Providence moves a Bishop, a Queen, and a Lord to shine the Light revealed in the Forbidden Book in the Dark Ages.
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S. K. Smith - Anastasis
First in the series: The Forbidden Book and the Upside Down Kingdom
Even the Dark Ages could not extinguish the Light.
In anno Domini 1375, Queen Anastasia reigned in the rich little kingdom of Opulentia. And her favorite courtier, Lord Adryan Crippen had the world within easy grasp - his handsome looks, exalted position, and the heart of the Queen. Then Adryan’s dreams evaporated as the enemy within attempted to destroy him.
Yet Providence put Adryan in hiding within St. Luke’s Infirmary where the elderly Bishop Sinjin labored on a translation of the Forbidden Book. When a conspiracy to usurp the throne comes to light, will the Bishop and Adryan be able to save the Queen? Will the Bishop fulfill his calling to shine the Light revealed in the Forbidden Book into the spiritual darkness of the age?
Anastasis. Will the fallen stand up, again?
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The Courtship of Queen Anastasia
(King James Version)
Many seek the ruler's favour; but every man's judgment cometh from the LORD.
Where is he?
Queen Anastasia’s intense blue eyes peered over her bejeweled fan. Ensconced on her cushioned throne on the dais, she cocked her head. Her ears picked up the hushed tones from her courtiers below. A corner of her mouth rose to affect a crooked smile, which only her ladies-in-waiting could see.
“Lord Adryan Crippen, late as usual,” Frederyck Osmont whispered.
Egbert Blount craned his large head toward the mullioned windows, squinting at the clock tower, and stuttered, “Ap-apparently the Queen’s t-time means n-nothing to him.”
“It is a shame that his father … God rest his soul … did not teach the lad some courtly manners,” Barnard Fyrth lamented.
“My lords, why are you so astonished that Adryan Crippen, the younger, is selectively deaf to your wise counsel?” Deryk Weymont lifted his blond eyebrows. “He will come when it well suits his purposes.”
Cardinal Pius rolled his steely gray eyes about the court. “Indeed. The Holy Spirit has just told me that Lord Crippen will make his grand entrance at any moment.”
The clock in the tower struck half past the hour as Lord Adryan Crippen - flashing his black tunic and cape - strode into the Great Hall. The other four lords and the Cardinal stared in quiet contempt while Adryan captured the attentive eyes of the ladies-in-waiting flanked about the Queen.
Queen Anastasia turned up both corners of her lips, only slightly. Lord Crippen’s timing seemed so carefully calculated. He was never too late to displease Her Royal Highness, but late enough to get fully noticed by Her Majesty’s court.
Removing his black velvet cap, Adryan bowed three times before the Queen. Anastasia suppressed a giggle as she felt the bristles of Adryan’s neatly trimmed beard tickle her hand and his tongue lick the tips of her fingers.
With raised white eyebrows, Cardinal Pius turned to the other lords. “See. Any moment.”
“Your Highness,” Adryan said breathlessly as he knelt before the Queen. “Your beauty eclipses this fine spring day, one of the fairest of God’s creations.”
“Oh, God,” Lord Deryk Weymont cursed under his breath.
Queen Anastasia’s ivory complexion beamed. Her heart fluttered as she fanned the heat off her face while admiring Adryan’s dark curly hair and athletic long legs in black tights and high leather boots. And he had such a pleasant smile, too.
Some of the lords coughed and cleared their throats. The Cardinal’s countenance grew ruddier, reflecting the scarlet in his robe and zucchetto.
“Your Highness, back to the affairs of state?” the holy man gently nudged.
The Queen returned the Cardinal that same smoldering look that she had given her father when he had scolded her and sent her away. The Cardinal shook his large head so that his jowls and great double chin quivered. The Queen suppressed a smirk. She could see that the corpulent Cardinal hadn’t missed many meals.
Queen Anastasia tossed back her blonde curls cascading beneath her slender jeweled crown. She knew the Cardinal did not approve of Lord Crippen, but that made her even more intrigued by this lord, this naughty lad that had been her choice companion since childhood.
“And my hair?” The Queen ignored the holy man for the moment. “Lord Crippen, tell me about my hair.”
“My lady, your hair is more radiant than the sun in the clear morning dawn.” Adryan kissed her delicate hand, again. “And your precious golden strands ripple down your ivory gown like rows of ripen wheat blown gently in the wind.”
“And my eyes?” Anastasia looked over this young lord’s broad shoulders and trim waistline.
Beholding her comely face, Adryan crooned, “Your eyes, my lady, are as if God Himself had plucked them from the brightest stars in the heavens … more dazzling than the finest sapphires … when He created you.”
The Queen fanned herself, again, this time more vigorously. Her vitals melted like butter in the warm sunshine from the amorous gaze of Lord Crippen’s velvet brown eyes.
Flaring his nostrils, Lord Osmont whispered to young Lord Weymont, “What an utter reprobate.”
Taking a deep breath, swelling his green silk tunic like a bullfrog, Lord Weymont spoke up in the large hall, “Your Majesty, if I may indulge to offer some humble counsel?”
“Yes, Deryk?” The Queen looked down at this young lord, who was not much older than her.
With a curled lip, Lord Weymont swept the court with his cool blue eyes. “If Lord Crippen wasted your precious gold, like he wastes our time with empty flattering words, our great kingdom of Opulentia would go bankrupt.” The young lord nodded at the senior Cardinal, then looked up into the Queen’s curious face. “And we would be overrun by infidels and be bowing down toward Mecca five times a day.”
The three elder lords laughed with the fair haired Lord Weymont, followed by the gentlemen in the court whose chuckles echoed in the Great Hall.
Flexing his torso as if he were sizing up an opponent in a joust, Adryan glared back at his peer. “And if Lord Weymont runs the operations of your mines, Your Majesty, as carelessly as he runs his mouth, your kingdom would be in ruins, and Aurelius Castle bereft of all its fineries like the hovel of a peasant.” Then he raised a dark eyebrow to the Queen. “And there would be nothing left for the infidels to plunder.”
The Queen tittered, followed by her ladies. As the rest of the court’s laughter reverberated in the Great Hall, Deryk’s light skin reddened and his right eye twitched.
Adryan continued with a confident grin, “Your Majesty, if you will indulge me?”
The Queen smiled coquettishly, showing her dimples, as she leaned forward. “I am always willing to indulge you, my lord.”
“It would be most prudent to regularly audit the records of the kingdom’s mines.” Adryan shot a daring glance at Deryk Weymont. “Managing the Queen’s wealth is an awesome responsibility … especially for one who lacks the experience and the maturity to control one’s urges to yield to temptation.”
Pausing a moment, the Queen nodded. “You are so right, Lord Crippen.” She turned to her royal scribe. “Francis? Record this day-” She glanced up at the Great Hall Gallery. The minstrels took the cue and stopped playing their music.
“The third day of May, Your Grace?” Francis prompted as he took up his quill.
“Yes, yes.” The Queen waved her hand at the scribe. “This day, the third of May, anno Domini 1375 … the fourth year of my reign … have this decree sent out to all the stewards of the mines: The records of the kingdom’s mines shall now be audited thrice a year commencing this month. And send me your first report by the end of May.”
In the Chronicles of the Kingdom of Opulentia, Francis Monte recorded Her Majesty’s latest decree. The Great Hall deadened so that the court could hear his quill strokes on the parchment.
The Queen looked down at the other lords as she fanned herself more deliberately. “Lord Osmont,” she addressed the lawyer in the group. “I would like you to make arrangements for this audit. Let me know immediately if there are any discrepancies in the books.”
Lord Osmont tilted his head back. “Your Grace, Lord Weymont is the Lord and Keeper of the Mines-”
“Are you disobeying my direct order, Frederyck?” The Queen squinted at Lord Osmont, the eldest of the lords.
“No, Your Grace.” Lord Osmont bowed his head. “I will promptly attend to the task at hand.” Then the eldest lord bit his lip. Lord Blount discreetly retrieved a linen swat-cloth from his orange tunic and mopped the sweat from his brow and pudgy, shaven face. The other lords exchanged fleeting glances as their complexions grew as pale as the Queen’s ivory gown.
“I think this audit should be independent and not include the participation of either Lord Weymont or his mine stewards.” The Queen returned her gaze to her favorite courtier. “Do you agree, Lord Crippen?”
“Yes, my lady.” Adryan bowed his head. “It will assure a true accounting of Her Majesty’s treasuries.”
“Your Grace?” the Cardinal interrupted. “As you so wisely desire an independent audit, may I suggest the services of the monks at Our Lady of the Mines? My God fearing monks have much experience in auditing.”
The Cardinal swept a gold ringed hand toward the scribe. “Surely, it is written in the Kingdom’s Chronicles that during your father’s reign, my monks had audited the records of all the Manors of the Fortunate Five Lords. They were of great assistance in assessing the uncollected taxes due to the Crown.”
“Yes, Cardinal.” The Queen looked to Cardinal Pius, her chief counselor and confessor, sitting below her. “That is a most excellent suggestion.”
The Cardinal grew a satisfied grin as he slightly nodded at the other four lords. The lords about the Cardinal exhaled in unison while glaring at Adryan through the corner of their eyes.
Uneasily, the typical business of the court resumed as the minstrels in the gallery softly played their music and sang their ballads. The ministers’ reports droned on of the production of the mines, which belied the misery of the workers, who got so little as the fortunate few got so rich. The messengers repeated the latest rumors of the holy wars in the east and of the new trade routes and alliances.
Meanwhile, Queen Anastasia and Lord Crippen made eyes at each other. This distraction caused the other lords as well as the Cardinal to misspeak at times. Each stumble precipitated giggles from the Queen and her ladies.
Between flirting glances with Lord Crippen, the Queen yawned behind her bejeweled fan. Her mind was elsewhere. The next party. The next sumptuous banquet. The next gorgeous gown from her dressmakers. The next set of suitors with which she would enjoy toying as they futilely tried to woo her.
Yet, this lifestyle did not excite Anastasia as it once had. Only Adryan Crippen could excite her anymore. He always put a smile on her face and was so fun to be around. She couldn’t wait to hear his tales, and she was so amused at all his observations of the great show of vanity about her. For this, she lived for.