Molpe was waiting in the throne room. Word had been sent that a Provider had been found, and from her calculations and the assurance from Septimus that the ship would have arrived early this morning, she awaited the arrival of her new Provider with bated breath.
There was, of course, more than one reason for this. Not only was she in need of someone who could manage Anikka, but she was quite certain that she was with child. So far she had missed a cycle, with no sign of the second, and she had noticed that she felt slightly sick from time to time. On top of that, she was more tired, and had startled Pallas by refusing to eat the little honey cakes that he’d made.
Anikka had been given a second one, instead, which seemed to have cheered her up slightly from her gloomy mood. She had been withdrawn and upset since their argument, and Molpe knew better than to go to her until she was ready.
So, yes, she was looking forward to meeting the new Provider. The message had stated that her name was Polgara, and that she had previously been part of a small island tribe. Molpe knew of the tribe from the meetings with her mother – it sprawled over the lush, green island, and was well known for its honey. As a young girl, Molpe had even met their queen, who had come to ask aid when faced with a possible invasion. Perhaps her mother had finally asked for a favor in return.
She was pondering the implication of such a thing when two women were shown in by Septimus. One stepped forward, and smiled at her.
“Greetings, my Queen.” She seemed very calm as she spoke. “I am Polgara, the Provider sent from the Isle of Metis.”
Molpe stared for a minute at her, and Polgara waited for her to speak, while behind her, the younger-looking red-haired woman looked nervous.
“I had heard of your arrival, but I do not know of the young woman you bring with you,” Molpe said, eventually. No need to hide her surprise, especially as this was the first she had known of it.
“My lady, this is Andromeda, also from Metis. When your lady mother sent word, we asked if I might bring another member along with myself, and she accepted. I have been instructed to tell you that Andromeda is a gift to you, from your mother, and from the Isle of Metis.” Polgara’s air of calm was soothing, far more soothing than it had right to be in this situation. “She is a Gatherer, my Queen, though young, and brings gifts from Metis unto you.”
“Let her speak, Polgara.” Molpe watched the young woman. She seemed nervous, but at the same time, if she was a Gatherer, she was of use, and if she was a gift from two queens, it would be hard not to accept her. But Molpe wanted to hear from the young woman herself, and see if she could tell anything of her character beyond nerves.
Polgara stepped back, and the young woman stepped into where she had been stood.
“I am Andromeda, Queen Molpe.” Andromeda looked at the floor. “I am daughter to Phoebe, who is head beekeeper of the northern hives. I have been given a swarm as a gift to you, though the route we had to take caused us to arrive later than planned.”
A swarm? Honey of their own?
Molpe looked at the girl with as impassive a face as she could manage. “And you have the skill to be a Gatherer as well as a beekeeper, Andromeda?”
“Yes, Queen Molpe. I was one on the Isle.” She still did not meet her gaze, but the more she talked, the more she relaxed. “I have brought plants with me as well, as my own gift to you. I know how to grow them here, although we will need to go up into the mountains of the island to fetch the soil. Though…I apologise, my Queen, if you do not wish to hear this.” She looked suddenly embarrassed. “But I plan for you to have a garden here, with bees and plants, growing strong.”
Molpe felt as though her breath might be stolen from her at any minute. Here was this young woman, as unassuming as a girl, casually telling her of such wonderful things! How could she not see the jewel she had been given?
She smiled, finally, and saw Polgara relax at the sight.
“Welcome, Andromeda, and welcome, Polgara.” There were many different ways to formally accept someone to your tribe, and she knew her wording must be careful. “Hesperia welcomes you home.”
Both women looked immensely pleased, and Molpe felt the tension go out of her as though she were a strung bow.
“I am relieved to have you here,” she admitted, “and must ask you, Andromeda, if you might find a site for your swarm as soon as possible. Pallas will help you. He is the son of a Gatherer, so you will find him an impeccable assistant, but I must discuss matters with Polgara straight away.”
Andromeda smiled in that unassuming way of hers. “Most call me Meda, my Queen, and I answer to it better. I shall do as you ask.” She paused. “Which is Pallas?”
“Not the man who showed you in, but the other.” Molpe watched her as she left, the fox-like tail of her red hair swaying as she turned around to go follow the order.
Two new Amazons. Well, it was not as though they could not manage it, but it was certainly unexpected.
Polgara was waiting, still, calling her back to her purpose.
“You seem tense, my Queen.” She seemed concerned, as any would be.
“Was my sister mentioned to you?” Molpe asked. She did not want to linger when it came to this, and she stood, walking over to where Polgara stood.
“Yes, my Queen. I do not know her age, but your mother mentioned that your need for me was centered around her.”
“Not entirely, but I do indeed need you here, Polgara.” Molpe sighed. “My sister has a temper that would rival a wronged goddess, if I must be truthful.”
“Is it not so with all young people? They see the world through different eyes.” Polgara smiled. “But I sense that is not everything.”
“She cannot accept Hesperia,” Molpe said, quietly. “She blames me for her being here, and I cannot give her an answer as to why she is here, for my mother has not explained her reasoning. If it was for companionship, she was sorely mistaken, for I have needed to confine her to the palace. She openly disrespected myself and my authority as Queen in front of the slaves.” A wry smile crossed her lips. “She swears my mother is her Queen, but does not listen to the very order our mother gave her.”
Polgara went silent. Such a thing was shocking to anyone, even from a princess such as Anikka, and her feelings were plain on her face. Still, Molpe pressed on.
“I could not risk such behavior continuing, but I feel as though I have failed her.”
“You have not failed her.” Polgara spoke, quietly. “She is striking out in anger, and while I understand, it could not be allowed. But I promise to you, my Queen, I shall be her friend. I shall be of comfort to her, and I will care for her as best I can…although, if you are to lay with either of the men, my attention may become split.” Her open honesty was refreshing, and Molpe felt hard-pressed not to laugh.
Here, at last, was someone she could be open with! Here at last was a woman who she could talk to on the same level. How she had missed this!
“I am no stranger to my duty,” she said, confidingly. “In fact, the man who showed you in…I feel quite strongly he will not be with us by this time next year, but in his place there may be a blessing for us all.”
Polgara looked delighted. “Truly, my queen? Oh, but what excellent news? You are sure?”
Molpe nodded. “I am almost certain. He has been visiting my chambers for three months, but I am sure that in the first month, I became with child. I am sure of it, Polgara, but I do not wish to make an announcement until I am positive.”
“Then we must start preparations at once, my Queen!” Polgara was beaming. “What a blessing for us to arrive to!” Her warm smile was a joy to behold. “Now, shall we see to the young princess?”