Milauris stalked out of the throne room with her younger sister hot on her heels.
“Do you think it wise to start a war with the Abbot?” the younger woman asked.
“Go back to the throne room and make sure our aunt doesn’t start a war with the rest of the world,” Milauris quipped.
“Tearing down Light’s Grace will hold her for the moment,” Tifari let out her sparkling laugh.”Besides, I’m your lady-in-waiting. I can’t let you wander off by yourself. It’s against the law.”
“Then you must keep all of my secrets,” Milauris smiled and put her arm around her sister’s shoulder.
“I do!” Tifari protested.
“Even from your knightly lover.”
“I’m a married woman,” Tifari turned her nose up.
“As am I,” the queen laughed, “But he does not know a thing about the workings of our kingdom.”
“Hmmm…” Tifari looked around. “Are we going to visit the griot you’ve hidden away?”
“Yes,” Milauris whispered. The old man was the last of his kind. Trained from childhood by the previous griot, he held the complete history of house Yaneriy in his memory. No other house still carried on the griot tradition and Milauris decided on her coronation day to do away with it, too. She slit the apprentice’s throat on her wedding day and walked down the aisle with blood on the hem of her dress. She let the old man live simply because too many people knew of his existence.
They entered the griot’s chamber without knocking. The old man looked smaller and more withered than ever. He sat by the window staring out at the palace gardens.
“Not long for this world, are we?” Milauris greeted him.
“And glad I will be to find release from this yoke,” he answered her cheerfully.
“Your queen is in need of your service, griot,” Tifari wrinkled her nose at the squalid bed.
“As you wish,” the man stood and hobbled over to cupboard that held his ceremonial gear.
“Quickly,” Tifari snapped her fingers. “There is a kingdom to rule.”
“There is method and ceremony to this,” the man chided. “My memories cannot be commanded and chopped up like these books you have come to rely on.”
“What are you implying, griot?” Tifari narrowed her eyes at the man.
“That there is still time,” he said as he slid wide bangles of gold up his arms.
“Time for what?” Milauris asked.
“Time to apprentice a child to me,” he said and turned to face them.
“Your job is to serve, not to suggest,” Tifari snapped. “Focus!”
“As you wish,” he bowed. “What is your question.”
“How did house Yaneriy ascend to the throne?”