After the opening feast, the three-suns-long conference began in earnest. Three long days of discussion and squabbles, usually culminating in majority-approved proposals for the upcoming year. The Box of Truth was a vessel for opening up predetermined conversations and had been suggested at the initial conference. Anonymity was its primary advantage which enabled truth to out.
Allent, kin-chief of the Earth hamlet of Holesbane and brother of Adamen, was the worthy reciprocate of the task of presenting each new suggestion. As Master of The Box of Truth, he was charged with creating an unbiased forum for each point to have equal and sufficient airing. Gazing around the assembled union of representatives, his gracious heart was heavy. With a rueful glance at his sibling sitting with his elegantly dressed queen and Primary Mate, he proceeded to state the first matter.
“It would seem…” he began with trepidation, still shooting furtive glances at the volatile warrior who sat with a possessive arm around Queen Jadara. “…it would seem that the conference feels… following the birth of her first infant…”
Murmurs of approval echoed around the seated ensemble. Allent took a deep breath and continued with authority, regaining the attention of the group, “It is time for Jadara to take additional mates from the kin-folk of Air and Water.”
He was about to add that Adamen may remain in the Primary Mate position when the sharp blade of a hook sword appeared at his throat. Two armed guards were soon on the scene, brandishing their own weapons to protect their chief.
“Stand down!” ordered Lambord, laying his large weathered hand on the shoulder of the younger man. “Adamen,” he urged, “it is merely a suggestion presented in The Box of Truth. Be seated!”
Adamen, scowling at the assembly, reseated himself and grabbed possessively onto the trembling hand of Jadara.
“Over my dead body,” he growled then continued to glower menacingly at anyone who looked his way.
Shaken by the attack, Allent took a large swig from his mead-filled tumbler before continuing.
“As is the way of our people all over Fellnesia,” he spoke with a pointed look at his brother’s frown. “Mates are taken to provide offspring, pleasure and support.”
A leering cheer rose from among a group of younger men at the mention of pleasure, certain to be basking in the glow of last night’s couplings, mused Allent enviously. His own primary-mate had remained behind in Holesbane caring for his growing brood of sons and at last night’s feast he had ached for her softness. Unconcerned with the shameless looks that he had attracted at the feast, he had retired with his own thoughts and the uncomplicated company of his own right hand.
“With a first born to the Earth, many feel that future births of The Queen of The Change should reflect each kin.” Allent was uneasy at his charge knowing the depth of feeling between the couple opposite him.
* * *
Jadara sat pale and shocked. Surely she had misheard the request. Were they actually considering her as some breeding mare for each of their kins?
“Agreed!” came a strong voice from within the room.
“Hear, hear!” joined a second.
“She is three in one. Let her have three in one!” jeered a third.
Adamen’s grasp on Jadara’s hand became tighter and tighter. Her fragile bones felt ready to snap and she let out a faint gasp. He must have heard it because he released the pressure.
“Not only is Jadara my Primary Mate,” bellowed Adamen, rising to his feet. “She is my exclusive mate and if any one of you lays so much as a finger on her…” The hand on his sword spoke more than words at this moment.
“Let us hear from the queen,” called out a voice.
All eyes turned to the stunned face of Jadara. She stood gracefully with the semblance of calm yet her hand resting on the table held on with knuckles as white as the recent snows.