"Really?" The queen sounds genuinely surprised. "Well, I guess not everything you read about Americans is true. Hop up behind me--"
Sapt interrupts. "Majesty, is that wise?"
"Why not? Oh, all right. Hop up behind Frieda."
Sapt helps you onto the back of the horse behind Frieda. Everyone else looks comfortable on horseback, and once you're settled the four of you on three horses leave the station for the woods around the edge of town.
In perhaps ten minutes you have arrived at a rustic cottage, possibly a lodge of sorts, in the woods. "My father used this to hunt, and left it as part of the Zenda estates to my half-sister Michelle. She has permitted us the use of it in preparation for tomorrow's coronation, so that I can get out of the town."
During this conversation, the queen dismounts, and the others do as well. You're a bit sore from the ride, but not too bad. An elderly man comes out of the lodge and takes the horses.
"Thank you, Josef," the queen says. "We'll have an early dinner, and let's discover just how well stocked my sister has kept father's wine cellar, shall we?"
Everyone heads inside.
"Father liked Michelle very much. She was much more the sort of person he would have liked to have left as queen, and I think she knows it. But his Morganitic marriage to her mother following the death of my mother costs her the support of the church, and I am the elder sibling--"
"Not to mention," Frieda interrupts, "that you have the Elfborg mark, which she does not have. That's why she always wears those ridiculous dark glasses and claims her eyes are sensitive to the light. They're the wrong color, is what's wrong with them, and the sensitivity is that she does not want people to notice."
"Come, Frieda, we cannot fault my sister for lacking royal blood. Granted, even our friend Ahmetia here appears to have it, or at least the mark of it."
By this time everyone is seated at a table in a rustic dining room. Josef appears bring a tray with plates, mugs, a few bottles of wine, several loaves of bread, and an assortment of large knives. He sets these on the table and heads back in the direction he came.
The queen is carefully examining the wine bottles and somewhat absently asks Frieda to cut the bread. "I think this one to start," she says, and opens a wine bottle, making to fill all the mugs.
Josef returns with his tray laden with several whole cheeses, and several cold meats which must be a beef roast, a leg of mutton, and a whole chicken. The queen grabs one of the knives and a fork from this new tray, and begins slicing the beef.
"Don't be shy," she says. "Grab some food."
She has thrown together beef and cheese on bread, and already refilled her mug and offered to refill yours.
--M. J. Young