THE FOUR QUEENS
“Who are you, Mistress Seducta?” asked Owongus.
He, Mirumtia, the odd man called Bern (or Spider) and Paulina (otherwise Paulinus, a slave-boy disguised as a girl) were sitting cross-legged on the floor of Seducta’s hovel which, on the inside, was nothing like a hovel.
She had changed, yet still contrived to wear diaphanous silken clothing that shimmered as the light that somehow seeped in through the tiny glassless windows of her warm home played upon it. It was the next day and they all felt refreshed. Seducta herself looked as if she might have slept for a long age and regained every ounce of the beauty of her youth – not that she had seemed anything but beautiful and youthful last night when she had soothed them to sleep.
“Me?” she smiled at him. “I am me, Master Owongus, a flower of this forest, the heart of all that is good and beautiful and noble. I am Seducta, and I seduce!”
“That sounds…” began Mirumtia, but she didn’t know how to finish the sentence politely, so she left an unspoken thought at that.
Yet Seducta understood. “That sounds selfish and self-serving?” she murmured. “But it isn’t!” she added with a flash of her beautiful eyes. “I seduce all creatures and by so doing ensure they are the best they can be. So the lazy rabbit out there, skinny for want of food that he can’t be bothered to eat, becomes sleek and, though never greedy, well-fed. The brutal soldiers of the Roman armies become like putty in my hands and they lie down outside on the green turves of Earth and die, for the only good I can seduce from them is the honour of dying without destroying any more than they already have destroyed. And you, my friends, I have seduced you! Yes I have, Master Bern, and don’t you deny it!
“And as a consequence of that seduction you have passed the most peaceful night of your lives, for I have soothed all doubt and fears and troubles from your minds with little more than a whispered word as you closed your eyes! No impoverished seduction this, no sleazy midnight groping seduction, but the seduction of your weary minds, and you have slept well!”
Owongus stared at her, puzzled. “Yes, but who are you, Mistress Seducta?” he asked.
She laughed. It was a tinkling laugh, almost the sound that a tiny crystal stream might make as it cascades gleefully down a course of gleaming stones. “You are persistent, master Owongus, and as a reward for your persistence I will answer you truthfully.
“I am myself, and I know that won’t go anywhere near answering your question,” she purred. “But the truth is as simple as that! I have lived here for an age, in my castle, and I have guided the folks who once lived around here. I guided them to drift away, slowly and in small numbers so as not to draw attention to themselves, and I guided them to build strong vessels and sail across the sundering seas. I guided them to float on their angel-craft beyond the sight of man, and conjured up winds that would transport them to a far land where no mortal being has ever trod! That made my people safe, and now I await here while the conqueror and his vile ways have their day, and when that day is over and its night has fallen I will reveal this land again. New people will live here, for those I sent away on a wind of love will stay where they are, build tribes of hope, will tame new lands in the uttermost West.”
“Yes, but who are you?” persisted Owongus.
“Owongus, don’t be silly!” said Mirumtia. “Don’t you see? Seducta is the goddess of the Earth, the Mother, the great being from whom all life was spawned…”
Seducta smiled again, and laughed, that crystal stream like a delight of magic in the air inside the hovel.
“That is too much to claim, even for me,” she whispered. “But I have vision of a sort and can see a hard road before you, for you are all in search of your homeland across the seas. And, with fair luck, you will find it. And you, my sweet,” she turned to Mirumtia, “when you find your people seek out the great Iceni Queen, and greet her as my sister. For she is Boudicca, and shares my blood and my father.”
“The Romans…” stuttered Owongus … “they slaughtered her! Didn’t you know?”
Then came that tinkling laugh again, pure like freshly thawed ice tumbling in droplets from a great height.
“She is my sister,” said Seducta, “And whatever you might see, whatever her people, any one of them might see, it is not what happens. She has my magic in her breathing, for she shares my father’s strength and cannot be destroyed by pathetic men! She will be there when you return, and you may greet her and tell her this from Seducta,
“The time of the great enemy will be long, but the line of queens will be noble and her blood and my blood will be pumped by mighty hearts, and men of all ages will hail them! And the future will name them as Two Great Elizabeths and a mighty Victoria! There: that is my truth, and the future of a nation in the unlooked for hands of Boudicca’s offspring, queens of a mighty realm!”
“I don’t…” began Owongus.
“Oh, but I do!” gasped Mirumtia, “you are saying, mighty queen and empress, that the future is in the hands of women and not the swords of men?”
Seducta nodded. “It must be so if there is to be any hope,” she said, flatly, and then she smiled. “But, my friends, you will tarry here and regain your strength, and then I will help you on your way. My sister, even in apparent death, awaits you!”
Owongus nodded and smiled, and his eyes closed again as if a balm had been placed upon him, and without fear or prejudice or any sense of hopelessness, he slept again.
© Peter Rogerson 23.09.12