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The Queen of the Realms

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Summary

When Mabon is forced to marry the King of the Autumn Court by her father, the village leader, her entire world is flipped upside down and changed forever. Her husband, the king of an entirely different species, is a stranger to her. Her new home, a castle bustling with all kinds of strange creatures. Herself, the Queen of the Autumn Court, a pretty face on a cold throne, and something that she never knew she was. What is she to do when her world collides with this whole new one?

Genre:
Fantasy / Adventure
Author:
Hales✨
Status:
Ongoing
Chapters:
4
Rating:
n/a
Age Rating:
18+

Chapter 1

Mabon, you’ll need to actually leave the house to secure a husband.

Mabon, get to work and clean the house. That is your only job. You won’t get a husband if you don’t keep the house clean.

Mabon, you need to act like a lady to get a husband.

Mabon, you cannot leave the house looking like such. How do you expect you’ll secure a husband like that?

Mabon, do not let me see you talking to that lowly boy again.

Mabon.

Mabon.

Mabon.

“Mabon, I have found you a suitor. He and his men will be here to retrieve you in three days’ time.” Father says from the kitchen table near the door, his gravelly voice echoing in our small house. His words slur a little, but I understand what comes out of his mouth.

“What?” I ask, spinning around from my spot at the fire pit where I had been prepping to warm our house for the cool autumn night. My stomach starts churning and I clench my cold hands into fists at my sides. I do not need him to repeat himself, not really, but shock and anger eat at my insides immediately.

“You will clean the house from top to bottom, visit the clergy, and you will be made up appropriately when they arrive. If you mess this up, you can go and find another village to live in and you will not be welcomed back.” My father’s stern voice pierces into my skull as I take in what he is saying.

“Wh-what? Who are you trying to marry me off to? Why are they so far away? Are you that desperate to be rid of your only daughter?” I scramble, standing up to my full height. Even at the ripe age of 17, I still stand a couple of inches taller than him. I know I shouldn’t instigate him, but my insides feel as if they are on fire from rage. He has not stopped talking about selling me off to a husband since I turned fourteen, the age at which a girl can marry. He has not been successful, but I think that is simply because the village boys here do not want such a stubborn wife. I try to hold back my temper, knowing that his is much worse than mine will ever be.

“Yes. Get to work. Now. And do not speak to me that way. One more word as such and you’ll be sleeping outside tonight,” is all he says before walking off again, probably back to sitting in his stupid meetings with the other stupid leaders of this stupid village.

This is how it has been my whole life. I clean the house. I never do it well enough. I talk to lowly people instead of the upper-class people and the leaders’ stupid sons. I have to marry off in such a way as to not embarrass my father and still be far, far away from him, apparently. I try so hard to do what he says, but I know somewhere inside of myself that I am meant for more than to just do as my dad says, as my future husband says. I am meant to be my own person. I am meant to do something, anything more. I feel it in my bones. It is why I am always so stubborn, even when it hurts me in the process.

Who the heck is traveling three days for a daughter of a village leader, anyways? I am nothing special, even with who my dad is here. It scares me that someone would come so far for me. We aren’t even a large village. We have a terrible location, with no access to any major waterways and in the dead center of the forests and mountains. It is cold and dark most of the year, starting around this time in early autumn and lasting until the end of the spring. We are a northern village, right near the border of the Realmlands, where no humans dare to go. People from other villages do not often visit. I think I have met only a handful of them my entire life, and I have never strayed out of the mountains and forests that close us in.

Three days. It has to be a southerner... Maybe they are from another country. Is my greedy, power-driven father that desperate to be away from me? What lies did he have to spin to arrange this?

thump

thump

thump

I hear the footsteps on the gravel path approaching our house and snap out of my angry daze. I can tell by the footsteps and his humming that it is only Jeffrey, who has probably come to trade his fresh fish for our extra eggs. This is a trade we make often, maybe every other week.

Opening the door before he can knock, I leave him shocked, though he should be used to it. He lowers his hand back to his side, his usual smile not there. Jeffrey is a tall, tan man. His skin is dark from years of working outside. He is 19, barely older than I am, and we have been friends since before I can remember.

“Good noon, Jeffrey. Come in, but I haven’t gotten any eggs set aside for you yet.” I say, trying to hold back the anger from my voice. I am sure Father will spread the word around the village like fire, and I would like to not ignite it any sooner. I also would not want to take out my feelings on Jeffrey. He gets enough of that from my father, who has never liked our friendship. Jeffrey’s only got his mother now, and she does not work. Jeffrey is an apprentice for a fisherman on our small lake nearby, and not seen as a good companion in my father’s eyes.

“Actually, I cannot come in. I must wait outside now that you’ve been betrothed.” Jeffrey says, his voice quiet but stern and his eyes downcast. He fidgets with the basket in his hand.

“How do you know about that?” I ask, completely floored. “I just found out about it myself!” The anger I was barely holding in comes out and poor Jeffrey takes a step back from me and my outburst. I feel as if my anger is radiating off of me.

“I-I got stopped on my way over by your father, Mabe.” I turn to look at him, three eggs in my hand ready to go into his basket. His expression tells me that Father was still upset from my backtalk and probably threatened him. Jeffrey is a tall, scrawny thing. He wears a torn-up white shirt and old brown leather pants. Since my father considers him to be exactly who I should not be friends with, I have made it my point to make him my only friend.

“Sorry, Jeffrey. I did not mean to take it out on you.” I finish putting his dozen eggs in the basket and cover them with a clean cloth. I hand it to him and he gives me a similar basket, but with a salty smell to it. I set it down on our wobbly little table.

“It’s okay. I would be upset, too. Especially with who it is you’re being forced to marry.” He looks at his feet, concern etched into his every feature. He has always been so scared of Father, and still, I have not seen him look so worried as he does right now.

“Jeffrey, what do you know?” I walk over to him, standing up as straight as possible. I would never hurt Jeffrey, but he knows I am capable and I am fast. He has seen me lose my temper on innocent trees or bails of hay.

“I said too much. I must go.” He walks off, the egg basket in his hand and I slam the door in frustration, letting out a low growl. I want to go after him, but I know that it isn’t worth it. Everyone must know by now, which means I will know soon, too. I also know that if I do not get the house clean, my father will follow through on his threats, so I get to work. I walk over to the counter serving as our kitchen. Our house is mostly one open room with a bedroom off the back. The main room is our seating area, kitchen area, and table to eat. There is only one door and maybe two windows looking out into the surrounding trees. Our house is made from wood, like the other leaders’ houses, and is set a bit farther back from the village. Father has a real bed and warm blankets, but I sleep on a mat in the corner of the main room.

“Who on earth could he be forcing me to marry that has Jeffrey this worried?” I wonder aloud, frustration and anger making my every movement jarring. I go about cleaning the fish, starting to prepare our dinner for tonight. I go through the well-known motions with ease, my mind elsewhere. The only way out of this is to run away. But the weather turns cold and I would freeze before I found another village far enough away to take me in despite my father’s pull. I have thought about this a few times before, but I know that this is not the time to. I would need more resources than we have, and there is nowhere for me to go. There is a village about 13 miles southeast of us, but my father barters trade with them. There is a smaller village than ours about 6 miles in the other direction, but they are completely reliant on us and our trade.

After the fish and bread are prepped, I set up the fire to cook and get them over it. Our fire pit is in the middle of the small room. It is a simple hole dug into the dirt floor and is surrounded by clay bricks. As I wait for the fish stew to finish, I get to work cleaning the rest of our small house. I know better than to leave it dirty after all that I said to him today, as my father will beat me for it. Backtalk and laziness do not make a good daughter, nor a good wife. He may go easier with the beating since any marks would have to be gone in three days, but that does not mean he won’t mistreat me in other ways: starve me or force me to sleep outside. He has done it before. Nothing will stop him from sending me away to be married and never return. I have never been good enough for him. I remind him too much of my mother, which is the only thing he will ever say about her, and it is only when he is drunk that the words slip from his mouth. Too pretty and too sassy for my own good.

After I have cleaned up the kitchen area from preparing dinner, I sweep the floor and set the table. It is now dark and my father bursts in the door, slamming it behind him. I keep myself from cringing, knowing what kind of mood he is in immediately.

“Is dinner not ready yet?” He asks gruffly, anger clear as day on his face. He kicks his boots off in the middle of the doorway, and I go over to set them to the side neatly.

“No. It will be in a few minutes. We are having fish stew.” I answer him, going back over to the fire pit to check on it.

“Fine, but your husband will want dinner ready when he is home, child.” Father’s voice is harsh and loud.

“Good thing he isn’t here, then.” I mutter under my breath while Father stomps off to his room. He sure is grouchy for someone finally getting to fulfill his dream of selling off his daughter.

***

It’s the next morning and I wake up to my father stomping around, grumbling that I am not awake yet and that he has to make his own breakfast. He comes over and kicks at my side at one point and I groan, grabbing my side in pain. He fusses that I should be up and doing this for him and that I can expect no dinner tonight. A few stray tears escape and run down my face, but I stay on my mat, knowing if I get up now he will only get worse. He is such a hypocrite.

I ignore him until he is gone, and then I get up. I put on a fresh set of skirts and a clean white shirt with my favorite, well-worn, brown leather corset. While the other leaders’ daughters all wear corsets, none of theirs are as worn as mine. I have two other corsets, but this one has molded to my shape over time and is my favorite. I have mastered the ways of putting it on by myself and get it done quickly. However, I am a little slow this morning after the kick to my side. I can already tell it will be a bad bruise.

Then, I slip on my boots and attempt to brush my unruly blonde hair. It falls to my butt in a wavy mess. After most of the knots are out, I pull it into a single, long braid. I check my reflection in the small mirror on Father’s door and am on my way to town, a basket full of bread in my arms. I look different than most of the villagers. I am tall, thin and light-skinned, and haired. I look like my mystery of a mother who abandoned me here.

On my way into town, I see that the sun has mostly risen. As I get closer to the center, the houses are closer and more people are out and about.

“Good Morning,” I greet Ms. Gretchen as she works her garden. She says it back and smiles broadly. I greet everyone I pass in the same way, waving and smiling, and keeping up the reputation my father is so proud of. I hate that I must always be this happy, perfect daughter, but it is what is expected of me by Father and the other leaders. The villagers all smile back, if only because of who my father is. They whisper to each other when they think I am not looking.

I eventually make it all the way to the very center, where the booths of goods are set up every day, forming our market. It is bustling with activity already, and I turn towards the big, white hut in the very middle. I pass the small line and the man at the door lets me enter immediately. The clergymen usually see one person at a time, and leaders and their families have priority. I slow my pace, walking in quietly, and go straight over to the middle of the hut.

“Mabon, we were expecting you. We have been told you wish to wed.” The clergyman in the middle greets me, his voice scratchy.

“Yes, clergyman,” I say, kneeling in front of them. There are three men in all white in the center, seated on plush cushions on the dirt floor. Only men are allowed to be religious leaders, and these are the ones our villagers come to for help, prayers, and permission to marry. “I have also brought you all some fresh bread on behalf of my father. He says hello, wishes well, and will see you all soon.”

I try to keep my expression neutral. I have only ever been here once with Father, but have seen the clergymen at the few ceremonies our village has throughout the year. I know what is expected of me today, after hearing enough about other village kids doing it, and the gossip chain of the other girls my age. It is especially talked about among the leaders’ daughters.

“We thank you, and him. Now, whom do you wish to wed?” His voice echoes slightly and I hide my shock that he does not know who I am supposed to be marrying.

“I am not sure, sir. My father is the one who knows. He is not from here. He will be here in two more days.”

They whisper to each other before responding.

“So the rumors are true... We will grant you to be wed, and to be wed on your husband’s land. May God bless your and your new husband and marriage, may He bless your family and your people, present and future. Go, and prepare for your husband.” I ignore the aching in my chest and the emotions swirling in my stomach. Would our God truly bless such a marriage? I knew that the clergymen would approve the wedding. The leaders and clergymen often pull each other’s strings here. And my father is definitely pulling theirs today.

“Thank you, clergymen. Bless you, as well.” I say, standing up and walking out, a feeling of emptiness set over me. This time, my walk back through town follows me with stares and whispers tenfold. I walk fast as I attempt to be out of the line of attention. I head to the East side of the village, towards the woods that lead up into the cliffs that edge our home. Climbing the worn and familiar path to the top, I sit on the edge, looking down at the huts and people down below. I hear laughter, a baby crying, and wood being chopped. It all looks so tiny from here, insignificant in the mix of woods surrounding it.

I think back on what the clergymen said. They said I am to marry on his lands. Why would Father not completely secure my marriage? Surely, he wishes me to marry here. If a marriage arrangement is not secure, he must be getting a huge amount for my dowry. Or maybe a new trade agreement? Sighing, I start my journey back down to the village and to my house. If I do not have supper ready by the time Father comes home today, he will surely be furious. More than he already is, anyway.

Walking down the trail still lost in thought and worry, I hear a distant growl to my left that stops me cold. Since I went to see the clergymen, I did not bring any weapons with me. I should have gone straight home. When I stop, the growling stops. I feel my ears zone in on where the noise came from and I stand completely still, not even breathing too loud. The sounds of the forest ring in my ears as I strain to listen.

Another small growl and then I hear a whispered groaning. Out of nowhere, a flash of gold in the spot it came from off in the woods causes me to take off running toward town. The only creatures of that color are the fae, who are almost always an odd color. I move quickly and carefully, flying over roots and ducking below branches. I skirt the edge of the village, going straight to the leader’s large wooden building. At the halfway point, I stop for a second and hear or see nothing following me. My chest heaves as I try to catch my breath, but I still run the rest of the way, parting groups of kids and barely dodging a clothesline.

There has not been a fae spotted since before I was born. We do not cross into their lands, and they do not cross into ours. The fae have not caused us problems for generations now, but they are old, ugly creatures who love a good fight, which is why we always have men set to guard the perimeter of the nearby land. A fae should never have gotten so close to the village without anyone being made aware. The fae live for thousands of years. They are violent and sneaky creatures with magic. As kids, we are all warned of them and told haunting stories of the fae. They come in all colors of the rainbow, in many sizes and shapes, and with many different magics. I heard from an old tale that some of them can even change themselves to look like a human.

I burst through the door and run straight to the back of the room where the leaders are all sitting around a table.

“Father! Leaders! I have spotted a fae-” I begin to yell.

“Calm down now, Mabon,” Brex says, an annoyed look on the leader’s face. He has never cared for me, as I have rejected his son’s advances again and again.

“Mabon, I received news. Your husband and his entourage have arrived earlier than expected and will meet us at the village center in the clergymen’s hut at sunrise.” Father says, a smug look on his face.

His words make my heart drop. Why do they not care that there was a fae spotted near us? I feel the heartbeat in my stomach and palms, which are sweaty and clenched at my sides now. I am confused. Why is he changing the subject?

“What? No, they need to come tonight, Father. It is not safe outside the village.” I may not want to be wed, but they should not die because of that. Even someone as greedy and cruel as my father does not deserve to die. “What about the fae? Do you not believe me? Shall you no send anyone to check the perimeters?”

“Mabon, do not be ridiculous. They will rest for the night and be here in the morning.” He does not acknowledge the mention of fae at all. I feel completely and utterly ignored and stupid.

“But, Father, I saw a golden-skinned creature in the woods near the cliffs today.”

“What in the world were you doing there? Honestly, Mabon. Mind your business. Everything is fine.” Brex exclaims, rolling his eyes. He brings his hands to his face in annoyance.

“But it had to be a fae!” I yell, frustration radiating off of me. I throw my arms up, making sure they all see my stress.

"We said everything is fine!” Father yells back. I simply nod and back out of the building, walking slowly. I do not remember the walk back to my house but I end up there too quickly. I do not remember preparing dinner or setting the table, but it gets done. I do not remember Father getting home but he is at the table eating when I seem to be back in real life, no longer moving through my normal routine in shock and fear and worry.

Despair swallows me whole as I sit down at the table to eat. Mostly I just move the food on my plate around, only taking a few small bites. He seems to have forgotten what he said this morning. That, or he is too happy with his news to care. He eats everything on his plate, though, and even has three glasses full of his straight whiskey. My stomach is churning, and much more food would only cause me to get sick, so I drop my fork. This catches Father’s attention and he smirks cruelly.

“It’s probably better if you don’t eat anyway. You don’t want to be too big for your wedding dress.” Father says, snorting as he gets up and saunters off to his bedroom, drunk and happy. I decide as my last act of rebellion that I will leave the dishes for him to take care of himself. He will have to take a wife now that I won’t be here. There is no way this man could take care of himself. Although, I do not think any woman in her good senses would stay. My own mother did not. My father did not know I existed until the day she left me on his doormat.

So, I go lay on my mat for the last time ever and stare up at the dusty ceiling. My mind is racing over everything that has happened in the last two days. There is no point in even trying to fall asleep. I am nauseous and anxious. I am angry. Mostly, I am scared. I am leaving my village for the first time ever, with total strangers. One of which, I will be marrying. I am leaving behind everything I know. My life is far from perfect, but it is all I know. What if the man I am to wed is far worse than my father? I cannot do this for the rest of my life, married to a stranger who beats me when his supper is not to his liking.

So, I decide to do something about it. Standing, I grab my bag that I keep some of my smaller things in and empty it onto my mat. I take my dagger from the pile and put it to the side. It is a simple dagger that Jeffrey gave me after he had found out that my father beat me. We were about 10 and he wanted me to defend myself. Of course, I never used it against Father. It would come in handy now, though. I pack two shirts and two pairs of pants. I shove my four pairs of socks in, knowing I will need to keep my feet warm and dry. I continue shoving in things I think I will need, including all of our bread. I take Father’s canteen from the kitchen and fill it with water. I shove my boots on and glance around, looking to see if there is anything else I may need.

Throwing my sack on my shoulder, I grab my mat and start towards the door. I take a deep breath and walk out, knowing that no matter what happens, my life will never be the same again.

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