The new soon-to-be-Queen of Fortuna stood stock still as her handmaiden, Eram tightened the stays on the waistline of her gown. Yard upon yard of heavy, watered black silk fell around her in waves. Her hair was swept up off her face and drawn up under the crown of the Heiress Apparent. She would not wear the full crown of the Fortunate Island until the formal coronation. For now, a copy of that crown that was locked away in the Temple storehouse, rest upon the brow of the doppelganger of her mother. Melek as her Chief Advisor had poked his head into her chambers to inquire about her state of readiness. She only responded with a nod and just as quickly, he slipped away once more.
Other serving women, too numerous to remember their names, put on the rest of her jewelry. Earrings, bracelets, of diamonds and the deepest Emeralds of the House of Rochefort were set off against the black of the dress. and the long graceful neck that displayed them. Jocelyn barely seemed to notice them and their ministrations. None of them dared to speak outside the soft murmurs of direction amongst themselves as they prepared her for the state funeral of her parents.
On the night before the moon shone through the skylight above the throne room. The beveled glass sent streams of light in all directions, some of it reflected in rainbow prisms that rested upon the bodies of the Queen and her Consort. Melek had done his work well. Even she could not tell the difference between these look-alikes and her own parents. Knowing that she was probably observed, she spent a great deal of time staring down at them. When her feet began to ache, it was UserBesNeha who brought her a chair which was drawn up beside the body that could have been that of her father. In those stilled hands was a copy of the Sword of Unmaking - the one instrument that could have ended her mother's or any other Fae's Immortal life in an instant. This, too, had been copied meticulously by the Fallen One and those who worked for him. That one instrument, she was certain, still rested safely in her real father's possession never to leave it until his own true death.
After a long silence the dwarf who had been her mother's friend for centuries laid a hand upon her own. "What lies in front of you is greater than anything you have ever done before, my Lady," he said. "Whatever need you have of me, know that you only have to give the word and it is granted."
Jocelyn pulled her eyes away for a moment to look at him. "My mother trusted you as few others," she said giving his small slightly withered fingers a squeeze, "I know I'll have to rely on you soon. But not yet."
"You only have to ask," UserBes dared to give her fingers a squeeze in response. It was no wonder to Jocelyn why her mother had trusted him. He had been a constant figure in all of their lives, never wavering in his support of their family.
Of course, Jocelyn mused , there was no possible way that UserBes could have known or suspected what she had meant. She was all but certain she would need to ask for his aid very soon indeed. And his knowledge was by now almost as ancient as Melek's was.
"Have their tombs been prepared?" she asked softly, turning her gaze back to the two bodies lying in state.
"Yes, my lady," UserBes said. "They will be interred immediately after the ceremony tomorrow. But now I regret that I must take my leave."
He rubbed his beard then took to one knee, placing the ring upon her hand up to his brow in deference to who she was and his acknowledgement to her as his Queen. "Please get some rest yourself. Tomorrow promises to be a long day."
Wordlessly, the dwarf turned and left his queen to her thoughts. As he left, the soft light through the glass seemed to grow momentarily dimmer as a thin cloud passed over the moon.
She did not notice. Only the swim in the cave beneath the Palais was enough to calm her turbulent mind. That night Jocelyn did not expect to see her friend, Kai or any sign of the Leopard Seal. She couldn't help but feel a little disappointment. He had promised her that he would be there the following night. Still, it made her smile to remember the fun they had had together swimming and scooping up treasures. She had been careful to keep one of the stones that Kai had handed to her in her pocket at all times. She found herself fingering it's smoothed edges from time to time and felt herself immediately relax even when there was pandemonium throughout the entire Court.
'Act like Maman....act like Maman' she thought to herself over and over again. If Joceluyn was careful she would be able to remain as detached as her mother had been as queen. Her stomach was now coiling and uncoiling like a serpent since she had begun getting ready for the state funeral. The sound of murmuring and the Ville around the Palais became louder and louder. But it was the trumpets that blared outside the walls of the Palais that caused her heart to clench.
It was time.