Mother of the Copper Isles
Dove called the throne room meeting with her most trusted advisors with a tap of her scepter on the marble floor. When every eye under the expansive, tiled arches fixed on her, she announced, “A monarch’s chief duty is to provide an heir to inherit the throne and prevent the realm from dissolving into a civil war over succession following the monarch’s death. Therefore, I would enjoin you all to present me viable marriage candidates both foreign and domestic.”
If Sarai were here, she would have teased Dove mercilessly for approaching marriage in such a cold-blooded, calculated fashion, playfully accusing her of being more reptile than human. Yet Sarai wasn’t here. Sarai had been so hot-blooded that she fled to Carthak with Zaimid as the Copper Isles seemed poise to descend into madness, and that was why Dove sat the throne instead of Sarai.
“Your Majesty’s chief duty would be to produce heirs if Your Majesty were male.” Buana Krisna’s voice resounded from the throne room’s cavernous ceiling. He was a newly titled raka noble with skin black as obsidian who had once been more advisor than slave to a powerful luarin noble. His understanding of politics was deep and deft. “Since Your Majesty is female that muddies the waters. If Your Majesty were to take a foreign husband, Your Majesty would invite fears—especially among the raka—that the days of foreign imperialism are being restored.”
Dove had no intention of risking an uprising by making a marriage that might be perceived as calling back the dark days of colonialism and raka subjugation at luarin hands. Before she could declare that she would limit her list of eligible bachelors to domestic ones, Petranne, her half-sister who had always been acutely aware of hierarchies and where everyone stood in relation to each other, protested, “Yet Your Majesty can’t marry domestically. If Your Majesty married one of your own subjects who ought to obey you unconditionally, Your Majesty’s divinely ordained authority might be questioned.”
“Duchess Petranne does an admirable job of summarizing Your Majesty’s conundrum.” Buama Krisna nodded to Petranne and bowed to Dove.
Dove felt as if she were carved from ice as she absorbed the enormity of what Buama Krisna and Petranne were telling her. It was impossible for her to marry without courting another revolution that would drag her country back into bloodshed or diminishing her own right to rule. Frozen and numb from head to toe, she surrendered her half-formed dreams of finally understanding the thrilling highs her hot-blooded sister had experienced when hunting a new conquest and proclaimed, “Then I shall marry my country and people.”
She would take no husband but the Copper Isles. Her voice didn’t shake, and she was grateful to the Goddess that the heart broke so silently nobody could hear.
Nobody but a mother at least for Winnamine gazed at her with eyes warm as honeyed tea. “If you take no husband, you’ll mother no children.”
To a woman like her stepmother whose greatest love and joy was her children, Dove knew there could be no more devastating fate. Yet to Dove her country destroying itself during her reign was her nightmare. Hoping to make her mother and all her assembled advisors understand, she lifted her chin in proud defiance. “All of my people shall be my children. I’ll be their queen and mother.”