Part 69: Queen

I think the sense of betrayal I feel is justified, though. The Lady of Coins – Moxena – could have been so much more than a villain. She had power, privilege, and… Huh. How about that? I honestly struggle to find the good in her. The guilt I feel for betraying her is overshadowed by my own anger. I-

Wait, I need to finish this. It feels like I’ve been writing this for a long time.

We decided to call Sotera a ‘Super Medusa’ because we don’t really know what else to call her. She was a terrible monstrosity, really the stuff of nightmares. Khar’shan’s little “blessings” are disgusting, but I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Sotera, Bradia, and Moxena seemed pretty eager to become medusas anyway, not really seeing the drawbacks of such a form. At any rate, Sotera saw herself as invincible. We proved otherwise.

Rendu at first tried to get to Actaeon to give him some magical healing, but the Queen wrapped him up with her new tail. While she was distracted, Briar cast a spell that turned Actaeon into a Tyrannosaurus – Tyrannactaeon, as I have started calling him – and Actaeon, alongside Triple, started biting furiously. Torag, spitting blood, transformed himself into a bull and charged at Bradia. And Malkarion, our baby boy, saw Actaeon injured and let out a roar. He dove directly at the monstrous Queen and hacked and slashed at her with his claws. Clio created a vortex – I don’t know what that is, that’s what she told me it was called – and got Rendu away from the Queen, then squared off against Bradia. I threw a bolt of lightning from my gauntlet at the Queen before dodging out of the way.

The Queen-

I should stop calling her that.

Sotera was furious. She looked around herself and saw her sister Bradia dying, and her entire queensguard – save one – dead on the ground. Perhaps from her perspective, Moxena had abandoned her. Sotera furiously shouted, her voice altered by her darker form, “The Throne of the amazons is mine!” She threw out tendrils of spectral snakes that wrapped up Shadow, and she began to run with him. They teleported a short distance and started choking him.

Xoti put a few magical arrows into Sotera while her stimfay, the mechanical owl, pumped Rendu with a magical potion. Rendu joined Torag and Clio and fenced with Bradia. Bradia was bleeding and couldn’t land a hit against any of them. I cast a spell to get rid of a spiky aura around Sotera just as an arrow came at me. I threw up a shield spell to block it as I saw Moxena aiming directly at me.

I think Briar – she was next to me the whole time – could see the tears in my eyes. These weren’t tears of sadness, or guilt, or hurt. I was angry, deeply angry. All of this could have been avoided if she had just stopped this. What if she had just dropped her bow and surrendered? Or what if she had turned her bow against Sotera? She might be in a jail cell, but I would have had the chance to talk to her. She would have a chance of survival. All I could do was call out, “Please, my lady! I don’t want to kill you,” as I leveled my wand in her direction, my own blood dripping from it onto the stones beneath me.

Around me, I heard the tumult as I started at Moxena, pleading in my mind that she’d stop. Briar sent a familiar spirit in the form of an eagle – Sam – and cast a healing spell onto Shadow, enough for him to recover and viciously stab into Sotera’s snake form. She hissed and cried out in pain, her wails only matched by Shadow staring her down, hissing as well, as he twisted the sword. She tried to magically animate the petrified triceratops, but Xoti managed to get away from it.

I didn’t see the arrow come from behind, and it put me down on the ground in pain. The last queensguard had aimed at me. Briar ran over to me and did one of her rituals with the mistletoe and gave me strength again as she ordered her giant snake, Hiss, to take care of that queensguard. The Lady of Coins shot at me again, and I angrily pulled the arrow from me.

Before anyone could do anything more, though, there was a wailing sound. Clio threw a lash of psionic power, pushing Bradia away from her and stinging Sotera’s mind. The false queen shrieked as black and red blood pooled from her mouth and eyes, and she very suddenly crumbled into stone, broken on the ground.

Braidia and Moxena were shocked. But before Bradia could react, Triple charged up to her, injured and hungry, and bit down on her head. Rendu described the scene as ‘quite graphic’ as she fell dead. Hiss wrapped around the Queensguard and killed her. And so, Moxena was alone.

I wonder what was going through her head? Injured as we all were, she must have seen she was very outnumbered. Nevertheless, she aimed at me again. Xoti shot at her, though, and threw her from her place of cover, and I let loose all the magic in my wand. She grunted, injured, and said, “You win this round,” before disappearing into the shadows and out of sight.

Immediately, Father, Briar, and I gave chase, trying to see where she had gone. We followed the way down through the barracks and into the dark tunnels. Briar lit the way with her gem, but we couldn’t find her. Instead, we found a small group of solders – about twenty or thirty of them – who had made themselves loyal to Xoti without realizing who she was. I explained who we are and why we’re here, and they immediately scattered to help us find the fugitive Lady of Coins. Alas, she evaded us and escaped.

When we returned to the castle and throne room, we saw Actaeon – back in his normal human form now – helping Xoti break the stone throne to pieces, having seen that it was actually made of the statues of the medusas’ victims. The captain of the amazons we met in the caverns introduced herself as Valaska and spent her time this evening with Xoti. They were talking about a lot of things, but most of it I missed. Briar spent a lot of time patching me up. Later, Valaska gave us access to in which we could rest and recover.

We survived the ordeal today, but that could have gone so much worse. I’m on edge tonight, knowing that Moxena is still out there somewhere, livid and angry with us. She meant to kill us. I know this. Things could have gone differently.

Part of what makes me come back to this topic so much is the conversation we all overheard between Actaeon and Shadow. The conversation ended amicably, but I could sense Father’s fury. They both made good points. Shadow felt betrayed by Actaeon because his decision to tell the Lady of Coins that she was not safe with us caused many of us to almost die today. Yet Actaeon felt our plans for her were dishonorable. They’re both right. Shadow made a point, louder on purpose I think because he perceived us listening to them, that if any of us should have a lack of faith in our plans, we should speak up. Our safety may very well lead to the safety of the Emerald Isles.

46 days remaining

I had a strange dream last night. Our group was back in the Starfall Estate, and we were waiting for Briar to prepare dinner for us. Rendu played music, a cheerful tune, by the hearth with Dia. Father was arguing with Torag about weapon training. Clio and I were arranging flowers for the table centerpiece. Actaeon was riding Triple A in the house, which was making Iharg very angry – in my dream, he had just made repairs to a few of the chairs and Triple was trampling them. Fortunately, Mimriko was there, magically repairing whatever our dinosaur friend was destroying. Corinna and Karador were laughing at something funny that Pholon had said. Reilana was funny; she kept saying she was too shy to sing to Rendu’s tune, but we all knew that wasn’t true at all. Loreus was stomping around, angry that he couldn’t see Briar anywhere. Father’s pets, Yannis and Thumble, were snoozing in the corner of the room with Malkarion. Briar came in, but she looked very different. I’m not sure why.

It was a nice dream. I hope we can get there sometime, back at the Starfall Estate for a lovely meal and a party. But that will have to wait. We’re almost at war. Oh! I just had a terrible thought! What if the Starfall Estate doesn’t survive the war? Oh, that would be so terrible! We better make sure that house survives.

Well, we got some interesting news as we were preparing to leave. Xoti, now crowned Queen of Talys, thanked us for bringing the amazons back to the light. Now that the people here are no longer under the cruel rule of the minions of Khar’shan, the sisterhood of the amazons can strengthen once again. Xoti pledged by oath to join us in the war against the Titans.

Then, she said something else that surprised us. Due to the escape of the traitor Moxena, the people of the amazons believe that Xoti’s presence on the island will invite trouble. Until Moxena is brought to justice, Xoti is not safe here. Valaska said that the traitors among the amazons have already been dealt with – Actaeon clarified to me that this means they were put to death – so the only remaining amazons in the palace here were those loyal to Queen Xoti. The throne (a new one, I presume) will be built, and in the meantime Xoti will come with us on the Gjallarhorn.

How exciting! Xoti, the poor girl, has been cooped up in a prison cell for thirteen years. Even she, now adorned in red and bronze armor and looking very fine and regal, could not hide her smile as we happily accepted her as a part of our crew.

Oh boy, won’t she be in for a surprise when the only places we take her are dangerous and deadly!

As we left the palace, I stepped aside from the group and thought about the Lady of Coins. All her plans were ruined. We emerged victorious, we deposed the false queen, and set up a new queen in her place. Moxena got nothing. We offered an olive branch to her, but no more. So I sent a message to her:

“Come aboard and hide in my room. I can get you off the island to safety. We can put this behind us. Please, my lady.” But I got no response.

It’s just as well. I mean to betray her anyway.