No one in the gallery of the Grand Vestibule sat with dry eyes, but Vela. Members of the press and guests from across Jalen cried openly or wiped tears from their eyes while the banners with the blue and white coat of arms were being lowered on the raised podium below.
The end of Queen Fran’s reign was sad, and it wasn’t as if Vela was a cold and unfeeling person. It just meant that the queen’s decision to step down after only twenty-six cycles of rule meant that there was finally room for her to chronicle the new era that everyone knew was at hand by Crow Prince Taghee’s rise to power and that excitement was enough to keep the tears a bay.
A lot of questions needed to be answered by him and today was the day that they were forthcoming, hopefully. He had been quiet about his plans and his court, but Veal was there to capture it all, good or bad and hopefully make a name for herself and become an indispensable member of his inner circle.
The white banners that had hung on either side of the doorway were now in the hands of the honor guards below each of them. While she couldn’t see the queen’s face, she appeared to be relieved and relaxed as the guards turned to her and handed her one of the now-folded banners. The audience in attendance below, and those in the gallery, stood as the other banner left the stateroom, presumably to Esko to hang in the entranceway with all the other previous rulers.
Vela and the audience below sat down when the doors of the Grand Vestibule closed behind the last member of the honor guard. The queen stepped down with the banner underarm and was shaking hands and receiving hugs from minsters in her court and family members. The walls on either side of the archway that led back into the palace were bare and awaiting the Crown Prince to present his colors and court. The excitement was almost too much for Vela. She had to keep her excitement in check though. All around her people were crying and or looked stoic, shocked or, in the case of, Brose, who was sitting next to her, looking put out. She had to try hard and keep her face impassive despite her rising excitement. She was replacing Brose and she had to be respectful, but Brose wasn’t making that easy.
In a condescending tone, Brose rose his voice above the whispers in the gallery and asked, “Have you met with the crown prince yet?”
Vela took great care to keep her voice calm and smooth, “No, my transport only arrived late last night, but I did speak with Lewis and he has set aside time with him after today’s coronation.” She didn’t know Brose well, in fact, she had only just met him a few hours before the ceremony, but she could already tell that the idea that his time in court had now come to an end didn’t sit well with him.
“Lewis will be very capable in his new role. I’m glad to see that Prince Taghee chose to surround himself with one person who seems to be up to the task.”
“Do you know any other members of the court?”
“No,” he grumbled. “I was prevented from providing any input or insight.”
Anger started to swell up inside her, but rather than respond out of anger she exhaled and said simply, “I was really impressed with him when I spoke with him this morning.” Vela hoped that Brose’s conversation with her would end at that comment. Vela had no interest in getting into an argument here and now, especially when she was in a good mood.
“Despite the speed at which she stepped down, I am glad that she and the senate agreed on a proper path forward.” Vela turned to look at Brose who was looking at the section of the gallery directly behind the podium. Several senators sat there, stone-faced and, what she would assume was angry, that their power base was threatened. So many of them had worked years to get to this level of power and now, it was going to be in doubt based on whoever the Prince put in that spot.
“Was it their decision?” Vela asked?
“As near as I can tell the decision was mutual. The Prince knows he hadn’t taken the necessary classes to ascend the thrown so accepting the title as Crown Prince and being guided by the Council who answers to the Senate was the only choice there was.” The bitterness in Brose’s voice couldn’t be missed. He wasn’t alone in his feelings though. Most, if not all, of the older generation in Lexre felt that the senate should force Queen Fran to stay on the throne until Prince Taghee finished the necessary classes, but no one, not even a friendly senate can tell a Queen what to do.
Queen Fran was still receiving hugs and handshakes down below. The journalists in the gallery, who were all silent during the lowering of the Queen’s coat of arms resumed their running commentary. A few palace hands were moving the speaking podium off of the raised platform and replacing it with a floating audio microphone. While she was looking around the gallery, she caught sight of Brose out of the corner of her eye and noticed that he appeared very solemn and removed from the events. He was lost in his own world and she had an idea of what was going through his mind and, while she didn’t want to be in his shoes anytime soon, she did want to soften the blow of leaving his role in court to a seemingly inexperienced archivist like herself.
“Any words of advice,” she asked him.
A tight smile crept across his face and he turned to her and said, “remain impartial.” That wasn’t what Vela expected. It seemed that her reputation had preceded her and she was hoping for a fresh start. Before Vela, could ask what he meant by that, he continued.
“Vela, you are very adept in your role as an archivist. You are the only one who has studied Taghee in any detail. Archivist Eddison wouldn’t have recommended you for this position if there was, but we both know that you have made your intentions very clear on becoming a member of this court and at times very unprofessionally. Just remember your job is to chronicle the events that happen in court, and not become a part of them.”
“Of course,” it came out harsher than she wanted it too, but she had heard all of this before. Archivist Eddison had laid out his expectation when he reluctantly gave her the assignment. All her life she wanted to make a name for herself and be a part of something. She wanted people to remember her name long after she was gone and, after twenty-seven cycles that chance had come. She wasn’t going to let anyone dampen her moment.
Brose, for his part, didn’t seem to take any offense at her comment. He simply responded by saying, “You’ll do great.” She didn’t believe that he truly meant it, but rather than cause an argument she simply sat back and waited for the ceremony to continue.
She didn’t want to admit it, but Brose’s words struck a nerve. At any point, she could be called back to the order, and since Brose who had been away for the order for several years had heard about her, she wondered if the Crown Prince had and if that would affect how he would see her. She had to do the right thing and make this work. It was obvious that the other archivist had talked about her and knew her flaws, she knew it too. Growing up her talents and skills never manifested themselves as they did with the people she thought of as friends in her village. Even the skills she did have, writing and solitary servitude, that wouldn’t land her land on the vid screens and holonets. She eventually settled for the archivist role. With very little money and the chance of becoming a household name were slim to none, but it could happen, and this could be how it is done.
Brose had just put her on notice that she was going to be watched. There was no doubt that the reign of Queen Fran was successful and that Brose, as her archivist, helped make it so by sharing what he could of her reign to the people. Brose made it clear that he expected Vela to do the same for Taghee’s court and be just as impartial as he was. He just didn’t expect Taghee’s court would be as successful as his mother’s and that bothered Vela. So many people have scuttled Taghee’s reign before it even began, and it wasn’t fair.
The death of the Nubian Mother and the decision of Queen Fran to step aside for her son, who to date, had not taken any of the succession lessons that were required. Since the Croskey family began ruling the land, succession lessons were required for the one next in line to the throne. It was a precursor and it typically allowed the subjects time to get use to the new ruler. The suddenness of the Nubian Mother’s death and the surprise decision on Queen Fran’s part through the country for a loop and, fortunately, allowed for him to join the court as the archivist and be around and read long after he was gone.
Here she was watching the new court be installed and savored the possibilities and the images of being a part of something bigger than himself and having powerful friends, but Brose was right, she couldn’t get too close. She needed to make sure she stays remains in control and do her job right. If she does the job right, then she would show those people who doubted that she could ever amount to anything in life.
An uncomfortable silence lapsed between them. Vela wanted to hold onto her excitement and dreams of becoming an integral part of the court, but Brose has given her something to think about. She wanted so desperately to be a part of the kingdom, but she knew she was going to be viewed as an outsider and had to follow the rules of the archivist. That thought brought her excitement level down and tempered all her feelings.
“I don’t suppose Lewis told you what to expect?” Brose’s gruff voice interrupted Vela’s thoughts.
“No,” a bit annoyed because she was prevented from finding an answer on how to manage her own issues. “Our conversations was brief. I didn’t expect anyone to still be in the office when I called. I just told Lewis I was here and I would see them at the banquet. He provided instructions on my seat and that was that.”
The queen was seated now next to the regent, her husband. The podium was clear and everyone was mummering expectedly. Vela overheard one commentator who was speaking on what might be expected from Taghee’s first formal experience, say it is expected that the Porter’s will have a more formal roll in court. Insiders are saying that he will appoint his first cousin Ronic to Prime Minister.
The orchestra began playing the anthem of the people. A soulful ballad. The queen began singing and soon the entire Vestibule began singing along. The acoustics allowed for a remarkable event and sound. It was at that moment that the new ministers began walking in.