Meadowvale Has Fallen
Olwen had celebrated her victory over Meadowvale. She had moved triumphantly through the corridors of Meadow Hall. Commented on the Elven art and architecture, ordered the tearing down of the Dragon Temple, and had made it clear to everyone that she enjoyed every moment of owning it for herself.
But now, as they stood in the empty long hall of the Elves, the green throne empty, and the tapestries torn down awaiting replacements, Olwen paced. “I want that Elf bitch to bend her knee.”
Andra’s soldiers had been searching through the bodies for any sign of the Queen. She had squadrons scouring every hole in Meadow Hall and had even sent out the Sycorax to patrol the surrounding farmland. But so far they had found nothing.
“We are doing all we can,” she felt like the phrase had embedded itself on her lips, so often had she repeated in over the last day.
“Bring me one of her advisors.” Olwen snapped. The gold tinge in her eyes was fading. It would soon be time for her to feed.
She was quick to find a messenger, the young soldier nodded at his orders and scuttled away quickly. Andra turned to re-enter the Elven Hall but hesitated. Her hand held above the wood, ready to push open the door and return to her love.
But she decided to wait.
While Olwen was in this mood she was difficult to predict. Andra didn’t know how many more times she could repeat that her soldiers were doing all they could before Olwen snapped. She couldn’t keep returning to her empty-handed.
Excruciatingly long minutes passed. She hoped Olwen didn’t decide to storm out of the hall, find her there, and demand to know why she was hiding in the corridor.
It was a cold relief when two of her soldiers arrived. An Elf was slung between them, white-robed and long-haired. The Auburn hair was fading to match his robes and the lines on his face were deep. She imagined they had grown deeper over the last few hours.
She opened the doors and the four of them marched through.
There was no chair in which the old man could sit, instead, he was thrown to his knees, and Andra though he had neither the strength nor the courage to stand again.
“Mistress.” His old voice croaked as he bowed low to the ground, “I am honoured to serve.”
Andra resisted an instinct to laugh at his pathetic attempt to endear himself to the Mistress and was surprised when Olwen nodded at the compliment.
“Good man,” Olwen replied, her voice silky smooth like the contented nickering of a horse, “if you continue in this manner I may allow you to administer the new religion.”
Andra noticed his brows raise, and the slightest flicker of discontent flutter across his lips. But he was quick to bow once more.
“Thank you, Mistress, Thank you.”
The Elves were weak, Andra could see now that their border had always been strong but now that had been smashed through they discovered not the war machine of a great race, but the soft underbelly of a bloated hog. These Elves had never before known hardship. But they likely would know it now.
“All I require in return,” Olwen continued, “Is loyalty. Do you think you can provide that, Elf?”
“I can Mistress, please, call me Ferox,” he looked up at them with a smile, but quickly bowed once more, “If my Mistress wishes to, of course.”
“Well, Ferox,” Olwen continued with a smile at her lips, “I would like you to do something for me that would prove your loyalty. Do you understand?”
“I do Mistress, thank you, anything I can do for you would be an honour.” Ferox almost looked up to them but managed to keep his head bowed low.
“Lead my soldiers to the Queen.”
He did look up then. He looked to Andra and stammered. “I-I-I… the Queen?”
“She is hiding, Ferox. Like some rat in a hole, and I need you to tell me where that rat’s lair might be hidden.”
His eyes were wide and it occurred to Andra then that he was not aware that that the Queen was still alive.
“If-If she did not fall, and she was not here… then,” his eyes darted from side to side as he searched his mind, “Vingeld!” he announced triumphantly, “If she has fallen back, then she would have fallen back to the harbour and taken a ship to-“
“She has not,” Andra interrupted, that had been her first line of investigation, but there had been no sign of an escape through the harbour and no ship could be seen departing.
“Oh dear, Ferox,” Olwen said in mock sympathy, “You seem to be lying to us Ferox.”
“I do not, Mistress, I do not lie!”
Olwen’s brow furrowed and there was a flash of gold in her eyes. Andra could see the magic trickling across her skin as her patience ran thin.
“Tell me, Elf!” There was a flash of magic, and Ferox squealed. It lasted only a second but the old man had to pull himself from the ground, his breathing rattled in his chest.
The magic flashed again. Longer this time. He could not pull himself from the floor, his face was slick with sweat, he barely had the strength to breathe.
“This is your last chance to live, Elf. Tell me; Where is your Queen?”
“Please, I beg of you! She must be dead, she must be still amongst the bodies… she could not be anywhere else,… the bodyguard, the royal bodyguard did not leave… she must be alone. If she lives, then she is utterly alone.”
But Olwen wasn’t convinced. She snarled in rage and the Elf’s body contorted on the ground, then lifted into the air, the golden essence just a weak shimmer, left his body and in an instant was gone.
His body tumbled to the floor. Andra’s soldiers stood stone-faced but Olwen paid them no heed. Her eyes shone with a brighter gold than before and she turned to Andra rage upon her lips.
“Where is that gilded witch?” she demanded.
Andra glanced at the corpse, she didn’t know how many more would fall before they found Queen Evaline but she doubted that any of them could give Olwen the answers she was so desperately seeking.
“She is running scared.” Andra dismissed the guards, and they scooped up the body, hurrying from the room.
Andra reached out to Olwen. There was a crackling of magic surrounding her that prickled Andra’s skin as she drew closer. Olwen stood rigidly facing away, but at the softness of her touch, Andra was permitted to come closer until she held the Mistress in her arms.
Andra pressed her face against Olwen’s shoulder taking in the scent. She still smelled of Olwen, still felt like Olwen. She was still the woman she loved. But she was buried beneath fear and power. Olwen needed Andra, she needed Andra to hold her in place.
“She is hiding in a hole,” Andra continued, “You are here in her throne room. You are the one who has control over the Elven kingdom. She doesn’t even have her royal guard. She is alone, helpless.” Andra squeezed her closer, and whispered softly, “Soon you will have all the edge islands in your grasp.”
Olwen reached out for her hand turning to look into Andra’s eyes. There was none of the familiar bright blue that Andra had come to love, there was only the bright gold of the Essence that had taken the woman she loved so deeply into her grasp.
“You have done this,” Olwen said.
Andra was taken aback, and a denial she daren’t speak came quickly to her lips.
“You are the one who commanded the army, came up with the strategy, stormed Meadow Hall and took it within just a few hours. You are the reason I am standing here.” Olwen wrapped her arms around Andra, and suddenly she was once again the frail mage hiding in the woods all over again. Andra pulled her close, enjoying her rare moment with real Olwen. The Mistress of Dragon March, for now at least, was gone. “Without you I am nothing.”
Andra breathed in her scent deeply, enjoying the moment. She was loyal to Olwen. She would always be loyal to Olwen, no matter the cost. And one day they would rule the whole of the edge islands together.
But it would mean ignoring the guilt that gnawed at her gut.