Chapter 1 - Return to Lordorthil
For centuries, Lordorthil has stood as the perfect picture of peace, free from the wraths of war with kings and queens of a trusted family name leading their people through the changes of time with strength and stability.
The last war that raged through Lordorthil started with a coronation and ended with the death of a powerful monarch.
On the day of her coronation, Thora Illian was awakened by the gentle hand of her handmaid, who kept a respectable distance from the soon to be queen, knowing how the warrior was fond of keeping blades hidden close to hand.
The sun was still hours away from rising, yet Thora was coaxed from her bed and taken into the hands of her ladies in waiting, who helped her into a bath filled with warm milk from the gods, which had been infused with honey and lavender.
The queen’s ladies, bustle around her, two sit by her side, gossiping as they clean her hands, body and feet. Another lady sits behind her, gently washing and combing Thora’s tangled hair. The coals are stoked regularly to fill the bathroom with steam and warmth.
The soon to be queen is helped from the tub and stands naked before her ladies, who pat her dry and anoint her skin with perfumed oils.
As the ladies busy themselves, the Queen’s husband enters the room, wearing loose-fitting pants that cling to his hips and do nothing to hide the fact that just moments ago he wore nothing at all.
He stands in front of his wife and places a soft kiss to her forehead.
“Good morning, my sweet,” he says as a smile blossoms on her face.
“Good morning,” she greets her lips puckering as Aradain leans forward and places another kiss to her lips.
After soaking for half an hour, Thora is rinsed with warm water that helps her muscles relax as she worries about the moments and years to come.
Thora takes a deep breath and wonders what type of queen she will be.
As the sun starts its journey into the sky, Thora dresses in a gown of royal red.
The Queen worked closely with her dressmaker, ensuring the dress was everything that she dreamed it would be.
The dress is accented with gold and made with satin and lace, the body is tight with long sleeves, while the skirts of her dress flare out in strategic pleats. On her back, there is a delicately placed window that puts the menagerie of scars that decorate her back on display.
Thora is wrapped in a cloak and then led to the carriage that is drawn by six, white stallions. The royal carriage is a sight to see and when the people of Coldin see the black and gold carriage roll by, they cheer and wave to the queen and the prince who wave back with gentle, wide-sweeping waves.
The carriage takes them to the hall of gods, where Thora is left in the carriage while Aradain enters the hall to take his seat.
For a moment, Thora hesitates, she takes a deep breath which she shakily releases as she tries to calm her nerves.
As she sits there in that carriage, her mind drifts back to everything that brought her here today.
Thora’s husband is not her first, she was once married to another prince, Alden Castinnmon was the love of her life, the one who she felt her soul connect to. She bore him a son, and they were happy, that is until that fateful night; when they were both taken from her, cut down by a man in one night. That night was the first spark for the war of summer, Thora spent years hunting down that man, seeking revenge for her lost family, only to find that the man had acted on the whim of his sister. Him and his sister, Damia, were dejected Tikadi’s, who reached for a throne that was usurped from their bloodline many, many years before they were even born. Damia ached for the crown, she hid as a lady in waiting and became a close friend to Thora during her years as the princess. Damia enlisted Alden’s brother and together they took the throne from all who sat it.
When they were married, Alden granted his wife the title of true heir and named her the rightful successor to the throne should anything happen to him. Thora rebuked the idea of becoming the sole ruling monarch of Lordorthil at first, but she eventually knew that she had to take up the crown in order to save her people from those who would do them harm.
But when Thora returned to the capitol, she was overthrown, beaten down and her back torn to pieces under the whip commanded by Damia’s voice. Thora was sent across the sea, to the northern land of Husavik, where she was imprisoned in Ittanna. She was freed by a bastard brother she did not know of and taken to the northern king and queen, where she planned to hide forever, leaving the people who betrayed her behind. But after learning of how they were suffering due to Damia’s greed, she knew she had to return, and after a few small trials, she was married to the prince of Husavik and gifted an army and a ship to ferry them back to Lordorthil.
Thora quickly gained a following and most were eager to see the Illian woman sit the throne and end the wyvern queen’s reign. Along the way, Thora found that her first husband had been revived by the gods, and set on the same path as her to reclaim the throne.
However, he had changed, after waking from his death, it was as if he was a different man, not at all like the man that Thora had married. When the war was won and Damia was dead, Alden set to reach for the crown, it was his birthright after all. But Alden’s plan for Lordorthil was just as cruel as Damia was, he had planned to raise taxes to refill the royal treasury. He was going to ride on the backs of his people pushing them further into poverty and squalor.
When Thora stood opposed to him, and his lords stood at her back, Alden became enraged and sought to strike her and her new husband down.
Thora had to do what she had to, even now, five days after the fact, she can still feel his blood on her hands, still see the flecks of red that decorated her nails.
“Majesty,” the footman says, clearing his throat as he stands by her door, “They’re waiting for you.”
Thora takes a deep breath and she tears her eyes away from her hands and then nods her head. The footman opens her door and she steps out, shedding her cloak as she hears the common people start to cheer and call to her.
They line the steps of the hall, watching with wide eyes and big smiles, not crossing the line of guards strategically placed between her and them. At the top of the steps, two large beasts sit vigil, watching Thora with shining eyes and wagging tails.
She runs her hands over their heads, her fingers scratching at the black fur as she passes. The doors open and all eyes fall to her, inside there are at least a hundred witnesses, ready to see their queen crowned in the light of the Lordorthil gods.
The ten gods of Lordorthil stand along the hall, towering over those below, watching with stone eyes as Thora walks up the aisle between them.
The sun has risen, it covers the sky in hues of pinkish-orange and floods through the stained-glass window. The colours flood over Thora’s shoulders, basking her in the glow and shining a light on her scars.
The people in the hall gape and gasp as they finally see the scars Damia bestowed upon her. They cover their mouths and their eyes go wide in shock as they see the pale white scars that over her shoulders and down her back like claw marks from a beast.
Thora approaches the front of the hall, where a priest awaits, an ancient scroll in his hand.
“I, Thora from house Illian, have come to claim the crown and throne of Lordorthil with the god’s permission,” she says, her voice clear and strong.
“Do you, Thora Illian, first of her name, promise to protect and serve the people of Lordorthil?” the priest asks, reading from the scroll.
“I do,” Thora says, her voice strong and powerful as it echoes through the hall.
As Thora takes her oath, a woman watches her from the back of the room, in her arms she cradles her son.
The woman is Rhea of house Barron, she married the newly revived Alden to form an alliance, the child she bore is his son and who she believes to be the rightful king of Lordorthil.
Rhea stands with a hard expression on her face, watching the queen receive a crown she has stolen. In her arms, her son begins to squirm, softly whining as he is awoken from his sleep.
Rhea excuses herself, not wanting to draw the false queen’s attention. She takes her son outside, escorted by a member of Thora’s guard, who watches the lady closely, looking for any sign or hint of rebellion.
The baby cries, he cries for the throne that he can feel being usurped from him.
“I know,” Rhea coos as she bounces her son and walks quickly away from the two large wolves at the door, “Shh, shh my boy it will be alright.”
Rhea talks softly to her son, tears well in her eyes as she feels the ache her son is feeling.
Back inside the hall, Thora finishes taking her vows to the kingdom.
“Will you uphold the faith of the Lordorthil Gods and Goddesses of whom you stand before?” The priest asks.
“I solemnly swear,” she responds.
Thora is then presented with the scroll and is given a quill to sign the declaration.
On the scroll at the bottom of the page, there are hundreds of signatures, signings from the great kings that came before her. This will be the first time in history that a woman will sign the scroll. Thora looks to the last signature, King Jarrett Castinnmon was the last monarch to sign the scroll and be crowned before the light of the gods.
Jarrett was Alden’s second brother, chosen by Thora after her husband’s first passing to wear the crown. Jarrett was chosen over his older brother Harrmon in hopes that he will continue in leading Lordorthil in peace, but he was struck down by Harrmon and Damia in their plot to take the crown.
Thora signs her name, it is elegant and dances across the paper in swoops and loops.
Thora then kneels in front of the priest as he presents her with the ancestral crown of Lordorthil.
The crown is made for a king’s head, made by and for the first king of Lordorthil, Margan Tikadi, who conquered Lordorthil in the winter on the back of a mighty wyvern.
There was a lot of debate on whether Thora should be crowned with the crown of ancient kings or the crown gifted to the queens. It was decided that Thora is essentially a king in her own right, she will be doing a king’s duty and will be the sole monarch to rule Lordorthil so why shouldn’t she be crowned as such?
Thora rises with the king’s crown sitting perfectly on her head, there are some mutters flittering about the room, of course, everyone has their own opinions on the matter, but Thora is king, and will not be treated as less.
Thora is handed the royal orb and sceptre and she turns to her people.
“I present you your queen,” The priest says with a strong voice, “Thora of house Illian, long may she reign.”
“Long live the Queen!” her people say in unison.
Quickly after Thora’s marriage to the country, she is joined by her husband Aradain, to be remarried before the gods and by a Lordorthil priest.
After the ceremonies are over, the new Queen of Lordorthil is escorted out of the hall, where she stands at the top of the steps, looking out to the people below who cheer and wave.
To be adored is one thing, but these people, they see Thora as a saviour, she killed the wyvern queen who had been using them as food for her silver pet, Throa had set them free from their fear and their pain; the people of Coldin love her.
Thora decides to leave the carriage, sending it back empty as she chooses to walk amongst her people, her husband by her side and her ketas close behind.
The two remaining keta’s of her pack are brothers, abandoned by their mother and raised by Thora, who had healed them of their sickness and raised them to be strong beasts loyal to her. The first is Azul, he has been by Thora’s side since she first found the pups in the abandoned wyvern skulls in the Werewood, his fur is midnight black and his eyes are molten gold.
The second is Dasmin, he has one green eye, one blue, and the same midnight black pelt as his brother. This keta was not quick to trust Thora’s command, when he was young, he challenged Thora, attacking her to gain the rank of alpha. He took some of Thora’s left hand off in the fight, she is missing the smallest finger and a crescent-shaped curve of flesh. Thora does not hold it against the wolf, it is in his nature and she is glad to have him by her side after losing the others to war.
The wolves found their way back to her during a battle near Ilannda, the ancestral seat of the Illian family. They came from the Werewood and since then, the wolves have not left Thora’s side.
Thora walks through the charred streets of Coldin, where the skies were once plagued by Damia’s wyvern, silver. The beast would feast on those in Coldin, swooping down to snatch livestock or picking apart houses to find people to swallow down.
The people are in high spirits, as Thora walks amongst them she takes their hands and offers them her support and condolences.
Thora walks back to the castle, which is already filled with mason workers, who pause their tinkering to look towards the queen.
Castle Coldin sustained a lot of damage during the war, half of it is crumbling from where Damia’s wyvern broke through the ceiling. Thora didn’t see the importance of fixing all the damage right away, but her council insisted that it will send the right message and show the people how serious and efficient their queen is in getting Lordorthil healed from the war.
For the rest of the day and well into the night, there is a celebration, the chefs prepare a feast that feeds all the lords and ladies who still linger at the castle, hoping to seal the Queen’s attention to discuss politics and the future.
“What is your plan to restore Lordorthil?”
“How will you refill the treasury?”
“How will you prevent another war?”
Thora does her best to dodge the answers, she gives vague answers and moves on as best she can, because for right now, she doesn’t know.
Queen Thora does not have all the answers immediately, up until five days ago she was still fighting in a war, and now she has a whole country looking to her for answers.
“Alright, go away, all of you,” a strong voice commands as Lady Genorra Illian comes to her sister’s aid, “Leave the queen be and return to your celebrations.”
Thora is slightly relieved by her older sister’s presence; she takes her sister’s hand in her’s and squeezes it in thanks.
“You look like you need some air,” Genorra says nodding her head towards the open doors that lead out into the gardens.
Thora follows Genorra, letting her sister’s hand go in fear that it makes her look childish.
Once in the garden, Thora lets out a sigh and places her hand over her abdomen, which is tight and swelling with life. She looks up to the sky, watching the twinkling stars that dance near the shadow of a new moon, a symbol of new beginnings.
“I think I’m out of my depth,” Thora voices once she and Genorra are alone, accompanied only by a small handful of trustworthy guards and two Ketas.
“Probably,” Genorra agrees as she walks amongst the plants that are slowly returning to life.
Genorra wears a dress of deep green, it clings to her curvaceous figure and trails slightly behind her. Thora watches her sister, who holds her head high and walks with grace and purpose.
“You could be more supportive,” Thora says as she catches up to her sister.
“But then I wouldn’t be honest, my queen,” Genorra says with a smile and a wink, “Thora, you’ll do great things, I can feel it.”
“But I’m not a queen,” Thora says under her breath as doubt settles on her chest, “I’m… I’m a war dog; I command armies, not countries.”
“Same thing,” Genorra says with a shrug of her shoulders, “a country is just a large army anyway, instead of rowdy soldiers, you have rowdy lords whom you must keep in line.”
Thora rubs her fingers with her thumb by her side, using the circular motion to try and calm her nerves.
“I feel as if I don’t know how to act,” Thora admits, casting a hesitant look to her guards, who remain several paces behind, their focus on their surroundings, “I don’t have all the answers.”
“What, you think I do?” Genorra scoffs, turning her stone-brown eyes to her little sister, “Sister, you are the Queen, you act however you want, no man or woman will ever hold command over you again.”
Thora knows that her sister is right and that her nerves and fears, though rational, are trivial for now.
“One day at a time,” Genorra adds with a smile as she walks back inside with the queen.
Throa leaves her sister’s side, holding her head higher as she mingles with her people with more confidence.
But when Thora has had enough, her plans to retire for the night are announced and the celebrations die down.
Aradain is never too far from Thora’s side, he takes her hand and the couple leaves out a hidden door behind the throne room.
The door leads to a small hall that escalates into stairs that lead the pair up to the royal bedchambers. The room is well guarded and impenetrable from the outside, there are two main entrances and a servant’s entrance to the room, all of which are guarded at all times.
The room is made up of three sections, first, on a lower level, sits the royal bathing room, only accessible from within the bed-chamber, second, separated from the bedding area by a velvet curtain, is a small seating area that can host an intimate get together or important meetings in comfort.
And then there’s the bedding area, which is filled with comfort and plush furnishings, the largest of which is a golden bed surrounded curtains of black and gold for privacy.
The queen’s ladies in waiting quickly sweep through the room like a wind storm, preparing the area for their mistress and her husband. They start a fire in the fireplace to give the room light and warmth, they pull back the covers on the bed and then sweep over to the queen their hands reaching for her dress, ready to help the queen undress.
“That will be all,” Thora dismisses before they could even lay a finger on her.
The ladies curtsy, taking the change of pace in their stride. They bid goodnight and then leave out the servant’s entrance, giving Thora a brief glance at the guards who stand on the other side of the door.
Queen Thora sighs and then pulls her arms out of the sleeve of her dress. Aradain steps closer to his wife and places his warm, soft hands on her shoulders.
Thora leans into her husband’s touch, feeling relieved in the affection, she leans her head back on his chest and practically purrs as he helps her undress and then leads her to bed.
Thora leans into her husband’s touch, his hands wash away her nerves and fear as they lay down together and fall asleep in each other’s arms.
Thora does not sleep for long; a nightmare has her waking with a sheen of sweat on her skin and her heart racing. She stares up at the canopy above as echoes of the dream still play in her mind.
Sleep evades the Queen, so she slowly drags herself out of bed and wraps herself in a silk robe. She leaves her husband sleeping and crosses over to the sitting area, where for a moment she loses herself in the flickering embers that remain in the fireplace.
When Thora’s thoughts start to spiral and become self-destructive, she pulls herself away and stands by her window, her hand resting on her abdomen as she thinks of the life this child will inherit. The queen looks out past the palace walls, to the town beyond, which is covered in a soft glow of lights dancing on window panes.
The town seems peaceful, despite the charred state it’s in, but the wounds of war run deep through Lordorthil, this Thora knows.
Thora also knows that the war may be over, but her country is in a fragile state and cannot handle an uprising or an invasion.
Thora thinks of her mother, another casualty that Thora blames herself for, she was executed for the treason of birthing a traitor, a falsified charge laid down by Damia.
Lady Diana taught her children many skills and lessons to survive in this world, she always knew that her children were destined for greatness.
Thora thinks on the many lessons she was taught, especially history, and as she stands by the window, she makes a plan that will help her avoid repeating it.