The phantasms of the night were chased away by the bright light and the mingled, cheerful songs of the birds, grateful for a new dawn. The queen put on a sombre dress, readying herself for a new day. Many things had to be settled before sunset…
The throne hall was filled with the rattle of voices concerned with countless, important matters of government. The Wind was the first to approach the queen, as she oversaw, with imposing stance, the flow of any day at the palace.
‘Majesty, though all is well in the Western forests and the water in the ground is ideal at this time of year for the thriving growth of the black locust young, things are different in the South. There, the chestnut trees are discontent with the meddling of these young black locusts. They say that the roots of the young cannot bear the scarcity of water in that area and that they, the mighty chestnut trees, must watch over them until they grow up.’
‘Unfortunately, they are right. But it doesn’t mean that we can’t continue. We must help the black locust trees thrive in that area. They requested the Southern lands. If there is no other urgent matter, summon the Clouds. I shall speak to them about this.’
The Wind consulted the scroll that he always had with him. As he was looking at it, he mumbled unintelligibly under his breath.
‘No, not here…’, again something unintelligible, ‘nor here…’, again indistinct mumbling, ‘oh, yes, well… so… Yes! Nothing else!’, came the triumphant answer. ‘Greetings and messages of friendship and high regards from the kingdoms at the Northern and Western borders.’
‘Very well, add those to the list, along with the greetings and best wishes we receieved yesterday. Wait for those that will come tomorrow, then send my answer and tokens of good will to all of them. Is there anything else?’
‘Just a marriage proposal on behalf of the Kingdom of Dapir.’
‘Didn’t they already propose?’
‘No, Highness, the ones you refused recently were the envoys from the Kingdom of Dapi.’
‘Write a very polite answer, convey my heartfelt apologies for the refusal and explain that an alliance between our kingdoms is not possible at the time being.’
‘Of course, my queen, leave it all to me, I’ve done it many times before. The Clouds are waiting.’
‘Send them in.’
‘Good morning, majesty! Did you summon us?’
‘I called on you because I wish to discuss the matter of water and the young black locust trees in the South.’
‘We are aware of the slight misunderstandings with the local chestnut trees. The water in the ground is insufficient. At least until the young ones grow up.’
‘Kindly ask the Great Clouds to go there for two months and help out with one rain a week.’
‘Of course, Highness.’
Once that issue was settled, the other subjects in the hall came forward with less important problems. The queen listened patiently to all of them, giving a sign of approval to the graceful swallows or wise advice to the butterflies. But she never dismissed anything and, so, everyone who came to see her left peaceful and satisfied. In fact, it wasn’t at all difficult, as she governed the kingdom in accordance to the natural order of things, asking her subjects to do just what they did best. Thus, they were only too pleased, almost anxious to fulfill any little job that fell into their lot. Such was the tiny, but very rich and peaceful kingdom, that thrived in perfect harmony with all those outside its borders.
The queen hosted a great ball every year and invited all of her friends and everyone else who wanted to attend. It was a very happy occasion for everybody, as the ball had become a tradition for many generations. Most alliances between the great houses had been planned right there, at the ball and, in the merrymaking of the opulent party, many of the quarrels between states were settled.
The Queen of Nature had kept her good relations, partly, due to the wise counsel that she gave on countless occasions to those in need. That was because her kingdom was the only animate realm of them all. In all other places mountains were just motionless mountains, the meadows were nothing but unfeeling meadows, while the waters were quick, yet insentient waters. All animate things that resided in her kingdom were of noble descent, as she was surrounded by all of nature’s royalty: the king of winds, the queens of birds and of all insects, the kings of clouds. All nobility in nature, capable of thought and communication, dwelled in her kingdom. There, not only could they speak, but they were heard, listened to and understood. Moreover, they knew everything that happened to all mountains, to all waters, all birds, in short, to all of nature in the whole wide world. They often informed their queen of what went on in distant corners of the globe. So, whenever some great house asked for guidance or warning of this or that natural hazard, the queen was perfectly able to oblige. And she was often asked for such advice.
After a few hours of incessant audiences, the parade of subjects in the throne hall came to an end. The queen was left with the Wind or, better said, she was left to stare somewhere in the Wind’s direction.
‘All done for today’, he said.
‘Yes, we are done here. Now we must make ready for the flying visit.’
The Wind left the hall for a moment, then came back with some more news:
‘There are other envoys. Just arrived!’
‘Who sent them?’
‘The messenger refuses to disclose that detail to me. He says he is only to speak to your Majesty. I don’t see any trouble in it, as I don’t sense danger coming from them. On the contrary, I might add.’
‘On the contrary? What do you mean by it?’
‘Perhaps it would be best to see for yourself.’
‘Very well, then, let the envoys enter!’, resigned the queen.
The Wind widely opened the hall’s doors. He knew fully well why he was doing that for.
A suite of ten master-puppeteers showed up from behind the doors, each of them wielding a dancing puppet in a graceful ballet. The puppets glided over the marble slates, stepping lightly and drawing delicate pirouettes. A sweet music of harps and violins reached the throne. Behind the puppeteers came five boys and five girls, dancers in flesh and blood. They followed the graceful sway of the same ballet as the puppets. And to the same music. After the dancers came a group of ten acrobats that spread a carpet of autumn leaves, golden and ripe. Among the leaves were countless shiny jewels that made the carpet seem sewn with them. After the acrobats, came a little girl with round cheeks who held ten diamond threads tied to ten ice sculptures. Gliding smoothly on their invisible wheels, the sculptures represented the queen’s ancestors. Upon seeing them, the queen jolted in surprise. After the sculptures came ten doves that had light silk bindings in their pecks. They opened them just above the retinue and an immaterial rain of white cherry blossoms fell in delicate windings. After the doves, ten golden balls rolled into the hall which had become almost crowded. Behind them came the orchestra that had accompanied the entire procession with its sounds: five musicians who played the harp and five who sounded the violin. They all stood in two rows, leaving an aisle between them. A messenger in simple green garments walked casually down it, with a shrewd, playful look in his eyes. He stopped before the throne and took a deep bow, after which he spoke in a solemn voice:
‘Queen of Nature, please accept these gifts sent to you by my master who assures you that, as seasons chase one another in their natural passing, as do his thoughts of you. I come on behalf of the prince…’
‘I know who sent you’, interrupted the queen, who had guessed, more with her heart than her head, that the gifts came from the velvet eyed prince.
‘All the better. It means that this humble retinue carries the faithful image of my master.’
The queen smiled at the word ‘’humble’’, but she had judged the messenger correctly, as one who knew how to make skillful use of words.
‘I should imagine that you did not only came to deliver the presents.’
‘My master would like an audience with you. And he sent me to try and secure it.’
Her approving smile let the messenger know that he was on the right track.
‘I would be very grateful if we could establish the details of such audience in private.’