The Shadow King

"How did you meet Father?"

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess named Evelyn of Muspellheim. She was a resourceful, polite maiden that was next in line to become queen of the kingdom. Her main fault was her naivety on which many of occasions did her parents have to intervene. The king and queen did not know how to prepare their daughter for the struggles of adulthood, much less controlling a kingdom.

One day, their daughter came to visit them in the throne room with a look of curiosity across her face. “Mother, may I speak with you in private?” The queen gave an irritated glance, looking to her husband. The king gave her permission to leave the room with a guard following the two young women to the princess’s room.

“What do you wish to speak of, my child?” The queen hated being watched by the guards. Commanding the guards to leave the room, the queen shut the door. The princess smiled for she resembled her mother quite well.

“How did you meet Father?” The princess asked innocently. Her mother and father told her these stories quite often when she was younger, but did not spend as much time with her in later teenage years. The princess had an idealistic view of love that was quite unrealistic.

The queen laughed in surprise. “I thought it was something more pressing, my sweet child. Your father and I met a long time ago. Where do I begin…Ah yes, a long time ago, I was a faerie from Alfheim. I was trying to escape from war, but I do not remember much before meeting your Father, sadly. I don’t remember my family. I don’t remember much of what I was like. It’s like the shore of the ocean washed away and clear white sand. Not long after I entered Muspellheim, I was kidnapped by poachers.”

At this point, the princess interjected, “But, why were you kidnapped? Weren’t you a princess as well?”

“My darling, I cannot answer that. I am not sure of my lineage. If I had been, I would’ve been used for a ransom. All that I remember was being imprisoned into an iron cage. I hate the pain that the iron brands into my wings.” 

The princess shuddered admiring her own wings which fluttered gracefully like a butterfly’s. The princess’s wings were the color of the dawn and almost seemed to glitter in the sunlight. They resembled her mother’s wings. The king’s wings were magnificent like broken raven’s wings. 

“I was trapped because I was uncommon in Muspellheim. I was going to be sold as a pet when your father and his men found me. I assumed he was one of the poachers. As soon as the hatch released, I flew away as fast as I could with all of the strength I had left. I looked back to see your father sulking, but I had no idea why.”

“You thought Father was a poacher?” The princess let out a chuckle. Most people in the kingdom seemed to fear King Garrenthor. It seemed ridiculous to the princess. 

She had always known her father to be soft hearted and a kind ruler. She knew he was capable of mercy even when no one else thought so. The princess often forgot about her father’s dark tendencies.

The queen blushed, “Perhaps, you’ve forgotten how intimidating your father can be, love. A long time passed after that. Eventually, I was brought before the king. Imagine my surprise when I saw your father again. I thought for sure I would be enslaved right then and there. Although, I was not about to go into another cage. I absolutely detest being confined. The king put my mind at ease. I suppose a faerie being in his kingdom intrigued him. Your father and I made an arrangement that allowed me to stay in the kingdom. I was to learn how demons truly lived. I will not lie to you. Because of my prior experiences, I was terrified. What could I do? I could not return to the kingdom that was plagued with war, and your father invited me to stay. It is quite rude to turn down a king’s request as you know, princess.” 

The princess knew that quite well. She was forced to attend festivals, rituals, and any other special royal occasions.

Unfortunately, the king loved showing off his family at these events. The queen and the princess both exchanged a happy sigh. They both loved their rather stoic king. He came off as cold and calculating to his subjects, but he always had a warm smile for his two favorite women.

“At first, I spent time with your father because of his requests. We became friends quite easily despite the differences in our personalities. I became quite well known around the kingdom. I definitely did not intend to become well known nor did I intend to fall in love with your father. However, the universe works in mysterious ways. I will happily point out that your father fell in love with me first. Sadly, I feel that I was pressured into marrying your father when he proposed our engagement. What do you say to a king? I went along with it. I never thought that I would fall in love with him. Perhaps it was Aphrodite or Freya playing a game, but I truly fell for him. It always amazed me how the man I once feared as a demon became the shining knight of my fairytale.”

The princess couldn’t resist laughing at the unintended pun. “Mother, aren’t all of your stories faerie tales?” The mother gave her a look of exasperation.

“Gods and goddesses help the kingdom, she is just like her father. You knew what I meant, Evelyn. Is there anything else you would like to know, child?” The guard outside the door could be heard stifling a laugh. He knew how cross the queen could be if even as much as a chuckle from him. The queen got up from the bed. She went towards the princess’s closet. “Your room looks quite nice. You will have to thank Elatha later.”

Evelyn thought hard to herself, thinking of what there was left to ask the queen. “I suppose that explains how you and father met and married. Who am I to be forced into a marriage with again?” Evelyn looked quite unhappy, the smile fading from her face.

The queen did not expect her daughter to be downtrodden about it. “We are still looking for a suitable match the kingdom. Right now, none of the candidates seem right for the kingdom. We had hoped you’d be married by now considering you are 16. We cannot wait for too much longer. Perhaps you will find someone at dinner tonight, your father has invited a friend of his to meet you. He has fought honorably for your father. I believe he will be quite respectable to you.”

With a silenced growl, Evelyn physically looked frustrated with her current situation, “I know I have to marry soon. I know I have to find husband, but I wish I could have my own story. I would like someone that I could actually fall in love with. Am I being too unreasonable by my request, Mother?”

The queen sat by her daughter, “You are my child. I wish I knew where I came from. I wish whether or not I knew your pain. I was hesitant to marry your father, but I had no choice. I do not regret marrying him. In the end, I married a man that loves us dearly which is more than anyone can ask for in this day and age. We live in a world where men dominate, sweetheart. We need to follow their lead and pull strings from the shadows. We are trying to find a man to accommodate you and your needs too. I do believe that you will find favor with this warrior. If you want to fall in love, you have to give a chance for the relationship to grow. I had to learn to let Gehrman in eventually. It is the struggle of being a woman.” 

The daughter understood what her mother was trying to say. She hated the way that things were. Her father had a soft spot for her, protected her, and loved her with all of his heart. However, she knew her parents wanted her to get married and have a family of her own one day.

“Fine, I will meet him. When will I get ready?” The princess pouted.

“Elatha will be here soon to dress you in a way that is befitting for a princess. Until then, you are free to continue as you were. I will be taking my leave now. Who knows what your father has been doing for all this time? Goodbye for now, child.” The queen left with one of the guards back to the throne room despite her wanting him to leave. The princess stayed in her room for a while.

Rather bored, the king slouched on his throne. He fixed his posture as the queen approached, “How did the conversation go, my love?”

“Our daughter asked how we met and how we fell in love,” The queen sat down next to her king.

“Oh, is that so? What did you tell her?” The king had a smug face on his look. He wanted to go with his daughter and wife, but he knew these matters were best left to women. The king did not the soft tenderness nor grace of a poet. He settled things with his swords, fists, or any other weapon applicable at the time. Still, he wanted to know what came up in his family’s daily life.

“I told her the usual. I told her how we met in the forest. I told her about how we eventually fell in love and got married,” the queen nonchalantly continued. She was tired from having the talk with her daughter.

“Alright. How did she take having to meet Tacitus?” The king leaned forward with interest. He had been searching for a suitable husband for his daughter. At last, he thought that he may have found someone. The king had picked one of his most elite warriors who went into battle with an ounce of fear. He showed his loyalty to his king and seemed respectable to the women he encountered. He was quite the eligible bachelor looking for a wife.

“Surprisingly well. She has agreed to meet him. I think she is beginning to understand the need for a husband. All of her friends have already been married off. Perhaps we’ve babied her too much,” the queen reflected.

“Nonsense, she’ll marry when she’s ready,” the king said defensively. Even the king could not resist his desire to keep his daughter happy and spoiled. He knew her time to marry was coming, but she was still his baby girl that he had first held all those years ago. She was the jewel of the dragon’s eye. He loved his daughter as much as any other father, perhaps more. The king despised the thought of letting his daughter fall into the hands of a greedy, unloving man.

“When she’s ready or when you are ready, my love?” the queen let out a laugh, “You still are the same Gehrman that I fell in love with.”

King Garrenthor took his wife’s hand, “As are you, my Aelyn.” Their eyes glowed with a magical radiance of purple and red. Upon hearing her name, Aelyn blushed. Throughout the kingdom, people had referred to her as the ‘Shadow Queen’. 

She missed hearing her true name. It seemed as though the only time she heard it now was when she was addressed as, “Queen Aelyn.” It was a title she secretly resented. She thought that it did not fit her petite, faerie frame compared to the other demons that she helped King Gehrman rule over. Aelyn missed the fields of her kinsfolk that she had no memory of.

Her husband could clearly see her thoughts take her away. At moments such as these, he knew she missed her homeland, but he could not help her. The king did his best to keep her happy. He was painfully aware that his Aelyn was not a shade, but he did not care. In his heart, the king had wished that his queen would grow to love his people and the kingdom. 

She had, but King Garrenthor could tell that she did not feel as though she belonged, no matter what he tried. “What are you thinking about?” He loved to hear her thoughts.

“How I am treated amongst the shadows,” the queen started, “I do not feel as though I belong here, my love. I am not befitting of my title. I constantly feel as though I should find my way home, wherever it is.” The queen wanted to stare at the floor. However, she did not want to look weak for anyone who may stumble into the throne room.

Gehrman held the queen’s face in his hand, “My light, although it is true that you tear through the blackest darkness with your soul of light, you belong here. Your home is with me. I love you.” He stroked her red hair delicately. 

“I would not be the same king without you. Besides, it is too late to run now, my wife,” the king smirked knowing full and well that the queen was stuck with him.

This was one of those times that Aelyn knew that the Shadow King was not joking. She could see a hint of fire flickering in his eyes. 

He seemed amused at the thought of having to send his army after her, “Of course, I would love to see you try. I would never stop searching until I found you.”

“I am painfully aware. I am sorry, my love. Sometimes, I truly wonder where I came from. I wish I could remember my past. It’s not fair to our daughter. She often wonders what I was like as a child. I have no idea what to tell her.” 

The queen slumped into her chair. Once in a while, it was hard for her to put herself in a positive demeanor. She struggled when it came to her self-esteem. Aelyn did not hold herself in high regard. In her eyes, she was a normal faerie that fell into the world of demons. She loved her family more than anything, but always thought they could have had a more attractive, capable queen. She worried about her daughter not having a true shade for a mother.

“I am sure you will get your memories back eventually, Aelyn. I would not worry too much about it. Concern yourself with the memories we have now together. You have a husband who loves you and a daughter that adores you. I do believe that we are more important than whatever life you had before,” Gehrman took his wife’s hand, “As long as you have me, my love, this will always be your home.”

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