As Molpe awaited in the flickering candlelight, she was thinking over what this could be. A sign, perhaps, from the Goddess, but without a priestess to act as interpreter, signs were hard to understand.
Yet even she knew that there was only one path that a tribe could take with a woman who needed help, and that was to take her in, whether as a member of the tribe or something else. Pallas had seemed unnerved by the situation, something that worried her, but when pressed he had told her that the woman had a young girl with her, and both of them were garbed in fine clothes that looked torn and stained.
A woman and a young girl.
There was no way that Molpe could turn them away, and she did not even wish to, but the timing was so strange. Could Polgara really take care of so many children all at once?
Pallas called from outside. “My queen, I have brought her here.”
“Send her in.”
* * *
The woman in front of her was dressed as Pallas had described, but she was also younger than Molpe had anticipated. In fact, if Molpe was any judge, this woman was around the age of her younger sister, and yet something about the way she watched the girl almost anxiously made Molpe feel a pang of sympathy.
The woman stared blankly at her, and Molpe frowned.
“Come forward, if you please.”
The woman spoke in another language, and with a start, Molpe realised that this woman was speaking Frankish, the same language that traders spoke. She could understand some of the words, but she still held up a hand.
“Please repeat that.”
“We are–” Here, she said a word Molpe did not know, and clutched the little girl tight to her. “Please, help us.”
Molpe repeated the word under her breath, and searched her memory. As Polgara often dealt with the traders, the queen did not often have a reason to practice her Frankish, but as part of her lessons she had been taught the basics of the language.
“What is that word?” she asked.
Pallas bowed his head from the doorway, and Molpe nodded to him, signalling that he might speak.
“It means…lost, my queen. I have heard the traders use it to describe ships that have been sunk, but it is a very…peculiar word.” He gave the woman a strange look, before averting his eyes again.
“We do not know this land.” The woman seemed almost afraid. “Please, help us.”
“I will help you.” Molpe rose. “Here, I am queen, and I will help you.”
“Where are we?”
“I am queen here on Hesperia. Do you understand?” Molpe looked at her. “Now, we talk.“
“Queen…” The woman’s eyes widened. “Then we are in Amazon lands?”
“Do not talk when I do.” Molpe was exhausting her knowledge of Frankish, but the woman looked down.
“You need our help, but you do not rule here. I do.” Molpe stayed standing. “I am Queen, and I do not yet know what you need. But I will not have you talk when I am talking. Now, speak.”
The woman bowed her head. “My apologies. My daughter and I have had a long journey, and then we were left on a nearby island by a…” She looked almost embarrassed. “The ship left us there. But we found a small boat, and came here.”
“Your daughter?” Molpe looked at the little girl, who looked tired and a little scared, and she could not help but feel her heartstrings tug.
“This is Marcella.”
“And your name?”
The woman said a name, a long Frankish one, before repeating something shorter. Molpe frowned.
“I…” The woman hesitated before nodding. “Yes, I am Diana.”
Something told Molpe that had she called this woman any name, she would have taken it. Still, prolonging this conversation now would do no good to anyone.
“You have a choice. You may stay the night and leave in the morning, as is tradition, or you may join us.”
The woman looked surprised, but Molpe held her gaze steadily.
“The night?” she whispered, looking down at her child.
“Hospitality. We must welcome you both, and if you take that night, you must leave in the morning.” Molpe sighed. “My tribe is still young, and I have children to protect.”
This clearly struck a chord in Diana, who looked down at her own child.
“Decide in the morning.” Molpe sighed. “You need to sleep, and so does your daughter.”
Diana looked grateful, and Molpe looked to Pallas.
“Pallas, take them to Polgara and help her move Odysseus into my room. I cannot risk my son. Have Polgara tell Anikka to stay in her room, and we will move some blankets into the nursery for these two tonight. Make sure they are fed as well.”
“Yes, my queen.” Pallas began gently shepherding Diana and her child away and up the stairs.
Please, Goddess, let this be the right choice, Molpe prayed. Please let this decision be the right one.