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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3. The Meetings of the Minds

The sun shines over The Ohr woods as the dawn emerges into morning.  The South Lake shimmers as if it was made from tiny bits of liquid sapphire and gold.  A yellow-tail goose flies over the trees only to be caught by the gross beak of the giant black pine hawk.  A droplet of blood ends up on the rooftop of the cabin near the stone chimney with little smoke coming from it.

Waldyr lies on the floor with no blanket, no pillow and no sheets.  He only has his shirt used for his head while the fire in the fireplace dies down behind his sleeping body.  Ivon is still in Waldyr’s bed, sound asleep as the blanket hardly covers his big feet.  And then there’s Elred sitting up on the bed fully awake and looking better than last night.  He checks on Waldyr and Ivon and warmly smiles at the two.  His highness tries to slide over but he’s weakly slumps on his side.  He takes out his right foot from under the fur blanket and gives Waldyr a small nudge. 

“Waldyr, are you awake?”  Elred whispers while rubbing his throat. 

He clears it and lets out a few coughs this made Waldyr move for a moment.

“Waldyr, wake up!” He shouts out with a large cough following. 

He looks up to see Ivon waking up from his slumber.  The knight sees Elred is awake and struggles to break free from the blanket.

“Waldyr.  Wake up, brother!  Our friend is alive!” Ivon yells to Waldyr, but he’s still out. 

Once he releases himself from the bed, Ivon throws a small tin cup of warm water on his half-brother.  Watching this moment was so comical to Elred he quietly snickers with his hand over his mouth.  Waldyr finally wakes up, face soaked, his hair wet, shaking his head, and blinking his eyes.  He looks up to see Elred in good spirits after a long stay in a windowless clay box.

“I see our lord is feeling better than yesterday,” Waldyr says as he swipes the water from his face. 

Elred lets out another cough, but more mellow than a harsh one as he tries to talk.

“Do you have any of that tea left?” He hoarsely asks his friend. 

“I’ll put some on the kettle for you,” Waldyr replies. 

He checks to see if there is any clean water in the bucket and then the kettle.  He turns to Ivon helplessly learning both of them are empty.

“I’ll put some clothes on and head to the south of the door,” Ivon tells him after he picks up a pair of old pants.

“I want you to be careful this time,” Waldyr warns him. “You never know who or what is lurking behind the trees during the daylight so be alert.” 

He takes a scoop of tea with the strainer and rests it on the mug.  Elred tries to get up from Ivon’s bed only to put his hand on his forehead.   Waldyr rushes to his aid by gently propping the escapee on the headboard. 

“Elred, you’re still too weak to get up,” he says.

“Please rest, your highness,” Ivon pleads as he finishes putting on the other boot. 

He whips out his sword from the back of the bed and straps the sheath around his waist.  He takes the bucket and unbolts the door.  Elred watches Ivon walk out; the sunlight stings the elf’s eyes.

“Close the door Ivon!” Waldyr yells out.

The big man panics and immediately leaves, shutting the door with a hard slam.  Elred turns away and uses his arms to block it.  Waldyr quickly grabs a clean damp towel from the table and places it on his friend’s vulnerable eyes.

“There you go,” he says, comforting Elred.  “Try not to speak until you had the tea.”

He presses firmly on the eyes.  The elf’s arms collapse at his sides.  Elred slowly turns around.  His rapid breath starts to slow down. 

“There you go,” Waldyr whispers.  “Can I let go now, Elred?  If it’s safe, just nod.”  He nods and the holy knight, the paladin, lets go of the rag, tossing it back on the table.  The elf carefully opens his eyes.

“Waldyr, am I right?” Elred asks.

“Maybe I’m Ivon.”

“No he’s bigger than you.”

He lies back in his bed, laughing and coughing at the same time at his little joke.  Then an aching pain in his ribs worsens as the coughing continues.

“I don’t feel anything broken,” Waldyr says as he examines Elred’s sides.  “You had the disease of the damp when you got here.  That escape plan made you sick from all the fighting and sweating in the sewers.  There’s nothing to worry about since I put a healing spell on you last night while you were practically dying. ” 

He stops but the prince places the half-elf’s hand on his chest once the coughing tames down.

“Can you cure your best friend from a broken heart?” Elred coughs out. 

A lone tear rolls down the elf’s hairy beard.  Waldyr looks into his eyes powerlessly, holding their hands together. 

“When I came out to you, it was in pure confidence and loyalty between us three.  You and your devoted half brother gave me the respect that I deserve and kept this secret well hidden from everyone.  That skinny bitch told Remy about my secret in front of Skylark.  I bet that convent didn’t do shit to her.”

“Elred, there’s something that I must tell you about your brother.”

“My sister-in-law slept with my nephew’s nanny.  He had my lover and that woman burned right in front of us!  He had the both of you banished from Skylark!  He had my aunt; his only living sister chased out that she’s has been reported missing.  And the Moonshire tragedy!  Don’t get me started on that because those poor people didn’t do a thing except express their religious beliefs without violence!”

“Hush my friend,” Waldyr says quietly.  “You’re going to get yourself sick again.”

“What do you know about Remy?”

“He’s dead.”

Those two words from his mouth don’t surprise Elred at all.

“I knew that a few days ago,” he confesses.  “I felt the vibrations of the bells in the towers through the walls.  If my brother had someone die the bells would ring five times.  I had a feeling either he, Talila, or Bryce would meet their maker when they rang ten times.  I was praying that it didn’t happen to the boy.  Now you told me that Remy had met his demise, I’m kind of thankful.  Tell me, Wally, how did it happen?”

“He was poisoned,” a voice boomed from the door. 

The light from the door is blocked by a big tall shadow of a figure.  Waldyr covers poor Elred’s weak eyes with the blanket.  The figure comes into focus as the door shuts.  It’s Ivon with – Sir Emory. 

“I found him, or I should say, he found me at the river,” Ivon says as he bolts the door again.

“I wasn’t followed since I left at the beginning of dawn.  I hope I didn’t scare the both of you,” Emory says coolly. 

Waldyr slowly pulls down the blanket from Elred’s face.  Emory can’t believe what he has just seen that he bows in the presence of his highness.

“Please forgive Your Highness, I didn’t mean to stare at you like that,” He says not lifting his head.

“If I saw myself like this, my mouth would be open too,” Elred replies grinning.  “Please raise yourself my lord.”

Ivon and Waldyr occupy themselves trying to glance at the captain of Skylark’s knights standing attention in their presence.

“If you’re wondering why I came here, Your Highness, it’s because I wanted to make sure our escape plan worked.”

“So you’re the mastermind behind my escape?”

“Yes I did,” he confesses while Ivon rests his sheath on the table.

“I owe you my life, your lordship.”

“The kettle is on so your tea will be ready,” Waldyr interrupts them.

“Gentlemen, as your heir to the Skylark throne, I want you all to sit so I can understand who did what to get myself here,” the prince demands, taking the blanket off and sitting up so his feet are on the floor.

Waldyr and Ivon sit next to each other by the table.  Emory nearly falls over as he sits himself on the edge of Waldyr’s small bed.

“Let me start by saying that as soon as Remy sent you and Talila to prison and the other two had themselves banished from the kingdom because they associated with you, your highness.  I had to make sure that I wouldn’t do anything to piss your brother off.  So when the queen was gone, I made a promise to his majesty that I would look after Bryce.  Unfortunately, your nephew has been brainwashed by his unholiness, Father Horace to do his bidding,” Emory went over with Elred.

“What’s wrong with Bryce?” Elred asks him with concern in his voice.

“When Talila came back, she found herself being a mother to a holy book reader.”

“I bloody knew it.  When she got out and he only paid me on visit that one time.  I don’t remember when it was because I couldn’t determine the day and time being cooped up in that dark shithole!”

Suddenly Elred remembers something.  “That girl,” he says aloud.

The kettle’s whistle breaks the moment.  Waldyr reaches for it and pours the boiling water over the strainer.

“What girl?” Emory asks him.

“I think he’s talking about that witch Maggie.  You know her, Elred.  She was the one that led us to the secret drain into the royal sewers,” Ivon explains.

“Maggie?” Emory inquires them with astonishment.

“Yes, you know her, Sir Emory?” Waldyr replies as he hands Elred his tea.

“I know her very well.  Queen Talila had a meeting with her last night and I saw her afterwards,” The knight confesses to them.

“That servant woman with the red hair. I thought I remembered from somewhere!” Elred recalls.

“What do you mean?” Waldyr investigates his friend’s recollections just as he sits next to him on the bed.

“I was in my cell where Father Horace came after he had his evening dinner.  He had this woman with him.  He told her about me and why I was locked up.  Horace threatened her that if she sinned, she would be next.  Then she spat at me.”

“Spat at you?  Who?  Not that girl Maggie?” Ivon questions him further.

“Well sort of,” Waldyr answers as Elred takes a sip of the tea.

“I remember now.  Father Horace ordered her to spit in my face.  He had his back towards us when she did it but it wasn’t saliva.” Elred recollects.

“It was that note that I had written you that helped,” Waldyr says to him.

“The funny part was that when she spat on my face, I felt something land in my beard.  Father Horace’s back was still turned when he left.  He ordered her again to say a prayer for my soul.  She took my hand, said a prayer, and then she was gone. I had something in my hand when I heard my cell being locked.  It was a match and a tiny candle for me to read the note.  I lit the candle on the cold floor and began to read what you had written.”

“I instructed you the next time Father Horace comes for his daily prayer meeting to run for your life,” the paladin repeats what was in the note.

“And here you are, alive and in dire need of a good haircut and a shave,” Emory finishes with a witty comment.

Ivon chuckles and slaps his knee.   

“And then we had Maggie snoop around,” Waldyr rolls his eyes.  “So I taught her the invisibility spell.”

Ivon stops.  Emory turns to see him upset about this surprise.

“What’s wrong, Titan?” He asks with sympathy.

“Excuse me, my lord.  Ivon dislikes magic in all forms.  Ever since our parents passed at the Battle for Moonshire, my half-brother is skeptical of magic-users,” Waldyr explains.

“Including you, Sir Norhorn?” Emory asks the holy-knight.

“He’s part of my mother’s blood, I try not to exclude him,” Ivon replies.  “Sometimes when he does magic, I get so worried that he might get hexed on or a spell goes wrong.”

“Enough!” Elred shouts out loud and clear.  They turn to see Elred clearing his throat.

“Wally.  Ivon.  Enough with the bullshit! Sir Emory Le Blank, my lord.  You have to excuse their behaviors.  Sometimes they tend to agree to disagree regardless what happened to their father and Ivon’s birth mother.”

Emory glances at the two men who are sitting up, trying not to be obvious about their manners.  Their ally rises from the bed and bows to Elred.

“I know about that tragedy as if it was yesterday.  Ivon, your parents were brave and fearless magic users who helped the citizens of Moonshire fight off King Remy’s holy domination of the land.  When they were caught, I made it as if they escaped.  Waldyr, you saw your father go.”

“You grabbed Ivon and I and told us not to go out there,” Waldyr continues on.  “He was going to conjure a dragon made of fire and wreck havoc on Remy’s army. One of Skylark’s rangers shot an arrow in my father’s good eye before he could finish. ”

“And then my mother, may the Great Goddess rest her soul, ran towards my father’s body,” Ivon says with nearly a tear in his eye.  “A knight gallops their way and stabbed them together with his sword.  I saw the life go out of her eyes as Sir Emory led us away to safety.  I could’ve avenged their deaths if I had the chance!”

Ivon pushes the table away with such vigor, nearly scaring Waldyr into a wall.  Sir Emory and Elred raise their hands to calm him. 

“Easy there, big guy,” Emory says looking sternly into his eyes.  “You will soon avenge the deaths of your parents by the hands of Queen Talila.  She’s going to take over Skylark and she has Father Joardan to help her.  She’s meeting the representatives from The Holy Islands to get approved.  Then, if crowned, she will have him put to death.”

All thee banished men remained quiet about the news.  Elred eyes slowly go back and forth with his chin resting on his left hand.  The half-brothers glance at each other and glance back at Emory.

“It’s true,” Sir Emory replies with his eyebrows raised.

“If this is true, then what about me?  Don’t I have a say as the brother of the deceased king?”

“I never questioned the queen about you gentlemen but I will address her about all three of you when I go back to the castle.  If she reinstates all of you, then we’re fine with that.  However, if she doesn’t acknowledge you boys, then we have a problem.   Your highness, you have to be very patient about this.”  

“And as I do for you with my sister-in-law,” Elred seriously reminds the knight.

“Believe me, seducing a queen who just lost the very same husband that nearly had her tortured is a very easy job for yours truly,” Emory confidentially responds.

The knight once again gets on one knee and bows in front of Elred.  The elf prince gestures him for him to rise from his position. 

“I will come back with some answers and as for you tomorrow morning, your highness, I suggest you lay low,” he advises him, “and the same goes for both of you.  If you see any of our men around, defend yourself because Talila can turn around and have you all dead.”

“And she’ll be a hypocrite if she does,” Waldyr says back.

“That I would count on,” Emory says as he lets himself out.  He turns and salutes the men.  Elred covers his face with the blanket as the slender man leaves the cabin.  Ivon rushes to lock the door.

“If she doesn’t let you back without being a fugitive of your own soil,” Waldyr says with daunt in his voice, “I’ll tear her hair out by her blonde roots!”

 

The queen stands in the middle of her room with her maid assisting her with today’s outfit.  A black dress with a sweetheart neckline and purple trim; complete with a gold circlet that looks like a crown of thorns as she wore it proudly on her head.  She stands patiently as she is fitted into her gown for her meeting with the people from The Holy Islands.  She gives her reflection a confident smile as one of the women finished with the final stitching.  She immediately sits by her vanity and raised her finger for the same girl to come forward.

“Fetch me Lady Maggie my dear,” Talila orders her.  The maid gives her a dainty curtsy and claps for the others to leave.  All three young ladies follow the adolescent woman out of the room.  The queen looks fondly at her hairbrush and begins to touch up her hair before her new ally comes in.

When she arrives, Maggie has her hair in a high braided bun that looks like a shiny blood stained rope.  Hers is dark purple like the trim on her new friend’s dress.  She stops in the middle of the room as the guards close the door.

“You had sent for me your majesty?”

“I had told you before but I’ll let it go this time.  Please call me Talila when we’re alone.”

“Yes Talila.  What do you need?”

“Help me with my hair will you Maggie?”

She hands the brush to the witch then turns and gives her a warm smile in the reflection.  The redhead gently brushes the long golden mane of her future leader of Skylark.  She remains calm when brushing the little tangles on the bottom of Talila’s hair. 

“I want you to give me a braid but keep my hair long,” the queen softly demands.

“As you wish Talila,” Maggie happily replies.

“And be very careful when you meet them, I want you to tell your side of the story and be serious about it.  Father Joardan is on his way with someone who needs our help.  If you can do whatever you can to help him or this person who is sick, I will make sure you will be protected by me.  This, as your queen, I can promise you have my word of honor.”

It was something that the magic user always wanted to hear.  The word of a queen in making sure that someone she knew from her past was well taken care of was something only a rich person can dream of.  Something has caught the woman’s eye, it was a purple ribbon left from the dress.  Maggie left Talila’s hair down but gave her a braid in the back and one on each on the side of her head.  She left out the ribbon and kept the hair as is.

“Beautiful work my dear witch,” the queen says to her.

Then the door flies open and Sir Emory storms in like an aggressive tornado.  He’s surprised to see Maggie fixing his lover’s hair.  Talila rises from her chair and approaches him with her nose almost in the air.

“What is the meaning of this?” He asks her.

“Lady Maggie was just fixing my hair for this afternoon’s meeting,” she answers him.

“We’re waiting for Father Joardan as well my lord,” Maggie added as she bows.

“Can she be trusted?”

“Just shut the door,” Talila says.  The door is shut and Emory pulls his lover closer for a kiss.  Maggie looks away but notices Emory giving her a playful wink in their reflection.  He can see that Talila is growing impatient but is very sure that she will win the approval.

“You need to be patient, Talila,” he assures her.  “They will all be here for the meeting.”

“I know my love but it’s not the meeting I’m worried about.”

“Then what is it?”

“Where were you this morning?”

He pulls away while she looks dead in his small eyes.  Maggie watches emotionless, placing the brush back on the vanity.  The queen stands convinced that she knows something is not right.  The captain has to think of something fast but he relies on the truth so he can save his allies in the woods.

“I met up with Sir Ivon Renhart and Sir Waldyr Norhorn in the market place,” he confessed.  Her eyes grew wider as she heard those two names.  She hasn’t heard any of their names in years.  Maggie doesn’t say anything at this point because her mind was occupied by escaping Skylark if her new friend had found out about her relations with the three men.

“They’re not dead?”

“No.”

“Where are they?”

“I can’t answer that my dear Talila.  They want to know if they can come home after you are crowned.  They have been banished by Remy after associating with Elred.  Now if you don’t have Elred back under the castle roof then that makes you a hypocrite.  You had same sex relations with some women in your life if I remember well enough.  But does that include Maggie over there.”

Talila glances over to Maggie, who is still in her position at the vanity.  She quickly takes her and gives the witch a long kiss.  The woman did not struggle nor panic while in a kiss with her majesty.  Emory sighs at the spectacle of his lover kissing another woman.  But his eyebrows rise when she puts her hand the witch’s left breast.  Maggie doesn’t pull away from someone who she trusted with her hair.  She takes a breath and kisses the elf on the nape of her neck.  Something stirs in Emory as his heart flutters in his chest.  Talila seductively looks over her shoulder at him as she tears herself away from Maggie.  The witch gives him a wicked smirk.

“Tell the two knights that they will be reinstated back into Skylark once I’m officially the leader.  And give my brother-in-law a message -- he will remain a free man but his reinstatement is uncertain after the meeting.”

Emory couldn’t believe his small pointy ears to what he just heard.  But deep inside he’s not too happy about what she had thought about Elred’s departure from kingdom.  Another knock on the door breaks the mood of all three people involved.  The queen rolls her eyes, upset about her privacy being disrupted by a servant.

“Enter,” she bellows out with her eyes still on Emory.  The door bursts open with Colleen rushing in wearing her maid uniform. 

“Your Majesty, Father Joardan has arrived and he’s not alone,” she curtsies before the queen in her.

“You may leave Colleen,” Talila orders her.  “Emory, will you escort me and Lady Maggie to the meeting room?”

He looks at Maggie, adjusting herself in the mirror, and then he gives the queen a smile.  He turns to the door with both arms extended for the women.  She takes the right and her queen, the left.  One of the guards closes the door behind them then joins three other guards to escort them to Father Joardan to the second floor of the palace.

“Do you know who has contracted snake poison fever disease?” Maggie starts a conversation with a question.

“I brought the ingredients after I saw Sir Ivon and Sir Waldyr Lady Maggie,” Sir Emory replies.

“I have absolutely no idea if it’s Father Joardan or the person who is going to help us my dear,” the queen adds.

“He needs a well scrubbed room if I’m going to work my magic on healing whoever is infected,” Maggie states.

“I will instruct the chambermaids to scrub one of the rooms from ceiling to floor and have all items washed and rinsed,” Talila replies with a wink.

They reach the meeting room after all the guards they had passed bowed to them.  The double wooden doors are open, letting the sunshine burst through the opened windows.  The birds in the trees of the land chirp their mating calls within inches of themselves.  Emory lets his queen go in first, then the new lady-in-waiting.  The light gives a warm glow on Talila’s cheeks as she enters the room to find a bald old man wearing a tidy looking black robe standing next to a big man in a green metal armor.  The gleam nearly blinds poor Maggie’s eyes so she steps back a little, next to Emory.  The old man turns to reveal that he has a beak nose, small brown eyes and seems to be twice as old as Father Horace. 

“Father Joardan, I’m Queen Talila, widow of King Remy, the elf king of Skylark,” she says proudly.

“Good morning, your majesty.  It’s still morning is it?”

“Yes it still is,” she replies with a soft grin.

“This is Sir Dante Tower.  He’s the one that I had told you about.”

“Is he the one infected?” Maggie asks with her hand shielding her eyes. 

Sir Dante, with his helmet remaining in place, marches towards her.  His amber eyes looking deep into her, hovering over her space, then she takes her hand down looking right into those same cold dead eyes.  The queen looks on triumphantly, watching their every move.  Emory helplessly stares at the showdown between the hulking knight and the petite witch.  The queen gestures for the same guard that closed her chamber door. 

“Guard, find some chambermaids and have them scrub the big dark bedroom near father Horace.  Have one of them make sure the other maids really give a good wash from top to bottom.  I want the sheets, blankets, anything that has fabric I want them removed and cleaned.  And then once everything is dry, I want the fabrics back to their original places.  Now go!”

Her voice echoes throughout the halls once the guard rushes out to do her bidding.  She spins back to her new ally father Joardan.

“I’m sure that she can cure Sir Dante of his malady without a problem,” she assures the dark priest.  He nods with a wrinkled smirk, his brown pupils disappearing between his lids.

“My lord, leave the poor woman alone,” he orders him.  The sun shifts away from the windows, with the green armor becoming more visible to Maggie.  She calmly stares at him as he walks away towards his master.  He turns to face the queen, looking straight ahead like a soldier to his captain. 

“Once we have the room ready, Lady Maggie will cure him of his ailment,” Talila explains.

“Good, good.  So what exactly happened here in Skylark?” Father Joardan asks her.

It took a good half hour to explain all the events that went on under Remy’s ruling with Father Horace as his advisor.  Father Joardan is listening with his chin resting on his tiny frail fingers.  Then Maggie acted as a witness on her behalf by telling him everything that went within the walls of the convent and Horace’s church.  It was nothing but sexual, verbal, and physical abuse that resulted in unnecessary burnings, hangings, and unlawful imprisonment.  Some of them resulted in suicides or a trip to the local asylum. 

“And then your husband was poisoned and no one had been accused of murder?” Father Joardan asks the queen.

“We interviewed everyone involved and there are no suspects,” Emory answers for her.

“I think Father Horace did it,” she says, “unfortunately Emory nor I have any proof of that.”

“And you want to make sure that you want to be the ruler of Skylark so you can accuse him of murder?” Father Joardan asks her with a raised eyebrow.

“No, I want to be the crown ruler of Skylark because my son might act the same way as my late husband did.  I’m trying to protect my only child from doing more damage to this kingdom.  I want the people to trust our family again so they won’t have to live in fear.  I have a list of people who I want gone and I must do this with you on my side.  I need you to help me gain that position.”

“And what do I get out of it?”

“I will personally hire you as my advisor.”

The news of adding Father Joardan to Skylark was like adding the dark forces to attend a church function.  Emory stood calm but was trying not to panic while Maggie didn’t even flinch.  She took another glance at Sir Dante, who doesn’t move at all.

“And what about my friend here; once he’s healed he will need a job.  You once told me during our letters to each other that you needed a bodyguard.  Sir Dante Towers came to me months ago with a letter from a local physician that the disease had spread to his throat.  Your lady-in-waiting has the cure?”

“Yes Father, she knows how to cure the terminally ill,” Talila answers.

“I would like for her to answer her own questions, if I may?”

“I can treat and cure your friend Father Joardan,” Maggie says just as the same guard from earlier enters the room again.  This time he has some important news.

“I’m so sorry to interrupt your majesty but the representatives from The Holy Islands have arrived.”

The queen gives a quick glance at Emory and then back at the priest.

“So if I speak on your behalf, I get a job as your advisor?”

She nods as she clenches her hands together and licking her lips.  Father Joardan knows she’s desperate at this moment but decides to let her know that he will help her.  Talila beamed at this revelation from her new hired ally.

“Now let’s go meet these representatives from the Islands because we have to get you that crown,” he says smiling at her.

She gestures the guard and whispers in his ear.  He quickly leaves before the queen herself exits the room with her entourage following behind her.  This time she walks with Dante by her side, having Emory walk behind her with Lady Maggie and Father Joardan at each side. 

“I want to make sure that your superiors understand that I’m not backing down from taking over Skylark so we’re meeting them in the throne room.”

Suddenly Emory stops walking.  He watches his lover walk down the hallway from behind a wall.  Maggie’s head follows him but he nods to her before he disappears into another part of the hall. 

They reach another pair of doors that are closed.  Two of the guards open one of each.  They all enter to five people, four men and one woman, and they are lined up across from the throne.  The people from The Holy Islands bow before the queen as she enters.    She stands across from them by the throne with her eyes all on them.

“Good afternoon.  People of the council, I do hope the trip was satisfactory,” Talila says to them.

“Yes, thank you very much your majesty,” says one of the men dressed in a white hooded robe with the gold hounds tooth trim.

“This is the captain of my knights, Sir Emory La Blank, my assistant, Lady Maggie, my new advisor, Father Joardan, and my bodyguard, Sir Dante Towers.”

“Your holinesses,” Maggie says as she curtsies.  They grin as they return the gesture.

“Queen Talila, I’m Archpriest Brother Nolynn and it’s an honor to meet you and I’m so sorry about your husband’s sudden death,” he says with awe. 

“We had sent Father Horace of The Children of the Light Church years ago under the direct orders of your late husband, King Remy,” the only female representative reminds her.  “Where is he?”

“He’s in his room awaiting trial,” Talila coldly replies.

“A trial?  What has he done?”

“The only one that can have a trial is the heir to the throne,” Brother Nolynn adds to the conversation.

“I know that I’m supposed to step down and let my son take over but he’s much too young to rule Skylark,” the queen says as she glances at the throne.

She tells them about the abuse her, Maggie, Elred and all the others that had suffered under Remy’s commands.  The manipulation was part of Father Horace’s plan to scare the citizens of Skylark to worship the White Gods or their souls would succumb to the Dark Forces after they die.  People were burned, hanged, and stoned to death when they were found guilty of crimes that were deemed unnatural in the evil priest’s eyes. How her son became a martyr of taking the Three Holy Books too seriously that his personality changed.

“My only child is very sick and has episodes of erratic behavior not fit to rule Skylark,” she tries to convince the council.

“Excuse me, Your Majesty.  May I have a turn to speak?” asks Father Joardan.  She slowly nods and steps aside so he can converse to the five people.

“My fellow religious leaders, I had heard terrible things about this so-called priest and what he did to King Remy and his son, Prince Bryce, and the people of Skylark were inexcusable.  The king had murdered and butchered the citizens of Moonshire and now it’s in ruins after he decides to abolish magic and sorcery from his own kingdom.  Father Horace wanted the king to force his subjects to read every word of The Three Holy Books.  These books were not made for politics; they were made not only to read about our ancestors, the saints, and the White Gods, but to people to choose religion freely without force and to understand the stories more than just something that wasn’t in the first place.”

The five members of the council talk among themselves huddled in a circle.  The queen and her cohorts watch patiently in silence, all hoping, except Sir Dante because of his condition, that Talila will get her crown.  She roughly rubs her hands, wanting to give her piece of mind of what a leader should be.

“If I may add one thing before anyone can make a decision on who rules Skylark, our capital of the East Coast.  After what I had been through these couple of years, I deserve that crown.  You know my son is not in his right mind but I am and as long as I have my small support system, I can rule this land with kindness and love to my people.  They don’t deserve to live in fear, they don’t.  You put me in charge with Father Joardan as my advisor and I can change on how everyone will live their lives, not pay their sins with theirs.”

Once again, they talk among themselves in that circle they had created.  Talila is watching and listening, making sure that these religious leaders are making the right decision.  She thought to herself if she can get that only female among the male council members to have them convinced that a woman can do a job of a man, then the crown will be hers. 

“Before you make your decision, I want to remind the woman council member that if you’re a leader and wanted the same job as a man, what would you do to get it?  Would you just stand there with men making the choices for you or would you rather be your own person making the call when it comes to leadership?”

And again, they chat in that circle so the others can’t tell what they are talking about.  Talila spins around softly, with her dress ruffling with every movement, and paces towards the throne.  She sees two other chairs that are smaller than the big throne, one on each side.  They are made of solid oak, painted gold with indigo colored cushions.  The top carving has the family crest on it, three swords impaling a big heart. 

“Your majesty,” the female council member says, “I believe we came to a conclusion and it comes down to this.  We will grant you your wish to be crowned leader of Skylark on one condition.  The condition is simple.  Your son Bryce is next for the crown after your future demise whenever that would be, unless for some reason he is still not fit to rule, then either you can produce another heir or a part of your immediate family such as a sister or brother must take over the throne.”

“Do you understand your majesty?” Another male council member dressed in black with red trim confirmed the situation to the queen.

Talila turns with an affectionate grin to the representatives.  Sir Emory nods to himself and looks down at his feet.  Maggie’s raises her eyebrows and blinks her eyes twice to the news.  Father Joardan looks up at the ceiling with his hands clasped together.  Sir Dante didn’t move at all, nor expressed himself under his helmet.

“Yes I do understand and thank you so much, council members of the Holy Islands,” Talila says with gratitude.

“When will you have your coronation?” Brother Nolynn asks.

“You’re welcome to stay overnight for my coronation tomorrow morning,” she replies.

“We can’t for we must leave right away,” says the female.

“Father Joardan can handle it from here,” says Brother Nolynn.  “And now this has settled we must leave.”

“The guards can lead you the way out,” Emory says gesturing to two guards to assist them.

“Good afternoon, your majesty and good luck in the future,” Brother Nolynn says as everyone exchanged bows.  All of the five representatives leave in a straight line with the female first.  Talila, Emory and the rest of her entourage watch them exit the room and go down the hall.  She rushes to her late husband’s throne and sits on it.  Emory and the rest turn to see their queen is ready for anything.

“So tomorrow we will have you as our new leader,” Emory says with a smirk.

“And no one is going to stop me,” Talila says with such confidence that she didn’t look at her lover at all.  She saw herself in the mirror that hangs across from the throne on a wall.  He watches her face change from confidence to an evil smile.

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