The Queen avoided visiting her husband’s sickroom, instead letting the servants tend to him. She disliked seeing him so changed, weakened by illness. But there was one thing she still must accomplish, and for that she would go to him one last time. She adorned herself in shining glory with crown and jewels, blazing with the power of the Night and the stars. Let him see her like this, let him remember the first time she appeared to him, when he looked at her with awed wonder.
But when at last he spoke, he said little of use. “All my possessions, the works of my hands, I leave to you and our daughter.” His voice rasped hoarsely, much changed from its usual resonant tones.
“The Disc of the Sun--?” the Queen asked quickly.
He cut her off. “I have given it to Sarastro. He will wield it as a man should. He will know what should be done.”
She erupted in fury, rising to her feet in a swirl of dark skirts. “How dare you--? That should have been our daughter’s birthright, and you give it to a stranger?”
“Sarastro is no stranger. He is young still, but wise. I have long held him a friend.”
“And why should he hold it rather than I?” Her voice rose with anger. “I know well how to wield its power! I would keep it safely, and give it to Pamina when she came of age.”
“Would you?” His voice was weak and he spoke with difficulty, but his eyes were still bright and knowing. “No, I think you would not. You speak of our daughter, but I know you desire this power for yourself. Sarastro will use it well, and when it is time, he will pass it to a worthy successor. And he will teach Pamina—”
“And did you mean to consult me,” she retorted, low and dangerous, “concerning the future of my daughter?”
“Sarastro and the priests will educate her. Let yourself, and her, be guided by them.”
“You have fallen into folly,” she said scornfully. Once, his voice was strong enough to match hers, but now she could overwhelm him easily. “I will not give myself, or my daughter, into their power. I will continue to rule all things here as I see fit.”
He closed his eyes, wearied, and she stormed out. He could do nothing to hinder her. His life was near its end, diminishing into silence. Whatever he still wished to accomplish, whatever he wished to say to her, it was too late. She would find some way to take the Disc of the Sun back from Sarastro, with or without his help.
She should not have been so vehement in her denial, she thought later. He must have realized that he would never win her over to his plans, and so he had spoken to the priests – they had enough opportunity, hovering about his deathbed like vultures –
Little as she welcomed them, the Queen allowed the priests into her palace one more time, to perform their rites after her husband’s death; but she did not permit them to see Pamina. Sarastro did not argue, and she should have suspected that too.
Sarastro finally departed with his entourage, but a few priests stayed behind. One, bolder than the rest, even tried to engage her in discussion of philosophy. The Queen had no patience left; she ordered him out of her palace. He and his fellows obeyed with evident relief.
When the Queen went to Pamina’s rooms, her daughter was gone. She stood a moment in silence before disbelief gave way to fury. She knew well who had taken Pamina, and why. Did Sarastro think she would meekly allow this kidnapping?
She would have preferred to call her armies together, to overwhelm them with fire and sword. With reluctance, she decided it was not yet time to attack them directly. But the Temple of Wisdom would regret making her their enemy. They would regret taking what was hers.