The antechamber that led to the Queen’s bedchamber had been packed with courtiers ever since she’d fainted at the ball. That had been a week ago. Daily a priest was sent in to give her extreme unction. After a few minutes, he’d come out of Pirouette’s room and shake his head. “No change,” was all he would say. Lady Abigail, under Pirouette’s instructions, refused to allow any physicians entrance to her room, but that changed when the Queen lapsed from delirium into a coma.
A physician, who had a stellar reputation for treating the Great Pox, was finally allowed to examine Her Majesty. He ordered that her body be wrapped in red flannel and placed in front of the fireplace. Abigail and the other ladies complied since they assumed that it was too late for the Queen in any case. After a period of time, the doctor ordered the women to wrap her in fresh flannel sheets and place her under a thick down comforter.
Within a few hours, the Queen was conscious again, demanding water. “She will live,” said the physician. “Thank God you called on me. I was almost too late.” When he emerged from Pirouette’s bedroom and declared his prognosis, everyone in the antechamber began to laugh and hug one another. To say that their mood was buoyant would be understatement. The fear of losing their beloved, young, new queen had paralyzed government. Soon church bells throughout the capital began to ring.
By the next day, Pirouette rose from her bed. She drank some beef broth and nibbled on some black bread. Prayers of thanksgiving were said throughout the kingdom. The Queen would live! Not only that, she barely had any scars besides one or two on her forehead and the back of her left hand. The Prime Minister personally gave the physician a lifetime annuity for saving Her Majesty’s life.
One of the most lucrative positions in Queen Pirouette’s court was that of Chamberlain. The holder of this office exerted great influence on access to the Queen’s presence. It was often the subject of a bidding war. Perhaps an ardent, potential suitor would gift the Chamberlain with coinage in order to facilitate a place near the Queen during a concert. If there were a host of other suitors, a particularly wealthy man might bribe the Chamberlain to keep others away from her. This of course would mean an investment that exceeded the combined payments of all the other noblemen who sought access to her Royal Majesty.
Pirouette was perfectly aware of this game which is why she would arbitrarily cross names from the list of people who sought an audience with her. This created untold confusion for the finances of the Chamberlain. Someone who’d paid good money to see the Queen, only to find that he’d be refused access to her Majesty would demand repayment of the funds given to the greedy Chamberlain. Because of this, the Chamberlain developed a policy of never spending a client’s money until he’d seen the Queen in person.
So while the Queen was fighting for her life against the dreaded pox, the Chamberlain was busy informing his clients that all moneys that had passed hands over the last couple of weeks were lost because of an act of God. “You can’t blame me for giving the Queen the pox!” Exclaimed the Chamberlain. “I contracted it when I was a boy, several decades ago. Everybody knows that survival from the pox confers lifelong protection. More than likely, it was one of you obsequious suitors who passed it onto her when you kissed her hand!”
When one is especially ill, the mind will meander to places that were thought to places long forgotten. In Queen Pirouette’s case, her mind went back back to the place where she was born: Castle Rising. Made primarily of carved granite stone with a commanding view of the confluence of two rivers, it sat on a high promontory that afforded an excellent view of where the two rivers merged.
Four smaller towers marked out the points of the compass, while a central tower stood higher than the others by a hundred feet or more. It was within these walls that the future queen was born and spent most of her childhood. Of her mother, who died of childbirth, Pirouette had no memory.
Of her father, she was nine years of age when he died, so she had a good storage of memories associated with him. The clearest memory was when he took her hunting on her ninth birthday. He’s warned her in advance that she would be required to be “blooded” on that day; that is, she would have to kill her prey and rub its blood into her hands and face. With relative ease, the participants felled a wild boar. It was still alive, just barely. Her father handed her a long dagger and led her by the hand to the beast. Pointing to a place near its near its heart, he said, “There, my dear, hit him there. It will be over in a second.” Without a moment’s hesitation, Pirouette did as she was instructed. A great roar rose from the entire hunting parting.
“You know what to do now,” her father said in a soft voice. And so Pirouette dipped her hands in the dead creature’s wounds and then rubbed its blood into her face. She was officially an adult now. “I’m so proud of you,” he’d said. It was the only time in her life when she didn’t feel inadequate because of being born a girl, rather than a boy.
XingfuMama’s Pull Up a Seat Challenge
For many years, I used to roam the streets of Hollywood, asking random people if I could photograph them. My standing rule was that once I got ten refusals, I’d quit for the day. I’d easily garner a dozen photos a day because, after all, it was Hollywood. Now that I’m back on the East Coast, I’ve had to tone down that pursuit because, frankly, people here are much more uptight and ten “no’s” come quick and fast. People here in Maryland are by nature very suspicious. They are convinced that I’ve got some nefarious plan to do something evil with their image, like post it on the internet.
That being said, over the course of a couple of years here in Maryland, I’ve managed to capture a few candid shots of people. Here’s an example.
This photo dovetails nicely with Travel With Intent’s One Word Sunday Challenge. This week the word is steps. Thanks for letting me join in the fun!