Monday the 27th
Lunar 4, Luka 16
Lumena Senate Hall
My feet ached the following morning when I headed off to the Senate, but the fire in me was lit anew.
The senate chambers on Lumeria were much more majestic than their counterpart on Helsingin, musty with the scent of old books, tapestries, and ancient driftwood preserved with layer upon layer of polish. It was a bit like the palace: nothing much to look at on the outside, though the interior passageways and conservatories were lavish, covered from wall to ceiling in magnificent art and paintings more fit for a museum than some law building only a hundred senators (or one rich family) got the privilege of enjoying.
This time I wouldn’t be subject to any physical exams, nor was there any mystery in what I was there for. I arrived not long before the proceedings were set to begin, Senators Marsh and Cheema already seated beside one another in their dual podiums on the floor, while the other ninety-eight senators from across our galaxy, including Mr. Fisk, filled the wings above. I tried to look for him while waving around politely, but he never caught my eye before the proceedings began.
Once Senator Marsh called the senate into order, there was a bit of pomp and circumstance we’d skipped last time. Everyone, myself included, stood and joined together in singing our national anthem–Gods Save the Queen–though the she-devil herself was nowhere to be found that day. When everyone was seated, Marsh turned to me and asked me the worst possible question in doing so: “Princess Lucasta, why do you feel you should be Queen of Lumeria and her territories?”
Well why the fuck not? That’s what I wanted to say, anyways.
“I know it’s my destiny, my birthright,” I said, with a straight enough face that even Jane would’ve been proud of. “It’s only the natural thing after what happened all those years ago.”
“You’ll find few you disagree on that count, young lady.” Marsh gave a nod. “But surely you must agree you have much to learn… and you’re still so young yourself. Just a few weeks ago when this matter was raised, you simply responded that you wanted to go home.”
“Right. Yes. I did. And I do love being home,” I paused, biting my lip. “Truthfully, Mister Senator, sir, I didn’t realize at the time that it had to be one or the other. My beliefs haven’t changed.”
Marsh nodded again, seeming to accept this explanation. He made a note to himself on his desk. “I’m sure you know by now that in all our history, no sovereign has ever ascended the throne before being of the age of twenty, not in thousands of years, Princess. Do you have any reason to suggest why this precedent should be broken?”
Welp, that was news to me. And no, I sure as shit didn’t have a good reason, not when he put it that way.
I chuckled awkwardly under my breath, away from the microphone. “I’m not saying I want it to happen tomorrow, sir. But I want to know it’s happening. I want to…give myself something to strive towards, so everything I’m learning goes to good use.”
This answer seemed to surprise Marsh. Frankly, it surprised me, too. Maybe I was getting okay at lying.
“Don’t you feel that what you’re learning has great application regardless?” Marsh asked. “Being educated in the ways of your country is not only important for a Queen, after all.”
“Yes. But I was a junior until a few weeks ago, Mister Senator… truth be told, I’m not the best student unless I know there’s a big test coming.”
Several laughs escaped the gallery. Even Marsh and Cheema both smiled, too.
“What say the Senate Minority on this matter?” Senator Marsh asked, before yielding to Cheema.
Cheema took her microphone. “A test is precisely what we had in mind, actually. Not one, but several.”
My face fell, hearing her. Fuck. Not what I was hoping for.
Cheema continued. “We of the territories are grateful for Princess Lucasta’s studies related to the history of Lumeria and the Royal Family. It is thousands of years of tradition, after all, and all of it precious… but, I wanted to ask, Princess, have you ever travelled through our galaxy?”
Uh, sure. On a pirate ship.
“No, not much,” I said, which was technically honest. “But I’d like to.”
“That’s what I expected to hear,” Cheema said, with a nod. “I am sure it’s news to no one in this room, or watching from home, that Her Majesty’s support wanes in some areas of the galaxy, particularly among those places where the history of the territorial relationship with Lumeria proper is the shortest. This lack of support in turn feeds into a certain lack of unity among our people, one that leads to difficult infighting that is good for no one.”
Marsh watched her closely, like she was crazy. A glance around the room proved he wasn’t the only one. It was weird to hear a sitting senator directly address that kind of thing on the podium, no doubt.
Cheema continued. “That is, until you were recovered, Princess. Suddenly, polls are showing increased interest and support in you from even the most remote pockets of our galaxy. Your story is a compelling one, you see, and while your birthright is certainly not up for debate, it is your story that excites the people of this galaxy. That is why we believe you have the power to unite us in ways we have not been in hundreds of thousands of years.”
I nodded along, trying to give the appearance that I was hanging on her every word. I was, but I also didn’t understand some of it.
“The Senate Minority would like to invite you to each planetary territory in the system, in the hopes that while you’re on each of our planets, you can demonstrate to each of our diverse Worlds the importance of the strength of our union. Each planet will design for you a challenge — some small, ceremonial ones, others more pressing — but each important nonetheless. We believe these challenges will not only help prepare you for your future role, but also, serve to unite us better as peoples of Lumeria and her territories.
“After each challenge, the representing senate members from each planet will then bring a vote either in support or non-support of your readiness to assume the throne. Once you’ve visited each planet, including Lumeria, and provided Her Majesty consents to abdicate and you have made ample progress in all areas of your studies, we will suggest that the full senate also unanimously recommend your ascension to the throne.”
That sounded good enough to me. There weren’t that many territories. Like, ten of them, maybe? How long could it take me to visit ten planets? Not four whole years.
“We now yield,” Cheema said, turning back to Marsh.
Marsh looked quite pleased and surprised himself. It was as if Cheema used his own strategies against him, crafting a path to get what she wanted, but using all of the things he claimed were important–like education and preparedness–to achieve her goals.
Marsh cleared his throat. “I imagine that the Majority Party will not argue with you too much on this one, Senator Cheema, especially given that as I understand it, Her Majesty herself not only suggested this, but also will be providing some input on Princess Lucasta’s challenges?”
Cheema nodded to him, but didn’t speak.
He continued. “Then I suppose, all that’s left is you, Princess Lucasta. What do you think of all of this?”
I probably should’ve thought this one out more: “Uhm… so I get to visit every planet in the galaxy? Sounds great to me. When do I leave?”
Laughs again escaped the gallery. Marsh yielded to Cheema.
“The precise dates are not yet determined, but we have proposed that your visits to the planets be conducted in the order of the length of the territorial relationship between Lumeria and the planets, beginning with Aryavarta and ending with Flanders. As for Aryavarta, we are prepared to host you as soon as next month, provided that timeline suits the Palace.”
“Works for me, Miss Senator,” I said.
Again a few laughs escaped the gallery. Maybe I shouldn’t have sounded so informal or excited about the whole thing, but can you blame me? I’d been trapped under Eddy’s thumb for so long that the idea of getting to explore another planet — let alone a whole bunch of them — sounded like a vacation.
Cheema yielded to Marsh one last time.
“Lumeria will participate too, of course,” he said. “Your final challenge will be when you return home once again. But, if that’s all sorted… are we prepared to bring this matter to a vote?”
Much like the first time I visited the senate, the vote was unanimous. My path forward was clear. Marsh concluded the hearing not long after. Eddy was there waiting for me, again with a bouquet of flowers, as if we didn’t have a solid fifty of them already hanging around from the party.
“We’ll have to work on your manners a bit more, I’m afraid,” she said. “But I presume that went to your liking?”
“Sure did,” I said, stretching my arms above my head — or trying to. Eddy elbowed me. “It’ll be nice to go travel a bit.”
“It certainly will be. I haven’t been to Aryavarta in ages,” Eddy said dreamily. “Hopefully we’ll go to the beach.”
Right. Of course. Of course Eddy would be coming, too. Hopefully she didn’t see my disappointment about it. “Do you think Portia and Duncan can come, too?” I asked. Eddy’s cheek twitched, and I knew it was bad news, but I figured a bit of politeness couldn’t hurt. “Please?”
“About the Fenns, yes…” Eddy trailed off. “The two of them are off to stay with their uncle Aberforth out in the country, by Leeds. He was a saint to take them in.”
I froze. “Oh. That’s… good. When do they–”
“They left this morning, I’m afraid.”
My heart skipped. “Without saying goodbye?”
Eddy reached out to cup my cheek. “You’ve been so busy, dear. They didn’t want to disturb you, and…”
“You knew?!” I blurted. “How long did you know?”
Ignoring my question, Eddy went on. “Louie, dear, come now. You know the stability will be good for them. They deserve to be with family, just like you do.”
I nodded, my voice long gone and my throat constricting in that way that meant if I tried to speak I’d just end up crying, so I kept quiet. Eddy brushed my cheek with her knuckles, a knowing look in her eye, even if she couldn’t have known all the ways in which my heart was breaking.
“I’m sorry, darling,” she whispered, genuinely. “I know that’s not what you wanted to hear. Come, now. Let’s get you home.”
“Can you–can you clear my schedule the rest of the day?” I asked, my voice breaking. “I could use some alone time.”
“For the most part, yes, but there’s one quick thing we’ve got to take care of first. The Queen would like a word.”