The Dark Queen
- 20.5K words
Queen Elysia of Vradonia. The young Queen of Tragedy. She spent her days in darkness and she thrived. Kieran- A young warrior of Eridal. He spent his days in starlight and he withered. Amin- A loyal guard to Her Majesty and a traveller. In this tale of looming darkness, terrifying foes, and unsuspecting magic, things are not always as they seem, and the stakes are higher than anyone realizes as the most unlikely group of misfits and the Queen must journey to a land thought only to be mythical in order to strengthen the dark queen's power and protect the kingdom.
She spent her days in darkness and was fine. The Queen of Tragedy. That's what they called her. Rightly so, she supposed, although it wasn't her favorite title. It made her sound weak, as if tragedy and heartbreak had swallowed her whole, trapping her in a single pathetic identity. But she was not weak, for she created tragedy in its truest and most beautiful arrangement. She was tragedy itself, surrounded by a series of merciless scowls and murderous hand gestures.
Some called it the coming night, and she had to admit that she preferred that to the former, although it was more often whispered than spoken aloud. How utterly satisfying it was to be revered and feared, for it made her more than the kings and queens before her. That made her wonderfully omnipotent. A force that is rarely challenged.
Queen Elysia of Vadronia. The youngest reigning ruler in seven generations, ascending the throne aged just nineteen. After the unfortunate but beneficial death of her parents, the crown was placed on her ebony tresses and the royal obsidian ring was placed on her long bronze finger. Her first act as queen was to have her arranged suitor killed, for he was an old and rather dull man who had subverted her authority to empower himself. She had him impaled with silver arrows.
Her second act was to purge the royal guard of the weak and traitors, leading to a mass execution right outside the palace for all to see. Some loved her for it, others resented her for it. She didn't let that stop her.
She created her own regiment of soldiers, a group of men who carried out her orders and her orders alone. She called them the Dark Knights. They wore jet-black uniforms, wielded swords of glittering steel, and marked their faces in ink the color of a raven. She kept their numbers small. They were not required to fight their country's wars, only the wars of their personal endeavors. There were twenty men in the Dark Knight, all handpicked by the Queen herself. She bestowed the Gift of Shadows on each of them.
The gift is a blessing, her mother had always told her. It is bestowed on the royal family for protection and security.
All her life, Elysia was taught to hide it and use it only when necessary. She never understood why her parents and every generation before them chose to hide such immense power. She had made men beg for mercy by kneeling before her in the darkness of her power. She had forced women to flee Vadronia with nothing but the loose garment on their backs. She had commanded armies and defeated enemies. The gift of shadows should not be hidden.
For hundreds of years it was given only to monarchs. Elysia turned the tide by granting it to her guard as well. They had less of it than she did, and she could take it from them at any time, but they were the first citizens of their country to be given the gift, and they were greatly feared for it.
She was twenty-one now and entering her third year of reign. People loved her and cowered in front of her. She received love letters from ambitious young men who lusted after her, and she received death threats of the braver kind. No matter what her people thought, she had led her country to prosperity and expanded its borders. She had defeated ancient enemies, slain threats to the throne, and given her citizens a safe place to live as long as they obeyed her.
Even today, on the anniversary of her coronation, she sat before the royal council to listen to them gossiping about politics and finance because she loved her country. She would much rather celebrate her day with lemon drinks and handsome men. They had been there for two hours and there was no sign of an end anytime soon.
"You must understand, Your Majesty..."
"I see," she said, plucking a black rose from the table and touching the tip of a thorn with her finger. "That's not the issue. I just don't see the benefit of stretching our defenses so thin when we know our real threat is Nelor."
A councilor to her left raised a hand slightly, asking permission to speak. She was one of the oldest in the room, her white hair pulled back in a thin bun, and the wrinkles in her skin pulled her face down as if it were melting. Elysia's heart softened at the sight of her.
Growing up in the palace, Mrs. Amaya was always around. She was like a grandmother to young Elysia, a safe pair of arms to rush to when things got too hard for her small shoulders. After the deaths of the king and queen, Mrs. Amaya was the one who offered comfort to Elysia while the rest of the council continued to plan the country's next moves. Elysia showed her anger by forcing those who were insensitive to bow to her and kiss her ring to beg her for her pathetic life while holding her loved ones hostage with her shadows. But Ms. Amaya was always good to her.
The queen only gave the older woman a slight nod.
Mrs. Amaya cleared her throat and then spoke in a calm and persuasive voice. "We must withdraw our agents from Eridal," she said, turning to meet everyone's eyes. She was a small and frail woman, but she gained control of a room as soon as she opened her mouth. "While Eridal's power is alarming, they are not a threat at the moment. We've tried in vain to enlist them as allies, so I say it's time to bring those soldiers back and regroup. We must send our forces to the eastern border where Nelor is gaining ground."
Elysia cocked her head in fascination. "You're suggesting we lose our information on Eridal?"
"If it means standing up to Nelor, yes."
A man across the table shook his head, his long hair brushed past his shoulders. “We don't need to move our soldiers, we just need more soldiers. The design should be restored to how it was in your grandfather's time.”
Elysia raised an eyebrow. "And will you lead these new men?"
She held up a hand and silenced him before he found the audacity to continue his idiotic argument. She pursed her lips. "Our soldiers are spread too far anyway, I'm not going to put that extra weight on them. If they are too worried about training a new group of troops, there will be no one to fight. We need every trained soldier we have on the front lines.”
"Except for your personal guard, of course," someone murmured from down the table. Quiet, but she heard it as if they had whispered it right next to her.
Elysia lifted her chin, dark eyes focused on the woman. "Would you like to repeat that?" she asked, baiting her. "I don't think everyone heard you."
Senator Geneva's head snapped up, eyes wide as she looked at the queen at the head of the table. Her face turned white. "I am sorry?" She squeaked.
"You said something about my watch," Elysia said, one side of her mouth curling in a small smile and keeping her friendly expression even as she clenched her fist under the table.
"I did not-"
Elysia waved her hand, and Geneva gasped as darkness settled around her chair, curling around her torso and trailing up her arms and legs like snakes of black smoke. When she opened her mouth to scream, the shadows shot into her mouth. Her eyes widened and her chest heaved for air, but no breath came. She was suffocated from within by the power of Queen Elysia's hand.
Nobody at the table said a word. Some of them watched with wide eyes, others avoided looking and pretended nothing happened.
Elysia clenched her fist, and the darkness around Geneva retreated, leaving her panting and choking on air. A collective breath of relief was released from many around the table.
"Think wisely before you try to lie to your queen," said Elysia, picking up the rose again and pricking one of the charcoal leaves from the bud. "If you dare speak of my guard like that again, you will meet them under the worst of circumstances. Do you understand, Senator Geneva?”
"Yes, Your Majesty," she whispered, bowing her head in a bow.
Elysia eyed her for a moment, then leaned back in her chair. "We will return our agents to Eridal as Senator Amaya suggested. They will come here to the palace where they will be trained for battle by the Dark Knight. We will remain in close contact with General Nikita at the Nelor border.”
She got up from her chair, threw the dark flower on the table and brushed off her midnight dress.
"Now," she said with a sigh. “I think this meeting went on far too long on a day as festive as this. Please enjoy the rest of your evening and leave me alone.” She nodded to them, gave Geneva a sharp look, and then turned to waltz out the door with her head in an arch, her black dress trailing behind her like a shadow.
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