Dawn broke upon the mighty city of Kital illuminating what appeared to be a killing field. Bodies littered the ground from one end of the square to the other; both islanders and queen’s guard alike, hundreds of them, motionless, as the sun rose above the horizon. On the outskirts of the field lay Emerson Lighthouse and Junie Ginsburg, perhaps entwined in one final embrace. Closer to the centre of the square lay nine year old Gadget atop the big New Nublarian king who appeared to be covered in mud. But most horrific of all was what lay at the very centre of the great square. Between the two ziggurats, upon a makeshift wooden altar, drenched in blood from his neck to his toes, flies already swarming in the early morning light, lay Dominc Lapis, The Great God of the North.
Twelve hours earlier Queen Princess fixed Malus in an unwavering glare,“Sir Martin,” she said “you are late.”
Malus was about to respond when she held up her hand with so much more authority than Emerson remembered her ever commanding when he’d last seen her only four months earlier.
“I will save you the trouble of finding excuses for now.” She turned to Sir Benjamin, “I received your most recent report sent via one of the ART units; apprise me quickly of anything new I might need to be aware of.”
“He was a spy?” Malus said with a degree of incredulity as Sir Benjamin stepped to the Queen’s side and quickly informed her of recent developments.
“So naive.” muttered Lapis.
“What?” sneered Malus “Did you say something?” and then, unable to let it go, he added, “I would have won if you hadn’t cheated. Who cheats on the field of battle?”
“The victor.” responded Lapis.
Malus was about to come back with a retort worthy of a sneer when the the islanders, led by their king, began to emerge from the jungle. Upon seeing Queen Princess clad in armour at the head of such a large army the New Nublarians froze, unsure of what to do, wondering if this was indeed the prophesy personified.
The queen wasted not a moment afforded by their indecision. Stepping forward and speaking the language of New Nublar she called out: “Hear me well citizens of Kital. Hear me one and all. My name is Prosperity!” Her voice rang across the space between the two opposing groups. “I am most disappointed with your failure King D’osay’keiz.” She said addressing the island chief with his proper name and title.
After pausing for effect, having exhausted her knowledge of the New Nublarian language with her well rehearsed lines, the queen turned to the young knight beside her and said, under her breath, “Translate for me Sir Benjamin.”
“Due to your failure.” Sir Benjamin spoke, translating the Queen’s words nearly simultaneous to her speaking them. “I will no longer communicate with you in my own voice, but only through an intermediary.
“I still hold great hope that our people might yet find strength in union. The knowledge, manpower and wealth of your kingdom combined with that of mine, could be a great force and a boon to the lasting peace in the Southern Commonwealth. So I celebrate with you this day our union in a common cause.” Both armies cheered while the Queen’s artillery, as if to prove their strength, let fire a twenty-one gun salute.
“She’s almost as power hungry as you.” said Lapis glancing at Malus.
“But in order to proceed,” the queen continued once the crowds had quieted somewhat, “I understand two things must occur. First, the demon will be taken by my soldiers and punished personally by me.” The queen cast a sideways glance at Malus as he was securely restrained in the grasp of several of the new queen’s guard. “Second,” several more of the queen’s guard levelled their rifles at Lapis as two of the guard stepped forward and grabbed him, one on each arm. “The Great God of the North must be sacrificed.”
“You know, I really am quite excited to see you again.” Said Emerson to Queen Princess. a short time later as they slowly made their way back to the great square. “And to you as well, Maid Marian.” Emerson bowed.
“Actually, it is ‘Sir Maid Marian’ now.” smirked the young former courtesan.
“Marian is my new Queen’s Champion.” Queen Princess confirmed. “Let’s hope she proves more loyal than the last.” She smiled as she noticed the unguarded look that flashed across Emerson’s countenance.
“Come now, Sir Emerson, you really didn’t believe I would sit around defenseless and idle while I waited for you to save my kingdom… did you?” though the young queen laughed, she had meant no offense whatsoever; her words simply stated a fact, while her laugh was due largely to the overall good-natured quality of her character.
“You trained an army of women.” Emerson nodded, acknowledging the practicality of her actions.
“You better believe I did.” she boasted. “I rely on no single man but myself.”
“I actually find that most admirable, your majesty.” said Junie Ginsburg.
After a brief pause, Emerson changed the direction of the conversation. “So, your majesty,” he began, “what’s next? You are certainly not going to sacrifice my friend to humour these islanders’ belief in some primitive myth.”
“Oh Emerson, might I assume you are deliberately trying to test my diplomacy with those little taunts you so casually deliver? I know very well you understand there are no ‘little myths’.” She smiled before adding. “And of course I am not going to sacrifice your friend.”
The party was as wild as one might expect of a celebration marking the fulfilment of an eons old prophesy. The drink flowed as the people danced. Food of the most remarkable and succulent variety had been prepared and offered up for any who cared to sample.
At midnight, the Queen, having traded her armor in favour of the brightly-coloured home-spun fabric of the local women, performed a symbolic sacrifice upon Lapis. After reciting the ritual according to custom she next doused him in blood collected from the local abattoir. The symbolism was highly theatrical and highlighted the fact that the islanders had failed in their attempt; though greatly humbled, the great god of the north still lived. Prosperity, as merciful as she was, would still come, but rather than follow she would lead.
A few hours later the queen laughed with Emerson and Junie as she recalled a similar party on her own island only four months ago. They had gathered just outside the square to observe the festive and carnival like atmosphere from a safe distance so as not to get caught in the line of fire. It was raucous! Queen’s guard, Henri Giffard survivors and islanders all danced together with a manic fervor with Dominic Lapis at the centre of it all.
“Keep your title, Sir Emerson, as an honourific, though I have no expectations of further service.”
“That is very kind your majesty though I’ve never been one to concern myself with titles and such.” said Emerson with great seriousness.
Both the queen and Junie broke into laughter at that. “Of course you don’t Sir Sir.” She and Junie shared another laugh at Emerson’s expense before they calmed. “Well now, I’ll take leave of you both.” The queen said. “I have an errant knight to punish.” she winked before turning and departing back to the river.
“I’m not sure I would want to be Malus right now.” Said Junie with a wicked grin.
Emerson was about to comment but just then he was distracted as Gadget ran past sloshing a bucket of muck. “That looked like the same mud we walked through a about a week ago.” He said to Junie, “I wonder where he found that.”
Weaving his way amongst the dancers, Gadget remained focused on the mission at hand. Honour was at stake and vengeance would soon be his. Poor King D’osay’keiz had no chance and in fact never even saw his moment of judgement coming.
“You’re the king of the castle and I’m the dirty rascal!” sang Gadget, spinning several times to build momentum before letting the contents of his pale fly forth. It was a direct hit. Those nearest the filthy retribution became silent. The big king wiped his eyes clear before reaching out and grabbing Gadget. He lifted Gadget high in the air with a sincere laugh to show no hard feelings. The crowd, greatly relieved, resumed their celebration as Gadget and the King continued to spin and laugh until they both passed out in a heap upon the ground just before dawn.
It looked more like a field of battle than the after effects of an all night rave. Malus approached the altar with a look of disgust upon his face. “I always knew you were a bloody bastard.” he said dryly. Lapis opened his eyes and reached for Malus’s canteen as he rose into a sitting position. He took a mouthful of water then spat, cleansing his mouth before taking a deep grateful swallow.
“Have a seat, brother.” a slight wry grin on his lips as he nodded to the space on the altar beside him.
“I’d rather stand.” replied Malus.
Lapis smirked all the more. “That bad was it?”
Choosing for once to ignore Lapis’s taunt, Malus asked, “So what happens now?”
“We go home, brother.” replied Lapis, noting Malus’s discipline. “After that it’s up to you. You’re a man now.”
Two days later The Indiscretion, recently reacquainted with her crew, steamed down the river accompanied by the Royal barge, The Spirit of West.
The companions laughed as they passed around Maynard’s last bottle of black rum exaggerating tales and discussing the complexities of time lines.
“Does that leave you enough time to get home for your self-imposed deadline?” Asked Rose Smith sitting next to Sir Benjamin on the railing of the Indiscretion.
“Who knows…” Emerson waved his hand dismissively. Suddenly he went silent and cocked his head to the side. Wrinkling his nose he said, “Hey, do you smell that?” Looking around, he spotted Gadget crouched down suspiciously in the corner of the wheel house. He narrowed his eyes. “Gadget, you better share that!”
“That’s right, you better.” Said Lapis reaching out to intercept the pass. “I’ve never tried one of these cigars. I can’t help but wonder if they are worth all the fuss.” After taking several puffs and exhaling deeply he nodded. “This is pretty good shit.” He said smiling at Emerson’s look of disbelief as he tossed the remainder over his shoulder and into the river.
As the journey progressed, the mood continued to ride high. Sir Benjamin loaned Lapis a ukelele as the two of them strummed out an old favourite of Queen Princess’s and the whole crew sang:
You’ll have to excuse me, I’m not at my best
I’ve been gone for a month, I’ve been drunk since I left
These so-called vacations will soon be my death
I’m so sick from the drink I need home for a rest.