Something a little different. Sometimes it is the words that matter more than the actions—assuming one cares to listen, of course. That, more than anything, is where the questions will lie waiting …
A long time ago, when Tera was still setting out the path for the Realm and those within it, there was a point where she was mulling over a thought. It would be, without question, a major change for their world, for their kind. This thought brought with it change. Something that is, for all beings, a frightening thing at times.
It also brought about with it the need for Tera to stand in front of the Court of the Realm and explain why it was she felt it was a good idea. Tera could have, being Queen, simply pushed the Realm to bend to her will, but this wasn’t her way.
It was, in the end, a sweeter thing to have others change their mind on their own.
On this day, the Court had assembled in the Grand Hall of the Palace, decked out in their finery. Some had brought along their playthings, others shows of their perceived wealth. Amongst all of the beads and baubles, the one thing that connected them together was their belief that their Queen was … wrong.
They were all milling about, talking—some quite loudly—about the idea, what they thought of it, and, more importantly, what it would do. They all expected the traditional arrival of the Queen, the pomp and ceremony that always came with it.
They were, of course, quite sadly mistaken.
The first to notice that something wasn’t quite right was one of the elders of the Court. He was in the midst of a heated argument with one of his peers when, out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a splash of red on the floor of the Grand Hall were none should be. When he turned to see what it was, the sight made him gasp, then stare, which the gained the attention of those beside him who also turned to see what he was looking at. The effect ran like wildfire through the milling assembly, the droning of their voices quickly dropping to a hush as they looked upon the scene that confronted them.
Standing in the middle of the room, immediately over the seal of the Realm that had been carved into the wood… was the Queen. That she was there, without being announced, without warning, was a severe breach of etiquette. If that was all that had been, it would have caused some tails to be bent out of shape slightly.
However, in addition to just appearing out of thin air, she had also forsaken her traditional gown and all of the finery that their Queen should be seen displaying to her court and kind. No, Tera stood there looking quite out of place with all of her Court amassed around her. Her mane of raven hair wild, her tail arched over her right shoulder, arms crossed over her chest, she did not say a word as the Court’s attention was draw to her. Her only reaction was to tap her right index finger on the sleeve of the long red latex-like coat she was wearing. If that wasn’t shocking enough, the black bandeau top and pants, also in latex, were a bit more so. Adding to that, a pair of black ankle boots made her appearance that of, at least from some points of view, one of the commoners of the Realm.
The Queen … didn’t look like the Queen.
When the crowds had fallen silent, Tera tilted her head to the right and was about to speak when one of the black tails in the upper rafters called out: “Your Majesty shames us. There is protocol, and even Your Majesty must follow the rules.”
Tera looked up in the direction of the one that had spoken and replied: “Quite true: I am here; you are as well. Therefore, the basic rules are accommodated. All else is open to interpretation.” Before there could be a response, she continued: “For example, nowhere does it say that the Queen must be in her finery. Nor does it say that she must be announced by horns and pages running about. In fact, when you look at the letter of the rules to which you refer, all it says is that the Queen must meet with her subjects regularly.” Tera had a bemused smile, one that the Court, and the Realm, would come to know very well: “So, as such, I am following the protocol.”
She waved her right hand at those around her as she walked in a circle, continuing to speak as she did so: “All of this, which you call important, is simply window dressing. There are but two things which matter. The first is that I am available to the Realm. The second is that I listen and then act in the best interests of the Realm.”
She paused, looking over her shoulder at her Eternal, who stood nearby, as casual as she herself was. “My Eternal has mentioned to me that he rather holds this particular look as his favourite, and I tend to agree with him.” A pause and a bright smile came with: “As well, that gown causes my tail to itch, and it is better not to irritate my tail, would you not all agree?”
The almost coordinated nodding from the surrounding Court was quite amusing, she thought, not even noticing her own tail turning its tip around to look at the Court and causing a bit of consternation as it did so. Stopping to look at the dais, with the thrones of the Realm resting upon the carpeting there, she continued: “I have noticed something which bothers me. The majority of my time seems to be spent listening to my ministers, advisors, and others who have a place in our Realm in which they are to be serving the Queen and the Realm. Over the course of my typical interactions with you all, I do not see those whom we serve, the people of the Realm.”
This comment brought a murmur from another part of the Court and Tera turned to the one responsible: “Before you start—any of you—I am aware of the People’s Day, when they can come to the Palace and be seen by their Queen and ask of her a favour.” Her eyes narrowed: “This is not nearly enough, not by any stretch of the imagination, and I am quite sure my own imagination need not ponder this longer than for you to agree that this is not, at all, acceptable.”
Beginning to pace—another quirk that the Court would come to know as well as her Eternal did—she mused: “I had wondered why things are. Why is it that the people, who look up to us, to ask us to lead them, cannot see us? Having no good answer from those in the Court who should be able to reply …” Again, the bemused smile returned: “… I walked among the residents of the Realm.”
There was, on many faces, shock and surprise at this. But in others, those that had known Tera from her childhood, from when she hid in the Court to listen to her parents preside, nodded in approval.
Tera caught the grin of her uncle and his approving nod and pressed on. “Oh please; there’s nothing and no one that would think of doing me harm. But, on the other hand, I can say that the Realm was overjoyed to have their Queen among them … Which brings up why we are here: I have always disliked being addressed as Queen. My mother was the Queen. My father was the King. I and my Eternal are … Tera and Keith. We are not to be addressed as King and Queen. Those are titles, not who we are.”
There was a thud from the opposite side of the room and Tera rushed off in that direction. She found an elderly while-tail had fainted, and she immediately began to make her comfortable. This, again, was Tera’s way. She would always help, regardless of the consequences. Some in the Court would recall that, in the time of the war, Tera had been in the midst of things, not at the edges or looking from afar. She fought with her kind, but she also healed whomever she found in need. It did not matter which side they were on, her decision was clear. In being so, those of the Realm who called themselves warriors had accepted her as one of their own. She was, to them, Tera first, and Queen second. For the white-tails who nodded in approval of Tera’s declaration, there was no problem. There never was. They had seen Tera’s wisdom long ago.
This particular white-tail awoke after a short time, and Tera asked: “Mary, are you alright?”
She smiled: “I’ll be fine … too much excitement. Go on …” There was a pause, then she added: “Tera.”
Tera kissed Mary’s hand and then turned back to the assembly: “Now, where was I … Oh, yes! Titles and putting ‘airs’ on: I do not like that sort of thing, I never have. My Eternal commented once that he felt I wasn’t happy when others were bowing and so forth. He is quite right, of course.”
Keith smiled and nodded in reply, but said nothing. This was Tera’s show, and he wasn’t about to step in.
“I do not see the problem with others using my name. And I do not mean my flowery, formal, never-have-used-in-a-million-years-because-I-can’t-accept-having-to-list-all-of-them name, either. I mean who I am. I am Tera. All else is after that.”
She then laced her fingers and stretched her arms out in front of her: “Therefore, as of today, I will no longer be holding court here.”
This time the gasp was followed, after a short pause, applause from several points in the room.
“Court will be where I am. If I am walking the beach and someone wishes to talk to me about something, I have the time. If I am sitting at that lovely little coffee house I enjoy and someone needs to know something, so be it. I will be making myself available to the Realm by being part of it.”
This, of course, made several ministers’ tails go straight up in the air as they realized what was coming next.
“This also means that, if you want to talk to me, you’ll have to get out of all of that finery you are wearing, walk through the streets of the Realm and find me. It also means that, for our pages, assistants, clerks and so on, they will be out and about, part of the Realm and not sitting behind desks all of the time.” Tera looked off in the direction of a group of pages that were grinning broadly: “Personally, I think they will enjoy being able to wear whatever they want … or nothing. Either is fine.”
The rapid nodding and quiet whispering and giggling, seemed to make it clear that they thought this was a really good idea. Their formal attire was itchy, after all.
She looked off into the distance, seeing the Realm in her mind past the walls of the Grand Hall. “I know I must lead our kind. That I have to guide us forward, to the future, to better things. Strengthening who we are is part of that. We are a collective of souls, bound together. That cannot be when we cannot simply be who we are, express our thoughts, and live our lives with meaning.”
Walking from the centre of the room, she made her way towards the great doors which led to the Realm outside. She paused there, her hand upon the door handle, her Eternal standing to her side. “The Realm is outside …” Opening the doors, she revealed untold numbers of succubi and incubi who had been waiting quietly there throughout her speech. Turning to look at the Court, she continued: “… and inside these doors. But the true Realm is the one we carry inside of us all … together.” With that, Tera walked into the crowd that awaited her, her Eternal by her side, as an ovation began from those who had heard her words, both inside and out.
It took a little time for all of the Court to come to see Tera’s wisdom, to understand what her words meant. But they did … in time. With the understanding also came a simple fact: Tera, Queen though she was, was Tera first. In being so, in being the Queen of her people … all of her people saw her as Tera.
Which was all that she had wanted them to know, and they should have long before she had to give a speech, after all …