Set several generations before the Rin & Girey story.
Edyunnaedyun was with his third wife when the messenger came. The man – not a normal letter-carrying boy – bowed low to the ground but otherwise paid no attention that he’d interrupted Edun and Issalaina in the middle of making another heir.
“Prince Edyunnaedyun, we regret to inform you that your mother the Empress has died. Please prepare your son the Emperor for his coronation as soon as possible.”
“My mother? Impossible.” He sat up, tossing a blanket over Issalaina. “She’s a young woman.” And he’d thought he had years and years to convince the council and the family that the habit of skipping a generation should have died with her grandfather.
“And a warrior. Felled by an arrow. Please ready the Emperor as soon as possible.”
“The Emperor,” Edun sneered, “is six years old.”
“Regardless, he is the Emperor.” The messenger bowed again, and exited.
“My heart and my blood.” Issalaina was young, and prone to romantic excess. More than making up for this, however, she was sexually welcoming and not troublesome, unlike his first two wives now were.
“What is it, my lovely weaving of the finest silk?” She did take a careful hand, however.
“Don’t be so desolate. The Emperor has six years… and you are his father, and most likely to be chosen Regent until he reaches his first hunt. Isn’t that what you want? To rule?”
“To rule… yes. Yes. Put on your formal robes, Issa, and your thinnest veil. I will tell Opinani to ready her son for his new role.” His second wife hated him, but she had given him his third son, his heir by the convoluted and frustrating rules of their new nation. And she was his wife; she would obey him, even if she hated him.
“My robes, the fabric of my life? But what of Opinani?”
“Take your place as favored wife, Issalaina. Don’t you want to be at the center of the court?”
“Ah… yes, the center of my world.”
Issa was a lousy liar, a fact that Edun generally appreciated. She was also, he recalled, young enough that she had spent her entire life under cloister. “Wear your veil,” he suggested, “and stay close to me. I will protect you.”
Her shoulders relaxed, and she nodded. “Yes, my spine and my saddle.”
That one was a little strange. Edun wondered, sometimes, about Issa’s upbringing. “I will go talk to Opinani. Have my formal robes ready for me when I return.”
Opinani, it seemed, had already heard the news; Ipinnynon as already being clothed. From the cut and style of the outfit, his second wife had anticipated this; from the befuddled look on the boy’s face, the new Emperor had not.
Stranger, however, than the already-ready Empirical robes on his son of six years, was the equally-formal robes on his wife of eight long years. Those, at least, had the look of not having been tailored exactly for her; parts, he thought, she had borrowed from his sisters.
“You will not be needed at Court,” he informed her. Had she been hoping to regain her place as favored wife. “You may come to see your son installed as Emperor, of course. But your clothing is above your station.”
Opinani only smiled. The answer came from the door behind him. “The river has shifted, son. With the installation of an Emperor, the roles of everyone change. Your son’s daughter’s daughter will be the next Emperor after him.” He would know his eldest sister’s voice anywhere.
“So?” Edun knew how the laws worked. He had been fighting them since he was old enough to shout.
“So,” Opinani answered, “guided by the late Empress’ husband, I, Ipin’s mother, will serve as his Regent.” She gestured at Edun’s half-on tunic. “You may come to see your son installed as Emperor, of course, but your clothing is… ah.”
“You cannot! I forbid it!”
“But the Emperor requests it.” His Second Wife’s smirk was as infuriating as ever. “But Edun? Do bring Issa. The poor girl needs to get out more.”
Edyunnaedyun EE-dyun-NAY-dyun, the “u” being like the word dun, bun, run
Issalaina IS-suh-LAY-nuh, with the same “u” sound as her husband.
Opinani OH-peen-AH-nee, “ee” like in “need,” “OH” like in open, boat. “AH” sounds totally different to me than it does to you, I shan’t try. 😉
Ipinnynon – I-pine-NIGH-nawn – I like the word “I,” pine like the tree, Nigh rhymes with sky, and nawn rhymes with dawn.
Edun, Issa, Second Wife) and Ipin are the nicknames for these four people in order.
If anyone knows the male version of Dowager Queen, I’d love to know it, pls.
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