Elinia surveyed the obstacle course in front of her. A few feet in front of her stood a tall silver hurdle. A few feet in front of that was a stone figure holding a sword across the air. Elinia backed up a little to give herself a running start. She ran and grabbed the hurdle, flipping herself over it. She landed on her toes and rolled under the sword before leaping to her feet and grabbing the rope that led her to the beginning of the course. Elinia dropped from the rope and brushed a stray lock of golden-red hair from her face. She threw herself through the course again and grabbed a staff off the floor. A tall hooded man came after her with a sword. They traded blows, but none landed on Elinia. She twisted the staff around her opponent’s sword and then grabbed the hilt. Elinia pointed the sword at her opponent’s throat.
“Well done, Princess Elinia. Soon not even your sister will be able to beat you.”
Elinia smiled as she tossed the sword aside and helped the man up. The hood fell back revealing a tall elf with silver hair.
Elinia handed him his sword.“If I have done well, it is because of your great teachings, Master Thrush-gar.”
The old elf smiled at Elinia’s use of the “gar” suffix, for it represented one of high rank. Clapping sounded behind the two. Elinia pivoted and saw her father standing in the doorway.
“Well done, Daughter. I heard the sound of an eagle and an owl fighting and I come to find it is only my youngest daughter and trusted advisor.”
Elinia ran up and hugged her father. “I am only great because of Master Thrush-gar’s instruction. I can only hope that one day I shall equal my mother in battle.”
The king sighed and agreed. Elinia’s mother had been dead for twelve years, but she had been a famed swordswoman, a kind and just queen, a loving mother, and loyal and passionate wife and lover.
“Elinia, to celebrate your success, I have a gift. Your mother would want you to have it, and I think you are ready for it.” He reached into his cloak and brought forth a large, bulky package.
Elinia felt its weight and gasped. She untied the twine holding it together and watched as the cloth fluttered to the ground. Inside laid her mother’s green chain link and brown metal armor. In it also laid her mother’s golden crossbow and a sheath of golden arrows fletched with red phoenix feathers. Elinia looked at her father.
In a voice choked with emotion, she thanked him.“Father, thank you for this gift. I will live up to the legacy these armor and weapons carry.” Her father hugged her again and led her out of the room.
Elinia’s older sister, Ichthara, looked down unseen from a balcony. She clenched her hands, gouging the ancient wooden railing.
Her blue eyes burned with the fire of an icy hate. “Those should have been mine!” She hissed with fury. “Who does he think he is to give her my birthright? Mother would have wanted me to have them, not that usurping miserable brat!”
Ichthara jerked her hands up, bringing up chinks of wood. She threw them down in the training arena.
“She will pay. They all will! Elinia will suffer, so that in turn the king suffers. And everyone knows when a king suffers, so does his kingdom! All of Holrainix will pay!” she threw back her head and laughed an insane, cold chilling laugh.
A page ran up nervously to Ichthara. “Princess Ichthara, your father wants to see you in the throne room.”
Ichthara glared at the small cowering dwarf. “Get out of my way and stop groveling!” Ichthara shoved past him and began walking. “Stupid creature. No backbone at all. Worthless.”
Ichthara grabbed the edge of her cloak and strode to the throne room.
“Sister, it is good to see you again!” Ichthara smiled.
“It is good to see you again too.” Elinia smiled and hugged her sister.
One day that little spoiled brat will pay! Ichthara pulled away and walked to her father’s throne. She curtsied.
“Father, you summoned me?” she stood, hiding the hostility and hate in her eyes.
“Ichthara, Elinia, I have called both of you here today for a reason.”
Ichthara’s blue eyes roamed over her sister with unconcealed hate.
“I am growing older, I feel the seasons changing in my bones. Last night, I had a dream. In this dream, I was dead and my youngest daughter, Elinia, took my role as ruler of Holrainix. Ichthara, I saw things about you I do not fully understand. I am not sure what I saw, but it gave me a horrible feeling.” Here he turned and faced his youngest daughter.
“Elinia, I name you Crown Princess Elinia, Future Ruler of Holrainix.”
Ichthara let out a sound that didn’t sound human.“Father, you would give the position and title I have been trained for my entire life to her? I am your oldest, your firstborn! I should be the one who gets the throne, not her!”
Trouble clouded the king’s eyes. “I see that dream was right. Ichthara, there is something in you that was planted by wrongful practices. I let you have your way because I loved you, but now I see I was wrong.”
Ichthara’s face turned purple with rage. She inhaled deeply, and then began speaking.“Then in that case, there is no more point in hiding who I really am. I am Enchantress Ichthara, rightful ruler of Holrainix! I live in the dark arts, and I am more powerful than you will ever know! I am no longer your daughter, and I have no relation to any of you. However, remember that I am the rightful ruler, and when there is a single weakness, no matter how small, I will take it, and there is no one and nothing that can stop me!”
She laughed insanely and clapped her hands above her head. Ichthara disappeared in a flash of black light.
Elinia ran to the spot where her sister disappeared and threw herself on the ground as she began crying. “Father, this is my fault. I should have refused and let Ichthara become Queen.” Her father came up to her and put his arms around her.
“No Elinia, it is not your fault. I should have seen her true colors sooner. Ichthara has deceived us all. And from now on, her name shall not be mentioned at all, upon penalty of death. I should have seen this sooner.”
Ichthara paced her tower, anger written all over her face. She began pulling dark magic books off of shelves and piling them. When she had done this, she whispered a dark incantation that no one should know. The books vanished Ichthara walked to her wardrobe and lifted her palm. The doors swung open and her clothes flew out and vanished as they hit the air. Ichthara began moving everything out of her room.
As soon as she was done, Ichthara looked around her tower one last time. “I vow I will not return until I have had my revenge on Holrainix.”
So saying, she drew her cloak around her and disappeared in a flash of black light. Quietly, a hidden door opened and a small dwarf walked out. Her name was Kyra, and she had seen things she didn’t know were possible. She liked that. Ichthara was Kyra’s favorite princess, and she thought the king had been cruel when he took away Ichthara’s birthright. Kyra knew where Ichthara disappeared to. Without thinking twice, she ran back to her room and grabbed a few things before running to the woods.
The day of the coronation dawned warm and sunny. Elinia looked out her window at the people putting on the finishing touches for the coronation. Elinia smiled as she watched them run around. Mother would be very proud. A stray tear rolled down her cheek. Elinia wiped it away and turned to her wardrobe and pulled out her dress. She buried her face in the soft purple silk folds. The tears began flowing now and wouldn’t stop. This had been the same dress her mother had worn at her coronation. Elinia pulled the dress out and wiped her face with her cloak.
A tall elf ran forward and pulled Elinia’s tunic over her head and replaced it with the dress. “Elinia, you look just like your mother. I wouldn’t be surprised if people began calling you Queen Triwren.”
Elinia smiled as the elf fastened a necklace around her neck.“Lira, do you think I can rule my kingdom at this age?”
Lira looked at Elinia and smiled.“Your mother was fifteen when she became queen too. She asked me the same question. And I will tell you the same answer. Yes, you can. You can do anything.”
Elinia hugged Lira.A loud knock sounded at the door and Thrush walked in.
He smiled and looked at his future queen. “Lira, you have outdone yourself, as usual.” He turned and looked at Lira. “That’s why you’re my wife.” Lira laughed and pushed him away.
Thrush extended his arm to Elinia.“My lady?”
Elinia smiled and placed her hand on his arm as they walked to the coronation together.
Ichthara watched the coronation with disgust. Being an enchantress had its advantages. She pushed back a lock of golden hair to see her crystal ball better. Ichthara dug her nails into the table, breaking through to the other side. A soft knock sounded on her door. Ichthara cursed and walked towards the door.
She opened it and saw Kyra. “What do you want?”
Kyra curtsied. “Your majesty, I know that you are the rightful ruler of Holrainix, and I want to help restore you to the throne. I also want to learn the dark arts. I’ve been able to do things, things that no one else can. I know you can do these things and more. I want you to teach me.”
Ichthara looked over Kyra, measuring the risks and benefits of taking her in. She finally sighed and stepped aside, allowing Kyra to enter. Kyra walked in, babbling her thanks.
Ichthara held up her hand. Kyra shut her mouth. “Life with me won’t be easy. You have the chance to turn back now and return to your family. If you do, I will erase your memory of my home so they won’t use you to find me. If you have even the smallest doubts, go home.”
Kyra shook her head.“My place is with you, my lady.”
Ichthara began rubbing her temples. “Yes, I see that you will be one of my greatest assets. Kyra, there will be rules if you are to live with me. You must always do whatever I say, no matter what I say. No matter what, never ever reveal my home to anyone or anything. Even the most commonplace objects have ears.”
“You must always think of the consequences of your actions. Even the smallest mistake, and any spell can completely destroy you. Life with me is hard and dangerous, as I am a fugitive in the kingdom that is rightfully mine. The dark arts can be your best ally and your worst enemy. If they sense even one weakness, they will take it and take control over you.”
Kyra nodded.“I am ready for the task. I am ready to become like you and to serve you, Queen Ichthara.”
Ichthara smiled. “Kyra, are you ready to learn?”
Kyra nodded. Ichthara motioned for Kyra to follow her. Kyra did, and was amazed at the witchcraft that Ichthara had collected. Kyra looked around, amazed at everything. She reached for a small vial golden liquid.
Ichthara’s hand came across Kyra’s face. “Don’t touch anything unless I tell you!” Anger flashed in her blue eyes. “Never never touch anything in here unless I tell you to. If you dropped that, it would have killed everyone within the kingdom.”
Kyra, trembling, stammered an apology and wondered if she had made the wrong choice, but the feeling quickly passed. She shook her head and continued following Ichthara.