Part 9: Bonus 1: Lake Queen part 1Let me tell you a story. It is a gloomy fairy tale, about a blind prince who only brought destruction. A tale of fantasy and misery. The tale... of the Lake Queen.
Prologue: Stone Fortress
Another sad dusk sets on a wide lonely shire. Long shadows of old birch trees and stumps are dragged through a swampy plain, where life died. Corrupt woods stick out as skeleton hands, that did not catch the grass and sank forgotten all the way to the bottom. Light dies after plain horizon, nor moon shines through the darkness, silent cool fogs, but there is a cry from the behind. Northern country of infinite lakes, impenetrable swamps, forbidden corner where only the Death rules. Even wind avoid the emptiness, it has no ones hair to stroke, no one to sing to. Stars do not look here, light only during summer, there is night since autumn and cold and echoes of silent cry that stays here forever to talk about unhappy events of a mythical Lake Kingdom
A stone castle climbs to heights one hundred days of journey to the South, its toothy tower a home for crows flocking to meadows and fields full with late labors. Northern nation, faithful wives tress their yellowish beards during evenings, comb their long golden hair, as they are a local sign of valor, stitch wounds as well as torn cloaks after hunts. Men that take down giant trees or hunt game with dogs during days, prepare their families to upcoming winter, which will be harsh as usual. After work they meet in a pleasantly heated pub at large fireplaces and long tables full of grilled meat and full pitchers, play the dice, laugh or tell amazing tales from far away or long forgotten wars. The children listen to them with unprecedented interest, women just wave their hands and try to drag a drunkard back home as it is late.
In the mornings, crowds of hairy hulks set off to the forests, axes on their shoulders and baldrics under their arms with a bread and a piece of fat. During a day, Northern women work on the field or repair their houses, feed mountain goats, raise new warriors that cannot carry a big wood-cutters axe and so they remain at home. They play with sticks as swords, fight in the mud, throw stones towards field crows. Each day is busy as no one idles, just once every ten days everyone rests, they sleep until noon, go for long hill walks or hold friendly matches of string men that end in the pub again and they have another week to argue about something, as no one here accepts a defeat
From one of the many windows of a single stone fortress, a young prince looks down on a humble village, fifty shacks, a big pup, granges, barns, fences connected by muddy treaded paths full of carriers, wood barrow handlers, with bags followed by rampaging packs of children and dogs. Young prince is a third-born, he will not become a lord of the small state, he always will be the last supervisor, solving second-rate problems. The two older brothers, already married, only he stays in his room alone, reads old manuscripts, draws maps during several days of trips outside of his comfortable bed, sleeps in the moss, drinks wine and brandishes his sword awkwardly. Young virgin, no real beard, whitish in the face, dreamy head forever supported by his head, eyes focused to the distance and not interested in women, as they laugh too loudly and it disturbs the magic calm. Rather dream about a magnificent love with a pitcher of wine
Not long ago, on a holiday, old king with his wife and brothers bursts into the young princes hall, so burly as the inkpot spills by fear. Drunk, they laugh that the king decided about the last princes wedding. The bride will be brought by none other, but the neighboring king himself with whom the business always thrived and as such he must not be rejected! The feast will soon be held in the castle hall. Frightened, the prince does not breath, the words of loathing do not help against a rigor of the majesty. But when one of the brothers takes down the cloak veiling the big picture, the worlds of loathing die. Large deep bright eyes shine from the frame, gentle face of gentle features, such innocence, a man would bring everything for one gaze, he would sacrifice himself. The prince choking on astonishment and hesitation, drinks more wine when in his privacy again hardly moves his eyes away from the magnificent painting. Unfinished poem on the table drowns in spilled ink, as a different one starts to be written in a heart suddenly eager, curious if a painter did not add beauty in the process of painting
Royal visit closes in a month, armed procession on horses, pikes gently raised, flags fluttering with slavnostními barvami, ceremonious colors, veiled bride on a saddle with the neighboring king himself, waving raucous greetings when riding into a vast courtyard behind the stockades and as customs say, directly into the castle hall. Princess will not rest on foul earth. Simple mountain decoration on stone cold walls, red fabrics, swords, coats-of-arms, boar heads, attires and spider web. People run to the castle in clean clothing, bring gifts, food or just calls of glory. The ceremony is to begin, the bride still veiled dismounts and keeps silent. Host family descend the staircase, last one the prince to be married. Kings welcome each other, hug, nod to ladies and revered escorts, sit to the tables. Shy prince at the background bashfully watches veiled being.
Guards close the gate to curious eyes and drive away curious people, lordship start eating and terrible drinking. Hulks and war heroes lean under mass of pitchers and bite meat off the bones. Dripping smears the chins. Selected women belch and then gently giggle over a glass. Dripping trickles to cleavage and bones are thrown to dogs under the table. Subservient household runs with trays, brings new dishes, remove the half-eaten remains. Female innkeepers do not forget guards with axes standing by the walls, that gulp, smelling the heavenly food. A thigh, here and there, a bit of wine is lost in the whirl of gluttony when vigilance decreases with morals. And in the peak of exhilaration both kings stand up and call upon a drunk representative of the bearded local gods. They invite the couple that will seal today. Shy young prince drinks as much wine as possible quickly, not to tremble with embarrassment. Veiled one gently stands, they approach their fathers. The prince rights in front of the chosen one, kings grin, priest in a deer cloak with attire lectures the suddenly silent mod. He joins the two in the name of local bearded gods. The mod starts to scream and bang the metal pitchers together.
Wooden pots are being smashed by toasts, splinters fly and laugher roars. The uproar causes food filled tables to shake and trays to fall. Prince and princess are seated to the pride of place of a long row of tables. The princess reveals gentle dark robe, presents herself to neighbors and the mob is silenced by the unprecedented beauty. The veil falls from ginger hair and reveals whitish face worthy of death. Ravishing glaring eyes adorned with painting and graceful mouth press against a bow that honored and greeted the associates with gentle raise. The mod roars, hulks pleasantly pommel iron fists on the tables. The women are enviously frowning. The prince trembles when the promised one holds his face and kisses it. The heart nearly crushes the rips, its so tremulous and further gulps of wine dont help. The prince is red, does not talk even when he does not understand what his brothers want to advise by kicking his shins sdělit, kdy jej tajně pod under the table. The prince uncertainly and gently caresses the beautys palm, she closes it and the other palm strokes the face with heavenly smile that gets distorted by heroic drink of the wine. Prince is being pushed, so he drinks too and feels suddenly happy and poetic, excuses himself and leaves for cool dark air
There he sings to the stars, pays honor and thanks to all local gods with hammers. He kneels under a clear frosty sky and feels happy for the first time in his lonely life. The stars are silent, the castle noise calms with every head falling under the table. The prince returns and stops at the door Sleepy guards, eyes closed, drunk kings sleep with heads supported by the table, many of the feasters left, many are lying down and a lot is vomited and a terrible heavy smell reaches the nose coming from outside. The most hardened men sit and finish the remains. The princess sits on a lap of a revered hero, kisses his bearded scarred face and the man laughs seeing the young prince. Unfaithful and sarcastic he proclaims that he was guarding the lady while absent minded prince left such a treasure. The enchantment suddenly died in the young prince, he is petrified and not a word comes from his mouth.
He got even more mockery from the people that are not dead yet, such as his oldest brother. And he yells to the young prince with displeasure, what a shame to their house and name as his wife is stolen even on the first day. Brother tosses his own large sword towards the petrified prince, sword famous and precious, passed down or copied to the first-born with power and clanship symbols carved into it. Brother shouts to punish the arrogance. Drunk warrior raises and draws his axe for defense. Possessed brother yells, knowing the imbalance, that to die is a virtue and a duty.
Princess has fires of interests in her eyes, she expects amusing performance and challenges the prince by offending his weakness and cowardice. She expects her defender, as her heart will not revere someone allowing others to raise their hands
Young prince picks the sword from the floor and backs down, hate in his eyes, but not without reason. He feels no need to sacrifice himself because of drunk lusty harlot even of a royal origin. He vanishes in the dark and hears the yell of angry brother as well as laugher of princess with the warrior and rattle of the woken ones.
Chapter 1: Icy Tomb
The prince quickly rushes to the royal stables, saddles and steals the only horse known to him, that sometimes took him to the mountains. Some mess is still in the saddle bag, a dirty fur coat of strapper rests on a nail through the beam and some of the hard bread remains in the trough. The tipsy young prince with a sword bitterly leaves his birthplace as well as his virtuous ideals. He gallops through the night towards the northern swamp, place of damnation and no return, looking for destruction
Sleep in the saddle, his horse tramping through a cold highland, frightening darkness with his had bowed down. The night does not change into day here on the winter north, only a long unfinished darkness. No one trailer the offended prince that night. Let him go when he shamed the house name Ukradeným Mečem, bohové by cowardice, let him die with the stolen sword, the gods know that he got it wrongly, the runes will not protect the bearer. Path firstly curves higher into the mountain icy kingdom, ice cold prince traveling for three nights looks around in a morning gray to a snowy summit. He has never been so far yet. Somewhere in the distance lie the infamous swamps, where no one would dare afraid of losing his life. Thousands of lakes and impassable swamps. A ship would wash ashore, walker would drown and fledgling poisoned by breath of dead land would fall from the sky.
No one knows what horrors can lie at this end of the world. Some say that hell lies there, where liars, crooks, thieves, cowards or murders suffer for infinity, people that gods forsake for their nasty crimes. Prince warms the snow in his hands and gives his tired friend a drink. And he starts to understand that by his hasty act he damned also an innocent beast, faithful to the very end Last crusts of bread on the summit, they carefully descend. Prince pulls bony frightened horse by a bridle, noise of falling avalanches, but the depressed neglectful prince does not look back ones, as if he secretly hoped for finding his destruction here, buried in an icy tomb and saved from further toiling.
Not one avalanche touches the saddened man, as if his suffering was never to end. Tired wayfarers find a short haven under a rocky cornice, warming by their breaths and proximity, they rest and wait for a gray morning to look around. The sun looks over the horizon but only for a moment, and hides again soon, sad view of the no-mans land. The darkness is suddenly seized by a storm, ice vortex and frosty winds that drain the life-force of the bones. Icy whirling shatters tear the skin to bloody shreds. The mountain kings voice cannot take anything from a prince dead soul, flame in an icy heard went out, the storm is warming compared to such an inner cold.
The horse suffers, prince covers his head by his own coat. He may freeze here, saved from further pitiful faring. The storm gradually calms, prince wipes his bloody tired face. The horse shakes off and returns the fur coat. Tired, they find a resting hideout sheltered from wind by snow. Next morning, the gray light reveals less snowy and less steep descent path, first trees can be seen in the distance. Mountain massive behind them, icy path changes into nearly flat plain. The storm smoothed surface otherwise wrinkled by stones. The prince mounts the horse fuelled by hope, vision of forest and autumn grass yet untouched by snow. The horse slowly trots between hidden stones, nearly breaks his legs. Suddenly the land just some fathoms before the wayfarers sinks, mountain hidden right, depth of certain death. The prince calms frightened horse and dismounts, walks around the gorge slowly.
Chapter 2: Impenetrable Domes
The prince comes long before the horse. Let the earth swallow just him, he can find the desired destruction in its dark inside and no one will hear the voice of man lovelorn. The horse could continue in his way of hope. But as if all damned rifts moved away from princes careless step. Snow and stones vanish, first trees stick out of the white plain, eaten by both wayfarers. The prince mounts again and rides into an unknown forest.
They fly through a cold plain until snow vanishes completely. They enter the coniferous kingdom. The prince starts a fire after long effort of frozen hands, the wayfarers are finally warmed by the fire. The prince dries his wet clothes, the horse his frozen fur, which can be smelled from miles away and hence it is a lure for animals of prey. They can hear wolfs howling threateningly close, lurking death in the dark, murmur in the bushes. The horse is watchful, ready to run away with fear at any time. The prince sticks a sword into earth ready to defend escape of his only friend, maybe hell find destruction fighting claws and fangs and will feed the hungry predators by his indifferent body.
The prince shouts into the blackness to address attention of all predatory demons, but they vanish in their burrows and hollows of the silenced forest as if cast off by an unknown frightening force. The prince falls asleep with a thought that he will have to keep on going until the end of the world. After a long sleep by the flickering fire, it is time to continue.
Chapter 3: Unfriendly Dreams
Not a single ray of star, moon or gray morning sun shines through the black impenetrable dome of giant trees. Just darkness that seem to swallow fire from princes torch. The sword cuts through the erratic blind path, sharp twigs rasp the wayfarers from all sides. The prince gets a rightful impression of losing the direction completely. Lost and also forgotten in a complex labyrinth of damned forest, this can be a destruction worthy of depressed princes suffering. But the thirsty horse suddenly stops nearby and starts to drink from a small stream that probably runs from the mountains and continues through the forest towards the swamps. The prince immediately sets the direction. They rest by the fire, the prince finds a small iron kettle in a saddle bad, boils some needles, bitter and burning infusion lulls the tired one as a homesickness. And the dreams are again not pleasant, many mad visions about fighting demons and ancient dragons, that no one believes in today, but they ruled here for several long aeons, bones buried deep being the proof today.
Chapter 4: Swampy Land
Awaken in dusk, flickering ashes shining, the heat vanishes, and hungry innards start to growl. The horse eats barks around their path, prince chews some needles and mistletoe from local ill-sorted trees, there is never enough poison in the body, they may give some strength or they can take all away at once. And strange food suddenly burns in the belly, not completely unpleasant, murmur starts to be far away and silent. Instead of sinister breeze, whispered words fly between the trees, calling by name and suddenly silenced, they are not evil yet. Tree branches, grateful gestures of wooden hands invite further into darkness, the deep is opening and prince seems to understand the horse, all of the forest, earth and waters, as if he was a part and the only one and suddenly realized how small a man is, how equal to a flea in a great world of stacked rottenness which gives life that immediately fades.
So worthless he is, horror engulfs his thoughts, nespěchat rukou vlastní, jen let the destruction of soul give destruction of the body, not to hurry by his own hand, just walk onwards, the gorge will take what it once threw out. The prince walked through the darkness, leaving spiky forest silhouette behind. The show mires and growth thins and plague smell of putrid death is in the air. The last lodging on firm soil by the fire. The prince silently sits over the flame, bare feet, leather shoes drying on a stick and bites one of them of hunger.
The horse frighteningly neighs, seeing swampy territory of poisonous fogs. The prince hugs his devoted animal, takes the bridle off of him, tears away the saddle, he cannot ask more from the innocent animal. Enjoy your life for the both of us whispers the prince farewell, waves, the animal does not look back hurrying towards the forest behind. He gets up, still in warm ash, putrid dark stench around, lurking into the depths of unknown. A few steps and a shoe is stuck in warm waters of decay, steam so thick one cannot see his own hands. Earth boils, gurgly bubbles just as hunger in princes innards. Poison engulf princes mind, headed swirls and walk staggers. Quiet washes the heart, poisoned quiet, even though swamp is above waist, soil is still firm and sure at the bottom. And a strange angry voice from afar. A murmur of the senses? As if something alive flapped on the water surface.
The prince shouts to turn attention of all watery demons to him, ahead is only silence, sloshing on he listens expecting something terrible and dangerous. And a human fear takes his steps, as if the destruction awaited in the dark twilight. He stops. The waters open and an ugly head of Water Spirit goggles with fear, he is so hideous the prince is afraid the ugliness rather than expecting any danger. An ugly Water Sprit, rotten teeth in a devilish grin, watery green kelps instead of hair, naked, but hairy as a watery devil, small stature. Where the prince stands, water just above the waist, the head slimed whimpers in a croaky voice: do you have brandy?
Prince sadly smiles, letting go of the swords hilt, desperately responds: I dont even have a will to live
And water spirit frowns: Why to drown welcomed in unwelcome lands, I havent spoken to a living soul for years! Water spirit takes a pipe from the bag and fills it with some myrtle garbage, flips fingers, puffs away. The prince entertained sits onto the bedrock, their heads on the same level. The water is warm, just with the poisonous sulphuric stench. And Water Spirits pipe smoke spreads sweet smell around, head spins. The watery dwarf giggles and shares the poison. Prince a bit hoping to die sucks full nostrils and tries not to choke with cough for a long time.
Water demon talks strange tales about the shire. The swamp is a small kingdom ruled by a gentle Queen, today only a sad water nymph. The prince asks how much sad. Water Spirit swashes putrid towards the princes face and he spits saltiness worthy of the most damned sea. Strange he thinks. Water Spirit continues and talks about all the damned beings that found shade here in the eternal fogs and dusk, about boiling underground volcanoes heating local northern end of the world. About a few people that found destruction here Princes eyes widen: you say destruction?
Water Spirit waves his hand: Obnoxious adventurers searching for fame and wealth, I drowned them. And his eyes blink with evil. Confused prince asks why he is not rotting on the empty bedrock. Water Spirit gives him a poisonous grin: I felt you are good in heart, you would even spare a gulp of brandy if you had any.
Prince seriously: I am the poorest of the poor that walked this earth, I do not even deserve to die, good only for laughs He then proceeds to tell the lengthy tale of his life among people, about his damned wedding. Water Spirit still fills his pipe and listens, even advices prince that he will please the sad queen, as a water spirit is a guardian of the kingdom, he decides who to let in, who to drown under water surface.
As if his tranquil supple body floated in the local slush, strange pipe poison circulates in the head, tear shows in the princes eye, he views the strange journey from a completely different angle, he is sad of himself, astringent feeling to be exiled before himself, falsehood in his own words to get others understanding, it may call for destruction of heart, more it is deserved. Songs of the drowned and remote silent cry fly through watery shire, gentle lonely whine from the direction where watery demon waved. Dark silhouette of depressed but dignified shapes rises slowly from fog haze. Dizzy princes head spins when the landscape changes from a swampy end of the world to a clear blue lake with an exquisite female being in the middle.
A see-through nymph sits on the rock, blue clothes blending with the water. A necklace more beautiful than all jewels of northern queens hangs on the whitish chest. A small face of sad eyes veiled by unusually long black hair blowing in the gentle lake wind. The prince, rightfully believing his cheated eyes, looks back and water at his feet gets putrid brown-green color, and just a few steps further the opaque fog covers fearful land of damnation. A lake in the middle of the swamps, inconceivable to a man and an immeasurable beautify of the lady cut down the prince, he cannot say a word.
The lady weeps, hot tears flow down to cool waters, while observing a silent shabby being that kneels in an undignified desperate sorrow. The Queen does not talk with mouth, just through her eyes and princes heart beats in horror, when he understands the looks in his own head. This is what a destruction looks like? A land of sorrow buried in careless silence, so careless that no one would defend his life if there was a danger, if someone would in face be able to be dangerous to others. Such carelessness and emptiness here, just an empty Queens sob cuts through the gray frosty quiet.
The prince can get up after a long time, does not go close to the being of fog and water, but spreads his hand in a respectful bow gesture and asks in a shaky voice why the Queen weeps. Just a gust of wind flies through her hair in the direction where her eyes are focused and points with her pale weakened figure. The prince suddenly eagerly bows as if accepting a commitment and offering a help with anything. Instead of bewilderment or a glimpse of hope more sorrow in the nymphs eyes. She raises her hands and black shadows cloud the place, clear blue water rots into brown slush, poisonous gases of burning hells blow and half-poisoned prince wades towards the unknown.
The time grows late, however; I will regale you with the second half of my tale next time.