‘Your Majesty,’ Menvin bowed low. ‘The king is dead.’
‘There will be a period of mourning, no doubt?’
‘Of course, your majesty.’
‘Then after that… my coronation. How long will it be?’
‘Er….’ Menvin shifted from foot to foot, his eye caught by a detail on a tapestry behind Shilen’s head.
‘My coronation? When will I be crowned king, Menvin?’ Shilen got up from the chair and took a step closer to the Lord High Councillor. ‘Well?’
‘There is a problem, majesty?’
‘What sort of problem. I am next in line, am I not?’
‘Are you saying I can’t be king?’
‘Well, your majesty, some have taken the view that-‘
‘Why not? Why can’t I be king? I am the first born child.’
‘But you are a girl, my lady.’
‘Kings are men.’
‘It is precedent.’
‘Precedent, your majesty. It means it has always been done this way, and so it must always be done this way.’
‘It is written. Your father the king was a man, your grandfather the king was a man. So all kings must be men.’
‘Two is hardly a whatdidyoucallit… a preci-thing.’
‘Precedent, your majesty.’
‘It is the way it is done in all the kingdoms across the lands between the Silent Seas. A King is the king of a kingdom,’ Menvin shrugged, ‘hence the name, I suppose.’
‘But what happens when a king has no male heir?’
Shilen nodded. War was usually men’s business too. She’d tried sword fighting once, after nagging her father’s Bodyguard, Henk, to teach her. Swords were heavy. Sword fighting made your whole arm tingle and vibrate for hours afterwards. But that vibration was no match for the throbbing pain where Henk had slammed the flat of his sword blade against her helmet. Henk was terrifying enough, but seeing two of him was even worse. ‘But there is nothing to stop me being king, though? The gods – what do they say?’
‘The gods? They say whatever the priests want them to say usually.’
‘Yes, your majesty. Maybe your actions at the ritual sacrifice were not… politic.’
Shilen remembered the blood and shuddered. Apparently, a priest contained far more blood than a sacrificial chicken. But she had not known that, she’d just wanted the priest to stop hacking the poor bird to pieces like that. Back then, the rest of the court had thought the jewel-encrusted dagger she wore on formal occasions was for ceremonial purposes only. But Shilen liked to sharpen it while sitting on her windowsill at night as she wondered and dreamt of what lay beyond the castle walls.
She turned to Menvin. ‘I will be king,’ she said. ‘See to it.’ She waved a hand, as she’d seen her father do when dismissing a flunkey. She grasped the hilt of the ceremonial dagger, her eyes never leaving his face.
Menvin swallowed. ‘B… Yes. Yes, your majesty.’
Shilen watched him scurry out.
She decided she’d quite like being king, after all.