Skylark: Chapters 1 - 4

Queen Talila is the new reigning Queen of the Elven kingdom, Skylark. Obstacles get in her way such as tries to find her place in the middle of a political takeover.

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2. Healing and Hurting

Deep into the center of the Ohr Woods was a small cabin made of logs and stone.  The rain tapped on the rooftop and the window shutters.  Waldyr, with Elred on the same horse, and Ivon behind them, galloped into the small grassy clearing by the cabin.  The half elf knight was the first to get down from his horse and took the worn elf prince off the saddle.  

“What’s wrong with him?” Ivon asked as he gets off his brown mare. 

Waldyr checked Elred’s pulse and counted silently to himself.  He held his hand under the prince’s nose and the shallow breathing concerned him.   Then he listened to his heart by putting his ear on his friend’s wheezing chest.

 “He’s barely alive.  Help me with him,” the half-elf said. 

Ivon picked Elred up like nothing and carried him to the cabin the door.  Waldyr took out a key from a pouch on his belt and unlocked the door.  There was hardly any light coming from cracks and crevasses in the cabin.  He puts his key back and raised his right hand.

“Give me some light, O’ Holy Gods of Night!” Waldyr said aloud. 

His hand was surrounded by a radiant blue light and heads for the fireplace where he lights a match and tosses it onto the dry wood. 

“Get him into bed,” he said to his half brother.

Ivon rushed to one of two beds as the light began to fade from Waldyr’s hand.  He placed Elred on his own bed.  The warrior stepped back as his brother took over. 

“Is there anything else I can do for you?” he asked.

“Get the bucket over there and go to the river.  We have to clean these wounds before the infection get any worse.  I have a feeling that his highness has the disease of the damp.  Hurry, we don’t have much time.”

Ivon grabbed the bucket from under his brother’s bed and leaves.  He closed the door with the rain still pouring down. 

 “By the Gods,” Waldyr whispered to himself as he carefully undressed the rags from Elred’s limp body.  Bruises, scars and open cuts from past whippings and beatings, and he hasn’t been fully washed since the day the elf prince was sent to prison years ago.  He turned Elred around to see his penis was still intact. 

Ivon entered the cabin with the bucket of water and he locked the door.  He watched his half-brother perform healing magic on their friend.  A warm orange glow formed on Waldyr’s fingertip and placed it on Elred’s forehead. 

“Tuldir, God of Medicine, heal all wounds inside,” Waldyr called out. 

He withdrew his touch as the radiance poured into Elred’s body, through his veins as his body started to heal.  His eyes opened as he struggled to breathe.  Ivon dropped the bucket in anger and grabbed Waldyr by the collar. 

“What did you do to him?” Ivon yelled out.

Then they heard the violent sounds of vomit landing on the wooden floor. 

“That!” Waldyr answered. 

Ivon released him and he lowered his head in shame. 

"Just get more water and I'll clean up the mess here," Waldyr said.

Ivon goes back out into the rainy night like a punished child.  The half elf knight took a clean rag from the fireplace and a bar of soap from the mantle.  As he’s cleaning the black vomit, Elred attempted to get up from the bed. 

“No Elred, go back to bed,” Waldyr said. “Please your Highness, lie back down.” 

Elred slumped back on the bed with his head bouncing on the pillow.  As soon as the floor was cleaned, Waldyr tossed the cloth into the fireplace.  He crossed to a small pitcher and with what water was left from earlier in the day, filled a kettle with it.  He turned to a small box and placed it by the kettle.  He opened the tin box to see how much tea was left.  He nodded with a confident smile when he placed the kettle in the fireplace.

 “What are you doing, Wally?” Elred asked him with a scratchy voice. 

Waldyr turned and saw his friend’s eyes growing weary as he scooped up some tea leaves with the strainer.

“I’m making some tea for you to soothe your throat," he answered him.

The prince tried to talk again and he ended up with a hacking cough instead. 

“Don’t try to talk,” Waldyr said, “you’ll end up ruining your voice.  Just nod your head if you think you can drink this tea.” 

Elred nodded, giving him a warm grin.  The nays of their horses startled the prince as he nearly sprang from the bed.  Waldyr prepared himself for the worst until Ivon walked in.  Their lord was relieved he nestled back under the quilt

“Did you see anyone while you were at the river?” his brother asked Ivon.

“I walked away as soon as I heard the guards in the distance.  We have to be careful brother; we need to keep this place dark until sunrise.”

“Get some sleep,” Waldyr ordered him.

“Are you sure?” Ivon asked with one eyebrow raised. 

They both chuckle, this made Elred extremely happy.  Waldyr saw this as a sign of the spell doing its job.

“Goodnight your highness,” Ivon said. 

They jumped to the haunting sound of the kettle’s whistle. Waldyr placed it on the table using a pot holder from the fireplace.  He poured the water into the strainer of tea in a white porcelain mug and waited for it to cool a bit.  Ivon stripped off his suit of armor off, which was dented from battles past.  He placed the chest armor softly on the floor.  He tried to be cautious not to make a sound that would attract attention from the outside.  The human was down to his undergarments sitting at the table.  He watched his half elf brother take the tea and give it to Elred.  The prince’s eyes squinted at the first taste it.  The knight took the mug and puts it back on the table as his lordship nearly pushes it away.

“It’s too hot for you Elred, I better make it cool again before you burn your mouth,” Waldyr said. 

Elred rubbed his chest and let’s out a hissing sound through his clenched teeth.

“Are you all right your Highness?” Waldyr asked him. 

He nodded and then slid his body back into bed.  Waldyr took another clean white cloth and dipped it into the cold water.  Ivon unraveled his long black hair and combed every lock with his thick fingers. 

Waldyr rinsed the freshly opened wounds first.  The “patient’s” eyes squinted every time the cloth touched his battered flesh.  While this was going on, Ivon went to his brother’s bed and eased himself under the covers.  

"I'm so sorry this hurts your highness but I need to rinse these wounds before I can give them a good cleaning.  Then I will dress them so you must need your rest.  Only the Night Gods know who or what is out there in these parts of the woods.  I don't want to cause any problems with Skylark and their territories so if we need a plan, we need to make sure you're well enough for those plans to come into action."

“Waldyr, when are you going to tell Elred about--?” Ivon blurted out.

The half-elf turned and silently shushed Ivon, uncertain that Elred was well enough to take the news about his brother King Remy’s passing.  The human listened to Elred’s congested cough, trying not to let it get to him.  His eyes began to grow weary as their friend sipped some of the hot tea.  He glanced at the fireplace; to him, it was a comforting sight. 

Waldyr gently placed the mug on the table and checked Elred’s eyes.  To him, it was a good sign that they were clearing up.  He took the same rag from the bucket of water and he pulled out a small clear bottle of thick green liquid from one of his pockets.  He opened it and poured out a few drops onto the wet cloth.  Before he placed the cloth, he wants to make sure his friend understood the pain.

“This might sting a bit, but it will prevent your wounds from further infections.”

Elred closed his eyes at the first pulsating touch of the ointment on his right shin.  His breath grew heavy and fast, letting out soft whimpers.  Once the cloth is lifted, the sores began to bubble like tiny sea foam.  Waldyr’s hand was stopped by Ivon. 

“This water is dirty.  I’ll get you more from the river,” he said.

“What about the guards?” Waldyr asked.

"They should be gone by now," his brother replied, grabbing the bucket, “and you need more clean water.   I will take a weapon just in case.” 

He took out a long sword from the corner of the room near his bed.  Suddenly he stopped to what he was doing with his mouth ajar.  Waldyr turned to see Elred’s tears streamed down his face.  Ivon noticed his brother is still in his wet clothes.

"You better change big brother otherwise I have to treat the both of you myself," he said.

The door swung open with a burst of the wind from the rainstorm outside.  The lightning flashed with a powerful bolt within the clouds and the thunder that followed roared in the night sky with a brutal boom.  Ivon leaned his sword against the doorway, hiding behind his leg.   He threw the muddy and blood infested water and let the bucket fill with the pure rain from the heavens. 

“Waldyr, how about we fill this bucket with the Tears of the Storm Gods?” he asked with a confident smile.

"Keep your eyes out for invaders.  I don't want you getting killed over rainwater," Waldyr replied as he freed himself from his holy enchanted chain mail. 

“Wipe your eyes, you’re safe.  No one is here besides us and don’t try to talk.  You need to rest and pray that everything will be fine in the next couple of days.” 

The elf observed the bucket catching every drop until it nearly reached the brim.  With one hard push from his hand, Ivon slammed the door shut and bolted it.  He handed the water over to his brother while some of it dripped on the floor.  Waldyr rinsed the cloth in the clean water.  He poured more droplets of the liquid and continued to wipe the gashes on Elred, who was still coughing. 

Ivon wiped his muscular arms with a towel that hung on a hook on the wall by one of the windows.  He watched the wounds fizzle from his distance.  The monstrous human dropped the towel on the table; this caused Waldyr's head to shake with disbelief.  Without saying anything to him, Ivon grabbed the towel and placed it back on the little hook.  Waldyr gave his brother a smirk, rinsing the cloth into the bucket.

“Next time you get the water,” Ivon said as he pulled the thin hide quilt over himself.

 

The rain was calming down as Talila, Bryce, and Emory were sitting quietly at the dining room table.  Talila, with a dark blue dress on, ripped apart a small hen with her silver plated knife and fork.  Emory’s eyebrow rose as he watched her son, who sat across from him. The young elf wore his dark mustard yellow dining clothes, sadly staring at his plate.  He had two guards stand at each side of him.  He glanced over to his father's old chair, which was further away from the other end of the table.  A big chair like the one was in the throne room, except for the wood and the cushions; they were black to go with the table.  A small chair next to it was Father Horace's place.  The captain of the knights watched, looking up and down from the plate to the teen's solemn expression.

“Bryce?”  Emory asked. 

Not a word.

“Bryce?”

Talila looked up with as she covered her mouth with one of her hands.  Once she swallowed, she held out her hands and a male servant approached the queen with a bowl of water with a small tin cup in it and a towel.  She gently rinsed her hands in the water and saw that her son was in a daze.

“Bryce, Uncle Emory is talking to you,” she said dipping a corner of the towel in the bowl. 

The young elf, without a word, sat up in his chair.  She realized that her child had not touched his food.  She gestured the servant to leave with a nonchalant wave of her hand.  Emory folded him arms and puckered his thin lips with disgust.  She doesn’t understand what the knight wasn’t happy with her recent behavior.

“Son, are you all right?  You haven’t touched anything on your plate,” she said.

"I'm not very hungry mother," he finally replied without acknowledging her.

“Are you tired dear?” she questioned him further.

He shrugged.  Talila sat back in her chair with her arms on the armrests; slowly tapping her finger on the wood.  Emory moved back as well, observing the tension in the room, made him not eager to engage in food consumption.  He signaled the wine pourer to fill his gold and jewel-encrusted goblet.  Then Bryce banged the palms of his hands on the table.

“I demand to know where Father Horace is,” his voice shrieked.

"He's in his chambers," she coldly replied, "and it's guarded unless otherwise so he can do you no harm until his trial." 

Bryce immediately jumped out of his chair, causing it to fall backwards and the guards to back away.

“What sort of trial?  What has he done?” he asked

“He corrupted your father and Skylark,” she replied calmly. “He already has got to you while I was gone so if you want to stand trial with him, go right ahead because I won’t stop you.  Just remember, my son, you'll end up in a cold prison cell for treason.  I’m your mother.  I’m the one who gave birth to you and nursed you and raised you for the past fourteen years.  Not Father Horace.  He had his own agenda and he will be put on trial for treason.  And there may be a couple of wrong imprisonment and sexual assault charges along with murder.”

Bryce lets out a grunt as he covered his ears.  He trembled at the idea that his beloved mentor was charged with murder.  Emory rushed over to him with Talila’s eyes still on the boy.  He tenderly grabbed him by the shoulders.  The prince’s eyes were closed tightly as he mumbled prayers to The White Gods.  He felt the half-elf gently lowering his hands from his pointed ears.  His eyes widened to see him kindly smiling at the teen.  Then the lad collapsed in his chest, bawling into his white shirt from earlier in the day.

“Bryce,” she called out to him, “I think you should go to bed.  This week has been stressful enough for all of us.  If I had hurt you in any way…”

“I want Lady Arryn.  I want her now!” Bryce screamed.

The heavy sobs became louder with Emory holding him.  The elf queen glanced at her plate, then to another male servant, an elf, which stood next to the entrance of the kitchen.  She gestured towards him as she readied herself to stand.  He slid the chair away after she hoisted herself from it.  She turned to him and whispered something in his ear.  He nodded and left through the main entrance. 

“She’ll be at your room in two hours after you had your bath,” she said with both hands together.   Emory released Bryce from himself; he crossed towards the fireplace, trying not to get upset. 

“Is that what you want?” she asked. 

Bryce nodded as he wiped his tears from his face.  She quickly grabbed a clean napkin and harshly dried his freckled cheeks.  He pulled away from her with the napkin in his hand.  Talila’s head tilted to her son’s recent actions.

“Did I hurt you?” she asked.

“Sometimes you do,” he replied. 

Those words made his mother hurt inside.  Her mouth was slightly ajar and released a soft gasp.

“I’m only separating you from that horrid man,” she explained, “He’s the reason that you are acting this way.  You were never like this.  You read your story books, you had your games, and you were such a happy boy.  Now you’re fourteen and you’re acting like a madman.  I had never seen you like this.  Sometimes I wonder what Father Horace did to you that made you so…”

“Angry,” Emory said to her with his arms folded. 

Bryce’s head hanged low; his arms dangled to his sides like someone was defeated from a debate as the napkin remained in his hand.  The queen managed to take the napkin away from the boy.  She wrapped it in hers, crumpling it into a messy ball.  Talila felt the wetness from her son’s tears on it.  Emory puts his arm on the prince’s shoulder. 

“Talila, the poor boy is tired," he told her.

Emory gave the young elf another warm squeeze, burying half of the young teen’s face in his chest.  The queen fondled with the napkin, took a glimpse at it, then back to her son.  She saw her son's eyes looking into hers as if he was trying to hypnotize her to submit.  She took a small deep breath and sighed.

“Bryce, I’m so sorry about what had happened between us.  You’re my only child and someday I may want more.  I’m doing this for us.  I’m doing this for Skylark.  I don’t want you hurt anymore and as your mother, it’s up to me to help you heal what’s killing you from inside.” 

The prince released himself from Emory's arms.  He was emotionless as his mother's eyes start to fill with tears.  She turned away, wiping her eyes with the napkin in her hands.  Bryce watched his mother crying, her heavy sobs muffled into the cloth.  He glanced at Emory, looking for an answer.  But the half-elf knight did nothing; he stood there with his arms folded. 

"I'm very sorry," Bryce said, “it will never happen again." 

She faced her son as she wiped her eyes; her mouth quivered as if she had something to say but can’t get the words out.  Talila grabbed her son and nearly held on to him, weeping on his shoulder.  Emory looked on as Bryce took his mother by her broad shoulders.  He saw into her red eyes and smiled.

“I love you mother,” he lovingly admitted to her.

“Go take a bath.  Lady Arryn is preparing to see you,” she said.

Bryce embraced his mother again; she wrapped her arms around his neck, her face pressed against it.  Emory puts his hands behind his back as he witnessed the moment between the two.  He looked at the windows and his chance to break the mood.

“It’s starting to clear outside,” he said.

The queen released Bryce, wiping his tears from his grinning face with the napkin.  He took the napkin from her and threw it on the table. 

“I will take my bath now mother,” he said. 

“Then go,” she said him with a beaming smile as she wiped her face. 

“Goodnight Uncle Emory,” he said as they both exchange bows.

“Goodnight Bryce,” Emory replied.

“Guards, go escort my son to his bath,” she ordered them.

The guards walking behind the youth to the main entrance as servants bowed with every passing step.  Talila proudly watched her boy go away, and then she felt a quick hard tug on her arm.  Emory cruelly twirled her around.

“What was that bullshit about Lady Arryn, huh?” he inquired. “Don’t you think he’s a little too old for her services?  I mean, he has no use for her.”

Talila pulled away from him and backed into a chair, her fuming eyes never left him.  The guards raised their swords for a fight, but the queen subdued them by sticking out her right hand.  The guards withdrew their weapons and put them back in their sheaths.  She spotted the other servant and snapped her fingers to his attention.

"Yes, your majesty?"  he said.

“I want you to bring that servant woman named Maggie, the human with the bright red hair.  I want you to send her to my room in an hour.  I don’t want to be disturbed while I’m with that woman.  Do you understand?”

“Yes your majesty,” he replied as he continuously bows to his queen.

“You may go,” she ordered him. 

He hastily walked into the kitchen, leaving Talila and Emory alone.

“What’s wrong, I’m not enough for you?” the knight joked.

Her pale face turned pink with anger.  Without saying anything to him, Talila walked away from him and out of the dining room, with her guards behind her.  Emory folded his arms again and glanced at the windows.  The storm had stopped and the clouds were floating away to reveal a waxing moon.

The servant searched the gigantic kitchen full of cooks, bakers, maids, servers, and wine makers, all planning, and cooking for tomorrow.  He sees Maggie, sweating over dirty dishes, her hair wet from the steam.  Colleen was next to her neatly stacking them into piles.

“Maggie,” he shouted. 

She turned and smiled as he comes closer. 

“Hello Olivar,” Maggie said.

"Your majesty, the queen, has sent me to find you," Olivar told her, “she wants you to be in her room in an hour." 

This raised Colleen’s eyebrows as she heard this. 

“What about Father Horace?” Maggie asked him, wiping her sweaty forehead with the back of her hand.

“He’s in his room, guarded by the Queen’s orders,” he replied. 

“It must be something that you did,” Colleen said, “or she wants to know about your relationship with the old bastard.”

Maggie rinsed a small white dish and handed it to her Colleen.  She ripped off her stained apron and tossed it on a stool by an oven.

“If the queen wants me, then I shall prepare myself for the worst,” she said to her fellow workers.

 

Talila, dressed in her robe and nightgown, looked at starry sky through her window as she sips from her goblet.  She sighed at her empty glass and poured herself another drink and she filled an empty goblet that was next to it.  Then she heard soft knock on the door.

“You may enter,” she said. 

Maggie enters, freshly washed and dressed in a soft dark purple gown with her hair set in a low braided twist. 

"You sent for me your Majesty?" she as she locked the door.

"Yes, I did Maggie.  Have a seat,” Talila gestured to the chair by her. 

Maggie crossed to the table and sat with the queen.  She examined the wine in the cup; the aroma of the fruity scent made her take a sip.  The taste of the wine had the appealing flavor of the sweetness of cherries, the tanginess of the grapes, and with the pop of bubbles that gave it a kick to Maggie’s tongue.

“When we were at the convent, we didn’t get a chance to know each other very well,” the queen said. 

"No, we haven't," Maggie replied before she took another long sip.  This pleased Talila as she crossed her legs under her robe.

“Tell me exactly where you are from Maggie?” she asked again.

“I’m from the Northeast of the coast, by the Bay.  I was living with my mother until she got a brain disease and my older brother was killed in a work related accident years before.  My mother’s side of the family gave me to Father Horace after a witch, Lady Rhea Saffron, wanted to take me in and have her live in what used to be kingdom of Moonshire.  They didn’t want me to associate with her so they had her and her coven destroyed by an angry mob from the father’s congregation.”

 “You mean to tell me that you’re a witch?” Talila asked.

“Yes, I’m a witch,” Maggie confessed. 

Talila gave Maggie an affectionate smile as she took her by the hand.

“Don’t worry my friend.  Our secrets won’t leave this room.  You have my word – as long as I have yours,” the queen said, “You have my word as your friend and as your ally.  But as a witch, do you know any cures for fatal diseases?”

“I might, it depends on what type of disease are we talking about,” Maggie replied.

“Snake venom fever disease,”            Talila blurted out.

“Ha!  That’s nothing.  A lot of people think that snake venom fever disease is incurable but it’s really not.  All you have to do is bathe the rotting wounds with an ointment that I can make within an hour.  I just need a cauldron, a stove or a fireplace to cook the oil, the herbs and spices, and then you have to make a tea.  A special tea if the victim can’t talk, it’s called Jiseasil.  It can be purchased anywhere in markets and shops.  And I also need the thinnest animal hide that I need to get.  Any animal hide will do as long as it very parchment paper thin.”

Maggie watched her queen walk away from her to the vanity.  She grabbed her goblet and drank to the last drop as Talila hands the letter to Maggie.

“What’s this letter about?” the witch asked.

“Father Joardan had sent me a request for a cure.  I was hoping someone would have the treatment.  Tomorrow afternoon, I will be holding a meeting with the representatives of The Holy Islands and Father Joardan is supposed to be there with someone to make sure that I’m taken care of.  Not a lover, oh no.  He’s more like a bodyguard.  I want to make sure no one will interfere with my coronation and the trials of Father Horace and his followers.”

 “I will get to it right away,” she said she hands back the letter to her queen.  “I’ll look at the victim and determine how bad the damage is.”

“Very well,” Talila said, “you may back to your chambers.  I will send for another servant to have you move your belongings to your new room.”

“I get a new room?” Maggie asked. 

“Forgive me if I wasn’t clear,” the queen said, “I want you to be my assistant from now on.”

Maggie poured herself another goblet of wine; she remained calm as she heard the catch.

“As you know once I gain the crown of the leader of Skylark, there will be arrests made in our favor,” Talila explained.

“And you want me to talk on your behalf as a witness of the abuse we had endured?” Maggie questioned her.

Talila rushed back to her chair.  She looked dead in the young witch’s eyes and gently placed her hands on hers.

“I want you to tell representatives from The Holy Islands everything,” Talila said lividly. 

Maggie, without flinching, remained quiet.  Talila released her, realizing what she had done to the magic-user. 

“I’m so sorry that I yelled at you like that.  My son’s behavior has been draining me physically and mentally as you might have heard.  You know how Father Horace can be a bastard.  Bryce is having a hard time adjusting to his new life without the priest and within my power. I will make him change and accept my lifestyle.”

“Apology accepted,” Maggie replied before she took another sip. “I want Horace gone as much as you do.  I know how hurt and furious you are at what he did to all of us!  I will be at your side for everything!  I accept you who are, not what you are.”

 “Thank you Maggie,” she said with gratitude, “Once you’re done with your wine, you may go back your chambers.”

“You’re welcome,” Maggie replied with a beaming smile.

She had her last sip and placed her goblet back on the table. 

“Goodnight, your majesty,” she said before leaving the room.

Talila closed the door without a word to her and locked the door.  She glanced over the letter again, touching Father Joardan’s black seal.

Maggie quickly walked away from the queen’s chamber door.  As she turned the corner, she saw a young woman dressed in a buttercup yellow robe entering Prince Bryce’s bedroom.  Maggie hid behind the corner, spying on the two guards’ conversation as soon the door closes.

“Another midnight snack for the baby prince of Skylark,” one of the guards said to the other.

“Well at least he’s getting the milk for free,” the other said back,  “I heard rumors that not only he’s weaning off her tits; he’s fucking her as well.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised if they are and the queen knows about it.  She’s like her brother-in-law, that perverted Prince Elred, a lesbian they call those girls.”

“Who cares?  I wouldn’t mind having her for a ruler.  As long I get to smell her breath.”

They laughed until a familiar voice came from out of nowhere.

“She’s not a lesbian, she’s bisexual,” Sir Emory said by the main stairs located by Bryce’s chambers.

The two guards stopped, stood at attention, and saluted the knight.  He slowly walked up to them with his arms behind his back and a scowl on his face.

“If you ever say one more dirty word about our future ruler of Skylark, I will personally make sure that you be banished from the kingdom until your balls hang down to the ground!  Now goodnight gentlemen and behave yourselves.”

Emory didn’t see the witch hiding in the shadows as he walked towards her way.  She ducks behind a curtain when he passed her.  Maggie watches him enter Talila’s chambers.  She comes out from her hiding place and made her way down the hall.

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