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The Queen of the Ravens

By _JosephJacobson_ All Rights Reserved ©

Adventure / Fantasy

Blurb

When the disappearance of the beloved Queen causes tension between two powerful kingdoms, Astryinx and Renaydia, the threat of war hangs heavily over the two rivalling powers. While Astryinx seems to grow stronger, Renaydia only seems to weaken. The new Queen is barely allowed to burden the weight of the crown, helplessly watching as her kingdom falls apart in front of her. Little does she know, her fate would soon be like that of her sister's, Astryinx devising another plan to swipe her off of the throne. But when that plan takes an unexpected turn, it only rises more problematic conflict.

Prologue - Scroll One

She couldn’t breathe.

That is all that travels through the young Queen’s mind as she slowly comes out of the hazy cloud of unconsciousness, coming face to face with more darkness, and the stuffy air of the fabric thrown across her head.

With her sight hindered, she listens; the ocean, the distant cries of the raven birds, the creaking of wood from it’s age. A war ship. Her limbs grew heavy, her mind and body refusing to work together in unison. With a muffled groan, she forces herself slightly to the left, until she is cut short and falls back into her original spot. Her wrists are bound behind her, along with her ankles, by rough, scratchy rope. She lies on a stiff mattress of some sort, that provides little to no comfort, much to her dismay. Suddenly, she panics sending a sea-full of emotions rushing through her brain as she tugs and pulls in every direction to escape from her entanglement. After a while, she gives up and falls back down on the hard mattress.

She sucks in a strangled breath, once again feeling the unbearable restraint of salty air to replenish her lungs. The ship jolts, and she jerks forward along with it. It is quiet; she hears the blood pulse through her ears in sync with her gradually increasing heart rate, she hears the crash of waves, yet she hears nothing.

Where am I? Is the one question that continuously echoes around her cloudy head. Who has taken me? Where are they taking me? It is then that the Queen begins her struggle, squirming under her restraints. She attempts to tug her wrists free, to kick her ankles loose, achieving only the burning abrasions gifted to her by the ropes.

“Aye, I think she is awake!”

She freezes, her unseeing eyes still darting about at the sound of the raspy and toad-like voice. Heavy footsteps gradually creep towards her, metal upon wood, one step at a time till they abruptly end. The loud squeal of hinges introduce the opening of a door, and she quickly tries to shuffle away from the sound, scooting backwards the best she could. Suddenly, a large hand claps on one of her shoulders and a muffled squeal emits from her throat as she is moulded into a sitting position. The fabric loosens around her head, exposing her to the surroundings, suddenly freeing her from the suffocating prison. She gasps, greedily inhaling the newly found oxygen and blinking up towards the night sky.She is on a ship covered in a dozen intimidating shadows around her as a rebellious flag flaps above them in the vicious wind.

“Pretty little one we’ve got ’ere,” the same scratchy voice rang out, followed by a deep roar of chuckles. “No wonder why he wanted ya.”

The man’s rough voice and incoherent words causes an unpleasant shiver to run down her spine, she blinks upwards as her eyes adjust to the starless night. She notices a large sail, drifting side to side in the wind till her eyes fall back down to the shadows. A disastrous and twisted smile greets her, a grim scraggly beard and cold, dark eyes following. The dark silhouettes of other greed driven men lurks behind him in the shadows. She tugs at the ropes again, trying her best to seem unintimidated by the gypsy group. “Who are you men?” She demands, looking the man square in the eye whilst her face slowly turns a light red color.

The man, who wore red and black coat filled with golden peralds, lifts an eyebrow at her questioningly, his devilish smirk only growing afterwards. “Here’s the deal, sweets,” he begins, kneeling on one knee so that he was at eye-level with the hostage. “We snatch you up, bring you here, ‘unharmed’,” he rolls his eyes towards the other pirates, “get our money, and carry on… of course, we could have just fed you to the Knife-pointed sharks.”

She scoffs, narrowing her eyes. “Here?” She repeats. “Where is here? Why am I tied up like this?” Her tone grows frantic, angry even. “Do you have any idea who I am?” She leans over to the side, staring pointedly at the others. “I am Queen Celestria of Renaydia, daughter of Viktoria and Lander Halloway.”There is a long silence and a dozen foul, repulsive faces stare back at her through merciless and frigid eyes. Suddenly, the pirate who was kneeling on one knee jumps up and bows mockingly, his coat blowing open exposing his ripped chest. “Your highness, so… very pleased to meet you,” he taunts in a high pitched and sickening voice. The gang joins in, repeating the same actions as the first until everyone is bowing, blowing kisses or kneeling in front of her. “Stop this!” She shouts as anger boils up inside of her. “Who even are you… revolting people?”A tall man with a very large and beastly silvery beard strolls towards her on the balls of his feet; his clothes are torn and falling apart, whilst a large hat is placed tightly around his overgrown head. “Captain Ferguson, slayer of the old Everina dragon, at your service.”

Celestria clamps her mouth shut, her emerald eyes widening. Celestria had heard tale about the slayer of the Everina Dragon, but never in her wildest dreams would she have imagined to come face to face with him. “Y-you killed the d-dragon?” She stammers, after swallowing the lump that lodged itself in her throat.

“Aye, that I did. Bloody beast didn’t know what hit it!” Captain Ferguson gave the young Queen a challenging stare until she looks away, him grunting in satisfaction as the boat rocks to a stop, sending waves onto deck. “Alright men, let’s get ’er out, we’ve got other things to take care of.”

Despite Celestria’s protests, the pirate she was greeted with snatches her by her waist, carelessly tossing her over his shoulder. “Unhand me you...you...foul-some...creature!” She cries, squirming as he carries her towards the drawable bridge. She twists her head behind her, letting out a gasp of relief, seeing the three armoured knights waiting for her on the other side.The land is covered in acres of luxurious green grass and the long, flowing branches of the applepine trees. In the distance, not far off from the grey mountains and the rising sun, there is a large castle standing proud amidst the beautiful scenery. The pirate carrying her fiddles with the rope covering her ankles until it comes loose, doing the same to her wrists. As soon as her wrists are freed, Celestria frantically thrashes about until the burly pirate drops her, she falling to the crafted wood beneath them. Swiftly, she scrambles to her feet, snatching up her flowy dress as she glares fiercely at the man that stands before her. Lifting her chin and voicing a high-pitched “hmph”, Celestria darts away, heading straight for the closest knight for protection.The knights all stand around her, studying her in their blue and silver armor that was embroidered around the Astryinx flag on their chest. She waits until one of the knights dismounts before pointing an accusing finger towards the pirate. “He has taken me from my homeland,” she informs him. “I demand to know where I am!”

The Knight remains silent, staring down at the flustered Queen before he turns to his mare, retrieving a silver worn scroll from its satchel. He quietly clears his throat as he slowly unravels the statement, Celestria raising an eyebrow. “Queen Celestria Holloway of Renaydia?” His deep voice echoes from inside of his helmet.

Celestria clenches and unclenches her jaw before nodding once.

“By the order of King Brutorious and behalf of the new alliance, you are hereby sentenced to death by beheading, for your treasonous acts and violation of section XLVI of the Treaty of Astryinx. You will be escorted, by force if necessary, to council, where you will be tried and judged before the King.”

Celestria’s blood runs cold, her heart falling closer and closer to the pit of her stomach with each proclaimed word. But before she could object, the awaiting pirate buts in.

“Nevermind all that nonsense, what about our well earnt money!” Captain Ferguson shouts as he clambers down from the ship and onto the harbour, a sword held fearlessly in his left hand. The Knight, who still ignores them, takes out a small bag and throws it towards the pirates aimlessly.It lands with a tiny clatter, Captain Ferguson diving towards it greedily, emptying the contents into his wrinkled hand. Celestria notices that there is a large burn mark that covers most of his hand and arm. Before she could let a word out about the burn, a raging cry sounds from the supposed slayer. “Are you takin’ the bloody piss,” he spits. “ There is only 20 shackles ’ere, you promised double!” The Knight merely looks away. “Whatever agreement you had with the King, I am sure that he will be willing to negotiate-” “You give us our money now, if not… we will kill the girl!” The captain warns, sword raised up and pointing towards the young Queen.

Celestria shrieks, immediately taking shelter behind the armoured man. He stands stoic and firm, unphased by the captain’s violence. “No harm will come to the young Queen,” he says. “The King would not be pleased; and I am sure you do not want him to see you in a negative light.”

Ferguson’s men come and stand with their captain, swords drawn and ready to fight. The captain lowers his sword slightly, aiming it towards the ground instead of at the Queen. “All we want is the money, and we will be on our way,” he growls.

The Knight turns away from the pirate to face Celestria, setting his hand on top of his steed. “My lady…” he murmurs repulsively, holding out a helping hand to the fear-stricken Queen.

As Celestria grasps his iron plated hand, an enraged shout sounds from behind him, the burly captain starting towards them. “Oi! No one cheats me at my own game!” He rears his arm back with the sword, planning to slice cleanly straight down the Knight’s head whilst a handful of other pirates charge towards him.

“Watch out!” Celestria cries in a shrill scream.

The Knight reaches in the satchel around his waist, to presumably pull out his noble sword. But the only thing he reveals is a significantly smaller object. He turns, extending his arm with the new weapon towards the quickly advancing rebel group. The last thing Celestria hears is a small click before a loud and deafening explosion blasts through the air. A sound like that of thunder splitting the atmosphere.

Celestria screams, covering her ears and collapsing to the ground at the startling sound from such a close proximity. When she looks up, the once sadistic life of Captain Ferguson is gone, leaving behind an empty and lifeless shell. His men remain in a stunned silence, staring down reflectively at their leader’s corpse. A thin trail of smoke rises from the fired weapon, the Knight blowing it away before replacing it in the satchel.

Celestria found herself being lifted by both of her arms and helped onto the comfortable saddle of the graceful gray mountain horse. She continues to stare with her jaw hanging wide open, in shock, as the murderous Knight mounts behind her, gripping the leather reins in his hands.

The pirates retreat seconds later, scrambling back to their warship in a fearful frenzy. It isn’t long before their sails are up, it immediately catching the winds drift as the crew members frantically run around.

The Knight peers up at the brightening morning sky, tightening his grip on the reins and coaxing the horse the opposite way. “I apologize for the bloodshed,” he says, though his monotonous tone sounds void of any remorse. “The King awaits.”

Queen Celestria does not mutter a single word, her face still a ghostly pale as she bounces steadily along with the trotting horse. The gruesome scene continues to replay in her eyes, the loud crash echoing around in her brain.

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