[This is a multi-part story. We previously read that Liana and Sura were at the Royal Hall presenting Kenju to the Queen when Adoka began ranting that Liana murdered Miko.
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“Silence!” the Queen commanded as the crowd erupted in a crazed frenzy of chatter. “Sura, state clearly for the Royal Court what happened to Miko, our prized warrior, whose soul now awaits the flames of purification.”
Liana silently observed this spectacle as Kenju nursed at her breast. Though their lives hung on the outcome, her mind had floated off from the immediate danger. She felt apart from everything, as if she were back on the tiny canoe, drifting in the waves, after a volcano had destroyed her home and family. There was nothing she could do…
Three old bald men stepped forward from behind the dais where the Queen sat on her throne. They wore plain white robes and carried simple wooden spears without ornamentation. “We are ready to do our duty, your majesty,” the tallest one said as they bowed to the Queen, but only slightly.
Liana watched Sura take a deep breath and continue. “Miko came to Liana’s house to ask her to marry him. I was there helping her get ready for the babe’s arrival.”
The Queen nodded. “I heard rumors Miko wished to wed the mother of the Storm God’s child. It would make sense for a great warrior such as he to desire this strong connection.”
“Liana was of course pleased at the idea–” Sura smiled and put an arm around Liana’s waist. “She had tears of joy in her eyes when she told me of why Miko had come.”
Tucking a blanket around Kenju now that he had finished nursing, Liana smiled sadly at Sura, trying to appear appropriately heartbroken over a man she despised. She thought of Ken, Kenju’s real father, taken by the volcano, and a tear rolled out of her eye and down her cheek.
“Lying witches!” Adoka hissed. “Burn them both! They killed my nephew. Sura’s family has always plotted against ours, ever since the first blood moon murmuration.”
Sura shook her head. “Truly, your majesty, she is mad. When she showed up to help, I went to care for Liana, and Adoka began mixing berries into juice. I… I did not know it was poison!”
Adoka screamed and ripped at her own clothing. “She’s lying! May the crows tear out her tongue!”
The Queen held up a hand. Her dark eyes sparkled with excitement; clearly she enjoyed this drama. Liana however wished she herself could disappear with her sweet baby to a deserted isle and never see any of these people again.
“Liana, mother of the Storm God’s child,” the Queen said, “what have you to say? I see the love for our great warrior Miko shining in your eyes. As a Queen who lost her King to an enemy pirate, I know this is true. You will never love a man again.”
Her confidence boosted by her acting skills, Liana found a calm speaking voice. “As the infant grew larger within me, I developed a dislike for mango juice, so I never drank the mixture Adoka prepared. But Miko loved it and swallowed every drop. Then he left to seek your majesty’s blessing for our wedding.
Adoka fell to the floor weeping. “It’s all lies! I didn’t arrive until after Sura left to tend to her father. Vuo injured him as he slept to make sure Sura would return home.”
The crowd gasped. Sura’s grip tightened on Liana. This was horrific–her father had been deliberately hurt? Poor Sura! And all to help Liana.
“I didn’t–” Vuo protested as all eyes turned to him. He edged toward the exit where there was a sandy path toward open water.
“Seize him!” the Queen commanded her guard. “You struck an innocent villager for personal gain? You broke your warrior’s oath!”
Vuo hung his head as the Queensguard held his arms behind his back, two men on each side. “Yes, my Queen.”
“The penalty is death without purification,” the tall jurist intoned.
“Noooo!” Adoka screamed as Vuo quietly accepted his fate. “Both brothers will be gone in the same week!”
The Queen waved her hand. “They have two younger brothers. This will be a good lesson for them in warrior honor and oath keeping.”
“What about her?” Liana said, pointing at Adoka with her free hand. The other firmly clasped sleeping Kenju to her chest.
“Inadvertent death,” the tall jurist said. “She will be banished from the island.”
Unsatisfied with this outcome, since she assumed the resourceful Adoka might find a way back to cause trouble for Kenju, Liana stated, “She murdered Sura’s cousin Nami.”
The crowd immediately burst into a frenzy until the Queen commanded their respect again. “Liana,” she said. “It is a serious crime to bear false witness in front of the Royal Court. Think carefully what you say.”
Ignoring the pressure of Sura’s fingers digging into her ribs, Liana told the Queen, “I woke in the night as I did frequently near my time. As it turned out, Sura’s cousin had come to help. I didn’t know who she was at that point, but I saw her in the kitchen with Adoka. She had caught Adoka with the poison berries and Adoka had a knife at her throat. Adoka gave her a choice to drink a cup of the juice or be slashed with the knife. Nami drank the juice. Then she left my house. I woke Sura and she snuck after her.”
The Queen turned to Sura. “Where did she go?”
“Nami went to the monkey jungle,” Sura said. “She thought there might be a cure for the poison in there.”
The Queen pointed to a guard. “Send two runners into the monkey jungle to look for Nami. If she is dead by poison…”
Liana gazed at Adoka and smiled.
[to be continued]
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