Her Mistress: A Prologue
Catherine sat on the overstated throne staring down at the child before her. Her stoic poise impeccable, while her distinguished and renowned features caught the candlelight, accenting both beauty and mystique. Leaning forward, she cocked her head as though to gain deeper insight into the mind of this audacious girl before her. All present within the great hall wondered what she might be thinking—how she would react in such an unpredicted moment.
With the music abruptly silenced a sudden and maddening quietness reverberated off the stone walls of the room. From an upper window a dove took flight from its perch—while startling, not an eye ventured from Catherine. It was as though even the birds of the wild were shrewd enough to remove themselves from the scene.
As so many times before, the mass was transfixed upon every movement the queen made, she remained the center of attention. Perhaps this was as she always intended or secretly desired. Only Catherine possessed the ability to bring such a grand event to a halt. Only Catherine Leinher possessed the ability to have the most powerful and influential men of the land awaiting her response. Only Catherine Leinher, Her Mistress, could hold the fate of so many in such a time—and arguably in such a time, only so many would want her to be the guardian of their fate. She had tenaciously orchestrated the smallest details and events leading to this crescendo; surely a child would not be her undoing—this little girl could not with seeming ease cross hallowed grounds where kings had fallen before her.
Across the room a young voice inquired to what was taking place. A hail of hushed requests for silence showered upon him, while his father jerked both his hand and body back into the safety of the gathering—no one wishes to miss history. After what felt like an eternity elapsed, Catherine took a sip from her ornately etched goblet. Slowly placing it on the table beside her before leaning further forward. And, true to the artist she embodied, began to paint her tableau.
"What a charming child, and what an even more delightful imagination she holds. Perhaps when she grows up, she will serve the court recorder. Why—she may be capable of recording Sir Lofton in a manner even he would appear of interest to someone," she stated with a chuckle.
The comment brought the first sign of life as reserved laughter filled the hall—even Sir Lofton, resemblant to the accusation and notorious for his insufficient personality, managed an anxious chuckle, as he squirmed in his chair seeking a position by which to relieve the tension which befell the air.
"And one with such imagination must surely have a father or mother to thank for it," Catherine asserted. "Child, and who is your ward?" Suddenly aware of the undesired attention, the little girl became more reserved, backing away as she pointed to the east side of the room.
"There," came the frail response.
"And what are their names?" Catherine asked in a tone one would expect from any inquiring or caring woman. Before an answer could be offered, a nondescript man stepped forward from the gathering. Catherine slowly rose to meet his gaze, her determined eyes now resembled a hawk sizing up its prey...