tagNovels and NovellasThe Courier Ch. 14

The Courier Ch. 14


Chapter 14 -- A summons from the Grand Duchess

On Friday morning at the end of the second week in September, Maria Elena began her normal routine at home before reporting to the university for language tutoring and yet more hedge-trimming. However, no sooner had she reported to work and picked up the hedge trimmer, than her boss told her that she had a call from her Spokeswoman. The news was that she and her translator needed to report immediately to the Central Police Station.

Although the man was speaking in Danubian, Maria Elena had learned enough of the language that she could understand what he was telling her. She knelt, was dismissed, and immediately located Cecilia in her office. The urgency of Kim's request worried both women, but they rushed to the University trolley stop to catch the next trolley going downtown. As usual, Maria Elena had to stand; her hands gripping the pole above her head and her body totally exposed to the other passengers. However, she had become used to the restriction and no longer really thought about it. As much as she would have liked to take a seat, she knew that seating on public transportation was off-limits to anyone wearing a collar.

A few minutes later, Cecilia and Maria Elena got off the university line transport, entered the Central Police Station, and ascended the steps to the third floor. When they entered the Spokeswoman's office, they noticed two men wearing tunics with the Royal House emblem engraved on their chests. Both men wore ceremonial swords on sword-belts and sported ridiculous-looking hats with large feathers. Maria Elena knelt, trying as best she could to not laugh at the two men's silly clothing.

One of the men pointed at Maria Elena while speaking to Kim in Danubian:

"Spokeswoman, is this the foreign criminal who was assigned the number 101025 by the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Danubia?"

"Yes, Lord. She is my client, Criminal # 101025."

"Excellent, Spokeswoman. You and your translator will have the honor of standing in the presence of the Grand Duchess of the Republic of Danubia and performing a service for Her Graciousness. You are ordered to bring your client to the Royal House and present her to Grand Duchess Anyia."

Kim went pale, but managed to reply: "Yes, Lord. What time are we to comply with the wishes of the Grand Duchess?"

"Now. You will bring this criminal to the main entrance of this building, where one of the Royal transports will be awaiting the three of you."

"Lord, I will accept the honor the Grand Duchess has bestowed upon me. I wish for one favor in return. I'd like 10 minutes, so I can do several things, including calling my supervisor to tell him you've summoned me, turning off my client's collar transmitter, and dressing more appropriately to be in her presence. Can you grant me that favor, Lord?"

"It is inappropriate to keep the Grand Duchess waiting, Spokeswoman. But we will grant you that request."

With that Kim and Cecilia saluted and the two Lords saluted back. The Spokeswoman left her client and her assistant kneeling in the front office, while retreating with Cecilia into the back office. She shut the door. As Kim dialed her supervisor, Cecilia whispered in English:

"What's going on?"

"What do you think is going on? Anyia. Our 'gracious' Grand Duchess. That crazy bitch wants to 'honor' us by having us go to her place and see how 'gracious' she is. We get the privilege to escape from our own pathetic existence and see the true splendor that..."

Kim interrupted when her supervisor picked up. She quickly explained that she was summoned to go to the Royal House with her Colombian client and her translator and would not be able to make it an arraignment hearing she had with a new client in the afternoon. She vaguely hoped that the hearing would be too important and that Anyia would have to wait. However, her supervisor told her to immediately go to the Royal House and that he would call the committee to postpone her client's hearing. Kim hung up.

"How great. How fucking wonderful. Now Anyia even gets to mess with the arraignment schedule! In other words, I've got a client who's sitting in a holding cell and he's got to stay there until I get back...whenever that is!"

Cecilia said nothing, noting that her friend was seething with anger. The Spokeswoman opened her closet and began tearing off her clothes. She grabbed a linen dress from her collection and tossed another to Cecilia. There was no way the two women could wear everyday clothing if they were going to visit the Royal Family. From experience Kim knew that she needed to be prepared for suddenly having to change into fancier clothing and kept her office closet well-stocked with outfits.

Once Kim and Cecilia were properly attired in fine linen dresses, the Spokeswoman opened the door. Maria Elena was still on her knees with her forehead pressed to the floor. She didn't have a clue what was happening.

After stopping on the ground floor to have the criminal's collar deactivated, the three women followed the two Lords to a waiting minivan. In any other country a ride in a minivan would have been no big deal, but in Danubia, where privately-owned vehicles were illegal, to ride in a car was a luxury that few people had experienced. The Royal Family was a major exception to the prohibition of cars, because the Estate had several minivans at its disposal. Unlike nearly everyone else, the Royals and their servants never rode on public transportation.

The two Lords escorted the three women to a waiting van, where the driver and a kneeling naked male servant were waiting. As soon as everyone was on board, the vehicle pulled away and moved unimpeded towards the western edge of Danube City. The van passed Vladik Dukov's house and the yellow sign that ordinarily would have marked the edge of Maria Elena's world. It emerged into the Danubian countryside and descended into a valley, passing several potato farms and fruit orchards before turning off the main road and passing under an ornate gate. It continued along a tree-lined road that passed through a beautiful park. Finally the van stopped at a pretentious 19th-Century brick mansion that boasted a multitude of turrets, balconies, and towers.

A man dressed in a tunic blew a horn as the van pulled up to the front entrance. Eight naked young men filed out of the door carrying Royal banners and lined up along a red carpet leading into the mansion. They draped the banners over the carpet, but as the two Lords and their guests approached each banner, it was lifted out of their way. Maria Elena noticed two details about the young men. Like the female servants she had seen at the Prime Minister's house, all of them were quite handsome and in excellent physical shape. Also, the men wore ornate collars identical to the ones worn by Anyia's personal escort.

Maria Elena and Cecilia still did not understand what was going on. Kim suspected that she did know, and her expression reflected a combination of anger and worry. She had noticed Anyia intensely studying her client at the Prime Minister's residence. That gave her a very bad feeling, and the call from the Royal Household in the morning confirmed her concern.

The two Lords and the three women were escorted into a reception area. They stood at attention while Maria Elena knelt. The Lords were perfectly silent, while Kim and Cecilia were too intimidated to move or make any noise. The group remained still for several minutes, enough for Maria Elena's body to start cramping from staying immobilized in an uncomfortable position for too long. Finally two of the female servants Maria Elena had seen at the Prime Minster's dinner appeared and opened the doors to the main ceremonial chamber. As soon as the doors were open the servants knelt and put their heads on the floor.

Bewildered and frightened, Maria Elena followed her Spokeswoman and her translator to the main reception room. The room was the most attractive place Maria Elena had yet seen in Danubia, made from finely-crafted wood and decorated with amber, with stained glass windows covered with dark silk curtains. A red rug led to a throne in which the Grand Duchess was seated. Her naked attendants were kneeling on both sides of the red rug, absolutely still and expressionless. Their uncovered bodies sharply contrasted with the rich colors of the room and Anyia's elaborate clothing.

Kim and Cecilia led their trembling companion before Dukov's imperious daughter. The Spokeswoman pointed at the carpet, indicating that Maria Elena needed to kneel. Kim and Cecilia remained standing, but they had to salute Anyia before she would speak to them.

The Grand Duchess held a finely crafted leather switch, which she used to point and to threaten servants she felt were not performing to Royal House standards. She used it to point at Maria Elena and addressed Kim in Danubian:

"Spokeswoman Lee-Dolkivna, I am pleased that you have fulfilled your duty by bringing me this criminal."

Kim saluted and replied: "Yes Grand Duchess."

Anyia reached forward and tapped Maria Elena's bare back with the tip of her switch.

"I want to examine your client. Tell her to stand up and assume the prisoner's stance."

"Yes, Grand Duchess."

Cecilia translated, telling the criminal to stand and face the Grand Duchess, then to spread her legs and put her hands behind her head. Anyia's eyes scanned her exposed body. For a Latin American woman she was tall and light-skinned, but her jet black hair and dark eyes set her apart from women in the Danubian Republic. Maria Elena could tell that the obnoxious young noblewoman was fascinated with her. The Grand Duchess explored her body with light touches of the switch, poking one of her breasts, pressing her inner thigh, stroking her cheek, and placing the tip of the switch under her chin to make her life up her head. With a quick tap Anyia instructed Maria Elena to turn sideways, then with another tap instructed her to make another quarter turn to display her backside.

"Spokeswoman, tell your client to face me and kneel."

Once Maria Elena was kneeling, Anyia spoke again:

"Tell your client to kneel forward, then to get up and get a tray from the kitchen. Tell her to pour me a glass of wine and to serve it to me. Tell her that she will bring me the wine on a tray, upon returning she will kneel without spilling the glass, and then she will hold out the tray to present the wine."

"Yes, Grand Duchess."

Cecilia translated the command, adding: "Please don't mess this up. The trays are in the cabinet on the right side of the main kitchen door. Just say 'vinókt' and the cook will get you a bottle and pour you a glass."

Still trembling, Maria Elena did as she was told. First she retrieved a tray, then approached the head cook and said "vinókt", waited for him to fill a glass, and returned to the Grand Duchess. She managed to kneel without spilling the glass, in spite of being totally bewildered and terrified. When Anyia took the wine she spoke to Kim again:

"Spokeswoman, has this Criminal gone on trial yet?"

"Yes, Grand Duchess, she was tried and convicted about three weeks ago."

"What are the crimes of which she was convicted, Spokeswoman?"

"Drug trafficking, cocaine possession, and violating her body, Grand Duchess."

"Hmmm...so her sentence is..."

"She was sentenced to 35 years, Grand Duchess."

"Good, a nice long sentence. Then, I want her for the Royal Estate. You will go to the judge who sentenced her and tell him that as of next Monday, the Ministry of Justice is ordered to surrender custody of this criminal to my representative. Next Monday morning you are ordered to take her to the Central Courthouse and have her collar removed so she can be fitted with a Royal House collar. You also will understand that from this point, any official working for the Ministry of Justice is prohibited from touching her. Do you understand me, Spokeswoman?"

Kim's face went pale upon hearing the command, but she managed to respond: "Yes, Grand Duchess."

Kim and Cecilia exchanged nervous glances. Anyia snapped:

"Is there a problem, Spokeswoman?"

"Grand Duchess, I'm...concerned about one thing. My client still doesn't speak much Danubian. The only language she knows is Spanish. We're working on that, but right now she needs to have a translator and..."

Anyia cracked her switch hard against the chair and stood up. She then pointed the implement at Kim, as though she were threatening to punish her:

"Listen, Spokeswoman...I don't appreciate you arguing with me...questioning a decision I've made on behalf of the Royal House! You're nothing but a low-level Public Servant and you need to remember that when you talk to me! Now, if you don't think this criminal has the language skills she needs to serve the Royal House, then it's your responsibility to fix that! The Royal House has made its decision and it's your duty to do what you need to do to facilitate that decision!" She cracked the switch on her chair a second time before touching it to Kim's cheek in a menacing manner. "Do you understand me, Spokeswoman?"

Kim's eyes went wide with shock and anger. It was clear that both she and Cecilia were taken aback by the Grand Duchess's outburst, tone of voice, and the fact she dared to physically threaten her. Maybe it was true that she was the wife of the Grand Duke, but it was also true that it was not the Middle Ages. Even if Anyia was Royalty, she had no business speaking to a Public Employee in such a manner. However, Kim remained calm. She took a deep breath and replied:

"Yes, Grand Duchess. I will do what I can to prepare my client for her duties in the Royal House."

"Very well, Spokeswoman. I will overlook your vile display of disrespect. You are to inform your Ministry that this Criminal is now property of the Royal Family. I am granting you the privilege of temporary custody, pending her delivery to the Royal Estate."

"Yes, Grand Duchess."

"Good. Now you are dismissed. Make sure this criminal is properly cared for. I want her in top physical condition when she is brought to the Royal Residence."

"Yes, Grand Duchess."

Kim and Cecilia saluted the Grand Duchess before doing a crisp about-face. Cecilia instructed Maria Elena to get off her knees and follow them out of the room. The Colombian was totally bewildered, because she had not understood very much of the conversation between her Spokeswoman and that weird queen, or whatever the hell she was. She knew something very unpleasant had happened in that room, but didn't have a clue what.

The two Lords presented Kim with three sets of documents printed on Royal House parchment and decorated with Royal House seals. The Spokeswoman was ordered to present one set to the Minister of Justice and the second set to the judge who had presided over Criminal # 101025's trial. The final set would be placed into Maria Elena's folder in Kim's office. The documents officially transferred custody of her to the Royal Household once she was convicted. A representative of the Royal Family would show up next Monday at the Courthouse to collar her and transport her to the Royal Estate.

Maria Elena watched the proceedings with concern, every so often casting a pleading glance at her translator for an explanation of what was going on. Cecilia said nothing, because she was afraid to speak without being given any instructions to do so. However, the Dominican's expression clearly indicated that something was not right.

Finally the Lords returned the three women to the minivan for transport back to the Central Police Station. Kim held a folder containing the Royal House documents as she took her seat. Maria Elena noticed there were tears in her eyes and her hands were shaking. Cecilia's eyes were wide open and nervously looking around as the van quickly passed through Danube City on its way downtown. When the van stopped, Kim and Cecilia saluted the two Lords while Maria Elena and the naked servant responsible for opening the car doors knelt.

As soon as Lords had returned to the van and departed, Kim clenched her teeth and began trembling with rage. She calmed down enough to speak to Cecilia in English:

"That fucking megalomaniac! See what I told you? See what I told you? You didn't think she was that bad, did you?"

Cecilia was at a loss for words: "I...didn't...I mean...but how...I mean, what happened to her?"

"How would I know? I don't know what happened to her! I guess all that nobility crap went to her head...It pisses me that the Grand Duke puts up with it...It pisses me...because they're State employees, just like me...I mean, all that Royalty shit is just ceremonial...that's all it is, Cecilia...ceremonial...and they're nothing but a bunch of spoiled actors...She doesn't realize..."

"So, what are you gonna do?"

"With Maria Elena?"


"I've got to turn her over. I don't have any choice..."

"Do you think she's gonna be OK?"

Kim thought for a moment.

"I don't know. To be honest, I don't think she'll be OK at all. The Royal House isn't where she ought to be. I wanted her to have a normal life, and she's not going to get that from our little 'Marie Antoinette'."

"Can't you talk to anyone?"

"To who, Cecilia? Who am I gonna talk to? The Prime Minster? He's got his hands too full as it is and right now can't afford a fight with the Grand Duke. To my supervisor at the Ministry? No...'cause he'll support Anyia. It's a tradition the Royals get the pick of any criminals they want...it's a privilege that goes back eight centuries. I'm not going to be able to argue over who's getting custody of Criminal # 101025, 'cause no one's gonna support me. Everyone will say she's better off with the Royals 'cause it's tradition and they'll treat her nice...and they'll say that because they don't know what a crazy bitch Anyia's turned into!"

"What about talking to Anyia, or the Grand Duke?"

Kim shook her head.

"Talk to Anyia? Anyia is worried about one thing in life, and that is, what's the latest thing that can make her happy. The Grand Duke is worried about one thing in life, and that's what's the latest thing that can make Anyia happy. Everyone else around here is worried about just one thing in life, and that's what's the latest thing that can make Anyia happy. It's all about keeping 'Marie Antoinette' happy."

Kim calmed down enough to talk in a normal tone of voice and stop trembling from anger. She reflected:

"The tragic part of all this is that the Royals are still popular. Not much of Anyia's behavior has leaked out to the public...yet. Once the truth gets out and the people become disillusioned with her...I don't know what'll happen. It'll hurt the Prime Minister, I can tell you that, because she's his daughter...and the reputation of the Royal Family..."

"Then you need to talk him. You're not doing any good by telling me all of this. You need to tell it to Anyia's father."

"Yes, I suppose you're right. I ought to talk to Prime Minister Dukov about Anyia. At least I can try to warn him. I can tell you though; this is not something he wants to deal with right now."

"So...what about Maria Elena?"

"I've got to tell her. I don't have the right to keep it from her. Anyhow, I'll have to tell her to learn as much Danubian as she can over the next couple of days. I'll try to put a positive spin on it, tell her she'll be living in a nice place, that she won't have to deal with the scheduled switchings, that she probably won't even have to do anything that will get her hands dirty. It's best that she go into the Royal Household with a positive attitude..."

"That's not gonna happen, Kim...the positive attitude, I mean. She's not gonna want to go there."

"Like that matters? It isn't what I want either, but I'm holding three sets of papers telling me that what I want, what I think is best for my client, isn't worth shit."

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