The Queen's Lost Son Prose in Derkomai | World Anvil

The Queen's Lost Son

"Your Majesty, I have good news to report." The chief eunuch, Kôzuke Akiho, came into the king's bedchamber. The royal physician and some maids hovered nearby. "Queen Na'Omi has given birth to a healthy young son. The midwives say he is strong and lively and handsome, and the queen is doing well! You have an heir, Your Majesty!"   Lying on his bed, King Kenzo of Chessa, wheezing for air, but happy, said, "At last. At last, my queen has blessed our kingdom. My line will continue."   Chief eunuch Kôzuke said, "Yes, Your Majesty. This is a blessed day, indeed!"   The king said, "Quickly. I know that I don't have much time left. Write my decree and announce it in the court: 'Queen Na'Omi has shown herself to be wise, capable, and loyal to the country. She is pronounced qualified to rule and will rule Chessa as Regent, until the time that the prince is of age and capable to rule in his own name. All must obey.' Do as I command!"   "Yes, Your Majesty," said Kôzuke. After a few minutes, the decree, written on royal silk, was presented to the king. He affixed his seal to it with royal purple ink. Kôzuke asked, "Do you have a name for the prince, Your Majesty?"   The king replied, "Yes. His name is Toma. He will be the dragon of Chessa. See that the royal mark is put on him."   "It will be done, Your Majesty," Kôzuke said, and ten days later, it was.   That night, the night his only child was born, the king died.

"Your Highness! Your Highness! They are coming! You must hide him! Hurry!" Queen Jenmei Na'Omi's lifelong friend and maid, Aizawa Miko, rushed into her chambers, where the Queen was nursing her one-month-old son.   "You must hide him, Your Highness! They will kill him!" Miko yelled at Queen Jenmei. What? Miko never yelled at anyone. "Come with me. Now!"   Panic-stricken, the young Queen snatched up her infant son, Prince Toma, wrapped in his blankets and silk quilt, and ran after Miko. "What is happening, Miko? Where are we going?"   "There is no time, Your Highness! We must get the prince out of the palace and hide him! Quickly! Run!" Miko shouted.   Miko led the 18-year-old Queen down the hallway. "In here," she hissed, opening a door hidden behind a tapestry. Miko and Jenmei Na'Omi stepped into the secret room, and Miko quietly closed the door behind them and latched it. The Queen said, "Miko! What is happening. Tell me now! Right now!"   Miko dropped to her knees and said, "I beg your forgiveness, Your Highness. We must flee! Duke Nijo's men have entered the palace! Many of the royal guards are already dead. They will kill the prince!"   Queen Na'Omi exclaimed, "What! How dare they! I am the regent, by the king's decree! They cannot!"   Miko said, "Yes, Your Highness, but right now, we must get the prince to safety! Duke Nijo intends to kill the prince and claim the throne for himself. And he wants you, Your Highness! If he marries you, then he will claim his rule is legitimate."   Queen Na'Omi exclaimed, "I will never marry that bastard!" She stopped to calm herself and think for a moment, then she went on, "I cannot leave the palace, Miko. If I leave, Nijo will say I have abdicated or have died, and he will take the throne without opposition. I must stay and fight him. But my prince must be taken to a safe place until the throne is secure."   Miko said, tears welling up in her eyes, "But Your Highness, Duke Nijo will force you to marry him, or he will kill you! You must leave the palace! We will go together!"   The Queen replied, "No, Miko. I must stay and fight Nijo for the throne, or Chessa will be lost. I still have my supporters. You take Toma to safety. You are the only one I trust. You must find a nursemaid for him outside the palace and hide him in a safe place. I will come for you as soon as I can."   Miko said, "But Your Highness, they are in the palace right now! How can you get to your people? How can we get out of the palace?"   Queen Na'Omi said, "There is a way. Come with me." Queen Na'Omi led Miko quietly out of the secret room, down an empty hallway. Handing Toma to Miko, she pushed a cabinet aside and moved a silk rug, revealing a small metal door set in the floor, just wide enough for a person to squeeze through. She took a key from her robe, unlocked the door, bent over and pulled it open. "This is a secret passage out of the palace, known only to a few. Nijo does not know of it. Take Toma and my token and go to Duke Togawa. He will know what to do." She took a candle from the cabinet she had moved, lit it, and gave it to Miko. "Go!" she said.   Miko said, crying, "But Your Highness, I don't know how. I don't know the city! I want to stay with you!"   Weeping herself now, Na'Omi scolded her, "Miko! You must go. I need your help! Toma needs you to be strong. Take care of him and keep him safe! Send word, and I will come for you when I can! Now go!"   With the infant prince in her arms, holding the lit candle, Miko turned and squeezed down the narrow stairs into the dark secret passage out of the Chessa royal palace.

At the far end of the passage, Miko found a barred and latched door at the top of a narrow flight of stairs. Despite all that had happened, so far Toma was being quiet, but that wouldn't last long. He would be getting hungry soon, and Miko had no way to feed him.   She set Toma down on the floor of the passage for a moment to unbar and unlatch the door. She opened it, then picked up the infant prince and emerged into an empty, dusty room. There was a barred door on one wall. She could see some light coming through the sides of the doorway, so she knew it led outside. She unbarred it and went out into the street.

Queen Jenmei Na'Omi closed the secret door in the floor, slid the rug back into place, and shoved the cabinet back to where it had been. She wiped the tears from her eyes and took a deep breath to calm herself. She went back to her chambers and put on her finest royal dress and most elaborate jewelry. She re-did her makeup, and retrieved the king's decree declaring her regent from where she had hidden it in her library. She was as prepared as she could be. She headed to the audience hall of the royal court with her maids and eunuchs following.   Entering the audience hall, Queen Na'Omi saw that Duke Nijo was there with his men in full military gear, swords at their sides and pikes in hand. The court ministers were there also, looking nervous. Steeling herself for the confrontation, Queen Na'Omi climbed up the stairs onto the dais and stood next to the throne. She shouted, "Duke Nijo! What is the meaning of this! You have no rights here! Take your men and get out! Guards! Get them out of here!" Looking confused, the royal guards started to draw their swords. The duke's men readied themselves for a battle. The royal guards were badly outnumbered. If it came to an actual fight, the royal guards would be slaughtered, no matter how well they were trained.   Duke Nijo yelled, "Stop! I am giving the orders now! Sheath your weapons!" The two groups of soldiers stopped, unsure what to do. He continued, pretending to be reasonable, "Queen Na'Omi. We have uncovered plots to take over the throne and kill the young prince, even among the royal guards and the court ministers. We are simply here for your protection, nothing more. Now, if you would tell me where the prince is and come with me, we will ensure your safety and his. You will be welcome and safe in my manor. I will make sure you are, uh, protected."   The guard captain turned red, flushed with anger. He bowed to Queen Na'Omi and said, "Your Highness, I swear to you that there are no such plots among the royal guards! I swear it! We are loyal to the throne!" The prime minister burst out, "Duke Nijo! This is treason! You cannot make these accusations without evidence! I will not allow it!" The prime minister knelt to the floor and said, "The court is loyal, Queen Na'Omi. You are the regent. Duke Nijo has no authority here. He will have to kill us all. We will not submit." All of the other court ministers knelt and said in unison, "We will not submit."   Queen Na'Omi said, "Captain, prime minister. I have never been in doubt of your loyalty. I have complete faith in you. As for you Duke Nijo, I must decline your kind offer. I think I am quite safe here in the palace, as is the prince."   Duke Nijo replied, "Oh, Queen Na'Omi. You have misunderstood. I am afraid that declining is not an option available to you. Now. Where is the prince!"   Queen Na'Omi shouted at him, "I will never tell you, traitor!"   Duke Nijo, said with an evil, smug smile, "Unfortunate. Perhaps I haven't made my determination to protect you clear enough." He signaled to one of his soldiers standing near the court ministers, and said, "If I recall, that minister closest to you was one of the plotters, yes?"   The soldier said, "You are undoubtedly correct, sir, as always." The Duke said, "Indeed. You know what to do then." The soldier drew his sword and in one motion, drove it through the minister's heart, killing him. The minister toppled over, blood gushing from the wound, covering the floor. The other ministers cried out in anger and anguish.   Duke Nijo gestured toward the fallen minister and said, "As you can see, I am quite determined to root out all plotters and traitors to the throne and protect the queen and the prince. Now, Your Highness, will you tell me where the prince is?"   The prime minister spoke up, "Don't tell him anything, Highness. His threats are empty. He cannot kill all of us. There would be no government left, and the country would fall into chaos."   Queen Na'Omi said, "Thank you, prime minister. I will remember your loyalty and bravery. Duke Nijo, as regent, I declare you guilty of treason. Your life is forfeit, and I sentence you to be hanged until you are dead, your body hacked to pieces and burned, and the ashes thrown into the city dump. As for the prince, you will never find him."   Duke Nijo laughed evilly and said, "Ah, Queen Na'Omi, you are certainly bold, but you are naive and wrong about so many things. Take her away!"   Duke Nijo's soldiers drew their weapons, and the royal guards moved to protect the queen, as did several of the ministers. The battle was bloody, but short. Queen Na'Omi was dragged away by Nijo's men. Nijo shouted, "Tear apart the palace and search the entire city if necessary. Find the prince!"

Out in the unfamiliar streets of Chessdo, Miko was frightened nearly to death. She had no idea where to go, other than to find Duke Togawa. She'd only seen him once or twice in the royal court; she had never met him and had no idea where he was.   Miko stood out conspicuously on the streets among the commoners. She was wearing royal silk clothes and gold jewelry. Her dainty silk shoes were already ruined from the dirt in the streets. She was carrying a baby wrapped in a silk quilt and blankets of the highest quality, decorated with embroidered royal dragons in purple and gold, thread and fabric that were, in fact, illegal for anyone but the royal family to have.   Enduring the stares of curious and apprehensive commoners, Miko was nearly in tears and frozen in fright. She stood in one place for a few minutes, looking around nervously, when a young couple approached Miko. They were very soft-spoken and seemed calm and kind. The young woman said to her, "You seem to be lost and out of place here. May we help you in any way?" Not knowing what else to do, Miko replied, trying not to cry, "I...I...I don't know. Yes, I'm...lost. I don't know where to go. Maybe you can help me. There have been, um, some big problems in the palace. I need to find Duke Togawa. Would you help me?"   The young man said, "Ah. Perhaps that begins to explain the many soldiers we've seen on the streets putting up posters saying that everyone should be looking for a woman in royal clothes carrying a baby. The posters say the woman stole the baby out of the palace and that there would be a considerable reward for finding her."   Miko said in a panic, "Please, no! I didn't steal the baby! I...I...I...I can't tell you everything. It would put you in terrible danger. But I didn't steal the baby, I swear it! Can you help me find Duke Togawa? Then I can explain everything."   The young man said after a moment, "You've given me no real reasons for it, but you seem honest, and I believe you." Looking at his wife, he said, "We will help you." His wife nodded. She said, "First thing is to get you off the street and into some clothes that don't make you stand out like a peacock in a yard full of mangy chickens. Let's go. We don't live far." They didn't notice the slimy-looking man eyeing them from a noodle shop across the street.   At the young couple's small one-room house, they introduced themselves: the young man was Aoki Kenzo and the young woman, Makino Kaida. The young man had the same name as the late king! It was silly, but that made Miko feel better about going with them. Makino Kaida got Miko some cotton and wool clothes that fit her, more or less. They felt itchy and the seams were rough, compared to the silk clothes she usually wore, but they were warm enough and sturdy. They got Toma some warm woolen blankets. The young prince started to cry. He was hungry. Makino Kaida, looking downcast and teary-eyed, said to Miko "I am sorry and embarrassed to say this, but one reason we approached you is that our own baby boy died of an illness a few days ago, and I wanted to look at the baby you were carrying, just to remember my baby boy a little. I think I still have some milk. Could I try to nurse him?"   Miko replied, "Oh, if you could! I was so worried about how I was going to feed him!" Soon little Toma was nursing contentedly and then fast asleep. Kaida smiled happily, already loving him.   Late that night, Aoki Kenzo woke his wife, and whispered softly, "There are people outside, Prepare yourself." Aizawa Miko was sleeping soundly on the floor next to the leftover cradle where Toma was sleeping. Makino Kaida got up from their bed and pulled a long, sharp dagger from her sleeve. Aoki Kenzo held a slim-bladed short sword. After a few minutes, the door was smashed in, splinters flying everywhere. Miko startled awake with a scream, and Toma began crying in fright. Four thugs in black crashed into the room, swords flashing in the moonlight. Aoki Kenzo and Makino Kaida made quick work of three of them, but the fourth went directly for the cradle to grab baby Toma. Miko tried to fend him off and protect Toma. The thug stabbed her through the stomach with his sword, and Miko fell to the floor, writhing in pain, bleeding profusely. Aoki Kenzo stabbed him in the back, piercing the thug's heart. He fell over, dead. There was blood everywhere, and little Toma was bawling as loud as he could. Miko was moaning, holding her stomach where the thug's sword had pierced her.   Kenzo said to Kaida, "We have to get out. There will be more thugs and a lot of curious neighbors here soon. Get your things, but only necessities. We have to move fast." Kaida answered, "What about the baby and Miko?" Kenzo said, "Of course, we cannot leave the baby, but Miko..." Miko, lying on the floor, gasped out, "Leave me...I am dying. Take this token. Find Duke Togawa. He will help. I promised the queen. He is her..." Miko slipped into unconsciousness. With no other options left to them, Kenzo and Kaida got their necessities together and left their small house, carrying little Toma with them.

"General, there is a young couple here to see you. They are carrying a baby and have Queen Na'Omi's token!" the aide to Duke Togawa, general and field marshal of the Chessan capitol garrison reported. His base was about 10 miles outside Chessdo.   "What? The queen's token? How in the nine hells of the The Void did they get that? Get them in here. Now," the Duke said.   "Yes, sir," his aide answered. A moment later Aoki Kenzo and Makino Kaida entered Duke Togawa's tent, carrying little Toma. The Duke commanded, "Show me the token." Kenzo handed it to the Duke. It was indeed the Queen's token. "How did you get this?" Kenzo and Kaida told him the story of how they met the woman on the street in Chessdo carrying the baby and the token. "Describe the woman. What was she wearing?" Kenzo and Kaida described her and how she died.   The Duke's aide said, "General, the woman must have been Aizawa Miko, the Queen's maid! But why would she be on the streets of Chessdo with a baby?" The Duke replied, "I don't have a freaking clue, but it can't be good, and I intend to find out what's going on. Detain these two until we get some answers." The Duke wasn't sure, but he thought that the baby just might be Queen Na'Omi's newborn son.   "Yes, sir," the Duke's aide replied. "Come with me," he said to Kenzo and Kaida. Arriving at a tent a minute later, the aide called two guards over and said, "These two are to remain in this tent with the baby until the Duke or I say they can leave. Bring them meals and a slop bucket. Don't let them go anywhere without orders! Understood?"   "Yes, sir!" they replied.   For the rest of the day and evening, Kaida held little Toma, nursing him when he was hungry, cooing and rocking him when he needed comfort. Later that night, Kaida said to Kenzo, "Kenzo, I'm afraid they're going to take my baby away. I don't want them to take him. I won't let them!"   Kenzo said, "But Kaida, he isn't our ba..." Kaida interrupted, shouting at him, "He is my baby! He's mine! They can't take him! I won't let them! Do you hear me? I won't let them!"   Kenzo said, "Okay, Kaida, okay. Don't be upset. The baby will cry. I miss our baby, too." Kaida said, "He is our baby. No one can take him away from me!" Kenzo didn't know what to do. Taking the baby was wrong, but Kaida wasn't going to let anyone take him away from her - not after losing her first baby.

Incapacitating the two guards was ridiculously easy for the two Gasyendithite martial arts masters. They slipped out of Duke Togawa's camp in the dead of night. Kenzo knew they were in terrible trouble now. Duke Togawa's men would be searching for them, and whoever had been looking for the baby in Chessdo would still be looking for him and willing to kill to get him back. Kenzo said to Kaida, "Well, we've really stepped in it now, you know. I don't know where we can go." Kaida said, "I don't care. They're not taking my baby!" Kenzo said, exasperated with her, "I know. I know. He's your baby. We'll take care of him together." He thought for a moment, considering their options. Where would they be safe? Nowhere in Chessa, for sure. Finally, he said to himself, "Xosuyel Vold. That's the only place we'll be safe, and we can make a home with the other followers of Gasyenditha there." It was a long, long journey, hundreds of miles through treacherous terrain, but he couldn't see any other viable choice.

Duke Togawa raged at the two soldiers and his aide. "You clowns! You morons! You let them escape with the baby! That baby might be Queen Na'Omi's son! Idiots! I ought to have you all flogged to death!"   Duke Togawa's aide spoke up hastily. "To be fair, General, we didn't know that at the time. And it appears that the two carrying him were Gasyendithite masters. The soldiers didn't stand a chance against them."   The Duke yelled at him, "Do you think your excuses will matter to the queen, you miserable idiot? She might just come looking for that baby, and you had better be able to produce him for her! Go find him. Now! Before I get really angry! Now get out!"   The Duke's aide called the commander of the scout troops over. He described Aoki Kenzo and Makino Kaida carefully and had a painter make a drawing of them and produce several copies, which were distributed to the squads of scouts. The aide said to the scouts, "I don't care whether these two live or die, but the baby they are carrying must be brought back here alive. That is an order. Find them. Go now."

Kenzo and Kaida finally made it out of Chessa, through the border fort at Chessyosa, over the high pass in the Great Eastern Mountains and into Senyon. It had taken all of their skills as masters of the martial arts to survive as far as they had. Kenzo had taken an arrow in his shoulder during an attack by Duke Togawa's scouts as they approached Chessyosa. Despite their knowledge of medicinal herbs, the wound was festering. Kenzo was feverish and getting weaker by the day. Kaida had frostbite on her hands and feet, and was very thin, losing weight from nursing the infant they carried with them. They had protected little Toma, but they were nearing the end of their endurance. They had traveled well over 1000 miles in about 50 days, on foot. They were finally nearing Xosuyel Vold Monastery. It was bitterly cold high in the mountain valley. Places where they could take shelter were few, and they had little food. One morning, Kenzo simply could not go on. The infection had savaged his body. He whispered to Kaida, "Go. I cannot continue with you. Take our son to the monastery. They will give you shelter there." Soon after, Kenzo left the mortal world. Kaida wept for him for awhile, mourning her lost love. She wanted to take care of him, but she didn't have the strength. Finally, she nursed her baby, then wrapped him up in his warm blankets and went out onto the road, heading toward the monastery and safety.   Two days later, Kaida reached the entrance gate of Xosuyel Vold. It was well after nightfall, and the gate was closed and locked. Kaida pounded weakly on the gate, but nobody came. Finally, she sat down outside the gate, getting out of the wind as best she could. She bundled her baby up in his blankets tightly to protect him, and wrapped her arms and legs around him. The warmth of her body slowly waned as the deathly cold seeped into her. Exhausted and freezing, Kaida fell asleep.   The next morning, two monks found Kaida huddled at the front gate. She had succumbed to her injuries, exhaustion, and the cold, but the baby she had claimed as her own and protected for so many miles was still alive. He was crying from cold and hunger, but otherwise healthy. They took the little boy into the monastery. It was unfortunate, but people with nowhere else to turn would sometimes leave babies at the gates of the monastery for the monks and nuns there to raise. They knew what to do for the little one. The monks buried Kaida in the cemetery outside the monastery. She had given everything for him.

Twenty Years Later...

Crown Prince Yixing-Jiumin Jinhai, flanked by his friend, aide, and bodyguard, Cao Qigong, or "Seven" entered the audience hall of the royal court of Chessa, sent by his father, Emperor Yixing-Jiumin Jinsen on a mission of diplomacy.   From her throne, the queen and ruler of Chessa, Queen Jenmei Na'Omi greeted him warmly, "Welcome, Crown Prince Jinhai. We are delighted that you have made the long journey from Sendoshi to our country and city, and I know we will have fruitful discussions and make agreements that will benefit Senyon and Chessa." She looked intently at Cao Qigong, then said to the Crown Prince, "Excuse my rudeness, but who is this with you? Your aide?"   "Yes, Your Majesty," Prince Jinhai replied. "This is Cao Qigong, my aide and bodyguard, usually called 'Seven.' He is very capable, and I trust him with my life."   "I believe it, Prince Jinhai. He does look very capable, and indeed, very much like my late husband, the king of Chessa," said Queen Na'Omi, smiling. Seven blushed, and Prince Jinhai laughed and said, "The late king must have been very handsome!"   The Queen replied, "He was! All the ladies of Chessda thought so, but I was the one who married him." Suddenly sober and sad, the Queen said, "He died the night our son was born, and then my baby was stolen from me. I can never forget it. I have been left alone to rule our country, and it is a heavy burden." Raising her spirits after her moment of melancholy, Queen Na'Omi said, "I am sorry, Prince Jinhai, to weigh you down with my pitiful story."   Prince Jinhai, ever gracious and conscious of diplomatic courtesies, said, "Not at all, Queen Na'Omi. We consider our neighbors to the east of the mountains to be our closest friends. We are always happy to share your burdens whenever we can."   Queen Na'Omi said, "Thank you, Prince Jinhai. Your father and mother have taught you well, and you are welcome in the court of Chessa at any time. Now, you must be tired from your long journey, and we will have much to discuss over the next few days. Please, rest for awhile. I will have someone fetch you when it is time for our evening meal."   "Thank you, Your Majesty," said Prince Jinhai. "We will take our leave until this evening." Prince Jinhai and Seven bowed, and turned to leave the audience hall.   Suddenly, Queen Na'Omi yelled, "Stop!" She whispered, wonder in her voice, "Toma...? Toma...?" Prince Jinhai and Seven turned to look at her, confused. The Queen rose to her feet, looking at Seven. She said, "Are you...? It cannot be...How...?"   Seven was a little frightened and confused. Prince Jinhai stepped forward and said, "Queen Na'Omi, I beg your pardon, but I don't understand. Seven has been my bodyguard for many years now. I don't know anyone named Toma."   Weeping, Queen Na'Omi cried out, "Prince Jinhai! Your aide! Your aide, Cao Qigong, is my lost son, Toma! He is the heir to the throne of Chessa! Toma! My lost baby boy!"   Seven, shocked and frightened nearly to death, dropped to his knees with his head to the ground. "Sire, I didn't. I'm not. I...I...Your Majesty, this...this...what you are saying is impossible. I am just a bodyguard. I am just an orphan, raised by monks. I happen to be good at fighting, that is all. I can't be your son, Your Majesty!"   Queen Na'Omi said, "No, I cannot be mistaken. He looks like his father. I saw it as soon as he walked in. And the mark on the back of his neck..."   Prince Jinhai said, "Yes, of course, I have seen it. Seven said he doesn't know what it is. We assumed the monks of Xosuyel Vold Monastery, where Seven was raised, put it there."   "No, Prince Jinhai. They did not put it there. It is the mark of Chessan royal sons. Only princes of Chessa have that mark," said Queen Na'Omi.   Prince Jinhai said, "I'm sorry, Queen Na'Omi, but this is far too coincidental to believe! How can Seven be your son? He was an orphan raised at Xosuyel Vold. I don't understand."   The Queen said, "Attendants! Bring Kôzuke Akiho and Duke Togawa here. Immediately! Carry them in on stretchers if you must!"   A short time later, two men entered the audience hall. One was a eunuch and very old. He was supported by two younger eunuchs on either side, but still walked on his own. The other was clearly a military man, well into middle age, but still strong. Queen Na'Omi said to Prince Jinhai and Seven, "This is the retired chief eunuch, Kôzuke Akiho, and Duke Togawa, the late king's younger brother. Though we are not absolutely certain, it seems that my son was stolen from his camp outside the city."   The Duke flushed and said, though without any hint of hostility, "You will never let me forget that, will you, Jinmei?" The Queen smiled sweetly and replied, "No, I will not, Kenji!"   The Duke said, "So, Jinmei, what is this about? I was taking a very satisfying nap." Queen Na'Omi answered, "Take a look at Prince Jinhai's bodyguard, Kenji, and then tell us who stole my baby Toma from your camp, if you would, please."   The Duke looked more closely at Seven, and said, "By the nine hells of the Void, he sure looks like Kenzo, doesn't he?"   "And like you," Queen Na'Omi added. "Now, how was Toma stolen from your camp? These young men haven't heard the story."   The Duke said, "The baby was brought to the camp by a young couple with a story about getting him from a woman dressed in royal clothes lost in the streets of the city. We know now she was Miko, your maid, that you sent out of the palace with Toma to protect him from that bastard, Nijo. I didn't know that then, but I did know something didn't add up, so I had them detained, with a couple of guards to make sure they didn't go anywhere. Well, turns out the two were Gasyendithite masters that didn't want to be detained. They incapacitated the guards and took off with the baby. We sent several detachments of scouts after them, but they eluded us until we found them up near the border at Chessyosa. The scouts tangled with them, and one of them was shot by an arrow, but they got away. Killed several of our scouts before they did. Messing with Gasyendithite masters is usually a bad idea."   Queen Na'Omi said, "I think they were heading to Xosuyel Vold, where they knew they'd be safe. And where your bodyguard was raised, Prince Jinhai."   The Crown Prince said, "Well, I have to admit that the story makes some sense, but Seven was an orphan. What happened to the two that stole him from the Duke?" The Queen replied, "I don't know. Maybe nobody does." Prince Jinhai said, "It's still far-fetched, Your Majesty. I don't doubt your word, but it's difficult to believe."   The Queen said, "Kôzuke Akiho, please come and take a look at this young man." Kôzuke Akiho said, "Yes, my Queen, as you command." Looking at Seven, then at the queen, wonderingly. "How can it be? The king...? Turn around!" he said to Seven. Looking at the tattoo on Seven's neck, he exclaimed, "Prince Toma! It is Prince Toma! I know it. I put that tattoo on him myself! It is Prince Toma returned to us!" The old eunuch started weeping. "Queen Na'Omi! Your son has returned to us! Chessa has a legitimate heir! My Queen!"   Prince Jinhai looked at Seven and said, "Well, this will change our plans considerably, won't it, Seven? Or should I be calling you Prince Toma now?" Seven said, "I...I...I...I don't know, Majesty. What do I do?"   The next few days were eventful, indeed.

This story is part of a set of stories about Crown Prince Yixing-Jiumin Jinhai, Cao Qigong, Queen Jenmei Na'Omi, Amalie Nilsson, Princess Yixing-Jiumin Jinyat, and Princess Yixing-Jiumin Jintu. What will their future relationships be? Sometime in the future, I hope to write more about their relationships. Until then, I encourage people to read the entire character article about each of them. The character articles provide a different perspective and fill in some details about what each of the characters is like and important background.   An update: the story of Seven, Prince Jinhai, and Queen Na'Omi continues in From Orphan to Bodyguard, from Prince to Monk. I hope readers will enjoy it! There will be additional chapters added later.

Cover image: by Peter Nelson (Zero Sum Games)


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