herself release, but through this manlier understanding of habitual threat, of naked power, unchecked by courtesy or chivalry. Her threat carried with it an unwavering intention of pursuit to the bitter end. It was a threat as chilling and deliberate as any Quire had ever employed against his victims. Perhaps for the first time in his life Captain Quire knew hindrance, knew dread, knew fearful respect as she smiled, in mirror of his old habitual triumph, and she let the razoring steel rest upon his retreating manhood.

That single word, that brief syllable, had released her, had returned to her the ownership of her spirit and her flesh. She possessed her senses, her blood, her sex. She possessed them for no one else. She had responsibility to no one else. She knew an exhilaration which yet did not confuse her threat to the baffled Captain who in her face perceived something which distracted him from his own imminent unsexing and brought a different, disbelieving smile. “Glory?”

She was no longer Albion. No longer justice, mercy and wisdom, no longer the personification of righteousness, the hope and ideal of her people. She was Glory. She was Self. She was fighting not for principle but in her own interest, for everything she had ever honoured. Now she understood her commonality as well as her singularity, of what she shared with all women, of what she shared with men and of what was unique in her. At that moment she ceased to be the embodiment of anything but her own desperate, uncorrupted soul.

He stumbled back, tangled in his dark velvet clothing. The beast cowered for an instant in his eyes before fleeing entirely exorcised, and leaving him looking at her with the awesome ancient hermit might have lavished upon the face of a deity revealed, for the first time, in all its mighty omnipotence. He could not speak.

“You shall do nothing to me, Captain Quire, that I do not command.”

Whereupon, weeping, he fell to his knees upon the flags, no longer able to raise his head to look at her, as if he felt unworthy. He had been able to plot the dragging down of this Queen, this nation, but could not even begin to conceive the humbling of this woman. He bowed before the only authority he had ever recognized. He bowed before this supreme manifestation of the Self.

And then, as he knelt before her, Gloriana gasped. Her newly discovered sensibilities overwhelmed her, even as she stood, knife in hand, like some Tragic revenger, and she began to tremble, thinking that the whole palace quaked, that the roof must fall. And she cried out, yet still he dared not look at her. And she cried out again and her voice was so powerful it seemed to increase the space constricting it: some Cosmos-striding goddess displaying her triumphant pleasure.

Gloriana shook again, mightily. She had never known more than a hint of this ecstasy. It was as if she received recompense for every disappointment she had ever known. She lifted her head to let forth another, wilder, celebratory shout which pierced the walls and rang through the entire palace, disturbing the dust of centuries, and echoed through every inch of Albion. Now Gloriana knew that one thing for which she had always ached and which had always been denied her. She had claimed back her own soul, her own urgent humanity.

She did not celebrate Albion. She celebrated nothing but herself. It was she who had resisted and defeated the power of the beast, not her nation, not her duty. Her blood was furious with caressing heat. She seemed to become a furnace illuminating the whole chamber and the palace beyond and the fires that she generated poured through corridors and crannies cleansing away forever the bloodstains and old bones, the old hypocrisies and lies.

And still she quaked, groaning and roaring, like some ethereal sphere in the first moments of its creation. She extinguished Guilt, banished Horror. She raised her hands, dangerous with iron, and roared her triumph for the third time, oblivious of Quire sobbing at her feet and drowning in a remorse harder to bear for its complete unfamiliarity.

Her skin looked to her like mercurial gold, as if she had passed into Dee’s great crucible to be forged into this ideal not of the State but of a natural woman, unfettered by the demands of an alien philosophy, a free agent.

“I need only be Queen if I choose,” she said. She paused to stare down at him through heated yet tranquil eyes. “Or if they choose.” She smiled. “Oh, little Quire.” She was forgiving. Her wonderful body still moved by a profound sensuality, she reached towards him and kissed his forehead.

At that burning touch he raised his eyes and in them was the expression she had known she would find. “I’m sorry, Glory.”

In her eyes now he saw tenderness and the promise of reconciliation. His features were quite innocent. He jumped up, quick and free as a child, somehow redeemed by her refusal to let him destroy her love. Her action had given meaning again to the emotions and the words he had all his life plundered and devalued. She had demonstrated her active refusal of his terms, put deed to word, and restored him afresh, just as she restored herself.

Still Gloriana trembled with the pleasure of her renaissance. And she roared again. And now it seemed a sudden dawn had risen upon the whole realm; through this fundamental humanity she knew she could drive away the darkness and deception of the past and ensure that it should never return.

Tugging absently at his breeches, Quire believed that her extraordinary courage, her resistance to his cowardly crime, that all-hating abuse of power, had freed her of her unjust burden-but also had lifted every sin from his soul. By some noble alchemy she had, by recreating herself, also recreated him.

Again her huge, perfect body shook. Again her great voice roared its triumphant pleasure.

Quire knew a baffling sensation which he guessed was happiness. And he, laughing loudly into the dying echo of her shout, watched while she brought the dagger down with such mighty force upon the stone that the steel shattered into fragments which fell like silvery rain upon the dirty granite of that awful chamber. “Ha, Gloriana!” And he bowed.

Then she allowed herself, with such sublime relief, to weep.

“Oh, Quire. Now we are both fulfilled.”

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