Cherished Lady: Part 2

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27-Artemis

I was a bundle of nerves as I walked into the council room on the King’s arm. All eyes were one me, crushing my self-esteem like a vice. Most of the men around the large table seemed kind enough, if not a little smug. Surely, they wouldn’t bombard me on my first appearance.

Lord Edmon gave the introduction.

“Gentlemen, may I introduce you to Artemis West. The Goddess’ chosen Luna and your Queen.” The gentlemen in the room responded with a slight bow of the head and a mumbled “your majesty.” A portly man with a grey comb over, stepped forward.

“Your Majesty, on behalf of the rest of the council, I would like to welcome you to court. We are honored to serve you and to serve the kingdom. We are at your beck and call.”

“Thank you, sir,” I said unsteadily. “I’m afraid I do not have the pleasure of knowing your name.”

“It’s Lord Harris, Ma’am.”

“Thank you, Lord Harris I will rely on your wisdom.” The next twenty minutes were spent by having each member of the council introduce themselves to me. With every new name my mind became increasingly numb as the faces began to run together.

How do you keep them all apart? I mind linked Lord Edmon.

Who says I do?

Once every member was given the limelight we were finally permitted to sit. I sat on one end of the table surrounded by Lord Edmon, the King, and Dowager Queen. Most councilors sat around the other end. I stared at the expectant faces unsure of what to do next.

They are waiting for you to speak first. Lord Edmon prompted.

“Oh..uh, Gentleman…thank you for your kind welcome. I was told there was an urgent matter you had wished to discuss?” I couldn’t keep the insecurity out of my voice.

“Yes, Ma’am. As you know, during the attack against you and the Dowager Queen, Lord Ingrival was discovered to be a traitor to the crown.” I had no idea who this Lord Ingrival was, so I just nodded. “Well Lord Ingrival’s daughter was also arrested on suspicion of treason. Some of the members believe her to be innocent, and she would like to plead her case.”

“Is this really something necessary to do immediately,” Lord Edmon chimed in. “Artemis has just recently arrived at court. She still needs time to adjust to her new roles before handling matters of state.”

“And in that time she would take to adjust, Lady Ingrival would be suffering in the dungeons,” Lord Harris spat. “Your majesty, don’t you think it would be kinder to hear her case now.”

“My lady,” Lord Edmon continued turning to me. “There is no need to rush this. You can take a day or two before starting your official role.” Part of me wanted to wait as Lord Edmon suggested, but in doing so I would appear weak to the council.

“I will listen to her,” I answered. “Although I cannot promise a decision will be made either way.”

“As you say your majesty,” Lord Harris said with a smile. “I just have one further request. Lady Ingrival asked that Lord Edmon be removed before she enters.”

“That is ridiculous.” Lord Edmon said with almost a laugh.

“You and Lord Ingrival were constantly at odds with each other,” Lord Harris explained. “The young lady is afraid of your biased view swaying the Queen’s decision.”

“It was also very convenient that you are dismissing Lord Edmon, as he would be able to tell whether Lady Ingrival is lying or not,” the King pointed out.

Can you use your ability by listening in through the mind link? I asked Lord Edmon discretely.

No, I have to physically hear the words to know if they are lying are not, he responded.

“And how are we to know he isn’t lying.” Lord Harris countered. “He could say she is dishonest just to spite her.”

“I will not be thrown out so you can manipulate your way out of this, Harris.” Lord Edmon stood to yell at the man.

“Lord Edmon sit down,” the Dowager Queen commanded. I turned to find her studying me intently, the wheels in her head turning to a conclusion. “Lord Edmon how about you take a walk around the garden.” Lord Edmon scowled at the Queen in shock. “Trust me,” she assured him. “Artemis has this in hand.”

Lord Edmon still standing stared right at me.

If they step even a toe out of line you end the meeting straight out! With that thought he marched out of the council room.

“Alright Lord Harris,” the Dowager spoke. “Bring the girl in. Let’s see what becomes of her.”

It did not take long for a lady to be brought before the council. For someone who was being tortured by staying in the dungeons, she didn't have a hair out of place. My wolf snarled upon seeing her, recognizing her as the woman who claimed to be the future Luna. She was already guilty in her eyes.

Lord Harris greeted the young woman with a smile and feigned concern.

“Lady Ingrival, it is good to see you,” the portly lord said extending his arms to hold the Lady’s hands. “I am sorry for the distress you are in. I’m sure we’ll get this all figured out post haste.”

“Thank you, Lord Harris,” Lady Ingrival responded. “You have always been so kind to me.”

Both figures turned towards me.

“Lady Ingrival this is her Majesty Queen Artemis West. She has just recently been identified as the Goddess’ Chosen Luna. She will hear your case.” Lord Harris led the lady to the chair that was set aside for her. Upon approach she spoke to me with a curtsy.

“Thank you, your Majesty for your haste in this matter.” The demure smile and eyes made me believe that the lady did not remember me from our interaction in front of the Queen’s door.

“Please have a seat,” I gestured towards the chair. My wolf had been quiet up until now. Even during the attack, we were kept separate but now I felt her pushing in my mind watching carefully as the events unfolded in front of us. “Now Lady Ingrival, what is it you had wished to say?”

If Lady Ingrival was nervous at all she didn’t show it. She seemed calm and composed. A little too calm my wolf thought.

“Your Majesty, council members, I am appalled with the actions and crimes my father has committed,” she began. “To actively work against the kingdom and the Moon Goddess’ wishes is appalling and traitorous. I am ashamed to be so closely connected with someone who would commit such atrocities. That being said, I had no knowledge of my father’s actions.” Lie. “Had I known what he was planning I would had brought it to the intention of the council.” Lie.

My wolf was fuming that she would dare try to lie to us. An image of ripping her head clean of her body came to mind.

“Lady Ingrival, do you have any evidence to prove your innocence?” The King asked while scrutinizing

“No, your majesty. Only that there is a lack of evidence to prove I was involved,” she pleaded. My wolf gave a huff. It was time to take charge.

“I wonder, Lady Ingrival,” I questioned drawing her attention to me. “Were you aware that your father intended to have you named as King’s Oberon’s mate thus making you the next Luna?” Lady Ingrival’s blue yes grew wide enough to crinkle her otherwise flawless forehead.

“Your majesty my father was a very secretive person. Never did he once divulge any of his plans with me.” Lie. “I had no idea he was planning to instate me as the Luna.” Lie! “I would never take away someone’s chance of finding their fated mate.” LIE!

The woman was practically in tears when she had finished her speech. In a flair of added drama Lord Harris handed a tissue to her which she clung to. My wolf was pacing in my mind the tension rolling off her shoulders. The woman was a threat to her, and she would meet it with fury. I felt a surge of confidence and dominance fill my countenance as my wolf pushed herself forward to act.

“You said, you nothing of your father’s intentions?” I questioned lightly.

“No, your majesty. None whatsoever.” That caused my wolf to smile. Got her.

“Interesting, that not the impression you gave the other day?” The girl stopped mid tissue dab.

“Pardon?”

“Don’t you remember? You, in your forceful request to see the Dowager Queen, you claimed to be the future Luna.”

“That’s not true!” Lady Ingrival gasped. “How would you-“ The woman stopped mid-sentence “You-“ I guess she recognized me now.

“You admitted not only in front of me but also in front of several guards, which means you had at least some knowledge of your father’s intentions.”

“I..I“ The girl new she was caught and was scrambling to find another out. I wasn’t going to wait long enough for her to find one.

“You lied, Lady Ingrival. You knew your father planned on setting you as Queen, which means at best, you knew of your father’s plans and said nothing of it, or at worst took an active part in it. Either way it would mean you would be guilty at least in some part.”

“He threatened me!” she cried. The girl was getting desperate.

“Then why lie to us now?” I accused. The girl looked around at the other councilors in a silent plea for help. The councilors were avoiding eye contact with her. No one wanted to go down with the sinking ship. Seeing no one came to her aid Lady Ingrival played her final card.

“Forgive me your Majesty. I did know some of my father’s plans.” Truth. “I did not come forward because I did not think anyone would believe me.” Lie. “It’s only now that he is apprehended, that I feel comfortable coming forward.” Lie.

I was tired of this. The woman was obviously guilty.

“Lady Ingrival I grow tired of your theatrics.” I spat. “You insult me with your lies, and I will hear them no longer. You will be place back into custody until a full investigation determines how deep your involvement goes.”

“Guards come take her away,” King Oberon called. Several warriors walked in to escort the girl out. She became hysteric once they drew close.

“Lord Harris, you promised me,” she frantically shouted. “I’m not going down alone for this.” Lord Harris quickly stepped forward to cover Lady Ingrival’s mouth. It seemed Lady Ingrival wasn’t the only rat. Lady Ingrival didn’t take kindly to being silenced as she bit down Lord’s Harris’ hand freeing her voice to spout out curses towards him and other members of the council. Once she was out of the room Lord Harris turned back towards me.

From the corner of my eye, I could see the King’s face was consumed with silent rage. His mother wore a sly yet content smile. Lord Harris fidgeted trying to compose himself.

“Your majesty, pay no heed to the rambling of a desperate woman,” he pleaded. “Her words were nothing but nonsense.” Lie.

“Were they?” I asked.

“Pardon?”

“Were her words nonsense?” I pried further.

“Of course they were!” Lord Harris Gruntled. Lie.

“Tell me Lord Harris, I am obviously new to this but, what is the purpose of this council?” Lord Harris took a large calming breath before speaking.

“We are the representatives of the people. Their voice and ears in all matters of state. We guide and counsel when needed. We are essential to the governance of this kingdom. “ Lord Harris looked smug as he spouted his self-importance.

“Well then Lord Harris,” I replied, “what kind of guidance is it when the counsel asks for a traitor to be released?” Lord Harris brought his hands together in order to wring them.

“You majesty I did not know-“

“I’m am disappointed with this council. You had no intention of supporting me or the running of the kingdom. You say you represent the people but the only people I see represented here are rich old men. This council has lost its touch and no longer fulfills the purpose it had been charged with.” I thought long and hard about what to do. I couldn’t work with a group who sought to control me. “I am disbanding the council.” The room was filled with gasps of shock and awe. Maybe I overstepped here.

“Can I do that?” I quickly asked King Oberon.

“You sure can!” he replied with a cocky smile.

“Your Majesty!” Lord Harris frantically called. “You cannot expect to rule a kingdom, having no experience, without the help of those with more experience to council you?!?” I didn’t have to respond but I was enjoying seeing him struggle.

“Yes, I do need a council for guidance, but it will be a council of my choosing, with members who are truly representative of the people and are unwavering in their loyalty to them. And the first thing they will do is conduct a thorough investigation into every member of this council to ensure there are no more unidentified renegades.” I was tired. This whole affair had thoroughly worn me out.

Without saying another word, I stood preparing myself to leave. King Oberon and the Dowager Queen stood with me on cue. Looking at all the defeated faces of the council I gave my final word to them. “Thank you for your service gentlemen. It will not be forgotten.”

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