The queen arrived last to the feast. It was a calculated move to keep her subjects waiting. When she entered the room a hush fell over all those assembled. Her attendant announced her and there were bows and curtsies as she walked to the end of the table where dinner would be served.
Those attending the feast waited for the queen to take her seat before sitting, and then servants began bringing food out. No expense had been spared for the feast honoring the men and women who were dying in the fight against Maldor. The high born in attendance would have had some of these dishes at one time or another, but the people who had planned the event had had the sense to invite those not of noble birth, and they would never have experienced such delicacies.
They were as awed by the sight of the food as they were by the queen herself.
"Before we begin," The queen said once they all were seated, "I would like to say a few words.
"We are at war against Maldor. It is a necessary war. We are the Kingdom of the Light, and it is our duty to spread the Light. As tragic as the losses our kingdom is suffering are, we can be sure that those who sacrifice themselves for the Light will be eternally rewarded. This feast is in honor of those who have fallen, and it is a reminder of why we fight."
There was cheering, and the queen granted her subjects a gracious smile. She was just reaching for her spoon when the doors at the far end of the room swung open and a black-robed figure walked in.
"Sorry to interrupt."
It was Tiakoma. The queen's shock shown clearly on her face in the moments it took her to regain control.
"What are you doing here?" Her surprise was still apparent in her voice, and under the tone of surprise was another tone, one that not even her closest attendants and advisors had ever heard from her.
"This is where I am needed," Tiakoma said simply. Her face was smooth and expressionless except for her eyes. Her eyes seemed to be smiling, though the light in them was far from gentle.
"You are needed to help hold the lines against Maldor," the queen snapped. "I sent you to join the fight for the Light three days ago."
"I do fight for the Light," Tiakoma said. "And I have been fighting for it for longer than three days. I've read the Histories, you see."
The queen paled. "Get out!" she ordered. "Guards!"
Tiakoma held out a hand and the guards stopped, uncertain. They were to obey their queen, always, but to try and lay hands on a mage…who knew what kind of powers the black-robed woman might possess? Especially if she had been meant to join in the fighting.
"Seize her," the queen snapped, livid. Her scorching gaze scoured the line of feasters who eagerly watched the exchange.
The guards moved forward again, but this time it was Tiakoma's calm, practical voice that stopped them. "Do you fear what secrets I might reveal, My Queen? Is it not by your orders, and the orders of your father, that the Histories are forbidden?"
The curiosity in the room was palpable. It was enough to stop the guards from taking Tiakoma. They were afraid of her magicks, and they wanted to hear what she had to say.
"The Kingdom of the Light has rarely gone to war," Tiakoma continued in a mild lecturing tone. She was speaking to the whole room, but her eyes were locked on the queen's in a silent battle of wills. "It was a kingdom of peace and hope. Love. For those are the elements of the Light. The Light IS peace and hope and love.
"In that time, the Kingdom of the Light would go to war only against nations that oppressed their people, that took from them peace and hope, that showed them no love or respect."
"Maldor oppresses its people," the queen said. As soon as the words were out of her mouth she realized her mistake in engaging in a debate with the mage. By doing so, she had acknowledged the existence of the Histories and thereby acknowledged Tiakoma might have a valid claim.
"I had never heard that said of Maldor," Tiakoma said. "But before starting this war, did you ever speak with the king of Maldor? In the Histories, the Kingdom of the Light never started a war until all other avenues were exhausted."
"That takes too long!"
"Surely spreading the Light is worthy of time and effort on your part," Tiakoma said. "If it is worth people's lives, surely exchanging messages and having controlled meetings under a sign of peace would be worth it."
The queen's lips moved into a snarl. "You know nothing. I am the queen of the Kingdom of the Light! All of my actions are dedicated to the Light and spreading the Light across Saldicia."
"All of your actions are made in a selfish bid for power which you justify by saying that you do it for the Light. If you truly worked for the Light then peace would be your goal."
"Take her to the dungeons!" the queen shrieked. Spittle flew from her mouth in rage, and blotchy hues of red were appearing on her face. "Take her now, or I'll have your heads!"
The guards grabbed Tiakoma by the arms and began to drag her out of the room. She did not put up a fight until they had reached the door. The magicks she used to free herself threw the guards to the ground where they remained, stunned by the power she had unleashed.
"I would submit myself to imprisonment and execution, as I'm sure you no doubt wish," Tiakoma told the queen, "but there is one last thing I must do in my fight for the Light."
She held her hands out in front of her and a ball of fire formed, twisting veins of yellows, oranges, and reds melding together like a flow of lava from one of the great mountains to the west.
The queen's eyes widened in understanding a moment before Tiakoma released the ball of flame, but it was too late. It shot out and consumed the queen, burning hot and fast so that the screams did not last long, though their echoes reverberated in the great hall.
Tiakoma hardly noticed the feasters still sitting at the tables, no doubt horrified by what had just happened. She hardly noticed the guards, who had recovered and now had her once again by the arms. Their hands were shaking, but they would do their jobs. Tiakoma doubted she would live to see the dawn.
She watched the burning queen, and knew that the twenty Assassins would be dying also. The kiss had sealed them to her in more ways than they had known. She felt no sorrow for the queen, who had acted out of a lust for power, but she felt for the Assassins. Though they would have killed until their last breaths, they truly had been fighting for the Light, or what they believed to be the Light.
Tiakoma would accept her death. Better to die than to live as a traitor. Her death would not matter. Before coming here she had spread the Histories to all of the mages and scholars in the kingdom. She had had copies of the Histories delivered to each of the noble houses. And these people here, assembled by the queen herself, had heard what the Histories contained.
The queen had no heir, and by the time the throne was once again filled, everyone in the country would know of the history and true purpose of the Kingdom of the Light.