[This is a multi-part story. We previously read that Liana, Sura, and Nami were traveling through the dangerous monkey jungle in hopes of reaching the Royal Hall before Miko’s funeral.
If you’d like to read the chapters in order, please follow this list. Thanks!
Liana stood straight and proud, willing her face into a calm pool of serenity, as the Queen examined Kenju. Inside, however, Liana quaked with fear. Her stomach curled with eels of terror. Her legs, under the brightly flowered dress Sura had somehow found for her, trembled like saplings in a windstorm.
“Look how he smiles,” Sura whispered. “It’s a good sign.”
Liana shook her head slightly. “I think he just has a tummy bubble.”
The Queen opened Kenju’s blanket, turned him around, and handed him back to Sura. “The baby has the mark of the Storm God,” the Queen announced.
Her ladies peered at Kenju as Sura pushed his swaddling down so they could see the tiny dark crescent on his shoulder.
Liana had noticed it, of course. It hadn’t meant anything to her. But the Queen was pleased, which calmed her nerves. The servants began to pile the wooden tables high with platters of breads, fruits, meats, and salads, in preparation for the funeral feast. Sura had told her that everyone would come to pray for Miko’s spirit to have a safe journey to the land beyond. And then they would celebrate and dance.
“She is a witch!” a woman screamed. “And her son is a demon who will bring rains of fire and plagues of scorpions to our people. Your Majesty, I beg you not to be deceived by this treacherous sorcery. She murdered my nephew!”
“It’s Adoka!” Sura gasped, pointing to the back. “She’s gone mad!”
Quickly, Liana took Kenju in her arms and tucked him back into his pouch, nestling him close to her body. She pulled another blanket around him, obscuring him from view. She would not allow any harm to come to him! Sura patted her shoulder reassuringly.
The Queen rose from her throne. “Who dares to speak curses on this day? Bring her!”
Liana watched the royal guards drag Adoka before the Queen. “Please,” Adoka cried. “Do not trust this evil Liana! She poisoned my nephew Miko, your best commander, which is why he is no longer gathering treasure for you and instead waits for the flames.”
Everyone remained silent in the face of this outrageous accusation. The Queen laughed. “Are you saying that this little girl, who just gave birth, somehow managed to kill my fiercest and most powerful warrior?”
The room erupted in laughter and chatter. “Quiet!” the Queen demanded. “Surely, you brought proof, aunt of Miko. If not, I will consider you a madwoman and have you fed to the pigs.”
“I found the deadly blackberry growing in her garden,” Adoka said. “Miko went there to propose marriage and was never seen alive again.”
A man stepped forward, another pirate, Liana guessed, from his powerful build and painted skull. The Queen’s guard were on immediate alert, six brawny men stepping forward between them, spears out, ready to kill the new man on the spot, it appeared to Liana. What a brutal people, so unlike her true homeland. But she was one of them now, and would behave the same to protect what she held dear.
“It’s true!” he shouted. “I am Vuo, brother of Miko the warrior. He told me of the strange happenings since this witch appeared. She murdered even more men, men who first rescued her from the sea. Ando and Ray.”
The Queen raised an eyebrow and sat back down, giving a signal to her guard to move back as well. “Now that is an interesting story. Miko himself testified to me that those men killed each other. Are you now calling him a liar, brother of Miko?”
Vuo clasped his hands behind his back, which made his muscles bulge. “I believe he was protecting the witch because she had put a spell on him. He wanted to marry her from the start.”
“She’s a demon!” Adoka hissed, pointing at Liana. “Kill her at once! Her and the babe! Burn them alive!”
The chattering from the crowd became louder and Liana huddled against Sura as people stared and pointed at them. Some faces were merely curious, while others were clearly hostile. Obviously the pirate warriors had many fans in this hall, plus no one liked witches and demons.
The Queen held up her hand in a gesture for silence and turned her glittering gaze on Liana. She smiled, obviously enjoying the unexpected drama. “What have you to say for yourself against this accusation of murder? There are three good warriors gone, to be replaced by only one breeding woman and a helpless baby.”
As Liana tried to formulate a defense, Kenju began to cry. “My baby needs…” she said as she awkwardly positioned him to nurse while standing up.
While Liana was engaged with the baby, Sura spoke up. “Your Majesty, it is true that Miko was poisoned at Liana’s home…”
Liana stared in shock at Sura, horrified at this crushing betrayal, but she could do nothing, say nothing, simply stand there as her life was destroyed once again and now taking her innocent baby’s along with it. She wished she had perished in the volcano with her beloved family and had never come to this wretched place. Why had Benji sent her off in the boat only to be met with this infinitely worse fate? Why?
[to be continued]
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