The Queen of Twyle watched as her husband was lowered into the ground. Upon reflection, she realized that she would in fact, miss him. Her children looked particularly upset, despite being fully grown adults. She did, of course, sympathize. He had been an admirable father, and a kind man. While he had not been a powerful ruler, he had been loved, both by his progeny and his people. It was not unreasonable that her children should be upset. The last shovel full of dirt was put on the top of the polished wooden coffin, and so, the Queen turned away from the grave.
She had too much work to do to stand by a grave like an ordinary widow. Her little kingdom was starving. The ore in their mountains had dried up, their relatively cold climate produced little edible vegetation, and even their seemingly endless vein of coal was dying out. Soon their country would be destitute. She had to do something. She had wasted far too many years being made impotent by her husband’s masculine right to rule their little country. His plans had been too optimistic. He had held the vain hope for many years that the lost heirs to the Gyllene Kingdom would return. He thought that when they did, one of them would marry one of his heirs and the kingdoms would be allied. If their children married, then they could not in good conscience allow their sister kingdom to fall to ruin.
But the heirs had not returned. The engagement of her son to the female heir of Gyllene would never happen. As it was, the other two of her three children were already wed to other neighboring rulers. It was this that gave her the practical solution to her problems. Gyllene would have to be invaded. Their mountains, while cold and inhospitable were filled with ore and gold, so very much gold. Their southern lands were lush and produced food year round. If her kingdom were combined with theirs, their wealth could support both. She didn’t have an army vast enough on her own, but drawing on the support of her daughters’ marriages…she might. Neither of them had married crown princes, their little country didn’t warrant it, but she had a connection to greater forces all the same.
Even with the help of a limited amount of other soldiers she would have to conscript her own men. Every farmer and goose herd capable of holding a sword would have to fight. It would not make her a popular Queen, but it might save her people. If they could capture Gyllene, her unwilling army would be rewarded for their efforts tenfold. She sighed and glanced over her shoulder. Her children were now far behind her, still standing and weeping by their father’s grave. Her son did not weep, but his face was tragic. If only her husband had been right. If the female child of the Demon King had returned, they might have avoided war. Her son was still unmarried, and as a crown Prince offering himself to a Princess with two brothers, he would have had a chance of being accepted. Well, he would have, if the tragedy had not occurred.
Now, instead, she would have to go to war with a lineage rumored to possess dark magic. Her own father and even her father in law had spoken of the invasion of Gyl by Eillene. They had waxed on and on about how the smell of an entire army rotting and groaning for graves had blanketed a hundred miles in every direction. The fear and suspicion that surrounded the little kingdom had been both enough to threaten its rule…and to preserve it. Although its neighbors hungered for the riches of the little kingdom, fear had kept them at arm’s length. No one wanted their entire armies wiped out, and to lose their own kingdom. No one wanted the pestilence brought by the carnage that the previous invasion had wrought. But it had been years since Gyllene had supposedly committed this incredible act. The Queen herself had not even been born until ten years afterward. Fifty three years had passed since a King of Gyllene had conquered anything.
Most of the generals and the soldiers who feared the country were too old either to fight, or to command her armies. There would not be much push back to her plan, other than the ordinary reticence to begin a war. All that remained now, was to see how long it would take to prepare for battle and to conscript soldiers. It might take a year to build the weapons, make the uniforms, and train the farmers to fight…but it had to be done, and the sooner the better. Gyllene would have to fall.