Who’s That That Bears the Sceptre?

Seryl 5, 1014

The venerable cathedral of St. Robert was unusually empty and quiet for an event as momentous as a coronation.

Will looked around the great, echoing cathedral and suppressed a shiver. On a day like today, it should have been full of people. There should have been well-wishers, ill-wishers, great nobles and prelates, as many abbots and abbesses and other high-ranking men and women of the Church as could possibly be rounded up. Outside, where the common people would perforce wait out the coronation — there not being room for them in the church (if things were being done properly) — there ought to be a carnival atmosphere. Will had heard that some kings, like Vortigern, would make the fountains flow with wine on their coronation-day, the better to endear them to the populace.

Not so for Constantine of Caernavon.

“It’s … quiet, isn’t it?” Jessie murmured.

Will nodded without a word. Had there been a crush, a crowd, he might have been to spill all of Albion’s state secrets without fear of being overheard in the din (or even heard by Jessie). Now, he dared not mention a basic fact for fear of who would hear and what they might do with it.

… He was being ridiculous. He was in Camford, diplomatically neutral territory. Even if someone heard, what offense could they take? More to the point, what could they do?

“Do you think …” Jessie started, and stopped.

Will raised an eyebrow at her. Jessie had her eyes narrowed — then she suddenly waved one hand and murmured something. Will felt a faint frission, a kind of tingle that hinted that thunder was in the air — except for when Jessie murmured something below her breath and gestured with one hand. That meant it was not thunder, but magic, in the air.

… Though there might have been thunder about, too. The weather was miserable today. Will wished he could blame the weather for the poor turnout, but since the guest list for this event was so small as to be practically invisible to the naked eye, the weather was clearly not the culprit.

“Nobody can hear us — at least for the next couple of minutes,” Jessie murmured from the corner of her mouth. By her caution, Will guessed that people could still see their mouths moving and might be able to wonder why they couldn’t hear. Best to be cautious, then. Will had no idea what kind of trouble they might get in for Jessie casting a spell in the middle of the holiest cathedral in Wrightendom, and he didn’t particularly care to find out.

“Do you think that Constantine’s not as sure of his support as he wants to be?” Jessie asked. “I can’t think of another reason to have such an … exclusive coronation.”

“I wish I had a better explanation,” Will replied. “It can’t just be the distance. Or the time. Half the nobles of Glasonland are here anyway.” The crush was so bad that there was not a bed at an inn to be found; even the most rat- and flea-infested pallet on the floor at a down-at-heel tavern was going for the normal price at a fine inn. The only reason that their party had good beds to sleep on and a roof over their heads was because they were saying in the sorority house of Albion. Its only resident at the moment, Cherry Andavri, was being quite accommodating, but Will still had no idea how he was going to make up for invading her space with two witches, two infants, a nurse, and him. At least it wouldn’t be for long.

“I …” Jessie stopped, then she nudged Will and gestured to their right. Will just let his eyes slide in that direction …

Shit. Rodnius of Jung, envoy to Albion from Reme and Reme’s representative at the Glasonlander coronation — their official delegation had evacuated when the war started, and Rodnius and his delegation were the people who could get to Camford on the shortest notice — was watching them. Will glanced back to Jessie and nodded. Jessie murmured something again, and the frisson was gone.

Jessie yawned, and at that sound, Rodnius put his hands on his hips. “So. Bet you’re not liking this any more than we are.”

“Things are certainly … odd,” Will replied. “Is this not what’s usual in Reme?”

“Are you joking?” Rodnius snorted. “It doesn’t matter if the new Emperor’s sword is still dripping the blood of the old — he’ll still host games in the Amphitheatrum, races in the Circus, free bread for all — and a grand coronation in the chapel, with every member of the Senate, all the Tribunes, half the Praetorians, all of their wives and older children andΒ their wives — basically, anybody who’s anybody who survived the purge and hasn’t been sent to the salt mines.”

Will couldn’t help his widened eyes. Rodnius saw it and snorted. “I’m exaggerating.”

“Ah.”

“Usually the purge doesn’t happen until after the coronation.”

“How wise,” Will replied, somehow managing to keep that free of obvious sarcasm. Rodnius snorted again, but at least this time there was a shade of respect in it.

“Can’t imagine what that Constantine is playing at,” Rodnius went on. “Especially since anybody who is here and who’s anybody will be swearing fealty–”

He didn’t get a chance to continue. There was a sudden swell of music — the choir loft and instrument bays were the only parts of the church at all full — the choir rose, and the cathedral filled with the glorious harmony of a Te Deum. Will closed his eyes and listened. Nothing important would happen during the hymn, and some said that being in the cathedral of St. Robert while a Te Deum was sung was the closest one could get to Heaven while still on earth.

Then … when the music died away, the double doors at the end of the flew open, and in came Lord Antonius Tarquinius in a golden robe. “Ho! Here approaches the right and true King of Glasonland!”

The crowds were being kept well back — Will could see no one outside the big doors. Will wondered where the assembled lords, who would pay their homage as soon as the King and Queen were crowned, were waiting.

He wondered, too, how they were waiting. Eagerly? Reluctantly? With joy? With annoyance? With boredom?

If only he could be allowed to see the crowd!

But there was no use hoping for what wouldn’t happen. He could watch the individual lords as they came to swear their fealty. Now, he watched the door. Lord Antonius slowly processed forward … and it was not long before Constantine and his wife Emilia followed him in.

Constantine wore a green robe worked with cloth-of-silver. Will wondered if this was a traditional robe or one new-made for the occasion. Records of past coronations — Vortigern’s, Vortimer’s, Uther’s even — indicated that the monarchs wore green, but with what meaning in mind, none would say. In any case, Constantine was upholding the tradition. That was one point.

Emilia wore a red velvet gown over a red and gold brocaded underskirt, and probably enough jewelry to form the dowry of two or three knight’s daughters. Will wondered what, if anything, her choices might mean. Constantine was calling back to tradition, Emilia …? Viviette had mostly worn green, and red was green’s opposite. Was Emilia trying to send a message? Was she seeking a pleasing contrast with her husband’s reds? Did she just prefer red above all colors?

Will glanced at Jessie as the royal party made its way up the empty nave. At least they could compare notes later. She’d probably have a better idea about the significance, if there was any, to the outfits than he would.

Will rubbed his nose as he watched. The march up the nave was slow and stately, as tradition demanded, but without the reason for the traditional slowness. There should have been people lining each side of the nave. They should have been pressing forward, mutely begging for a blessing, reaching out for a touch of a royal robe or gown. There probably should have been a strategically-placed beggar or blind man or wounded warrior — or perhaps, if a blessing from Emilia was sought, a heavily pregnant woman — to suddenly appear at the front of the crowd and get a silent blessing.

But as they came closer to where the people were, finally movement started happening in the crowd. There were curtseys and bows as the royal party passed by. Will and Jessie paid their respects as well, Will trying as best he could to read the expressions on the royal faces.

Constantine’s expression was perfectly solemn and serious, perhaps a touch nervous — exactly how one might wish a king on his way to be crowned to look. So it must have been an act. Nobody could be that perfect on such a momentous day. But maybe that was all to the good. A king had to be a good politician, and a politician had to be good at showing the right face to the right people at all times.

Or maybe it was another sign that Constantine was not the man he strove so hard to show to the public.

At least Emilia’s expression was a bit more genuine. She was smiling, a small smile that probably aimed for docile and perhaps a bit beatific — like St. Brandi’s smiles in the pictures the artists like to paint of her. But instead it came off as a wider grin barely suppressed. So she saw reason to grin this day … was that merely normal (who wouldn’t want to be Queen), or was that something to note down with care?

In any case, they soon were past, and Will perforce had to put that all away to examine later.

Lord Antonius arrived at the front of the church first; he then took a standing position next to Brother Timothy of the Robertians, who would be performing the ceremony. Apparently the Robertians had put their foot down at actually having the Abbot doing the crowning. Emilia stopped a bit sooner, and Constantine advanced the last few steps alone to be embraced and formally kissed by Brother Timothy.

“Constantine, formerly Baron of Caernavon, greetings in Wright,” said Brother Timothy. His voice managed to fill the whole cathedral as people did not.

“Greetings, Brother,” replied Constantine.

“For what purpose come ye here this day, my lord?” asked Brother Timothy.

Constantine took a deep breath, and in spite of himself, Will felt the tension ratchet up and the suspense build.

“To be crowned King of all Glasonland, Brother,” replied Constantine, finally.

There was a deep sigh of relief when he finished. Will found himself joining it and kicked himself for doing so. So did Rodnius. He tossed Will a faint smile, combined with a fainter roll of the eyes.

“King of Glasonland,” repeated Brother Timothy. That was not part of the ceremony — he must have been ad-libbing. Will glanced at Jessie out of the corner of his eye to find her rolling her eyes and shaking her head. He was able to breathe easier after that, feeling steadier, more solid.

“Tell me, Constantine, formerly Baron of Caernavon — is it in accord with the law of men that you come here this day to be crowned?”

“Yes. I am son of Borre of Caernavon; son of Piran; son of Iago; son of Yorath, Duke of Amlwch; son of Mabon, Duke of Amlwch; son of Tristram, first Duke of Amlwch; son of Margh, King of Glasonland and the second of that name.”

“That is a long line to get to royalty. Are there no nearer heirs?”

Constantine shook his head. “No. They are all dead, else were never born.”

“I see,” replied Brother Timothy, although he doubtless knew all of this already. “Then tell me, my lord — are you King of Glasonland in accordance with the Law of Wright?”

Constantine bowed his head. “I do not know, Brother. It is not for me to guess the Law of Wright.”

Brother Timothy nodded sharply, and so did Will. This was all in accordance with the ritual. “Then tell me, my lord Constantine: do you solemnly swear, if crowned, to hold the Law of Wright precious above all things, to adhere to its council in matters of peace and war, feast and famine, justice and mercy?”

Constantine nodded slowly. “I do.”

“Do you swear to protect the Church and all the people she holds under her wings, being the first to raise your hand to defend them, whether they be in your land or another?”

“I do.”

“Do you swear to govern the people of Glasonland justly and fairly, in accordance with all their ancient laws and customs?”

“I do — so help me Wright.”

“Do you swear also to be Glasonland’s first and last defender, the first in charge, the last in retreat, steadfast until the last, watering the land with your blood if need be?”

“I do swear,” Constantine replied, bowing his head.

“If you swear all these things from the very bottom of your heart, then you are King of Glasonland under the Law of Wright: for the Lord careth more about the contents of a man’s heart than the blood in his veins. So, I ask you again: do you swear, on the hope of your own salvation, knowing full well you may be damned if your word prove false, to do all these things?”

Constantine swallowed, nodded, then — with a voice that started small, but soon grew to reach the rafters, “I do — I do swear, so help me Wright!”

“Then by the power vested in me by Abbot Wenceslas, and in him by all the other Abbots going back to St. Robert himself, and in him by Our Lord Wright, I proclaim you King of all Glasonland in accordance with the laws of Wright and men!”

Lord Antonius cheered, and belatedly, so did everyone else in the church. It was a thin and ragged thing, barely big enough to fill the nave, let alone the whole cathedral.

But then — Will heard a cry from outside. Some signal must have been sent that he was unaware of. “Constantine if proclaimed King! Long live King Constantine of Glasonland!”

Then a great shout from the multitude: “Vivat Constantinus! Vivat Rex!

With the sound of those cheers, something unbent in the church. There were more than a few sighs of relief. Will felt himself start to relax.

Then Brother Timothy spoke again. “Hear ye that, King Constantine? You are proclaimed King by Lord and men alike. Kneel ye, then, and be crowned!”

Constantine knelt.

“See here, people assembled, great lords and peers and common folk alike!” called Brother Timothy. Will hoped he was the only one who noticed Jessie looking around, probably checking for common people. “See how your King, ordained by the Lord to be above all of you, kneels before Holy Mother Church! So should you kneel, always and forever!”

That wasn’t part of the ceremony — but that must have been the price to have the coronation in St. Robert’s. Will glanced sidelong at Jessie, who had her lips pursed together. Good — she had noticed too. And Rodnius was chewing his lip like it was his only meal in three days.

“Fetch the oils!” called Brother Timothy. A novice soon appeared with a tray of holy oils. Brother Timothy took the flask and anointed Constantine on the head. “May the Lord bless you with wisdom, so you may rule your people well.”

“Amen,” said the congregation.

Then Brother Timothy anointed Constantine’s chest. “May the Lord bless you with compassion, so you may rule your people well.”

“Amen,” replied the congregation.

Then came Constantine’s hands. “May the Lord bless you with strength, so you may rule your people well.”

“Amen.”

And then — last of all — came the crown. Legend held that there was gold in there from the same crown that had been worn by King Brutus, and that his crown had been blessed by St. Robert himself when he used it to crown Brutus’s son.

As Brother Timothy lowered the crown — the holiest and most solemn moment in the whole ceremony — Will found himself holding his breath.

Then — with no flash of heavenly light, no rending of the sky, no dove descending from the heavens, no rumble of thunder — the crown was placed on Constantine’s head.

The choir sang a Gloria as Constantine continued to kneel, presumably in prayer. The music was good, and Will felt his spirits lift. But … that was all.

When the choir was done, Brother Timothy called, “Arise, Constantine — King of all Glasonland, crowned in the sight of the Lord and the sight of your people!”

Constantine stood up. Brother Timothy stepped to the side. Emilia went and knelt before her husband. For now it was her turn to be crowned, and only Constantine could do that. Ancient Glasonlander law held that no man save the King could touch the Queen, under penalty of death. Of course, everybody knew what that meant, and normally only the spirit of the law was heeded. But on a day like today, it was the letter of the law that was followed, not the spirit.

There was no oath for the Queen of Glasonland. Her marriage vows were thought to be enough. At least, that was the case for a Queen Consort; presumably a Queen Regnant would have had some kind of an oath. However, given how easily young Princess Lucilla had been pushed aside, Will doubted there would be a Queen Regnant of Glasonland for some time.

Constantine reached for the sacred oils; a novice was instantly at his side with them. He anointed Emilia’s head. “May the Lord bless you with prudence, to serve your King well.”

“Amen,” said the congregation.

He took the oils and anointed Emilia’s hands. “May the Lord bless you with gentleness, to serve your King well.”

“Amen.”

Lastly, he took the oils and anointed Emilia’s breasts — what he could see of them — and a spot on her dress at about stomach-level. “And may the Lord bless your womb with sons, so that there may be Kings of Glasonland when your King has gone to his rest; and may He bless your breasts with bounty, to make those sons strong and hearty. May He do all this so you can serve your Lord, your King, and the people Glasonland, forever and ever, world without end.”

“Amen,” said the congregation — and was it Will’s imagination, or did Emilia’s voice rise up as well? He glanced at Jessie. She was glancing at him. No, it couldn’t be his imagination.

The Queen’s crown was passed to Constantine, and slowly he lowered it onto his wife’s head. Will wondered … he could see that Constantine’s air was solemn, but he would have given anything to see Emilia’s face at that moment.

“Arise then, Emilia, Queen of all Glasonland, so proclaimed by her King,” proclaimed Constantine. He held out a hand and helped his wife to her feet. As she rose, the choir broke into an Ave Brandi.

When the choir was finished, Constantine and Emilia kissed formally. The cathedral broke into polite cheers — and outside, a far more raucous cheer went up.

With that, Constantine and Emilia joined hands and guided each other to the tiled thrones. Constantine sat first, followed by Emilia. They leaned back. Brother Timothy took up a spot directly to Constantine’s right; Lord Antonius took one to Emilia’s left.

The ceremony would go on for hours after this. Every notable lord of Glasonland (who could make it) would have to swear fealty. The abbots and abbesses of Glasonlander abbeys who could be rounded up would have to pledge their loyalty. Representatives of the commons would have to swear fealty, too. And then there would be parades, and feasts, and entertainments for the next week or two. The coronation was far from over.

But in a way, none of that matter. The important part was done.

The reign of Constantine I of Glasonland had begun.

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8 thoughts on “Who’s That That Bears the Sceptre?

  1. So, Constantine is king. Um, yay for him? At least there was a reference to Cherry. πŸ™‚ Though I think it would take more than a couple of witches and some babies to throw Cherry off her game. I’d have liked to see Cherry and Jessie’s first meeting, actually.

    Anyway, So the scheming and betraying and undermining and “being perfect” has gotten Constantine where he wanted. I hope you enjoy your uncomfortable seat and hope it makes your ass go numb, Constantine. And I hope you get random night sweats in the royal bed.

    You got the throne and the crown by betrayal, and I hope that comes back to bite you in the ass. I really do…

    • It might have been interesting to see that meeting … but it wasn’t going to advance the plot as much as the coronation. πŸ˜‰ Besides, I think the meeting between Cherry and Jessie would be best termed as “polite chaos”: a polite thank-you for letting them stay, followed by Jessie running around like a crazy person to get the babies settled and the nurse settled and the witches settled and the husband settled. πŸ˜‰

      Yup … Constantine has gotten what he wanted. And only time will tell whether he’ll come to regret it or not. So far, he’s liking the seat … although I agree with you that it looks mighty uncomfortable. (And yes, Vortigern did say something once that the throne has to be uncomfortable to keep the King from falling asleep in it, but that was two thrones ago. Constantine might have gone for a more ergonomic model. πŸ˜‰ )

      Thanks, Andavri!

  2. I can see the logic in a small coronation on Constantine’s part, but as far as those who actually got to attend are concerned, I’m sure Will and Jessie and Rodnius weren’t the only ones who picked up on more than the occasional oddity. Jessie and Will are in for an interesting debriefing, it seems; they’re two clever people who balance each other well, and I’m sure each caught at least one or two things the other might have missed. I’m very interested to see how Arthur reacts to their reports.

    Where are Viviette and Lilla living? With Antonius? I’m guessing that they’re not in any immediate danger, though. Lilla’s much too young to be rallying her armies (though I guess we’ll see if she has an inclination to do so when she’s older?), and Viviette was only royal by marriage and Emilia does seem to have a genuine soft spot for her–and if there had been any chance that Vortimer had knocked up Viviette again just before his death, I’m sure we would have heard by now.

    Poor Cherry, stuck with all those guests! Though knowing Cherry, I’m sure she’s come up with a way to make it amusing.

    • I can also see the logic of a small coronation on my part: it kept my computer from freaking out! πŸ˜‰ (And the sad thing was that there were a lot more people than I was able to get in the pics, enough that I was on-edge until the shoot was done, afraid it might crash.)

      But unfortunately we won’t see Arthur’s reaction to their reports … I have other fish to fry. Fish that I think (hope) will prove mighty tasty to my readers. Starting next post, in fact! *fingers crossed*

      Viviette and Lilla are currently in a small manor, dead in the country, far away from any fighting … also far away from any news. The manor in question is owned by Antonius, though other than collecting rents from it, he doesn’t have much to do with it. They were brought there after Vortimer’s death for their own safety, and haven’t been moved since. I’m sure you can guess why.

      Also, Vortimer last saw Viviette and Lilla six months before his death. If he’d knocked her up then, she would have had the baby by now, so no — there will definitely be no more Vortimer-Viviette babies, alas.

      Cherry did find a way to make it amusing, never fear! πŸ™‚ Besides, the house was big enough to hold a bunch of sorority girls. Everybody fits in just fine, it’s just a little more chaotic than Cherry is used to … and it’ll be that chaotic again when Delyth, Dilys, and Ravenna move in in about 2 months, story-time.

      Thanks, Van!

  3. I wonder if people are afraid to show too much support in case the king is overthrown. Or maybe he is so afraid of assassination he insisted on a small guest list.

    • I think it’s more the latter than the former, although you’ve got a really good point about the people being leery of showing too much support. Civil war can scare the bejeezus out of people like that. There’s probably a sizable number of people who stayed home from the coronation and took a “wait and see” approach for that very reason.

      But yes, Constantine is still unsure enough of his power that he didn’t want a huge guest list. He’d much rather have the guest list, at this point, small and easy to control.

      He also may not have wanted too many witnesses to that “kneel before the Church” line … just because he agreed to it doesn’t mean he has to like it.

      Thanks, Chicklet!

  4. Chicklet, you make an excellent point. After such a horrible conflict in Glasonland, who would want to be caught on the wrong side if things went sour?

    I’m suspicious as hell of Emilia. Nice as it is to be a queen, she’s the queen of a fractured and dangerous realm. Both of their lives remain in some degree of danger. I highly doubt Alison or Lynn would find much to be smiling about in this situation. (Then again, they’re both married to much, much better men than Emilia is.)

    I’m also suspicious as hell of the Robertians. How nice that they’re so cozy with the new king! And that line about kneeling before the church? Eugh. No church worth its salt calls the faithful to kneel before the church itself. Maybe the Lord Wright can come back and smite somebody to make a point about abusing religion? At least, I hope Jessie cast a few spells on the way out just to get their dander up – nothing fancy, just dunking Brother Timothy upside down in a brimming font…

    • I don’t think Alison or Lynn would be smiling much, either. Neither of them ever set out to be queen of anything, although logically Lynn knew that was the consequence when she fell for Tommy. Still, it was hardly the main attraction.

      However, Emilia has been working toward this goal for years — it was her LTW! Yes, the fight isn’t over yet, and she’s still in danger because the realm isn’t quite stable. But for now, she’s gotten what she wanted, and it hasn’t turned to dross in her hands yet, so … smiles it is.

      The Robertians also have reasons why they’re positioning themselves above everybody else. I think they’re scared by the defiance shown first by puny little Albion, then Gaul. Reme is also never as much under their control as they would like. The Robertians are afraid if Albion and Gaul continue in their defiance, then Reme might follow. So, as a counterweight to that, they’re trying to tie Glasonland to the apron strings as tightly as possible. We’ll see how well that works out.

      As for Lord Wright, well, this is a Deist universe, and the Lord Wright is a Divine Clockmaker who has moved on to make other clocks. *points to Spore* However, there is a Demigoddess still active, so who knows what trouble she might get into? πŸ˜‰

      And Jessie casting spells … alas, it’s unlikely at this point. She’s on her best behavior and all that. But never fear! There’s always hope for George!

      Thanks, Winter!

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