Saturday 11 – Sunday 12 August 2012
The afternoon sun shone into the room, filtered by the heavy velvet drapes, which were partially pulled across the window. Francois stood by the small window, the sun’s rays kissing his face, his back to Josslyn who was being attended to by Lucy, her Lady-in-waiting.
‘Really, Francois, it’s nothing you haven’t seen before. Why the sudden burst of modesty?’ Josslyn quipped.
‘A gentleman always has a sense of propriety, even if the Queen wishes he doesn’t,’ he replied, still gazing out of the window. He wondered how far Elle had got in her quest to raise an army, and how much longer he would have to keep up the charade of caring.
From his vantage point, Francois could clearly see the most recent village to fall. Smoke still billowed from the ruins.
‘How many had to die this time, m’lady?’ he asked.
‘I assume you’re asking in regards to that horrid little village over that way,’ she motioned in the general direction of the village as she spoke. Francois nodded and turned to face his Queen.
‘And what did they do to deserve your ire?’
‘How many died? Not enough, Francois. What they did? Respect, my love, is imperative for a reigning monarch. Fear, however, is even better. They did nothing, but I do need to set an example every now and then. That village just happened to be close, that’s all,’ she said without remorse or concern for those who had been lost in the attack.
‘That is why you are the Queen, m’lady. Your ability to make the hard decisions, and remain steadfast to your course of action,’ Francois replied. Secretly, he reviled her wanton ways of destruction, and her need to rule from a seat of fear, but he could not show his disdain without giving up his mission.
‘And that is why you are the Queen’s favourite, Francois. Always with the right words to make me smile. How I adore you! Now come, let us go out to the garden to enjoy the rest of the day. Lucy, make sure that the refreshments are brought out to us in the garden.’
‘Yes, m’lady, immediately,’ replied Lucy, and she bounded out of the room to inform the kitchen staff of the Queen’s wishes.
Josslyn held out a hand for Francois to take, and then led him from the room, through the castle, and out into the garden. The opulence of the Queen did not stop at her castle, but extended beyond to her gardens as well. Exotic flowers and trees greeted them alongside the native flora.
‘It is my favourite place, Francois. This garden, its tranquillity, the serenity. It does not judge me. My actions mean nothing to it. It accepts me for who I am.
She stood admiring the garden, and Francois noted an expression he had not seen upon her face before.
‘Are you . . . sad, m’lady?’ he asked.
She gave the faintest hint of a smile, and replied, ‘A little Francois.’
‘Why?’ he replied.
‘Because I have no choice but to rule the way that I do. If I were a king, things would be different. People would respect me, without question. But I am a queen, a woman, and in this land, women are not respected unless they can fight and rule like a man.’
Her display of honesty and melancholy was broken by the arrival of her servants, bearing afternoon refreshments. Francois watched as Josslyn directed them where and how to place the table, chairs, food, and drinks. He noted how they cowered in fear when she spoke. And suddenly, he began to feel sorry for this woman whose evil deeds had made her the most hated woman in the land.
‘Francois,’ she said quietly, ‘sit and talk with me.’
‘Yes, m’lady,’ he replied. Francois waited for Queen Josslyn to be seated before he also sat.
‘How many times have I told you, Francois, when there is no one else around, you are to call me Josslyn?’
He smiled in reply, and for the first time since beginning his quest with Elle, wondered if there might not be another way to end Josslyn’s reign, other than brutal assassination.
. . . To be continued . . .