Only Light Gives Birth To Darkness
A somber air hung over the castle, the Queen had taken her throne listening to the reports with a blank expression. There were no tears left in her, her dress and veil were in black as her Husband lay in state in the Grand Hallway, not thirty feet from where she sat in the throne room. In one day, everything started to come crashing down on her. A wizard assassinating her husband, a witch cursing her child. There was only one hope left within her as she despaired over the news brought before her this afternoon.
Her husband’s general stood before her, his voice calm but full of urgency. A black band around his left arm to signify his own mourning was all he could afford to wear and show before the queen. His best friend and leader struck down in front of the entire kingdom.
“Your Majesty, Baron Ran’s men are invading the western lands. The local lords will try to stall as best they can, but you must give the order to assemble the main army or there will be nothing left.”
She nodded her head with a blank stare, trying to recall the particulars of what treaties they had with the Mourcelines. She hadn’t paid attention over the past year, especially after she had found herself with child. She had spent most of that time doting on making sure everything would be perfect for the birth.
“What about our allies among the neighboring kingdoms? Can we send word to get them to aid us?”
The general sighed and gave a shake of his head.
“I already dispatched messengers. But, we will still need to hold the Baron’s army back ourselves until they have time to assemble aid. And that is only if they choose to. Some of the vultures might circle to see what scraps they can parcel among themselves. Or wait until we are desperate enough to sell off our kingdom to stop the Mourcelines from having our lands.”
His voice was bitter and she felt her heart falter with his words. In other words, if they could not hold themselves long enough to prove their kingdom’s strength the world would tear it apart in compensation for fighting off the Baron. Either way, their kingdom would be reduced to a puppet state or erased from the map.
“What of the Hero and the Royal Witch?”
He hesitated to speak, clearing his throat for a moment. More disappointing news she rightly feared.
“We have no sign of them since they chased after the Warlock and the Dark Queen. They are outside the range of the city wards so we have no idea where they are, if they still live, or even if they know about the invasion.”
Their two best chances to fight off Baron Ran, missing while giving pursuit to her husband’s murderers. She wasn’t sure if she should be glad the two chased after them or upset that her kingdom could be in greater jeopardy without their support. She prayed silently that they would return after completing vengeance and save her kingdom. But that wishful thinking was only for fairy tales.
The other ministers gathered around silently watching the general report. The lot of them would be useless for this sort of discussion, not that she herself was any better qualified.
“General, I give you full power over the army and conscriptions, take everything you need, everyone who can aid and fight. Every ounce of strength you need to win this war. Don’t hold back on anything that might let you win.”
The other ministers gave a stir as she announced her commands.
“Milady, the army needs control-” “There must be-” “The Ministry of Magic needs-”
The queen gave a wave of her hand and a shout aided by magic with her voice.
“Silence! If our army fails there will be nothing left for us but to become captives of the Mourcelines. This is for our culture, our kingdom, our livelihood!”
The men surrounding her backed away, completely mollified for the moment as she turned back to the General. His face was somber, eyes showing that he was uncertain of her order, but resolve slowly came forth as his courage steeled him. He deeply bowed before her, swooping as low as he could manage.
“I will follow My lady’s command. We will not fall to Baron Ran.”
There was a loud knock on the door to the throne room. Everyone giving pause as they all turned their heads wondering who would dare disturb a council meeting. A jittery looking servant stepping into the throne room with a hurried bow.
“Who dares interrupt us?”
“Your Majesty… It’s the Prophet. Captain Hook. He wishes to speak with you.”
The Queen’s eyes narrowed slightly. The Prophet, a man who seems to have accurately foretold many things. Except for this invasion and the public assassination of her husband. She was leary but there was no proof that he had been involved in any of this. In fact, he had been surprisingly absent for most of yesterday.
With a glance to the general, who nodded his assent silently. She turned and gave the servant a sign to allow him to approach her throne.
The man strode in with a confidence that denied the somber air surrounding him. An antithesis of grief as he smiled, flashing his full set of teeth. HIs outrageously red outfit only made him stand out more among the somber blacks and greys surrounding him. He removed his hat and gave a perfect bow before her.
“Your Majesty. My full condolences to your loss, and to your current troubles.”
She stiffened slightly as he spoke. His voice was smooth as syrup and sweet enough to make her teeth hurt listening to him. All she could see from him was a devil dressed in a man’s skin. She shouldn’t listen to him, she should arrest him and have him executed right now, innocent or not this man was not an ally or friend, she could feel it deep inside her.
“What do you know about our current troubles?”
She eyed him trying to find what his game was. Was he going to kill her and her cabinet? There was a cold feeling in her chest that said he could perhaps murder everyone in this castle if he desired and no one could stop him.
“I know that you are being invaded by a man who has proven himself to be unstoppable. That his army will reach here in one week. One week to save your kingdom and your lovely daughter.”
The guards stepped forward, Captain Hook raised his hands defensively, the light gleaming off the hook on his left.
“I am only stating facts, not making threats. I have no desire to see the royal lineage ended like this. I have come instead to offer my aid.”
And here was the Devil’s Bargain. She could feel her very soul trembling as she looked at this spawn of the Demon God.
“And what, praytell, would you offer our kingdom?”
He flashed another smile and made a gesture toward the outer wall.
“My ship. It flies, can maneuver across the battlefield. And most importantly of all. It possesses a weapon that the Baron has never seen nor have any means of countering.”
One of the ministers close by scoffed and gave a quick laugh.
“And what kind of magic weapon would you claim to have aboard your flying ship? Some instant death spell?”
Captain Hook looked at the man with a sneer, eyeing him as the man trembled, continuing to use only the visual pressure of his eyes upon the man as his knees buckled and gave out from under him. A wet stain starting to form in the front of his pants as he knelt trembling in fear.
“No, nothing so great as magic. But they are as destructive, maybe even more so. We call them cannons. And they will shred his cavalry to pieces. Armor means nothing, only a slower moving target. No man could stand in the blast nor take a hit from one. They will be smashed to pieces or killed by the debris alone.”
The queen shivered as she listened to him gleefully explain his weapon. Such a thing if it was true would undoubtedly save her kingdom. But would the price be worth what he was offering?
“And how much is your demand for such aid?”
“I make a humble request for half of the nation’s treasury, Your majesty. If we win, of course. I will wait until after I have helped you with driving away this army. A price worth the aid of saving your country is it not?”
Sitting there she worried, a glance to her general and he returned a look that she had worried he would make. This sounded too good to be true, but what else had she to depend on?
“We would like a demonstration before we agree. But your offer is intriguing enough to be considered.”
Captain Hook smiled widely and gave another bow, his head almost touching the floor before he stood up straight, His curled black hair bobbing on his head, his eyes shining with victory even before he had even started to fight.
“I shall prepare one to fire immediately so your general can see its power first hand. With your permission, milady?”
She bowed her head slightly, giving him a wave of acknowledgment, not daring herself to speak anymore. He smiled and quickly departed to the relief of all inside the throne room. She took a deep breath and a quiet sigh, trying not to show any weakness before her council, before rising from the throne. Beckoning her general to follow her toward the Grand Hall. he followed behind, the commentary behind them turning into quiet whispers.
“I feel as if I made a deal with Satan himself…” She whispered to him quietly, looking out to the table and casket where her husband lay in state, his body covered with illusion magic to hide the gaping hole in the middle of his face. It was both a blessing and a curse because he looked like there was nothing wrong with him aside from being dead. It ached her heart and she wondered if he would have made that same deal or not.
“Better the devil you know. If his ‘cannons’ work like he claims I will try to have someone aboard his ship to keep him in check. But a part of me is afraid he will do exactly as he claims and win this war for us.”
She nodded and forced a smile on her face. “Thank you, I know he would be proud to see you fighting to save his kingdom and family.”
She could hear him sigh behind her as she approached the glass coffin.
“You should flee, Milady. Leave behind a lookalike and take your daughter. Run to your father’s castle or one of our allies. Even if they demand something like your daughter’s future hand or even your own, it would be worth it to make sure you both survive.”
She shook her head and clutched a hand to her chest.
“No. The Dark Queen cursed my child with a happy ending. She will survive no matter what. And I cannot leave him alone here. I can’t leave my love before I said goodbye and buried him.”
The tears began to flow from her eyes as she leaned over the coffin sobbing anew. Her hand slapping on the glass covering with every shake of her body.
“Why! Why couldn’t they save him? How could such magic exist, that he cast s quickly, that they couldn’t stop that murdering bastard from taking him from me!”
The general let her stay there until she had emptied herself of tears again. He said nothing for he knew there was nothing he could say. Nor did he notice the trail of lights floating off from the room, glowing in subdued light as nine colorful specks flew off into the night sky.