Chapter Five: The Salic War



by

Josie Beaudoin







"In conclusion, Your Majesty," the ambassador said, "we must request that you set aside your barbaric practices and adopt a more civilized, salic law. Yours is the shining example other nations look to, and a higher standard must be upheld."

Quinn said nothing for a moment, scrutinizing the ambassador and turning the man's words over in his mind. Coryn was one of the older kingdoms, long-established before the Great War, and therefore carried no small weight, but what the man was asking went against Quinn's better judgement. He was grateful the ambassador at least had the tact to request this private meeting. If Ciara found out, she would be outraged.

"What would you have me do, Ambassador?" he asked at length. "Would you have us protected by a child, untested, with only the scantest amount of training? My son is only eight years old. He has barely begun learning what he must know to take his place as our Shield when my sister passes."

"Your Majesty would be better served if he did," the Ambassador said. "Let your sister gift her powers - and the powers of the men who came before her - to her nephew who is a more fitting vessel. She can train him still, but to allow a woman such a position of power, it goes against logic, sire. The laws salic are proper and natural. It is the only reasonable course you have."

"I will consider your words carefully," Quinn said.

"I hope you do, Majesty, for I must inform you that Annodal my king has declared he will not bend a knee to such a careless monarch as allows a woman powers equal to his own."

"Will not?"

"I am only a messenger, Your Majesty. I speak Annodal's words in his absence."

"I am well aware of that, Ambassador. I just wish your king had kinder words for Lyridon than those you have given me."

"My king is quite firm on this point, Majesty. We were given to understand that the powers of the Shield would be passed from uncle to nephew. No one ever mentioned allowing a woman to hold such power. It is both unprecedented and unnatural."

"Coryn has had ample opportunity to present its objections before now. Ciara was Arden's apprentice for twenty-two years. Surely her ascension to Shield can come as no surprise to anyone? Where were your complaints then?"

"It was assumed, Your Majesty, that she would be taught to train the one to come after her, not to become a Shield herself. Annodal cannot and will not support a female Shield."

"Thank you for bringing this information to me in private, Ambassador. You will hear back from me when I have had time to think on it."

"Of course, Your Majesty."

"Good day."

#

"Well, he's mad, obviously," Ciara said. What remained of the royal family after the sickness had washed so many away was gathered for breakfast. As Quinn had expected, his sister did not take the news well. "Where are we going to get another Shield on such short notice?"

Quinn snorted derision.

"You know perfectly well I stand behind you," he said. "We don't need Coryn as badly as they think we do. It's this backwards attitude of Annodal that concerns me, not what we're going to do about it. Obviously, you're the Shield, as is right and proper. I'm not budging an inch from that no matter how much Annodal whines about it."

"The other nations will take their cues from him," Fionnualla warned.

"Funny, the ambassador was overly concerned they'd take their cues from us," Quinn said through a mouthful of toast. "He was worried about us sending the wrong impression to the rest of the North and setting a bad precedent. I don't think it's entered his mind yet, but my only heir is female too."

"And was before the plague," Clancy put in. Quinn grunted assent.

"You know, I've been thinking about that," put in Colm from across the table. "Not that there's anything wrong with Aoife, and I think she'll make a wonderful queen, but you really should put some thought into marrying again. This fever wiped away too many souls, and the nursery is empty."

"Oh, one problem at a time, brother," Quinn said. "I've got an heir, Ciara's got an heir. We're fine for now. You want to fill up the nursery, be my guest."

"Not I," said his brother. "I'm not the marrying type. That's your job."

"I think we've gotten a little bit off course," Ciara said. "The problem at hand is that Annodal refuses to recognize my authority. Is he going to withdraw from our comity? Is this the end of a united North altogether?"

"I will not let Lyridon fall because of one man's stubborn misogyny," Quinn said. "He'll bow to the Shield regardless of gender, or there'll be war."

"We came together to defend the North, not to war amongst ourselves. If Killara hears word of this, he'll be delighted. He may even use the distraction to strike at us when we least expect it," Ciara said.

"If we are not united, we stand little chance against him, expected or not," Colm said.

"All of which leaves us little choice," Quinn said. "Breean and Cearul were elected to rule together over a united North, and united we shall be. They don't get to back out when they feel like it. That way lies chaos and an end to Lyridon."

"Are we really discussing going to war with Coryn?" Ciara asked.

"They're not leaving us many options, Ciara," Fionnualla said. "We're not replacing you, you're the rightful Shield."

"What if we told them Uncle Clancy - "

"Oh no, I'm not taking it," Clancy put in. "First of all, I'm an old man. I'm not going to live forever. Secondly, I'm not the Shield, and everyone knows it."

"You're not that old, you're only - "

"Seventy. And I'm not a member of the family, either."

"Of course you are."

"Not by blood."

"Which leaves us back where we started," Quinn said. "Either you abdicate in favour of Tierney, which is unthinkable, or we go to war, which is unpleasant. Listen," he went on, seeing the look of distaste which crossed his sister's face, "we're going to have this out with Coryn either over you or over Aoife. We might as well do it now. My daughter will be every bit as much an independent queen as you are the Shield. Her husband will not be Lyridon's king. It goes against everything I believe in."

"And I as well."

"So then what's the problem?"

"War. War is the problem. It is - should be, anyway - the last resort, not the first. We can't just say we don't like what someone says and march off to war over it."

"You think I'm being impetuous? Annodal has made his position bluntly clear. He will not bow to you. This is not a point of wounded pride, this goes against everything Lyridon was founded on. It negates –"

"But couldn't we talk to him, try to change his mind without bloodshed? I'm aware of how drastic the problem is, but…"

"I've tried to negotiate with the ambassador, but he's very sure of Annodal's mind. He assures me there is no compromise to be had. I've said the word ‘war' to him and he hasn't flinched. I don't know what else to do."

"Coryn is a long way to march over a point of pride. There's got to be another option."

"We could kick them out, make them part of Wilderland," Clancy said. "Coryn doesn't have a lot of resources, what if we denied them membership in the League? If the other kingdoms take umbrage at their refusal, they might be persuaded to exclude Coryn from trade negotiations. When they're hurting enough, they might consider their pride less important than their bellies."














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