There were many diverse tasks associated with being mistress to Ompar. It was even possible to excel at a good number of them with my dignity intact. I enjoyed the parties. The planning was as endless as the money at my disposal. So many opulent choices with the food, wine, ambiance. Pouring over the guest lists with Neopar hour after hour to determine who would need what kind of attention in order to drop their guard and divulge their hidden agendas. That was intriguing. Often my problem was that the King's voyeuristic tendencies precluded the when and where of my fact finding missions. Other times, it hardly mattered. Hetta warned me that I was becoming too jaded. I assured her that if the proper occasion ever presented itself, that I could choose to be as sunny, trusting and altruistic as humanly possible. I failed to convince either one of us with my statement.
After two years of more of the same, one peaceful afternoon as I fed grapes to Ompar with my feet, which he adored for their daintiness, and he played cards with Misha a messenger from King Roarke awoke us to the inevitable.
Apparently King Roarke had much to discuss with us in person and would be there with his entourage in three days. Apparently...?
"Does the Queen know?" Neopar inquired.
"Yes, your Highness. She said that you should make the necessary arrangements."
King Neopar waved the messenger away and resumed playing.
"Three days? Kranch. What do you want me to do in three days?" I straightened myself from my recumbent position on the couch.
"Magic as usual, poppet."
"And D'Hir?" I inquired. The debauchery between he and Dophe had gone one much longer than we anticipated.
"The Queen keeps few secrets from him," Neopar replied matter-of-factly.
"And how are we delicately going to inform King Roarke about--" There was more than a note of panic in my voice.
"I have no idea. Absolutely no idea. Love to hear what you come up with, my dear." Neopar gave me a crooked smile and a wink, that was his way of waving me off.
Fortunately for me, money and power provided the necessary incentive to do the impossible, at least in the material sense. Countless scenarios ran through my mind as to how to broach the subject that his only son and heir had been used these past two years as the Queen's plaything. None ended well. Certainly if Queen Dophe were more diplomatic and less of a contriving shrew she could handle the very situation she created for herself.
My only real hope was to have D'Hir packed up and ready to return home with his father as soon as possible.
"You mean our things?" D'Hir asked when I spoke to him a few moments later.
I forced the whirlwind in my mind to halt long enough to really look at him. "You need to go, D'Hir. Your father needs you." I tried to be as feeling as I could.
"But what about us? We can start over."
"So Daddy comes to get us and makes everything all better? Come on, D'Hir, listen to yourself." Admittedly, that was not the type of feeling I was trying for. "What can he possibly say for himself? Leaving us here for so long."
"He was protecting us."
"Protecting us? That's not good enough for me."
"He's the King. He doesn't need to justify his actions," D'Hir stated.
"And you and I, D'Hir?"
D'Hir put his hands on my shoulders and spoke softly to me. "We're survivors, Fen." He bent down and kissed the top of my head. I found myself embracing him. Part of me wanted to believe that he loved me, that he'd always loved me. But that was only part... I mainly just wanted him gone, and with as little bloodshed or bad feelings as possible.
Despite his exuberance at being reunited with his only son, there was a heaviness about him. I feared that he had already found out about the Queen and tried my best to keep him distracted with the revelry. I pretended not to notice as his eyes followed me around the room. But I did notice. And something in his gaze made me uneasy. I had another drink to steel my nerves and focused on my objective: facilitating the hasty departure of D'Hir, King Roarke and their entire entourage without endangering the long-standing alliance between the two countries. There was no one better for the job at hand, but my reputation was about to become my undoing.
After enjoying some levity with the musicians and dancers I returned to the table honor to find Misha and King Roarke engaged in a heated discussion.
"There, there, gentlemen," King Neopar tried to pacify them. "The Great War is finally over and we have much cause for celebration." Neopar raised his glass to make a toast.
"The war ended with the freeing of the Lane. The senseless debacle that endured these past two years was completely unjust, fought without honor and devoid of mercy." Misha exclaimed.
"There were many obstacles preventing a truce until now," Roarke said defensively.
"And the rest of the Houseborne did not fare as well as you, Misha." Roarke's reply was sharp.
"Is it true, King Roarke? Has the fighting come to an end?" I asked.
"Nonsense!" Misha snapped. "If such plan existed, Nalev would have written to me."
D'Hir approached the volatile standoff. "Pay him no heed, father. It is the drink talking."
Misha turned his face around to me and scowled, "Don't touch me you whore."
Considering the source of the comment, this was less insult than statement of fact. To King Roarke, it was an outrage. He looked to his son to defend my honor but was only appalled by his lack of chivalry. Roarke stepped forward and struck Misha hard across the face. Misha responded in turn. The music stopped. The king and guard drew their swords as D'Hir and I rushed to get out of the way.
Fortunately the fight was short lived. Misha put away his sword and offered a hand to his clearly bested opponent that lay flat on his back. Roarke accepted the aid. D'Hir picked up his father's sword and held it out for him.
"Misha, a word," King Neopar called. No one expected to see either of them before morning.
"I trust that clearer heads will prevail in the morning. Until then, King Roarke." Dophe gave him a polite nod and he walked off alone. I didn't know how much of what I'd just witnessed was real or merely an act, at that moment I didn't care.
I went to King Roarke's guest room but was informed by his guards that he had not yet returned. Considering the time I wasted dragging my feet down the corridors, I found that difficult to believe. None the less, I went to my quarters to formulate my next move. Then discovered that it was not at all my move to make.