The catastrophe of the e.., p.26
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       The Catastrophe of the Emerald Queen, p.26

           LR Manley
 
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  Thousands of people filled the huge plaza and the feeling was almost something you could touch. A buzz of excitement was everywhere. 

  Jared looked up at Mordalayn from near the windows of the throne room. Sophie was talking with the members of her inner council who stood in respectful audience in front of her. Below the window Jared could see the multitudes thronging to welcome their ruler home. “So many people,” he murmured in awe and Mordalayn turned to him and smiled. The first time Jared had seen him smile since they’d met. 

  “Our queen is loved by her people Jared,” he said, his eyes sparkling. “They are grateful she is here once more.” He placed one giant hand on Jared’s shoulder. “You have been a true friend to Alegria Jared Miller. For that you have earned my friendship.” Jared was slightly uncomfortable under the Caracalic’s steel gaze but he realised that the fire and anger had gone. Mordalayn’s eyes were still intense but his face shone with something other than the fury that Jared had seen over the last few days. 

  “Thank you,” he said quietly and extended his hand. Mordalayn shook it firmly and clapped Jared on the back. 

  “Soon you can return home, I promise.” 

  Jared bowed his head. Wanting to go back but also wanting to stay. He had seen so much here and he knew there was so much more he could see. 

  “I’ve been here for days. I probably have Interpol and God knows who looking for me now,” he said shaking his head. “All that stuff at Heathrow will be on the News you know.” 

  Mordalayn smiled again. “Your world’s people have a habit of trying to explain everything. Even things they cannot explain. I believe what happened will be given a rational, yet wholly untrue explanation by those who think they know best.” 

  Jared looked outside, the echoing noise from the crowd still loud. Kloee flew up next to him, smiling and perched on his shoulder. 

  They turned as Sophie rose from her throne and the councillors parted to let her through, bowing as she glided between them.

   It was dark outside now, the daylight having faded and Sophie smiled at Mordalayn and linked her arm through his. “Come my friends,” she said, looking at Jared. “It is time for me to meet my people once more.” 

  Mordalayn moved to the large glass doors near the window. Checking, by habit, over both shoulders and also that the balcony was clear he pulled the doors open and as Sophie stepped out into the cool night air, there was a roar from the thousands gathered in the plaza. Sophie walked forward to the carved ornamental wall at the front of the balcony, Mordalayn striding purposefully one step behind. She turned and looked back at Jared, then beckoned him forward. “Come, you should be here too,” she said and Jared nervously stepped up next to her.  

  The crowd were going crazy. Cheering and waving madly. The sight of their beloved queen whipping them into a frenzy of joy. Sophie smiled and waved at her people and they cheered and cheered. 

  Jared stood transfixed by the sight below him. He looked around and saw the moonlight casting cool velvet shadows on the balcony around him and down to his left onto the main landing and the staircase and its elegant carvings and statues. Overhead the crescent moon was bright in the cloudless sky. Like a sickle it hung in the starry void, casting its protecting light over the crowd below it. 

  The people below rippled gently as if made of water and Jared could see them surging as one, their arms raised in greeting to their queen, finally returned after so long. Their hearts soared as they gazed upon her once more, the terrible threat from Anghofio and King James now gone. 

  Jared looked up, beyond the vast entrance to the circular plaza and saw the huge bridge vanishing behind it in the distance. The dark woods black as ebony. Still more people were coming across to join the multitude at the foot of the palace. He looked up at Mordalayn who leaned forward and whispered quietly. “Now watch.” 

  At that moment Sophie stepped forward and raised her arms. Again the crowd roared. She sang loudly in a sweet, lilting voice that carried loudly across the plaza above all other noise, the word long and drawn out: 

  “ALEGRIA!!!” 

  The crowd roared back. “ALEGRIA!!!” 

  Sophie smiled and again sang in her high voice: 

  “ALEGRIA!” 

  Once again the crowd answered her. Then to Jared’s astonishment she floated up, her glittering green gown sparkling in the moonlight and sailed up over the balcony. 

  The crowd cheered even louder and yelled again. “ALEGRIA!!!”

   Jared looked at Mordalayn, alarmed but the Caracalic simply smiled again. 

  Sophie paused and looked around and then sang:

   “Alegria, for joy we are here.

  In Alegria there’s no hate or fear” 

  The crowd paused and then as one sang the lines back, their voices deafening but sweet in the night air. 

  Sophie floated out in mid air above the plaza and turned around, glittering whirls sparking around her, like Jared had seen with the fairies in Maximo’s house. Then she looked down and a random member of the huge crowd floated up from the floor to join her high above the others. The man’s legs kicked the air as if treading water and then he laughed as he came face to face with Queen Sophie. She embraced him and then sang: 

  “When the demons of night reappear.

  You are safe if you are in Alegria” 

  The man laughed as he span gently around and with the thousands below him he repeated the line. 

  Two other people floated at random from the crowd, this time a little boy and an old woman. Again Sophie embraced them as they came level to her, thirty metres above the ground and they laughed with joy as they gently span in the air like leaves on a calm river.

   Around them more and more people slowly began to rise out of the crowd. With much laughing and murmurs of approval from their fellows below they joined their queen. Singing their wonderful song of gratitude for all that she and this kingdom had given to them. 

  Kloee tapped Jared on the shoulder with a tiny hand. “Come on, let’s join in.” 

  Jared glanced at Mordalayn who smiled. “Go Jared, this is as much for you as anyone.” 

  “You coming?” Jared said as Kloee began to glow again and he felt himself rising off the balcony like in the Phase game. 

  “No, I will remain to watch you.” 

  His stomach flipping Jared gulped as he looked down and saw the sea of heads below him. He looked ahead as Kloee’s little wings beat fast as they moved to the other people treading the air. They turned to them and the nearest one smiled warmly and as Jared approached him he reached out and hugged him. Sophie turned as about a dozen more people rose from the crowd. All different. All the same. United by their love of this moment and for their child queen. She smiled at Jared and then at Kloee and Jared saw that there were now about fifty or so people floating above the crowd. Sophie raised her arms again and from her a bright green light slowly rose to encompass the whole square. The crowd gasped and within a few seconds the square was as bright as daylight. Jared glanced back and saw Mordalayn standing impassively on the regal balcony. As steady as a rock and as reliable as steel. The Queen’s Sword standing firm in his duty to his monarch and her people. 

  As the murmuring of the crowd finally died down, Sophie sang again but this time the entire crowd sang at the same time. 

  “Alegria. Alegria for joy we are here.

  In Alegria there’s no hate or fear.

  When the demons of night reappear.

  You are safe if you are in Alegria.

  The wrath of angels will not touch you, nor suffer you harm.

  The crown will protect you, enclosed in the palm.

  Peace is our journey and light is our path.

  Serene is our temper but fearsome our wrath.” 

  Jared laughed as the people either side of him linked hands with him and Kloee stood on tiptoes on his shoulder. Her little red shoes shining in the bright light. All the people in the air linked hand
s and formed a huge circle around the queen. She span gently in a complete circle and then the circle of people began to ever so gently rotate. The crowd below were shouting and raising their hands in the air. Sophie paused and then she and the crowd began again: 

  “For the lost we will find you, for the sad there is joy.

  No one need be lonely, no girl and no boy.

  We welcome you brother, sister and friend.

  Leave all woe behind you, your troubles we’ll mend.

  Alegria the joy, Alegria the light.

  Alegria the torch through the darkness of night.”

   The crowd sang in harmony the sound carrying for miles and miles and Jared hoped the singing would last forever.

  Chapter 44

  Siavy was tired and filthy.

  He’d fled as soon as he had seen the statues brought to life by Mordalayn’s magic. As he galloped away, he had turned to see the destructive force rip through the legion. No one else had made it out alive.

  He knew he had to get as far from Alegria as he could and after an exhausting day’s riding he finally reigned in his horse, the beast lathered in sweat and panting roughly.

  He lit a small fire in the woods and sat near his tethered stallion as the daylight faded. Cursing his luck he knew his life was in danger now. He owed money to so many people for this grand venture. Money he could no longer pay. With no victory there would be no reward and with no reward Galfront Siavy was now a wanted man.

  He heard a squeak and a thrashing noise and stood up. The snare he had rigged had caught a squirrel. Grinning he took his dagger and quickly killed the animal.

  As he freed the twine and lifted the creature up a furious voice behind him hissed angrily,“and just WHAT do you think you’re doing?”

  Chapter 45

   

  Eventually the singing stopped and Sophie returned to the palace. Her people continued to sing her name and it was well into the late hours before the plaza was clear again. 

  Next morning the business of running a kingdom took over and the matters of most pressing importance were dealt with. The council was convened and Maximo was brought before the queen. The orphans that had been left with him had never known of his betrayal and were astonished when they had been taken from his home by guards in the early hours. His tears and obvious guilt over what had happened were listened to by Sophie and a quiet yet murderous-looking Mordalayn, in front of the council. He told them about Madame Veer and that his whole house and family had been threatened. He added that just to ensure his silence and continued co-operation, Veer had killed his beautiful sunflowers after he had sent Jared and the others to Anghofio. Sophie listened and as the man knelt in front of her, tears on his fat cheeks, she rose and astonished everyone by ordering him to rise and then embracing him. She then said words Jared would never forget. 

  “Maximo I know you are a good man. There are very few of us that can be the people we hope to be at all times. You were placed in a position that gives no one except me the right to judge you. I forgive you and I bid you to return to your home with my blessings.”

   Maximo wept with shame, overcome with emotion and was then allowed to leave to continue with his life with his beautiful house and family. 

  Kulkrain was still too ill to be moved but a physician had been despatched to remain with him until such a time as he could visit the palace and be duly rewarded for his loyalty. 

  Bue was personally thanked by Sophie for his efforts and Mordalayn himself spoke up for the boy, citing his bravery and loyalty to both his friends and Alegria. However everyone could see the pain in his eyes at the loss of his beloved bow master Leppard. They knew it would take a long time for that scar to heal. Sophie offered him the chance to remain in the palace and to learn skills from Mordalayn and the boy had accepted. 

  Challandra returned to the orphanage to be its new Headmistress. At 16 everyone knew she had more common sense than most people and clearly cared deeply about the boys. Sophie’s shock at the betrayal of her predecessor who had become jealous and vindictive at her fall from power was not something she tried to hide from her council. She left Challandra with a promise that her loyalty meant she could personally call on her queen at any time.  

  The survivors of the King’s Daggers were brought up in chains to be judged. They had been stripped of their armour and were clothed in only their shirts, trousers and boots. Sophie’s anger finally made itself clear and Jared was shocked to see her usually peaceful demeanour melt as she showed her true feelings to those that had not only attacked her people but had been willing to kill them just to make a point. As they knelt in front of her she stood and moved towards them. 

  “Do you believe you deserve mercy after what you have done?”

   None answered. Their previous arrogance replaced by the knowledge that they now faced a person with unimaginable power and there was nothing they could say to change whatever fate decided to hand them. 

  “My kingdom is peaceful and your king tried not only to kill me when I was helpless but also to hurt my people. Innocents have died and all through your wicked greed.” 

  The soldiers remained on their knees with their heads bowed. Mordalayn glared at them, his fists clenched tightly as he stood to one side. 

  “You were not merely soldiers following orders. You were the elite of King James’s army and even if you were to say you were sorry I would know you did not mean it. You made a free choice to follow your dead king’s vile plans and for that you have earned my utter contempt.” 

  She looked at them. “What do you think would be justice?” she asked angrily 

  She stared at the men before her for a long moment. “You are men who have lived your lives relishing in the power of your strength and physical abilities. My judgment is this. I take from you your youth. You will no longer be a threat to those you sought to make suffer just because they were weaker than you.”

   With that she raised her left arm out straight and spoke a few words in a strange tongue. Purple light shone at the tips of her fingers and the kneeling men yelled out in pain and grasped the sides of their heads with their hands. Yellow light shone from their faces and shone so brightly no one could look on them. They collapsed on the floor and screeched in pain and then, suddenly the light faded and Sophie stood in front of them. Slowly they rose from the floor and Jared saw to his shock that they were all elderly. Sophie had kept her promise.  

  The men groaned and one or two reached up to touch their faces, their hands exploring the lines and wrinkles. Horror creased the looks of many as they realised what she had done. Once virile and young, not one of them over 35 years old, they were now in their 70s and 80s. Old men whose ability to fight was gone.

   “Go back to Anghofio and tell what remains of your royal family what happens to those who prey on the vulnerable and the weak,” Sophie said, anger edging her voice. 

  The men staggered to their feet and faced her, the shock and misery evident on their faces. 

  Sophie looked at them. “However I offer you one chance to redeem yourselves.” They stood in silence waiting to see what she had to say. “Make one selfless gesture that you fundamentally believe will change the life of an innocent and your youth will be restored to you. If you can prove that your brutality is extinguished then I will give you back what I have taken from you.” 

  She looked to her guards who ushered the men out of the throne room. 

  Once the important issues had been dealt with the council left the throne room leaving just Mordalayn, Bue, Jared and Kloee. Sophie turned to Jared. “Time to go home now.” 

  Jared was sad. He had seen so much here.

   Sophie smiled at him, her eyes sparkling. “You are always welcome in Alegria Jared. Come and see me in our world. I would like to be friends there too.” 

  Jared smiled back. “I’d like that. Which hospital are you in?”

   Sophie laughed, her voice musical and high. “I do not know,”
she replied and Jared looked puzzled. She continued. “I am powerful here but in our world I am just like you.”

  Chapter 46

   

  They moved through the throne room to a small door on the left. Mordalayn opened it and they walked through, the guards in the throne room taking up positions either side. Jared saw the long path ahead of him and the golden gate at the end. They walked slowly along together, the orange petals soft beneath their feet. Soon they reached the gate and Sophie took a small key from a necklace at her throat and inserted it into the large golden padlock. Mordalayn reached forward and slid the huge bolt and the gate swung forward. There was nothing beyond, just blackness. An infinity of black. As Jared turned startled to them, Sophie placed a hand gently on his arm. “It’s ok, don’t be frightened. Just step through and imagine where you want to be. You will find yourself there.” 

  As Jared looked at them both, something caught his eye. Turning back he saw standing midway along the path, in front of one of the trees a tall man but with huge wings like an angel. He stood staring at them, his wings folded behind his back. No one else seemed to notice him. The man had blood red eyes, piercing and deep. Sophie saw Jared’s expression and looked back. The man’s eyes shone brighter, then he faded away.  

  “Who was that?” Jared said, confused that this world could still show him things that were able to surprise him. 

  “The Claviger,” Sophie replied. “They watch over this world and others. Now order has been restored they are happy. Even I answer to somebody” 

  Kloee was crying as she hovered next to Jared and he smiled sadly at her. “Don’t cry. I’ll come back one day, I promise,” he said. She gently kissed his cheek before flying over next to Mordalayn.

   “Take care mate,” Bue said winking, then shook Jared’s hand.

   “Goodbye Jared,” Mordalayn said in his deep voice. “Remember I am always your friend.” 

  “Thank you,” Jared said and extended his hand which once again Mordalayn took in his huge grip.  

  Sophie stepped forward to hug him one final time and then stepped back. “Just think where you want to end up and you will be there.” 

 
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