“I am pregnant with your husband’s child.”
Chiarina had zoned out a little as the couple before her spoke, but the woman’s words crashed in on her like a wave. “Excuse me, what?”
The timid woman – no, she really was more of a girl – frowned and bit back words as the man that was with her elbowed her gently. “Show her the necklace.”
Following his advice, the girl fished a chain from her pocket and held it out. Chiarina, the Queen of Libris Del Sol, snatched it from her before it could be pocketed again.
It was familiar. Comprised of three small diamonds placed equidistant in a triangle around a larger stone, it bore a resemblance to her husbands family crest – her family crest – but, it lacked the outer circle. This made her uncomfortable and it was that sensation that triggered her recognition. “You got this from Flag?”
The girl nodded and the red-haired man to her left gawked at her. The queen noted with amusement that she apparently had not informed her companion of the pendant’s origins, but left the observation unsaid as she returned her attention to the female refugee. “He gave you this before my kingdom was leveled?”
“No, my lady. It was found afterward, by the Orianna – or well, the former Orianna. She said to bring it to you.”
Chiarina raised a spotted eyebrow at this. “And what am I to do with it?”
“I am afraid I don’t know, my lady. We were advised to use it to buy refuge.” The girl stated timidly.
“Refuge because you claim to carry my husbands bastard in your belly?” Chiarina dropped her hand and leaned forward in her chair to stare down the girl kneeling on the floor. “Why should I believe you? Why would Julian bed a mere serving wench?”
“I think…” what little resolve the girl had, it was gone. “It was to do with my mother’s cousin.”
The queen rolled her eyes. “And who was your mother’s cousin?”
“The lady Ta’nia.”
That stopped Chiarina dead in her tracks. Of all the women in the world that the girl could have mentioned, she said the one name that she knew her husband had a weakness for. A name two decades past and nearly forgotten. Even as the sound of the letters left her ears, the queen could see the girl’s resemblance to the desert mystic that had entranced her husband so long ago. Damn her.
After a long moment in which she studied the girl, she finally spoke. “Was your… union with Julian willing?”
The girl shook her head.
Chiarina sighed and closed her eyes. Damn him too. “That whore cast a spell over my husband well before we were wed. I had tried to be a good wife and sought may ways to distract him away from his obsession.” She opened her eyes again and narrowed them on the girl. “I thought I succeeded, but I can see now that I have not. My condolences. I will see to it that you are accommodated in a manner that will allow you to raise your child under my care.”
The girl, her eyes downcast as she wrestled with her emotions, nodded. “Thank you, my queen.”
Chiarina nodded and left the room in order to fetch a servant to lead the couple to a waiting area until they were procured a room. In the hall outside, she ran into her recently windowed mother who had been eavesdropping. “Is it true?”
Chiarina waved her hand – still holding the pendant – through the air. “I wish I could say otherwise. If it is a ruse, it is a convincing one. Nobody but myself, Julian, and the sorcerer knew of the witches curse. That the girl was related it’s… it’s too…”
The queen mother frowned, noting her daughter’s distress. “Keep calm my sweet. There was nothing you could do from here.”
“I shouldn’t have left.” Chiarina said just soft enough to be heard.
“Nonsense. Your father needed you kids here. He moved on, knowing he was loved and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
“So we are going to let them stay?”
The queen mother shrugged. “You already promised them as much. We have to keep our word.”
Chiarina said nothing, but nodded.
“What about that?” Her mother asked, pointing at the necklace in her hand.
The queen looked down at it and frowned. “Let it be the bastard’s heirloom for all I care. I don’t want it,” she said as she shoved the pendant into her mother’s hand. “I’m going to sort out their residences before I leave to mourn my own son.”
With that Chiarina left her mother standing in the hall, wondering where to store the pendant until the unborn child came of age to receive it.