Inhaling brought cool air to her lungs as she stood outside the parliament chamber. Exhaling dispelled some of the internal heat, but did nothing to calm her anger.
“Are you ready, Your Majesty?”
Sola lifted her face. She didn’t have a choice. Either she stood out here all day or she walked into the parliament knowing full well they would want their demands met. If it was merely a waiting game, she had no end of patience.
Her people did not.
“Open the doors. Please.” She added the please perhaps a little hastily, remembering what she’d been told just that morning. She was queen, and though she’d spent seven years locked away, manners were just as important to people as they were to spirits.
The gilt doors swung open and Sola strode forward, letting the lace cape hanging from her shoulders flutter in the wind created by her passage.
“Queen Sola Diem. Hail the Queen!”
“Hail the Queen.”
The hundred voices of the parliament annoyed her, more than having her presence announced in every bloody room she entered. Sola took another slow breath as she stepped up into the empty, central pedestal, looking at the gathered faces of parliament.
Silence for a moment, and then the head of Parliament cleared his throat and shuffled his papers.
“You will speak only when spoken to.”
Her voice cut him off. Shock and surprise coated the room and Sola drew in another breathe, taking the air deep.
Roses, she realized. She could smell roses. A hateful, sickly smell that told her there were greater forces at place than one queen and one kingdom.
Smartly, one of the smaller members of parliament raised his fan. “Yes, Councilor?” She didn’t bother looking at the nameplate in front of him, didn’t bother acknowledging him beyond that. These men had plenty of acknowledgement from the people. No need to give them more. They needed a reminder of what their job was.
“In regards to today’s meeting, we’ve asked Your Majesty why you’ve refused to reclaim some of the private lands currently left abandoned or otherwise unused.”
“No, you’ve not. You’ve demanded my presence to try and cow me into submission. My answer remains as it has been. No. Those lands do not belong to the Crown.”
Several annoyed grumbles and once more the Head of Parliament cleared his throat. “Those lands—”
“Have I spoken to you?” Sola turned her gaze on him directly and he sank back.
“Ah…permission to address you, My Queen?”
“If you must.” Her temper won over her patience.
“The lands did originally belong to the Crown. It’s merely a matter of reclaiming the titles, which you do have the power to do as you are Queen of the First Kingdom.”
“They belonged to the Crown until they were purchased by their current owners. As they have not been sold back to the Crown or deemed forfeit by any competent official—”
“Several officials have deemed them forfeit.”
“Excuse you.” Sola’s attention moved to the unexcused speaker. The stench of roses grew, permeating the chamber. “I was not finished speaking, do not interrupt me. No competent official has declared those lands forfeit. Several incompetent and heavily bribed officials have and I will be rescinding those declarations effective immediately.”
Outcries. Rage. Several parliament members stood up.
What little remaining control over her temper snapped, not unlike a thread.
Roses erupted out of the wood of the podium. Several bloomed on the tables in front of the parliament. Petals exploded into the air and drifted to the floor, leaving a crimson carpet all around.
The effect was immediate. The gathered members of parliament froze, recoiling from the roses in horror and fear. Sola inhaled again.
“Let me remind you of something. Your jobs are to serve the people of the First Kingdom. You have been given your positions because you were educated enough to qualify for them. That does not mean I cannot find a replacement for all of you. Continue to harm the people of the First Kingdom and I will do exactly that.”
“Did I give you permission to speak?” Already formed, the rose thorns grew bigger. Sola glowered down at the petty men still cowering back from the flowers. Anger trembled in every limb.
“You are all the same men who allowed a weakling king to lock his daughter away for seven years. You are all the same men who left a princess to the care of spirits. Unfortunately for all of you, princesses have a habit of becoming queens. I am that queen now and my time away has reminded me of who I serve. I owe no loyalty to any of you. Your attitudes towards both me and my subjects are only adding black marks to the pages of loyalty you owe me.
“The lands do not belong to the Crown and that is final. Remember that there are rules to dealing with a spirit and remind yourselves that you’ve allowed your Queen to be raised by those same rules.”
She turned, steps kicking rose petals up into the air again. One or two clung to her as she exited. The doors closed behind her and Sola had to inhale, closing her eyes. The weight of the traditional diadem pressed on her.
“Yes, I’m sorry.” Sola shook her head to chase the thoughts away and looked at one of the doormen. “Kindly ask the housekeepers to leave the roses be. I’ll take care of them once the parliament chambers have been cleared.”
“I can have the gardeners brought in, my lady.”
Sola smiled. “That’s very sweet of you, but it will have to be me. As I said. I’ve been raised by the same rules as a spirit.”
The doorman smiled and bowed. “If I may?”
“Thank you,” he said and smiled. “My father owns some of the lands they’ve been trying to get you to reclaim. He’s too old to farm it anymore so it’s supposed to be my sister’s dowry. Without it, we’d have lost an entire orchard. So thank you for standing up to them, but if it’s all the same to you, you’ve done a good favor to us and it’s a small price to get you some help cleaning up those roses.”
For the first time that morning Sola laughed. The sound surprised her and she brought a hand up. “My thanks,” she said. “But it’s not a concern about having help. Rather, those roses are from a fairy’s blessing.”
“Then if it’s all the same to you, may I request we leave them? Can’t be messing with fairy’s magic now and might serve as a good reminder to the parliament about not crossing spirits of any sort.”
Sola considered it and looked back at the doors. She couldn’t hear anything and smiled. Perhaps parliament needed a reminder of several things.
“You know, I think you’re right. Perhaps just have the gardeners do a little trimming to keep them healthy, if you don’t mind?”
After all, there were rules to dealing with spirits and people alike.