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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1. The Great Escape

“He was a good man, your husband,” Father Horace said to her.

A tall slender woman dressed in black, gazed through her mesh veil, keeping an eye on the two undertakers locking the gates to her husband’s tomb. A short old man in a robe placed his hand on her shoulder. Before he opened his mouth, she brushed it away. She glanced up at the sky just as the gray clouds gathered around the faded sun. She took one last look at her husband’s final resting place.

"Are you coming, Father Horace?" she asked him without looking back. He silently followed her as they walked slowly down the path of dead leaves. The sound of her dress rustled against them like a broom sweeping the floor.

“So, holy man, when will the coronation begin?” she asked.

“I know the poor boy is still in mourning over his father’s death. I figure two days from today would do,” he replied.

“No. The coronation is not for my son. It’s for me,” she announced.

“But your majesty, you can’t take over the throne! You must step aside and have your son take over his father’s place,” he said.

She lifted her black veil, exposing her pointed ears, long face, and arched eyebrows.

“Why do I have to step aside? Is it because I’m a female, human?”

“But it’s your duty to see your son Bryce claim the throne.”

“My son will not take over the throne. He’s only fourteen. He’s much too young to be a king.” She said.

His queen turned and strolled away from him. He followed a few steps behind her.

“I’m having a meeting with my son this afternoon in my chambers about that. I don’t want any interruptions from you at all!”

He watched with a scowl as the queen climbed into her carriage. As the driver prepared it, she gave Father Horace a warning:

“You better get inside somewhere, there is a storm coming soon.”

The door shuts and she rides away, leaving Father Horace by himself.

The queen watched the beauty of the grounds through her window; so many gardens and bushes decorated the outside of the white stone walls. She saw the sun trying to come out from the clouds again. But the clouds overwhelmed it into a blurry ball of light.

A raindrop landed on the window.

‘The Weather Gods above will wash the kingdom clean,’ she thought to herself as the carriage arrived at the castle.

The sounds of the thunder roared in the afternoon skies felt like cannons firing far away within the mountains. She took out her hairpin to let her beautiful long blonde hair go wild. She stopped to feel the rain on her face before entering the castle.

“Make way for her majesty, Queen Talila!”

An announcement cries out for her in the entrance hall. The maids and servants had gathered in a row to bow in her honor. She nodded her head, acknowledged them as her footsteps echoed within the gigantic castle halls. She’s escorted by two guards walking up the main stairs to the western wing. The royal guards were at every doorway and kneeled before her as she passed them. In her mind, all she wanted to do was taking her mourning gown off and spend the rest of the day in bed before dinner. Talila entered her bedroom with four servants waiting for her.

“Help me take off this dress,” she demanded her servants, “and make it quick!”

"Yes, your majesty. Would you like a bath?” One of them asked her.

“No. I want someone to send for my son at once!” Talila ordered as they remove her gown immediately.

“You may all leave. I’ll take my lunch in here but I will be dressed for dinner tonight.”

The ladies bowed and left her room in a single line. Talila locked the door behind them. She saw a nightgown that she dreaded wearing on her bed. It was a basic garment of brown cotton. The elf queen remembered when Remy wanted her to dress plain for bed so no one would be with her and he wanted her to remain faithful throughout their marriage. She grabbed the garment and tossed it into the fireplace. She ran under her bed and took out a bag made out of sackcloth. Talila whipped out a light blue silk robe with small pink ribbon straps. It came with a matching gown that was very sheer. She wore it and crossed to the full-length mirror. She fixed her wavy golden locks with her slender fingers; a ring gets caught in it. Talila untangled the ring from her hair and it’s her wedding band.

She remembered the day she had met her king. Talila was an elf lord’s daughter from a local village near Skylark when they first met. She was with her father at a festival held by King Remy’s sister, Lady Soora, in honor of the elf goddess of strength, Fenunna. The king was testing his power of strength at a jousting event. He was knocked out by her father in the final round. She rushed towards his aid in a panic, fearing that he would kill her father for his defeat. He took one look into her innocent eyes and they had fallen in love. She was eighteen when she married the forty-year-old leader of Skylark. Now all Talila had left of her husband are her memories and the kingdom.

Someone knocked on the door. She took the sackcloth and tossed it into the fire.

“Give me a moment!”

The queen tiptoed over to the door. She shrugged her shoulders while she unlocked it.

"You may enter," Talila yelled out.

The door opened and Prince Bryce came in. She greeted her son like a mother who hasn’t seen her child in days.

"Hello, mother. You look so beautiful this afternoon.”

“You’re getting more and more beautiful each day I see you,” she said.

Her son can tell she was happy but he knew in her eyes that something wasn’t right.

“What’s wrong mother?”

“Bryce, close the door, I have to talk to you about your father.” She said as she caressed her son’s pointed ears that peeked through his straight blonde hair.

Bryce’s breath became heavy, his eyes grew wider. His mother chuckled at the expression on his face.

“No. You’re his son.” She ensured him.

He touched his chest and smiled in relief as he closed the door.

“Why would you think of such a thing?”

Bryce shrugged and then he grinned like the innocent young elf that he was.

“Then what’s wrong, mother? What about my father?" He questioned, tilting his head.

The queen looked into Bryce in his eyes. Her hands were placed tenderly on his shoulders.

“Son, when your father died, normally you would be in line for the crown. As your mother, I think you are too young to walk down that line. So I decided to meet with the representatives from The Holy Islands to try to convince them to let me take over as ruler of Skylark. In order to convince them, I want you to tell these people why you want me to have the crown.”

“And I want you to stay away from Father Horace,” she said to him, releasing her loving grasp from him.

Bryce crossed his arms; his expression was dull as if his soul had left his body. His eyes moved sideways, with his head down. This made his mother nearly back away from her son’s behavior but she kept her fear hidden inside. She turned to her vanity and poured water into a dish. She gently cleansed her face with a wet towel, with her back toward Bryce. Then she heard her son leafing through one of his holy books.

“If we can be honest with each other, then why have your back against me? Do I offend the ones that I love since my first breath? Face the truth and you will go with The White Gods,” Bryce stammered while he read from a white book in his hands.

“That was from Tibus twenty-four, verse five.”

He closed the book and shoved it back into his front pocket. She turns to face her son with the towel still in her hands.

“Father Horace convinced your father to put me in a convent to teach me some lessons. For nearly two years I wanted that convent burned to the ground. I was beaten and whipped with belts by those wicked Anchorites. I was molested by them as well. Including the priests like your beloved Father Horace.”

“But Father Horace says that homosexuality is an abomination to The White Gods,” he said as he stepped away with twitching eyes.

She stared at her son’s actions in disbelief with her mouth ajar.

“Father Horace had sent innocent people to be tortured by the church or to be sentenced to death. He is supposed to be a priest. He’s not.”

The boy trembled from his mother’s words. He placed his hands over his ears. His eyes were closed tightly. Talila softly took down her son’s hands and he opened his eyes. She held him tightly in her arms with his head resting on her shoulder. She glanced at the stained glass windows; it’s was still raining. Then there was another knock on the door, causing them to break their up moment.

“Enter!” Talila shouted out.

The door opened to reveal another servant entering the room holding a tray of food.

"Excuse me, your majesty, am I intruding?" She asked.

“No, not at all. Come in,” Talila said with a smile.

“Yes your majesty,” the woman nervously replied as she entered.

“Son, stay in your room. You will have your lunch there for now. I will get Sir le Blank to get two guards to protect you wherever you go,” she said to him.

“So what are we having for lunch today, your majesty?” A man’s voice said.

Talila’s face glowed as she saw her friend, Sir Emory le Blank, leaning against the doorway with his arms folded and a confident smile with another two guards standing a few feet away from him. They exchanged bows as the presence of the knight had made Bryce’s day.

“Uncle Emory,” Bryce shouted out with open arms.

Emory nearly lifted the prince off his feet, letting out a soft growl within his grip. He nearly dropped the boy. The servant glanced over her shoulder for a moment while preparing the table, and then she went back to what she was doing.

“Enough of that nonsense, Bryce has to go to his room” she said.

“Is there anything wrong with him?”

“No, he’s fine. It’s for his safety.” She replied, “You may go now, son. I can assure you that we will eat dinner together tonight."

The prince bowed without taking another glimpse of her and made his exit. Talila locked the door behind him. She turns to see Emory observing the servant preparing the table by the fireplace.

“Can she be trusted?” He asked her, keeping an eye on the human.

Talila squinted as she studied her, watching this strange woman handling the food. The servant’s back was turned as she searched for something in her apron pocket.

“I know her," she whispered to him.

“Is she one of those fallen women from Father Horace’s church?” He quietly joked.

But Talila didn’t laugh. The servant realized that she had no matches for the candles. She took a peek over her shoulder. Her big brown eyes caught the attention of her mistress. Emory leaned on the wall, trying not to be obvious by looking out the window.

“Excuse me dear, what is your name?” Talila asked her.

“My name is Maggie, your majesty,” she answered.

Maggie was shorter and flabbier than Talila and had wavy red hair tucked under a white cap.

“You look familiar. Have we ever associated before?” The queen asked as she moved even closer to Maggie.

“I imagine so,” she replied calmly.

“You’re one of the women from the convent.”

“Yes. I didn’t want to say anything. It was you and I and two other women in that room.” she confessed.

"You were the one who told me to keep to myself," Talila said.

"I'm very grateful for the advice that you had given to me on my first day at the convent."

Maggie and the queen exchanged bows. Emory raised one eyebrow while he rubbed his goatee with his finger.

"Tell me, Maggie, how long have you been here in the castle?"

“The day after your husband’s death and I’m very sorry for your loss, your majesty.”

"What were you looking for when you were preparing the table?" Emory suddenly asks her.

That didn’t sit well with Talila. Her lip tightened as if she was holding something back.

"I was looking for my matches for the candles," Maggie answered him.

"We don't need candlelight, Maggie. But thank you,’ she politely said to her, “we have the fireplace for light. I’ll see you at dinner. That will be all.”

Maggie bowed, unlocked the door, and left while closing it.

“That was interesting," Emory said smiling as he locks the door.

“That was a terrible thing to ask that poor woman,” Talila hissed.

“What do you mean?” He asked with his hands on his hips.

“If you ever think that this maid would poison us, you better think again. She suffered just as much as I had suffered. She gave me some pretty good advice while I was there. And speaking about who else is suffering, Remy’s brother, Elred.”

Her attention was drawn to a pitcher of wine by the potatoes and poured herself a goblet full.

“Are you sure that’s a wise decision?” he asked as she watched her gulp down the wine.

Emory slowly walked towards her and kneeled before his queen. Talila settled down the goblet and sees the knight trying to be loyal.

"Oh, the ever loyal one, you may stand Sir Emory Le Blank," Talila playfully commanded. She stood with her hands on her hip and shook her head.

He took her delicate hand and kissed it. He lifted himself, still holding her hand. Emory leaned over to Talila for their first kiss. She gently pulled away. They locked eyes as he pulled her closer towards him for a passionate kiss. He rushed to open her robe; her breasts exposed for Emory’s touch. She took a breath as his lips moved from her mouth to her long neck. His hand made it under her nightgown -- and between her legs. Then there was an unexpected knock at the door.

“Damn it,” Talila said under her breath, “who is it?”

“It’s Maggie, your majesty. I have a letter from the messenger. May I come in?”

“Just slide it under the door. Thank you,” Talila instructed her.

A small envelope flies from under the door. Emory grabs it and looks it over.

“What are you doing?” She asked her lover while closing her robe.

“I’m checking for poison needles, powders, and bombs. So far it’s good,” he said as he opens the envelope.

He saw the black wax with a crest of a shield with a spade on it.

“I see that you have already contacted Father Joardan,” he said as he hands her the letter.

She read with the contents of the letter. She walked away from him as dropped the letter on the wooden floor.

“What’s wrong?” He softly placed his hand on hers.

“Nothing,” she sighed in despair.

He picked up the letter off the wooden floor and read it.

“Father Joardan needs someone who knows how to cure snake venom fever disease. That’s nearly impossible.’

She lies across on her bed, with her head rested on her hand and looking away. Emory placed the letter back on the table. He sits on the edge of his majesty’s bed.

“I used to love Remy once," Talila admitted.

“My husband was good until he gave Father Horace the role of the royal advisor. During those four years, I saw my loving husband turn into a religious zealot. One night, I had a little too much to drink and I had ordered one of the maids to make love to me. If my poor, innocent son hadn’t run into my room that night, she would’ve been alive today. You saw her burned to death.”

She gestures Emory to sit next to her. He does and she rested her head on his chest, staining his shirt with tears.

“I witnessed my best friend go mad before my eyes,” Emory said, “I see your son reading those holy books day and night, over and over again. If I were you, I would have Father Horace be guarded at all times. Once you receive coronation, you can have him and his lackeys stand trial.”

They look into each other’s eyes and share a kiss.

Father Horace stood alone in a cold prison cell, reading from one of The Three Holy Books to a male elf prisoner.   The incarcerated clothes were torn and filthy.  His brown hair tangled and his beard hid his face with the exception of his the tips of his elven ears.  He was on his knees with hands together as he prayed to The White Gods.  He was praying to no one and he wasn’t not paying attention to the old man was saying.

“I will never kiss a man who cannot give birth to my heirs.  I will kiss a woman and she will serve me as a submissive should.  I will not put my love into a man.  I will put my love onto a woman!  I will perish if I shall be with a man longer than a woman.  I will repent my sins and accept my punishment from The White Gods!  I will bind myself with my wife, by will or by force.  That was from Sontar, chapter three, verse twenty-five.  So Prince Elred, Do you understand what I had just read?” 

The Pastor saw the young elf was not paying any attention to him.  From under his robe, he took out a paddle and striked him on the face.  Father Horace watched him fall head first into the dirt floor. 

“That will teach you a lesson!  Now pay attention boy!” 

The brother of the late King Remy spoke not one word to him.  He gave Father Horace a glance over his shoulder as blood dripped down from his head, nearly missing his eye.  Rage filled his small body, causing him to shake, and clenched his fists tightly.  The human gave his paddle another good swing but missed.  Elred grabbed his frail bony wrists, causing the paddle to fall on the floor with a loud thud. 

“Guards, help me!”  Father Horace screamed out as Elred kicked him in the balls, causing the old geezer to collapse on the cot. 

Two guards busted the door open.  Elred ran swiftly towards the paddle and smacked the first guard’s helmet off as he drew his sword.  The guard lost his balance, knocking his bare head into the stone wall.  He slid down with a trail of blood from his injury. 

For the second guard, he took the sword from the floor and gave hard stab in the neck.  Elred watched the guard holding his throat with blood flowing through his fingers.  His life ended with the blood splattering everywhere as he collapsed.  Without hesitation, Elred made his way out the door.  Father Horace slowly sat up on the bed, nursing his head.  The sounds of sword fighting and people screaming were heard coming from the halls of the dungeon.

Outside of the castle were two knights waiting patiently in the rain by a grate that was located in the ground by the wall that hid behind trees.  With the two knights was the servant Maggie.  One of them, a half elf/half human, peered through the cracks of the grate from where he was.  The larger human, kept his eyes on the guards to the main entrance almost thirty feet away from where they were.  Maggie watched with her arms folded.

“If he doesn’t make it, can you use your magical powers to kill everyone involved?” the half elf asked Maggie.   

“I’m a witch my lord, not a sorceress,” she responded.

“So what’s the difference between the two?” The other knight asked her. 

“It’s very simple Ivon.  A witch uses potions, elixirs, chanting, spell work, tarot cards, and such as well as marrying people and holding monthly Moon rituals.  Sorcerers and sorceresses are born with their powers such as water and fire magic. They can also use gods and goddesses but also have the power to raise the dead, unlike a witch.  However, when sorcerers and sorceresses are needed in battles and wars, they will use their own magic to defeat the enemy.  A witch would just guide them through the fight.” Maggie explains. 

“Well if a woman is a witch then a man is a warlock, right?” the smaller knight asked her.

“No Waldyr and that’s the problem.  Not only women are called witches but men can be witches as well.  The male witches are not called warlocks; they only work with demons and other supernatural beings like ghosts and banshees.  Whether it’s for good or for evil and that goes for women as well.” 

Then they heard a commotion coming from the grate. 

“Do you have the tools to open the grate?” Waldyr asked her. 

She nodded and took them out from her satchel. 

“Then let’s do this,” Ivon said.

Ivon growled as he draws his axe, readying himself for a brawl.  Maggie rushed towards the grate.  She examined it to see if there are any traps or dangerous sewer monsters.  She turned to the two men.

“It’s clear.  Give me a minute.  I can do this,”  she said.

Maggie took one of her tools, a small butter knife from the kitchen, and wedged it between the opening and the grate.  She looked at Ivon. 

“Can you push the handle down with your foot; mine are too small for that."

Ivon rolled his eyes as the commotion was getting louder.   

“Quick, do it now,” Waldyr said to his half brother.

Ivon stomped his foot on the small knife.  The grate pried open, breaking the rotted locks from the inside and snapping the butter knife in half.

 "I'll check what's going on," Waldyr said.  

He stuck his head in the hole and looked around to see any form of life.  From down the sewers, he saw shadows on the walls.  The noise of men yelling and metal clashing were getting closer by the second.  Waldyr raised his head from the hole.

“I hope you can fit,” he said to Ivon.

Ivon climbed down into the sewers with his feet landing into the water.  The silhouettes of a small man with a sword fending off the guards became visible on the wall.  He helped Waldyr into the sewers from the hole as Maggie waited outside. They withdrew their weapons in unison.

“Let’s go get him,” Waldyr said. 

They ran towards where the fight was coming from.  They turned the corner to find their beloved friend trying to fend off five large guards by himself.  Ivon yelled out as he joins the fray.  He took his axe, chopping them up one by one with just one blow.  A hand touched Elred’s shoulder, causing him to jump and raised his sword to strike.   His eyes widen to see Waldyr standing behind him, grinning. 

“What took you so long?” Elred asked him.

They looked back to see Ivon holding his blood-soaked axe towering over the headless bodies.

“We got to go,” Ivon said to them. 

The sound of more guards were coming from everywhere within the sewers.  The men rushed back to the grate opening by the wall. 

Maggie paced back and forth, waiting for her new friends to finally show up.  Then she heard something from the sewers.  She turned to see Elred coming out from it.  She comes to his aid and pulled him out onto the surface. 

“Hello.  Who the hell are you?” he asked her. 

Then his expression changed, he seemed to remember her from somewhere before.

“Her name is Maggie and she’s a witch,”  Waldyr replied as he struggled to get out. 

“Maggie, is it?” Elred asked her again.

“Yes.  And I have met you before,” she replied.

Suddenly the noises of Ivon fighting off guards and water splashing made their reunion come to a halt.  Then there was a silence with only the sound of rain coming down from the skies.  Waldyr, Elred, and Maggie feared the worst as they slowly approached the hole in the ground.  The sounds of the alarm bells from the watch towers began their hunting call.  Ivon popped out just in time.  The three helped drag the huge man out.  The sounds of more guards were coming closer from the sewers – and from the castle’s grounds. 

“We got to leave right away Elred.  We haven’t much time as it is,” Waldyr said. 

“Will you be okay?  Do you know the way back inside the castle?” Ivon asked Maggie. 

“Don’t worry about me.  Just go,” Maggie responded. 

"Thank you so much, Maggie, for your help," Waldyr said gratefully. 

He gave the witch a kiss on the cheek and then he placed a bag of coin money in her hand.  She ducked behind the trees as she watched the men run towards the Ohr Woods and vanished into the trees.  Once they were gone, and with the guards trailing them not too far away, she quickly kept her left of the wet wall and carefully slid her hands on something in it.  A handle to a door painted to blend into the wall.  She pulled with all her strength to open it.  She checked inside to make sure there was no one is around.  Once inside the secret passageway, she walked towards an entrance where some light was peeking through the cracks.  She could see constant movement from the beams of the crevasses.  She took a peek to see people rushing back and forth while the alarm bells continued their warning melody. 

Then everything went dark.  Something was blocking the entrance.  Maggie took off her wet cloak and wrapped it up in a ball.  She pulled the entrance open.  Blocking everyone’s view was a heavy red velvet curtain that became loose during the confusion.  Maggie closed the passageway door.  Someone took off the curtain.  It was one of the other servants, Colleen, fixing the curtain.

“Are you all right Maggie?  I hope that curtain didn’t hurt you,” Colleen said.

“No.  I’m fine Colleen.  I have to go.”

Colleen watched her walk away as she ties the curtain together.  Maggie looked back to see if she suspected anything.  Father Horace appeared from out of nowhere, startling the woman by bumping into her. 

"Hello, Sister Maggie," he said to her with the sly look in his eye.

"Hello, Father Horace.  What is going on?" she asked him. 

 “Prince Elred has escaped.  He has stolen a sword and made a pathway of blood from the dungeon to the sewers.  Why are you all wet Sister Maggie?”

“I was outside the castle getting some ingredients for lavender cookies,” she explained as the alarms continue.

 “That’s Prince Bryce’s favorite dessert, am I right?”

"Yes, Father Horace."

 “Speaking of the prince, if you excuse me, I have to see the boy before he has dinner with his mother.” 

He passed her and made his way down the hall.  Maggie lets out a sigh of relief and rushes away from the chaos.  Then there was silence throughout the castle. 

“What was that all about?  Are we being attacked by our enemies?” Emory asked Talila as he struggled to put his boots back on while sitting by her vanity. 

 “Those sirens, it scared me half to death.  What’s going on?  I’m their Queen!  I have a right to know,” she said as she was getting dressed. 

Then there was a knock on the door. 

“There’s your answer,” he quips. 

She flies the door open and Father Horace and two guards stood before her.

 “Father Horace, what’s going on?” she demanded. 

 “I’m so sorry your majesty, my lord but I was told that one of the prisoners has escaped,”  said one of the guards.

“Who has escaped?” Emory commanded.

“Prince Elred, sir,” he replied.

This made the Queen very happy – on the inside. 

“We should find and kill that sexual deviant,” Father Horace said as he waved one of the holy books in his hand.

“I don’t think that is such a good idea,” she said, “I think we should leave him be and go on and about our business.  What do you think Sir Emory?” 

“I think that’s a good idea and yes we should go about our business,” Emory said, winking. 

“Why is Father Horace here?” Talila interrogated the other guard.

“He wanted to see your son before dinner, but we stopped him and he asked to see you, your majesty,” he replied.

“We must get Prince Elred and send his soul back to The White Gods,” Father Horace shouted out, still waving the book in his grip. 

Talila snatched the book from him.

“I refuse to let someone like Prince Elred be hunted like a dog!  Father Horace, as your Queen, you are invalid to my kingdom.   You nearly ruined my family when you wormed your way into Remy’s life.  You nearly poisoned my son’s mind with such horrid lies!  Not this time.  I refuse to have my child be your bitch for your cause.  Guards, please send Father Horace back to his room.  Have his door guarded at all times.”

 They grabbed him by his arms.  He struggled to break away from their strong grip.

“You will all go to The Dark Specters and perish!  Your sins will not be forgiven!” Father Horace screamed out.

“Emory, I want you to get the messenger and send him to Father Joardan immediately,” Talila said.

“He demanded something from you that you cannot give him.  What’s going to make him come here quickly?” Emory asked with concern.

"Tell him that his presence is important for the trial of Father Horace, our beloved pastor.  Do this before the sky turns to night.  I’ll see you at dinner,” she replied.

Without a word, Emory kissed her on the forehead. Then gave her a final bow and made his way down the hall.  The queen waited until he was gone and closed the door.

 

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