The next day, Sela Kotu decided to go for a walk in the garden. She went with no one but her physician, Tay-Bry. He accompanied her wherever she went.
Sela Kotu's parents had died in their sleep seven years ago. That did not mean that their deaths had been natural, though. It seemed highly unlikely that two healthy adults in the same room would die of natural causes in the same night. The royal doctor had tried to save them, but he could not help either one with his medicines. He just hoped that Tay-Free, the Great Leader, had taken them to a better place for a purpose.
Tay-Bry had also tried to save the Sela's husband after he received an arrow wound in his chest from an unknown archer. He had tried to stop the bleeding and to keep the man from dying while he silently prayed through clenched teeth. It seemed as if nothing would save Sela Kotu's husband, though--perhaps the arrow had been poisoned--and he had died a few hours later.
Sela Kotu had been upset over her husband's death, of course, but, for some odd reason, did not get rid of her physician. She believed that Tay-Free has His own ideas and that no one, not even a 'great doctor,' can override His plans, so she cleared Tay-Bry of all blame. The rest of her subjects were concerned about their queen. Her parents and husband had died, and many thought that the three had been murdered, perhaps by Tay-Bry or someone else from inside the castle. The townspeople insisted that the Sela get a bodyguard, and perhaps fire her physician as well. However, she had no concern for her own life. She refused to be specially watched, but, to the shock of many, she let Tay-Bry accompany her wherever she went. (She thought that this would be a compromise acceptable to her populace, but they were outraged at her letting an accused murderer watch her.) But at least if something happened a doctor (never mind that he wasn't very successful) would always be on hand to try to save her life.
So Sela Kotu was leisurely strolling through her garden. She walked over to the fruit trees on the right side of the orchard.
"Tay-Bry!" she shouted. "Come over here and look at these apples. Do you think they're ripe?" Suddenly, she heard two 'twang' noises in quick succession. She looked behind her and saw two men drop to the ground. She looked ahead again to find the person who shot them, but he or she was already gone.
"Are you all right?" asked Tay-Bry, rushing to the queen.
"Yes, I'm fine," she replied. "They missed me." The doctor proceeded to examine the fallen men as Sela Kotu watched.
She noticed that they were wearing armor from Sue-lima. One man had held a sword, and the other had a large axe. It was obvious that they had intended to kill someone, most likely her. After all, she was the leader of Jet-a-Miray. Both men had been shot perfectly in the chest with arrows less than half a hir, or four inches, long. Somehow, the arrows had managed to pierce through the thick armor. Only the tiny feathers of the arrows stuck out of the metal. She wondered how the intruders had gotten in--maybe they had snuck in through the postern gate or--Sela Kotu shuddered--used some magic. Tay-Bry told his findings calmly.
"They are both dead. They must have died instantly, I think, or they probably would have at least tried to harm Your Majesty. They seem to be from Sue-lima. Shall I send a notice of war to their country?"
"No, Tay-Bry. Not yet. They might have been rebels or traitors to their country or something like that," replied Sela Kotu. "I just wish I knew who--or what--saved my life."
The eagle flew way out around the castle with the mouse on her back. Sela Kotu had told them to keep their eyes open for fairies, and they were. Hi-lee looked to the north and saw the reassuring glow of fairyland next to Jet-a-Miray's ally, Tas-et-lal. She thought, 'Surely fairyland must be safe if it's next to the one country that we haven't had a war with?' As she looked at the beautiful glow of fairyland, the light seemed to flicker. Or maybe it was just her imagination. Fairyland was far off, and mice weren't known for their exceptional vision, after all.
Hours later, a butterfly approached Jocy and Hi-lee. It had pretty yellow wings, but looked rather impatient. Its name was Maral, which meant 'yellow wing.'
"Sela Ber-Islo-Tayli-So-Ber-Ol requests your presence in a meeting immediately," said the butterfly.
"Again?" asked Jocy, obviously annoyed. "I'm sick of these stupid--"
"We'd be honored to attend this meeting at Sela Kotu's convenience," interrupted Hi-lee. Unlike Jocy, the mouse didn't mind sucking up shamelessly.
"She wants you there now," said the butterfly hurriedly.
"The usual place?" asked Jocy.
"Yes. Now hurry up!" exclaimed Maral shortly, as he flew away.
The eagle flew to the castle as quickly as she could and they arrived inside in less than half an hour, an impressive time considering all the security checkpoints they had to go through. Normally, the mouse would not have been honestly interested in the conference, but she sensed that something dramatic had occurred to make Sela Kotu call them together the day after they had last met. They went into the tower and found everyone--Tay-Bry, the unicorn, Sela Kotu, and even Zobo--waiting for them.
"I know that you all are probably wondering why I'm holding this meeting," the queen began, "but it is a very grave matter indeed, that must be addressed. Two men wearing armor from Sue-lima tried to kill me this morning." Everyone was only slightly surprised; that sort of thing had happened to several kings and queens of past days. However, they were kind of angry that someone had dared to try to kill their queen.
"Did they get away, Your Majesty?" asked Zobo.
"No, they were both killed," said Sela Kotu, sounding a bit regretful.
"That's too bad," said Elay, the unicorn. Her name meant 'flower,' and, as noted earlier, she was extremely sympathetic.
"I have commanded for all citizens of Sue-lima to stay away from the border of Jet-a-Miray. Not that anyone can get in, anyway." Sela Kotu sighed slightly. "I was wondering if anyone thought that we should declare war."
"I think that we could win a war with Sue-lima," said Zobo," but it would cost many lives. And if some other country decided to invade Jet-a-Miray after we finished that war, then they would probably be able conquer our country, Your Majesty."
"You two have been to Sue-lima," said Sela Kotu, addressing Hi-lee and Jocy. "What do you think we should do?"
The eagle replied, "There were some rebels in Sue-lima who were still angry about the curtain incident. They would probably try to kill you, Your Majesty. But most of the country would like to make peace with Jet-a-Miray, including their leaders."
"Does anyone here think that we have much to gain from the war?" When no one answered, she said, "Well, I guess that takes care of all the business."
"Wait, Your Majesty," interrupted Tay-Bry. "There is still the matter of Your Majesty's personal safety. Those two may not have been the only ones intent on killing you."
"Don't worry about that," said Sela Kotu. "I increased the security in the castle. That's enough. If Tay-Free wants me to be killed, then we can't do anything about it." Tay-Bry recalled that the Sela had become quite reckless ever since her husband had died. Although he wasn't reassured by her response, she was the queen, he had no choice but to say, "Yes, Your Majesty" reluctantly.
"You two, remember your job tomorrow," said Sela Kotu to the eagle and the mouse.
"We will, Your Majesty," said the two spies in unison.
"In that case, you are all dismissed," said Sela Kotu, adjourning the brief meeting.
Go on to Chapter 5
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