Nine Queens... an interlude

By Helen Fayle

They stood by the casket, nine women, of different ages, from different times. One by one they filed past, saying their final goodbyes, then moved to a safe location overlooking the ruins of the city. Ace set off the charges she’d placed earlier to bring down the building in which they’d laid the body. Sarah watched from the sidelines, comforting Iris, who seemed to have taken it harder than the rest. She herself had shed her tears before this point. No sense now in crying any more.

He was gone.

Leela stood close to Romana, ever the bodyguard, while Susan and Jo made another pair further down the hill. The other, the one who’d brought them together, stayed aloof. She hadn’t given a name. Benny stood quietly next to Ace, probably still a little drunk. Sarah didn’t really blame her. It was hard on all of them. No one spoke for quite a while. But finally Ace broke the silence, her voice harsh in the still air.

‘Why us? Why this?’ There was a hint of pain under the words, which gave a lie to the hard demeanour that she’d maintained ever since they’d all met. Sarah, who knew the answer, replied.

‘Because we were the ones who loved him best. Out of all of those who knew him.’

‘But why here, like this?’ Iris asked. ‘No funeral, no gravestone. Just - this...’ she gestured towards the pile of debris that now covered the last remains of their friend, ‘...and us.’

‘He said he knew that it had to be this way.’ Sarah replied. ‘I didn’t ask how. As for the rest, I think he knew we’d want to be here.’ They stood for a while, until the sun began to go down, then, one by one, they left. Eventually, only Susan remained with Sarah, watching the last glow of the sun fade over the horizon.

‘In one version of the legend, they say that nine queens tended Arthur in Avalon,’ Sarah whispered. ‘I wonder...’ Susan squeezed her hand in a brief gesture of understanding, then together they made their way to the vessel that would take them from Dronid.