I was going to post this on Saturday (thus the title), but a broken A/C has a way of demanding attention. And Short Story Wednesday obviously doesn’t satisfy my alliteration addiction.
The queen sat in the throne, a calm center within a storm of activity. Defenses were being prepared and weapons needed to be passed out. The monsters would lay siege before dawn and they needed every advantage they could get.
“Have the scouts not returned, even now?”, she asked the room. One of her subjects stepped forward. “My Lady, they have not, but we hope to hear word from them soon. Perhaps even news of the King.” The Queen gave a sad, pained smile. “No, my lord, the King is lost to us, to me. These monsters, this plague upon us, has taken him. He died so we might escape. Yet it seems we cannot avoid this after all”
From the hall came the slap of leather on stone and the room froze. The doors opened, but only to permit one of the scouts. “Your Highness, they are almost on us! You must go to one of the other kings! At least you can be saved!” The Queen studied the young scout and shook her head, “No, child. We will make a stand here. If we do not, how will we ever drive out this curse, this blight upon our lands?”
Then the queen froze, gripping the throne. “What happened to the rest of the scouting party, surely you are not alone…” And then the rest of the scouts entered the large room, covered in sweat and sucking in air.”My…My Lady…”
“Catch your breath sir. We have some time still.” The Queen glanced at the first scout, tense, but not winded…
“I am afraid not, My Lady. We could not slow them down. We had bow and blade ready, but as soon as they came near we became… disoriented. I do not know what magic is in these beasts, but it is powerful, and perhaps very old. No one could draw a clear shot. We must have our own sorcerers at the ready.”
“I see. You, child. Attend to me.” She turned to the young scout who had first returned. “You are fleet of foot, you must observe the battle, learn what you can. Then, you must run north to the King of Mountains and Forests. Tell him everything. Maybe then these accursed things can be destroyed or driven from us.”
“But, Majesty…What about you?” As the Queen looked down at the boy, she felt her age. The years weighed upon her, especially these last two.
“Child, we may die, but if we do then it will have worth. You might learn the secret of these things. They can barely be said to speak or see or hear… And yet, they have cut into the heart of these lands more quickly than even my lord husband, The King, ever believed possible. You must survive. What you observe today could be the salvation of the world itself from what we now face. Now hide, watch, and when the time comes, run.”
The young scout abruptly stopped his retelling and gazed at nothing
“…And what happened when the beasts arrived, lord Eovhan?”
“My Leige, I hid as she asked and watched. Those were no beasts or monsters. They drew those cold grey swords and… and… ”
“It was as if a grave shroud could be forged into a weapon of war. The strength seemed to drain out of my body and everyone else appeared equally effected. Our mages cast spells, but a shrivelled thing in a brown hood held up a long staff, said a chant or incantation of some sort, and that was the end of our magic. It was confounded before a single one of those…things fell.”
“Lord Eovhan, are you saying that your kin became helpless before these creatures?”
“Yes sir. I observed and I have advice for Your Highness, if I may?” The King of Mountains and Forests nodded. “We can never face them head on. Open war against the cold blades and conjurers who turn aside our oldest magics is suicide. We must beat them with our wit and guile. ”
The King walked to a window and looked down the mountain to the forests below. For the first time he felt a hint of fear about what might hide within them.
“I understand. Rest for now, I must send word to all the seelie and unseelie courts of Eire.