[This is a multi-part story. We previously read that Liana defended herself against the accusation of murder levied by Miko’s aunt Adoka, and in a twist Liana accused Adoka of poisoning Sura’s cousin Nami.
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“He knows he is beautiful, which is why he has the arrogance. Much like our pirate warriors,” the Queen said as they strolled arm in arm through the Royal Garden after breakfast. “Look how he preens.”
Her majesty liked to pretend she adored Liana and was thus affectionate, but Liana knew the truth. The Queen had suffered a few dizzy spells lately and did not want anyone to know her balance was poor. Twice this month, Liana had discreetly helped her when she’d stumbled in the Royal Hall and no one had been the wiser.
“Yes,” Liana agreed, gazing at the peacocks. “A striking bird. A perfect match for the Royal House.”
The Queen glanced sidelong at her. “Are you happy here, my dear? Sometimes I think about how young you are. Maybe it was too soon to rashly give up the idea of marriage forever. Miko is long gone and you are here, and so very beautiful. Any one of the warriors would be pleased if you looked his way, or perhaps an artist or a poet…”
Liana assumed she was being tested. “My heart belongs to one man only,” she replied honestly, letting the Queen interpret that as she would. “I am content knowing that my true love will be waiting for me in the land beyond.”
The Queen nodded. “It is true that our time here is short compared to…” she waved a hand… “the beyond. And you have your child. Precious Kenju. He has seen five full summers now.”
A surge of joy filled her chest when Liana thought of her sweet boy. “He is my angel.”
“He needs to be formed into a man,” the Queen stated.
“But surely not… a… pirate?” Liana hoped she didn’t sound insulting. “I mean, we are not of the tribal lines. The other boys would not accept him in training.”
The Queen laughed. “No, of course not! Kenju is the son of the Storm God. I had his fortune read by the visiting priestess from the big island. He is destined to be a great leader of nations, she said. A pirate cannot be anything but a commander of pirates.”
“Oh? A great leader?” Liana beamed, not that she believed in fortune-telling, but the Queen did, which was important.
“Yes. Absolutely. I felt it myself the first time I held him. He has a power running through him like lightning.” The Queen stopped to admire her orchids. “And so I wish to adopt him. Not to take him away from you, but as a formality. I was not blessed to have a child with my King, and so unless I take action my throne shall pass to my cousin, who has shown little interest in anything but his bees. But we can mold Kenju into a perfect leader of this island nation.”
Liane bowed her head. “Kenju and I are forever honored and humbled by your extraordinary kindnesses, your majesty.”
“Wonderful,” the Queen said. “We will send him to Fiji and then on to Japan for a more advanced education. I wish him to go to fine schools and learn several languages, history, science, agriculture, business, art, music, and philosophy!”
Liana felt utterly dismayed.”I’ll never see him again!”
“Of course you will, dear one.” The Queen patted her back. “He will return for all the school holidays and then when he’s finished with his studies he will take over for me. In maybe twenty-five years. The time will go quickly. Now, I do need to see my treasurer. If we could go inside?”
Liana went to the rocky cove alone and stared out at the fog. Twenty-five years! She realized she herself didn’t have a plan for Kenju beyond ensuring he was safe. After she and Sura had finessed that tricky situation with Adoka by framing her for a murder she didn’t commit before she could have them burnt alive for witchcraft, life on this strange and brutal island had settled into a rather mundane pace for Liana and her child.
The Queensguard had killed Vuo that dramatic day and tossed his body to the sharks. Then they’d burnt Miko’s preserved body in their ritual manner, after which the entire village feasted and danced all night long. Except for Adoka–she had been held prisoner on a ship in the harbor for three days until the runners returned with Nami’s body. The doctor said she could have died from poison or the bite from the blue tree snake. The Royal Court conferred and decided that there was no reason that Nami would have gone into the monkey jungle alone unless she was desperate to find an antidote. They sentenced Adoka to be burned alive. But by that time, someone had smuggled her a knife and she had taken care of her death herself.
After that, Liana had focused all of her energy on keeping Kenju healthy and safe, while Sura went back home to care for her father. The Queen had invited Liana and Kenju to live at the Royal Hall following Miko’s funeral, and the days blended into months and years. And five of them had passed without incident, five years of living in luxury with delicious food available all day, their own rooms, servants, friends for Kenju, lovely clothes for Liana, music and dances to celebrate the various gods and goddesses she couldn’t keep track of. And funerals and birth days and weddings and ceremonies to honor pirate commanders for impressive hauls of booty.
But now, things would change again…
[to be continued]
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