In his youth, Eburgistraten spent the most time with his cousins Drezi and Hezason. When Drezi, being a few years older, was about to be married to Princess Dophe of Belaurii there was a great celebration that involved much drinking, loud music and parlor games of chance. Hezason only excelled in tests of strategy and was always first out. Eburgistraten and Drezi, both lucky by nature, were both about to claim victory, at least each looked sure of it, when King Olan entered the parlor with the ever-present demon the High Queen.
When not channeling the voices of war casualties and other notorious dead, the High Queen was still the most captivating vision of beauty. Years before she had taken to wearing a long dark hat and veil with feathers and jewels jutting about in a silly arrangement. There were those in the court that felt it was yet another muse to lure the wary before draining the life from them. Ara had been legendary in both beauty and vanity. Little by little, Ara was emerging from the hold of the Lane. The High Queen wore a gown made of loosely hung white gauze that dipped and moved in all the most provocative places. Those who valued their life stayed clear of her.
Eburgistraten rolled his dice, then cheered. “Fatal!”
“How could you possibly win again?” Drezi protested. “Would you have me a pauper before my wedding day?”
“Not I cousin. The dice.” Eburgistraten smiled and collected the gold and silver coins from the floor.
King Olan tried to socialize with his guests, but was ever wary that he would be interrupted by a harrowing death count. Hezason watched her the High Queen, his eyes transfixed, “She comes this way.”
Eburgistraten counted his winnings.
“Who?” Asked Drezi as he stood from the floor.
Eburgistraten looked up just at the moment that Drezi bumped into the tail end of the High Queen. Drezi, his luck having run out, was dead before his body hit the floor. The young prince dropped his coins. Hezason fell to his knees beside his friend, but there was nothing to be done.
King Olan quickly took notice of the situation and spoke calmly. “Looks as though Prince Eburgistraten will marry Princess Dophe tomorrow. Do try to get some rest. We can't have you showing up for the ceremony suffering from the ill-affects of too much drink. We have enough troubles with the Eltesnians; let's not offend Belaurii."
Eburgistraten returned to his room but only long enough to gather a cloak and sword before vanishing quietly into the dark of night. Two days later he appeared at the palace of King Dalma to seek asylum. Unfortunately, my father was of all places, deep within Kanabulan at for the annual summit with the Dzai priesthood. Held at the House of Women, the event was designed as a week-long celebration of diversity within the Dzai community and camaraderie, usually of the orgiastic type, culminating in the Re-enactment of Entrapment.
Councilman Paynor received Eburgistraten with much caution and sent word to summon my father back from the festivities. As a lad of eight I found Eburgistraten to be such a curiosity. What on could possibly drive a prince into the enemy court? None the less, I showed him hospitality and in return Eburgistraten helped me with my math assignments with colorful gambling analogies that I still remember to this day. My older sister Nilah was even more fascinated than I.
Once my father returned to the palace, he and Eburgistraten were sequestered for the better part of a month. I secretly hoped that he would be granted asylum, but when Eburgistraten finally exited my father’s private study he shook my hand, gave me a broad smile and left. It would be years until I was privy to any details of that encounter.
Eburgistraten returned, albeit defiantly with High Priestess Vay as his bride. Vay was short and squat in physique with long graying hair. She possessed a finely tuned sensuality and was a gifted interpreter; however, neither of these attributes made her accepted around the court. King Olan was on a very long list of men and women who considered the High Priestess to be a duplicitous whore. He ordered that she be removed at once because it was not prudent to bring the enemy into the palace. Eburgistraten agreed, as long as she was not already with child.
“The woman is a prostitute. What makes you think you would be the father?” Olan’s voice was calm yet stern.
“First of all, Vay is High Priestess, and as such is only engaged in sanctimonious matters. Secondly, would you have me risk sending an heir...”
“Yes. All right. She shall remain here for three months, under our strict supervision. If she is not pregnant, out she goes. You will arrange for your first and most important marriage to Princess Dophe, if her father can still be bribed. The royal family was not pleased to arrive and find the groom dead and his replacement gone missing.”
Vay was in fact with child and in due time produced the most beautiful baby girl. Then she was ousted from the palace, happy to return to the House of Women. Eburgistraten employed the services of his childhood nurse maid to help him care for his daughter whom he named “Naeri—fiercely loyal”.
Eburgistraten was blissfully happy. His daughter adored him and King Olan, ever-questioning the true lineage of the girl, virtually tossed him aside. With four others in line for the tier, it was no great loss for the kingdom.