Wednesday the 1st
Lunar 4, Luka 16
Bayside Senate Building
The guards shuffled Kipley and Quail out the door without another word, taking with them the one familiar thing I had to hold onto. Those same four guards that guided and flanked me all morning were back in the same breath, steering me in the other direction, away from Quail, Kipley, and the excitement brewing in the once solemn Senate Hall we’d come from, where everything had…changed.
My entourage led me back to that same room where I’d met Senator Marsh before, the one with the glass doors. It was quiet there, soundproofed. Shouts and cries from both inside the Senate Hall and outside the building dissipated as we walked, until all I could hear was our footsteps and the clang of the tridents, including the one in my hand. Two of them held the doors open for me, while the other two followed me inside. The Queen was already waiting, perched where Senator Marsh had been before.
“Leave us,” she said, to the guards. They hesitated a moment, perhaps themselves given different instructions, but didn’t make her repeat herself before making themselves scarce.
Speechless, I stood there and waited. There she was, in all her glory: the Queen of the galaxy.
So close now that I could reach out and touch her if I had a real death wish, I could see things I’d never appreciated before, great ones, but horrible things, too. All the television and postcards I’d seen of her my whole life couldn’t compare. The Queen was a petite woman of middle age, average height and build, though her crown made her appear much taller with it’s vertical rise. It was made from the skull of a Lumerian person, bone intertwined with metals, gems and intricate beading. What had appeared before to be a little brown half overcoat she wore over her blood orange skirt suit was up close, clearly, a pelt: one of freckled, tawny skin, from a reigndeer maybe, or perhaps even a Lumerian person’s.
When the guards were gone, The Queen rose to her feet and, after smoothing her skirt over her knees just so, and in the exact polite way, she began to walk a slow, peculiar circle around me, her piercing gaze just as evident from behind as when she looked me head on.
“You are a clever choice for a forgery,” she said, resting back in her seat. “The resemblance is striking, so many bits and pieces from all over the family tree…”
I opened my mouth as if to speak–not that I knew what to say–but she went on, leaving me there looking like the dumbstruck absolute fool I was.
“I presume this is Eliseo’s doing?” she asked. “Hm. He’s outdone himself, this time.”
“I… I don’t know who that is,” I managed. “I really–”
The Queen’s face softened. “He didn’t tell you? Oh, you poor monster. What is it he’s calling himself these days, hm? Legato, was it? Legato deLuca?”
My face gave away that I knew the name, but I was ready to talk at the indication that he may have hid what she said. Still tongue-tied, it took me some stuttering to ask: “So who is he really?”
“Just my dear cousin,” The Queen said, eyes still fixed on mine. “His former Majesty, the Crown Prince, Eliseo of Lumeria… the one who, had he not murdered you sixteen years ago, would be King today.”
“No. No way,” I said, the word escaping me before I even realized it. “Y-you’re… you have to be…”
“Lying?” The Queen laughed. “I’m afraid I may be the only one who hasn’t deceived you, dear girl. Eliseo’s crimes are common knowledge, and the evidence written in his flesh. Didn’t you wonder how he got those scars–that eye?”
Was that what I felt in his head? The… the blood I felt on my own hands?
“He murdered his own mother with his bare hands, then each of his siblings…even the baby…and set their summer home ablaze to hide the evidence. Open any history book if you don’t believe me,” The Queen said, enunciating each word with a perfect crispness. “I pity you, to be straightforward. So naive. I can’t imagine what he must have offered you to string you along like this — all to clear his name.”
“W-what?” I managed, my hands clasped over my mouth.
“To clear his name,” The Queen repeated. “If Lucasta were alive, it stands to reason that there might be doubt as to his involvement in the other killings… but, she isn’t, and he is, in fact, guilty.”
“S-so what happens to me?” I asked, darkly.
“You will bear the brunt of his insolence, I’m afraid,” Queen Luka said, looking almost guilty about what she said. “I did manage to take care of the DNA test, and the palm swap, and everything else. You are officially — and permanently — Princess Lucasta. Welcome to the family.”
My eyes narrowed. “What?”
“It serves me well to have you fulfil this role,” The Queen said. “Until now, there have been whispers–wonderings–people in the galaxy questioning my legitimacy, wondering what would have happened or how the Worlds might be different if only Lucien hadn’t gone mad, or Eliseo weren’t deranged, or if Lianna or Eugenie or Lucasta or any of my wretched uncle’s daughters had survived… and here you are, now, alive and well, and able to prove all on your own that you’re unfit to rule anything, even yourself.”
I didn’t breathe. I didn’t even think.
“The Senate will never allow you to be anything more than a precious, little princess. I need not even involve myself. You will ruin yourself of your own accord, and take everyone around you, every last insolent rebel in the galaxy, down with you, of this I am certain, Miss Petra Fenn.”
My eyes shot wide, hearing my name — my family’s name. She knew. She knew everything. And that meant…
“Oh, don’t look so shocked,” she said, with a cruel laugh once again. “You didn’t think I’d find out who you really are? About your infractions? Your family?”
A gasp escaped me. “Oh Gods,” I managed. “No. Please…”
“Your parents are being arrested for the kidnapping of Princess Lucasta as we speak, and charged as co conspirators. They’ll be executed by years’ end.”
“NO!” I shouted again, the trident slipping from my hand and sounding on the tile floor. “Y-you can’t. I… I’ll tell everyone the truth. I don’t care what happens to me. Y-you can’t…”
“But who’s going to believe you?” The Queen asked, looking quite pleased with herself.
I stopped, hanging on her every word.
“Poor little Lucasta, mad like her brothers, soft for her captors after a lifetime of torment, returned but a shell of what she once was…just another crumbling remnant of her Father’s legacy,” The Queen continued. “Do be quiet now, before you cause a fuss.”
Clutching my head between my arms, I fell to my knees, trembling in ways I never had before. I didn’t notice as someone came through the door.
“Your Majesty,” a woman’s voice came, deep and elegant. “I’ve brought everything you requested. Oh my… is this…?”
“Indeed, Eddy, this is her. Your new charge,” The Queen said. “I imagine it’s been a dreadfully emotional day for her. Or perhaps she takes after the boys.”
“Now, now. There’s no reason to cry,” the woman called Eddy said, kneeling down beside my chair.
She was a thin old woman, neatly dressed in a perfectly pressed grey skirt suit, a ruffled blouse beneath. Like The Queen, she wore her hair so microthin that she must have shaved it every few days, with long earrings dangling toward her shoulders. Her face was covered in fine lines and wrinkles, most around her mouth, and she looked awestruck–delighted–delighted to see me, like she was seeing someone she loved who she had been separated from for a long time. She seemed to have no idea what just transpired.
“Eddy and her staff will be at your disposal in your wing of the palace until you see fit to change that,” The Queen said to me. “She was your mother’s, too.”
“My, you do look so much like… well, what a beautiful young lady you are,” Eddy said, smiling cheerfully, though with a twinge of sorrow in her lips. Her eyes swept over me. “It’s so wonderful to be in your service once again, my dear.”
“Now don’t you start,” The Queen said. “Such displays are unbecoming for women in our life. You know better.”
Like a switch flipped, Eddy immediately went back to normal, all emotion leaving her. “Yes ma’am,” she said, and stood again. “Would you like her to wear it out?”
“Ah, yes,” The Queen said. “Eddy’s brought you one of your older sister Eugenie’s tiaras. You should wear it out in public and for events of the State until you’re instructed otherwise, as a symbol of your dedication to our Worlds.”
I said nothing, felt nothing. Did nothing. Eddy wiped the tears from my face, blotting them one by one until finally they stopped, and she began to work instead with makeup and a hairbrush to help bring me back to some semblance of presentability. When she was done, she reached into the satin box she’d brought with her and retrieved the tiara — one of antler and bone, fashioned from a Lumerian skull, much like the Queen’s crown though smaller, likely that of a child’s. Eddy christened it upon my head before showing me my new face in a mirror, then pushed the trident back into my hand.
“Are you ready, Your Highness?” Eddy asked, helping me out of my seat. “It’s time to come home.”
Together the three of us walked out, surrounded by no less than eight corpsmen. I was on autopilot, unable to process anything any longer, even when we walked out, out into the suns, on the steps, into the flashes of cameras and lights.