While I was in Aca, the capital was doing its own thing. Conspiracy was all over the place. The enemies were on high alert, waiting for me not to be present to create trouble. One thing they did not know was that I was ready for them before I left. One purpose of my leaving the palace was to figure out who all my rotten officers were and how I could deal with them. They knew they couldn act recklessly also because to overthrow me, it would take a lot of strategy and an army to do so. Therefore, I was not worried much. The only thing in my head was them placing new spies near me.
The minister of justice was my sisters father-in-law; he was the most corrupt officer in my court. He worked with three other officers: Morgan, Vinyl, and Tomor. Ever since I succeeded my father, this man had been complaining because that was why he made sure his son married my oldest sister, Dana. Through her, he could become king and get all the power. However, I became the crown princess, and he lost those benefits. In my head, I had been thinking that he could be the man who poisoned my father just to push him to choose a successor so his plan could work.
At court, they were pressuring the secretary of state to tell them where I was. He didn even know of my trip. They wanted to drag him into corruption. I did trust the right person to do the job in my absence. He was good at court protecting the crown.
"Here comes the secretary of state," said John, the herald.
"Thank you, John," he replied. "Officers, for todays court, the queen will be absent, and I will take all the complaints and state affairs to report to the queen."
"Who are you, the errand boy? Hows it possible the queen is not at court? Where is she?" Tomor said.
"It is possible because she is the queen; she can do whatever she wants. I was left in charge because she trusted that I could potentially take care of the state affairs. Any other concerns please?"
"You don look good, Mr. secretary. You are shaking right now; you should get retired," said Vinyl.
All the court started to laugh.
"Thank you for your concern, but Im here for the state affair. Now state your business."
They all were still laughing.
The prime minister lost it and screamed, "Enough, you have no respect for her majesty even though you have seen the royal token and know what power it holds. You are jesting around because she is not present."
"Who cares, Mr. Prime minister? Shes just a little girl. Do you think people will permanently submit to her all their lives? She can only reign for only half of the year. There are so many great officers here; what makes you think shes better than all of us who are experienced?" officer Morgan said.
"Quiet, do you know what you are saying, and do you realize where you are?"
"Mr. Prime minister, do you see what a mess this country has become already? A mess she creates and now we the officers have to clean. How can she favor the commoners over us, the nobles? If you fear her, I don ."
"How dare you?" said the secretary. "Guards, take this man away from court now." He took the token out and showed it to the royal guards, and they dragged him out.
In Aca city, I had just reached the department of justice court. In that area, the whole government officers lived. I walked in, and one of the guards stopped me.
"Who are you to walk in a prohibited area without permission like that?"
"Do you know who you are talking to?" said Zilan.
"Zilan, its okay; we are in their house right now. The guard is doing his job."
While we were talking, the chief of justice came and spoke, "Oh my, Im truly sorry about that, madam emissary. Please come in."
I walked in, and there were about four more men sitting at the judges table.
I presented myself to them. "Hello, my name is Lola. Im the queen emissary. Im here to collect facts about the peoples lives and opinions of your majesty. Its an honor to be with you."
"Thank you for joining us, Lola. Please bring the first case out."
Throughout the day, they brought all types of cases for me to pass judgments, and after witnessing all that, I now knew how to protect my people even though I knew that would cause me more trouble. That was one of the reasons I wanted to grow stronger with no weakness. One of the cases was very interesting; a man was framed for stealing money from a noble, and because he refused to confess, they had him tortured. This was the last judgment he would have before they sentenced him to death. After a long explanation, the nobles wanted him dead. He was probably in his thirties; he looked strong and humble.
"Lola, how would you judge this case? He was caught red-handed."
"Call everyone in the house; I need to ask them a few questions before making any conclusions."
They called everyone, and I questioned them one by one. From what I got from most people; they all loved this man. In my head, I thought something somewhere was wrong. I was determined to find that one piece of the puzzle.
Heres what I will say: "this man was framed for something he didn do. We cannot sentence him to death."
"Are you kidding me?" the plaintiff noble yelled. "Who are you anyway to come and make the last judgment?"
The chief of justice was trying to quiet him down.
"It doesn matter who I am. I will free this man because he is innocent."
"Theres no way you have the power to do that."
"Oh, really? Guards, bring Tino here."
"Tino? What does my son have to do with the case?"
"Guards, tie him down and make him confess."
"Father, save me," he cried.
"Why are you making a mess over here?"
"Tino, did you or did you not steal from your father to go to the prostitutes house to gamble? If you do not confess, I will kill you right now."
"I will confess; I went to my fathers room and took three thousand Zakisk cubes to go play a game, and I lost the money. I was afraid my father would find out. Im sorry, father."
"Do you realize that you almost cost a man his life because you did not do the right thing? The poor man can even walk home because the chief of justice was bribed to make this man a scapegoat and because he refused to confess, you almost killed him. What are you all taking a human life for?" I was angry to see how corrupted my people had become.
"Lola, I am sorry I did not pay much attention to the case," the chief of justice said.
People were in the yard waiting for the final judgment. It felt like the whole town was present.
"Of course, you did not. Heres my judgment on behalf of the queen. The chief of justice did not do his job properly; he almost cost a man his life, and I don know how many more lives you can take and how many you have taken before. Your job is to protect your people from harm, nobles or not. Chief of justice, do you recognize your mistake of taking a bribe from a man to torture another?"
"Yes, madam emissary. Im willing to take any punishment."
"Do you agree that this man deserves a second chance as the head of Justice?" I addressed the public.
"Yes, the chief of justice is nice; he helps a lot of people," a man in the crowd said.
"Yes, give him another chance," the rest of the people said.
I took the royal token out and said, "Chief of Justice, on behalf of the queen, Im placing you on probation for three months; you will not get any salary. After three months of revision, if you do your job right, you will be reinstated to your former position. For now, your second in command will replace you. All you will do is guide him for these three months. You will also pay for this mans health until he recovers and supports his family."
"The queen is merciful and kind. May she live long," the chief of justice said by bowing to the ground.
"Long live the queen," the people said harmoniously.
"Thank you, thank you," a woman came to me, bowing her head; she was the prisoners wife. Her name was Marta and the man Andro. She held her sick husband on her back.
All I could do was smile at her. I signaled the guards to help her. I knew that I could not save everyone even if I wanted to, but at least I could make an example of my power.
"Tampano, you didn teach your son well; he almost cost someones life. How do you want to punish him for what he did?"
"I… I..." He started to shake.
"Hes a nobles son; he doesn get punished," someone said in the crowd.
"What do you mean he doesn get punished?"
"Madam emissary, we don punish nobles like the commoners," the chief of justice said.
I laughed so hard that people were in shock. They got confused for a second; they couldn see my face and did not understand why I laughed.
"Heres my judgment: Tino will get twenty lashes for his mistake."
The crowd was rejoicing, but the nobles were unhappy.
I continued, "One more thing I want to correct today, one more thing."
The crowd stopped and paid attention to me.
"Yesterday, upon entering Aca, I saw a scene that was made by the mayors son; he was trying to seize someone elses land, but because she refused, he wanted to kill her. I saved her, and he wanted to kill me even though he knew who I was. Whats the punishment for assassination of the royal emissary?"
The crowd answered, "It is punishable by death, my lady!"
"The queen is merciful; I will ask that he receive thirty lashes, one for being disrespectful to the crown and two for trying to possess someone elses property."
Both received their lashes in public, which greatly satisfied the people.
"Before I go back to the capitol, I want to say one more thing to you. Before I came into the city, I received reports about how bad and corrupted this city has become. The queen wanted everyone to know that shes not only the queen of the nobles but also the queen of the commoners. Shes standing for justice and equality. Tell me, if both of you don get along to make your city and your country greater, hows that any help to the war and hunger we are facing right now?"
Everyone shook their heads.
"Nobles, you have the power and opportunity to protect your city with everyone in it. Yet, you abuse that power; you use it for corruption. Without the commoner, theres no noble. The clothes you are wearing were made by a commoner, the food you are eating was made by a commoner, and if I were to describe everything, it would take me a whole day. Commoners, you can set things right with your master. Respect them and obey them but most importantly, know your right as a human being. The queen will be watching. Well see each other again."
After these words, I left the facility. I could feel the joy in these people and the support and the hope the queen had brought to them. It was late for us to take the road back to the capitol, so we tried to find a hotel.
"My lady, my lady," someone from far yelled as we were walking back, trying to find a hotel.
When we looked closer, it was Sarai, the woman whom I saved the first day I got there.
"Sarai, what are you doing here?"
"I wanted to invite you to spend the night in my village. My family and I just want to thank you. You didn only save our land; you saved our people from being thrown on the street."
"A kind offer like that; how can I refuse?"
We all followed her to her village. The village had about eight hundred people. Their houses were ridiculously small; they were made with tree leaves and mud, but they were beautiful. Their life was simple—no greed, no fighting for power; everything was natural. That was the first time I had seen that part of the country. As we entered the village, people were speaking a different kind of language that seemed familiar, but I couldn understand it. Id never heard of it before. That tribe had a different tradition compared to the other part of Negarl.
In the meantime, at the palace where my father was with the rest of the family, an assassin entered my fathers chamber to kill him and my mother. Thank goodness, I was one step ahead; I reinforced security everywhere before I left the capitol. They were waiting for an opportunity like this when I was not present so they could kill my father. They knew that if my father was alive, they could not get to me because I was still young, and my father still had the authority to approve everything I did. They believed without my fathers protection; I would be an easy target. One thing they didn know was that Id learned politics, strategies, and the swords since I was four years old. My men caught the assassin, put him in prison, and waited for my arrival to pass judgment.
Back in Aca, the whole village gathered around a huge fire camp. They were dancing, singing, and talking; they looked incredibly happy. I had wished that the whole kingdom would live like that. I came out of the hut where I was resting.
"Zilan, what are they doing out there?" I asked.
"Its a tribal festival, your highness," Zilan replied.
"I would like to go."
"Please follow me," he said.
As we walked to the campfire, we continued our talk.
"Zilan," I called in a soft voice.
"Your highness," he replied attentionally.
"Do you think that Ive been fair to my people? Do you think Ill be a good queen?"
"In all honesty, you will be the greatest in our kingdom."
"What makes you think that Zilan?" I asked.
"No one has ever conducted what youve done in such a short amount of time. You care about your people more than anything else, and you stand for peace and justice. What makes you greater is your wisdom. Men always think that you should be a man to rule over a kingdom because it shows power and strength. As a woman, I believe you possess it all, and theres no greater honor for me than to serve you, your highness." He bowed his head after his words.
"Thank you for your encouragement, Zilan; I will work harder to give my people a peaceful life."
"And I will do the best that I can to fulfill my duties as your protector; thats a promise, my queen."
We suddenly arrived at the fire camp without realizing it.
"My lady, I didn know you would be interested in joining us since I know how exhausted you might be," I heard someone say from afar. It was Sarai.
"I heard the noise, and I was curious to see what it was about."
"Thats great; I can help you get ready for the event. Please, follow me."
She took my hand and pulled me away. Alfred and two female servants tried to follow me. I lifted my hands and gave them a sign to stop following me. We entered a smaller hut where there were a lot of paintings, flowers, and clothes. We changed my original clothing to something more tribal, and I unveiled my face for her to paint.
"Wow, you are so beautiful, my lady, and so tiny."
We both laughed.
"Thank you, Sarai," I said.
There was a brief silence between us while she was painting my face.
"My lady, I know who you are. You are the queen herself, aren you?" she said timidly.