1) The Pre-Canon Scene In Which Queen Lear Learns, For the First Time, That She Has Been Betrayed (prior to Act I, Scene 1)
It was galling, Queen Lear reflected as she paced about the reeking hold of the Gloucester, to have to sail to France on the very eve of her coronation to make peace with King Philippe (who was opposed on principle to women ruling and who, being Aunt Cordelia's son, viewed any grandchild of Goneril's as inherently vicious and corrupt), get through assorted conversations and dinners without either of them killing each other, quiet at least some of Philippe's fears, set sail for England once more…and then be ambushed by pirates.
The pirates had boarded the Gloucester with relative ease. Even a queen-to-be of eighteen could see that. Half of her guards had fought valiantly with sword, axe, mace and spear—and died swiftly and messily for their loyalty—but the other half had calmly laid down their weapons on the deck without even attempting battle. And not a single man who had surrendered had met her eyes, which Lear found very worrying.
As a few men flung the bodies of her loyal guards into the sea and much of the crew made a show of putting light, loose shackles on the ones who had surrendered (which wouldn't have kept a swaddled babe chained for the length of a Mass, in Lear's opinion), a scarred, red-haired sailor a bit better dressed than the rest swaggered up to her. He took no notice of Lear's few wailing ladies-in-waiting, her frantic maid and cook, or the stricken chaplain who was trying to console all of them. Instead, he looked her up and down appraisingly, his gaze resting momentarily on her breasts and glossy black braids. Lear choked back bile and forced herself to remain silent.
"You're Princess Lear?" he demanded.
"Queen Lear." A useless protest and Lear knew it, but she could no more have held it back than she could have started breathing water.
The pirate shrugged with indifference. "Neither crowned nor anointed yet, nor likely to be. Which is as well for me."
A chill ran through Lear at those words; eighteen would be perilously young to die. But she did not beg him for mercy, though she felt that he felt he half-expected her to do so. A queen might be doomed, but she could not beg.
"And you are?" she said with hauteur.
The pirate's grin was by no means a pleasant one. "Some call me Judicael."
Judicael. The infamous "Just Man." Lear had heard of him, of course; what native of Albion had not? He was known for being both cunning and mercenary, killing commoners and selling nobles to their enemies; some said that he could command the very winds and waves to serve him. Many had tried to escape from him, and none had survived. Nor could Lear recall any mention of prisoners being freed by their foes.
"If you'll sail us to the closest port," she wheedled, pitching her voice so that it would carry a bit better, "I'll gift you with a third of the treasury."
Several of the sailors glanced up from their tasks as they heard this. One, a tall, broad-shouldered blacksmith of a youth, even looked sympathetic. Ah. So Judicael's crew is not so leal as he would like.
But Judicael merely rolled his eyes. "A third of the treasury is no benefit to any of us without a head. Besides, we've already been paid well just for trying to capture you." Lear heard a dull mutter at that; evidently some of the crew felt that the Just Man's share of the pay was a trifle unjust. "I imagine that we'll be paid all the better now that we do have you. A queen's ransom, one might say."
"And if I promised to spare you?" Lear demanded, privately resolving to do nothing of the kind. "You and your crew?"
Judicael emitted an explosive sound that was somewhere in between a guffaw and a snort. "I would not wager my life on the weak word of a desperate woman. And what need have I to trust your promises? You must be madder than your grandfather."
The taunt burned as deeply as acid. Without thinking, Lear lashed out. "So you would prefer the word of a traitor over the word of your queen? What need has my enemy to spare any of you? Sailors talk when in their cups, and there are taverns in every port. One word of this betrayal leaking into the wrong ears, one whisper of the traitor's name—"
"Lady," said Judicael with mocking patience as he motioned two of his men to haul her off to the Gloucester's hold, "you keep speaking of traitors and betrayal. You presume that even one of your subjects will care."
2) In Which the Queen's Evil Cousin Broods Over His Failures and Learns the Secret of the Pirate-Mage Emilio (after Act I, Scene 4)
It had been fifteen years since Queen Lear had escaped from the talons of Judicael, sailing triumphantly into London like the goddess of victory. Thomas, Duke of Clarence and Cornwall, had loathed every moment. She had no right to upset his cherished and long-held plans.
Even worse, she had managed to bring back most of her people. Her ladies-in-waiting and servants had been badly frightened but not savaged; he could hardly stir up resentment and dissent amidst their families when the women had suffered no harm. The chaplain had suffered a saber cut to the head when Judicael's men had boarded the Gloucester; the queen sent for her own physician as soon as the ship docked. Even the men who had surrendered a tad too meekly returned with her, though bowed under weighty curses. As for those who had died, the queen had offered the family of each man their choice of gold, jewels, titles or land so that they might not suffer for their loss.
She had no right, no right at all, to win the hearts of so many with such ease.
Most galling of all had been Lear's gift of a full pardon to a handful of mutineer pirates and a new ship, the Rose of Albion, to their leader, Emilio. This still set Thomas's teeth on edge. Captain Judicael had sworn backwards and forwards that he had been the one with the power to command wind and sea…and instead it had been the ship's navigator, a broad-shouldered, bull-necked youth from Sardinia called Emilio. Emilio had no fear of man or beast, and no parents, brothers, sisters or sweethearts in England. Certainly not in Cornwall…unlike Judicael, who had had a veritable stew of relatives. He had even cared about one or two of them, which, as far as Thomas was concerned, had been all to the good.
Of course, there had been talk about the queen and Emilio. He had even gone so far as to persuade a lesser noble to mention the notion jokingly in Lear's presence. There were plenty of people who wondered whether Lear's mother Merewyn had been Edmund's daughter, rather than the Duke of Albany's. If so, that would mean that King Edgar, in wedding Merewyn, Duchess of Albany, when she was grown, had wed his own niece…and without dispensation. Which would make Lear—really, what an absurd name to give a girl—no better than a bastard. The possibly illegitimate spawn of incest could hardly afford to have her morals questioned.
Thomas didn't know what he'd been expecting, but the queen bursting into peal after peal of incredulous laughter hadn't been it.
If only there had been other heirs for him to rally his fellow nobles behind! Alas, there'd been only two—Cordelia's boy and Regan's daughter. But Philippe had already signed a treaty averring that he had no interest in the English throne…not that most of the English nobles were eager to crown France's ruler king. Constance, at least, was from Albion. And he, as her husband (and maternal cousin), shared her right to the crown. It hadn't mattered that she didn't particularly want to rule. It was her right.
Unfortunately, Constance had died in childbirth shortly after the queen's triumphant return, producing only one child, and that one a girl named Rosalba. Lear, with that infernal foresight of hers, had named Rosalba—not him, oh no, not him!—her heir.
Fifteen years he'd been searching for a way to overthrow Queen Lear and place himself on the throne—first as Rosalba's regent, and then as king. Fifteen years.
He had a fine network of spies—the finest in Europe. He had wealth, ore, smiths and men at his disposal. He even had a handful of disgruntled allies who were none too pleased at a woman ruling. What he did not have was a pretext for revolt. Or, to be more precise, a pretext that his few allies, the Queen's sycophants, and the uncouth serfs, merchants and artisans who comprised the bulk of her subjects would all accept. A scandal involving Queen Lear and a pirate-mage would have helped immeasurably, but regrettably, Lear was little like her mad great-grandfather or her sister-killing grandmother. Her sins were minor ones.
He had sent intelligencers to every wretched rat hole in Europe that was posing as a village. None had learned much, save that Emilio was a pirate and a wizard. And there was little value in secrets that were already known. It was a virtual certainty that tonight's secret meeting with one of his spies (secret, despite taking place not only in Castle Clare but in his own chambers) would be much the same.
The spy was called Aimery, though Thomas was certain that wasn't his true name. He was a sallow man, neither tall nor short, neither thin nor fat, with muddy eyes that might have been either hazel or brown and hair of so unremarkable a hue that you could only call it "hair-colored." Even his voice was resolutely forgettable. Thomas disliked him, feeling that Aimery blended into the background a trifle too well.
At the moment, however, he was kneeling at Thomas' feet, vibrating like an over-tight lute string. "Your Grace. I've found something at last."
"And what, pray, would that be?"
"The hometown of Emilio, child of Bonacurso Faber. Or, should I say…Emilia."
Thomas gaped at Aimery. Such good fortune simply wasn't possible.
A smug smile slithered over Aimery's nondescript features. "'Tis true, Your Grace. We missed it for so long because we were looking for a male orphan and not a maid rather over-blessed with kin."
Over-blessed with kin. Surely the sweetest words Thomas had ever heard about a foe. "And how long has she been playing at this masque?"
"Since the age of ten or so, Your Grace," Aimery replied, still favoring Thomas with an oily smile. "It seems that some of those from her mother's family have a talent for sorcery. Hedgewitchery and herb potions, most of it. Emilia's talent was very different, even as a child. Storms followed her about like hungry pups."
Thomas eyed Aimery dubiously. "You have proof, I suppose."
Aimery had a wealth of proof. Records for Emilia's christening. Merchants' lists of storm-sunk ships. Another list of lethal curses attributed to the child. A Latin scrawl from her village's priest to a well-educated abbess, suggesting that her convent take the girl and purify her soul with fasting and prayer. Thomas wondered how she had found out what was in the wind. Eavesdropping? Village gossip? Or had one of her brothers or sisters simply told her? It hardly mattered. Evidently she had stolen some boys' clothes and signed onto some ship or other.
"There was no need to cling to her disguise for twenty-three years," he muttered. "She could have put off the breeches at the next port."
"Perhaps," said Aimery, coughing delicately, "she did not wish to. There are…stories…about 'Emilio's' prowess as a lover. It may be that she prefers…" He let the sentence trail off into a meaningful pause.
Grimacing, Thomas turned the information over in his mind. A female pirate who had lived most of her life as a man—and a man with a taste for women, at that. And she didn't simply possess an ability to summon fair winds and safe seas; no, she could bring storms and curses onto the heads of her enemies as well. Yes, this could be very useful. It was a pity that the queen herself didn't know.
"But she does, Your Grace," said Aimery, sounding surprised. Belatedly, Thomas realized that he had spoken aloud. "She appears to have learned Emilia's secret while being held captive."
Thomas nodded to himself. "That explains a great deal." Doubtless the queen had threatened to expose 'Emilio' as a woman if she didn't rescue her. That made far more sense than an altruistic pirate.
However, Aimery was shaking his head. "It explains nothing, I'm afraid. The queen does not view Emilia's male attire as a disguise; she sees her as a man—and one who was magically and unjustly bound to serve Judicael for years in exchange for his silence. Here. You may see for yourself." From the depths of his cloak, he retrieved a letter in the queen's hand. "From Emilia's own sea-chest. She regards this letter as something of a talisman. Naturally, I left a copy in its place…but I thought that you would like to see the original."
Thomas perused the letter swiftly. There was no question that the queen had written it shortly after her rescue; the style said as much. The language was sprightly and, in places, innocently suggestive, though Thomas doubted whether young Lear had realized this. Not that that mattered. The language could be easily twisted to mean something that would shock and offend. And as for the end of the letter, where Lear had written a mighty oath swearing that she would never betray 'Emilio' into the hands of his enemies…oh, how many ways could that be interpreted? The nobles would say that Lear was placing a commoner above titled lords. The men of law would say that she was elevating a pirate above the law of the land. And the church would say that Lear had betrayed her coronation oath by placing a heretic and a witch above the law of God.
Yes, Aimery had done very well.
Thomas opened the purse hanging from his belt, plucked out five gold nobles, and tossed them to Aimery. "Here. A bit extra for an excellent job. You've earned it." He turned away, pretending to continue to read the letter.
Greed and amazement warred in the spy's face as he gazed at the gold coins and then automatically, unthinkingly, bit one.
Oh, it's real gold, Aimery, Thomas thought. Though I believe that you're going to be regretting your distrust in a moment or two.
Aimery fell to one side, his hands and feet twitching, his face mask-like. The gold nobles slipped from his grasp. Thomas picked them up using a clean linen cloth, taking care to wipe away the thin glaze of poison covering each coin as he did so.
"I'm sure you understand, Aimery," he said calmly to the dying spy. "You simply know too much about my plans. It's just a shame that I couldn't rely on your loyal and trusting nature."
3) The Scene Where One of Queen Lear's Ladies-in-Waiting and a Faithful Scottish Knight Conspire in Flower Language (during Act II, Scene 3)
"I fail to see," said Sofia, crossing her arms over her bodice as she spoke in a deceptively soft tone, "why we cannot simply tell the queen what is happening."
Glancing about the Queen's Garden, Richard ran his fingers through his thick and somewhat frizzy black hair, sighed, and endeavored to look as if he was whispering something romantic and yet somewhat suggestive to Sofia. It would draw attention—being one of a handful of brown-skinned knights in Her Majesty's service made that all but inevitable—but he had to seem as if he was courting Sofia; it was the only excuse he had for spending so much time alone with her. It did not matter that she would be the Margravine of Moravia when her father died and that he was only an impoverished Scottish knight descended from Roman soldiers from North Africa; the court had decided that they were adorable and that even a poor young man of impeccable but undistinguished descent could entertain his dreams. At least, as long as the seeming romance didn't go too far.
"Hush," he whispered, his lips nearly brushing her ear. "There are spiders even in an open garden. They watch every movement; they hear every breath." That was as near as he could come to naming the Duke of Cornwall, who had more intelligencers in his employ than the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor combined.
Sofia pouted prettily; it probably would have been an infuriated scowl if she'd been certain they weren't being observed. "You have no idea how weary I am of 'spiders'. They always seem to be underfoot, out of doors and in."
And that's certainly the truth, Richard thought, wandering from her side as he gathered blossoms , herbs and fruit—cardinal flowers, the thick, flat leaves of sweet basil, and a sprig or two of whortleberries—for a tiny bouquet. He blessed the queen for seeing to it that plants with unpleasant meanings grew in every portion of the garden. Queen Lear was a devotee of the flower language, Richard was certain.
Bowing, he handed Sofia the bouquet. She smiled with what looked like honest pleasure as she held to her heart the plants that spelled out the need for silence all too well: the malevolence, hatred, and treachery of Cornwall. Then, as if reluctantly, she handed the bouquet back.
"I cannot accept tokens from a man to whom I am not betrothed," she murmured as Richard palmed the slim iron key she had managed to transfer from her bodice to the tangled stems of cardinal flowers.
The key to the dungeons? Or perhaps to Emilio's cell?
Cornwall's intrigue and plotting could all be over soon, one way or another. And he himself could finally prove himself a knight worthy of the name. The queen would be proud of him; she might even gaze on him fondly as he kissed Sofia in joyous celebration. It was even possible that Lear would find some way of expressing her gratitude more thoroughly in private…maybe even one that he dared not presume to request.
Richard shivered, as much from excitement as fear.
4) The Scene Explaining How the Curse Works (during Act III, Scene 5)
It was over, and Emilio knew it.
It was not easy to imprison a sorcerer, especially one who was also the captain of a pirate ship. But while at sea, he had received a message from Lear, saying that she wished to remember his loyal service to her, pardoning him for all his crimes and granting him and his men her protection as her official privateers. The offer, signed and sealed by the queen's own hand, had been too tempting to refuse.
He had never expected to end up in the dungeons of Clare Castle in Suffolk, held prisoner by Lear's all-too-ambitious cousin. Nor had he bargained for one of Lear's ladies-in-waiting—who seemed half in love with Lear—stealing the key to his cell and conveying it to an honorable young knight in one of Lear's palace gardens several days later. Emilio could not help but be grateful for that. Sofia of House Přemyslovci and Richard of Redesdale had spared him a day or two of pointless torture (at least until the captain of the Duke of Cornwall's guards had had a replica key crafted). They'd given him a chance to think, instead of believing his captors and becoming outraged at Queen Lear, who had—supposedly—betrayed him.
And he had to admire Richard and Sofia's courage, if not their wisdom. They'd slipped away from the Queen's palace to Castle Clare, evaded the guards, freed him from his shackles and his cell, and had actually managed to steal several documents and codes that would prove the Duke's guilt…
…only to have the Duke miss those documents and capture them all with swift efficiency, flinging them all into one tiny unlit cell.
Emilio had no doubt as to how this would end. He and these two idealistic children would be hurt and starved until he blamed the queen and her fatal knowledge of his secret so thoroughly that he would be happy to rain ruin upon Albion. And this he was loath to do.
No. There had to be another way.
"At least," said Sofia in a voice so quiet that Emilio barely heard her, "others know that we came here."
"They may know that we headed toward this castle," Richard replied bitterly, "but how can they prove that we reached it? What sheriff or reeve will challenge the Queen's cousin-by-law, much less ask to search his dungeons?"
Emilio could see nothing in the darkness of the cell, but he visualized Sofia squaring her jaw as she spoke. "Do you think that my family will simply let me vanish?"
"No more than my father will," said Richard wearily. "And yet who can he—or they—ask? The Duke and his household will hardly volunteer the truth, and the Queen—"
The words seemed to catch in Richard's throat, but Emilio would have sworn that they all heard them: The Queen has no idea where we are. And neither my father nor the royal family of Bohemia will believe her. Because the Queen is the ruler. The Queen should knowwhat's become of us.
No one would believe Lear, Emilio realized. Ruling queens—even wise and good ones—were not supposed to be fundamentally innocent. Most people would probably deduce that Lear was no saner than the great-grandfather she'd been named for and that she'd done something monstrous to Richard and Sofia and then attempted to conceal it. And the less evidence of this that there was, the more people would believe it.
The Duke might not even need him any longer. The wrath of a royal family was quite as powerful as the curse of a pirate-mage…perhaps more so. And Emilio had seen enough of the Duke since his capture to know that his death would not be a clean one.
There was only one alternative: a death curse. One final outpouring of magic.
Emilio had hesitated over this; the odds were that the use of so much magic at once would either burn him to ash or leave him blinking and mindless forever. Even if he survived with body and mind intact—and there was only a fingernail's chance of that—his magic would be burned from him for the rest of his life. And, in the hands of the Duke's guards, life would likely be agonizing, humiliating, degrading and brief. He would only get one opportunity to make this work.
"Brace yourselves against the wall closest to you," he said gruffly to the others. "I think that the Duke has had his way for quite long enough, don't you?"
"What…what are you going to—" Sofia began to ask.
"Magic. Trust me, you'll know if it's working."
He closed his eyes, using his mind to probe the walls of the dungeon for the smallest crack through which his magic could flow. He needed air or groundwater; earth and rock were of no use to him.
Fortunately, there were a number of cracks in the wall closest to him. Emilio let his mind and magic painstakingly flow through those cracks until he could see the world beyond the dungeon. For a moment, he had a blurred impression of night, a half moon, Castle Clare and a village not far from the castle. A village not unlike the one in which he'd grown up. If Emilio could have sighed, he would have; an impossible task had just become that much harder.
Well, he would just have to try to spare the town if he could. It wasn't the villagers' fault that their duke was a wagonload of pigslime.
He began focusing on zephyrs, breezes, gusts and gales, picturing himself capturing each at the end of a ship's rope, forcing all of them to blow as one. As the winds grew stronger, he drew thunderstorms into the mixture, and hurricanes, and typhoons until he had harnessed the very mother of all windstorms.
All the ill-luck that I blew away from myself and my ship all these years, fly straight to Thomas, Duke of Cornwall. Swirl around him, surround him, and never let him go…not while I'm alive, and not after I'm dead.
Instantly, the magic grew immensely stronger; Emilio felt as if a white-hot wire was passing through both his bones and his mind, charring both into ashes. Biting back a scream, Emilio spared one moment to think of Queen Lear—Heaven bless her for accepting me for who I am—and then recited the last and most important words of the spell: the words that would tell the curse where to find its target.
To Castle Clare! Rip the walls away from the Duke's castle and plans; ruin his home and his schemes! Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage! Blow!
5) The Post-Ending Scene on Emilio's Ship (after Act V, Scene 3)
"I wish," Queen Lear said, several months later on a visit to the Rose of Albion, "that you would let me do more for you. Not every pirate has the opportunity to save a queen and a kingdom."
Emilio—his curls now a uniform shade of iron-gray and his face looking somewhat older and wearier than it had once been—laughed. "Pardon for me and my men and license to act as privateers is thanks enough, Your Majesty. And the gossip around the docks is that many of your courtiers weren't eager for us to have that. No, honor those two"—he glanced at Richard and Sofia, who were whispering together at the bow of the ship—"and the ones who helped them, and that will be enough."
"I could grant you a title and some land…"
"I'm a creature of the sea, Your Majesty," said Emilio, shaking his head. "I would get landsick in a night, not to mention that, given all that's happened, I'm not fond of castles. And besides…I've no wish to wear the wrong clothes or to be called by the wrong name. It's generous of you, truly, but no."
Lear sighed. She loathed not being able to express her thanks properly. And knowing that the same rumors that her friends had taken such pains to kill would be resurrected in an instant if she were a jot more generous was frustrating.
"You gave up your magic for our kingdom and our royal person," she replied softly. "You were tortured. You could have lost your mind. You nearly died. How can I toss all this aside as if it does not matter?"
Emilio shook his head as if bewildered that Lear didn't grasp the obvious. "You've already granted me the finest title in the world," he said gently. "You did so when you were a captive of Judicael's. You learned my secret…and, without cruelty or mockery, called me by my real name."