“Your Majesty! My daughter wasn’t trying to insult the Princess,” Count Julia started shouting to the Empress from his seat. “Voices were raised a little while they were having a conversation, but she never insulted the Princess.”
Caniel turned to the man in anger. “I wasn’t aware that seducing young men by smiling at them was something a lowly count’s daughter could accuse the Princess of.”
“Your Majesty!” Count Julia was livid.
“Are you claiming that I’m lying about what I heard?”
“It’s not that. But…” Count Julia was trying his hardest to save his daughter. He realized that his words would only get him into trouble, so he looked to Duke Roden for help. Duke Roden turned away. The Duke knew that the Empress was actually being kind with her punishment. In truth, Count Julia’s entire family could have been executed, including him.
Caniel slowly shook her head at Count Julia, indicating to him not to continue. It was a warning not to get on her bad side. She looked at Duke Roden, who she could see did not intend to get involved. She also noticed Sir Michen, who stood against the wall with a face she couldn’t read.
Caniel decided to test out another point of view. “Sir Michen.” The man became alert and bowed deeply when she addressed him. “What do you think of this situation?”
Count Julia was shocked. “Your Majesty, he’s not a noble. He does not have a right to speak.”
“Wouldn’t it be fair to hear the opinion of someone who isn’t nobility? Michen does not have a title, so he has no connection to the situation. Well, Sir Michen? What are your thoughts?”
Everyone turned their attention to him. Michen looked to Duke Roden with panic in his eyes. Duke Roden nodded giving him permission to speak.
“From the results of previous cases, execution was the proper verdict.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. Looking at the precedents, those who insulted a Princess were immediately executed. In most cases, the entire family was executed as well. I believe you showed compassion by opening a trial and not condemning the entire family”
“There you have it, Count Julia.” Caniel said, turning to him.
Count Julia bowed his head in defeat. He realized that if he said another word, then his family would disappear from the face of the Empire. He had to leave his daughter to her fate in order to protect the rest of his family members.
“I thank you for such a merciful decision, Your Majesty,” Count Julia mumbled.
“Good. That will be the end of this, then” Caniel said, smiling. She strode out of the courtroom and headed back to her office.
“Harin. Ask Sir Michen to come to my office?” Caniel instructed her advisor as they walked the halls. “I will meet him alone. Understood?””
“As you wish, Your Majesty.”
In the Empress’ office, Michen stood before Caniel. He didn’t dare meet the Empress’ eyes and his hands were trembling.
“Michen, from what I have heard, you are a well-educated man?” Caniel asked
“You flatter me,” Michen replied.
“Flatter? I like how modest you are. I would ask that you take over duties in educating the Prince and Princess.”
Michen slowly raised his eyes to meet Caniel’s. He didn’t know what he had done to deserve the honour, but his lips spoke faster than his brain could comprehend. “I refuse,” he said.
Caniel sat down in surprise at his unexpected answer. “You refuse?”
“If I have a choice in this matter, then I refuse.”
“Why would you do that? It is the perfect opportunity for you to become the next duke.” Caniel smiled.
“Yes. Even the Princess is doing well with her education,” Harin reported. “All of her instructors are praising her. You can stop worrying, Your Majesty.”
“She has always been smart. She just hadn’t put her mind to it, until now.” Caniel tapped the desk with her finger. She looked serious, contemplating if the time had come. Belice needed to start preparing to rule.
“When today’s lessons are finished, bring Belice to me,” Caniel instructed.
“Yes, Your Majesty.” Narin bowed and left the office.
* * *
Belice headed to the Empress office after being summoned. She saw her mother standing in the hallway. Running up to her, she tackled her with a powerful hug, showing no dignity in front of the servants. Caniel smiled awkwardly.
“It seems that you are becoming more childish, daughter.” Caniel said quietly, ushering Belice into her office and out of the view of prying eyes.
“It’s because I am happy to see you.” Caniel smiled, despite her actions.
“I heard your studies are going well lately. I have something to show you, as a reward,” Caniel told her daughter.
Belice was full of anticipation. They headed out of the office and travelled to the deepest part of the palace. They stopped at a door that was tall and strong, with a tree pattern carved into it that resembled the World Tree. Belice found it strange that there was no one guarding an entrance that obviously led to somewhere important.
“Your Majesty, is this…?
“The Tower of Silence,” Caniel answered for her.
“The Tower of Silence? But it can only be entered by the Empress.” Belice stared at the door in wonder.
“To be precise, those who are destined to become the Empress can also go in. I went in once as a Princess. I think the day has come for you to enter.” Belice grasped on to Caniel’s arm, fear overcoming her.