Part 2: The Messenger
Uldrid’s bow was so low that the tip of his long nose was close to touching his silk-clad knees. “My Queen of Atharron,” he purred. “The Dragons must smile upon you, for you are more beautiful than the brightest of stars.”
The tiniest pinch of snow flittered from his moustache and floated to the carpet, where it melted in the warmth of the coal fire.
Queen Cassandra was the epitome of perfection. Her cerulean gown rippled from the throne like a waterfall, and her cascading auburn hair was like fire, illuminating her pale face. Rose lips pursed at Uldrid’s flattery; his appearance barely brought good news.
“Speak,” she said coldly.
Uldrid straightened, and his sunken eyes met hers. He was conscious of the guardsmen, in their grey and white winter armour, clutching spears as their eyes fixed on each stiff move the man made. Uldrid cleared his throat and gave a weak smile.
“I’m afraid King Roderic remains good on his threat, my lady,” Uldrid stammered.
Queen Cassandra’s knuckles tightened beneath her silver sleeve cuffs. “It’s a threat now, is it?” Her voice sent a chill through the warm room.
“The Giants’ War isn’t his greatest concern. He maintains that Atharron has better harvests, better fortunes, and their Queen…”
“Don’t…” Queen Cassandra’s fist slammed against the vase beside her throne; it tumbled to the floor and smashed. “…speak to me of their Queen!”
“A thousand apologies, my Lady,” Uldrid gave another sweeping bow. “But forgive me for saying what I must. Queen Anaya is still angry that your father – Gods, forgive me, the late King of Atharron – married her off to King Roderic, leaving his throne to you.”
“The immediate threat is the Giants in the north,” Queen Cassandra said, her voice trembling ever so slightly. “We cannot afford civil war with my sister’s kingdom.”
“Your wisdom sees no ends, Your Worship.” Uldrid simpered. “As War Counsellor, I shall see personally that King Roderic’s threats remain only that – threats.” He gave a third, flamboyant bow and hastened from the room.
Queen Cassandra shifted uncomfortably on her throne. To think that her own sister would betray her! She had no doubt that King Roderic had no say in this; he was Queen Anaya’s trophy, the Fourth Kingdom’s bloodline. Anaya had always been a jealous, selfish swine. Queen Cassandra smiled smugly to herself. Father always favoured me.