(This story is dedicated to Weiila, and I'm quite certain that the rest of you will see definite resemblances between her and the title character of this piece…)
My throne is very comfortable.
When you spend a large part of your day sitting in a chair, you want it to be as comfy as possible. Unfortunately, Monarchs are supposed to be more concerned with ostentatious displays of power and wealth than with comfort. Big thrones, with big armrests and high backs, towering high above their retainers!
Fortunately, I don't care for such things.
My butt was snuggled up to a soft velvet cushion- in fact, every part of me touching the chair was nestled in soft padding. The throne, the work of one of the best furniture makers in Portoa. He'd gone out of his way to give me the finest chair he could make. I can't help but smile when I sit in it.
I smiled now, beaming down at my Economics Advisor. He blushed and squirmed, the way men always do when I smile at them. This despite his being old enough to- presumably- know better. He squirmed in his seat- a chair across from mine. The same height as mine.
Why should I bother putting on airs? I'd just look ridiculous.
“The berry harvests are in, Your Majesty,” he said, trying into focus on the subject at hand. “Less than half of last years crop, I'm afraid.”
I shrugged. “So I'll have less jelly on my toast. Why should this matter be of such importance?”
“Some of the berry growers feel you might do more to protect their livelihood, my Queen.”
I blinked. “And just how am I supposed to do that? I'm a ruler, not a deity…”
“They felt, perhaps you could support the industry through the public fund… pay them a stipend during the lean years to compensate for their shortfalls…”
“But what am I supposed to do when they have a bumper crop? Pay them to make up for reduced prices at the market? Pay some NOT to pick berries?” I shook my head, and reached out, touching his cheek in a tender caress. He immediately gasped, frozen into immobility. My eyes locked gazes with his.
“I appreciate their problems, dear. But in order to give them public funds, I'd have to take it from someone else. I can't bring myself to spread misery like that. You understand that, don't you?”
He nodded enthusiastically, his eyes never leaving mine. Oh, he understood perfectly.
“I'll tell you what. Do we have any surpluses, this year?”
“Well… there's that latest gift from Draygonia…” he mused.
I dropped my hand from his cheek to clap them in delight. “Perfect! What's in it?”
“Candies, nuts, pastries...” he shrugged. “And the flowers, of course.”
“Wonderful!” I beamed happily. “Divide up the foodstuffs and send them to the berry growers as a gift, along with my apologies.” I winked. “Cut the stems off the flowers and drop them into the primary aqueduct. They'll look pretty going down the streams, and they'll make the air smell nice, too.”
“Of course, Your Majesty,” he grinned, rising from his seat and bowing simultaneously. I dismissed him with a wave, and he scurried off.
There's no real secret to getting people to do what I want them to. They do it because they love me…
And they love me… because… I… love… them!
A dear man, my Economics Advisor. Even if he did have some odd notions about what a government can do for an economy that wouldn't have the same effect as letting loose a mutant in a glassblower's shop. But that was okay, so long as I could keep him in check. He just wanted to help other people. Good intentions, bad ideas… I hummed an old ditty to myself, as I tapped the beat on my padded armrest. The road to hell is paved with good intentions…
Tornel? I perked up. He never calls me telepathically unless it's business…
Which is why I always tease him unmercifully, when I have the chance.
I then added… Have you switched sides?
I could feel his befuddlement. …What?
You never call me…I gave it an artful little whine of under appreciation. You'd rather hang out with the boys.
Yes, well… Tornel tried to figure out my line of attack. I've been busy teaching, until just now…
So you're not with Stom?
Oh! Then you HAVE switched sides! And you've called to tell me you love me and want to marry me!
I could practically feel the heat rising from his face. No! Of course not!
What? You don't love me?
What? No- of course I love you, but…I just…
I let him stew a moment longer. Then I let him sense my amusement. He groaned and sent, Enough with the teasing, Asina. Can't you be serious just once, when I call you?
Maybe if you'd call more often, I wouldn't feel the need to do it EVERY time…
Yes, well… you make me uncomfortable.
I paused. Oh? I didn't mean to offend you, Tornel…
No, it's not that… it's just that a part of me wonders what it'd be like…
But you love only Stom…
Exactly! Not to mention that I don't know if I even COULD be… attracted… to a woman…
Well, you know I'm attached, love, but I could send a nice Portoan girl your way if you wanted to experiment…
Um.. NO! No, thanks… I want to get back to Stom, not dally with a girl who doesn't even know which end of a sword to hold…
I respect that. I sent him a pulse of affection, and felt him blush, So what ARE you doing?
Solo training on Mt. Sabre.
Why couldn't you train with Stom?
He'd just hold me back. This, I must do alone. Besides, he has his own training to attend to- and my hanging around would just retard his own growth.
I shook my head. You warriors… you and your constant self-denials. I wonder if the Swordsman will be so dull…
Speaking of which… I perked up at his words. He's just left Mt. Sabre. He'll be in Portoa shortly.
He's here? I felt myself blushing. Dammit, get a hold of yourself- you're one of the four Wise Men!
I hand him off to you, Asina. Tornel sounded so smug. I trust you can handle him?
Was there ever a man who wouldn't do as I bade him? Tornel chuckled wryly, as he broke contact.
Oh, goodness! I've got to prepare for his arrival!
I leapt to my feet, and gestured to a guard. “Have my maidservant prepare my finest raiments, and adornments to match. I have a guest arriving soon, and I must make my best impression.” He nodded, and fairly ran off to obey. I watched his firm little posterior before it disappeared through a door, then waved to another servant. “Prepare the throne room for a private meeting. One guest. Arrange things for an informal atmosphere.”
Soon enough, I was prepared. My best dress, black silk, cut to show off my altered form to perfection. Minimal jewelry. My favorite perfume. The name on the bottle read Springtime Sweetness, but Kensu had his own name for it- Justified Rape. I couldn't help but giggle at the memory…
My first impression of the Swordsman was of filth. Someone forgot to clean him off before presenting him. Dust and dirt from the trail covered him, and blood speckled his garb. I mentally removed the grime, and looked beneath.
I restrained a wince. So much sadness, in that face! Such pain…
I kept the sympathy from showing, instead crafting a smile for him. One of my best, a smile designed to put him at ease. “Are you the legendary man who climbed through Sabre? Tornel and Zebu have told me about you.”
He looked at me cautiously, nodding slowly. “Legendary?” he suddenly blurted out.
I giggled. "You've fought Draygonia's warriors and bested them. You beat that nasty Kelbesque, one of their so called "Finest Four." You saved the people of Leaf. And that was just your latest exploit." I waved him towards a chair, refusing to dwell on what his filthy posterior would do to the fabric. "may we talk a while?" He nodded, slowly, and sat down with weariness evident in his every motion. "Tell me about your adventure with the dwarves. How ever did you get them to start dealing with humans again?" He swallowed, and began to speak.
Such an amazing tale. He'd dealt with them as people, not as mutants. Something not often seen, these days. I listened to his story, as my eyes took him in, like a long drink of water. Such weariness- he had traveled a long, rough road. His pain- he was hurting. But why?
“Tell me about your quest through the mountain,” I requested, when he'd finished. “Everyone knows about you, after THAT heroic feat.”
He flinched. “I… don't consider myself a hero, for that one.”
I blinked. “Why not?”
He looked down at his boots, then swallowed heavily. “I killed a lot of people on that mountain.”
I paused. Why would that matter to the Swordsman? “But… it was necessary to save the villagers.”
“But I enjoyed it.” Such terrible pain in that admission. Such guilt. “Heroes don't enjoy killing.” As I watched, he seemed to shrink, shriveling up in the chair, as he curled up around himself.
“Gebrel.” I gave him another smile, one of reassurance. I reached out and took one of his soiled hands in both of mine. “Those were evil men. They did many evil things. There's nothing wrong with taking pleasure in punishing evil. Look at me, Gebrel." His eyes drifted towards mine. As I knew they would. "Have you ever killed an innocent person?"
“…no.” He barely breathed the word.
"Have you ever wanted to kill someone just for the pleasure?"
“No.” As I stared into his depths, he began to uncoil. I could feel his spirit unclenching, even as his body relaxed.
"It wasn't the killing you enjoyed, Gebrel."
His eyes began to shimmer with tears. “Then what did I enjoy?”
I searched for the right words. This was the critical moment. "Tornel would understand it better. I don't know enough about it to explain. But Gebrel, you aren't a monster. Monsters wouldn't grieve for their victims. Monsters wouldn't want to punish evil. Only heroes do that."
I squeezed his hand. And a pulse of my self crept into him. It surged along his arm, met the pain in his chest, and enveloped it. A feeling of love, as infectious as any virus…
“How have you done this?” he wondered, as he gazed up at me, kneeling before me in adoration. “How did you make me fall in love with you?”
I smiled, and reached for the back of his head. “I am loved because I love.” The plainest truth. I worked my spell by infusing him with my own feelings of love. I pulled his head down to my lap, and stroked his hair. "My powers are that of Love, of Water. I encompass all. I am the stuff of life, the refreshment for those who need. I give to all, and receive all in turn." Again, the simplest truth.
He took in a deep breath… and began to cry. I held him there, letting him soil my dress with dirt and tears. I held the dear man, my own eyes bright with tears of my own. This poor hero. This ill used champion…
When his tears had finally dried, I released him. He gazed up into my eyes, like a lovesick puppy. "Give me a quest. Let me do something for you, my Queen. The Sword of Wind and the Sword of Fire will fill my hand at your urging. Let me be your champion."
I've heard it a thousand times before, in a thousand different forms. They always mean the same thing. I love you.
I love you too, Gebrel.
"For now, just rest in my city. If you can help my people, do so. And Gebrel..." I impulsively tousled that mop of pink hair of his. "Come see me again. I enjoy hearing your stories."
"Wild horses couldn't keep me away."
Much later, I contacted Kensu. Darling…
I received an immediate feeling of… irritation. That's Kensu- the only man who doesn't automatically fall into my lap on command.
I've met with the Swordsman, my love.
Oh? Is he what I expected?
I smiled. Actually, I sensed an actual mind within him. He has quite the philosophical bent- not at all the brawny oaf you pictured. He's already beginning to question his path, to buck the harness, as it were.
That's what we have you for, Asina, Kensu snorted. It's your job to keep him in line.
I know. I gave him a pulse of my feelings in this regard, to highlight my next comment. I can't help but feel he deserves better, though.
Nympho sentimentalist. He tempered the slur with a pulse of affection, however.
Would you have me any other way?
I suppose not. Kensu gave me another warm pulse. So where is the little butcher now?
I wouldn't know. He left my palace several hours ago.
Then what are you doing? You're supposed to be keeping an eye on him!
I wanted to take a bath, first. I sent him an image. I felt so dirty… so I decided to soak in a tub of hot, soapy water… you know the tub I'm talking about…
He most certainly did. Flirtatious strumpet… followed by some particularly choice epithets.
Does that mean you'll be joining me? I feel soooo lonely without someone to scrub my back…
I could feel his indecision. Then he hardened. He might sense my presence. We can't take that chance. I'll have to take a rain check, Beautiful.
I pouted, and sent him an image of myself pouting, making it as adorable as possible.
Sorry… He broke contact.
I swear! Kensu is the only man alive that could make ME chase HIM!
I wonder if he does that on purpose? His method of seduction…
I dismissed the thought and lay back in the tub, reaching for a goblet of chilled wine. Maybe I'll ask him about it, later.
For now, I've got a champion to manage.
And a kingdom to run.
People to love…