I risked a sideways glance at the new queen, hoping my lack of decorum would go unnoticed but knowing even if it wasn’t, she would not care. I was here to guard her, though with just the two of us currently in the room, she was safe. She looked tired, slumping slightly in the throne and frowning into the distance.
Today had been a rough day for her and she still had not had time to let it all sink in. She had been awoken before dawn with the news that her parents had been murdered on their way back from France. That meant that she was to be crowned the new queen as soon as possible. She had not had time to shed a single tear before she was whisked away into preparations.
The news went out with the dawn and as many lords and ladies as possible were notified of the crowning of the new queen. After the crowning, she was forced to sit as each lord wished her well and promised loyalty. For each one she smiled and nodded, thanking them. Only the final lord of the evening was left and he was just arriving. The queen had been getting ready to retire for the night when word of his impending arrival halted her.
She straightened and smoothed her expression as the doors were thrown open. I did the same, especially when I saw which lord had arrived. My hand went involuntarily to rest on my sword, a move not missed by the newcomer. Lord Smythe had been after the then princess since she was a young girl. He had first petitioned to court her when she was just twelve. Her parents had denied the request. Smythe renewed the request every year but was continually denied. The king and queen knew their only duaghter could do much better and find a more suitable match.
A servant walked in behind Lord Smythe carrying a rather large oddly shaped wooden item. It sort of resembled a pine cone. Smythe stopped a few feet too close to the queen, a leer partially hidden behind a smile. My hand flexed around my sword.
“My dear, it’s so good to see you again. I only wish it was under better circumstances. Your poor parents,” Smythe let the words slide smoothly from his mouth. His voice rang with false sincerity. “I’ve brought you a present to congratulate you on your ascension to queen.” The servant moved forward. “It’s a pineapple sculpture from the far away West Indies. It carries with it a meaning of welcome to the native people there, just as I’m sure I’ll be welcome here.” His smile was so filled with foulness that it was difficult to look upon. I only hoped the queen still had her wits about her after such a long day.
“Why thank you Lord Smythe. I’m sure this will make a very nice adornment for the stables, to welcome all of our guests into the castle.” Her smile was innocent but I could see the humor dancing in her eyes.
“I was hoping it would be in a bit more personal location as it was quite difficult securing its passage all the way here. Perhaps your chambers or your sitting room would be more appropriate?”
“Oh no, I couldn’t possibly hoard such an exquisite piece. The stable is by far the best location. There everyone will get to enjoy its beauty,” the queen reiterated, a hard look coming into her eyes.
Smythe fumed to himself before stepping threateningly towards the queen. I was in motion before I even realized he was moving, my sword drawn and held steady against his neck, my body blocking him from the queen.
“Call off your dog, Madeline. I will have you, mark my words. Your parents are not around to protect you any longer and you will be pressured into taking a husband. You will be mine!”
“My lady,” I asked calmly, “what are your orders?”
“Release him. He is to be banned from the castle. Send that dreadful thing home with him as well,” she waved at the pineapple. She stared into his eyes, willing her words to reach him. “I will never be yours, no matter if you are the last man on the planet. You are hereby exiled from all royal property. Any attempt on your part to enter a royal establishment will be considered treason against the crown. Watch your steps Lord Smythe because I am not as lenient as my father. Step a toe out of line and I’ll see you hanged for it. You are dismissed.”
I escorted Lord Symthe to the door along with his servant and sculpture. I turned him over to the waiting guards, letting them know to pass the word that he was banned from all royal property and to make sure that he had an armed escort to deliver him back to his estate.
When I returned to the throne room the queen was sitting slumped in her chair, trembling. She looked up as I entered then went back to slumping when she realized it was just me. As her chief guard, we had a long history of friendship and she knew I could be trusted.
“Did I do the right thing, James?” she asked quietly.
“You did well, my lady.”
“How many times have I told you to call me Madeline or even Maddy when we’re alone?” she sounded exasperated which was an improvement from unsure.
“You are the queen now, my lady, and should be addressed as such. Besides, Maddy makes you sound like a spoiled child.” I grinned at her so she would know I was merely teasing.
“Why you!” she laughed and my heart lifted with the sound.
Writing prompts: pineapple, meaning, queen