The queen had a few parting instructions for Sebastian and Alex. Though I could not hear what was said, it seemed obvious to me that sending most of the group back to Ibera was more than just for our personal safety.
The contents of the envelope entrusted to Sebastian and his team intrigued me. Had the queen thrown together her plans to send a message to the Iberan army at the last minute, or had she had another plan and decided to take advantage of the current situation?
After the rest of the group left by way of the tunnel to the forest, the queen directed Katrina, James and I down a different tunnel. After a few minutes, I understood why the queen’s hiding spot had been safe. The only possible way to get down there on purpose would be through prior knowledge. I had not been aware of that fact while traveling to the hiding spot.
The dark tunnels of the ancient dungeons transitioned gradually into the well-lit corridors of the palace. James excused himself, whispering something to the queen. After walking a little further, the queen stopped and looked at us.
“A change of attire is in order.” She smiled. “I assume there are no complaints.”
Katrina laughed under her breath. “No, ma’am.” She shook her head.
The queen directed us into a nearby room, shutting the door behind us. She retrieved a dress out of a chest of drawers in the corner. She held it up, letting its full length show in the light.
“A maid’s uniform will make you practically invisible.” She pointed to a room divider on the opposite side of the room. “You can change behind there.”
Returning to the chest of drawers, she retrieved some trousers and a shirt for me. “Here you go, Jon.”
I thanked her, bowing my head slightly.
After we had both changed our clothes, we walked a short distance, stopping at another door. The queen knocked softly, and we were invited to enter.
An older lady rested on a canopy bed. She waved, inviting us to come closer. The queen approached her, and the older lady stretched out her hand.
“Marcia, it has been some time since you have visited me,” the older lady said, patting the queen’s hand.
“I have been busy, Madam Handrin,” the queen replied, identifying the older lady as the mother of King George.
“No doubt.” Madam Handrin shifted her gaze to me. “Who have you brought?”
“This is Jon,” the queen answered.
“Last name?” Madam Handrin asked.
“Hanway, ma’am,” I replied, bowing slightly.
Madam Handrin closed her eyes and smiled. “The Hanways of Bradford?”
“Yes, ma’am.” I frowned. “I am a little surprised you have heard of my family.”
“I remember. Will and Joanna. We called her Jo.” Madam Handrin smiled at the memory.
I looked at Katrina and raised my eyebrows. “My grandparents.”
Madam Handrin turned her attention back to the queen. “You have done well, Marcia. He will do quite nicely.”
“Thank you,” the queen said and glanced at me. “That means a lot to me. We will let you rest now.”
Looking straight at me, Madam Handrin said, “Please, visit soon … Mr. Hanway.”
“You must have a lot of questions,” the queen stated once we were back in the corridor.
“Too many,” I muttered. “I don’t know where to begin.”
Meeting the mother of the king only added to the mystery of my background. I had a sister living in Handrin whom I had never met. She apparently lived with my birth parents. I had been hoping I would have the opportunity to reconnect with them. I had not suspected I would meet someone who knew my adoptive family.
“How does she know the Hanways?” Katrina asked, voicing the very question I was pondering.
“That’s a good question to start with.” The queen put her hand on my shoulder. “Obviously, Jon has not been told about his family’s role in the Iberan revolution.”
“My grandfather, Will or William, fought in the war, but I don’t know much more than that.”
“The stories I have heard about your grandmother in particular—” the queen paused and looked down the corridor “—would be the stuff of legends if it had not been kept secret.”