I hope this reaches you well. As you may know I am a journey to discover the whereabouts of King Miles of Dol Aderyn. The reason I write back so soon is to share the most extraordinary event that unfolded today. By a strange series of coincidences, or perhaps Destiny itself, I found myself spending the night in the lands of The Collective last night. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary at first, but then I heard the whispers, the rumors that there was a new claim to the throne. This time it wasn’t a great southern King, but rather whispers of a dark Queen.
I was approached by a loyal reader who had just gotten word of my story on the King of The South. They quickly asked if I was in The Collective to interview the Queen. I pondered for a moment, trying to decide the authenticity of this man’s statement as I was clueless at the time to a new claim of nobility. I decided to hear out the ecstatic fellow, and he proceeded to fumble through a story about a “Black Queen”, on a hill, with armies.. It was all to much, too fast.
“Sir, are you alright?” I interjected.
At that moment a glimmer caught my eye from down the path, as I looked intently to see what it was, it became eerily quiet. As I returned my gaze to the man standing before me, he was gone. Just like a shadow at the peak of a sunny day.
Puzzled at what just happened, I decided to journey down the road deeper into The Collective’s lands. Upon arriving at the next town, it was clear the rumors of were all people could talk about. Intrigued at all the chatter, I announced that I would like to give welcome to the new Queen.
Then almost as quickly as the stranger on the road vanished, there she was. With a smile on her face and and eyes that pierced my very soul she spoke.
” Greetings, Bradford J Wilshire. What brings you to my audience chamber today? ”
Bloody hell I thought to myself, it’s almost as if she knew I was going to be in this very town at this very hour today. She invited me to take a walk with her to discuss the rumors of her inherited nobility. As her guards followed us, the following conversation ensued.
Rowena, Queen of Black Hearts: “I’m all ears, my dear. Please, walk with me…would you like some tea? Wine, perhaps?”
Bradford J. Wilshire: “Thank you! Excuse my eagerness, a hot tea would be most wonderful!”
QoBH: “I will serve it myself…honey, perhaps blood? I’m kidding, I’m so used to being accused of being ‘a monster’, so I thought a light joke would be appropriate. Fragrant Honey? “
BJW: “I am just a plain man from a farmers household. Honey remains for the nobles, let me pay my respects to you by having my tea plain.”
QoBH: “Then let me pay my respect to you and your family my offering you some of my personal favorite, royal honey. Here, please, worry not. For the Darkholm, the only thing that’s plain is death. Our peasants are well protected. Thanks to farmers like your family we can all thrive. How else can I assist you?”
BJW: “Thank you. It is an honor. I only heard of your claim this morning, how have the people of Elyria, and your kingdom taken the news?”
QoBH: [smiles] “It was a surprise to all. My brother, Erdrick, the Black Duke, traveled the lands and kingdoms. Sometimes he was shunned, sometimes he was welcome, but our family was never made to feel at home. Some asked him to become a King, so that others could rule in his stead. Erdrick and his Knights left those lands. Until we came across the Collective. He saw what they wanted, and was allowed to form a part. He was asked if he wanted to be king, but much like our ancestor Valdemar Darkholm did in the past he refused, for he knew I was coming…
BJW: “And when you look in the mirror, what do you see?
QoBH: “You sneaky, you…I see myself…as I am; And who am I? Let it be known that no one has ever heard me claim to be something I am not. I have never claimed to be good…but I have neither claimed to be the tyrant I’m depicted as…I haven’t claimed to be a queen without having the title…I am a woman who lives and fights for her land, I am a warrior with a pen in hand, I am the one my people bring their newborns to for my blessing, but I am also the judge that sentences those who hurt my peasants. I do not hide who or what I am, I am Rowena Darkholm, the Queen of Black Hearts…”
BJW: “Your words are well chosen and spoken out of a confidence I haven’t seen in my journeys. I have been intrigued by your title, Queen of Black Hearts. What does it mean?”
QoBH: “Thank you. Again, I am a Darkholm first and foremost, and we learn that everything we say, and everything we do, will inevitably affect the whole. Therefore, we learn to dance this Dance since our early age. What does it mean? Our House is a house of darkness, we have been shunned, we have been mocked, we have been reviled, we have been betrayed, but we have not been divided. There are others that have walked a similar path, others that have been similarly wronged, to all those I say: As you are, you are welcome in our land. When you feel you don’t belong, you belong, to me… “
BJW: “Intriguing. I can imagine all those years of darkness have made it difficult to rise to power, yet I assume you have gained strength along the way? What do you suspect will be your biggest struggle now that you are Queen?”
QoBH: “Actually, it has been a difficult journey. We have more enemies than allies because somehow people feel they NEED to make us seem like the enemy so they can validate themselves and their position, through lies and fear. My biggest struggle is not mine, as nothing surprises me. My biggest struggle will be to make sure our peasants have crops, and tools to work the land, that our Knights lack nothing for their training, that our merchants can enjoy prosperity, that my people feel safe being who they are, that our researchers can have access to the information they need.
I will not make any effort to convince other kingdoms of who we are and what I represent, as I owe them nothing. I am what I am, and that has been clear from the beginning. My biggest personal struggle will be to have other kingdoms come close and see themselves in my mirror, so they can see who they really are…Once they see their reality(if they dare look into it) I will ask, …are you willing to do what must be done so you can change what you must change in order to become who you must become?”
BJW: “It seems your people are in good hands, and I fear for those who oppose you. Your dedication is bold. One might even say, fanatic… Before we end this walk, I must ask, what do you want your heirs to look back and remember you by? Power? Riches? Blood Tea?” [chuckles]
QoBH: “Blood tea [jokingly]…it matters not if my followers remember be or not, I want them to remember themselves, their families, what we built, and that the Black Knights of the Darkholm will be there to protect them forever, as our ancestor swore. After I die…if I ever do [smiles], I will still live inside their hearts.”
“Before you go..”
QoBH: “Please don’t forget my cup, [she slowly approaches and gently takes her cup] it happens to be my favorite..”
With that, she gave me the same soul piercing look with a gentle smile and stepped back into the embrace of the shadows. Gone, just as quickly as she appeared. I thought maybe someone had slipped me a mysterious drug in my morning meal, and then I noticed it. There in the very shadows was a small paper. As I opened it up it revealed that I had not been dreaming or hallucinating. It was the official seal and lineage of a new queen. Rowena Darkholm, Queen of Black Hearts.
My hope is that you, dear Elyrian, will find yourself in the presence of the Queen of Black Hearts. Her presence is most mystical, commanding, and almost like meeting a distant family member for the first time. I must continue my search for King Miles.
Until next time,
Be Bold, Be Known.
Bradford J. Wilshire