The Queen had a heart of stone, or rather; the Queen’s heart was turned to stone. Actually to be utterly precise stone had grown around her heart in layers and layers over time like moss on a rock. The Queen had not always been so stone cold in fact hers had been a warm and caring heart but the stone that grew around it encumbered any caring, which is to say, none was able to eek out at all. The Queen at one point had been a princess and at another time a young girl. A sweet young girl whom everyone loved because of an inherent generosity and gentleness she radiated. The change came along like ivy that eventually chokes a tree to its death. So it was with the layers and layers of stone that grew over the heart of the Queen. No one talked about it; it just was. The sweet princess was no longer sweet and she no longer was a princess. She was a hard, cold Queen who ruled with a heavy hand.
The kingdom of Varthale sat between Hoitberg and Thanorg, and all three were rivals. They’d been at war with one another for so long it’s a wonder anyone knew why anymore. Varthale was the smallest kingdom of all, however, the cold and caluculating Queen was the most ruthless war stratigist. Poor King Bartholomew, ruler of Thanorg, had no head for war and so his kingdom always got attacked and was usually under the control of either The Queen Of Varthale or Prince Blackshear. The Prince was heir to the throne of Hoitberg, the throne his father for the last forty years was not able to sit in due to an illness. The Prince was very pleased in playing King while the real one lay sick and he looked forward to the day when it actually became so.
The Queen of Varthale, like any other day, poured over maps of kingdom boundaries and reports from her generals and spies Her War Room was a place deemed sacred, not in terms of any religion but no one would step foot in her study unless they were asked or unless they wished for certain death. Lining the longest wall were bookshelves laden with all kinds of books, mostly about war, many about history but none of them delightful. The other three walls were splattered with charts, maps and the holograms of the soldier camps stationed in various parts of the country and even in the land of Thanorg. Currently the Queen was not in conference with anyone so the holograms showed soldiers going about their day, repairing and cleaning weapons, clothing or preparing for the next meal. She ignored the hustle and bustle of camps that lit her walls; she was immune to the noises of soldiers having listened to them for well over forty years.
The Queen sat very straight holding one paper in front of her. She would discard the paper and pick another, study it, discard it and continue until she’d read everything, studied every line, every suggestion, every word. Time is a child of magic, the way it can bend, warp, speed up and slow down. Our feeble minds make it linear to understand our lives better, make sense of its illusion but it is merely a trick we play on ourselves for time will play with us and not work for us.
A knock on the door stopped her arm mid air. Slowly she put her arm down, did not move and in a tone that would stop a weak heart said, “Who interrupts me?” Her voice though quite and low, could carry and the poor Henchman that stood behind the door shivered.
He opened the door swiftly, entered and quietly shut the door behind him.
He stood, his hands behind his back and waited for the Queen to look at him. His trousers starched and creased, his boots shined, his coat impeccable, yet these did not hide that fact that he was rather mousy.
She did not acknowledge him for a long time. She continued to study the paper at hand but finally grew curious as to why he was here and looked his way. A small nod of her head indicated he could begin speaking.
“Pardon Your Majesty but, you know, um, she is ready.”
“Who?” The Queen knit her brows in puzzlement.
“Um, ah, the young princess Tabitha.”
The Queen sighed and looked away for a moment. Because she had failed to marry and in association have any children, it was the law of the land that she should bring in, as a sort of apprentice, the eldest child of her younger brother. The girl seemed quite foolish to the Queen but she didn’t have much of a choice, for time was playing mean tricks with the Queen and she knew she wouldn’t have much of it left.