Reflections (episode 4)
Minuet sat at a dark polished oak desk and read over a treatise on Kelrand life before the Amarian Fairroot Plague, amazed at the women of that bygone era. More than 400 years ago, women had only the most basic of rights, and other than a marriage contract, could not enter into any contract at all! What a horrific thought. By no means did she want to give up her rights, however, she did not want this one particular duty that her sister foisted upon her to disappear. Damn you Cesile, why did run away. You should have signed the Family Protector Contract. You should be the one to deal with the War Council and these recent Hos’lathi aggressions. This should not be my life!
Minuet stared off into the distance, no longer focused on the oak-paneled bookcases and the study around her. Instead, she recalled two years ago when her rash and impulsive sister sealed her fate. Minuet remembered being dressed in her best gown for Cesile’s Protector Signing Ceremony. She waited with the rest of her family for what seemed an eternity, until finally her father went to fetch the tardy Cesile. She was in shock as her father read the curt note left by Cesile to the assembled family.
With deepest regrets and sincerest apologies,
I will not sign that Document. I want a
different life, not one bound solely by duty,
and fealty to an absent High King. I will live
my life the way I choose.
In that instant, Minuet felt as if her life became a glitterglobe, one that someone had violently shaken until every piece of glitter was in rapid motion. Over the next several months, an army of tutors kept her on a strict regimen of study and training. If the topic were topexx crystals she would have been in the heavens, but instead she had to master the duties and responsibilities of the Family Protector. In the morning, she learned culture, law, politics, and diplomacy. In the afternoon, she mastered battle strategy, combat tactics, and weapons training. After dinner, she studied etiquette and history. At night, she laid down for sleep, her mind filled with a dense fog obscuring normal, coherent thought. Her dreams were just as strange, as she woke up many mornings wondering what parliamentary procedure had to do with whether the outer fork was a salad or a dinner fork. Normally, the Protector-to-be had eight years of tutelage before the Signing – Minuet had just two years to ready herself.
It was not all bad; in fact, there were some benefits to the position. One in particular happened just over two years ago. When the skirmishes first flared up in the Southern Border region, her father included her in a small delegation that met with Milak Swiftwand, his Hos’lathi counterpart. Her father wanted to meet face-to-face with Milak so there would be no misunderstandings and, more importantly, no skirmishes along the Western Border region, their common border. Their two peoples had lived with peace for just over a quarter of a century, and her father did not want these skirmishes to cut short the life of that peace.
No one knew she had already met Milak earlier that year. One fateful day, her mother scolded her for “crystal gazing” rather than minding her studies. Minuet stormed from the house and rode far away. It was that day that she met Milak. From that introductory meeting she enjoyed his company. He was gentle, handsome, funny, and knowledgeable about topexx crystals, her favorite topic. Most importantly, he did not treat her like a child, even though he was ten years her senior. He respected her opinions, and clearly found her amusing rather than childish. Since then, she found every excuse she could to meet with him. Sigh, Milak. If my duties included spending more time with you, they wouldn’t be duties at all. Minuet shook her head to suppress the daydream that was rapidly morphing into something best left for the dark of night, where no one would see her blush.
A sudden knock at the door roused her fully from her musings. “Enter.”
A servant entered the room, bowing to Minuet and said, “Ma’am, Captain Templeton has returned and requests an audience.”
“Excellent. Tell him to meet me in the west-end parlor in fifteen minutes.”
“Yes ma’am.” The servant bowed on his way out.
It’s past time to get some answers. I want to know why these skirmishes are moving north and encroaching on my borders.
Minuet crossed the study to a seemingly mundane bookcase; she tilted a book towards her and heard the barely audible click and the subtle whirring of gears turning. She slipped inside the private room revealed by the secret door. This collection of artifacts is not as sizable as the one in our main house, but I still made sure it has what I need.
She moved to a table where a collection of bracelets lay. She picked through them until she found exactly the one she wanted, a thin cuff style bracelet worn on the upper arm, thin enough to wear under the sleeve so no one knew it was there. The outer side was plainly worked metal with no ornate markings of any kind. By all accounts, it was unremarkable in design. However, topexx lined the skin side, which allowed the user to channel their vital energy through their shakaa without holding the crystal for all to see. I wish I had more training in the Truth shakaa, as then I would be able to compel the truth from the captives. Time brings training; training brings effectiveness; patience brings both.
I hope you enjoyed the latest episode in Beating the Drums of War, Jenn and I certainly enjoyed making it.
Next Episode: Interrogations
Previous Episode: Raid
First Episode: Rainfall