Meschelein did not answer the question then. Nerissa only nodded her head and reminded Meschelein that if she needed someone, she would be there to listen. Not wanting history to repeat itself, she made sure that Meschelein understood. The entire conversation started to irritate Meschelein. She just seemed to keep nagging, Nerissa would not let go. Out of frustration, Meschelein searched Nerissa’s memories, and only then did she understand why Nerissa had been so insistent. Meschelein stopped arguing, smiled, and leaned down for a kiss, a kiss that would mean she would be there for an eternity. Nerissa stood there as Meschelein went about her daily routine, stunned.
Gretel had returned to the tower to be with her mothers. Her mornings were filled with lessons on protocol, mixed with music and dance. Part of her afternoons were spent taking language lessons from Meschelein, and after the lessons, she was free to explore the wide world around her. The mornings were simple and guided, as it were, by Gretel’s patience. Being only a year old, the lessons could not be too complex in nature, what would be the purpose? Her tutor and over all caretaker was the head of council, Alverad, the empress’ personal advisor. Alverad was also appointed the role of the third mother. She would become Gretel’s mother if the fates of the Empress Meschelein and her Queen Nerissa should be ill fated. Alverad would be declared her mother only until Gretel’s eighteenth year. It would be at that time that Gretel would reach the age she would take the throne and take over as Empress Regnant. Until her eighteenth year, however, the council would rule in her stead. In the meanwhile, there was a lot of growing to do.
The days were growing colder and the daylight shorter. It was a day just like any other; at least it started off that way. Meschelein and Nerissa sat side by side on the dais in the public arena listening to the villagers tell their woes, as well as deciding on the punishment of the criminals. After that, Meschelein was to meet with the council to discuss a possible excursion to Avalon while Nerissa helped the archivists sort through their vast collection of records and scrolls. Each had their own duty to perform, as they did each day, only to come together just as the sun bedded down for the night. It was on this particular day that Meschelein chose to tell her tale. The accused had been getting too close, much too close for comfort as far as Meschelein was concerned. She was able to keep them at a distance by assigning various chores, but chores were running out, and there was no more time.
After Gretel was bedded for the night, Meschelein brought Nerissa into the bedroom to sit by the fire. There was snow on the ground, frost in the air, and ice hanging down from the rooftops, perfect weather as far as Meschelein was concerned, a cold day to bring about a cold end to the traitor.
“I believe it is time to tell you what happened many years ago, what happened to cause my exile. I need to start from the beginning. Emperor Brogan was a fearful creature, afraid of anything that he did not understand, most of all, me. He knew of my abilities. We grew up together as children. He would always be the one to taunt me, to make my existence impossible. Everyone was fearful. They would stay away from me or run away as I came near, everyone, that is, except Bessa. Bessa and I are the same age, though we have different stations. She accepted me for who I am. She did not run as I approached her. She would always welcome me warmly. She would defend me against the others. She was my friend. As I reached my eighteenth year, it was time for me to marry my betrothed . . . Brogan. There were certain conditions that I had to abide by or face exile. One of the conditions was that I could not use my powers, even if it was to defend myself.” Meschelein continued to stare into the burning fire, reliving the memory the pain of that time.
“But it’s a part of you, it’s who you are. He had no right.” Nerissa could feel the pain that Meschelein was feeling. “You don’t have to continue now. We could talk later.”
“He had every right, because as my husband, he had the right to dictate my life. He took every advantage he could. He had me teach the court how to block their minds, block the memories from me. He forced me to do so, and in doing that, he did not realize that as I taught the court, I read each and every one of their memories. I could hear their thoughts. They never knew. That was when I started building my tower. It would be here that I could be free to be me; it would be here that I would always feel safe. The room inside the palace was only for show. We had the occasional mayor or governor visit us, and it would only be then that we would be together. I disgusted him so much he felt disgusted with my presence.”
“Surely you must have had some friends, not just Bessa . . . right?”
“I did not believe I did at the time. Everyone’s mind read the same . . . I am only loyal to Brogan. As an extra measure, he would often send me away to the village, whatever village would be in the worst condition, believing that I would perish. It never worked, however. I would always return, to his amazement. You would think that after sending me to the three villages and each time I would return without harm, he would believe that would not work.”
“Maybe he did that because he knew you would all right.”
“I wish that was so.” Meschelein stopped, to pour herself more wine. She knew better than to drink for courage, but in this instance, it was not courage that she was seeking, it was the numbing of the painful memory, with an even more painful memory to follow . . . if she could stay conscious that long. “The last village he sent me to, I was assisting the farmers, helping them to prepare for the harvest. Brogan sent soldiers to the village. They ripped my clothes and shackled me without question. They treated me like a barbarian. I was brought before him accused of treason. Though I thought about that many times I did no such thing, I pleaded with him. I was under strict orders to not use my powers under any circumstance, no matter the circumstance. He only repeated over and over again to tell him who had committed treason. At the time, I simply did not know. So it was decided I would be exiled until his death or the fall of the empire. He believed himself to be immortal, and did not expect to die. He never wanted me to return.”
“Here you are though, back home where you belong. You have done a lot of good things. Not a day goes by that I don’t hear how good it is to have you back again. This is a good thing. Everybody here loves you, they love their empress.”
Meschelein stood there, still gazing into the fire. The fire continued to burn. Burn fire burn, burn for all eternity, burn in the bowels of hell, she thought. Then in a very quiet voice, she added, “There is something else that you must know before I continue on with the rest of the story. The other condition of our marriage was that I would not bear any children. He found someone to do his bidding. They took out the very thing that turns any woman into a mother. After my eighteenth year, the day after our ceremony, I had become barren.”
Nerissa was stunned. She did not know who would do such a thing.
“Who on earth would want to be with such a monster!? Who!? No wonder your marriage was arranged. Who would want to marry that monster? He was not a man. He was a mouse in a man’s clothing.”
At first, Meschelein was not sure what to feel or say, but the longer she listened, the more she realized she would always have Nerissa’s love. She laughed lightly before continuing. “As soon as I awakened from recovering my powers, the first thing I had to do was to find the traitor. Find the one who had betrayed me, find the one who had me exiled from my home, as miserable as it was. I believe I know the answer to my inquiry. I have been collecting documents. Official documents, no, just scribbles on torn pieces of parchment. I recognized the writing immediately. The writing told me who, it did not tell me why, however. That is only something Bessa would be able to tell me.”
“Bessa . .? Bessa betrayed you? But I thought you and Bessa are friends, best buds. Why would she do such a thing?”
“It is time to slumber. Tomorrow is another day.” Meschelein threw the rest of her wine into the fire, POW, the flames burst inside the fireplace.
The next morning, just like any other, they sat on their thrones in the public arena. The villagers were always first. After they were done and gone, then the prisoners were brought in. Among them was Bessa.
“Empress, what is the meaning of this? I have done nothing wrong. Why am I treated this way?”
Meschelein turned toward Nerissa, “Those words sounds strangely familiar, your majesty. I believe I spoke those same words myself many years ago. Would her royal majesty feel more comfortable assisting the archivists, or would she choose to stay?”
“If it would please, my empress, I would like to stay.”
Meschelein seemed to have no emotion over this . . . none. She climbed down the steps of the dais and approached Bessa. Bessa for the first time showed fear, afraid of Meschelein, and for good reason. “Since my return, I have found various torn pieces of parchment. Some would say they are scribbles, most of the population, as a matter of fact. Because you see, it is only since my return that the villagers now receive an education and are just now learning how to read and write. There were very few before that knew how to read and write. My mother taught you and me. You could not attend all of the sessions because of your duties. There was the language barrier as well. Then, there is the question of what happened. Why am I asking this? I believe, my best bud, that you will be able to provide that answer.”
“I do not understand your question, my empress, perhaps if you would explain.”
Meschelein, with a wave of her hand, caused the torn pieces of papers to appear at a level for Bessa to see. If Bessa was not frightened before, and she most certainly was, she would be fearful now. Her carefully laid plan had fallen to pieces, but how? How would she know? How could she? Bessa had no other choice. What would she have to lose?
“All right, you found them. So what, it doesn’t matter anymore. I would be the empress if you hadn’t interfered. My mother arranged for Brogan to become my betrothed. He was in line to become the Emperor, and I was in line to become his wife. Something went wrong, though, because the next thing I know, my mother is scrubbing the halls and washing the linens. She was a lady of the court. Now, she is reduced to scrubbing and cleaning the filth left behind by the others. I couldn’t take it anymore. My plan was simple, really. Gain your confidence, get you thrown off Tutela Isle so he would forget you, and I would become queen. It was slow in the making, but I did it. As soon as you left I went to Brogan. I pleaded to him to make me his queen. What nobody knew, not even you, was that he did not care for you or me. Why? Because he did not appreciate a woman’s body, he would rather have a man by his side. He did not want to be known as the emperor who had no morals. He only married you because your loving mother paid him to marry you. I couldn’t believe it. I could not believe what I was hearing. I had no choice, you see. I had no choice but to kill him. Everything was going splendidly until they brought you back. I would have killed you and your wife had I known how. Anything else, my empress . .?”
Meschelein started laughing, not just a giggle, but a full-hearted laugh that echoed throughout the palace. When that was done, she said, “If I had known you wanted to marry Brogan, I would have gladly given him to you. He was a mouse in man’s clothing.” With a wave of her hand, the shackles fell to the floor. Bessa would have quickly made an exit, but she could not move. Looking down at the floor, Bessa realized why. Her feet had turned to cement blocks.
“From this day forward, you no longer have a home, you no longer have any belongings, you no longer have any wealth. The guards will escort you to the docks.”
“What are talking about? Hey! Meschelein! My great Empress Meschelein, I’m sorry. Please! No! You can’t do this!” Her feet were turned back to normal and the guards escorted her all the way to the docks. Just as had been done to Meschelein many years ago, Bessa was been given a small rowboat as her means of transportation, letting the tides decide her fate.
Thank you for reading Tutela Isle. Stay tuned for the conclusion of the Triumvirate saga.Return to the Academy