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the rain queen
stephanie pui-mun law
page 05:05

The keep was in an uproar when I woke. The servants were, at any rate. They crept about as if fearing for their lives. Recognizing the boy Reibert, I snagged him as he tried to brush past me. "What's going on?" I demanded.

"She's gone, sir," the boy said. His eyes skittered around nervously. "Please, Lord Tohln needs me."

"Wait. She? What happened?" I reiterated.

"She, sir! The Rain Queen. Please, Lord Tohln's going to be mad if I'm not there, and he's not in a very good mood already, and --"

"She's gone?" I said, hopeful. I did not relinquish my grip on the boy, although I did loosen it.

"Yes. The Guards say they were over-run by the street-folk last night -- her thief friends," he whispered, "and...they freed her, and now she's gone, and Lord Tohln's extremely unhappy (understatement!) about it and --"

"Thank you," I said, and rummaged in my pockets for a second. I pressed the coin into his hand, a full crown. He deserved it to give me such wondrous news. Reibert's eyes widened into saucers. "Thank you sir!" and then he took off at a run.

She's gone. She was freed. "Risilka," I whispered, and then I too began to run. Through the corridors of the keep that had never seemed so large...out the front gates, down the short street that led up to the keep...and there was the King's square. It was busy as usual, a bustling thoroughfare...but the wooden cage with Risilka was gone. "She's free," I laughed softly.

Two days later, the first rains began.

It rained hard for three whole weeks, and though people complained about flooded cellars and mud everywhere, we all knew it was life that rained upon us.

A Rain Queen, Risilka had claimed to be. I like to believe that she really was a Rain Queen. That her "thief friends" were really the clansfolk of the Rain Queen, come to rescue their sovereign. It's possible.... It is what the people of Madruj believed. Even Lord Tohln could not stop those stories from spreading.

The histories tell of how the Kings from across the seas crushed the clansfolk and their Rain Queen with their scorn, stole away what they were.... But Risilka...well...I had seen that some things, not even a King or a Lord can strip away.

We are what we are, she had told me; her last words to me. And we do what we must. And so I do what I must now...the roads have hardened a bit now that the rains have ended. There is still a lot of mud, but I journey now to Eslil. That song she sang to me upon the last comes from that land, and so I go there. Eslil, City of a Thousand Sails, also called City of White Hope for the white sails that whip proudly in the winds....


the end