Imagine if you were to meet your character – what would you say to them? Ask them? Well, in preparation for my prequel novella, Risking Destiny, I interviewed Queen Lana. It wasn’t quite what I expected…
I’m sitting in the throne room – the High Hall as they call it here in Naturae – waiting for my interviewee to arrive. I must confess, I’m a little nervous – it’s not often I get to interview an actual Royal, the Queen of the Fae of Naturae no less. I’ve heard she can be a little…snippy.
The doors behind me open silently and my first glimpse of her is really from behind, huge green translucent wings waft my hair around my face, and I spot some finely embroidered shoes underneath a lilac gown. How they made those colours in the 800’s I do not know. But, here she is, so I shall make my way down towards the throne and talk to her. Actual face to face. Me!
“Your Majesty,” I say, curtsying. She inclines her head gracefully but doesn’t meet my eyes.
“Thank you so much for your time today, I hope I haven’t kept you from other pressing matters?”
“I am due to bless the vines in the Pupaetory, but it can wait.” Her finger flicks on the silver arms of the throne. I really don’t want to blow this opportunity by boring her, so I pull out a scroll and take a deep breath.
“Your Majesty, if I may start with enquiring about your daily routine?”
She fixes me with a hard stare. My skin crawls as she examines my face, then my somewhat tatty clothing. Her chin tilts up as she looks away, exposing a long pale neck.
“I have many duties to attend to – from blessing the lands, blessing the pupae, record keeping…”
“And do you do this all yourself, or do you receive assistance from….”
“The workers keep everything running here at the palace, but they cannot write or read as a royal or noble can.” Her glare suggests I should have known this.
“I meant, other people who can support you?”
“No, there are only my advisors, most especially Lord Tolant. They form a council with the nobles, but it hasn’t needed to sit for many decades now.”
“When there is no pressing requirement for their input, I do not see the need to recall the nobles. Things are stable – as they should be when one does one’s duty correctly.”
I don’t. It sounds very lonely.
The Queen looks around the empty High Hall. The ornately carved chairs at the edges are vacant yet facing her still.
“And…your family? Friends? Who do you spend your spare time with?” I feel a little impertinent asking this, because aside from the guard who let me in, I’ve seen no-one else in the palace. Just flashes of brown wings moving away from me at haste.
Queen Lana looks down at her hands, then stills them on her lap. I realise that she is bone-thin underneath the elegant gown. Frail almost. Although her voice is unwavering, it is as brittle as she is.
“I have no need of anyone’s company. And I have no spare time. Running a kingdom takes up all of one’s hours.”
A small flush rises in her pale cheeks, as though she is thinking of something she ought not to. Or lying.
She knows I want more. I hold my gaze and stay silent until it becomes awkward.
“I sometimes watch the humans, during the ceremonies,” she says, carefully. “Their ways seem so strange. But then, one cannot expect them to be like us, they have not been around for long enough. Their procreation methods require that they form into these small ‘family’ groups. To have each other’s constant presence must be tiresome.” She finishes by rolling her eyes, but I can tell she is faking it.
“Our readers would love to know what a Queen is fond of, something for them to identify with,” I push on.
With a sigh, she reaches down to a box next to the throne and extracts a small silver key. Twiddling it between her fingers, Lana says, “I suppose I like to read. The history of the Fae is long, so there is much to cover. And much I added within my 200 year reign.”
“Ah yes,” I say, “your rise to the throne was quite dramatic. Could you tell us what it was like to lose your mother in the Sation wars and ascend to take the crown that same day?”
I think I’m onto something here as Lana sits forward and leans towards me. I’m holding my breath, but a musty smell tinged with fir invades my nostrils regardless.
Her dark gaze bores into me. Then she says in a surprisingly unemotional voice, “My mother was murdered. Right in front of my eyes.” Her eyes dart between mine, assessing me for a reaction. I can’t look away.
“Her throat slit from behind. Her blood spilled onto my dress.”
Thin lips turn up into a sneer, “And then I did my duty and took her place.”
Despite my gasp, I swallow and force myself to ask, “It must have been a very terrible thing to witness. Did you see who killed her?”
The Queen breaks off her stare and draws herself up, looking down the hall. I notice her hands have clenched themselves in her skirts again.
“These are not matters which I can discuss with the likes of you.”
Her eyes narrow as she turns towards me again. “What is in the past should stay there.”
I am confused, because earlier she seemed to indicate she was interested in history, studies the scrolls even perhaps in the Scriptaerie. Yet now, she wasn’t willing to discuss its relevance to her current position.
“I beg your forgiveness, your Majesty.” I’m fumbling now, how can I bring this back onto neutral (less scary) territory?
A silence lies between us and it is cold. I shuffle my notes, dropping a scroll in the process. The Queen makes no effort to bend down and retrieve it, even though it has rolled almost underneath the throne. She sniffs, then picks at her hands.
“Your Majesty,” I try again, “we would love to know what your plans are for developing the area? It was quite devastated by the Sation Wars, and yet, little re-building has been seen so far.”
Her eyes narrow again. Oh shit, I’ve done it again. Touched a raw spot.
But, the Queen takes in a deep breath, “I can only do so much to replenish the stock of worker Fae. It takes a lot out of me to grow them. I must have surplus Lifeforce to do it, and of course, with the blessings I have to bestow on the lands around us for the humans….it takes time.”
I nod, as if I understand. “The Sation Wars, you were very young still, I believe. Did you see any of the fighting yourself?”
“I did not leave Naturae. It was determined by the Council at the time that I should be protected. My Mother, the former Queen, wore herself out trying to grow replacement Fae with enough time for them to be trained, but it was to no avail. The vampires were just too strong, too overwhelming. Their methods to procreation are just too efficient for us Fae to compete with.”
Both of us have our heads bowed as she says sadly, “Too many lives, nobles who cannot be replaced, were lost.”
This time the silence between us is warmer – united in our remembrance of the fallen.
After a minute or two, I ask about her plans, where did she see growth in Naturae in a century or so?
“The future?” Lana almost screeches. I’m a little taken aback, even more so when she stands up and starts to walk down the High Hall. Is she walking out on me, I wonder?
“Things need to stay the same, the same as they are now. That is the future.”
I frown. “But surely, your Majesty, it is important to regain lost ground?”
“What would you have me do?” She wheels around to glare at me again, her wings are beating and the draft is blowing my hair.
“There is only me! Would you have me return to futile war to get our lands back?” Lana starts to kick at the chairs – sending them splaying around the room. She’s not looking at me, but building up to a childish tantrum I fear.
“This is how things are and must always be!” Lana says petulantly. “We cannot survive with the humans, we must stay hidden. Hidden here, where it is safe.”
It’s not safe, I know. She knows. We all know.
Not that it helps her. Rumour has it one of her own courtiers – a noble no less – murdered the former Queen because she urged the continuation of the Sation Wars. It might have been the defining act which stopped complete destruction of the Fae race in Naturae, but it surely doesn’t mean that Lana is safe here either. Perhaps that is why it is empty here, she doesn’t trust the nobles?
Goosebumps have risen on my forearms. She’s been staring at me but the focus of her attention is my neck, not my face. I’m suddenly very aware that only the two of us are in the Hall. And I can see her breathing has slowed…
“Your Majesty, I can see I have taken up much of your valuable time today.”
She wheels around to me, her attitude suddenly replaced by a forlorn look. “Oh no dear,” she says. “You don’t have to go just yet, stay a while. I can…give you a tour of my chambers perhaps?”
I twig what’s happening. I think I need to go.
“That is most kind of you, but I really must be heading back. Lots of writing to do,” I trill. I’m gathering my things together when I feel her scrawny hand on my arm.
There is a cruel twist to her lips and I can’t help stare at them. Then, her tone is almost playful, “Well, we can’t keep the readers waiting now, can we?”
I feel a pull of something from within me, I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. She is standing very close to me and has a weird smile on her face, which doesn’t quite meet her eyes. I can’t take my eyes off her lips.
Somehow, I pull my arm away from her grasp. It seems to break the trance and the Queen lifts off gracefully up to the cavernous ceiling. I grab my scrolls and quill and scurry down the High Hall.
“Thank you so much for your time, your Majesty,” I call back without looking at her.
I’ve nearly made it to the doors when a voice calls down, “Mind the mists as you go…”
Risking Destiny is due to launch on Amazon and all other e-book platforms on the 28th February 2021. However, subscribers can get their hands on an advance FREE copy by signing up to the Escape Into A Tale Newsletter here.