The Queen’s Invitation (1)
After receiving the queen’s message, expressing her desire to meet her again, Marianne naturally became restless. Even after having witnessed Anika’s drastic change, the summon of the once wicked queen still made her feel wary.
As clear as day, the queen held a formidable grudge against her. At first, Marianne was not alarmed by this, hoping that keeping a low profile, which was what she was doing for the past three years, would somehow make Anika forget her existence.
However, even after giving up her position, the queen increasingly troubled her by insisting that she be banished from the castle. This made Marianne think of leaving the capital quietly and going as far as she could, despite how much Kasser forbade it.
With the constant struggle, her situation with Anika didn’t leave her unscarred. Sometimes, she tended to belittle herself—saying to herself that the position was not at all suited for her. Unlike the chief generals in the past, she was not born with a noble status and had even entered the castle as a nanny. It just happened that the then Prince Kasser treated her as his mother, and Marianne was given a pretty high seat.
When she was still in the position, she always worked with this mindset—she would step down as soon as someone who really suited her job arrived.
When the prince, whom she raised like her own son, finally ascended to the throne and married, she could not ask for more. Marianne was willing to step down from her post as she felt she had already served her purpose. And she did.
A simple woman that she was, she bore no greed within her. The king’s happiness was her only joy. Her last wish was to hug the king and see him once in a while. Yet, the queen despised her so much she chose to isolate herself that Kasser rarely saw her.
When Anika claimed that she had lost her memory, Marianne hoped to somehow “abuse” this chance in an attempt to make a new and better relationship with the queen. Their upcoming meeting made her stay up tossing and turning in her bed. In the end, she hadn’t slept a wink all night.
Not wanting to disturb the queen’s peace in the morning, she entered the palace in the early afternoon, about two hours after lunch. Upon arriving, she made sure to send a page to the queen, informing her of her arrival. Then, she waited in the drawing-room patiently, twiddling her fingers in anxiety.
An hour passed by, but the news of the queen joining her, to her utmost disappointment, had yet to arrive.
Contained in her seat, she watched servants after servants pass in front of her making her momentarily dizzy when suddenly, a too-familiar figure strode inside the room.
It was not the queen though.
Sarah came in and saw Marianne waiting anxiously by herself.
“Welcome, General Marianne,” she said while bowing her head in salute.
Marianne’s face hardened. “General, I have told you, a couple of times already, to quit doing that. Don’t give me a salute.”
Not in the least deterred by her former chief’s warning, General Sarah flashed a mischievous smile her way. “You came to see the queen today, didn’t you?”
Marianne neither denied nor affirmed Sarah’s query. Instead, her expression became clouded in dismay, which gave Sarah more than enough idea to what was happening,
“Queen won’t see you?”
“I don’t know.” Was her nimble response.
Sarah looked around and respectfully ordered the maids to depart the room at the soonest. With only the two of them left, she sat opposite Marianne and looked at her gravely in the eye.
“You probably have to come back in the evening or tomorrow.”
“What’s the matter?”
“Queen is still on her bed.”
“Is she sick?”
Sarah shrugged her shoulders and declared. “The king came by last night… She may just be extremely exhausted”
“Oh….” Marianne gave a startled look. This had never happened before. In three years of their marriage, every time after the couple shared a bed on the first night of every month, the words of the maids who cleaned the queen’s bed-chamber fell into Marianne’s ear by chance, saying that the beddings were always neat and without creases as if Kasser had only risen from lying down all night.
With this train of thought came a realization. She was so anxious to see the queen that she completely forgot that yesterday was the first day of the month. Hence, it was no surprise that the royal couple slept in one bed, following the kingdom’s tradition.
She must have been nervous about losing her memory, lest she would have not summoned me.
She heaved a deep sigh, wishing that everyone must give the queen some time to adjust. And as a sign of respect, she also refused to drag on her surprise of the royal couple’s recent night. Instead, she was satisfied that the queen’s apparent exhaustion negated suspicions that Kasser had not yet touched his wife out of disgust.
There was still hope for the two, and Marianne held on to it tightly.
She was ready for this conversation to be over when she noticed Sarah’s bizarrely conflicted expression.
“You look crestfallen. Is there anything else you want to say?”
Sarah sighed deeply. “The queen… she bled last night it seems.”
The look on both faces reflected horror. It couldn’t be virgin blood! They have been wed for three years at most!
Did the king hurt his wife? Or is she sick?
Marianne sprang to her feet and in frenzy, flopped down on her seat, struggling to regain composure. No matter how long she had cared for the king, she or anyone else did not have the right to intrude on his secret and private affairs. However, this was alarming news.
“For goodness sake!”
Marian sported a worried look on her face. Turning to Sarah, she asked in the calmest tone she could muster. “How’s the queen? Did you call the doctor?”
“She woke up a little late in the morning, took a bath, and had a meal. I only know that the maids who arranged the bedding said there were bloodstains on her sheets, which is quite perplexing. The queen, upon returning to her bed-chamber, slept and hasn’t gotten up even as we speak.”
“What must I do?” Marianne muttered after a long silence.
“When she gets up, ask her… Ask the queen if she’s fine and if there’s any dispute with her and the king. If she says nothing, don’t inquire any further.”
“All right.” She felt determined. “If this happens again, you must tell me. Only then would I be able to speak to the king.”
“You can trust me on that.” Sarah quickly agreed and cast a gaze around the silent drawing-room. “Will you then come again tomorrow?”
A shake of her head, Marianne gave a stern answer. “No, I’ll wait.” She thought she must recover her peace by today’s end.
“But it might be long before the queen comes out.”
“I’ve been called by the queen, and must not leave on my own accord, not until she says so.”
Seeing that she could no longer change her mind, Sarah nodded and stood up to attend to her duties.
“If you insist.”