She wasn't supposed to be King, but she would rule.
|I hadn’t set foot in this room in years, not since I was a small child. The last time I had been before the throne, my grandfather had ruled from it. I had never seen my father sit on it, although everyone told me he had ruled justly and well. Now as his oldest child, as his heir, I came home to claim my birthright, even if I was the wrong gender. I understood that my grandfather had sent me away because I was female and my gender was not desirable. Then as the years passed and a proper heir had not been produced, tutors had been sent to train and teach me.
Walking forward, I mounted the steps to the dais, finally touching the carved arms of the throne. In two days’ time I’d take my seat officially. I wasn’t even supposed to be in this grand room before the ceremony, but I remembered how to find the servants' entrance. That memory had guided me through the back corridors until I’d entered the large room. I didn't want my first sight of my new seat to be on the night of the full moon.
“No one is to be in here!” a voice thundered from behind me.
I turned, feeling my spine stiffen that someone would dare speak to me that way. My hands clenched where they were hidden by my skirts, as I fought against the rise of annoyance that he would even dare raise his voice towards me.
As my face was revealed by the light, the speaker genuflected. “Your high… Your Majesty,” he corrected himself.
I still didn’t speak, waiting to see if he would attempt to apologize. I knew there were members of the upper class who didn’t want a woman to sit on the throne. But I was the only one left. My father had no sons and none of my uncles had survived to adulthood.
When there was no apology forthcoming, I recalled all the training I had been given over the years. No one had ever expected me to use it, but as the years passed and no male heir had been born, the training had intensified until I was given all the classes and honors any heir was honored with. “I’ll walk where I wish to walk,” I replied. “If I need a guard, send one, but I will not be chased from my own throne room.”
The man paused, but then bowed. “As Your Majesty wishes.” He backed out of the room, leaving me alone.
I turned back to my contemplation of the throne. I could still remember the last day I had stood before the room, my grandfather’s stern face staring down at me as he made the decision of whether I would stay or go. As small as I’d been, I still understood the decision to send me away.
“Are you attempting to cause problems already, Your Majesty?” Underneath the censure, I could the fondness.
The voice tugged at my memories. The owner was standing by the door, dressed in better quality clothes worn by the upper servants. These were the servants people saw, who moved among the aristocrats as they served or assisted. Many of them were lower ranked ladies or lords who had no land to their names. The woman who stood before me had been my nanny before I was sent away, and she had served as my mother’s lady-in-waiting until her death. “Annalisa,” I greeted her. I wanted to go to her, to put my arms around her.
“Your Majesty.” Annalisa sunk into a deep curtsey when she saw she had my attention.
“You used to call me ‘Rania’,” I replied.
“Things have changed,” she answered. “I don’t have the right to take the liberty.”
“Even if I want you to take that liberty?” My heart clenched as I realized even the people I had known would no longer be able to speak with me as they once had. It would be as if an invisible wall stood between us.
Annalisa’s lips tightened into a thin line and she didn’t reply, instead bowing her head slightly. “I would never presume, Your Majesty.”
I sighed, knowing I would not change Annalisa’s mind. “I’ll still need my own ladies-in-waiting,” I pointed out to her.
“Your mother gave me my pension,” she replied. “I only stayed long enough to see you one last time.” There was a small smile on her lips as she told me, “You look right in this room.”
“Will you at least stay long enough to see me take my place?” I didn’t want to beg, but I would if it meant Annalisa would stay to see me take my oath.
“I’ll stay,” she agreed.
I wanted to jump and clap my hands at her agreement, but it wasn’t dignified enough for the first female king. Instead I replied, “Thank you, Annalisa.” as I inclined my head regally.
The morning of my crowning dawned clear and bright. I was rousted at dawn and taken to the mausoleum to honor the kings who had come before me. I would spend the first three hours of the day from crypt to crypt and reciting to myself the name of each king, the years of his reign, and any notable events. I could be stopped and questioned at any time about the king I was currently in front of, so I didn’t dare let my mind wander. The only horrible part about this time was I was required to do it in my shift and bare feet to show I was humble. And it was cold in the early morning air.
As I rested my hand on the face of my father’s stone, the edges still sharp from it’s recent cutting, the priest approached me. “Your Majesty, it is time for your contemplation.”
The king-to-be was required to spend at least an hour in the chapel on the morning of the oath. With a final glance at my father’s resting place, I followed the priest to the place of solitude.
I was left alone, seated on the cold stone to face my future. I had no orders for this period except to consider what I had learned in the past and would face in the future. I was supposed to think about the mysteries of the universe, but I found myself wondering what my father would have said if he could see me now. I hadn’t seen him since the day my grandfather had sent me away and I couldn’t even conjure up a clear enough picture of him.
My legs were beginning to fall asleep when the priest returned and motioned for me to stand up. I stumbled a bit as I stood, but managed to gain my footing. His face was impassive as he waited for me to walk towards him. “What’s…?” I started to ask.
“You will be attended in the baths, Your Majesty,” he replied.
One of the lower ranking servants was waiting, her head down to escort me through the castle to the baths in the lower levels. I followed, my bare feet soundless on the path she lead.
The bath was warm on my skin after the chill of the mausoleum and chapel. I sank gratefully into the pool, relaxing back against the natural ledge. The next little while was mine to soak and clean myself. Although the bath was part of the ritual, there was nothing I had to complete in this time. I knew eventually my ladies would come with towels and perfumes. Someone would do my hair and my dress would be presented.
There had been an hour long discussion about whether I would wear a gown or breeches. Finally one of the older lords had declared that with my long hair there was no disguising my gender so unless someone was planning to shave my head, they might as well allow me to wear a dress.
I couldn’t say I was in love with my gown since it was much heavier and more ornate than I was accustomed to. But it was pretty and would honor the women who were spending long hours bent over needle and thread with it.
Dressed and ready, I would sit on the throne until the moon was high in the sky. As I waited for the proper time, the lords would come before me, pledging their loyalty to me. A pedestal stood beside the throne and the crown that would soon rest on my head sat upon it.
As moonlight poured through the windows, hitting the throne and me upon it, the priest and highest ranking lord entered through the door. I remained seated because the king did not stand in the presence of a lower ranking lord. And even though I had not been crowned… I was the King.
“Rania, daughter of Alexander.”
At the sound of my name, my hands tightened on the arms of the throne. This was the moment of truth. Although I had been confirmed as Alexander’s daughter, someone could still try to deny me because of my gender.
As the lord and the priest slow-marched towards me, I waited for someone to deny me, to refuse. Although everyone had pledged loyalty, the crowning still had to occur.
The priest reached the base of the dias. “Rania, daughter of Alexander.”
“I am here,” I answered.
“Do you take this burden?”
“I accept it.”
“Will you guide this people?”
“I will guide them as if they were my children.”
“Will you rule with might and justly?”
“I will rule to the best of my knowledge and power.”
“Rise, my King. And accept your burden.”
I got steadily to my feet as the priest mounted the steps. He reached for the crown. This was the moment I had been preparing for.
The entire room held its breath as they waited to see why the lord has stopped the ceremony. He reached for the crown. Reluctantly the priest handed it over. “Rania, please kneel.”
I frowned slightly. This wasn’t a normal part of the ceremony, but a quick sideways look at the priest showed he wasn’t going to argue with the lord. “I will not kneel,” I replied. “Kings do not bow down to lords.”
A slight smile crossed his face. “Proper answer, Your Majesty.” He lifted the crown, setting it upon my head. “Rule wisely and long.” Both of them stepped backwards, off the dias, before bowing low. “The king is gone, long live the King!”
“Long live the King!” the crowd shouted.
I raised my head, holding it high despite the weight of the crown. “This is my country and I will rule it as I see fit. I will be the best king I can be, but I will not bow down to the wishes of the lords. I am the king and I will be the law.”
Word Count: 1824
Special thanks to Mumsy and offsite friend, dragonydreams, for their assistance. And to the Scope Creepers for their support.