Mia and I walked through Queen's Crossing trail, pushing away overhead branches to clear a path. Mia looked into my eyes questioningly, but I turned away to focus on the trail.
"I heard Queen's Crossing has a magnificent castle to the left of here, almost perfectly preserved!" Mia garbled on about the palace as we neared a sign. It was a bright day, and the woodland seemed even more tranquil than it was yesterday morning.
"You go ahead. I'll meet you here in a couple hours." My decision was made. I set out deeper into the woods, leaving my friend to the castle on the other side.
"Bree-ee! Bre-ee!" A bluebird fought with a robin overhead as I took a rest by a stream. The stream trickled slowly forward, eventually reaching a bridge ahead of me. Yesterday, the hotel secretary had informed me of this place; a sanctuary; a place to heal. Everyone who visited Crescent Cove had their own unique experiences here, and I was awaiting my own.
Suddenly, a twig cracked behind me and I jumped, only to see a small squirrel eating berries off of a bush, eyeing me with distaste. I felt the stream rushing over my palms onto slippery rocks, remembering what it was like to be at peace, until I saw my reflection.
In the water was a woman dressed in fine silk robes and wearing a crown studded with jewels. "Ah. So you must be Willow." The woman's voice comforted me, but I hesitated in shock. She, or it, continued on. " I am the queen of Crescent Cove, and I know why you're here Willow."
I fussed with my hair, pushing it around, and then walked along the stream to find my reflection; only to see the same woman before me, rolling her eyes. "What do you want from me?! I've been through enough already and I'm sick of this life!" I grabbed a clump of grass and flung it at the woman, falling to my knees. "I've been through too much already." I sighed heavily, a reminder of the past burdens which I had tried to overcome.
"This is your destiny child. I am here to tell you my story-the story of Queen Serenity." The woman's face was solemn as she spoke-softly, but strong-willed. "Once, in a time of brutality and savagery, I was royalty in the Southern Province. The invaders were reaching our lands, and they were too strong-or rather- we were too weak after the recession to fight them off. My husband, the king, locked me and my kids in a hidden chamber underneath the palace. The king, my husband, wouldn't let me fight. He said he couldn't lose me, like I was his property, like I was his toy. I couldn't disobey the king, who acted more like a king than a husband, or a father." Queen Serenity gently touched her crown. "My kids and I were inside that chamber for four nights and 5 days with enough food and water, but it didn't satisfy our thirst. It took 4 nights and 5 days for them to find us-the invaders. They took our land, people, kingdom, and anything we had left. That's why I couldn't help but feel weak-and angry. If my husband would've let me fight I could've changed something or done something to help. He thought me fragile and easily broken. Sometimes Willow, you have to fight for your own crown, but you don't realize that until the crown is taken away."
Awkward silence followed. Both of us were so similar, but different. "You know, it wasn't entirely the king's fault your kingdom fell. You are the only one who can decide your fate, so you shouldn't have just let him tell you what to do. After all, your crown is yours, right?" I exhaled, trying to grasp what I had just said. The queen stood taller and reached for my hand. Her hand shot out of the water as real skin and bones, and clasped my own as real skin and bones.
"Yes Willow, I know-but why don't you? Why don't you get your own crown back?" I didn't respond and let go of Queen Serenity's hand. She had more to say.
"After the battle, the invaders threw us out and I took my kids to the Northern Province to seek refuge. To find my way there, there were small towns I sought directions from, but nobody cared about us, because we had no value to them. The Northern king was a real kindred spirit. He had food and water brought out and a shelter for all three of us to reside in. We were quite comfortable there, and though our hearts were filled with sorrow, there was hope in the distance, which was why I couldn't bear to stay. Later one evening, I took a Pegasus to the Southern Province and fought till my last breath. That evening, I won my crown back."
This time, I dipped my hand into the cool water to reach the queen, but she moved to another spot on the water. "I was killed, but transformed into who I am today-a guide in Crescent Cove to help those who seek advice. You can earn it back my dear. Nobody can do it for you." She spoke with confidence, valor, and bravery, qualities I don't have.
"No, I can't start again. I turned back, I gave up, I screwed it all up when I was pushed down. You're right, nobody can help me at all, not even you." Queen Serenity had saved her kingdom, got her crown, but did all this without quitting once. She smiled lovingly in my direction as I stood up to leave.
"Indeed dear. You are perfectly right in every single way. Nobody can help you except yourself. You can begin to start writing again. You aren't a failure; you just experienced mild discomfort." She disappeared, and as I craned my neck over the water, I saw myself.
I had to fight for my own crown.