Prologue

The air in the old church smelled effete and damp. The candles that had illuminated the altar and the beautiful lead crystal window behind it had burned down some time ago and now darkness lay over the holy place.

The church was empty. Only a man, a priest, in his early forties knelt in front of the altar; his eyes squeezed close, his hands tightly clasped in prayer.

"Hail Mary full of grace
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God
Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen."

His voice faded but the man remained in his suplicated position for a while and covered his face with his hands. He didn't even move when he heard the old front door first opening and then closing behind him. He knew who was coming inside the church. In fact he had waited for his arrival since the news had been spread around the country.

The low but firm steps came closer and echoed within the cold walls. When the sound of the nearing steps finally died out next to him he looked up. The tall figure at his side was wrapped in a dark coat although the temperatures outside were much warmer than inside the church.

"How could it happen?"

"I don't know."

"You should have stopped her!"

"How could I? She didn't exactly ask me for permission before she went down the aisle with him."

"And she never told you anything about him? Didn't she confess her sins to you?" He scoffed and shook his head.

"I'm hardly her priest… All I heard was that he had given her his letter of resignation the day before. No one expected this wedding. I'm not sure she expected it herself. She wasn't herself today."

"I wonder if she ever was herself since she met him… I told you to observe them to see it with your own eyes! But you never believed me!"

The priest rose from his uncomfortable position on the hard stone ground and rubbed his cold hands. He preferred not to comment the last statement.

"And now?" He asked instead and turned to the other man. He was much older than he was. His face was old and although once handsome it spoke of suffered pain and sorrow. And now bitterness.

"The time has come… that wedding meant nothing. Their marriage isn't valid."

"Are you sure about that?"

"Yes. The laws are old but they exist. That marriage isn't valid and there's no chance that Amelia can become Queen now."

"But it's her legacy. She deserves that chance after what she accomplished today."

"Accomplished… she destroyed old values and sold your mother to a commoner. Tell me what this accomplishment will do good to our old and proud country!"

"Don't underestimate Amelia or Mother. Both are stronger than you might think."

The older man remained in silence for some time before he finally answered. Obviously he wanted to chose his words carefully: "I'll never again make the mistake to underestimate your mother. God knows I've done so many times before and certainly today. But I can't trust her judgement anymore. As much as I might want to I can't."

***