See one coronation and you’ve seen them all. Sounds cynical and probably is, especially when the principal is your best friend and his queen’s your inadvertent lover. But there’s generally a procession, with a lot of slow music, and uncomfortable, colorful garb, incense, speeches, prayers, the ringing of bells. They are tedious, generally hot, and requiring of one an insincere attention, as at weddings, commencements, and secret initiations.
And so Luke and Coral became the sovereigns of Kashfa, in the same church where we’d fought almost – but, unfortunately, not quite – to the death with my mad brother Jurt but a few hours before. As Amber’s only representative at the event – albeit of, technically, unofficial status – I was accorded a ringside standing-place, and eyes were often drifting my way. So I had to keep alert and mouth appropriate responses. While Random would not permit formal status to my presence
at the ceremony, I knew he’d be irritated if he heard that my behavior was less than diplomatically sound.
So I wound up with hurting feet, a stiff neck, and colorful garments soaked with sweat. That’s show biz. Still, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Luke and I go back through some of the damnedest times, and I couldn’t help but think of them – from sword’s point to track meets, from art galleries and into Shadow – as I stood there sweltering and wondering what would become of him now he wore a crown. Such an occurrence had changed my uncle Random from a happy-go-lucky musician, footloose and degenerate, into a sage and responsible monarch – though I’ve only my relatives’ reports when it comes to knowing about the first. I found myself hoping it wouldn’t mellow Luke out all that much. Still – again – Luke was a very different person than Random, not to mention ages younger. Amazing what years can do, though – or is it just the nature of events? I realized myself to be a lot different than I had been not so very long ago, from all that had happened to me recently. A lot different than I’d been yesterday, come to think of it.
During the recessional Coral managed to pass me a note, saying that she had to see me, giving a time and a place, even including a small map. It proved an apartment to the rear of the palace. We met there that evening and wound up spending the night. She and Luke had been married as kids, by proxy, I learned then, part of the diplomatic arrangement between Jasra and the Begmans. It didn’t work out, though – the diplomatic part, that is – and the rest kind of fell by the wayside. The principals had sort of forgotten about the marriage, too, till recent events served as a reminder. Neither had seen the other in years. Still, the record showed that the prince had been married. While it was an annullable thing, she could also be crowned with him. If there were anything in it for Kashfa.
And there was: Eregnor. A Begman queen on the Kashfan throne might help smooth over that particular real estate gab. At least, that had been Jasra’s thinking, Coral told me. And Luke had been swayed by this, particularly in the absence of the guarantees from Amber and the now-defunct Golden Circle Treaty.
I held her. She was not well, despite what seemed an amazing postoperative recovery. She wore a black patch over her right eye and was more than a little reactive should my hand stray near it – or even if I looked at it for too long. What might have led Dworkin to replace the damaged eye with the Jewel of Judgment, I could not even guess.