This is a work in progress so it’s nowhere near finished (it also has nothing to do with the prompt so I apologize for that), I just wanted to post it so I could get some feedback on this part. With that being said, enjoy!
Chapter One: The Two Tasks
The kingdom of Oria rose beyond all others, with its magnificent gold towers and the esteemed Golden Palace. Oria was, of course, one of the most prosperous kingdoms in the continent of Nelop. It’s flat, green, plains prompted agricultural success, while its border on the Crane Ocean (it was called that for the White Cranes that flourished on its salty waters) gave its people a plethora of fish to choose from.
Along with being so prosperous, Oria was also a beautiful wonder to behold. The electric-violet-blue skies and fields of lush greenery in the farmlands provided a starking contrast against the tall, golden skyscrapers and picturesque towns of the cities.
What really made Oria so successful, however, wasn’t the agriculture or the landscaping, nor was it the excess of fish. No, it was because of the Orian Royal Family.
The Orian Royal Family was well-known all over Nelop: their allies worshiped them while their enemies feared them. Ask anyone and they’ll tell you; the monarchs of Oria only aged like fine wine.
The late king and queen, His Majesty Elex and Her Majesty Auryn, were the best monarchs of the last 300 years. They exceeded their predecessors, so it was a great tragedy when they, along with many others, perished in the Phoenix Fire. It was Oria’s turn to host the Phoenix Birth ceremony, something that only happened once every century. The flames got out of control that day, and the smoke from it still hasn’t cleared from the sky. The once beautiful kingdom of Oria was poisoned by the fumes looming over the clouds, casting a dark reminder of what was lost. The kingdom entered a Dark Age.
The late king and queen’s only daughter, Queen Merille, was given the throne when she was only 23, abruptly thrown into a world where she must rule. Some would say Queen Merille was just as, if not better than, her parents.
Her leadership shone like a beaker of light in her kingdom’s Dark Age, inspiring her people to fight. The Queen brought back many old traditions that were forgotten after her parents passed away, one of them being the Cheese Festival. The Cheese Festival was an annual festival where the Orians gathered together in the capital of Oria, Gulopa, the City of Gold. They would taste countless cheeses of all flavors and sizes: some were sweet and fruity while others were savory with a tinge of bitterness. The Cheese Festival was renowned all over Nelop; travelers would stop by Oria just for a taste of the famous cheeses.
The day of the well-awaited Cheese Festival had finally come, and chatters of excitement filled up the winding streets of Gulopa. Orians arrived in streams of horses and carriages, all heading towards the Golden Palace.
As beautiful as Oria was, the Golden Palace was the peak of that beauty. It sat upon a large plain, stretching on for acres and acres. It was shrouded by viridescent trees on all four sides. A clear river ran through the middle of the palace and winded through the forest, ultimately ending up in the Crane Ocean. This river, called the Anni River, arched and split the palace into two parts: the Obair and the Ligean. The Obair was mainly used for the Queen’s duties and was the bigger of the two. The Ligean, on the other hand, was where the Queen resided. Though it was smaller, it was far more beautiful.
The Golden Palace was held up by ten large, round pillars evenly spaced out in the front, providing a rather fitting grand entrance to the esteemed palace. Even though the Golden Palace already radiated beauty, that beauty was only heightened by it’s gardens. There were two main gardens: one near the Obair and one near the Ligean. The Obair Garden was spread across the front half of the palace, providing a stunning visual of blues and greens, with dots of vibrant reds, yellows, and pinks scattered in. The garden had an oval-shaped pool in the middle, for both decoration and to supply a water source for the animals that resided in the woods.
The other main garden, the Ligean Garden, was a private garden specifically designed for the queen and her family. While it was out of sight of visitors, it was no less spectacular. Contrasting the Obair Garden with it’s well-manicured sculptures and straight edges, the Ligean Garden was a beautiful mess of shrubs and willow trees. It had benches and walkways carved into the soil to offer the Queen a stroll, should she wish for one. Similar to the Obair Garden, the Ligean Garden also had a pool, but it wasn’t centered in the middle. It lay on one side, the turquoise water yielding a charming retreat for the queen.
And a retreat it was, for the Queen found herself going to it whenever she needed a quiet place to stay. Today was one of those days; Queen Merille found herself sighing as she took a stroll in the garden, her mind focused on her daunting task: organizing the Cheese Festival, which would take place today. Unlike usual years, this year’s Cheese Festival had to be the best one yet. The Queen needed to utilize this festival to distract her people from the recent events: her parents’ passing, the Phoenix Fire, and the deadliest one yet, a new threat of war looming in the air.
Footsteps disrupted the Queen from her thoughts, and she looked up to see the culprit.
“My Queen, I apologize for interrupting but we must finish our last preparations for the festival before people start arriving.” The voice belonged to a fair-skinned elf, who also happened to be one of her most trusted advisors.
“Alright, I will meet you back at the palace. Thank you, Ermir.” Ermir bowed deeply and left, and the Queen was alone once again.
The sun started to dip below the horizon, casting rays of reds, yellows, and oranges into the darkening violet sky. The streets of Gulopa were quiet now, with the absence of the Orians that were attending the Cheese Festival. Meanwhile, the Golden Palace was filled with sounds of festive cheer.
Long tables were laid outside the palace, each filled with countless variations of cheese: goat cheese, cow cheese, blue cheese, white cheese, cheeses marinated with exotic spices and roasted for days on red spruce wood. Crowds of Orians and non-Orians alike surrounded the tables, all here to taste the famous Orian cheeses.
Unknown to the excited guests, the Queen was abruptly given a difficult decision shortly thereafter their arrival. A satyress delivered the news, bestowing three loud knocks on the door of the Throne Room.
“My Queen,” she raised her hand up to her forehead in a gesture only made to Orian royalty. “I regret to inform you that Aeros is on the verge of declaring war with Oria.”
Aeros was the main rival kingdom of Oria, and where golden towers stood crystal ones were instead. Aeros was advanced in technology: one of its main inventions was the ability to travel by air. Walk through the gates of Aeros and you’ll see sleek cars flying on Airroads--roads made completely out of air--which greatly decreased the amount of traffic the Aerops (that’s what the citizens called themselves) experienced. Going to war with Aeros would mean the ultimate destruction of any kingdom.
The news of war didn’t surprise Merille, but she still felt her heart lurch from it. Aeros had long been an enemy of Oria, ever since they assassinated King Adalric, Merille’s great-grandfather. They went to war then, but the war was short-lasting and Oria came out victorious, even with the loss of a great king.
After Merille’s parents died, she, along with her kingdom, accused Aeros of another assassination. They denied it, but they had also denied Adalric’s killing. Merille decided then to appoint an assassin to kill the king of Aeros, King Aras. King Aras was a short, fat man with lenses to see out of, for his eyesight was rather poor. He was a fine king, perhaps a bit greedy, but he was a king. He could afford to love all things expensive and glamorous.
The assassination was unsuccessful, but they did manage to kill his courtier, Ealhheard Lopp. This caused a great uproar within the kingdom of Aeros, and it didn’t take long for the king to find the culprit. This scandalous act had King Aras plotting another war against Oria, one that he knew he would win. The great King Elex and the great Queen Auryn were dead, and in their place, stood a 25, bordering 26-year-old girl. Even though people all around the continent praised her for her leadership skills and achievements at such a juvenile age, she was still just entering her adult years. King Aras knew that there were some aspects of life that Merille was not experienced in yet, and he was prepared to utilize that to his full advantage.
Queen Merille lowered her head as dread started making its unsettling ascend onto her spine. It was at times like this when she wanted to install a throne or someplace to sit in the Throne Room. The Throne Room was beautiful already, with ten large, floor-to-ceiling windows that covered both sides of the room and paintings of the best Orian monarchs draped over where the Queen stood. Adding a throne would make it even more regal, but her ancestors had stood up during all of their rule, and Merille didn’t wish to disappoint them. Her parents would also regularly tell her that she should burn off some of her fat. Thus, she remained standing. “Thank you, Ezlynn.” Ezlynn bowed before making her exit.
Merille felt the familiar feeling of shame creep onto her. She just started her rule, yet Aeros was already plotting war against her. If her parents were still alive, they would never have allowed something like this to happen. The Queen suddenly felt a pang in her chest, where her heart should have been. Of course, as anatomy would have it, her heart wasn’t actually missing, but it might as well have been. Queen Merille was known for her skills as a queen, but also for the emotionless way she took care of business. As a queen, she mustn’t let her emotions get the best of her. That was what her parents taught her. But now her parents were gone, and as much as she had disliked them, she knew that they had been better rulers than she was, then she could ever be. It was a fact, one that she had repeated myriad times.
“My Queen,” Ermir cleared his throat, alerting Merille to his presence. “If I may make a suggestion.”
Merille nodded for him to continue.
“I believe it would be best to travel to Aeros, in hope to make amends. I’m well aware of the state of your kingdom; it would be against my advice to take on Aeros.”
And he was right. Oria, even under Merille’s rule, was still suffering from the loss of its past monarchs, along with some financial issues that came with that loss. It wouldn’t survive a war, let alone a war with Aeros.
“You’re right. Let’s say that I leave for Aeros. But what of my kingdom? I cannot leave my kingdom without a leader, it would fall apart.”
A slight hint of a grin appeared on Ermir’s lips, but it faded just as fast. “You could appoint me as your leader, my Queen. I will make sure you can trust me.”
“No, no, no, I need you by my side once we reach Aeros. It’s not my mistrust of you that poses the issue, but I would need you with me more than I need you here.” Merille did trust Ermir, and that trust was with her whole soul. He was the one who had helped her get through the difficult decisions after her parents’ death.
Ermir bowed his head, shadowing his arctic blue eyes so that it wasn’t visible. “As you wish, my Queen.”
That, of course, revealed the Queen’s problem: she needed to find someone she trusted just as much as she trusted Ermir to lead her kingdom for the time that she was gone. And that led her to her second task of the day, finding a temporary king.