Thine Enemy’s Eyes By Tonya Adolfson
The Manifesto of the Saints details the lives and teachings of the Saints in Heaven. It speaks of their deeds, deaths, and miracles. Each saint has a feast day and a patronage with which they are associated. The common populace are trained to recite the passages from a very young age, so every child knows these prayers and wisdoms.
“I want you to assassinate the king.”
His Lordship Myrgen the Grey, Chancellor to Charles and Elizabeth, King and Queen of Mervolingia, stood before the cage which protected him from the woman. Myrgen kept a distance of about five feet. His grey woolen unisex robes were full and loose around him like fog.
“I have already told you my answer when you asked this of me before through your agent.” Her viridian eyes tried to be sharp, but he could see the effect of the mind-muddling drug administered to capture her. They wobbled over to the large black man in what would be a darting glance otherwise, and then back to Myrgen. Her Caratian accent, though not heavy, was more apparent as well, yet he did not deem it wise to take any of these observances for granted. Her hands were tied in front of her instead of behind. That fact alone gave him cause to keep his distance. The agent to whom she referred had returned with her refusal but was no longer useful at sleight of hand as a result of the encounter.
“So I remember. However, I wasn’t asking a question.” He tossed something at the base of the cage, clinking against the iron, “and I think you’ll find my previous offer is no longer on the table.”
A piece of ivory silk sported an embroidered purple lioness, stained now by spots of fresh blood. The cloth was a favor used as a mark of “ownership”. It was one she had seen before in the hands of more than one lover, including her husband. The favor was the mark of Lady Tanglwyst de Holloway, owner of The Tanglwyst Trading Company, and Catriona’s secret partner. More important, attached to the favor was a small necklace with a Caratian family crest on it. The necklace was the gift of a very helpful couple to Catriona’s son.
“Don’t take too much time.” He turned away from her as her eyes closed in defeat.
Michael, Myrgen’s personal Nubian guard, sealed the door to the catacombs, removing all trace of passage to the bulk of the maze in the absent-minded gesture of habit. The catacombs of the Mervol Royal Palace where Myrgen lived were treacherous and confusing. He refused to risk the life of a curious servant due to his lack of foresight.
The palace had suffered three fires since it had been built. As wings were destroyed, they were buried or abandoned. A maze of corridors was the result. There were several passages for the servants to bring food from the outlying kitchen buildings into the palace, but none of these connected to the two that housed escape routes for the king and queen. Myrgen’s own room wouldn’t have had a passage behind it except that it was Charles’ room when he was a young king under the Queen Mother Catherine’s regency.
They navigated the paths as much by feel as by sight in the glow of a single candle lantern. When they reached the secret entrance to Myrgen’s chambers he turned to Michael. The small light he carried cast shadows across the conspirators’ faces in the dingy corridor.
Michael spoke, breaking the comfortable silence. “Do you think she’ll do it?”
“I’m certain,” said Myrgen. “We have her son. As much as I despise involving children in something like this, it’s done now, and she knows it.”
“What about the Queen-Mother, Catherine?” Michael asked. “Have you heard back from your sources as to her scheduled return?”
“She’s due to return here within the month for a visit. I know she’s not scheduled to stay long. Charles refuses to be alone with her and can barely tolerate her in the same room at court. She’s been assigned to the Papal City as an Ambassador of Mervolingia. My sources say she’s still dealing with her ‘victory’ on Saint Michael’s Day.” Myrgen’s disgust was blatant, an unusual thing for this secretive man. “The new Pope has the documentation of Plantyn’s assassination and is contemplating the justified excommunication of the Royal Family.”
Michael cocked his head. “I wasn’t aware you were so offended by the incident.”
“More than you know.”
“Are you not Augustinian, Myrgen?”
“Wholesale slaughter should never be condoned, my friend, regardless of one’s faith. That massacre was an embarrassment, not a victory. The vigorous pat on the back the king was receiving from the Bishops and most of the Augustinian Church was sickening enough to make me switch my faith.”
Michael nodded. His own Nubian homelands had been invaded by a vicious man claiming to be bringing the faith of the Saints to the heathen masses. But his mission had also been bloodshed and it resulted in few converts.
“Don’t leave that woman alone too long,” Myrgen said as he triggered the catch that would allow him into his room. “We need her to be put on her way, not to escape. If she navigates these tunnels and finds her way out, we’re undone. Do you have the drug?”
“Right here,” Michael replied, patting a pouch in his hip.
“Good. Get on it then, before the one that dulls her senses fades from her system. It’s the only reason we have her in this position to make our request. I just hope our source was right about her.”
“As do I,” Michael said with a glance over his shoulder. “Are you certain of the source?”
“It came from Dominic D’Medici. That family, if any, would know about assassins.” Myrgen had trouble believing the rumors about this woman; that she had the ability to strip men’s souls of their secrets, that her sword appeared from the earth in her hand, or that she had convinced a man to slay his own son before committing suicide. The Back Streets held as many superstitions as reputations, often mingling the two for effect. Regardless, with a D’Medici recommendation, her credentials still were impressive, even if the D’Medici in question was a mere puppet.
“Now go. The sooner she’s on the task, the sooner the kingdom ceases to be inflicted with the king’s cruelty and weakness.”
Myrgen entered the concealed chamber attached to his quarters and closed the door behind him. He took a moment to relight two candles that had blown out. The other twenty-two flames danced with the shadows on the wall. He gazed up at the huge portrait of an elegant, ruby-haired woman resplendent in emerald silk and pearls. Her beautiful doe-brown eyes glittered from a hint of gold in the rims of the iris. These subtle artist’s tricks made them come alive and dance with graceful abandon in the firelight. The portrait had been done in secret by Myrgen himself, an amazing talent few knew he possessed. It was lit by a candle for every year of her life. He touched the painted woman’s gloved hand, life-sized, and whispered, “And the less time you must endure the prison of your marriage, my Queen.”
If you enjoyed this excerpt of Thine Enemy’s Eyes, then check out more of Tonya Adolfson’s / Tanglwyst de Holloway’s work at Fantastic Journeys Publishing www.fjpublishing.com. You can also read her Creator entry here: Tanglwyst de Holloway!