Try, Try Again
"Tell me why I should make you Mage Consul."
Queen Martelle chuckled, adding a spoonful of sugar to her tea and stirring briskly. "Do you need me to repeat my question?"
"Um, no, that's all right, your Majesty," Lillet stammered. She quickly set her teacup down before it accidentally slipped from her grip. The girl was younger than her son Hiram, and decades younger than Gammel Dore, but Martelle had no doubt that Lillet was twice the magician of either of them. To have that kind of power held by a young, pretty girl…
"Well?" She asked. Martelle Courvoisier had been queen for the majority of her life—she had seen more kinds of human beings in her reign than most people twice her age would have. Ambitious friends, well-meaning incompetents, independent allies…Martelle had met them all.
Lillet Blan, however, didn't quite fit into her neat categories as expected.
Being queen was so boring, sometimes. Consequently, anything new and different immediately had Martelle's keen interest.
"I…" Lillet swallowed, fiddling with the pointed hat in her lap. "Pardon my surprise, your Majesty. It's just that you haven't had a Mage Consul since the last Consul died fifteen years ago."
"It is a position that isn't too appreciated in some parts of the kingdom," Martelle remarked instead. "Whoever becomes Mage Consul will need to re-establish—no, will need to establish new responsibilities and mandates. The title comes with a considerable amount of power."
"I think that Royal Magician Riesling might be a better choice, ma'am. I'm far too young for such a title!"
"I didn't ask why you shouldn't be Mage Consul," Martelle noted wryly. "I asked you to convince me why I should."
Lillet winced, brushing her honey-blonde bangs back. "Your Majesty…"
"Miss Blan, why did you want to be a magician?"
Lillet blinked and smiled, finally relaxing enough to reach out for her teacup again. "Will this be an interview or a conversation, ma'am?"
"Oh?" Martelle asked, intrigued. She sipped at her own tea—she normally avoided the expensive blends during her quiet, personal-time afternoon tea, but since she had company today she had chosen a nice Darjeeling. "What do you think?"
Lillet Blan smiled, sampling the fragrant blend as well. "I believe that you once dictated that you won't discuss business during your afternoon teatime, your Majesty."
Outsmarted once already! Although they were bordering on dinner-time, making Lillet's comment not entirely accurate. But Martelle just hid her amused interest and simply nodded. "Very well! We shall have a dialogue then, Miss Blan."
"I wanted to become a magician to earn money for my family, so that my brothers could go to school." Lillet politely refilled both their cups. "Why didn't your Majesty go to the Silver Star Tower yourself?"
It was an effort not to react to that—Martelle internally scolded herself for not expecting the question. Between the Royal Magicians, the fact that the Queen had a fair, unschooled aptitude for mage-craft was common knowledge. "I had responsibilites as the Crown Princess that I could not ignore," Martelle answered, nodding her thanks as Lillet passed her her cup and saucer back. "And magic wasn't nearly as acceptable at the time, especially for royalty. If I wanted to keep the support of my people, it was best for me to stay away from magic before I ascended to the throne."
"How terrible!" Lillet lamented, her purple eyes sad. "Magic has given me so many good, beautiful things…" Martelle watched Lillet trail off and smile to herself, clearly thinking about something wonderful.
"Miss Amoretta Virgine is your roommate, correct?"
Amusing, to see Lillet's face go from rosy-cheeked to red-flushed in the space of a single sentence. Even so, an effusive love shone through the shyness in Lillet's demeanour as she said, "Yes, Amoretta is."
Ah…Martelle had heard some of the glossed-over details of the whole Anheuser affair, but it seems like perhaps it was more than just patriotism that had motivated Lillet to confront Benedictine? If Lillet would challenge a Royal Magician many times her senior unblinkingly for the sake of her lover, then Martelle shuddered to think of what Lillet Blan might do if she ever encountered an enemy who succeeded in forcing her to choose between love and country.
Were the benefits worth the risk?
"I must remember to formally thank Miss Virgine, for assisting in capturing a corrupt official of my government and removing a treasonous noble from my Court."
"Uh, right!" Lillet laughed sheepishly, blushing. "Thank you, your Majesty."
The dinner tray arrived at that moment, cutting short that strand of conversation as servants quickly set out a few dishes on the table between Martelle and Lillet, refilling the teapot and quickly disappearing once again. Martelle indicated the food with one hand.
"Please, Miss Blan, help yourself."
"Um," Lillet's face was a play of uncertainty. Clearly, four years of being a Royal Magician still hadn't taught her every nuance of etiquette at Court, although Lillet seemed a generally polite girl. Thankfully, the magician's commoner background spared the Queen the hassle of engaging in a courteous back-and-forth debate of manners as Lillet nodded, accepting the breach of convention without protest. "Thank you, your Majesty."
Watching Lillet pile her plate with a substantial amount of food, Martelle couldn't resist saying, "My…it seems like you have quite the appetite."
"Oh, I've always been used to eating heartily at my meals…my family are farmers," Lillet said, as if that explained it all. Martelle wasn't quite sure how Lillet's family circumstances related to eating, but she let Lillet go on without interruption. "Things are quite different here at Court—I'm amazed that people in the capital can go through a day on only a few bites of food!" Belatedly, Lillet glanced at Martelle's own scant dinner plate, and quickly backpedalled, "But of course, it's probably because I burn most of it off doing magic all day!"
Martelle hid a smile. "How envious. It's difficult to keep my figure sometimes, especially after having three children." Although she wasn't a young woman anymore, Martelle wasn't blind to how much more influence she had as queen when she still drew appreciative glances from her subjects and diplomats. If only she could eat like Lillet did and still maintain her figure! She let out a small amused huff. "Now wouldn't that be a way to make magic popular, especially among the young ladies?"
"For all the wrong reasons, your Majesty, respectfully."
"You're right…too bad." Martelle cut into her lamb chop briskly, glad she wasn't a queen who flaunted her wealth—she remembered state dinners where court ladies had to rely on servants to cut their meat for them, since their fingers were hampered by heavy rings and clanging bracelets. What a waste of energy, and what a dreadful image it gave of the gentry. Martelle much preferred a noble who relied on intelligence and efficiency to indicate their standing, but there was a place for rich nobility, consigning Martelle into enduring the waste of human talent.
This, she supposed, was why she was attracted to people like Lillet Blan—the young woman's work as a Royal Magician had entirely been about reducing the redundancies of magic use around the kingdom, particularly because of her specialty in Runes. While Martelle wasn't a magic scholar, she knew enough of magic to know that Lillet had written quite a few grimoires that summarized complicated folk rituals into simple runes that were much safer to use. She had even recently written a grimoire that dealt with real applications of necromancy Runes that used to only be theoretical concepts. Internationally, all the publications had brought her Court into the highest echelons of magical repute.
For a girl Martelle had initially approved of hiring simply from a recommendation letter by Gammel Dore and for her infamous victory over Grimlet, Lillet continued to impress. Keeping an eye on the magician who had destroyed the Philosopher's Stone had quickly transformed into appreciation for her talent and ingenuity.
But those weren't the qualities that Martelle was looking for.
"I still haven't heard an answer from you," Martelle remarked as they both settled to dine on the light meal. It appeared that Lillet was growing used to her queen's sudden comments, as the blonde simply swallowed her mouthful and said,
"Your Majesty—from what I've seen of you at Court, your political acumen and ability to accurately judge character are extremely praise-worthy. I imagine that for you to even be considering me for the post means that you already have some understanding of why I would be a good Mage Consul, ma'am."
Sharply, Martelle said, "This isn't an interview. I don't want to hear those age-old answers, the ones that everyone gives because it's what's expected." She set her fork down on the table with a clang. "I want to know Lillet Blan's thoughts; the ones that she's too nervous to say because I'm the Queen."
Lillet flinched, but Martelle felt no sympathy. Blast, it had been going well…Martelle hated to be disappointed, but unless Lillet Blan overcame her modesty and dug into what made her extraordinary, at her young age—a Royal Magician at sixteen; the youngest magician to ever graduate from Silver Star Tower; the heroine who defeated both the Archmage Calvaros and the Arch-devil Grimlet—Martelle would have to taste the bitter ruin of her fledgeling dreams, conceived by a young, idealistic princess long ago.
Instead of wilting, Lillet looked up. "Your Majesty…why do you want a Mage Consul?" Lillet asked her, her voice deceptively soft and sweet. Martelle wasn't fooled—the question was a kind of challenge. "The Royal Magicians have been managing the kingdom well under your reign—knowledge is being advanced and shared, our international relations have been improving—so what can a Mage Consul do beyond that?"
"Create a world," Martelle answered just as softly, "where magicians can be the equal of the Church—equals, not enemies! Where magic can become a part of a young prince or princess' education, instead of being a shameful subject to study under disguise…" If she could have had the chance that she had given her son! If she didn't have to hear terrible reports of men and women being burned in the small villages for possessing magic and hearing spirits… "I want the Mage Consul to succeed instead of always failing at truly turning my kingdom into a place where any young man or woman would be judged because of who they are, not what they are. In my lifetime, I have seen too many people try, and seen the consequences of too many failures." She stared straight back into Lillet's eyes, their gazes locked. "Calvaros! Lujei! Talent is far more common than people think; talent will not turn a history of failures into success.
"So I ask you again, Lillet Blan—why should I make you Mage Consul?"
Now she was finally seeing it.
Finally, Martelle could see what she was looking for rise up in Lillet's eyes as the blonde sat up, a certain thoughtfulness growing in her expression. "Why you should make me Mage Consul…"
They were silent for a few moments.
Then Lillet stirred, and Martelle held her breath, listening desperately.
Still modestly blushing but without wavering, Lillet said sincerely, "I win, your Majesty. Even if it takes me a few tries to get it right, even if I have to push myself and force the boundaries of what can and can't be done—" Lillet smiled, her entire countenance changing with the sudden rush of confidence that made her violet eyes light. In a gentle, sure voice, Lillet said, "I'll eventually win in the end—because there are important things to fight for in this world."
Martelle stared at the young Magician, feeling a warm stir in her chest. Oddly enough, instead of feeling a weary disdain at Lillet's overly idealistic words, Martelle felt herself smiling as well.
Now she was sure. Sure that what she had seen in Lillet when she first arrived as a Royal Magician hadn't been a mistake after all.
"It won't be an easy job," she warned. "I want to create a world where magic is something lawful and admired—and the Mage Consul will be the one to realize my dream." When had Martelle started thinking of her dream as a future, instead of as a distant hope?
"It's a beautiful dream," Lillet replied, blushing, although her honest conviction resounded in every word.
Queen Martelle brushed at her eye delicately—a speck of dust had blown into her eye, that's all. For all the years that she had reigned as queen, things always went the way she expected, never the way she dreamed. Martelle hadn't expected that to ever change.
Funny, how much she believed in Lillet's declaration. How unlike her, to actually start to believe that Lillet Blan could indeed win against all the cynics (including herself, hah)! Martelle chuckled, smiling at Lillet's embarrassed but earnest grin.
"Thank you…Mage Consul Blan."
Author's Note: This story takes place in the last chapter of DezoPenguin's "Life in a Bottle" story, where Lillet tells Amoretta that the Queen has made her Mage Consul. The events of "Life in a Bottle" are referenced a few times throughout my story, as Dezo has kindly allowed me to write my own little tale in his fanon ^^. I've pored through Dezo's fics for any references he made to the Queen (nameless in canon and in Dezo's fanon, although I've called her Martelle in this fic) to try and stay true to his depiction of the Queen, though I also allowed my imagination to run with her character =).
Queen "Martelle" Courvoisier is from Martell, a cognac by Jean Martell.
Lady Anheuser, Royal Magician Riesling and Royal Magician Benedictine are from Dezo's "Life in a Bottle".