Just joining in? No problem. You can catch up on this deep dive of all the Red River volumes by visiting the archive.
With Yuri’s face mashed against the floor by the fake Ishtar’s guardsmen, she threatens to punish Yuri again if she doesn’t give in and apologize. Yuri refuses and claims that she is the real Ishtar but no one believes her. Yuri is dressed like a kitchen wench and covered in spilled food and has to be gussied up to look her best. The faker, on the other hand, has a va-va-voom figure that won’t quit. Fake Ishtar has Yuri sent to the ‘Valley’ as punishment.
Yuri isn’t in the ‘Valley’ long before she realizes why its spoken of so ominously. It’s the place that the plague ridden city sticks the sick and dying. The guards tell her that she is to labor here but that she’s effectively been sentenced to death as no one survives the Seven Day Fever. Yuri meets up with a kindly young doctor who explains that this is where the poor and wretched get sent. The queen’s rest house is reserved for the wealthy and powerful. The doctor is immune as he is one of the rare survivors from a prior outbreak. Yuri is scared out of her mind that she will contract the sickness and die but can’t abandon the people stuck in the valley.
The doctor also happens to be the mayor’s estranged son. He’s able to get the guards to give Yuri her horse back and they use him like a pack mule to bring drinking water to the sick. For many days, she works – cooking meals, washing bedding and fetching medicine – but Yuri doesn’t fall ill. Soon the townspeople begin to think there is something miraculous about her and merely setting eyes on her can ward away the plague. When she and doctor go into town for supplies, desperate mothers beg her to touch their child so they won’t contract the disease. Despite all their work, they realize that they don’t have the supplies necessary to keep the people in the Valley alive. Yuri rides back to the city to ask the mayor for more food and medicine.
The townsfolk aren’t going so well either. They are getting low on food and the way Ishtar lives extravagantly while they suffer is getting on their last nerve. They decide to back Yuri up and form a crowd in front of the mayor’s mansion. Fake Ishtar freaks out when she sees a mob forming on her doorstep and Urhi advises her to go down there and make them disperse. Unfortunately, a wealthy merchant’s wife brings her ailing baby to the fake Ishtar and begs her to help her son. Thinking this is a prime opportunity to win the mob over, she reaches for the baby but chickens out at the last minute, leaving him wailing in the dirt.
Yuri intervenes and calms the weeping child by picking him up without fear. When she sees the red sores all over his body, she realized that the sickness is small pox and the reason she stayed healthy was because of a vaccine. To save face, fake Ishtar has Yuri arrested and put in the dungeon. While she awaits punishment, one of the guards gives her some food and tells her that Prince Kail has opened the royal food stores and has sent aid to all corners of the kingdom. It’s technically the king’s policy but everyone knows that Kail really runs things. As she realizes that Kail is adept at managing his reputation, she laments getting herself into this fix when he didn’t need her help.
Kail comes to Katapa looking for Yuri. The mayor, of course, takes him to meet the fake Ishtar. Urhi tells the fake one that if he wants to avoid execution of impersonating a royal she’d best win the prince over quick. She throws herself at Kail and begs for his love. She claims she only committed this crime in the hopes of meeting him. Kail turns her down flat and exposes her after telling her she isn’t all that. The fake Ishtar, Ursula, gets arrested.
The mayor is shocked to learn she was a fake but Kail insists that the real Ishtar must be in the city. Just then, soldiers come with news that a mob is has descended on the jail. Kail knows that Yuri must be at the center of the commotion and goes to see her. The people bow down at the sight of the prince including Yuri. When Kail asks the people where his princess is and describes her, they instantly know she is the goddess. They have a romantic reunion and Kail presents her to the crowd and the crowd goes wild, signaling their support for the prince and his woman.
The mayor grovels before the pair. He and many members of the guards and his staff have much to explain since they treated Yuri very roughly but Kail lets them off. He isn’t feeling so charitable to Ursula who instigated the whole mess under Urhi’s direction. Urhi, slippery fiend he is, has escaped and left her to face the prince’s judgement. Yuri asks Ursula why she risked her life to do this. Ursula explains that she watched her whole family die in the plague and she was desperate not live utterly destitute. Not a particularly nice motive but Yuri is forgiving. She feels that it would be appropriate to offer her the same deal as the sisters – since she wronged her, Ursula can work for her as an attendant.
Ursula accepts the terms. She is moved by Yuri’s mercy and selfless actions and regrets how shameless and full of herself she was. She vows to become a better person with this second chance. They return to Hattusa and begin the nail biting wait for the next senate session to convene as that is when the selection of the new crown prince will be announced. Kail is certain that it will be a close contest. Nakia has done much to salvage her reputation and raise opinion of Juda by extension. But before the meeting, there will be a public celebration for the king. With all the chaos, they haven’t had a chance to ceremonies and festivities until now.
At the ceremony the people cheer on Nakia and for a second Yuri fears that Juda may have it in the bag. When Kail appears, the crowd goes wild and commotion makes the ground rumble. When the senate comes into session, they approve the king’s appointment of Kail as crown prince. Nakia doesn’t take it well and vows to kill him (for the hundredth time).
An indeterminate amount of time later, Yuri awakens to find snow coming in through the window. She is surprised to learn that Anatolian winters are actually quite harsh as she was a hostage in Mitanni territory this time last year. With Ursula added to the gang, the servants conspire to get Yuri and Kail married before spring so she doesn’t return home. Ursula sends Yuri to the bath to deliver Kail some clean clothes. Sexy things happen in that tub and this is one of few times that Yuri seems legitimately turned on while slap and tickle is going on. For a moment, Yuri is his for the taking but he realizes that Yuri isn’t in the clearest frame of mind so they don’t have sex. Yuri was ready to go and is gets quite worried that she did something to turn him off.
As she sits outside the palace fretting about their relationship status, a little boy comes up and tosses a snowball in her face. His mother, Princess Guzel, a noblewoman who was once Kail’s lover, snatches him up and apologizes profusely. She even named the toddler after the prince. It doesn’t escape Yuri that the child looks a lot like Kail. Then the princess drops the bomb by claiming Kail is the father. This news destroys Yuri even though she knew that Kail was a mack daddy and not to expect much from ye olde timey birth control. In reality, he should have way more kids and baby mamas than just the one.
Now that the child’s parenthood has gone public, Kail comes under enormous pressure to acknowledge baby Kail as his son and marry Princess Guzel. Yuri gets even more shaken, thinking that Kail decided not to sex her up because he thinks she’d make a poor consort and he didn’t want to waste his man-seed on her. After Kail denies Guzel entry into the palace and refuses to see the child, Yuri forces a confrontation. Kail tells her that, like Billie Jean, the kid is not his son, but this infuriates her rather than comforts her as it sounds like he’s trying to weasel out of responsibility.
Unfortunately, there is no talk hosts around to prove paternity. So Kail swoops in on a white horse and drags her off to the royal tomb where his mother was laid to rest. In a scene that is actually quite romantic, Kail explains the facts of his relationship to Guzel. Her son was born a full year after the last time he saw her making it impossible for him to be the father. He doesn’t think Guzel is lying to advance herself as she was a fundamentally honest person and suspects Nakia may be threatening her. As they ride back to Hattusa, Kail thinks that he wanted to show his mother the woman he hopes to marry one day.
Who’s your daddy? We’ll find out in the next volume. Over all, this volume is pretty weak. The fake Ishtar and the baby mama arcs relied way too much on Yuri being stupid, impulsive and making some wild leaps of logic as to Kail’s motives. He’s conquered an empire for her and all of a sudden she thinks he’s completely changed his mind about her. Gosh, she should be smarter than this. Hopefully, she’ll get her head on straight and stop doing boneheaded things.