The preparations for coronation were excessive, intensive, exhaustive, and boring. Ankahbena nursed her youngest child while, around her, half of the palace fluttered around like goat kids out to pasture for the first time. Three tailors worked on the Imperial robes, around her, around Iladeta, fitting over her bare breast.
Ankahbena had been a mother for far longer than she’d been an Empress. Her grandfather had fought his battles young and then enjoyed a very long life; four heirs had died before her, while she had served in his Army and taught at his University, married and given birth to children and seen them off to the Army as well.
“Mother.” Her oldest son bowed deeply in front of her.
“Aby.” She shifted Ila, brushing away a maid with her free hand. She could still do this for herself, if nothing else.
“I asked Ukyenna if she would accept a marriage contract, if you and Father, and her parents, are amenable.”
“Ukya…?” She had seven sons, three daughters, and, to date, four grandchildren. She had a long piece of paper with all of their important information written down. She could not remember Ukyenna anywhere on the list.
“She’s a distant cousin, descended from a younger sister of Empress Ellanasia. She’s very pretty.” He sounded a bit defensive, there. “And very smart. And… she understands the palace.”
“Ah.” She studied her most ambitious child for a moment. “You think she will make a good mother to the next Emperor.”
“I do.” He tilted his head in submission. “But the choice is yours, Mother.”
She snapped her hand, trying not to hit the tailor who was still trying to fit the inner sleeve properly. The choices were all hers, now. And if her sons followed tradition and cloistered their wives, in a decade she would be the only woman in the nation with any choice. “Let me meet this girl.” Maybe she could talk some sense into Aby.
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