All Hail the Queen
"It's a forest." Marisa said flatly.
"Is that it?" asked Remilia. The crowd huddled around the scrying window that Patchouli had set up. It was a large rectangle in space, like a projected screen, rather than a crystal ball or anything more traditional. While traditions were fun, practicality trumps. Through the window everyone could see a lush forest. It was deep green and very dense, the canopy illuminated by the high sun. It was similar to the forest surrounding the mansion, although the color was slightly off.
"It really is another world..." Alice said in awe.
Remilia's eyes narrowed and she spoke in a much sinister tone. "Yes. It is." A smile crept up her face. "Fox, go get your master. It's about time I met these people who took my maid away from me." Yakumo Ran nodded, and scurried away. She could not use portals like her master.
"Wait a minute," Marisa said. "This is kinda' an important moment, isn't it? It's first contact with another planet, a potential alien species! Shouldn' we be careful, take notes and whatnot? It's history in the making!"
"Hahahahaha!" Remilia bellowed, clutching her sides. Marisa rolled her eyes as Remilia spoke. "Oh, you were serious. Hold on, let me la-"
The Tristain capital was not exactly a metropolis, but it was a large enough city nonetheless. Tristain couldn't boast a large population like Gallia could, so the "large cities" of Tristain were not actually all that large. Still, it was a terribly complicated graph of roads and buildings to navigate through, and without a map it would be so easy to get lost. Once such map was spread out across a table, in the basement of a small home in the heart of the capital. The basement was lit by a single lantern, while five men crowded around the table set up in the center. The small room could hardly contain the men, but they were much too focused on their work to care about such a thing.
The map had the city drawn out in great detail, including the names of the individual shops and the residents of various homes. At least those who had decided to release their information to the cartographer, at least. The map indicated the presence of alleyways, pathways, main roads, side roads, suspended walkways and even underground roads and sewers. It was truly a map made for navigating the city, and the author put in a great amount of effort to describe absolutely everything exactly as it is placed. It was for this reason the men had purchased the map, which came at no small cost.
"The progression's route will follow this road first." One of the men said, and pointed to the relevant road on the map drawing his finger across it. "Then it will turn here, follow this briefly, cut through this alley, and come down this stretch before stopping in front of the cathedral."
A second man reached out onto the map and pointed towards the alleyway. "This would be the best place to attack, then."
"Bah, the most obvious place will be the most defended. What's an innocuous secondary location?" Another said.
"Do we know this is the only possible path? There are at least five separate ways to get from the palace to the cathedral..."
"There are a few alternates, yes, but they all must ultimately converge at this point." The first man said, and pointed to a spot next to the alley in question. "It is possible they could take the long way, but I doubt they would do something so overt. They will have to pass this street no matter what, so we should be ready to intercept on either end."
The men nodded to each other in agreement, and got to work.
It was the next day after Miss Louise's breakdown. Wardes had flown to the academy on his flying mount ahead of time to prepare for the princess's coronation, while Miss Louise and I took a horse-drawn carriage. Even though they were married, they didn't spend all that much time together. But since Miss Louise and I were invited to the coronation and wedding, transportation was provided free of charge. As such, I got to spend the entire time sitting in the back with Miss Louise. Because of recent events, it was a bit uncomfortable to say the least. I tried to decide between sitting in silence the whole ride like a maid would, or trying to comfort Miss Louise like a personal maid would.
"Miss Louise, may I inquire to what that journal you are holding is?" I asked. Or I could take the third option and bring up something completely unrelated to our conversation last night.
Miss Louise jumped on my offer to talk about something of relative normalcy, and set the small book she had been holding in front of us on the carriage. It was a simple brown notebook, no special markings that I could tell, but it was very old. Very old, but in very good condition.
"Princess Henrietta gave it to me. It's, um, well she referred to it as the Heresiarch's Book of Prayer."
"Should you really be reading something written by a heretic? I thought, er, the teachings based on the Founder Brimir were pretty important here."
Miss Louise sighed heavily at my lack of knowledge of Halkeginia's history. "The Founder was the heretic. After being ostracized from the holy land, he established Halkeginia where we live today. But it hardly matters what wisdom he wished to share because this book is completely blank."
The book was, indeed, completely blank as Miss Louise flipped through the pages. She unceremoniously held it by its cover and then tossed it aside. It was like a fresh diary that a young girl just purchased to write her innermost thoughts in, but Miss Louise had no interest in that. I didn't have anything to add, so the conversation continued about the Founder and the prominent religion in Halkeginia. It wasn't terribly difficult to understand, actually. "The Founder" Brimir was the first and only void magician, and held great power. After humankind was banished from the holy land by the elves, he rallied the forces to try to take it back, and in doing so established Halkeginia. Which, I only now realize, is not the name of the planet but is the name of a region.
My eyes turned back to the book laying on the floor of the carriage as the conversation died down. Miss Louise saw my gaze, and picked it up again. "It's supposed to have void spells in it. Do you think there's some trick to it?" She asked, but I just shrugged.
The carriage arrived at the capital before long, but I could hardly believe what I saw. The sheer amount of people who were running around was staggering. Every commoner and aristocrat alike must have come to witness the coronation of Henrietta, if the population density was anything to go by. There was hardly any room to maneuver, and we would have to push our way through a crowd just to walk down the streets. However the guards managed to keep security up among this chaos was beyond me.
We both stood in awe for a moment to take in the crowd. We held our hands like children so we would not get lost, and slowly pushed our way towards the palace. Miss Louise would be meeting her family inside, so all I had to do was get her there. I tried to look around for a more open or safer route, but the only possible option I could see was to climb up onto the roofs and free run. But there was no way Miss Louise would be able to keep up with me. Alternatively, we could have flown like how we did during the battle at Tarbes, but I don't think there could have been a more in-your-face option to throw at the commoner's faces.
So I resigned myself to pushing through the crowd with Miss Louise. I was expecting her to be displeased, but to my surprise she had a wide smile on her face. For the life of me I could not figure out why, so I had to ask. "Miss Louise, you seem very happy." I had to shout, to be heard over the crowd.
"All these people are here to see the princess." She said, beaming. That explains it. By the time we actually managed to reach the palace, however, Miss Louise was completely exhausted and the smile on her face was nowhere to be seen. I handed her a glass of water that I fetched in stopped time, and she accepted it graciously without bothering to ask where I got it from. She was used to it by now. The guards were in much worse shape though, having to manage tens of thousands of people at once. They looked mildly relieved to see familiar faces, and moved to open the gate.
However, before I could follow Miss Louise one of the guards blocked my way with his arm. "Only aristocrats are permitted inside the palace today." He said. Miss Louise turned around.
"But she's my familiar!" She protested. "She goes everywhere that I go."
"I am sorry viscountess, but there is simply not enough room. Only nobles and essential personnel are allowed in for the occasion. The other nobles with large familiars had to forgo them as well, viscountess."
Miss Louise sighed, and glanced at me. I gave no indication of what she should do, but she understood what the guard had said. "Alright, Sakuya." She said. "You stay out here and try not to get into any trouble. This is an important day, so don't ruin it." After she cut that last remark, she turned back and entered the palace without me. As she entered she bumped into Agnes accidentally, who was in certain rush. It was a strong impact and Agnes bowed low in apology, and Miss Louise moved on. Agnes then resumed her rush, and bumped into me.
"You're in quite the hurry, Agnes." I said, after she just barely stopped herself from knocking us both over.
"Miss Wardes' familiar." She addressed me in a commanding tone. "Come with me."
I was a bit peeved that she tried to order me around like one of her subordinates, but I was technically under employment by the crown. So I followed Agnes into the crowd, who rudely pushed people aside to make way. It was the exact opposite of courtesy.
"Agnes, what is the matter." I said loudly as we slipped through the crowd. She was going much faster than Miss Louise and I had, and the fact she wasn't being nice caused the crowd to part slightly as she came. She did not respond right away to my inquiry, but pushed her body against the wall of a building to get past a group of blacksmiths. I mimicked her movements and we both slipped into a narrow alleyway. It was barely wide enough for a single person, and Agnes and I both had to turn sideways to shuffle through.
"We have reason to believe there is an attempt on her highness's life today." Agnes said quietly, and then slipped out of the alley back into the crowd. I had no idea where we were going, but Agnes seemed aware of every movement she was taking, so I left it to her judgment.
"Why do you think that?" I asked.
"A band of mercenaries we have been keeping an eye on has entered the city recently." She said as she narrowly dodged three children running through the streets. They were hard to see because they were so short and Agnes had to jump to avoid getting knocked down.
"That's hardly sufficient cause for alarm." I said.
"We've been monitoring them pretty heavily. They have made suspect purchases and the timing is just too perfect. I doubt it's merely coincidental."
Agnes slipped into another alleyway, this one a bit wider than the previous. Halfway into it there was a ladder that stretched up to the rooftop. Without even looking back at me to confirm, she began to climb up. I followed closely behind her, and we both emerged on the roof of a two-story building. The roof was slanted slightly, but it was still easy to maintain balance.
From on top of the roof I had a great view of the cityscape. We were only two stories up, but the only buildings higher were the watch towers and the palace itself, so nearly everything was in view. I knew there were a lot of people, but now that I could see all of them at once my mind was truly blown away. But I put it out of my mind as Agnes began speaking.
"I don't know how or from where, but someone will try to attack her highness today." Agnes said. In retrospect I realized that she never said anything critical while there were civilians around, and yet still managed to convey the entire situation. This woman is scarily impressive, I wish I could make her my maid.
"And you want my help to stop it, of course, but what do you expect me to do?" I said. Agnes stared at me.
"Tell me how you would do it."
I chuckled to myself and looked out at the palace. We hadn't run very far so it loomed over us, although it would be entirely possible to hit someone with an arrow at this range. "How far away could a sniper shoot accurately?" I asked.
"A skilled longbowman could make the shot at five hundred feet, but there's anti-arrow spells on the balcony."
"Not nearly accurate enough, we would see the perpetrator long before they were close enough."
"What, have you not invented rifling yet?" I asked sarcastically. Agnes looked at me questioningly, but I decided not to elaborate. Let them figure it out for themselves. In any case it seems projectiles were out. And it would be foolish to think that anyone could get close enough to the princess to run her through with a sword, so melee was out too. That leaves explosives or magic.
Before I could ask another question of Agnes, one of her subordinates climbed up the ladder. She saluted. "Captain. We've done a sweep of the palace, nothing suspicious was found."
"I see." Agnes said. "Good work. Return to your post." She ordered, and the soldier hurried back down the ladder. I watched her slip into the streets and run back to the palace.
"I take it there are no explosives in the palace that could hurt Henrietta?" I asked, and Agnes nodded. "Although I cannot rule out some sort of magic, I will base my strategy assuming that the wards are impenetrable."
I retreated in thought. The palace would be a foolish place to kill a person. It would be more of a spectacle to kill Henrietta during her coronation or her speech, sure, but she was the princess. It would be a spectacle no matter where she was killed. Doing it inside the palace is an unnecessary risk, and if the mercenaries' goal is to simply have her dead by the day's end then they would target her somewhere else.
"Agnes, what is Henreitta's itinerary for today?"
"The coronation will last about an hour, her speech perhaps ten minutes or so. Shortly thereafter, she'll go to the cathedral to get married. Afterwords there will be a large after party, and she'll return to the palace late at night."
They'll kill her in transit. It's when she'll be the most vulnerable. The palace is a fortress, and the cathedral will be heavily protected. But the streets, with the chaos of the population crowding every nook and cranny, it would be impossible to keep up perfect security.
"Agnes, the mercenaries will try to kill Henrietta when she is transported from the palace to the chapel for her wedding. This is really their only option if they plan on succeeding in having Henrietta die."
"Will you stop saying 'kill' and 'die' and 'Henrietta' in the same sentence." Agnes yelled in frustration. "She's not going to die, we're going to protect her."
I walked towards the edge and peered down at the street. I looked it up and down, and imagined how they connected to the palace gates. A young boy saw me from below, and waved. I didn't wave back, but retreated back to the center of the roof. "Well, Agnes?" I asked.
Agnes sighed. "There's really only one thing to do. We'll draw them out. Until her highness emerges from the palace the mercenaries will be hidden, so we have no chance. We're going to have to make our move right then, when they have to emerge from the shadows."
"That's risky. One misstep and Henrietta will lose her head."
"We won't misstep." Agnes said with a determined look on her face. She then pulled out a rough map of the area and described to me the route the princess's progression would be taking. It was a little roundabout and designed to be more of a parade than an efficient route. It had been planned beforehand, so they couldn't change it easily.
Agnes and I departed off the rooftop. We agreed to walk the route personally and try to locate possible locations to assault the princess's carriage from. Agnes took the first half and I took the second half. Before she left she mentioned that I shouldn't say anything about working for her—having a plainclothes guard is generally preferred. I had no intention of changing out of my maid uniform anyways.
I didn't bother to stop time to do my investigation. It would just expend unnecessary effort. I climbed down the ladder like an average commoner, down into the alleyway, and emerged back into the bustling street. I pushed my way through the crowd until I got to the point that Agnes had marked on the map for me, and found a fairly obvious confirmation I was in the right place. Henrietta's route was clearly marked in the streets, roped off, and patrolled by soldiers. There wasn't any secrecy to be had at all, was there?
The congestion was particularly bad in this area, because some roads were completely blocked off. There was only a small narrow strip on either side where the people were allowed to pass between (or stand and witness the princess ride by). As such, it was incredibly difficult to move about. Being around so many humans angered me a bit, and having to press my body against all of them to walk around was incredibly disgusting. There was one upside though, and that is how none of them are paying me any mind whatsoever. The human village in Gensokyo was small enough to recognize "that evil maid from the vampire's mansion" coming in every few weeks for supplies. I got stares as I walked by, and everyone avoided my gaze. But here, in this huge city, no one gave me a second thought.
It was actually kind of liberating. By ignoring me, they were really classifying me as fellow human, right? As I pushed through the crowd, I made a mental note of all of the areas of interest:
Location One: A nearby tower that had a perfect view of a long road from head on. Taking a shot from that angle would be very easy.
Location Two: A narrow alleyway similar to the one Agnes and I first slipped through. It was dark, and the assassins could use it for a quick escape.
Location Three: In the narrow road connecting the chapel road and another main road. The progression would travel mostly along wide roads, but had to cut through a narrow street to make it to the chapel close to the end.
Of course, while I made these three mental notes of the highest priority locations, the truth was significantly worse than that. Henrietta was a walking target at any point on this route. It would be incredibly easy to break into one of the houses or stores and shoot her through a window. Or, climb onto a roof and drop down from above. There was a dozen different ways to do it in a hundred different locations. I could note where I would first try to assassinate her, but that was not as telling as it should have been.
I was walking back to meet up with Agnes when suddenly a huge uproar of shouting and cheering began. I ran into one of the larger streets to see what the commotion was all about, and followed everyone's gaze. Princess Henrietta had walked onto the balcony, wearing a shiny new crown, and was waving to the people in the city. The balcony was directly above the wooden stage set up in front of the palace, where the guillotine still stood strong. It gave a very interesting aura to her oncoming speech. But I was currently too preoccupied to properly enjoy it.
I sure hope my assessment on where the assassins would strike was accurate. Our window of opportunity is closing fast. I hurried up and tried pushing through the crowd to meet back up with Agnes, but it was even harder than it was before. All of the civilians had stopped moving about, and were standing still, waiting for the princess—or rather, queen—to begin speaking.
"People of Tristain! I am happy to meet you as not the princess, but as your queen! From this day forward, I hope to reciprocate the trust and faith you have in me, and serve you to the best of my abilities."
Her voice boomed across the entire city. Even the people on the outer edges of the city could hear her. The crowd began cheering, and Henrietta waited for it to die down before resuming. I continued to force my way through the crowd. Agnes and I had agreed to meet back up on the rooftop after we completed our respective analyses.
"I know we are at war with Albion, and that is a terrible thing. But, fear not! The toughest battle has already been won—at Tarbes—and the command structure in Albion has shattered. They have no leaders, and while I was forced to initiate a draft here in Tristain, there is no cause for worry! We will invade Albion, and the people will surely lay down their arms and surrender. As my first real act as Queen of Tristain, I hope to bring peace to Albion, and provide the people there with the comfort and security offered to all of Tristain's citizens!"
I cut through a wide alley covered with sheets, and various stands set up along the walls. Some sort of covered market, I presume? Because there was no view of the princess, it was relatively empty, and it helped as a huge shortcut.
"But now, I have something serious to say. There is a reason that Albion has fallen into such turmoil, and that the royal family has perished. It was because of the arrogance and the mistreatment. Albion fell to a group named Reconquista, whose mission statement was to abolish the nobility. Made up of mostly commoners and fallen nobles, this group managed to tear Albion apart. But while it is easy to give labels of evil to those who cause conflict, let's not cloud our eyes from what really happened there. It was not some group of foreign invaders who attacked Albion first. It was the Albion people themselves. It was a rebellion. The people of Albion were being mistreated, and they did something about it!"
I could only pay half attention to the words Henrietta was saying, but I'm sure they were very persuasive. I forced my way through the thick group of people in the street I had emerged in. Despite the maid's rules of being unnoticed and not bothersome, I had to seriously annoy various people and shove them harder than I should have to get through.
"This is the very reason the object that lies below me exists. The guillotine. With it, twenty-five corrupt aristocrats have been executed so far. These so-called nobles were mistreating those below them, and were vile criminals to whom justice was served. They could not hide behind the aristocracy, and their wickedness caused their downfall."
Finally, the alleyway with the ladder was in sight. I slipped in and began climbing.
"This world has morphed into something horrible. Those with power—no, those with magic—are taking advantage of those weaker than them. The aristocracy system was built under the premise that those with power would use it responsibly, to protect the weak and forward society. The weak would, in return, respect their protectors and treat them well. But this is not reality!"
I reached the top of the roof and found Agnes standing, arms crossed, listening to Henrietta's speech with extreme interest. I decided not to interrupt her concentration.
"Reality has gone off the rails. The aristocrats do not protect the plebeians anymore—they oppress them! Enslave them! Drain everything from them and leave them to die on the streets! This is an atrocity, and I will not stand for it. This is the reason the Albion people rebelled, and it is something I feared would happen to Tristain as well! So, I decree as Queen of Tristain, I will stop this oppression at any cost. Once we take Albion, it will be reformed into the Albion Province of Tristain, and it will be a region without an aristocracy."
I walked to Agnes and stood beside her, making my presence known.
"The world is imploding. Reconquista was not a black swan event. It was the first crack in Halkeginia, the first crack of many. Fate has us on the path to war and ruin—so let's show fate that it's wrong!"
Henrietta finished her speech by making a fist, and the crowd cheered once again. If I had to guess, it would be mostly the commoners cheering and not the aristocrats, but I was not in a position to know for certain. I turned to Agnes and broke her from her thoughts.
"Agnes, there are simply too many locations to attack from. Killing Henrietta would be feasible from nearly any point in the route. Unless we figure out their methods, we will have no chance."
Agnes looked troubled at the news, and clicked her teeth.
"There isn't enough time, the princess will be on the move in just a few minutes. Is there nothing you can do? I thought you were some sort of special superhuman."
Is there something I could do? Well, I could stop time. But, we don't know where the criminals are or where they will strike, and it isn't possible for me to track every single person in the city. I don't know who I would be tracking down. A better option would be to simply follow Henrietta in slowed time, and thus I would be able to perceive an incoming threat such as an arrow with plenty of time to react. But, to catch an arrow mid-flight I would have to slow time to about a twentieth of its normal rate. Honestly, I don't want to wait that long.
"We simply do not have enough information, Agnes. I am very strong, but I am not omniscient. Unless I know who the terrorists are, I'll just be attacking randomly."
Agnes started to look frantic at what to do. I don't know what was going on in her head, but it must have been running a mile a minute. After eleven seconds, Agnes spoke once again. "We have no choice. We'll have to provide live, on-the-fly protection during the route."
This was the last resort. We failed to resolve the incident in the time allotted, so Agnes has to take the riskiest option available to her. "What kind of protection like that can you provide?" I asked.
"Some rough deflection spells, and on-alert counter-magicians against hostile spells. And the Musketeer Force can quell any physical attempts. It would be most helpful if you would stay on the rooftops and followed Henrietta's progression, looking for any suspicious people. The guards will let you stay up."
I agreed to her assessment, and she headed back down the ladder to go meet Henrietta by the palace gates. I headed there also, but ran across the rooftops instead of on normal ground. It was much easier than shoving my way through the crowd.
It was half an hour later, and I crouched on the roof of a building that was nearby the palace. There was a substantial distance around the palace where no development had been done, for whatever reason. This isolated the palace a bit from the rest of the town, although it was still arguably part of the town. Unfortunately for me, I had to wait on a roof much too far away to do anything until the Queen reached my point. Henrietta emerged from the palace, and was met with extremely loud cheering as she boarded the carriage. It was large and had an open roof, allowing her to wave and make eye contact with her people. It was being driven by Agnes and one of her guards, with a parade of soldiers before and behind the carriage.
The progression reached my point without any incident, and I crept along the rooftops following it. While the rooftop guards certainly saw me, I was trying to stay out of sight from most of the people on the ground. This went on for quite a bit. Soon enough, the progression reached its half-way point. Nothing suspicious had happened at all so far, and the tension was thickening immensely. I tried to think of what might happen, but could not imagine what the assassins were planning.
They couldn't attack from atop a building—there were guards patrolling the rooftops for miles under the command of Agnes. And she was competent enough to have a check-and-confirm system in place so that any killed guards would be noticed immediately. There was simply no avenue from above, so they would have to been on the same level as the carriage.
The progression made its first turn, and I thought a bit more as I hopped across a larger gap between buildings. They couldn't attack with a bow-and-arrow or firearm. The deflection spell would nullify the former, and firearms' inaccuracy made the latter pointless as well. They couldn't attack with magic—the guards are expected and prepared for that. And melee was way out—The Musketeer force would shoot dead anyone who tried to approach. What other options were there?
I continued following the queen's carriage as it made another turn. The next change would be the small alleyway it had to cut through, and then it would be very close to the chapel. If the assassins were going to make their move, it would be soon. But what could happen? I could stop time the instant something seemed fishy, but would I be able to react fast enough?
The alleyway was coming up. Twenty meters away. Nothing.
Ten meters away. Nothing.
Five meters away. Nothing.
The horse-drawn carriage began its turn into the narrow alleyway. The guard presence condensed and focused at this point—the weakest link in the trip became the strongest. The carriage drove slowly, reaching halfway, farther than that, and then it emerged onto the cathedral road with nothing having taken place.
But, the carriage stopped. Or rather, it would be more precise to say the horses stopped pulling the carriage, and instead started to struggle. Agnes and the driver tried to calm them down with the reins, but it had no effect. Agnes moved to be more aggressive, but would not have the chance. The horses suddenly, in a bright flash, burst into flames. It wasn't accurate to say they exploded. They suddenly just became on fire. Agnes, the driver and the queen all fell back in surprise, and the guards around the carriage tried to get closer. However, the fire was preventing them from doing so effectively. It quickly spread from the horses to the wooden carriage itself, which promptly began igniting.
It was at this point I slowed time down considerably. Agnes should be perfectly capable of grabbing the queen and escaping a burning vehicle, but I was more focused on anybody trying to prevent that from happening. I focused on everyone in the streets and their reactions. The crowd had all recoiled in shock at the sudden fire. The people farther away who couldn't see what happened on the other hand, were trying to move closer to see what was going on.
Even though I was watching in slowed time, Agnes was surprisingly quick to move. She leaped into the back carriage, grabbed Henrietta in her arms, and leaped off back into the alleyway. Besides her, no other guard had made any significant movement, and the driver of the carriage was still very close, surely obtaining several third degree burns. However, still no one suspicious showed their faces.
An instant after Agnes left the carriage, the fire overtook it. But rather than burning silently, it suddenly exploded in a loud eruption of half-burnt planks of wood and deformed metal. The force of the blast knocked Agnes and the queen off their feet, and they skidded to a halt deep within the alleyway. Was that blast meant to kill her? There was no way it could happen naturally like that. But the carriage was protected against magic, so what had happened?
I jumped back to my vantage point above the alleyway to get a better line of sight on Agnes and the princess. There still was no one suspicious around. My best guess is this was a timed explosion, and the culprits are not anywhere near. Otherwise, they would have shown up to do something by now.
As if to purposefully contradict my thoughts, a well of fire began to spew from the side of the building facing the alleyway. I stopped time completely to get a better look at what was happening. Agnes and the princess were on the ground, still recovering from the previous blast. Upon close inspection, the wall of the building had been blown outwards, and a stream of fire was headed right towards Agnes and the queen. It would hit them in about one fourth of a second. I floated myself down into the alleyway, and casually picked up Queen Henrietta's frozen body in my arms.
Moving people other than myself was not something I liked to do often. I had experimented with it before, and the reactions of the moved people described it as "incredibly unsettling." Reactions often included vomiting or gasping for breath. It had never done lasting damage though, so it was something to be used "in emergencies." This situation certainly qualified.
I carried Henrietta's frozen body up to the rooftops, and laid her down gently on top. She would not be seen from below, and she would have mysteriously vanished from any witness's perspective. I did the same with Agnes, and laid her side-by-side with the queen. I then took up a vantage point above the alley, and resumed time.
The loudest noise was the roaring flame engulfing the entire alley, even spilling out into the main streets on the side. The screams of the guards and citizens caught in the flames being burned alive were equally loud. Near me, I could also hear the sounds of Agnes and Henrietta wheezing from the pseudo-teleportation they just went through. However, they were none of my concern.
After the flames died down, from a hole in the wall emerged a beast of a man. He was well over six feet tall, carried a massive club in his arms, and had an old burn injury all over his face. An eye patch covered his right eye, and he had an insane smile across his face. He was positively teeming with malicious intent. He looked up and down the alley looking for his victims, but became confused when he saw no charred bodies. That would be it for him.
Before this man had time to react, I generated five knives around him and accelerated them into his body. Each one pierced into him, and the blood leaked out of each of the wounds. The man was taken back, staggered, and then collapsed.
I turned back to Agnes and the queen, who were staggering to their feet.
"Your attempted murderer is down there unconscious." I said simply, to which they rushed over to the edge of the building with me. We all peered down and saw the royal guard pour into the alleyway, and surround the man lying on the ground with knives sticking out of his back. Agnes and Henrietta waved to them, and then stood up and waved to the rest of the people. They began cheering once they realized their leader was perfectly safe, while the guards secured the criminal. Henrietta then turned back to face me.
"Thank you for saving our lives, Miss Izayoi."
"Well, Miss Louise would be sad if you were dead."
The queen chuckled at this for some reason, but nodded and then went about her business reassuring the people that everything was fine. She recovered from the attempt on her life very quickly, to my surprise. I'm not sure exactly what had happened, I'm sure Agnes will fill me in after she conducts a proper investigation. For now, though, I had a wedding to attend to.
"Sakuya, someone tried to kill the queen!" Miss Louise informed me thusly.
"Yes, Miss Louise, Agnes and I were trying to stop it for the past few hours." I told her the truth, as a proper maid would.
"You were WHAT?" She shouted. "I told you not to get into trouble."
"I am terribly sorry, Miss Louise, but I thought you would forgive me since it was to save the queen's life. The alternative was worse."
Miss Louise grunted, knowing I was right. If I had told her I knew the queen was going to die and I just stood around, she would probably disown me. "Well." Miss Louise said. "You didn't do a very good job. That was a really close call!"
"I'm terribly sorry, Miss Louise, we were not nearly as effective as we should have been."
We both headed into the cathedral after exchanging our words where Henrietta was to be married. Despite the attempt on her life, she was going ahead with the day's plans as if nothing was out of the ordinary. Commendable. I was actually allowed into this event, unlike the coronation, as I had been personally invited by the queen instead of as a simple auxiliary to Miss Louise. A whole separate invitation with my name on it and everything.
It was not a large wedding, actually. It seems that the princess only invited those people close to her, although Miss Louise clarified that a lot of the invited nobles were likely "required" to appease their egos. There was also the required people for legal purposes. Lishman, the Head of Legal Affairs, Cardinal Mazarin, and some people from Germania who likely held isomorphic positions. And of course, all of the guests that the groom had invited were also present. Miss Louise was more than happy to explain all of this to me, despite my not asking.
The only guests I actually recognized were Miss Louise, Agnes, and Julio, the Romalian priest who had dropped into the academy the other day. I was curious what his relation was with the princess that bought him an invitation to her wedding, but Miss Louise did not know. He gave us a cute wave when he saw us, and sat down next to us.
"Hello, Miss Wardes. And who are you?" he asked me.
"She is my familiar, Sakuya." Miss Louise answered in my stead.
"A human familiar, my my, isn't that peculiar." Julio said. I just smiled in response, and then turned my attention to Agnes, who was sitting next to me. The seating order was, from left to right, Agnes, me, Miss Louise, and then Julio. We were on the left side of the room, the bride's side, in the third row of pews. The first row was supposed to be reserved for family, but it looked like instead of Henrietta's family it was just the legal people. Lishman, the cardinal, and some other people I had not recognized. I wonder what happened to her family?
"Sakuya," Agnes whispered. "Those horses were ignited from the inside. The wards we placed around the carriage were not penetrated, which means the horses were fed something ahead of time."
"And?" I asked simply.
"Nobody had access to those horses, it was a privately prepared carriage of course."
"You're suggesting an inside man." I finished her thought aloud, whispering of course. Miss Louise was currently being hit on by Julio, despite her being married, so she wasn't noticing Agnes and my secret conversation.
"Not just suggesting: It's Lishman."
"What makes you so sure?"
"The nobles are angry at Henrietta for the guillotine, and Lishman is without a doubt the ringleader."
I didn't bother to prompt Agnes for further evidence. It's not my place to comment on the law enforcement of nations, or ask for secret files I was not privy to. I had no idea who this Lishman fellow was and had just met him minutes ago, so I simply nodded in response. Miss Louise noticed us at this point though, and turned away from Julio towards me.
"Why are we whispering?" she said, completely misunderstanding the situation.
"Viscountess Wardes, we're still investigating the earlier incident. Can I count on your familiar's assistance?" Agnes asked.
"Of course. Sakuya, help her." Louise commanded. I was already doing that, of course. It's a maid's job to know not just what was commanded, but what will be commanded.
"In any case, just watch him closely. If he leaves, one of us needs to tail him." Agnes said, issuing our next move. I agreed with a nod, and our conversation drew to a close. Almost as if it was timed, Miss Louise's husband sat down right in the row behind us, and leaned in between Miss Louise and me over the back of the pew.
"Hello, Little Louise." he said warmly.
"Wardes!" Miss Louise exclaimed, a little loudly. No one seemed to mind though.
"Oh please, Louise, call me Jean. We're married."
"A-Alright then, J-J-J-Jean..." Miss Louise really had trouble getting that name out, and her face was flush with red. She turned away from Wardes to try to conceal it, but he clearly noticed because he smiled widely.
Julio, seeming to understand the situation, offered to switch seats with Wardes. They did, and Julio decided to take his seat behind me while Miss Louise and her husband flirted.
"So, you're Louise's familiar?" He said softly.
"Are you aware that the last time a person was summoned as a familiar it was the Founder Brimir's familiar, Sasha?"
"I was not."
"Sasha was called a Gandalfr. It said so on her Familiar Runes. What do your runes say?" Julio asked. That felt like something that would be rude to ask, but no one around me was paying enough attention to our conversation to notice. Louise was being hit on by Wardes, and Agnes was trying to not look like she was staring at Lishman.
"I cannot read whatever the language is, and no one has told me what they say yet."
"Hmm, is that so." Julio leaned back in his seat. "Sasha was said to be a very beautiful elf, capable of using any weapon to slash her enemies in beauty and grace. Of course, time has tainted her story. The only words of her spoken now of are hatred and contempt for killing the Founder."
"Hey..." a voice suddenly spoke up. I looked down at my hip and saw the knife talking. Derflinger sure decides to join into conversations at the strangest of times. He adjusted his usually-very-loud voice to be quieter. We were in a church after all.
Whatever words of wisdom Derflinger wanted to spout from his mouth would have to wait, though. He was interrupted by the minister of the church, who had commanded everyone's attention. He stood at the center, beneath the arch and in front of the altar. From a door on the right, a man emerged wearing a fabulous tuxedo. It was midnight black with a red trim, and a blood-red tie. His shoes were of similar coloring, and it gave off a surprisingly intimidating aura. It was hard to see under the clothes, but he was likely very muscular. He was definitely tall, if nothing else.
The man strode up to where the groom would stand. Clearly, this is the groom. Albert III of Germania, Miss Louise had told me. Neither of us had met this man earlier, and I was unsure if Henrietta even had a good relationship with him. He and the minister stood up on stage for a minute and waited.
The doors in the back opened dramatically, and the violin quartet began to play. The open doors revealed Queen Henrietta of Tristain, standing alone in a stark white dress. The dress was much larger than Louise's, and instead of being built around Henrietta's body, it was designed to be extremely imposing and showy. The frills were thick, and covered all of the trims of the dress. On her head was a white veil, kept in place by her newly-received crown. Henrietta took a step, and then strode down the aisle. The crowd rose.
Henrietta walked up the few steps towards the arch, and stood in front of the minister facing the groom. The minister cleared his throat, and began.
"We are gathered here today to witness the union of these two souls. Through this ceremony, the vows they shall make to each other, uttered under the guidance of the Founder, and their undying hearts, they will join hands and face this world together. This holy ceremony, a magical ritual that is truly beyond anyone's comprehension, will set your fate as husband and wife."
"But this wedding is special. And not because it is of a queen and a prince, no no no. This wedding is special because of the motivations that drive these two individuals. This lovely lady just today made a resounding speech stating her intentions. She has spoken to us her plan not to make herself happy, but to make the world happy. Such a selfless act is truly special. But let us not forget the groom, who has aspirations of his own. Aspirations for his own country, and for his own countrymen. And these two have decided to get married, not so that they themselves can be happy, but so that they can help others become happy. That is what make this wedding truly special."
"But that is not to say they themselves will not find their own happiness. Through their love for each other, which will only grow and cultivate as the years go by, they will become happy. And by enacting their grandiose plans, they shall become even happier. This marriage is truly a wonderful thing, and this union today will surely set in motion events that will change the course of history!"
"So, Prince Albert III of Germania. Do you take this woman to be your lawfully-wedded bride, under the Founder's guidance, through sickness and in health, until the day that you die?"
"I do," Prince Albert spoke loudly.
"And do you, Queen Henrietta de Tristain, take this man to be your lawfully-wedded husband, under the Founder's guidance, through sickness and in health, until the day you die?"
"I do," Henrietta spoke, matching Albert's volume.
"Then, by the power invested in me by the nation of Tristain, the church, and by the wisdom of the Founder Brimir himself, I pronounce you..."