The Aftermath 6

Religion & Politics

Speck of dust
It was another pretty day as Betty crossed the bridge and entered Castle Elfheim. Or rather, she entered a half-finished building made of wood and designed to look like a giant stone castle. It was commissioned by the Elvor Council long before the Shattering, and after all these centuries it was still not finished.
Well, whatever. It wasn't Betty's job to build the thing, merely to dust off the furniture inside. Just another maid, just another elf.
Inside the kitchen she got her feather duster and set about getting to work. It was her turn to clean in the library today, which meant she had her work cut out for her. What with all the construction going on around, there was a lot of dust and stuff settling in all over the place. And seeing as the space for the library was still being built, that meant the real library was actually a whole bunch of random corridors where people kept walking back and forth and dragging crap with them.

A few hours later Betty was able to take a short break and get herself some water. There hadn't been as many people about as there usually were, so the work had gone much swifter than usual. When she got to the kitchen the cook told her why.
"It's His Grandness, the Lord God Almighty, William himself! He has come among us! He walks these very halls! Today! Wish I had the time to go meet Him. But with almost all the staff running off, I am forced to prepare the meals for the collected Council all by myself. I could lose my job if I just ran off like that too. Damn buggers!"
While Betty dreamed of meeting God herself, she also agreed with the cook. If she wanted to keep her job she couldn't just skip it without good reason. So she had her water, and some food, and went back to finish dusting the library.

Finally done, Betty was able to relax. If she had done the job solely with her feather duster, this would have taken days. Thank God she had a few magical tricks that helped take away the worst of it, so all she really had to do was focus on the hard-to-get areas. It had still been a long and hard job, though, considering the number bookshelves there were.
If there was one thing she knew not to do, it was to go look for more work. The best thing would be to stay in the library and make sure that any dust a wandering passerby brought with him didn't get a chance to settle down. Ergo, she took a book, leaned herself against a wall, and waited for her shift to be over. Then she and her husband Zalandor could have a nice meal and talk about stuff.
Knowing Zalandor, he would probably be annoyed to have missed this whole 'Presence of God' thing going on. Betty sure wanted to come face to face with Him herself, but if she left the library then some supposedly important people might fire her if she wasn't where she was supposed to be. Bosses were annoying like that.

Reading a book, thinking of her husband, waiting for her workhour to finish. Then finally it was done. She put back the book and went to return her feather duster by the kitchen. Then she could get home to her husband Zalandar. Maybe a nice steak and salad? Or porridge? Or just a simple soup?
Betty suddenly noticed the sound of some kind of commotion in the distance. As she rounded a corner and came to a corridor with closed-off windows, she suddenly found herself in the presence of Him.
William! God! He was right there, and he was fiddling with one of the windows. He appeared to be mumbling to himself, wearing a frown of panic, and getting angry.
"Bloody watertight walls! They call these windows? What's with all these weird magic fields surrounding them? Whomsoever heard of a window more airtight than a brick wall!? It's amazing these oxygen-breathers haven't choked to death yet! Why did I have to get cornered in the finished section of this crazy building, when everywhere else is still being put together. Not even a crack! If there wasn't so little magical energies here I could blow out the wall, but nooooo!"

Betty was not sure what to do. Cough? Kneel? Go back? Pass by? She was alone in the presence of God, and she had absolutely no idea what to do.
In the distance a large crowd of people came around the corner. Even from over here Betty could hear and feel their loudness. They were weeping, crying, shouting and pushing. Yells of praise and murmurs of awe. And they were heading straight this way. Straight for William.
He saw them. Betty could actually hear him swearing in several languages. Him. God. Swearing!
He then suddenly noticed her as well. He seemed genuinly surprised, but quickly recovered.
"Hey! You! The one who is holding that feather duster! Come over here! Yes, you!"
Betty hurriedly wandered over to him, and sensing his urgency she did not try bowing or anything. He seemed to give a brief smile, then he looked over at a big crate right beside him. It semed to be full of random stuff, and as he pulled out some stuff he said something to her in a commanding voice, "Okay, see that gang of people over there?! I want you to hand them some of these smokebombs and tell them to go away or something!"
Getting a full load of small, heavy metal objects, Betty saw no option but to do as God commanded her. She didn't dare hesitate. She pulled the pins and threw as hard as she could directly into the oncoming crowd. She recognised several of them, but there were many more she didn't. Some of them appeared to be actual members of the Council. And some of the smokebombs weren't exactly harmless. That last one actually exploded in mid air and sent several people banging against the wall. The wooden walls would have caught on fire if they weren't covered in anti-fire spells.
Following William's command, she also tried to shout them away, though "shooo," "hush," and "sorry" probably hadn't been quite what he meant.

"Ah, finally the bloody window opened!"
Betty looked over and noticed that the window was indeed open, not to mention flying off into the distance. Then he picked up his crate, looked over at Betty with a happy smile, then jumped out the window. She could no longer see him as he yelled, "I'll leave you in charge here for now! Bye!"
That was it. She wasn't sure what to feel about things. She wasn't sure what to do. Taking her eyes off the broken window, she looked over at the crowd picking itself up. They were battered, bruised, bleeding and limping. Some appeared to be missing body parts. Some appeared to be dead. Some definitely were dead. And it was all her doing. All of it.

Betty just stood there. There was no running away. They know exactly who she is. A maid with a feather duster. A commoner. A low employee. And she was responsible for all of this. All this death and suffering. One moment she was going home to make dinner for her and her husband, the next moment she was blowing people up into pieces.
As one of the Council members came towards her, she sincerely hoped that her beloved Zalandor wouldn't hate her. He'd have to leave her, he'd be ashamed of her, but she wished he would at least not hate her. She had done what God had commanded, and she now had to face the consequenses.

"My Queen!"
The important high ranking member of the Council went down on one knee in front of her, bowed his head, and asked, "How may we be of service?"
Suddenly all the other people still alive and conscious did exactly the same thing, except the ones without a leg or two.
"Our Queen! How may we be of service?"
Betty didn't quite comprehend at first, but then recalled William's final statement. He had put her in charge! Oh God! It was true! With that one single sentence she was now the Queen! She was in charge!
Recalling the difficulty William had had with the window, she just shrugged and made her first command:
"Open all windows."
She could at least prevent the same thing from happening twice.

- - -

Big mess
It was a cloudy evening as Zalandor came home. Being a city guard wasn't always easy, but it was respectable, and it paid well. Together with his wife they were doing pretty good, and could even afford a large house up here in the trees. Most other guards stayed unmarried and lived in small quarters, so Zalandor found himself quite lucky and very happy together with Betty.
There had been some murmuring about the presence of God, and the rise of some Queen. Maybe Betty could clear things up for him, what with her being a maid over at the castle and all. It would be an interesting subject to talk over the dinner she would be busy making right now. He just hoped it wasn't salad.

As he stopped in front of his door he thought he heard some kind of commotion inside. It didn't seem to be locked neither, which was unlike Betty. They both were firm believers in security.
He opened up the door and looked inside. There were a lot of people in there. Some appeared to be carrying their furniture, but they didn't look like burglars. They looked more like those people working over at the castle, both builders and other maids. What the hell was going on!?

As he stepped, in some people came over to him and asked, "And who are you? What's your business here?"
Zalandor answered with a tight no-nonsense voice, "I live here."
This appeared to leave them baffled, and they hurriedly fled into the next room. Everyone else seemed to ignore him as he walked further into his own house. There didn't seem to be any sense of dread, so obviously there wasn't anything sinister going on. But in his time as a city guard he had never encountered something like this. People moving stuff about as if they weren't sure what to do with it.

Zalandor entered the kitchen. He found Betty slightly slumped on a chair with an expression he couldn't quite read. When she saw him she gave him some kind of smile, tried to say something, swallowed, opened her mouth to try again, shut it, opened it, kept it open, then finally said, "You're not gonna believe this."
She then stood up, head held high, then she held it up so high she ended up looking straight up as if she thought something increidubly stupid was going on. Then she looked back at him, and said in a voice that wasn't really very commanding despite clearly trying to sound like it, "I got a promotion..."
Then she picked up some piece of paper from the table, something she obviously had been cutting with a scissor, then she put it on her head. A paper crown. Then she took it off again, crumbled it up, and tossed it behind her.

Zalandor just stared at her. Then he noticed his mouth was gaping wide opened, and abruptly closed it. Then he said, for lack of anything intelligent to say, "Congratulations?"
Betty smiled at him. Then she fell back into the chair, gave a light chuckle, and said, "I'm the freaking new Queen of Elvor! God himself put me in charge! I did as I was commanded, and now I'm commanding!"
Then she started to sob and cry, and she put her face in her hands. Zalandor finally went over to her and put his arms around her.
"William gave me some smokebombs and told me to throw them at the crowd. So I did. People got hurt. Some died. What else could I do? God commanded it. One moment I'm dusting off books, the next I'm turning people to dust. And to top it all off, everyone, even the wounded and the dying, says I did the right thing. And now I'm the Queen. And the High Priestess. And now they're all moving me and the furniture into the castle."

He pulled himself a chair and sat down too. He didn't know what to make of this, or what to do, or what to even say. If God really had commanded her to hurt people, then she would have had to obey. And if she was now Queen, then what would become of their life together. He was just a regular city guard. That's all he knew, and all he could do. They had beeen married for thirtyfour years. Would the Council force him to divorce her? Would this be their last moment together? God, he hoped not!

After a while some Council members appeared. Seeing Zalandor holding Betty's hand and comforting her, they approached with quiet caution. One of them was carrying a list, and it was he who started to speak.
"Pardon me, your Majesty, but we have finished cataloguing your household items and are now ready to move them to your prepared chambers in Elfheim. Some of them will have to be placed outside in the coridor for now, on account of the space available. We should be able to improve your settings while the building gets finished built."
Zalandor couldn't bear it any longer and asked, "Er, what about me? I'm her husband? I don't have to divorce her, do I?"
Betty looked over at him with shock, then she looked over at the Council members with a pleading face.
"No, no! Not unless she commands it. She's the Queen, you're her Prince. We're not quite sure of your level of authority, and we have no idea where you fit into things, but you clearly belong with her. Don't worry about."
Both Zalandor and Betty gave out a huge breath of release. Then they gave out a couple of more breaths just for insurance.

"By the way, if it's all the same... Perhaps it would be best if we didn't use the Queen's actual name anymore...?"

- - -

Load of crap
It was a morning in full storm. Betty and Zalandor stood in what was currently being transformed into a throne room. A sculptor was currently making sketches for the replacement furniture, but for now they were using the chairs from their old kitchen. A big empty room with only two plain chairs facing the crowd.
Betty was feeling much better today. She had absolutely no idea what her new 'job' involved yet, but at least she didn't have to go dust the library ever again. Queen of Elvor? Yup, things were looking up.

Zalandor had been talking to some of the guards and the generals. After some careful consideration they all agreed that his role should be something along the line of 'Boss of Police'. In other words, he was now in charge of the entire city guard. That was the limit of his skills. There was no way they were letting him anywhere near the army. The Queen, on the other hand...

This was it. The new Queen and her husband took their places on the thrones, er, kitchen chairs. The entire available Elvor Council, except for the ones currently out of town, had gathered for the Royal Audience thingie. Monarchy was still a bit new to everyone, but they wanted to get it right. Thus the new clause in the Constitution about the Queen's level of authority was the first thing to be adressed.
Betty didn't really have any expectations about it. She'd probably just be some figurehead while the Council continued as usual. She knew nothing about politics, or power, or law and order. She just hoped the cooks would let her cook her own meals sometimes. Cooking for her and her husband always made her feel better.

"After careful analysis of the words uttered by Lord William, and careful discussions with the Temple, we have finally reached a clear understanding of your Role as Queen. You have been granted your seat through serious divine testing, and there are many witnesses who can testify your services to the Holy One. In conclusion there can be only one single, definite and obvious fact: Your power is total. Any and all commands are to be obeyed without hesitance or question. Should anyone fail to do so, divine wrath shall fall upon that person. You are the Hand of Will. Supreme High Priestess of the Arch Temple of the God of Willpower. All elves, all civilized people, all who truly follow William, all of us are yours to command."

They were obviously just lying it a little thick for the history books. Betty couldn't help herself, and just as a joke she said, "Quack like a duck," not seriously expecting anything other than a smile, a nod, and another thick speech.
"Quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack..."

At this point Betty could hear Zalandor whisper to himself, "You've gotta be kidding me!"
She knew exactly how he felt.

Agnar Idsøe
24. June 2012


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