Would we pull back her leadership too, something which you gave to her because you believed in her?”

Gradus shook his head, no chance of that happening. But Salacea wasn’t done yet

“What’s more we don’t need a leader who believes they are infallible. We’ll leave such arrogance to the Midgardans, who are currently recovering from the consequences of having far too many messianic leaders. As I’ve said many times before we need someone who can appreciate their own limitations while leading with their own strengths. So maybe a good way for Jael to learn her own limitations is to make a major mistake in battle, albeit one that hopefully won’t be too costly in Gaia’s great plan.”

A realisation dawned on Gradus, a bitter one.

“To blood her, you mean?”

Salacea nodded

“Yes as you and the other founding members of the Shadow Dancers have done by keeping her on the front line in Aracona and sometimes outside.”

Gradus closed his eyes. I have, I guess… And she’s had a few scrapes on missions but nothing that she hasn’t survived and learned from, so far. That’s why she got her new name Viviana because of her vivaciousness that keeps on coming through, even in the face of tragedies that should have crushed her.

Salacea thrust the final point home with the force of a fencer driving for a match winning point.

“As for the rainbow knife of Asram, it is what both Milo and I thought it is. A known unknown in that we know something about it but not everything. And the only way we’ll find out more about that weapon is by using it in battle which means sooner or later someone will have to learn the consequences of using the knife. Would you rather that someone is a clueless cutter who gets themselves in a silly situation in their first skirmish and undermines the whole guild?”

Gradus sighed and shook his head.

I’m not going to win here. Salacea Torval knows what she sees in Jael Bara, always has and always will. Things are all going to Salaceas great plan for independence, which hasn’t been wrong so far.

And for all the reasons given she’s painfully right on this occasion.

 Time to concede.    

“Fine, Jael keeps the knife with all of our approval and we’ll speak no more about this. And to be fair she has been an indomitable, ingenious and inspiring leader over the months that she’s been in command of The Shadowdancers. We couldn’t asked for a better princess.”

Salacea was gracious as ever, yet from the way she rose Gradus knew that it was she had the grace of a person who’d won a major debate, one that she was hardly ever going to lose.

“Thank you for taking the time to discuss this, Gradus. You’ve been a great servant of our country and I know that Jael counts on your counsel a lot.”

Gradus grinned

“She may begin to count on someone younger than me now. Which is definitely a good thing as far as I’m concerned. Some of us aren’t getting any younger.”

And I like the fellow anyway… but that is another matter.

Salacea laughed

“Speak for yourself!  Milo and I have still got a few adventures left in us and a lot of learning to do too. Good luck Gradus. For Prince Geraldo.”

With the meeting over Gradus returned the salute and strode outside back to the portal. But before entering its blue event horizon, he took a last look towards the house.

Jael has grown so much from the reporter’s daughter that she was into the leader of the thieves’ guild that she is now. And her parents would be so proud of her for doing so. Yet given the tears that Asram shed after unleashing the blades power it’s all too clear that she’s going to have to shed more tears on her path towards the throne…

He let his shoulders drop.

Still, you can’t just learn through making a success of everything, even though the consequences of the painful lessons that Jael still has to learn will slice at her heart itself.