Monday, March 14, 2011

The Orphan Princess and the Firelord: Prologue


Ever since the mists of the very first grey morning were lit by the silver sun, the Walker has walked between the columns of the arboreal cathedral in the land whose verdant vaults allowed only the faintest slivers of sunlight to drape across the slumbering silver pines, touched by the morning frost. With the frayed edged of the ancient white cowl gently brushing the dew off of the thick carpet of emerald clover, the Walker paced the old paths as he made his way to the very edge of his dominion. There where the trees grew small and the clearings large, and the sky loomed wide and daunting. There where the forest reached its limit to give way to the rolling green hills of heather and thyme, those verdant plains that washed down to the wide azure sea. His white eyes looked knowingly at each leaf and blade of grass with familiarity, as the small group of travelers walked along the snaking gravel path towards his forest.

“There he is! I told you!” he heard the whisper travel towards the forest.

“But how did he know we’d be here?” he let the smile creep across dark, leathery features as he heard the question.

“Shhh! He’ll hear you!” spoke the first voice.

“Hello there. And whose company do I have the pleasure to receive this morning?” he asked as he stepped towards them, careful to remain within the shadow of the forest which was his boundary.

From the group of pilgrims a woman stepped forth, drawing back the brown mantle to reveal the royal red and gold brocade of the Queens of the Islands of the Sunfire Flowers. But the normal slender frame showed the tell-tale signs of one heavy with child. Her hands both rested on her round middle, as she closed the sacred space between her party and the Walker at the Woods.

“Draw no closer, Calendula Sempra Floranium.” he spoke, a commanding note to his voice. “I know why you seek me, but I cannot offer you sanctuary here. Not when you bare within your womb one such as this.”

“Please, milord. I am ill–” she began, taking another step. “I will do anything for the child.”

“I know.” he said, softening his tone, “Shhh. I know. But if you step within the bounds of the forest, it shall claim you and the child as well. And if the child is born within its bounds, she shall not be human. Not anymore.”

“She?” the queen said as tears came to her eyes, “I will bare a daughter?”

“Yes.” he answered, closing his eyes, “I will reveal no more. But you must return here. On the eve of your daughters birth.”

“And my daughter?” the Queen asked hopefully.

“You must leave her behind. She cannot yet set foot in this enchanted forest.” he said, feeling the pain of the Queen’s breaking heart tangibly fill the air.

“As you command, milord.” she said, bowing before she returned to her company.

“Is that it?” asked one of the pilgrims. “A fat lot of help he was!”

“Shhh! Daisy he’ll hear you!” said the other one.

“Well, I don’t care if he does!” she said, revealing her tangled mop of bright red curly hair. “Who does he think he is, talking to our lady like that!”

“He is the Walker in the Woods!” said the other, revealing large round spectacles on his face, “You should be grateful you have been given the honor of even seeing him!”

“Well you may be easily impressed by a white cape and an old face, Edwynn, but if you ask me–” she began again but was cut off when the Queen walked between them.

“Come along. We must make haste and see to all the preparations. The astrologers have foretold that I have until the new moon at most. Everything must be prepared for my daughter.”


And so it was, that on the night of the second waning spring moon, Queen Calendula Sempra Floranium gave birth to her third daughter. And all could see that the child was indeed touched by the Sacred Flame. For unlike her sisters, or all the other children of the Islands of the Sunfire Flower, she was not born tow-headed but with locks as dark as the sands of the fire islands she was destined to rule someday.

But that night, the Queen, still weak from having given birth, leaned over her sleeping daughter, and gave her one last kiss on her beautiful face as she whispered, “Good night, my darling daughter. Someday, we will see each other again. But for now, I cannot linger. The night is already old. Be strong, my daughter. My precious. My sweet Melanie.”

“Your Majesty.” came the voice from the doorway.

“Daisy, watch over her. Make sure she knows that I loved her.” she said turning to the small, red headed figure.

“Yes, Your Majesty.”

“Edwynn, ready the swiftship.” she said, turning to the other. “We must away on the Speeding Tide.”

The morning sun was barely breathing the soft hues of violet and periwinkle into the obsidian sky, when the swiftship landed on the verdant shore. The queen walked up the gravel path once more, leaning heavily upon her companion. As they neared the forest edge, they saw the figure in white standing between the two massive trees that formed the gateway of the arboreal realm.

“Come, Calendula. You have journeyed long in the circles of the seas. Your journey has now reached it’s end. Here in my forest you shall finally know peace. For both your ill body and your burdened mind.” he said holding our his hands to the staggering queen.

“Edwynn. There is one final preparation you must see to.” the Queen said as she grabbed hold of both his hands with her shaking form, “My daughter. You must guard her heart. Find a suitable husband for her. Protect her from those who will seek advancement.”

“I will, of course, milady. But surely now is not–” he began to say as the Queen silenced him with a loud, painful groan.

“Please! Just promise me this! Please.” the Queen said, looking into his concern filled eyes. “Promise me you will keep her heart safe from the wolves.”

“I promise your Majesty.” he said, as the queen closed her eyes and gave a sigh of relief.

“Thank you.”

Then she turned and staggered towards the forest, falling into the arms of the Walker. And as she did, it was as if instantly strength filled her body. She stood aright again, her grace and poise returned. But a strange green light shone in her once dark eyes as a strange smile spread across her lips.

“Milady! Is there anything else you would have me tell your daughter?” Edwynn called to her as she turned to walk away.

She turned, smiling in a strange, mad grin and spoke in a haunting, echoing voice, “What daughter?” before she disappeared into the dark folds of the greenwood.

“The forest has claimed her now.” spoke the Walker, “She will not recall her old life. It is dead. Better that this new princess know nothing of this. Better that she grow up thinking that her mother died. In childbirth. See to it.”

“Yes. My lord.” he said bowing, and when he looked up, he was all alone at the edge of the forest.

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