"Something has happened," the queen whispered, gently directing me away from the rest of the group, "and I thought that you should hear it from me."
She paused and closed her eyes. After taking a deep breath, she continued, "The king has approved a marriage alliance between Fandora and Handrin."
That statement in of itself was not all that shocking. Marriage alliances between Handrin and the provinces were a common way to keep the kingdom as a whole in tact. It had been that way for several hundred years. However, the queen's body language and tone of voice indicated that this was no normal marriage alliance.
"Between you and Rebecca Mays," she added. I tightened my lips, forcing myself to remain quiet. Though an outburst would be understandable, it was not something I wanted to show in front of either the queen or the Iberans. The queen picked up on it, though.
"I understand your feelings," she said. "If I were in your shoes, I would not want to marry Ms. Mays either. However, for the time being, this might be a good thing."
After that I was unable to hold my tongue. "With all due respect, ma'am, what good could come from me marring Rebecca?"
Waving her hands back and forth, she declared, "I have no intention of you actually going through with it. The ceremony is not scheduled until the summer. By then, many things would have changed."
Then, with a wink, she added, "You need not worry. This actually helps my long term plans." I bowed slightly, accepting her word.
The queen turned her attention to the rest of the group who were beginning to become restless. "I'm sorry for making you wait as long as I have, but fortunentely I was able to speak with the king at some length."
"How did that go?" Jon asked, clearly unconvinced about the queen's situation.
"Better than I had feared." One side of the queen's lips raised in a half smirk. "Let me put it this way. He was aware of my involvement in your release. He knew I was hiding you, and he is quite aware of my attachment to my home territory. Despite all of that, though, he asked me what should be done with Eliza."
"What does that tell us?" Jon asked.
"As long as he is listening, we have a chance to influence his decisions," the queen replied. "Many in Handrin would love to make an example of Eliza, but George is smarter than that. "
Spreading his arms out, Jon said, "Okay, so she won't be killed. Perhaps she won't even be physically harmed. But, what chance do we have to get her out of here?"
The queen exhaled, choosing not to respond right away. "I do not want to risk any lives in an escape attempt. We could possibly pull it off, but all of my hard work will mean nothing if she is harmed in the process."
"Mr. Hurst provided us some information about your activities," Jon said, looking at Mr. Hurst, " but we are still at a loss about what's going on. Why did you have us released?" The queen glanced at Mr. Hurst who briefly summarized the information we provided the Iberans.
"Well, to answer your question," the queen said, turning her attention back to Jon, "I didn't want to leave you in the hands of Mr. Mays. I didn't know to where that was leading, and I wanted to be in control." With a finger pointed at no one in particular, she added, "And I still am!"
Lowering her arm, she continued, "I wouldn't have been able to continue my work in secret for much longer anyway. In fact, it is time some things come out into the open." She pulled an envelope out of a fold in her dress. "There is one last secretive move I will be able to make, though."
She glanced at Alex who had her arm wrapped around her brother. "I assume this is Sebastian," the queen said.
"Yes, ma'am," Sebastian replied. "How can I be of service?"
"Straight to the point. I like that." The queen smiled. "I need you to take this envelope to Sir Frances. It must not be intercepted by anyone else before then. The success of Ibera's fight against Handrin depends on it."
Taking the envelope and bowing slightly, Sebastian replied, "I will protect it with my life."
"Do stay alive, though," the queen said with a smirk. She turned back to Jon. "I require your assistance, Jon. You will need to stay here."