It was because of my favor with the queen that I found myself in a situation that left me with a queasy feeling. It was my assignment to gather as much information as I could about this new member of the court. Her Majesty was conscious - perhaps even worried - about anyone who presented themselves to the court as a blank slate, the details of their background scarce.
Assignment or no, it still felt like I was spying on her. To ease my conscience a little, I decided to reveal some information that was not officially public knowledge, though one could argue that it was common knowledge, at least in some circles.
"We are unpopular because we favor the independance of Ibera," I told Alexandra, which wasn't saying too much yet. We had stepped out onto one of the many terraces.
"Surely there are many who oppose the war," she replied. "Who wants more fighting?"
"There are many who do not want to fight. This is true, but there is more to it than simply the occasional border squirmish. To the unobserved, this war is about undermining any authority Ibera might have left, to keep them from standing on their own feet, to prevent trade and enterprise with the rest of the world.
"However, underneath all of this, there is another reason to keep Ibera unstable. It has to do with who the queen is, her background." I paused to judge her reaction to what I had said thus far. Her quizical look prompted me to ask, "Are you aware of the queen's background?"
"I must apologize," she said, lowering her head. "I am not completely up-to-date on court gossip. All I have heard is that the king and queen did not marry for love. What the truth is, I am not sure."
"Well," I responded, choosing my words carefully,"that part is probably as correct as you heard it." After a thoughtful pause, I continued, "Let me give you the official version as I see it.
"Young George took the throne roughly thirty years ago. About eight years pass, and relations between Ibera and Handrin are sketchy at best. Ibera has been mostly independant for more than twenty years, maybe close to thirty by this point. Anyway, in a attempt to mend relations, the king chooses a wife among the nobles of Ibera."
"That's the political angle I heard about," Alexandra chimed in, her expression intent.
"That it is," I agreed. "The ploy seemed to work for a time. Attitudes on both sides of the Blue were improving. That is until the queen got pregnant."
Her open mouth, dropped jaw expression brought a smile to my face. She hadn't heard that before, and I had just stepped into the area of uncommon knowledge. I gazed at her for a few heartbeats to see if she would say anything. When she didn't, I added, "A boy was born."
"Who is this?" she asked, her eyebrows raised. "Who is the prince?"
"You are not from around here, then." As soon as I had said that, her expression fell somewhat. I apologized, and she recovered her poise.
"I am from the far north. We don't hear much about what happens in Deramas."
"Once again, my apologies." I included a bow with my statement. "Even around here this story is old news. It isn't talked about much anymore. The identity of the prince is not known, and there is more to the story than that. The people of Handrin realized that the heir would be half Iberan, and some didn't like that. Matters only worsened when the queen got pregnant again. This time a girl was born."
The doors which lead to the ball room opened, and a young lady of the court came through the doorway and out onto the terrace.
"Oh, Alexandra," she said, her arms wide in an animated gesture. "You are missing a great party." She grabbed Alexandra by the hand and lead her off toward the doorway. Alexandra glanced at me as she was snatched away.
There was a very odd thing about this other woman - young girl, really. As soon as the two of them were a few feet away, her animated gesture went away, her expression went serious. There was much to learn about Alexandra, but it seemed she had a connection with this other young lady. More research was needed.