Shira- Prologue


Rain struck the lead-glass window in staccato bursts, striking with such force that it drowned all living sound, even the clanking of solders walking the passageways on their daily rounds. Grayness seeped through the stones of the castle along with the cold wet damp. Darkness, brought by the rain, chilled the bones of adults and children alike.

In the midst of this war of elements, a newborn babe, lay in a small rocking cradle. His mother had just died in a last major effort to birth him. A nurse rocked the cradle, crooning.

″You, poor sweet thing.″ she said. She had promised the mother during this hard birth that she would save the baby. The mother insisted over and over that this baby was in danger.

Everyone knew that the woman who had married the king aspired to be a real queen, not a consort. It would be hard for a new woman to realize that she would always be unloved. Married, but unloved. But the mistress was dead. It was time to look after the child.

The nurse looked behind her, and then picked up the baby. Glancing to the right and left, she looked hard into the shadows. You never knew what or who could be listening. She shuddered. This child was the key to power.

Gently she wrapped him tightly in a soft warm blanket, and placed him in a crude wicker basket. She tucked a small quilt over the basket.

Walking slowly through the castle, she prayed that the child wouldn’t cry. But, he was silent. She wanted to reassure him, but he needed to stay hidden. No one must know that where he had gone. Her lips moved in a silent prayer as she walked through the hidden world of servants. She prayed that her arm would not give out.

The baby was heavy. The basket pressed against her forearm. No one must know what was in the basket. If she used her hand to steady the basket, some spy would be able to tell that she was not carrying bread. It must look effortless.

The nurse made it to the kitchen. In another moment, she would be gone. The tradesmen were at the door unloading the castle’s daily supplies. She slipped through them like a dark shadow, headed through the open gate, and stepped into the city.

She walked through the maze of the city, looking for a certain alley. It was just off the market square. It was long before she found the little shop. Beads and brocade covered the entrance. Incense burned, inviting the shopper to step inside and sample the exotic goods.

She walked in and said, “Kinsman, may I speak with you?” The man behind the counter went to the front door and locked it. He took her into the backroom.

An hour later the nurse was on her way back to the castle. The basket was gone.

~~~

The messenger found the newly wedded Queen standing by the window, gazing at the city. Her crimson dress draped across her tall slight frame. It emphasized her dark brooding eyes. Dark hair piled on top of her head completed this picture of stark beauty.

“The nurse is dead,” he said.

“And the baby?” She waited for his answer.

“The nurse hid him before we found her.”

“Find the baby,” she ordered. The death of the child was important for her plans.

The messenger’s eyes glowed red for an instant. Then, he faded into the shadows.