The Dark Queen, 3
The sky was such a brilliant blue it nearly hurt to look at, the sun a warm radiance bringing life to all the land. Only a few brave clouds, scarcely wisps, dared to cross that great expanse above. The fields scattered about the castle were lush and tall with the coming harvest, and swarms of flying creatures flitted from plant to plant, completing the cycle of life. The kingdom, and its people, would know plenty this season. The barns and silos would be filled, the livestock heavy laden. Spring had come early, the Summer mild, and the first chill of Autumn was just days past.
High above the landscape, On a solitary hilltop, a gleaming white castle stood. Colorful banners streaming from it's towers, overlooking the valley on all sides. In one of those towers, a beautiful young girl, a princess, gazed happily over the lands below. She knew her people would be happy, and well fed.
The fields were filled with workers tending the plants, the far hillsides held flocks of sheep, with their herders, and horses and cattle grazed with no concern for predators. She could see the pens where pigs were kept and raised to feed the townsfolk. To say the scene was idyllic, would be such an understatement as to raise the brow of even the most pessimistic.
The girl left her musings, turning her back on the wondrous scene, to go seek out her parents, the King and Queen of this glorious place. She made her way through the brightly lit halls, down varied stairways, skipping along as she went. All the way to the throne room, where her father was holding court, settling what few disputes arose among the people. There were always a few, no matter how prosperous they were, who would seek the King's judgment to gain more. Such is life, after all.
The King saw his daughter enter the room and he smiled as bright as the sun, such a beauty his daughter was, such sweetness surrounded her. He was happy that he would surprise her with tomorrows celebration of her 16th birthday. That she knew something was planned was inevitable, what it entailed however, had been a closely guarded secret. Feast? Of course. Entertainers? Naturally. Presents? Are you kidding? All of the kingdom had been invited, from the richest merchants, the strongest knights, all the way to the poorest and least fortunate. There would also be seven potential suitors from neighboring kingdoms in attendance, vying for the young girl's attention. But that wasn't the surprise....
Attending this event, would be Orssicliaca, King of dragonkind. He had not been seen outside his lair in nearly 2 centuries, preferring to slumber in this age of peace and prosperity. It had been HIS doing that ended the wars that had plagued the realms, if any could actually claim credit. It had been His voice that brought leaders to the table, His voice that shamed man into co-operation, rather than war; and His voice that had begun this golden age of plenty. He would be there to bless the girl, to grant her the power of magic, and thus preserve what He had striven for, what others had desired so much, and was now a fact of life. At least most had desired it; but there were a few...
The girl skipped her way up the aisle to the throne, she knelt in respect, and greeted her father with a smile that could melt the coldest ice. The King was no match against such affection displayed, his arms opened wide and her took her in a warm, fatherly embrace. Even the most obstinate of the petitioners could not help but be moved, arguments forgotten (at least for the moment). The love of that embrace flowed like a breeze, made of honey, throughout the chamber; and all in attendance there knew they would also be at tomorrows festivities.
Everything seemed perfect. Chambers were being decorated, food was already in preparation, and the finest wines and ales were being readied. What could possibly go wrong?
Late into the wee hours, after all the servants had retired for the night, after King and Queen had kissed their daughter at her bedside, wishing her fine dreams and themselves retiring, the princess lay awake in anticipation. She had no idea of what tomorrow would truly bring.
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