The story so far: Tollon and Inacha were supposed to escape, but Inacha was found with a sword in her hand, buried deep in the guts of the Prince of Tanifisay. Now read on . . .
How Inacha came to drive a sword through Prince Aynascotauretartovon’s body we may never know. According to the Mistress of the Robes, Inacha was drugged. When she recovered, she remembered nothing of what happened. But she’s woken up screaming twice since then.
Technically, we’re both under arrest. But at least we’re not in the prison. The Mistress found a pair of connected rooms for us. The only reminder of our status is the pair of armed guards outside the door. We’re well fed, and servants clean the place every day. But we have little idea of what’s going on elsewhere in the castle. Politics, I gather. Prince Aynascotauretartovon left no direct heir, so the Mistress is juggling various cousins, uncles, and at least one domineering great-aunt.
I’ve been preparing some spells to use if our situation becomes more perilous. Since we lack any friends or allies in the region, I figure I’ll have one shot at getting us away. I don’t want to waste it.
After five days, we are summoned to a private royal audience, still under guard. Sitting in the prince’s throne is a thin, middle-aged woman who looks as if she’d rather be wallowing in a pig sty than dealing with us. The herald calls her Princess Tomollischentlema. The Mistress is brought in after us and stands beside us. It does not look good that she’s shackled.
The princess has a harsh nasal voice. “We are displeased with the fate of our illustrious predecessor. For a prince to die at the hands of another is a crime that deserves summary justice. We have informed ourselves of the facts. So there will be no trial. No evidence is needed, no pleas will be entertained. I will pass judgment and it shall be executed forthwith.”
She stands up. The chamberlain hands her a ceremonial sword with jewel-encrusted pommel. She descends, walks over to Inacha, and points the sword at her throat. “You killed the prince. He was a stupid and cruel man, and deserved to die. That you were drugged when you did it means you can claim no reward.”
She walks over to the presumably ex-Mistress, and holds the sword to her throat. “You were in charge of the government, responsible for protecting the prince. You failed the realm by protecting him; you failed him by not protecting him. You deserve nothing.”
She lowers the sword and walks over to me. She doesn’t raise the sword to my throat. “You’re a bard. My cousin loathed your kind. I would reward you. But you are a conspirator with these other two. So this is your doom. All three of you are banished from Tanifisay. If you are within our realm after three days, you are outlawed and may be killed with impunity.” She reaches into a purse hanging by her side, and pulls out a small bag, which she holds out to me. “Take this, and sing more songs, bard.” I take it. It’s a bag of coins. I’m not so uncouth as to look into it then, but bow and say, “Thank you, Your Serenity.”
She barks out a laugh. “I am not serene, and neither is my realm.” She turns about, walks back to the throne, turns and faces us. “Judgment has been given. The prisoners are dismissed. The guards will accompany them until they have departed the realm.” She sits down.
We are returned to our rooms, the ex-Mistress with us. The guards thoughtfully remove her shackles before leaving us alone. I presume they’re still guarding the door. The former Mistress of the Robes looks around, takes a seat, and invites us to do the same. “I think that went off quite well. Tomi can be imperious when she pleases.”
Inacha catches on immediately. “That was planned, then.”
“Entirely,” is the response. “It makes life easier for her, and you’re free to go hunt this Chypa the Stranger you mentioned. Why are you looking for her anyhow?”
My turn. “We think the magician Lady Vorana has taken control of the Auspulian government and possibly done in her former husband, the Court Magician Sarton. I was Sarton’s apprentice. Chypa was another of Sarton’s wives, and also a magician. I’m told there’s little love lost between the ex-wives. So I’m trying to recruit her to go back to Auspulia and deal with Vorana.”
“I hope you’re a better magician than bard, sirrah,” the ex-Mistress says. “I’m Chypa.”
END PART SEVEN