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【书籍搬运】The Wolf Queen, v3 狼心女王 第三部

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狼心女王 第三部

渥金·贾思编著

选自第三纪元第一纪的智者Montocai的手稿

3E98

是年暮星月十五日,皇帝柏拉鸠斯 Septim二世驾崩,此时离新的一年不过几个星期。这给原本是北风之祈的日子蒙上了一层阴霾。真是一个凶兆,人们说。难道这就是上苍对人们的祈愿——温和的暖冬、丰收的来年——的回应么?回首过去,柏拉鸠斯统治的十七年,是一个充满艰辛、困苦的十七年——既是对帝国,也是对皇帝自己。为了摆脱国库空虚的窘境,柏拉鸠斯强行重组了元老院,人们不得不花上一笔不菲的金钱,才能保住他们原来的地位。这样,柏拉鸠斯在把那些囊中羞涩的智者拒在门外的同时,也培养了一批新的敌人。传言说,皇帝就是被一个怀恨在心的前议员所毒杀的。

皇帝的子女们从各地赶来参加他的葬礼以及新皇帝的加冕礼。他最小的儿子,19岁的玛格纳斯王子,从阿玛莱西亚赶来,在那里他是一个皇家法庭的顾问。21岁的塞佛鲁斯王子则从Gilane来,带着他的赤卫(Redguard)新娘,Bianki夫人。43岁的安提奥卡斯王子则是他们中最年长的,作为皇帝的假定继承人,一直跟他父亲生活在帝都。最后姗姗而来的是皇帝唯一的女儿,人称 Solitude的狼心王后帕特玛。30岁的她风采迷人,带着一个庞大的使团,由她丈夫老国王Mantiarco以及她1岁大的儿子尤里尔伴着来到帝都。

每个人都知道安提奥卡斯即将继承帝位,但是狼心女王?也许就是来参加典礼的罢。

3E99

“最近一个星期,Vhokken领主总是带着人在深更半夜跑到您妹妹那儿去”,间谍总管向安提奥卡斯进言到,“也许,应该让他丈夫知道这件事?”

“事情不像你说的那么轻巧。我妹妹是战神莱曼和塔洛斯的信徒,对爱神迪贝拉倒真没有多少兴趣。她跟这帮人在给我密谋什么,而不是干什么苟且的事情。我敢说,我玩过的男人比她还多。”安提奥卡斯大声地笑着,但是即刻收敛起来,“这个女人!我知道元老院迟迟不愿给我加冕,背后就是她在作祟!都6个星期了,居然还给我说,要更新档案,要给加冕礼做好准备。准备什么!我就是皇帝!直接加冕就行了,让其他的条条框框都给我见鬼去吧!”

“您的妹妹自然不是您的朋友,殿下,但至少这次她不是您最直接的障碍。您一定注意到了,您父亲对元老院太苛刻了。现在的情况是怎么让他们乖乖地听话,鄙人以为,如果必要的话”间谍总管用他腰上的匕首做了一个手势。

“这事你给我看着办。但是,一定要对个该死的狼王后多加留意。有什么动静立即报告——知道在什么地方找我吧?”

“呃…是哪一个春楼?殿下?”间谍总管小心地问道

“今天是周五,我想去找Cat跟地精。”

当晚,间谍总管在他的报告中将帕特玛的举动向王子做了汇报。今天,王后没有像往常一样把自己锁在卧室里,跟别人商量什么,相反,她来到蔚蓝宫殿的帝国花园,跟她的Dowager母亲Quintilla皇后共进晚餐。尽管白天风雨大作,但是晚上却出奇的祥和、安静。地上已经被水浸得通透,整个花园,则看起来像被上了一层透明的釉一样。两人把着酒杯,来到露台上,俯看底下的风景。

“我知道你一直在想方设法破坏你这个同父异母哥哥的加冕礼。”Quintilla缓缓地说着,并不朝着她女儿看。望着母亲日益凋谢脸上的衰戚,想起岁月是怎样爬上她昔日妩媚动人的容颜,好似夕阳轻轻作别时大地,阴影在上面慢慢蔓延开来。帕特玛不禁有种奇异的感伤。

“不是您想的那样。”帕特玛顿了一顿,“但是如果真是那样,您会不会那么不安?”

“安提奥卡斯并不是我的亲生儿子。当我嫁给你父亲的时候,他就已经11岁了,从那起,我们的关系就一直不冷不热。我想,他现在的样子,全拜那早早定下的储君地位所赐。他年龄已经不小了,本该有个家庭,育有子女,但现在他却把精力花在妓院上。这样下去,恐怕他不会是一个好皇帝。”Quintilla叹了口气,随后转向帕特玛,“但是,如果像你这样,就等于给这个家庭埋下分裂的种子,一旦四分五裂,再让他们一心恐怕是难上加难了。要是这样,也许帝国的未来就危险了。”

“母亲,瞧你,把我当小姑娘一样在教育。呃…,有句话也许女儿不该问,难道您真的要离我们而去了么?”

“我知道这些预兆在说什么”Quintilla笑了一笑,用着虚弱而微带着自我解嘲的语气说,“当年在卡姆洛恩,我可是一个有名的女巫。我想,几个月后我就会离开你们,在这之后,不出一年,你的丈夫也将离你而去。别的倒没什么,我最遗憾的是,我没法亲眼看到你的孩子尤里尔继承Solitude国王的样子。”

“那您有没有看到…”帕特玛突然停了下来,意识到即便是面对即将辞世的母亲,也许透露她的计划——即便只是一点——也不是很妥当。

“你想说,他会成为皇帝么?哈,我也知道那个答案。可爱的帕特玛,别担心:你会亲眼看到的,总之,你能看到。说起来,我给他准备了一份礼物,等他成年的时候你把它交给他。”Dowager皇后取下了她脖子上的那条镶着一颗大黄宝石的项链:“这是一块魂石,注有一个被我跟你父亲一起杀死的狼人的灵魂。我还给它施上了幻术,使得它的佩带者能够控制在他面前的人。我想这东西对一个国王来说,会很有用。”

“对皇帝也是。”帕特玛接过项链,“谢谢你,妈妈。”

一个小时之后,帕特玛正在返回的路上。走过那精心修剪过的douad灌木丛的时候,帕特玛注意到前面有一个黑色的身影,而那影子也发觉到了王后的脚步声,把自己藏到了屋檐下面。被人盯哨,这对于帝都宫廷生活来说,不过是家常便饭。帕特玛也早已习惯了这一点。但是这次不同的是,这个人的位置离她的卧室实在是太近了。帕特玛马上把母亲给的项链给带了起来。

“出来,走到我能看得到你的位置。”她命令道。

那影子从阴影里走了出来。帕特玛观察了一下,一个暗肤色的中年人,披着一身染成黑色的山羊皮。在法术的作用下,他的眼睛直直地凝视着王后。

“说,你替谁办事?”

“安提奥卡斯王子,他是我的主人”他以了无生气的声音说,“我是他的密探”

帕特玛突然有了一个主意。“王子他现在书房么?”

“不,夫人”

“那你是不是能够进去?”

“是的,夫人”

帕特玛笑了。她搞定她哥哥了。“带路”

第二天早上,暴风雨又重回帝都,势头跟昨天一样的凌厉。暴雨狠狠地敲打着墙壁和天花板,让安提奥卡斯不胜其扰。更让王子感到心烦的是,他发现他已经不像年轻时候那样,可以暴饮一整晚上了。想到这里,他不禁猛地推了一下跟睡在他身边的阿格里亚n女人。

“别像一个傻瓜一样什么都不做,去把窗户给我关了”他吼着。

正当窗户刚刚关上的时候,外面传来了敲门声。进来的是间谍总管,他朝王子笑了一笑,呈给他一份东西。

“这是什么?”安提奥卡斯揉了揉他的眼睛,“我想我现在一定还是醉着,这玩意在我看来像是兽人的涂鸦。”

“我相信您会发现它的用处的,王子殿下。对了,您的妹妹正在这里等候您的接见。”

安提奥卡斯本想起身穿戴整齐,同时打发女人出去,但随后否定了这一想法,他觉得现在这样会更好。“把她带进来吧,我就想恶心恶心这女人。”

如果帕特玛真感到了安提奥卡斯对她的羞辱,她也不会表现出来。一身橘黄色的银丝绸,她带着胜利的微笑进入了王子的房间,后面还跟着“山岭”Vhokken领主。

“我亲爱的哥哥,昨天我跟我的母亲聊了一晚上。她给了我许多明智的建议。她觉得,我不应该把你我之间的分歧摆到台面上——为了我们的家庭,也是为了整个帝国。因此…”她顿了一顿,从她衣服里取出一份东西,“我给您一个选择。”

“选择?妹妹给哥哥的?”安提奥卡斯回了一笑,“真是我的好妹妹,这实在是友好极了”

“主动放弃你继承皇位的权利。毕竟作为妹妹,我不想把它交给元老院”,帕特玛摇了摇她手上的那份东西,递给他哥哥。“这是一封盖着你印章的信,上面清楚地写着你知道你的父亲并不是柏拉鸠斯 Septim二世而是皇家总管Foudoukth。我知道你想否认你写过它,但是别忙,不论你否不否认有这回事,你无法否认的是,一旦这事传了出去恐怕那帮外人,以及帝国元老院会不由得相信你父亲,那老傻瓜,戴的是这么一顶绿油油帽子。总之,不论他们在多少程度上确信,不论这份东西是否伪造,如果谣言传开去,至少我们可以这么说:你成为皇帝的机会将大大减小。”

安提奥卡斯的脸庞写满苍白和暴怒。

“别那么害怕,哥哥”帕特玛把东西从他颤抖的手上拿了回去,“就算如此,你还会有一个舒适的下半生,像现在一样,女人或者其他的一些什么欲望,你都能得到满足。这点我保证。”

安提奥卡斯突然笑了出来。他朝他的间谍总管眨了眨眼睛。“啊,我现在还记得我妹妹进入我的放Khajiiti色情书的地方,拿里面的东西敲诈我的样子。说来,那也快20年了吧。可我记得清清楚楚地很。你也应该已经发现,跟当年的破铜烂锁相比,现在这里换上的可是高级货。我估摸着,要是你不自己亲自出马的话,恐怕结果会让你狠狠地失望的。”

帕特玛勉强笑了一笑。哈,继续装,总之我已经搞定你了。

“你呢,这次肯定又是勾引了我一个下人,把你带进我的书房,偷用我的印章”安提奥卡斯咯咯笑道,“喔,没准也可能靠着从我们的母亲…你的母亲,巫女那里得来的妖术?”

帕特玛继续保持着微笑,心想也许安提奥卡斯倒还没有想象中的那么笨。

“妹妹,话说,你知不知道,那些魅惑法术——即便是最为强大的种类,维持的时间也是短的可怜?啊,当然,你是不知道了。你对那玩意没什么兴趣。现在,让我来教教你:从长远看,比起别的什么,一份慷慨的报酬更能保持仆人的忠心。我的妹妹。”安提奥卡斯掏出他手上的东西,摆了一摆“现在,轮到哥哥给妹妹提供一个选择了。”

“你想说什么?”帕特玛略感不妙,但又不得不硬着头皮继续笑着。

“哦,它看起来是份荒唐的东西,但是如果是你的话,我想你会比其他人都清楚那是什么。我手上的呢,是一张练习纸——在上面你试图模仿我的笔迹。不得不说,容我插一句,你的确有这样的天赋。于是我想,你以前会不会也干过这样的事呢——模仿别人的笔迹?这样下来,我似乎突然明白有人提过这么一件事。说你丈夫死去的妻子留有一封书信,上面提起国王的长子不过是个孽种。我猜,你该不会就是那个死去的王后吧?好好想想,要是我把这东西交给你丈夫,你说他该相信什么呢?好了,亲爱的妹妹,狼王后,同样的把戏不要给我玩两遍。”

帕特玛愤怒地摇着头,说不出话来。

“把你手上的那份破东西给我,随便去外边雨里好好站站。在这之后,我要你把你的计划全部的一字不漏的说出来”安提奥卡斯盯着帕特玛的眼睛,“我是帝国皇帝,狼王后。好了,现在你可以走了。”

帕特玛交出东西,转身离开房间。在外面的过道上,她沉默了好久,只是出神地看着银色的雨珠在大理石墙上顺着那细细的,几乎看不到的裂缝滑下。良久。

“是的,你会的,哥哥”她说,“但是,好景不会很长。”

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The Wolf Queen, Book Three
by Waughin Jarth
Life of Queen Potema, Book Three

 From the pen of the first century third era sage Montocai:
3E 98
The Emperor Pelagius Septim II died a few weeks before the end of the year, on the 15th of Evening Star during the festival of North Wind's Prayer, which was considered a bad omen for the Empire. He had ruled over a difficult seventeen years. In order to fill the bankrupt treasury, Pelagius had dismissed the Elder Council, forcing them to buy back their positions. Several good but poor councilors had been lost. Many say the Emperor had died as a result of being poisoned by a vengeful former Council member.
His children came to attend his funeral and the coronation of the next Emperor. His youngest son Prince Magnus, 19 years of age, arrived from Almalexia, where he had been a councilor to the royal court. 21-year-old Prince Cephorus arrived from Gilane with his Redguard bride, Queen Bianki. Prince Antiochus at 43 years of age, the eldest child and heir presumptive, had been with his father in the Imperial City. The last to appear was his only daughter, Potema, the so-called Wolf Queen of Solitude. Thirty years old and radiantly beautiful, she arrived with a magnificent entourage, accompanied by her husband, the elderly King Mantiarco and her year-old son, Uriel.
All expected Antiochus to assume the throne of the Empire, but no one knew what to expect from the Wolf Queen.
 
3E 99
"Lord Vhokken has been bringing several men to your sister's chambers late at night every night this week," offered the Spymaster. "Perhaps if her husband were made aware --"
"My sister is a devotee of the conqueror gods Reman and Talos, not the love goddess Dibella. She is plotting with those men, not having orgies with them. I'd wager I've slept with more men than she has," laughed Antiochus, and then grew serious. "She's behind the delay of the council offering me the crown, I know it. Six weeks now. They say they need to update records and prepare for the coronation. I'm the Emperor! Crown me, and to Oblivion with the formalities!"
"Your sister is surely no friend of yours, your majesty, but there are other factors at play. Do not forget how your father treated the Council. It is they who need following, and if need be, strong convincing," The Spymaster added, with a suggestive stab of his dagger.
"Do so, but keep your eye on the damnable Wolf Queen as well. You know where to find me."
"At which brothel, your highness?" inquired the Spymaster.
"Today being Fredas, I'll be at the Cat and Goblin."
The Spymaster noted in his report that night that Queen Potema had no visitors, for she was dining across the Imperial Garden at the Blue Palace with her mother, the Dowager Empress Quintilla. It was a warm night for wintertide and surprisingly cloudless though the day had been stormy. The saturated ground could not take any more, so the formal, structured gardens looked as if they had been glazed with water. The two women took their wine to the wide balcony to look over the grounds.
"I believe you are trying to sabotage your half-brother's coronation," said Quintilla, not looking at her daughter. Potema saw how the years had not so much wrinkled her mother as faded her, like the sun on a stone.
"It's not true," said Potema. "But would it bother you very much if it were true?"
"Antiochus is not my son. He was eleven years old when I married your father, and we've never been close. I think that being heir presumptive has stunted his growth. He is old enough to have a family with grown children, and yet he spends all his time at debauchery and fornication. He will not make a very good Emperor," Quintilla sighed and then turned to Potema. "But it is bad for the family for seeds of discontent to be sown. It is easy to divide up into factions, but very difficult to unite again. I fear for the future of the Empire."
"Those sound like the words -- are you, by any chance, dying, mother?"
"I've read the omens," said Quintilla with a faint, ironic smile. "Don't forget -- I was a renowned sorceress in Camlorn. I will dead in a few months time, and then, not a year later, your husband will die. I only regret that I will not live to see your child Uriel assume the throne of Solitude."
"Have you seen whether --" Potema stopped, not wanting to reveal too many of her plans, even to a dying woman.
"Whether he will be Emperor? Aye, I know the answer to that too, daughter. Don't fear: you'll live to see the answer, one way or the other. I have a gift for him when he is of age," The Dowager Empress removed a necklace with a single great yellow gem from around her neck. "It's a soul gem, infused with the spirit of a great werewolf your father and I defeated in battle thirty-six years ago. I've enchanted it with spells from the School of Illusion so its wearer may charm whoever he choses. An important skill for a king."
"And an emperor," said Potema, taking the necklace. "Thank you, mother."
An hour later, passing the black branches of the sculpted douad shrubs, Potema noticed a dark figure, which vanished into the shadows under the eaves at her approach. She had noticed people following her before: it was one of the hazards of life in the Imperial court. But this man was too close to her chambers. She slipped the necklace around her neck.
"Come out where I can see you," she commanded.
The man emerged from the shadows. A dark little fellow of middle-age dressed in black-dyed goatskin. His eyes were fixed, frozen, under her spell.
"Who do you work for?"
"Prince Antiochus is my master," he said in a dead voice. "I am his spy."
A plan formed. "Is the Prince in his study?"
"No, milady."
"And you have access?"
"Yes, milady."
Potema smiled widely. She had him. "Lead the way."
The next morning, the storm reappeared in all its fury. The pelting on the walls and ceiling was agony to Antiochus, who was discovering that he no longer had his youthful immunity to a late night of hard drinking. He shoved hard against the Argonian wench sharing his bed.
"Make yourself useful and close the window," he moaned.
No sooner had the window been bolted then there was a knock at the door. It was the Spymaster. He smiled at the Prince and handed him a sheet of paper.
"What is this?" said Antiochus, squinting his eyes. "I must still be drunk. It looks likeorcish."
"I think you will find it useful, your majesty. Your sister is here to see you."
Antiochus considered getting dressed or sending his bedmate out, but thought better of it. "Show her in. Let her be scandalized."
If Potema was scandalized, she did not show it. Swathed in orange and silver silk, she entered the room with a triumphant smile, followed by the man-mountain Lord Vhokken.
"Dear brother, I spoke to my mother last night, and she advised me very wisely. She said I should not battle with you in public, for the good of our family and the Empire. Therefore," she said, producing from the folds of her robe a piece of paper. "I am offering you a choice."
"A choice?" said Antiochus, returning her smile. "That does sound friendly."
"Abdicate your rights to the Imperial throne voluntarily, and there is no need for me to show the Council this," Potema said, handing her brother the letter. "It is a letter with your seal on it, saying that you knew that your father was not Pelagius Septim II, but the royal steward Fondoukth. Now, before you deny writing the letter, you cannot deny the rumors, nor that the Imperial Council will believe that your father, the old fool, was quite capable of being cuckolded. Whether it's true or not, or whether the letter is a forgery or not, the scandal of it would ruin your chances of being the Emperor."
Antiochus's face had gone white with fury.
"Don't fear, brother," said Potema, taking back the letter from his shaking hands. "I will see to it that you have a very comfortable life, and all the whores your heart, or any other organ, desires."
Suddenly Antiochus laughed. He looked over at his Spymaster and winked. "I remember when you broke into my stash of Khajiiti erotica and blackmailed me. That was close to twenty years ago. We've got better locks now, you must have noticed. It must have killed you that you couldn't use your own skills to get what you wanted."
Potema merely smiled. It didn't matter. She had him.
"You must have charmed my servant here into getting you into my study to use my seal," Antiochus smirked. "A spell, perhaps, from your mother, the witch?"
Potema continued to smile. Her brother was cleverer than she thought.
"Did you know that Charm spells, even powerful ones, only last so long? Of course, you didn't. You never were one for magic. Let me tell you, a generous salary is a stronger motivation for keeping a servant in the long run, sister," Antiochus took out his own sheet of paper. "Now I have a choice for you."
"What is that?" said Potema, her smile faltering.
"It looks like nonsense, but if you know what you're looking for, it's very clear. It's a practice sheet -- your handwriting attempting to look like my handwriting. It's a good gift you have. I wonder if you haven't done this before, imitating another person's handwriting. I understand a letter was found from your husband's dead wife saying that his first son was a bastard. I wonder if you wrote that letter. I wonder if I showed this evidence of your gift to your husband whether he would believe you wrote that letter. In the future, dear Wolf Queen, don't lay the same trap twice."
Potema shook her head, furious, unable to speak.
"Give me your forgery and go take a walk in the rain. And then, later today, unhatch whatever other plots you have to keep me from the throne." Antiochus fixed his eyes on Potema's. "I will be Emperor, Wolf Queen. Now go."
Potema handed her brother the letter and left the room. For a few moments, out in the hallway, she said nothing. She merely glared at the slivers of rainwater dripping down the marble wall from a tiny, unseen crack.
"Yes, you will, brother," she said. "But not for very long."

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