‘How very lovely to see you again, Lord Peafowl.’
‘It is an honour, my Queen,’ Peafowl gave the best curtsy he could manage.
‘I am sorry to hear about your late father. He was one of my most loyal subjects.’
‘Indeed, my Queen. I am afraid that immortality was not one of his many talents.’
‘Do not be wicked, Gregor,’ said the Queen, raising her left eyebrow. ‘Not unless I command you to be so.’
‘I apologise, my Queen,’ he bowed again, trying to look as humble as he could, which was a more difficult feat than one might think.
‘As I am sure you have realised by now,’ the Queen continued, ‘I have not summoned you here to offer my condolences.’
‘Indeed, my Queen. Rest assured that I am at your service for anything you require, your Majesty.’
Isola was one of those women who, because they are so very short and their blood so royal, always keep their chin elevated in such a way one always wonders how they can see where they’re going. But not at this moment.
Without taking her eyes off Peafowl, Isola lowered her chin like someone who knew something you didn’t.
‘Guards, leave us,’ she commanded.
All the men in armour saluted and left the throne room.
‘Now, Gregor,’ said the Queen after the gates closed, ‘I have heard some very disturbing rumours regarding your father’s death and I trust you will be candid with me.’
‘Yes, my Queen, surely, your Majesty,’ he replied with a theatrical bow.
‘Answer me truthfully, Gregor: did you murder your father?’
Peafowl felt himself turning white as chalk, as the blood stopped running through his veins.
‘I loved my father dearly, my Queen. Of this you know.’
‘I know you loved his wealth, his title and his lands,’ she replied sternly. ‘I know that, with your brother conveniently gone after that unfortunate shipwreck, you were next in line to inherit all of it.’
The Queen paused briefly and Lord Peafowl thought he could see what seemed to be a smirk on her lips.
‘And I know that would be a legitimate motive for you to help your sick, poor old father to put an end his suffering. To take what was rightfully yours. I am sure that would be quite understandable for anyone of noble lineage.’
His blood and colour returned to him. It was now Peafowl’s turn to smirk.
‘It is all rightfully mine, indeed. My Queen.’
‘I will ask you one last time, Gregor: did you murder your father?’
The nobleman straightened his back and, with his head held high, answered:
‘I did, my Queen.’
Rising from her throne, Isola smiled triumphantly.
All Peafowl heard was a roar of armours and weapons like a thunderstorm.
‘But… my Queen…’ he babbled, throwing himself at the queen’s feet.
‘You will have the opportunity of begging for your life when you stand trial, Gregor,’ the Queen said, coldly. ‘Take him to the dungeon.’
‘No! Please, your majesty! I have always been a faithful servant! Please don’t have them take me away…! I will do anything you request of me, my Queen…!’ Peafowl pleaded while two of the guards grabbed him by an arm, one on each side, and dragged him away. The last thing he heard was his Queen, with her back turned to him:
‘You disappoint me, Gregor. Noble men don’t crawl.’
Isola walked away and sat back in her throne, with Peafowl’s cries for mercy echoing in the hall, fading ever so slowly, until peace and silence were restored.
With a vague glance at the page standing on the right end of the room, she ordered:
‘Send for the royal messenger.’