A Silent Game of Spies

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A’dair stared into her brown eyes but saw nothing. She was neither buxom nor curvy, nor beauteous, nor did she hail from Coral City as Father would have preferred. He had tried that option already and her head sat atop the castle upon a spike as a warning, though few in the realm realized it.

It had been a very small wedding, for A’dair had planned to announce the marriage after the fact. Very few people had been invited, and even fewer attended, for he had given virtually no notice. The wedding itself had transpired without incident, and the new Queen of S’hendalow gave A’dair no cause to believe that conspiracy might be afoot.

But come the reception, after A’dair presented his new bride with lands for her family, she presented him with a rare wine, a vintage from his great-grandfather’s lands.

A’dair, as a new husband and groom, did as a gentleman ought and presented his new Queen with the first goblet.

Numerous times since, he recalled a panicked glance from her to her father across the room. And her father had nodded gravely. A’dair had thought that odd, but she looked him straight in the eye then, raised her goblet, toasted A’dair’s good health, and drank every drop.

A’dair had found the glance to Lord D’alwar distinctly unsettling, for they had been regular adversaries before A’dair had dissolved the Cabinet, and so had set his goblet down. And rightly so, for the new Queen fell to the floor, convulsing and frothing.

Half the Kings Guard lined up before A’dair, and half behind him, to hide the event transpiring. A’dair insisted someone take Lord D’alwar into custody.

And so, his marriage not even two hours old, his Queen tried to kill him, assassinate him, just as the Ormish Queen had her own husband. Regicide. Perhaps he should feel fortunate that he had not been in their wedding bed, stabbed to death, as King Munsolrysche had been found, but only an attempted poisoning.

He ensured that no one knew what had occurred – it looked as if she merely choked to death. Ninety percent of S’hendalow didn’t even know he had been betrothed, and of those present that day, most thought the girl simply choked. A’dair took away her lands all the way back to her great-grandparents, as well as any supporters’ lands, and shipped them all to the Exile Isle. When they cried and begged before him for mercy, he turned a deaf ear, and showed them instead the severed head of the annulled Queen he had married, before it was mounted upon a spike and raised above the highest Palace tower, their wedding rings nailed into her mouth. He insisted each of them look at it, particularly her father and mother. Lord D’alwar stubbornly said, “You didn’t deserve her.” A’dair returned with grit, “Interesting. I thought the same of you.”

And he had them all chained together for the voyage. The voyage to Exile Isle was a long one and the captain and crew had not yet returned. It was said that exiles who lived there, brought there from all the realms, stood a low chance of survival and often turned to cannibalism.

The priest cleared his throat with an expectant tone. A’dair blinked and glanced at the priest. He knew the correct words to say this time. He lifted this girl’s gauzy veil from atop her face and bowed before her. Cannibalism. A’dair scoffed inwardly. Hardly the right subject to reflect upon while marrying. He wished – for a second time – that his father might be here to witness his wedding. A’dair and his father shared the same quirky sense of humor.

Je’hanna curtsied before him. He placed a ring upon her finger and covered her shoulders with a velvet cloak that depicted the royal crest of S’hendalow. Together, they stood before the priest. The priest pronounced them man and wife, King and Queen, King A’dair and Queen Je’hanna of S’hendalow.

Scores of wedding guests applauded when they turned around, for A’dair had made this a very public wedding. Well, Father, be pleased, thought A’dair. His new bride was not from Coral City this time, but Billoughby-by-the-Bay, and her father owned a great deal of ships and coastal property.

Now A’dair would secure the bloodline and would also surround both his Queen and himself with guards. Separately, of course. He would do his regal duty as often as it took to impregnate his new bride, then retire to his own quarters. Trust would take a long time to build after the last matrimonial disaster.

Though first he must live through his second wedding reception.

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