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I. Denn meine Tochter fehlet mir

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When the Queen told the story to Tamino later, she let him see her as a grieving mother, showing her own helplessness and Sarastro’s treachery. But there was more to it that she did not tell him. For one thing, she would never have let her daughter go without a struggle.

While the Diadem of the Stars rested upon her brow, nothing happened within her own domains that she did not know of if she wished it. The wind carried messages to her, and she took care to know if anything approached her daughter. Standing within her palace, she was aware of the intruder almost as soon as Pamina, and she heard what they said to each other.

“Who are you?” her daughter’s voice said, high with alarm.

“Do not be afraid.” A deeper voice, low and reassuring. “I was a friend of your father – and I would like to be yours as well. I only wish to speak with you for a few moments.”

The Queen clenched her fists. Yes, she knew that voice well – and bitterly she blamed him for the loss of what should have been hers.

“You knew my father?”

“Yes, Pamina. I knew him well, and I spoke with him often in his last illness of his hopes and fears for you.”

This had gone on quite long enough. The Queen gathered her power and was instantly beside them in the garden. Sarastro raised his head to look at her. He did not seem surprised by her sudden appearance. He was much as she remembered him, though older; he wore the robes of his priesthood, with the gleaming Circle of the Sun on its golden chain about his neck. She narrowed her eyes at the sight of it. “Say rather,” she said coldly, “that you and your priests hovered about him like vultures. You beguiled him with your smooth words until you could steal away his greatest power.”

Pamina turned to her with relief. “Mother!”

She raised her hand with an authoritative gesture. “Do not listen to him, Pamina. His words are lies. He was no friend of your father’s – or you.”

“It was you and not I who was eager for his power.” Sarastro’s voice rose, though he regained his composure after a brief moment.

The Queen smiled scornfully. “Is that so – when you wear the Circle of the Sun upon your breast even now? Leave this place. You have nothing to say that I or my daughter need to hear.”

Sarastro stepped forward. “Listen to me. I can see your anger, but hear me out for your daughter’s sake, at least. She has inherited not only your powers, but her father’s as well. She must be trained in their use, and the best place to do that is in the Temple of Wisdom.”

“I will never let her go to you.”

Sarastro bowed his head regretfully. “So I see. Your pride has not lessened.” He laid his hand upon the shining golden disc, light welling up between his fingers.

“Neither has yours, Priest of Isis!” The Queen did not wait, but called her power to her. She sang her attack in sharp glittering notes; and streaks of silver light filled the air, rushing toward him like daggers. Light blazed from the Circle as he countered her, his power deep and steady as the bones of the earth.

The trees near them shook and twisted wildly as in a strong wind, as their powers raged back and forth. The Queen spared a glance for Pamina and saw that she had caught hold of an ancient oak to steady herself; she was watching them, wide-eyed. Then Pamina pushed herself away from the tree’s shelter, drew breath, and sang. She could not match the Queen’s speed and force, but her voice was clear and true as she joined her powers to her mother’s. Sarastro was forced to give ground, though his concentration never wavered and his rich bass tone lost none of its steadiness.

The Queen realized with triumph that Sarastro was not seeking to kill or disable her, even before Pamina joined the combat, but only to contain her. She doubled her speed, the brilliant notes flying from her lips. Pamina heard the deadly intent behind her attacks, and her voice faltered.

The Queen did not hesitate. She sang with the power of Night, deep and vast, seeking to force Sarastro into sleep; she sought to confuse him with the whirl of the gleaming stars, to blind him with rippling light. She could not. He could not overcome her, but neither could she touch him. It was not Sarastro’s strength of will alone that protected him, but the sheer power of the Circle of the Sun which balked her. It should never have been given to Sarastro, she thought with rage; and in her fury, she stumbled. Sarastro’s power gently pushed her backward, and she could do nothing.

“I am sorry, Pamina,” Sarastro said. He advanced on Pamina and took her arm. “I promise I will not harm you; but we must speak, and not here.”

“Let me go! Mother, help—”

He pulled her away with him in spite of her struggles. The Queen sprang after them, but Sarastro’s chariot was waiting. His lions bore him and her daughter swiftly away, their powerful muscles moving under their tawny skin.

The Queen staggered and leaned against a tree for a few moments, forced to rest from sheer weariness. Then she straightened, composing her features. She gave the shrill high call that summoned her attendants to her.

“What is it, my Queen?”

“What has happened?”

“Sarastro has taken Pamina,” she ground out.

They gripped their silver spears tightly, their eyes reflecting her own anger. “Let us pursue him! We will take her back—”

“No,” the Queen said softly. “I cannot fight him directly, as long as he wears the Circle of the Sun. I have another plan in mind.”