My own hiatus is over for a while until the next event, I've got another side story to drop in.
Note: Yes, I am aware that Old English does not even remotely resemble Modern English, but consider this a rough translation.
Rose often felt a little jolt of pleasure watching noblemen bow as she strolled leisurely through their halls. Over the years she had knocked enough of their heads together after coming up against their strange ideas about women that these days they dared not risk it. Isolated as she kept herself and her charges, her reputation preceded her.
Elizabeth's face lit up when she saw Rose, but once again Rose was reminded of how short a human's life was. The thick white powder that coated Elizabeth's face just served to make her wrinkles and sags look deeper.
“I will speak to Lady Rose alone,” the queen commanded, and her handmaidens and lords gladly fled the chamber.
“It's not Lady Rose,” Rose shrugged. “Just Rose will suffice.”
“Our titles are important, even when it's just us two,” Elizabeth told her, though her smile held good humour.
“Suit yourself,” Rose agreed.
“What brings you here? It's always a pleasure to see you, but...”
“I'm afraid it's not a social call. The gems and I have been circling this part of the world for a time, on the trail of a corrupted gem, and as such we have had to set down some roots across the water...”
Elizabeth held up a hand to stop her, but Rose kept on.
“...we have come into conflict with your armies on Irish soil. Too many times to count now. We have tried to avoid casualties...”
“Spain is practically marching down my throat and you come to me with this?” Elizabeth interrupted, trying and failing to keep her tone light.
“I would ask why there are so many of your men in Ireland if you're so worried about Spain,” Rose shot back.
“You know why,” she sniffed haughtily. “I can't afford to lose a chunk of the empire.”
This was an admission of weakness there that she would only let fall in front of Rose, but it wasn't enough.
“It's not your land, you know that,” Rose told her sternly. “It was not your father's to take, nor your ancestor's, and it is not yours to keep. They will never stop fighting you, you know this.”
A little quake of her shoulders told Rose that yes, she did know this. But there was a weakness in conquerors she recognized well, the lie that they could hold it together just until the next challenger appeared, and she knew she would not convince her. Elizabeth had been just five years old when Rose had laughed at Henry's demands for a union and informed him that she could snap him in two like a piece of dry wood, and she had made an impression on the child, but Elizabeth had been firmly groomed into the service of England.
“It is done,” Elizabeth said, stone-faced. “You know how they watch me, waiting for me to fail. I cannot show any weakness.”
“If they were to make a fuss, I would be at your side in a heartbeat, I have promised you. I can support you.”
“You don't understand, you never have,” Elizabeth said simply, and sat at her throne.
They sat in silence for a time. It was understood that Elizabeth would keep her troops in Ireland, and that Rose would interfere there with impunity. But she didn't want to leave on bad terms.
“We visited Edward's grave on the way here,” she said quietly. “We have such fond memories of him. Especially Amethyst.”
Amethyst had been the one playmate Henry had approved of for little Edward, and it resulted in a marriage proposal that they had all had a good laugh at. It had the intended effect: Elizabeth smiled.
“He would have bankrupted the country for her dowry, had we let him,” she laughed softly. “I hope she thinks of him when she wears the dresses.”
“I'm afraid she ate all the dresses,” Rose told her.
Their laughter rang so loudly it could be heard from outside.
She arrived on the coast an hour later, and the clan leaders insisted on escorting her though she refused a horse. The gems were waiting for her inside a small stone strongholding, suspended over a lake and covered with moss. It was far more humble than Hampton Court, but Rose felt more at home there, surrounded by nature.
Amethyst was snoring gently on a stack of straw in the corner, Garnet was nodding along to some sort of conversation she was having with a tiny elderly woman skinning a rabbit.
“Where's Pearl?” she asked, tossing her borrowed cloak at Amethyst to wake her up.
Garnet cocked her thumb towards the back door and kept on nodding at whatever the elderly woman was rambling about.
She found Pearl sitting on a rough stone wall with one of the clan leaders, holding an instrument of some sort. The clan leader was gesturing wildly with his hands and talking, evidently instructing her how to use the instrument.
She hated to interrupt them; Pearl wasn't fond of interacting with humans, so this was something of a miracle. But they had a job to do, so...
“What's going on here then?” she said in her merriest tone.
The clan leader raised his hands in the air and let out a babble of Gaelic too fast for Rose to follow. Pearl smiled and lifted the instrument slightly.
“Diarmuid was showing me how to play the pipes,” she said.
Ah, the pipes. She should have known; Pearl had been transfixed by the music the pipes had made over the last few days, and somewhere along the line she had plucked up the courage to ask about them.
“You must show me then,” Rose enthused. “Play something.”
Diarmuid laughed, but Pearl obliged. The tune came out full force as though she'd been born playing it.
It was a mournful tune, high and lovely but achingly sad. Rose felt it tug at the little part of her that missed Homeworld. And something in her knew that Pearl's accomplished playing was only half down to her excellent memory and half down to wanting to reach back to Homeworld in some way.
Elizabeth, misguided as she was, did what she did for love of her country. The island's defenders did what they did for the same reason.
“At least it's not raining,” Rose offered.
“Give it time,” Pearl grumbled.
“I'm gonna roll down....that hill when it does,” Amethyst said, pointing off at a steep incline to the west.
The clans and all of their men were waiting in case they raised a signal, but Rose had confidence they wouldn't need it. They were perched on the top of a small hill, in their Homeworld casual attire, looking as though the only thing that would break out anytime soon was a picnic.
Gradually, the English army appeared and grew closer, until they could see the Gems sitting on the hill. Rose recognized the Earl of Deveraux, and casually waved at him.
“They have cannons,” Garnet said with an edge of disgust.
“Lovely,” Rose said, clapping. “It's been a while since I've felt a decent blast. I doubt they'll work up the nerve to use it, though.”
Sure enough, the army mulled around for the best part of the day as the Crystal Gems sat patiently on the hill, watching them. Then they marched straight back to their ships and sailed home.
Note: The song used here is 'Caoineadh Cu Chulainn', played on the Uileann Pipes by Davy Spillane. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mc7LT8vLsGs