Dinner at the royal court took its usual course. The bon vivants mocked the old-fashioned hairstyle and over formal garments of the diminutive, young queen while the warmongering lords and fretful advisors begged the king to act on the recent rebellion by the Count of Tosland. The queen was stiff and beautiful like the women in antique portraits. She hailed from an isolated, outlying province that had not bothered to sit at court in three generations. The girl, for she was hardly more than that, appeared at the beginning of spring as a testament of her house’s loyalty to the high throne. Much was made of her dated manners and wild stories surfaced about her life and mores in her backwater home. The queen and her ladies paid no mind to the harsh whispers around them and chatted peaceably to themselves in their strange, archaic dialect.
Likewise the king laughed off the men vying for his attention, loudly declaring that the count, his first cousin twice over, would be back at court in time for the fall hunts. He addressed his wife who, along with her entire retinue, rose and bowed at his feet before answering. The king’s sister did not bother to hide her amusement at the ancient, unused custom, but the king was completely charmed. Their conversation was interrupted by shouts and the clatter of armor at the hall door.
“Count Tosland!” the king greeted his cousin with a wide smile. The count and his guard of fifty men marched to the center of the room and stopped.
“Roland,” the Count addressed the king by his given name eliciting gasps from even the most jaded courtiers in the hall. At some unseen command, the small army, most of the king’s guards and several of the dining noblemen drew their swords. Their treachery was answered by a chorus of ringing metal from the queen’s party. The entire room looked on in surprise as the queen and her women produced gleaming broadswords, the likes of which had not been seen in a millennium, from the folds of their antiquated garments and positioned themselves to defend the king.
“If you survive this night, tiny queen,” Count Tosland laughed, “You shall have your own regiment in my army.”
And with that the rebels launched their attack. At first, the men set on the queen’s squadron were easy and playful, but after two of their best strikers were dispatched, all trace of teasing melted into a raging surge. The women were unfazed. They defended their position with silent grace. The king tried to enter the fray, but the line of women was just as impenetrable from the inside as it was from the outside.
“Your Highness!” the loyal captain of the king’s guard cried from the door of a secret passage that opened up behind one of the tapestries hanging near the king’s chair. The little queen collared her husband and dragged the surprised man in to the passage. Her women followed, holding the Count’s men off until all of the loyal courtiers were safely in the passage.