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The Heart of a Queen
By Sandra Scholes
Be strong, she thought. Princess Charlotte was always told that. To be strong enough to rule, she had to have strength of character learned over several years, years before a crown would lay on her head. She had to listen to her tutors, later she would have to educate herself in all her womanly duties, and that was even before she would choose a suitor.
But a suitor to share her life with could not be further from her mind. It was the crown that captured her imagination. The crown was hidden away in a glass case set in a secret place where it stayed, waiting until she became worthy of it. Waiting and worthy were not words that were ever in her vocabulary. She wanted the crown, and to get it she needed to find where it was hidden. Charlotte decided on a plan of action, donning her most shabby robes, she strolled out into the city, quietly so the guards of the palace did not know of her disappearance, going deep into the market place for answers. She wove around the market stalls, looking for those who looked as though they were skilled in divination. She came close to one man dressed in a black and white robe, a cowl hiding his features though his bright brown eyes showed how powerful he was.
"Old man, I seek your counsel." Charlotte sat beside him where a small table had been set up with tarot cards, runes, knuckle bones, a crystal ball and a bowl used for scrying lay.
"I require payment in coins or valuables." The seer replied. A wry smile played over his face.
"And I have several coins made from the finest gold to give you." She poured the contents of a small velvet pouch onto the table, its noise making his black cat awaken with a start. She smiled inside, thinking that this payment would make him give her the answer she needed. The seer picked up one coin, biting it to test its quality. "As you wish girl. Tell me what it is you seek and I will find it."
"The crown for the next ruler, I need to find its location."
The seer nodded, running his hand over the crystal ball, smoke drifting around inside it before he saw it clear. He saw a town ravaged by war and the wounded on the battlefield. Beyond that the seer could not see much more. Head bowed, he picked up each coin, handing her payment back. "I am sorry; girl but I cannot tell you where the crown is." After he saw her put the coins back in her pouch, he pointed to a man who were only a few yards away. "He is another seer like me, he might be able to tell you where it is, and if you have a jewel in your possession, he may give you extra information."
Charlotte said her thanks, and made her way to the next seer, a man who sat at a similar table, wore a white robe, and a black veil, partly hiding his face, the sign of a fish in black kohl below his right eye showed he had arcane knowledge.
"I hear from that fellow over there you can tell fortunes." she asked pointing to the one she had been to before.
"Yes, that is correct. Tell me what you want to know." The seer looked at her shabby clothes, wondering if she had any payment on her at all.
"The location of the future ruler's crown." She produced the pouch, tipping the money into his hand.
"There is enough there I believe."
The seer rummaged through the gold coins as if looking for something else. When he could not find it, he glanced up at her.
"Oh, here you are," Charlotte went through her tattered robes, then showed him the jewel in her palm, a fine cut ruby as large as a child's marble. "I'm sure this will be payment enough." She gave him one of her nicer smiles, watching him take it from her palm, and check its quality.
"This is indeed a fine jewel, girl." Placing it on the table with the coins, he waved his hand in a flourish. "Now let me see that palm of yours again."
Charlotte opened her hand, letting him hold it in his while he ran a finger over the lines, deep in thought. After a few moments, he breathed a sigh, looking up at her. "I see a long path for you to journey onto, deep, dark forests and lakes, and...Well, beyond that, I cannot see any further." Unhappy, he placed the money and the jewel back in her palm. "That man not far from here, he might be able to tell you what you need to know." He pointed in the direction she should go and left her to go on her way.
Charlotte nodded, thanking him, and going on her way, past the market, past the rich smell of fine, exotic spices and incense, the women, the babies and children, before coming to a man, another seer who smiled at her, bidding her to sit next to him.
"I only require a single coin from you as payment for your question, girl," he said.
She noticed he was dressed as a beggar, and very different from the other two seers she had met before. On his table sat a small candle, coins in a pewter dish, and a single drink to quench his thirst. The girl took her purse out for the third time, placing a single gold coin in his hand thinking that if he told her what she needed to know, it might not be enough.
"Thank you," The seer glanced at her young face with a knowing look. “But how can a girl like you possess such a lot of money?"
Charlotte blushed. "I saved it sir," she replied.
The seer laughed. "Do not worry, girl. I am only teasing you." He cast his eyes over her. You want to know of the great crown, yet you are not old enough to rule, my dear. When you are ready, you will know."
"But, I haven't even asked about the crown." She was shocked by his foresight.
"I don't need crystal balls or tarot cards to see into a person's future. All I need is the person sitting in front of me - you." He placed the coin in the bowl with all the others. "And besides, the crown you search for doesn't exist as an object, the crown you seek is the ability to rule, and that crown lies deep inside your heart, princess. You will rule when the time is right. Just live your life as a girl now and don't be trifled by other things."
The princess reached into her robes, taking out the purse again and handing him it. "You deserve this, sir as you are the only one who has told me what I need to know even without me ever having to ask."
The seer took her pouch, pushing it into the folds of his robes. "Thank you, kind princess."
"And that's not all. When I do rule, I would like to invite you to come to the palace and stay as my advisor." She placed her hand on his. "It's the least I could do."
"Very well," The seer bid her farewell, and waited for the time when she would wear the crown of a queen.
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