3rd day of Harvest

Dear Mr. Squizzyfoot,

Good day sir, allow me to introduce myself: I am Isabelle Beatrice Elizabeth Maria Teresa. I am Empress of all lands west from Crescent and the Great Ocean, North to the Orielle Mountains, South to the deserts and jungles of Sagar, and Protector of the Dushe Islands. There is more, of course, but if I were to write out all my titles it would fill the next five pages. I am sure you have other things to do. My daughter says you grant wishes, so I imagine you are quite busy.

You are, as you know, Mister Squizzyfoot, my daughter Teresa's imaginary friend. She tells me you are orange, seven feet tall and fuzzy like a peach or a kitten. You have a cat's whiskers and a fluffy tail like a ball. You ride in her pocket and eat sunshine and rainbows.

I am not sure why I am writing to you. High Eldest Sister Diana, of the Lady's Temple, tells me it is like keeping a diary. I am not sure how I feel about that. If it hadn't been for my mother's diary that treacherous maid would never have known of her plans to go riding that day and she would not have been killed.

On the other hand, she was the one who chose to defy my father's orders and leave the palace that day. My father's spies knew that group was plotting something, and my mother and I were forbidden to leave. Even the servants were escorted by a guard in and out of the grounds. However, when my mother became determined, nothing short of the Gods could stop her. I reflect on this sometimes and wonder if it was a part of the Weaver's plan for me.

I am sure you are thinking: "The Weaver's plan? Dizzy Izzy thinks she knows the Gods?!" So allow me to explain, my mother loved all things pastoral. She would take me for rides outside of the city and around the Summer Palace, to see the farmers in the fields. "Look Darling Child!" she would exclaim (She always called me Darling Child. Never by my name.) "Look at the farmers! They break from their labors to cheer us! Hello! Hello!" She would wave to them.

She saw happy people toiling happily in their happy fields. I saw stinking mud, stinking animals and the red spots on faces that were (although I did not know it then) the first signs of plague. And, when I looked ahead, Guards whipping anyone who did not stop what they were doing to wave.

Three months and one day after my twelfth birthday, the order came from my father, the Emperor, that we were forbidden from leaving the palace. (My brother was on the battlefield with my father, in case you were wondering.) He did not give a reason. And why should he? He was the Emperor. If he said something was to be done, it was done. I recall the day of her death clearly: I was studying history when I heard my mother berating a Guard. My tutor told me to concentrate on my work while he closed the door. That night she did not join me for supper, which was unusual. I was about to ask my nurse if she had returned from her ride, when the Guard came in with the news.

I will never forget how Nurse's face went white. I found out later they had separated my mother from her escort, lured her down a side street, surrounded her and pulled her from her horse. After they beat her to death, they paraded her body through the streets. My father returned as soon as the news reached him. Soon after he arrived, the attackers were found and put to death. And their families. Then the people who conspired with them. And their families.

After the bodies were taken down from the gallows and buried beyond the city walls, I asked my father what the families had done. He said, "Where is your nurse? Someone take the girl to her nurse!" A servant grabbed my hand and dragged me away.

I asked my nurse the same question. She wailed over my mother.

I asked my tutor. He said rulers must be forceful and cannot show weakness. An attack on the Consort was a grave blow to the crown and must be dealt with swift and as strongly as possible. I said one of those sent to the gallows was a three year old boy. How could he be responsible when he was still crying for his mommy? My tutor said we were studying the reign of King Edmond the Good, and refused to answer anything more.

You may have the impression I was not upset by my mother's death, I was. But I was always told to celebrate in public and mourn in private. So I did.

I digress, Mr. Squizzyfoot. A year later, in accordance with my mother's wishes, I was given a Ceremony. The maids dressed me in new clothes. Nurse kissed me and told me I was a woman now. The Priests said words over me, and I stepped up to the dais, faced the Weaver's shrine, looked inside, took a deep breath and said, "I want to rule."

Mr. Squizzyfoot I will swear under the foulest tortures, I will swear on my life, that the Weaver answered me. Between one breath and the next I heard an answer in my heart: yes.

The page has arrived to tell me the Asis ambassador is arriving soon. I'm afraid I must cut this letter short while I prepare to meet him. Forgive me, Mr. Squizzyfoot, I will write you again.

Signed by my hand,

Her Imperial Majesty,

Isabelle