It began as it had before, by the lake in Barlin, only now it was June, and felt like it. It was still morning, though, so it was neither so hot as to bring things to a standstill nor yet raining as was so typical in the afternoon.
Once again, though, it was time for Drahla’s Royal Counsellor, Terry Marlowe, to make her way from her small house towards the palace on the opposite end of the lake. She gingerly made her way down the road, a road with the occasional puddle of water in the low spots, just as she had just three months earlier when she had her fateful rendezvous with Serelia’s prince. This time, though, she was not headed for the Royal Pavilion, but the palace itself. After the usual stopping and greeting people on the way, she did not enter the throne room, but went into another entrance that took her down a hallway and into King Henry’s study. She stopped at the threshold; the King was seated at his desk, and turned around to recognise her.
“You wished to see me, Your Majesty?” she formally asked after bowing.
“I did—please come in and have a seat,” Henry replied. She did as he asked.
“Did you meeting yesterday go well with the delegation?” she asked.
“That’s what I wanted to see you about,” Henry said. He had a gravity to his voice that, although characteristic, did not put his Counsellor at ease. “As you know, ever since the cease fire, the question of our form of government, and the distribution of powers amongst ourselves, has been a paramount question. The coastal cities—Fort Albert, Drago, and Cresca—initiated the process that brought this nation into existence with the purpose of preserving and expanding the rights and privileges granted to them under the charters they first received from the King of Beran—whose descendant has become so dear to you—and which were reaffirmed by King Albert, but compromised by his son.
“At the time we declared our independence, the question of how to preserve those rights under a new order was already under discussion, one which your late husband Max Serlin was very much a part of. Unfortunately, we had a war to fight, and had to put such matters aside. After the cease-fire, we dillied another three years with the Serelians, which put the matter off further, although we were able to start the rebuilding process. Now that our independence is recognised by everyone—and we have eliminated our most vehement opponent, Verecunda—these questions have once again come to the front of our agenda.
“The delegation from the coastal cities came with more than just an idea—they made several demands, and were very emphatic about them.
“First, they wanted a five member executive council, similar to the Alemaran one. They envision one delegate from each of them, one from here in Barlin and one from the northwest. They want to elect a provisional council sometime this month, before the hurricane season gets into full swing.
“Second, they want this council to begin work on a constitution for Drahla which would vest the main power in this council or some other form of parliament. They also want this constitution to delineate the powers that I have as King, and would also settle the question of whether we will have a unitary government or a federal system. Personally, I always thought your late husband’s support of the former was wise, but they are always suspicious of a strong central government, even when they think they can dominate it.
“Third—and this caused me the most grief—they demanded that the office of Royal Counsellor be abolished immediately. They felt that this has been the equivalent of our Prime Minister. To retain this office would, in their opinion, dilute the transparency of our new government and create confusion amongst our people here and the other nations of the Island.
“I attempted to propose a title change or something, but they were adamant that the office be abolished without further reassignment or change. So I agreed to their demand.
“And so, it is regret that I inform you that your office has been abolished and, in this capacity, your services are no longer required.”
Terry’s own countenance had grown heavier as his speech had progressed. When he was finished, there was a silence, and then she asked, “Is that all you wished to speak with me about, Your Majesty?”
“I just wanted to say,” Henry added, “how grateful I am for your years of loyal service to me, to the royal family, and to your country, because this country would probably not exist were it not for your efforts and those of your late husband.”
Terry rose and said, “Thank you, Your Majesty,” and walked out of his study.
As she walked down the hallway leading to the outside, the full impact of what she had just been told began to sink in. She stopped as the grief began to overwhelm her; as her tears started to come out she staggered to the wall, then slid down it and slumped to the floor as tears turned to sobbing that could be heard all over the palace.
It seemed like an eternity that she was in this state. Finally she was able to pull herself together enough to get up again and resume her exit from the building. The sun was blinding as she emerged from the relatively dark palace; she tried to put on a more normal countenance and make the walk back around the lake to her house. She didn’t get very far, though, when she heard a voice from her right.
“Your Excellency,” the voice asked. She turned to see it was the aide to the Serelian ambassador.
The aide came up to her, holding out a letter. “This came in the diplomatic pouch,” he said. “It’s from Her Highness.”
“Thank you very much,” Terry replied, taking the letter. She continued back, finally arriving to walk up the steps and, opening the door, entered her screened in front porch. She sat down, still not really over the shock of her own sudden dismissal, and opened the letter to read it. She knew the aide was right; it was in that beautiful handwriting that could only come from one person:
Thanks so much for your letter, and taking the time to answer all of these Bible questions which I had. You are so patient and knowledgeable—you will never know how much it means to me to be able to turn to you for answers.
My pregnancy is going well. The doctor is pleased with my progress. It is my family tradition for the women to suffer through a lot of sickness while pregnant—evidently bearing the children of Beran is a big job—but in my case the thing that bothers me the most is my size. I feel like a whale! Sometimes at night, when I can’t sleep, I go out on the beach or the Sea Garden and look up at the stars and feel God’s presence and strength reaching down into my innermost being and to my little one, and I know that strength is borne on your prayers for me. The prayer you led me through on the yacht coming back from Verecunda has changed everything. I know that I too can hold the hands of Jesus Christ and trust Him for everything. He has been there through all of this.
George spends a lot of time with his father on matters of state. I think they’ve finally realised that they need each other; that too came out of our trip. They’ve asked me to work on applications for royal charters and their amendments—I’ve tried to get started but the King has had other plans for me. Summer Court is starting this Saturday so that will put it off even more and make the stack higher. I wish I could get some help in sorting things out but it will have to wait for now.
I am still struggling with the Bible. What I see is real but I can’t figure everything out. Some of the notes you put in there are good—I guess you miss them now for your sermons—but there is so much to understand. I’ve had a session or two with the Canon but he’s no help at all—all he goes on about is textual criticism and why it can’t be the way it’s written even when I sometimes feel that living in Serelia is like walking through its pages.
I wish you could be here with me to help me with this. I know your schedule is busy—we’ve heard all kinds of rumours about your politics there, to say nothing about romances—and I know you’re supposed to teach at your Bible school again this year, but I would love you to come for a couple of weeks at least to help me. I know it’s asking a lot but please—please—try to find time to get away for this.
Well I must go now. I cherish our friendship. May God be with you and give my love especially to Dennis and Andrea.
Terry was about to enter another tearful session when she heard a voice from the street. “Can I come in?” She looked up to see Prince William standing in from of her house.
“Come on in,” Terry responded, rising to meet him. He came in, slowing the screen door’s closing as he entered, and sat down in the chair on the other side of the porch. They sat and looked at each other in silence for a moment.
“Father told Dennis and me about you after we heard you crying,” William said. “We were in shock.”
“He hadn’t told you?”
“He had a private audience yesterday with this delegation from the coasts that lasted about three hours. He wouldn’t tell us anything about it. I guess he know we would be angry about it. They must have worked him over pretty bad. As far as I’m concerned, he’s given away the kingdom.”
“It had to happen sooner or later,” Terry sighed. “I tried to put it off as long as I could—growing up in Verecunda soured me on democracy. I guess that’s why I ended up in their crosshairs.”
“They’re just trying to weaken us,” William replied. “They knew your high standing with the King. They felt you stood in their way. That’s why they went for you. Of course, you could run for this new council, either here or in the northwest, where Max’s family would help you…”
“I’m not interested in running for anything. All I’ve ever wanted to do is serve my Kings, both the one here and the one in heaven.”
“Well they can’t stop you from serving the latter,” William observed. Terry stopped and looked at the prince in astonishment.
“I’ve never heard you talk like that before.”
“That’s one of things I came by to tell you about,” William said seriously. “I met with Pastor Calloway early this morning. He led me in the sinner’s prayer and I gave my life to Christ.”
“Praise God,” Terry breathed in astonishment. “I knew something was going on.”
“You know, I used to think that Christians were a bunch of wimps. The war didn’t change my mind either. After the trip, and meeting Cathy, and hearing about the change in her life, and hearing this entire rumbling that exploded yesterday, I realised what you and Dennis and Andrea knew all along—that I wasn’t going to make it without God. Sorry I took so long.”
“Just as long as you made it,” Terry said.
“But that’s not all. One reason we didn’t discuss Father’s meeting last night is because I presented Cathy to the family. She’s going to become my wife. I told her not to tell you until I had a chance to explain everything.”
“Congratulations. We’ve been talking about that too. She’s had a lot of transitions to make. I’ve tried to make them easier for her.”
“You’ve been a big help—especially in keeping it quiet. But now you have a wedding to perform—in addition to a baptism, I suppose.”
“I’m honoured on both counts. How are the children taking this?”
“Since she’s from Verecunda, and has lived the life she has, they’re not sure if they’re getting a new parent or a big sister. They think she’s cool, although she doesn’t let them get ahead of her.”
“Our youth pastor has noted that,” Terry observed. “He wants her to take a bigger role with the youth group.”
“But really, they need a mother, especially Prissy, as they enter their teen years. Losing their mom during the war has been hard on them.”
“Will Cathy continue at the Central Bank?”
“That was the one positive thing my father managed to beat out of this delegation,” William said. “She’s to become the Managing Director of the Bank. That was before our engagement was official.”
“They’ll live to regret that—perhaps it’s God’s will to trade her for me. She’s forgotten more about finance than anyone in that delegation ever knew, and besides she’s had to deal with all of those snotty Verecundan bureaucrats…I guess the “New Beran Initiative” is in limbo, at least here.”
“A ‘New Beran’ is the last thing our friends on the coast want,” William noted. “My brother was afraid of that when he entered in to it with Princes George and Peter and the girls. But you have to hand it to them—it’s a great idea.”
“Speaking of Peter and Julia, have you heard anything lately about those lovebirds? I’ve been so busy catching up on the King’s ‘busywork’ and discipling Cathy that I’ve even neglected foreign affairs.”
“I got to spend some time earlier this week with the Aloxan ambassador to Alemara,” William answered. “I finally got the full story on all these rumours we’ve been hearing here.
“While they were on their honeymoon, their realities started to sink in to the royal family about them, and some of them raised a stink about it, especially those who are pagan or secular. This infuriated King Leslie and Queen Arlene, who consider it Peter’s sovereign right to bring home the wife of his choice, subject to their approval. Leslie realised, however, that he was kicking against the goads on this one, particularly since he had enough troubles in Verecunda and Uranus. So he arranged for Peter and Julia to be waylaid at Snapper Beach, and arranged for them to stay in Uranus to help Prince Marc by acting as the High Commissioners for Land Restoration—they’ve opted for the same programme as the Collinans. His outgoing personality, combined with her reputation for fairness and the fact that she is Uranan, have made them a hit. In the middle of it all, Peter has become a Christian—Julia’s brother baptised him a couple of weeks ago.
“They’ve done a lot to turn the Aloxan occupation there around, so much so that they’re scheduling a referendum in North Verecunda and around the airport to see if they’d rather be in Uranus. That means that, if they end up cutting Verecunda loose, they’ll have the place surrounded.”
“So I assume they’re still having problems in Verecunda.” Terry said.
“Many. Prince Desmond has survived three assassination attempts. The CPL is active and causing him no end of trouble. He’s had a couple of the old cabinet members shot—your cousin Patty would have been one of them if she weren’t related to you. Now Verecunda’s creditors are coming to his door wanting their money, while at the same time many of the people whose property was nationalised want it back. Until he figures out how to balance all of this, he can’t start a land restoration programme.”
“I think my cousins Ken and Jack—Ernie’s sons—are leading the pack on that one. Andy Dell wants me to come down and help sort that mess out, but up until now I haven’t been able to come. Now Darlene wants me to come to Serelia and disciple her.”
“I was going to ask what you were going to do with yourself now that you’re not Royal Counsellor anymore, but I guess that’s the least of your problems.”