Crystal Throne

                                                                                 By Bert McKenzie 

                                                                                  Copyright 2010

 

Disclaimer: This story is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to any real
person alive or dead is coincidental and unintentional.

CHAPTER VIII

     "I see no solution," Thomas answered again for the hundredth time.
They had sat in the conference room of the red tower and discussed the
dilemma for hours.  Night had overtaken the land and with the coming of
darkness lamps had been lit, mainly as a consolation to Thomas' human
eyesight.

     "Please tell us how you can agree to this?" Ellenia asked again.

     Mensen, the delegate from the merchant guild had graciously offered
the chambers in the red tower to the group so they would have a place to
discuss and decide what was to be done.  He felt quite awkward being
pressured into staying and becoming a part of this discussion.  He was
unclear as to where his loyalties ought to lie.  He worried if being a part
of this group might not compromise his position with the council proper.
"You must understand our position," he began again.  "Bailor and Mordin
have a strong argument.  We wish not to have a ruler who will die or depart
and leave the kingdom once again in such an untenable situation.  We must
have an heir to the throne, and the only way to assure this is to persuade
the young king to bind."  He glanced uncomfortably at Robin sitting
stoically at the far end of the table.

     "He is too young.  You would force him into a marriage ill conceived
just to appease that fool Bailor," Thomas argued pounding his fist on the
wooden table top.

     "But I see no other way to assure succession to the throne," Mensen
whined.  He was old and all he really wanted was to be left out of these
machinations.

     Hyller of the greenwood tribe was also at the meeting.  He too was
uncomfortable with the turn of events.  "This may be what is best for the
land," he ventured.  "We get our king, the land gets an heir to the throne
and a queen, everyone is happy."

     "What about me?"  Everyone turned.  Robin had finally managed a
comment.  For hours he had sat listening to the debates and arguments.
They had all discussed his future as if he wasn't even in the room.  "Cares
no one about my feelings?" he asked.

     "Well, well of course, my liege," Hyller spoke up.  "We all wish you
to be happy and reign for a long time."

     "And how can I be happy when you bind me to that demon?" he shot back
quickly.  Hyller sat down heavily.  "I was in her chambers.  I saw how she
treated me, and others.  Rood can verify this.  I would not join that
woman," he said vehemently.

     "He is right," Ellenia added.  "We could not even consider giving our
king to that . . . that . . ."

     "Human," Rood finished.

     "Explain this statement," Mensen demanded.

     "I was with her," Rood began uncomfortably.  "We touched and were as
one.  I tell you she is not of the land.  Her ears are even different."

     Hyller seemed quite shocked.  "She is sister to the steward," he said.

     "And I am you rightful king," Robin interjected.  "To whom owe you
your allegiance?"

     Mensen looked around conspiratorially.  "Let me speak with all
honesty, my lord," he began.  "Melusine is an embarrassment to the land.
She may even be of mixed blood as your man contends.  But nevertheless she
is sister to the current steward, and he holds an army in readiness.  When
you were acclaimed by the council I feared he would commit some rash
action.  See you not that this is his compromise?  You bind his sister and
he will allow you the throne."

     "But the throne is his right!" Thomas again demanded.

     "But the throne is his only if the council will agree to the
coronation," Hyller continued.  "No matter how we feel, we are few in
number.  The other members of the council will be in complete agreement
with Bailor."

     Ellenia stood behind Robin and placed her hands on his shoulders,
tears forming in her green eyes.  "But we cannot agree to this," she
pleaded.  "If there must be a binding, why that woman?  She is evil.
Please lords, give him not to her.  Select any other," she cried, the
teardrops slowly falling down her pale cheeks.

     "And would you bind him, my lady," Mensen questioned.  A deathly
silence descended on the room.  All eyes were on the pair, Robin sitting at
the end of the table and Ellenia beside him, holding him.

     The young king slowly stood and took her hands.  He spoke to her as
gently as possible.  "Lady, if I would join with anyone it would be you
rather than that demon.  But can you not see it?  I love you as a sister
and friend.  It would be as wrong for me to be with you as it would be for
me to be with her."  The tears again filled Ellenia's eyes.  His words were
logical and she knew he spoke the truth, but she could not help the way she
felt.  She loved him.  From the moment she looked at him as he rose from
his seat in this very conference room two days before, she had lost her
heart to him.  Now he admitted that he did not love her.  It was like a
sharp dagger plunged into her breast.  Ellenia blinked back the tears as
she ran from the room.

     Robin turned to face the assemblage.  "I cannot condone this action.
I will not sell my birthright for a binding.  There will be none."

     "Then the council will declare Bailor the king or war will surely
follow," Mensen said.

          * * *

     "Can you allow such a thing to occur?" Thomas asked him.  "A war will
bring about the final end to your world.  We have come through the plague
but the land is still weak.  It was just beginning to grow again.  We can't
do this, Robin."

     "And what would you have of me?" the boy asked.  He was exhausted and
only wanted to relax and meditate.  He also knew that Thomas needed sleep
soon or he would grow ill.

     "Marry her.  Take the woman as your bride.  We can decide what to do
then."

     "I cannot.  I feel not the feelings for her," Robin began.

     "Do you feel the feelings for anyone?" Thomas shot back in quick
anger.  "Do you care for Ellenia?  For me?  For your great land?"

     Robin dropped his head to the table.  "I care," he said quietly.

     "Then do this.  We'll find a way out of it later."

     "But if I am to be the king, am I not required to take the honorable
course?" Robin asked.  "If I know in my heart that I want not this woman,
that she fills me with fear and loathing, and yet I take her to bind, is
that the honorable thing?  She will certainly wish to couple with me, and I
know I could not.  You may not understand.  As a human you are closer to
the animal kingdom and can couple with anything.  We are not this way."

     Thomas walked over to him and placed his hands on Robin's shoulders.
He gently massaged the knotted muscles.  "I know, my boy.  I know more than
you can imagine," he said softly.  "Look, someday you will find someone
special to love, and when you do there will be a way for you.  But for now,
do the honorable thing and save your kingdom.  Marry her."

          * * *

     Every tower in the castle had a crown of brightly colored pennants.
Garlands of fragrant blossoms hung from every window opening.  The sounds
and sights of the kingdom were alive with excitement and activity.
Esbereth had not seen a coronation and royal joining in ages, not since
before Robin's birth, and many ages before that.  It was a definite time of
joy.  Joy for almost everyone.  Bailor felt like singing in spite of
himself.  He cheerfully hummed a tune he had heard in a pleasure hall as he
wound his way down the corridors to his sister's chambers.  This was to be
her joining day.  He was about to get rid of several problems in one quick
motion.  His sister would be bound and no longer a controversy.  She would
not be able to go through men like old kerchiefs once she was properly
joined.  And he would enjoy the privileged status of brother-in-law to the
monarch, even though it might be for only a brief time.

     As he entered her chambers, Bailor nearly ran down a young man in the
process of leaving.  The lad was obviously physically exhausted, covered
with a coating of perspiration.  He had the unmistakable smell of a sexual
encounter about him.  Entering the room, Bailor found his sister stretched
out on cushions, a transparent piece of film she called a robe lying in a
pile beside her.  The sight of her blatant sexuality nauseated him.  Why
couldn't she be just a little more discrete.  "How is this, my sister?" he
addressed her.  "You would use your men on the day of your joining?"

     "I have to get in a little practice." she replied demurely.  "I would
not wish to be the timid bride this evening when young Robin couples with
me."

     "You, the timid bride?  You make me sick," he spat the words at her.
"I care not what physical offenses you commit with your prince this night.
Just remember our agreement for the morrow.  He will die at dawn and you
will become queen of the land."

     She rose and began to dress herself in the filmy piece of fabric.  "I
will be queen of all Tuatha," she mused.

     Bailor grabbed her wrist and jerked her around to get her attention.
"Forget not, my queen, how you got there.  Forget not that you are to name
me your king as replacement for your dear departed mate.  For I promise
you, woman, that if you remember not your agreements I can purchase a
similar fate for you that awaits the young man you will join this day," he
hissed.

     Trying to conceal the pain of his grip on her arm, the woman laughed.
"Threaten me not.  It is you who should remember how you attained your
lofty position as steward."  She pulled her arm free and turned to smile at
him.  "Fear not, brother mine.  You will be king and I will be queen and my
dear departed lord will rest with his father for all eternity."

          * * *

     A large crowd had gathered in the sanctuary of the old worship
grounds.  The place was an open air temple with a platform at one end that
held a long, stone table that functioned as an altar.  The rest of the
enclosed area was empty space in which the participants and guests could
gather to view the happenings on the stone platform.  No roof covered the
area, but it was bordered on three sides by the high walls of a surrounding
building, within which were various rooms that housed the priests and
spiritual guides as well as providing classrooms for the young and social
gathering spots for adults.  The main sanctuary had been little used in the
past years, but was now given a fresh coat of glaze and decorated with
ribbons and garlands to appear young again as when the castle was new.  At
the far end, the altar of eternity was festooned with fruits and flowers,
awaiting the ceremony to be held.  A member of the old priesthood stood
nearby, consulting his charts and books, nervously awaiting the time when
he would be called upon to perform a royal joining, something that had not
been done in a great number of years.  The rest of the anxious company
standing in attendance near the altar consisted of Bailor, who was to
complete the coronation, and several members of the high council to witness
and affirm the acts.

     In a nearby antechamber Robin was pacing nervously while his friends
tried to console him and dress him for the occasion at the same time.  "My
lord, you must remain still if I am to lash this tunic," Thomas admonished.

     "What am I about?" Robin asked himself aloud.

     "You are to be crowned king of all Tuatha, just as we have always
planned and worked for," Thomas replied unbidden.

     "But what of the joining?" Robin asked turning suddenly and almost
knocking the old man off his feet as he tried to fasten a cape over the
younger man's head.

     Thomas only sighed.  "We have been through all this.  You will marry
her according to your old religious laws just to appease the council.  That
does not mean you have to be anything other than a husband in name only."

     "And what happens tonight, Thomas?" Robin asked.  "I was in her
chambers.  I know what kind of a person she is.  What happens when she
wants to couple with me and I refuse her?  I will be in violation of the
binding agreement."

     "By then everything will be over," Thomas answered him.  "Rood will
testify before the council that the woman is not of the blood.  They will
decide that you and they were forced into this match on bad advice and that
the whole thing should be dissolved.  Before night falls you will be
summoned to the council to be told that your joining is annulled and you
are free to be king as you will."

     It all sounded too simple.  How could it work?  Robin remembered the
last time someone had said what a simple plan they had.  He only had to
wait a day in the king's chambers and then be proclaimed ruler.  That
certainly got messed up.  And now he once again was waiting for such a
deceptively simple plan.

     At last they heard the trumpet fanfare along with the ringing of the
tower bells and knew the time had come for the ceremony to begin.  "Where
is Ellenia?" Robin asked quickly before they opened the door.

     "She will watch from the side box," Thomas answered him.  "She'll be
fine, don't worry."  He grabbed Robin's arm and jerked the door open.
Before them lay a shimmering golden carpet.  Thomas turned and started
through the door and down the path toward the altar.  Robin suppressed a
great desire to slam the door shut and run the other direction.  He took a
deep breath, waited half a beat, and then followed his friend out into the
courtyard and down the golden carpet.

     A minstrel choir sang from the high loft.  The song was a traditional
piece of elfin lore telling a story of love lost and then found again.  All
eyes in the gathering focused on Robin as he slowly and majestically walked
down the path toward the altar.  Every few feet of the journey he was
showered with flower petals from the crowded sidelines.

     Arriving at the stone table Robin turned to face the gathering.  The
old priest mumbled a few words in high Tuathan, the elder language, and
Robin knelt on the padded cushions provided.  "We accept and pledge you our
lives and our lands, lord," the priest intoned.  "We ask in return that you
give us your pledge."

     The stillness of the day seemed oppressive as Robin opened his mouth
to recite the words carved in the stone tablets from the high tower.  "I,
Robin Goodfellow, Oberon the Mighty, son of our late ruler, Oberon the
Stalwart, and his lady Titania of the Greenwood, pledge to you, all of
Tuatha, to accept the honor which you now lay before me.  I will affirm my
oath to serve you as your lord and liege and perform all such duties as are
bound to this position.  I will avow to defend the land from all enemies
and promote the love and life of all who dwell within her bounds.  I will
follow the good council of my advisors and my people whenever needed and
follow the good council of my heart at all other times.  I will seek the
wisdom of the oracles in times of such need and carry out my
responsibilities until the wisdom of age or the call of the western islands
bids me pass the land to other hands.  These things I affirm and avow
before the witness of the high council and all the people of the land."

     The old priest came forward and laid his hands upon Robin's head.  He
muttered sacred words of binding and sealing and then lifted Robin's face
to gaze deeply into his eyes.  The old man looked deep into the young green
eyes.  He seemed to be reading words written on Robin's heart, seeking the
purity and truth of the oaths the young man had just taken.  He then turned
toward the crowd and bowed, giving his acknowledgment and affirmation.  He
then intoned a series of questions to the members of the council who stood
in attendance.

     "Agree you, lords and ladies, to the commitment from our lord Robin
Goodfellow?"

     "We agree," the assembled members answered together in one voice.

     "Affirm you that all he has spoken is truthful?" the old man asked.

     "By your leave, we so affirm," they responded.

     "Accept you our lord, Robin Goodfellow as sovereign of the land,
granting him the responsibilities and privileges thereto?" the old man
asked again.

     "We accept him," they replied.

     The old priest stepped back.  "By my authority as recognized spiritual
guide of the land, I affirm you to be our new sovereign lord and liege.
Receive here the crown of command by the hand of your predecessor, Steward
of the Land, Bailor Morewater, Lord of the Western Kingdoms, Council
Advisor and Master of the Blue Tower."  Bailor took the bejeweled band of
gold from the pillow offered to him by a young girl standing in readiness.
He stepped forward and firmly placed the crown on Robin's brow.  "Arise,
Lord Robin and survey the hearts of your realm," the old priest intoned.
Robin stood, new king of the land.

     Cheers and cries rose from all sides.  Flowers were thrown into the
air and multicolored birds were released from the windows of the
surrounding halls.  Bells and trumpets were sounded and general havoc
reigned freely for a short time.  During all this Robin managed to turn to
the side box.  He saw Ellenia looking at him proudly, tears glistening in
her eyes.  They held eye contact for only a moment, then she quickly turned
and left the hall.  He felt a pang of guilt shoot through his heart as he
realized that the ceremony was not over.

     The tumult of the crowd slowly faded away as the bells tolled to
announce yet another ceremony.  Trumpets sounded and the doors at the
opposite end of the hall opened.  A number of young boys, dressed in the
shortest, and most revealing tunics Robin had ever seen, entered through
the doorway.  They each carried a basket of flower petals which they
dropped onto the golden carpet.  Following the young boys came Melusine.
At the sight of the woman, a gasp rose from the crowd.  The joining and
binding ceremony was thought to be one of the most solemn of occasions,
always decked with brilliant pomp and finery.  The scantily clad boys had
bordered on indiscretion but what followed them certainly shocked the
sensibilities of all present.  Melusine began her procession down the
golden carpet, dressed in a transparent blue gossamer robe.  Jeweled
flowers appeared to be pasted to strategic areas of her anatomy beneath the
gown.  The entire appearance was one of overt seductive sensuality,
misplaced at such a ceremony.  This was the type of clothing that a bride
might wear in the privacy of the joining chamber on the evening following
the ceremony.

     Bailor, along with the other members of the council fidgeted in
embarrassment.  The old priest dropped his scroll in shock, and Robin
wished that he could simply melt into the stones of the floor.  Melusine
gracefully approached the altar with an undulating stride reminiscent of a
serpent entrancing a mouse.  As she stepped up onto the dias, Bailor came
forward to take her hand and present her to her mate.  "What is the meaning
of this?" he wind whispered furiously to her.

     "Brother, I am here to capture the heart of my lord.  This attire will
most certainly accomplish that," she whispered back, loudly enough to be
overheard by everyone on the dias.

     By this time the old priest had managed to retrieve his scroll and
came forward to begin the ceremony.  Robin felt a reluctant need to look at
the woman standing so close before him.  As he glanced at her, she heaved
her breasts upward and winked at him.  He felt an insane impulse to run
screaming from the platform.  Even if he didn't know it was wrong, he could
never have chosen such a person as this.

     "Who brings this lady to give over to this man?" the priest queried,
his voice trembling.

     "I, Bailor Morewater," Bailor answered holding out Melusine's hand to
the priest.  The old man gently accepted it, gingerly touching her as if
afraid she might sting like a scorpion.

     "Who brings this lord to give over to this woman?" the priest again
asked.

     "I, Thomas Rhymer," old Thomas answered, taking Robin's hand and
holding it out to the priest.  The old man accepted the new king's hand and
brought the two together until their right hands where joined.

     "The sash," the old priest prompted, and a young girl who had been
standing nearby in attendance quickly brought a fringed and tasseled piece
of golden cloth.  "With this sash, we bind these two spirits freely to join
in one love and pray that they may not be parted in spirit again on this
plain."  He reached out to take the cloth, preparing to drape it in the
ceremonial fashion over the joined hands of the man and woman.

     "My lord, forgive me," a voice pleaded from close by.  Looking down,
Robin was surprised to see Ellenia.  She had evidently masqueraded as one
of the priest's assistants in order to gain access to the dias.  "You shall
not have him!" she cried and plunged a dagger into Melusine's naked back.

     For an instant, confusion reigned.  Screams and cries rose up from the
assembled gathering as Melusine slowly staggered back and collapsed onto
the altar, knocking the ceremonial goblets and trays every direction.
Bailor quickly drew his sword and stepped forward, his eyes intent on
Ellenia as she cringed back.  Just as he was about to strike, Robin stepped
between them, raising his own sword.

     "I was saving this as a binding gift, my lord," Bailor growled, and
reached into a fold in his tunic.  He withdrew a small vial and before
anyone could react, threw it directly at Robin's face.

     Instinctively the young king swung his sword and intercepted the vial.
Instead of striking him it broke on contact with the metal of his blade.  A
cloud of blue vapor quickly engulfed him.  He found it hard to breath as
the floor seemed to be jerked from beneath his feet.

 

 

 

 

 

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