12 December 2002
"What did your last slave die of?"
I flex my fingers and think, and think some more. Celine? Or Margot? I can't quite remember the names any more. They blur with the round faces of those kept. The sun through the window-panes warms my skin and I tilt my head, hoping that the light will make my cheekbones glow.
She watches me steadily; the man at her elbow puts his pen down. Babette? It comes to me. "Alice! Exhaustion. She'd been was moving Lady Sofia's belongings into the palace. I think she'd been carrying the gold bath, or the gold bidet. Or both. Yes, both, because that's how they found her, with the bathroom stuff packed on top of her."
"Interesting" she murmurs, flicking her hair. Her colleague resumes writing and hurriedly scribbles, eyes down. I look directly into the eyes behind the sunglasses of my lady investigator who gives me a coy glance before coughing and glancing back to her questions. I interject, knowing the information to be surplus: "The one before that, Jilane - poisoning, testing my tea. And the two before that were crushed by boulders."
She smiles gently. "So", she says. I raise my eyebrows and adjust my cuffs. "So. Who died and made you king?" I grin; easy enough, and she gives an easy wide smile too.
"My father. It's an inherited patriarchal royal dictatorship we have going, and I believe that it's a common system in many countries. It works well here. We have no problems with first-born daughters, as I've heard happen in your homeland" - she gives a rueful look, and I have to restrain myself from reaching over to squeeze her hand; dignity is all, after all - "and the lineage is clean. The issue of... offspring hasn't arisen in seventeen centuries. Again, unlike your fatherland. Or, motherland as I should say."
She still smiles pleasantly, but the fellow at her side is less amused and, fiddling with his shades, seems to be on the point of saying something snappily. But he thinks better of it, suddenly aware of his place, the gold at his feet and the jewelled ceiling above his head. Aware of her companion's tetchiness she says "There have been unusual circumstances at home in the past decade as you mention. As you're aware, this is part of the reason behind our visit and our work here. It has affected all of us. An unknown future is extremely unsettling experience indeed."
I am aware that I have somehow overstepped a mark or limit, but am unsure of how to remedy this. I am unused to criticism, or anything other than screened and censored comment. Uncomfortable (another unusual sensation), I adjust my position on the ceremonial throne. A shaft of sunlight illuminates the room briefly, bringing the bright colours of the murals on the walls into sharp relief.
For some reason, the atmosphere seems to be lightened as both of my questioners give wide and sudden beaming smiles. The man speaks for the first time. "I think that brings us to our last question, Your Royal Glowing Highness. If you don't mind telling us: has the sun always shone out of your arse?"
18 December 2003. George writes: This List
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