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One evening, the queen summoned me to her royal apartments. I found myself in the deep study room, an elegant expanse in the vast multi-chambered wing, where she received merchants and purveyors of things and thoughts.

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The breeze, stirred by the ceiling flags fuelled by unseen hands, wafted a variety of fragrances from an abundance of potted blooms. She had brought the garden into her chambers. The clouds had gathered. The air tasted wet but sweet. Faint music teased; the melodies from hidden maidens whose dainty henna painted fingers plucked and glided on the strings of the veena and caressed the tanpura.

A sharp slash of lightning sent the parakeets shrieking away into the gardens. The clouds unburdened themselves and rain came down in unrelenting sheets. I sat with my back straight and waited. The waiting was unusual as she was always present to receive me. She was not one to keep me waiting. The queen kept no one waiting, not even junior officials and merchants. Her manner endeared her to the weak in mind but revealed her insecurity; her need for affirmation, for acceptance.

Amidst the crack of lightning, the roll of thunder, and beat of rain, whimpers caught my keen ears. Though I have never heard her cry, I recognised the sobs. The windows were permanent openings in the walls but designed with deep overhanging eaves that kept out the sharpest slanting rain. Latticework on the windows provided privacy, not that roving eyes had access to the queen’s wing, which nestled within secluded grounds.

The curtains billowed and revealed an opened door, one that led to the bedchambers of the queen. The weeping drew me to the door. Unlike the study, the scents in her bedchamber were from dozens of joss sticks and aromatic oils. I was on forbidden ground. The Paramarajah’s preserve. But the danger drew me.

Devaney the Queen, but an ordinary looking fleshy woman, was my flame. By conquering her, I would best my antagonist, the Paramarajah. And best him, I did, that fateful night. Devaney found comfort in my arms. It started cautious. Soft kisses. Searching hands. Exploring lips.

My lips paused and picked on her waist chain. Her ecstasy fulfilled my need to love and to receive love. The night became one of blurred exertions and gasping abundance. Of dreams realised. Passions unleashed. Paths trodden, never to retrace.

Dawn brought new fears. Suspecting my distress for having crossed the threshold of trust and perhaps fearing for her own safety, she directed me to a secret passage. A tunnel that led from the bedchamber to her private garden and the woods beyond the vast palace grounds. An escape route if the kingdom fell to alien invaders or worse, palace usurpers.

It was a long walk back to the academy but better that than the short walk up the scaffold to the executioner’s stone.

I resolved never again to place the queen in danger. I stayed away from the palace. The honey tasted sweet. But it was honey found in any honeypot. And so, I consoled myself and dismissed the encounter.

Copyright @ Eric Alagan, 2019

Continued 11 October 2019