ageless trees of the
stood tall and lush, their roots digging deep into the earth and
their branches reaching towards the heavens. It was a primeval
forest, existing from the dawn of time as the center of the world
from which all life sprang. It was the domain of the gods, and of
ethereal god-like beings who had hidden bits of their wisdom in
every leaf and rock. Here, the veil between the worlds was thin,
and every inch of the woods dripping with magic.
trees now stood wrapped in the golden hues of twilight, inviolate
and permeated by the sacred stillness of whispered secrets. Night
was creeping up on the forest and though it was dusk for the
denizens of light, it was the dawn of a new day for the creatures
of darkness. Mischievous tricksters crawled out from beneath
boulders and roots to greet the moonrise, and the Dark Sidhe were
stirring in their
underground abodes in preparation for their nightly Rade on the
was a time when the Light and Dark Sidhe were one, and Onedia was
their Queen. She was the goddess of beauty, weaver of dreams, muse
of the arts, inventor of magick – everything the noble Sidhe
held dear. They showered her with praise and adoration, but alas,
their reverence soon turned into bitter rivalry for her attention.
Egos were ruffled, tensions rose, and conflict escalated until the
leading Sidhe families split into the Seelie and Unseelie Courts.
Their endless war to win her exclusive favor made Onedia
increasingly annoyed. Eventually she withdrew from the conflict
altogether and retreated deep into the forest, alone.
the very heart of the
stood the Tree of Life, a sacred link between the spirit and
material planes. Its thick trunk seemed to breathe as an animate
being. Nestled like a spider in a web of gnarled roots sat Onedia
before a magic mirror formed of dark crystal. Growing weary of her
monotonous existence, she gazed into its depths in hope of seeing
something – anything – that could possibly amuse her. So the
Dark Sidhe launched another attack on the Light Sidhe – what
a surprise. So the Queen of the
died – so what? So an
Earth Dragon attached itself to the Lossi mainland – intriguing,
but irrelevant. Always observing, never participating. When
would something involve me, she wondered.
envied her four sisters, the goddesses of the seasons, for being
appointed matrons of their own lands. They ruled over mortals from
the ether, watching countless generations pass before them, while
she was left behind in a place where time stood still. But most of
all she blamed her parents, who were responsible for this
arrangement. Her mother Laurel was the Lady of the Forest, and she
spent all her time with the Lord of the
, Pan. They were worshipped throughout all of Lossi as Goddess and
God, providers and sustainers of all living things. Onedia felt as
if they valued her no more than their innumerable mortal children,
far from the appreciation a true divine child deserved. She who
was Queen of the Sidhe, Lady of Magick, Mistress of Illusions…
Mistress of Illusions!” came a distant voice that startled her
in mid-thought, “Hear me!”
she looked around, trying to find its source.
the crystal!” the voice said impatiently. Onedia turned to the
mirror and saw that it shone with a shimmering violet mist. The
haze slowly began to drift apart, revealing a blurry yet luminous
shape of a man with flowing robes the color of the starry evening
sky. His hypnotic gray eyes met hers and immediately she could see
that he was no ordinary astral being.
your name, spirit!” Onedia commanded.
am Aloquin, rightful King of Caldora,” answered the being.
so you’re from the new continent,” Onedia perked up, “What
is your purpose?”
purpose is to make you my Queen.”
statement was so blunt that Onedia could scarcely find the words
to express her astonishment. Finally, she blurted out, “…of
Caldora?” She hoped that didn’t sound terribly condescending.
world!” Aloquin replied with a wicked gleam in his eyes, “Both
Caldora and Lossi!”
raised her eyebrows in disbelief. “To rule the world…” she
repeated, but decided to humor him for the time being, “Sounds
interesting. And how, pray tell, do you suggest we do that?”
is simple,” Aloquin explained, “The Queen of the
has died. You can take her place. Then we –”
Aloquin,” Onedia cut in, playfully curling a stray strand of
hair around her index finger, “I do not wish to rule the
, I would much rather rule the world.”
in good time,” Aloquin assured her, “Power is most stable when
it is acquired gradually and subtly.”
sighed and rolled her eyes. “Very well, what’s the catch?”
catch?” Aloquin faltered, “You will have to betray your mother
call that a catch?” Onedia laughed, “I’ve waited ages for
good,” Aloquin goaded her further.
I’m afraid there’s a problem with your plan.”
caught him off guard. “A problem?”
see, if I leave the sanctity of the
, I would age as the humans do.”
would retain your powers!” Aloquin insisted, “You could wrap
yourself in any glamour you desire, make yourself look more
beautiful than any maiden in the land!”
goddess was not impressed, but he didn’t let her get a word in
when the time comes, the Queen of the
and the King of Caldora will rule side by side, uniting the two
lands. On that day I shall bathe you in the primeval waters of the
Earth Dragon and you will be forever young again. No army on the
whole Lossi mainland could stand against us, and together we will
conquer the other kingdoms!”
paint a beautiful picture, Aloquin,” Onedia mused, “But how do
I know that you can truly do what you say?”
me to prove myself, you will have to set me free!” Aloquin
implored, pressing his hands against the inside of the crystal,
“A powerful sorceress trapped me between the worlds ages ago,
and you, Mistress of Illusions, can let me out.”
scanned the nature of the enchantment, but to her dismay found
that she was utterly unfamiliar with it. All she could infer was
that it was strong and most likely cast by a goddess at least as
powerful as herself. Figuring it to be a spell from the new lands,
she swallowed her pride and grudgingly inquired, “How do I do
say the word, and it will be so,” instructed Aloquin.
paused in thought. A trapped deity so obviously desperate for her
help hardly seemed like a threat, and although the offer appeared
outlandish, it would at least be amusing to see how far the
venture could go. Her nonchalant attitude towards major decisions
was often misconstrued by others as evidence of recklessness or
naiveté. A most dangerous misconstrual indeed, since it actually
stemmed from well-founded confidence in her power to extricate
herself out of any situation. This goddess didn’t take kindly to
abuse of her good will.
well,” Onedia bent her head to the side, “I let you out! Be
free to come and go between the worlds at will,” she said with a
wave of her dainty hand.
became enveloped in light. He took a gasping breath as he felt a
static energy field fall away. Reality around him stretched and
curved, creating intense suction akin to being pulled into a
vacuum. Aloquin blindly reached out through the mirror and stepped
onto a very solid forest floor. His ankle twisted under his own
weight and he fell to the ground clutching his head, which
throbbed with the dull yet potent pain that came from shifting
between spiritual pressures too quickly.
looked down at him. He was old and weak, barely looking like he
could hold himself up. His long white hair was unkempt and
tangled, and his wrinkled skin sagged loosely off his bony body,
making him look aged far beyond the limits of mortal years. She
recoiled in disgust, “And I’m expected to rule with you?”
laboriously lifted his head and said in a hoarse whisper, “This
is not my true form… I must… must go back to Caldora. We must
both prepare in our own way.”
goddess of beauty was seldom exposed to anything short of
perfection, and was still trying to compose herself while Aloquin
serves as an astral gateway between Caldora and Lossi. It is the
only way between the two landmasses while the Merpeople sink any
ship that dares try to cross their waterways.”
averted her gaze, “And your point is…?”
point,” Aloquin flinched from the pain, but continued, “Is
that you must find a way to control the traffic between Caldora
and Lossi. I believe it could be done by manipulating the
forest’s astral matter.”
nodded, “I understand. This could easily be done.”
returned her nod and anxiously pawed for a crystal on the ground,
“I can travel between crystals. Take a piece of crystal with you
so that I may keep contact with you and instruct you further.”
squeamishly took the small crystal from his hand and dropped it
into the folds of her voluminous dress. The man gathered his
tattered robes about him, clenched his fist, and growled softly at
something in his mind before disappearing in a ripple of time and
blinked, still processing what had just transpired. Aloquin was no
Prince Charming and his plan was sketchy at best, but he had
managed to intrigue her and give her something relatively
interesting to do, which was a change, and any change was a change
for the better. She smirked; truly the alleviation of boredom was
the sole motivation of immortal divinity.
delay she turned to her dark mirror and laid both her hands on its
smooth crystal surface. The goddess closed her eyes in
concentration, gathering power from the
, the wellspring of all magic. She began to shine with purple haze
and her feet left the ground. The cloudy image in the mirror, in
turn, swirled like the sky before a tempest. An otherworldly wind
blew through the trees, their rustlings reminiscent of ominous
whispers. Slowly opening her eyes, Onedia began to chant:
Father, Mother, sun and moon,
Your reign will be over soon;
bind your eyes and ears and hearts,
you may always seem apart;
dark, ye Tricksters vile,
this forest in your wiles;
mortals venturing here shall leave,
the forms that they so please;
Mirror, reflect my will,
all things and twist the real.
channeled the gathering energy into the dark mirror, which
reflected the full force of the spell in all directions. It
settled on the forest in a dewy coat of illusions. The Tree of
Life shuddered and creaked as its roots burrowed out of the ground
and wrapped around the slab of dark crystal. They drank their fill
of the energy and its taint spread quickly through the sap.
landed on the ground and gazed at her mirror. It stirred like
turbulent waters, and she knew the spell would sustain itself even
in her absence. She breathed in the eerie air and grinned smugly
to herself. As the goddess of magick, she was also the matron of
curses, and was certain this would be her masterpiece.
goodbye to the woods she had called home for so long, she walked
briskly and deliberately, so that by the twilight of the third day
she had set foot out of the forest and onto the ground of the
. Onedia trekked across countryside and from town to town, heading
at the capital city, Iyutel.
Aloquin traveled under land and water through a chain of
crystal gateways. He knew how to convert his body into pure light
and travel by focusing that light through the crystals. In no time
at all he felt he was in Caldora, a land much like the otherworld
mirror of Caldora that he had been trapped in for so long. Except
this Caldora was vibrant and alive, unlike the dying world he had
escaped from. First thing first, he just had to see how his
beloved twin was doing.
was night. The stars twinkled warmly in the sky, and the Crystal
Castle was deep in slumber. Aloquin cast a powerful barrier around
himself that cloaked his presence and flew inside, undetected by
the vigilant guards. The god floated through the central hall and
into the bedchamber. His image danced as a prismic reflection off
the crystalline walls as he hovered over the sleeping Dinictis and
well, my twin,” Aloquin whispered, “For soon there will come a
new dawn; a dawn without you or your pet buffoon. Do you truly
think he can fill my place? No, the rightful King has returned,
and I will reclaim my throne.”
shivered and woke up with a start. All her senses were on alert as
she peered into the darkness of the room, but Aloquin was gone
before she could pinpoint him, seeming only a trick of moonbeams.
rubbed his eyes lazily and sat up. “What is it?” he asked.
cold like a ghost,” Dinictis answered, concerned. She pulled the
covers closer about her. “I-I don’t know what it was. It-it
was like a void, it had a block on it. I just don’t know… I
don’t know what it was!”
Jason told her, “Nothing in Caldora can exist without you
knowing it. Proves it was nothing. Go back to sleep.”
towed her back down into the bed and wrapped his arms around her,
murmuring, “You’re right, though, it is a bit chilly in
here…” before lapsing back into sleep.
bit her lip and stared into space. Something was not right.
The whole of the Forestside Kingdom was in mourning for the
late Queen. The brightly patterned clothes and merriment in the
villages were replaced by somber and gloomy colors, and the royal
court was the most melancholy of all.
Forestside Castle itself was an exquisite work of art: its elegant
gothic motif was refined by conical peaks, four spiraling
watchtowers, and arched, stained glass windows framed by
interweaving knotted designs carved into the stone. Acres of
gorgeous palace gardens surrounded the main structure and a sturdy
brick wall protected it from the intrusions of the outside world.
But now black carpets were draped across the floor, black flags
were hoisted up the castle’s lofty spires, black curtains were
pulled over the windows, and black ribbons were tied around the
garden trees. There was much sniffling and much crying. Dark
garments hung on the nobles like a heavy burden and their faces
were painted with ash in grief. The King was sitting alone on his
throne wrapped in sorrow.
then, a cool breeze flung open the castle doors, blowing in a
multitude of brightly colored autumn leaves. Ethereal faery music
resounded throughout the castle and heavenly light poured through
the doors and windows. The mourning nobles went silent and looked
on in speechless awe as the leaves settled gently on the floor,
revealing an enchantingly beautiful maiden among them.
is a sign from the goddess Osenya!” a man shouted as all eyes
turned to the strange woman, “All hail the will of Osenya!”
wanted to make an impressionable entrance and she was satisfied at
her success. She knew well that Osenya, the goddess of autumn, was
the matron deity of the Forestside Kingdom and she wanted her
appearance to seem like her sister’s doing.
King slowly rose from his throne and walked up to the maiden. She
smiled at him and ensnared his eyes in her commanding gaze.
Obediently, the King kneeled before her, kissed her hand and
announced, “The Queen is dead! Long live the Queen!”
Queen is dead! Long live the Queen!” the crowd echoed.
herself with as much pride and dignity as any noble, Onedia
accepted the honor of becoming the Queen of the Forestside
Aloquin materialized by a pond in the dark depths of the
North Forest. For the first time in a long time, he felt fresh
Caldorian soil at his feet. Listening, he heard the wild sounds of
Trellian night: scampering in the branches overhead, dull groans
of big hungry things in the distance, howling of wolves, the roars
of dragons, and a pulsating drumbeat which saturated the air.
North Forest nights were very much alive with bloodthirsty
critters of all shapes and sizes. Then again, so were North Forest
days. Aloquin’s soul was deeply touched by the blatant
ruthlessness and violence that radiated off of every leaf and
rock. He smiled, relishing the feel of the energy as if it was
his gaze to the pond, his mood changed. The image of a wizened
shadow of a man stared back at him. He was still aging, which was
rather upsetting and ruined the moment. The god cupped his hands
and drew up some water, distorting the reflection. Pouring the
liquid into his mouth, he felt a cool stream of freshness spread
through his being. He sensed the aging process stop, but it did
not reverse as he had expected.
eyes flashed in rage. He kicked at the water and twirled around, a
flaming violet aura lighting up around him, “She gave that clown
he told himself, cooling down, “there are ways of revoking
in that, Aloquin decided to make the capital of the North Forest,
Trellia, his personal military base. Its energy was just right for
pushing his plans along, and it was isolated enough so that he
would have no outside questioning or interference. North Forest
loyalties were as stable as leaves blown by the four winds –
they would easily be swayed to his side given an adequate show of
of force…” Aloquin muttered, looking down at his withered
hands and the flimsy rags that barely managed to conceal his
fragile body; he was in no shape to make an imposing first
impression by looks alone. True, the god was perfectly capable of
an awesome display of power in his own right, but he could save
himself the effort if he rode in on a huge, thundering dragon.
Aloquin’s recollection of Caldora was hundreds of years old and
there was no telling what changes have taken place while he was
gone. Even so, he expected one particular cave to be exactly where
he had left it, and the wizard began to wade through the brush
more he thought about his plan the more it took shape in his mind.
Yes, it would be easy to win the flighty loyalty of the North
Foresters, but what would allow him to keep it? The
forest’s folklore was filled with foreboding tales of overly
ambitious monarchs overthrown by the mutinous masses. What could
he do differently? How could he ensure a conquest so complete that
it would wipe out all memory of the North Forest’s fierce
sovereignty? He knew of a way. He would entrap his subjects’
very hearts and minds by capturing the four symbols of their
strength, their authority, their life, and their freedom. If the
North Forest were a table, these would be the four legs on which
it stood. And if those legs were to be swept away, the tabletop
itself would fall into his hands.
was now approaching the mouth of the cave. It was a formidably
large cave, overgrown by several varieties of climbing plants due
to the simple fact that nobody dared go near it for years. This
was the home of the great dragon Kranti, the undisputed emblem of
might of the North Forest. Kranti was a bulky dragon, thirty times
the size of a man, with pitch black scales tough as iron and teeth
as white and hard as diamond. He was currently curled up in the
center of the cavern, the tip of his tail just touching his nose.
wizard boldly stepped through the opening and kicked a small rock
at the sleeping giant.
huge eyes cracked open at the noise, looking like two burning
yellow lamps streaked with pulsating orange veins. He snorted out
a puff of flame and surveyed his chamber. The dragon was annoyed,
very annoyed, and ready to tear asunder any being who had the
nerve to disturb his slumber. His gaze zeroed in on the lone
silhouette of a man standing at the entrance of his cave.
my old friend,” Aloquin said with a chilling degree of
knew that tone of voice. His eyes went wide in recognition, for he
was one of the very few beings old enough to remember the banished
not be frightened,” Aloquin smiled pleasantly, “I have come
here to ask your allegiance.”
the great dragon trembled with fear. He knew that refusing this
request was not an option.
The Forestside Kingdom’s mourning time ended with the
ascent of the new Queen. Vibrant patterns danced through the
streets as the populace commemorated Onedia’s coronation in
parades and celebrations. The happy chatter of the towns resumed,
and routine activity returned to the palace. The kingdom had
returned to its former glory.
internal affairs back on track, the monarchy began to work on
strengthening foreign relations. The goddess Dinictis herself,
Queen of Caldora, came to the Forestside Kingdom for a diplomatic
visit. Even though she knew this was the sorceress responsible for
Aloquin’s present condition, Onedia welcomed her with great
hospitality and much festivity. They exchanged gifts of crystals
and beads. It was a time of prosperity for both lands.
spared no expense to surround herself in extravagance. The finest
musicians in the land were at her beck and call, and she employed
the best artisans to remodel the castle’s interior to her lavish
designs. She had the palace menagerie stocked with the rarest
birds and beasts, and appointed handlers to tame and train them.
She hired chefs to prepare the most exotic foods from the four
kingdoms, which she ate from jeweled plates with gold utensils.
The gardens were filled with the most exquisite plants, but upon
her decree, a small plot of land was set aside where she could
grow her own herbs. The King found himself pushed into the
background, completely eclipsed by her overwhelming magnetism.
this way Onedia reigned as Queen for just over seven years before
she heard from Aloquin again. He came in the dead of night as a
cold wind that woke her from her sleep and guided her towards the
crystal shard. Luminous mist swirled within the crystal as
Aloquin’s visage came into view.
of the Forestside Kingdom!” the wizard bowed sarcastically,
“It is now time to put our plan into effect!”
plan?” Onedia yawned.
must kill the king by infusing his tea with the following
herbs…” he explained, whispering their magical names into her
note of the herbs, Onedia nodded irritably, waved Aloquin away,
and went back to sleep. The god was shocked by her irreverent
dismissal, but was prepared to tolerate such manners from a fellow
deity as long as he found her useful. However, befitting her
nature as Trickster Queen, Onedia was seldom what she seemed. If
Aloquin mistook her for a weak-minded pawn, he was gravely
mistaken. While she boldly flaunted her love of pageantry, luxury,
and diversion, behind this fluffy exterior was the soul of a
formidable goddess who never once thought herself anything less
than Aloquin’s equal.
morning, before the first shafts of sunlight heralded the dawn,
Onedia tiptoed out of the bedchamber and headed for her garden to
collect the appropriate herbs. A silent shadow watched her with
vigilant eyes: Lance, a commoner who had gained the favor of the
King by his enduring loyalty over the years. He was never fond of
the new Queen, nor was she much fond of him – mostly due to the
fact that he always felt the need to involve himself in her and
the King’s business. From the day Onedia came to the castle, he
resolved to monitor her every move.
was not anything that Onedia did that roused Lance’s suspicions,
it was merely her presence. Anyone blessed with the smallest
fraction of faery sight would notice that Onedia walked surrounded
by a magical aura. It was an ethereal quality that made her glow
with radiant beauty, endowed her with a voice as sweet as a
mountain brook, and forced the boldest of men to bend to her will
when met with her entrancing eyes. Each word she uttered carried
the power of a potent spell. While everything around her grew old
and withered away, she herself seemed impervious to the passage of
Lance missed the incriminating incident last night, he did not
overlook the odd manner in which the Queen hastened off into an
empty room with a cup of boiling water and a pouch. He followed
her and carefully positioned himself on the other side of the
wall. Onedia set the cup onto a table and began chanting strange
incantations over the herbs and water. She hummed a soft lullaby
and smiled while stirring her infusion, inhaling the sweet fumes
of the brew.
his wife was an herbalist, Lance was not schooled in such things
and didn’t quite know what to make of all this. A dozen thoughts
regarding the concoction rushed to his head. Could it be a healing
potion? A beauty salve? Fertilizer for her garden? Or was it
poison? Poison was definitely the predominant thought that
throbbed in his head.
could not ignore the warning, but the consequences of making false
accusations against royalty were severe. Lance decided that he
should not make a scene over this, and casually advise the King to
be cautious instead. Done brainstorming, he peeked over the edge
of the wall to find both Onedia and the potion gone.
sun was just beginning to rise as a crimson light rimming the
horizon. The castle was not yet warmed by its rays, and remained
drafty and cold. Breathing in the fresh morning aromas that
drifted in from the gardens, Onedia pranced giddily up the stairs.
She held a vial containing the bouncing mixture in one hand, and a
cup of tea in the other. A few drops of it into the King’s
morning drink and she would be rid of her obligations to him
forever. Besides, who would miss him?
ever so lightly through the curtains that hung past the door to
their bedchamber, her gaze fell on her husband, who was sleeping
peacefully wrapped in silk bedding. Holding back a giggle, she
crept over to a table, set down the cup and emptied five droplets
of her potion into the tea. Being an ageless goddess, she did not
understand nor care about humans’ peculiar concern with
prolonging their lives. She saw natural cycles with the immortal
eyes of the Sidhe, knowing that all things live and die only to be
born again; nothing can truly cease to exist. To her the poison
was just a practical joke. Human lives were so fleeting! At least
this one would serve her purpose before passing into the Overworld.
She took the cup, tiptoed over to the bed, and sat softly by her
the hair away from the sleeping King’s ear she leaned in close,
purring in her distinctly melodic voice, “Rise and shine, my
beloved King, dawn is upon us.”
King stirred under the sheets and rubbed his eyes, looking up at
the beautiful Onedia. She smiled widely, and he mirrored her
is much too early, my Queen,” he whispered, “All the
but I couldn’t sleep, dear,” she answered, irritably recalling
her nighttime summons, “Too drafty.”
King had all the explanation he needed. He sat up, put his arm
around her and kissed her. Onedia struggled to keep the cup free
from his embrace.
know it’s early, but what would I do with everybody sleeping?
Surely you don’t mind keeping me company,” she smiled sweetly,
giggled, and showed him the cup, “I even made some tea for you
to make up for it.”
King accepted the apology, the cup exchanged hands, and he drank
down its contents gladly, hoping to please his wife. Judging by
Onedia’s elated expression, he did. She wrapped her arms around
him and smothered him with kisses. All the King could make out was
a muffled “I love you!”
poison worked fast. It was not painful nor cruel. Indeed one could
not hope for a death more peaceful than being gently rocked into
numbness by blissful dreams.
was running around the castle like mad trying to track down where
Onedia disappeared to. He checked the cellar, the library, the
halls and the rooms. This was a big castle and searching it was no
simple task. Exhausted and panting he slumped down on a stairway
to catch his breath and to collect his thoughts. There was only
one other place Onedia could have gone, and that was the royal
bedchamber, which he was not allowed to enter.
cursed in frustration at his helplessness in the face of such
frivolous laws. Surely these rules could be set aside if the
King’s life was in genuine danger. But a measure of doubt still
clouded his mind, and the consequences for his misjudgment would
be very grave. Yet it was not just his beloved monarch’s life
that was at stake, but also the livelihood of his own family, for
with the King gone he could be certain the Queen would not treat
him kindly. Of course, if he was wrong about Onedia they would
fare even worse. Nevertheless his intuition was pushing him to
brave barging into the royal bedchamber, and the adrenaline rush
surging through his being filled him with enough courage to take a
step towards it. But by then it was too late.
scream that came from upstairs was so sudden and so shrill it
chilled the blood in his veins and froze him on the spot. Lance
stared up the stairs blankly, instinctively knowing that his worst
fears have come true. A second scream followed, reverberating in
his ears as he stood paralyzed.
castle awoke in a din of murmurs and hurried footsteps. Watchmen
and servants rushed by him up the steps, hustling into the
bedroom. A weeping Onedia was led through the gasping crowd by
guards. Seeing Lance, she stumbled over to him and put her arms
about him, sobbing into his shirt. He felt a numbing coldness from
her, impenetrable as steel.
her head from his shoulder, Onedia looked up at him with the most
angelic watery eyes and said in a faltering voice, “The King is
dead.” He met her gaze with such a potent glare of contempt that
she relaxed her grip on him and frowned, hurt by his mockery of
her acting. The goddess returned his glare tenfold, flashing him a
scowl so fierce that it drained every drop of confidence he had
and sent him dropping involuntarily to his knees.
her tears, Onedia twirled around to face the crowd, “The King is
dead!” she shouted solemnly, “We must prepare the Funeral
Procession.” With that, she walked off towards the castle’s
Temple of Osenya, the fabric of her dress brushing rudely against
Lance’s dazed face.
Funeral Procession was a ceremony that initiated a period of
mourning all through the kingdom. The atmosphere of darkness and
gloom which hung over the land was as evident as the black colors
used to emphasize it. Nobles and peasants alike were dressed in
dark garments, pulled dark curtains over their windows and doors,
and walked crestfallen, speaking as little as possible.
castle itself was decorated with black carpets, and dark bedding
was made in the bedrooms. Sitting on a throne draped with black
cloth, Onedia looked over the preparations. An elaborate funerary
float was being made. It was adorned with dark velvet, which was
decorated with intricate designs of black beads and raven
feathers. The King’s body was purified in herbal baths and
dressed with various floral perfumes.
minute now they would be ready for the grand Funeral Procession, a
melancholy march in which the body of the King would be paraded
through every town in the land accompanied by the Queen and all
the guards and servants of the castle. Everyone thought it was
rather odd that Lance, the King’s most loyal and diligent
servant, was missing during such an important occasion. Everyone,
that is, except Onedia, who privately hoped that he crawled off
somewhere and killed himself. The Procession waited for no one,
and it would begin with or without him.
left the castle the day the King died. Hiding his bright blond
hair and familiar face under a dark cloak, he easily snuck through
the commotion of the courtyard, past the castle gate, and into the
gathering city crowds. He disappeared into the marketplace,
walking briskly and silently through the familiar streets that led
to his own cottage.
was a rather small dwelling, made cozy by the fact that he and his
wife built it with their own hands. It was made of earth-colored
woods, had a modest fireplace, and two beds. Lance was happy to
see that the wind chimes he made to calm their baby at night still
hung from the roof over the door. A cool evening breeze tinted
with scents of lavender and lilac stirred the idle wind chimes,
reminding him that it was twilight and night was fast approaching.
He knocked on the door.
blue eyes peered out from the peephole, met his, and the door
swung open. Gwen jumped into his arms and hugged him tightly. He
hugged back even tighter, blindly walking into the dimly-lit
house. Setting her down on the floor, he kissed her softly and
they exchanged smiles. Whether it was the lingering sadness in his
smile or her natural empathic ability, Gwen sensed something was
happened?” she asked with sincere concern, scanning his face for
the slightest hint of the problem.
did not hear?” he paused, “The King is dead.”
Gwen gasped, then added, “you think she did it!”
nodded nervously, “I do not think, I know! I know she did
it!” he started to pace around the room, “I knew it from the
day she set foot in the castle!”
Gwen began but was interrupted as he walked over and pulled her
close to him.
poisoned him with herbs, Gwen! You above all should know-”
you’ll wake the child,” Gwen whispered.
caught his tongue and his gaze quickly shifted to a crib in the
corner. He couldn’t help but smile when he saw his child
sleeping peacefully inside.
year old now, is he?” Lance asked, walking over to the crib.
Gwen said, moving the child’s golden locks from his face. She
put her hands on Lance’s shoulders and pulled him backwards
towards their bed. He turned around, thinking her more beautiful
with the way the firelight was dancing on her face. Sitting down
on the bed she slid her hands from his shoulders, down his arms
and to his wrists, wrapping them around her waist.
didn’t see you for a long time, my love,” she whispered,
“The King is dead, you say? The more reason for you to find
comfort in my arms.”
Funeral Procession is tomorrow,” he said flatly.
dwell on the dead when you are with your living wife and son?”
she put her finger to his lips, “You have served our King
faithfully the better part of your life, and I am sure he
appreciates it even more now that he walks through the Land of
Truth where he can feel firsthand the depth of your loyalty. Leave
for tomorrow that which is tomorrow, and spend tonight with your
closed his eyes and nodded stiffly, pulling her closer in a warm
embrace, “Take my pain away.” They held each other in silence
for a long while, taking in the sound of crackling embers in the
hearth fire, the delicate song of the wind chimes, and the sweet
aromas of living herbs.