The Unlikely Queen (Chapter 3)

The Journey

Ava wiped her tears as she stood in the doorway of her childhood bedroom. This was the last she’d see it as her own. She snapped her fingers and her dove, Anona, flew to her shoulder.

She turned to the servant and said, “Place her perch in the wagon with my things.”

She hugged the King and the Queen then stroked the face of her adopted brother, beaming when he smiled at her touch.

“I love you both and thank you for providing me with such a grand childhood!” she said.

“We’ll see you in a few days, little dove. We’ll be there for the wedding!” the King told her.

“I love you, dove child, and one day I’ll call you Queen!” the Queen told her.

Ava took her place inside the carriage and looked straight ahead. She couldn’t shed another tear. All of that crying made her head hurt and the bouncing of the carriage would surely be headache enough.

She was escorted by a small party. Colm drove her carriage while four soldiers walked along side. The wagon that carried the girls belongings was driven by her childhood friend and first love, Pallomin. The boy had insisted that he be allowed to see her safely to her destination. His heart still beat wildly for her but he knew that she would never be his. He wasn’t bred from royal blood.

They were deep in the forest and Ava had fallen asleep. She woke when the carriage halted so quickly that she was bucked right out of her seat. As her head cleared, she heard voices coming from the road. An argument was ensuing.  She slid to the door and opened it just a crack so that she could hear more clearly.

“We are in route to the Kingdom of Coyote by order of the King of Doves. You have no right to detain us!” Colm said.

Ava was leaning against the door when she lost her hold and it flew open sending her out to the ground with a thud. She was too embarrassed to feel fear as the arguing stopped and all eyes were upon her.

“Damn, girl!” Colm scolded.

“What is this? A gift for the Coyote King?” A man dressed in green exclaimed. He walked toward Ava but the two guards on her side of the carriage closed ranks in front of her. The man in green stuck out his tongue and tasted the air. “Smells like royalty,” he croaked.

Ava got to her feet and dusted herself off, “I am Ava, Princess of Doves! And who are you, green man?”

“Kanuna, young dove. I am the King of Frogs. I could hear your party’s approach from miles away. I was just telling your driver that this path isn’t safe,” the portly man in green replied.

“It’s my pleasure to meet you, King Kanuna, and I appreciate your concern but there is no other path to the realm of Coyote and we need to get there with haste,” Ava replied.

“Such a pretty dove,’ Kanuna told her, ‘It would be a shame to lose you to the Crow Horde but that’s exactly what will happen if you don’t turn back.”

“I have no enemies in the Faction of Crow and we have no desire to turn around so, if you please, kind King, let us pass,” Ava smiled at the little fat man.

“At your peril, young dove. At your peril,” the Frog King croaked as he stepped out of the road.

“Ava, the men are tired. Perhaps we should listen to the Frog King and bed down here for the night. We can start fresh in the morning. It might not be best to travel up the mountain at night,” Colm told her.

“Alright, we can stop. We just can’t turn back,” the girl replied.

The thought of marrying Yutu frightened her. She did find the boy attractive and he seemed pleasant but she knew nothing of the Coyote people. Her greatest fear wasn’t of living among the coyote. Her greatest fear was of her wedding night. Like all good little doves, she hadn’t been touched by a man save for some hand holding and a few stolen kisses from Pallomin.

As her wedding grew closer, her mother sat her down to discuss the activities that would be expected of her on her wedding night. Before that, she hadn’t even considered the idea. Her mother explained that she would be frightened and that it might be painful at first but that if she could relax, she would grow to enjoy her husbands’ touch. She told her that one day, she would crave the feeling of him inside her. The girl blushed at the very idea. She’d never seen a naked man and wished that she had. She wanted to know if Yutu looked different from Dove men. Her mother scolded her for having such wild thoughts and cautioned her that no man would allow her to gaze at his body without expecting her to give him pleasure. Of course, she wasn’t planning to solicit a man to show her his goods but with her impetuous nature, her mother couldn’t take any chances.

She laid back down on the carriage bench and slowly drifted back to sleep. She cradled her dove on her chest and tried to dream about soaring above the countryside. The dream didn’t come. Only darkness.

This time it was the rocking of the carriage that woke her. It was still dark but they were moving again! The road was more rocky than it was before and the carriage wheels cracked and moaned as the ascended the rough terrain. She wanted to know why they were moving but with the carriage in motion, she couldn’t open the door to ask to the guards so she settled back in her seat and closed her eyes. She didn’t want her prince to see her weary and sleep deprived.

She woke again when the carriage came to a halt. “It’s too soon for us to be there,’ she thought, ‘The sun hasn’t risen.”

She heard movement outside and reached for the door but it flew open before her hand graced the handle. She gasped at the sight of the intruder. He was a tall, thin man all dressed in black.

“Come, dove!” he demanded, clutching her arm and pulling her out of the carriage.

Her feet landed hard on the rocky soil and she opened her mouth to scold him but the words wouldn’t form. She was too busy staring at Colm, Pallomin, and the four guards who were kneeling in the road with their hands bound and their mouths gagged. The Frog King had been right. The Crow Horde had ambushed the party while the guards slept.

“What is the meaning of this?” she scolded the crow who still had hold of her.

“Quiet dove! You can tell your story to the King!” he snarled. He wrapped his arms around her waist and lifted her up over his shoulder. She kicked her feet and punched at his back.

“Drop me you scavenger! My father will have your head!” she cried.

He merely grunted and yelled, “Take the party to the prison. I’ll deliver the dove.”

“Deliver me where?” Ava cried, still pounding on the tall mans’ back but he paid her no mind and continued up the mountain. He carried her through a thrush of trees and then to a clearing where fires were burning. She lifted her head and saw a village comprised of grass covered huts. “Crows nests,” she mumbled.

He carried her though the village and in to a hole in the cave wall. The inside walls were lined with torches that lit his way. He stopped twenty feet inside the cavern and pounded on a thick door. She heard the loud groan of its hinges as it swung open and a rush of warm air hit her exposed legs.

She could see the things behind him as he proceeded on his quest. First, the doors. They were tall and round creating a barrier inside the cave. They were painted red and adorned with gold leaf. The floor was polished rock that reflected the flames from the torches on the walls. It was a cave, for certain, but it was decorated like a palace complete with grand furnishings and silken rugs. She took it all in as the man carried her to another door. He knocked and said, “My Lord.”

“Come!” a deep voice cried from the other side.

The man held her legs with one hand and opened the door with the other. He stepped over the threshold and waited for his command.

“Set her down, gently, and leave us. Be sure to secure the door. I don’t want this little dove to try and fly away,” the voice demanded.

The man slid Ava down from his shoulder and propped her up on her feet. He took two steps back and closed the door between them. She could hear the lock fall in to place and stared at the closed door too afraid to turn and face her captor.

She heard moans coming from her left side and turned her head slightly. She face grew red. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing! A silk covered lounge sat directly beneath a torch on the wall causing the light to cast the silhouettes of two naked women. They were writhing and wiggling as they pleasured each other sexually. Ava wanted to turn away but her eyes were fixed on the women. They had dark complexions and raven hair. She’d never seen anyone like them before.

“Don’t mind them. They’re keeping themselves ready for me,” the voice from behind her said, “We weren’t expecting company.”

The girl who was on top of the other turned her head and looked at Ava. She smiled, then blew her a kiss.

“What is this? Some sort of sex cave?” Ava asked, and the raven haired girls laughed at her.

She could feel the person behind her moving toward her. Her body tensed as she felt his breath on her neck, then his hands on her arms. He turned her to face him and when they were eye to eye he said, “This is my chamber. I’m Lonan; the King of Crows.”

The Unlikely Queen

The Reunion Pact

Ava, now seventeen, twirled in front of her bedroom mirror. She was a beauty for all to behold with hair that shone like the amber fields in sunlight and eyes that captured all of the colors of the sky. King Jonah told her that she was the mirror image of her mother; a Queen so beautiful that her presence stunned the faction to silence when she entered the great hall.

She was readying herself for breakfast when she heard the cries coming from below her window. She ran to the stairs and out the front door sliding to a halt just short of the Kings’ backside.

“What happened?” the King cried, and Ava squeezed past the royal guard to see what he was referring to.

She gasped at the sight that lay before her. The Queen was lying in a heap on the ground outside the palace door.

“I don’t know, my King. She went to the river to retrieve water lily flowers for the breakfast table. She was out of my sight for just a moment when I heard her scream! I ran to the river and found her like this. She was alone,” Colm told him.

“Bring her upstairs to our bed and find the medicine woman!” the King commanded.

Colm lifted the limp woman in to his arms and climbed the steps to the palace trailed by the King.

“I’ll find Calla, Father!” Ava cried.

Calla was child care giver and medicine woman for the Faction of Dove. Ava ran to her home and banged on the door. The old woman answered, clutched Avas’ hand and said, “What’s wrong my child? Have you seen a ghost?”

“It’s the Queen! Something is wrong with the Queen!” the girl cried.

The old woman turned and grabbed her bag, then followed the girl back to the palace.

Ava paced a path in the hall waiting for the elders to let her in to the Queens’ chamber. She wasn’t happy to have the door slammed in her face. She wasn’t a child anymore, after all!

Finally, the King opened the door for her. “Noisy steps for such a little bird!” he said, “Your mother is awake now.”

Ave followed him in to the room and looked down at the Queen who was lying on her bed. A tear escaped the girls eye. She couldn’t bear anymore loss in her short life.

She listened as the Queen described her ordeal.

“I was collecting the lilies when my head began to spin. I fell to my knees and looked up at the Great Mother. She placed her hand on my head and smiled the most loving smile. It was a smile so pure I thought my beating heart would leap right from my chest just for the chance to have her smile upon it. She opened her mouth and her voice boomed in my ears. She chanted in a tongue that I could not decipher and the swirling words made me dizzy again. I tried to keep my bearings but the world went dark and I woke up here,” she told them.

Calla clapped her hands and said, “The Great Mother has given us the most incredible gift!”

“What does she mean, Father?’ Ava asked, ‘What kind of gift?”

The King turned to the girl with a strange mix of joy and sorrow in his eyes. His look confused her and she tried to search his face for an explanation. She wouldn’t understand yet why the King was so confounded. He placed his hands on the girls shoulder and said, “The Queen is with child.”

“A new baby dove! That’s wonderful, Father!” Ava said, wrapping her arms around him.

By the following season, the Queen of Doves would welcome her son. Culver was a perfect dove child with hair the color of pure white down.

It was later the same year when an unlikely visitor showed up at the Palace of Doves. He was a thin and wiry man with hair the color of the earth. Ava was seated on the palace stairs when he made his way up to her.

“Good morning, dove. Are you the one they call Ava?” he said.

“I am. And you are?” Ava asked, peering in the mans’ puppy dog eyes.

“My name is Yutu. I was sent here by my lord and master; the King of Coyote to meet with your father,” he told her.

“Shall I call him for you?” she asked.

“If it pleases you. If not, I shall simply knock on the door,” the coyote boy told her.

Ava lifted herself from her perch and said, “Follow me, Yutu,” leading him up the stairs. He hesitated to cross the threshold and she turned to him, confused.

“We do not tread where we aren’t invited. It’s the law of the Great Mother,” he told her.

“You are welcome in my palace, coyote. Please come in,” Ava smiled, “Wait in the grand hall. I’ll fetch the King.”

She found the King bouncing young Culver on his knee. She hesitated to interrupt such a lovely moment but the Queen say her lurking and asked, “What is it, girl?”

“Father, there’s a coyote boy here to see you. I’ve put him in the grand hall,” she advised.

“Ava! You don’t bring strangers in to the palace!” the King scolded as he handed the baby off to his wife.

“He’s harmless, I’m sure and very polite,” Ava argued.

“We thought our own people were harmless once and what did we get? We lost a royal family save for you!” the King reminded her.

“I’m sorry, father but he’s waiting,” she replied, dropping her head.

Ava resumed her perch on the palace stairs and waited for Yutu to deliver his message. She rarely saw anyone outside the Faction of Dove and wished to look at him again. He was so different from her people with their light hair and multicolored eyes. They were tall and graceful and he was slight and wild. She imagined that he was fast on his feet. Clearly he was built to remain low to the ground and fleet of flight. His exotic looks both pleased and intrigued her.

It wasn’t long before the King and the coyote exited the palace and Ava stood up and straightened her dress as they passed her by. She watched as the King shook the boys hand and offered him a bag of food for his journey home.

She thought the boy would leave without giving her a chance to gaze at his face again but he pivoted in her direction and tipped his head to her.

“It was a great pleasure to meet you, young dove,” he said, ‘I hope to have the pleasure again.”

The King ascended the stairs but stopped beside the girl placing his hand in her shoulder. He dropped his head and she saw that familiar sorrow in his eyes.

“What’s wrong father? What did the coyote say?” she asked.

The King smiled at her and said, “You’re a lady now, Ava. You’re not my little dove anymore.”

Her cheeks flushed at the notion that her Father had sensed her attraction to Yutu but that wasn’t why he was saddened. He’d been propositioned by the King of Coyote. A pact in exchange for his beautiful, young dove.

The King assembled the council in the grand hall. Sephora handed the baby off to Calla and took her seat beside her husbands’ throne.

“I’ve called this assembly to discuss a proposition that I’ve received from the King of Coyote. He’s calling it a reunion pact.” The king said.

“Reunion? We were never united. How could we reunite?” Colm asked.

“The King of Coyote sent his only son Yutu to discuss this pact. As you know, the people of the Coyote are limited in their resources and constantly thwarting off the advances of the Crow who carries away their food stores at every turn. To increase their bounty, they’d like to reach out to the land factions across the sea to form a bond in trade but the Faction of Shark prevents them from crossing the waters. They’ve asked that we fly our spirit animals above the ocean to deliver their proposal to the Faction of Wolf,” the King told them.

“And what do we get in return? Besides the scorn of the Great Mother who divided us for good reason?” Colm asked.

“We get protection from the Coyote so that we may venture in to the forest to forage and a sealed pact in the event that a war with the Crow becomes imminent. You and I both know that the Crow has been encroaching on our lands and it won’t be long before they make a move on our food stores as well,” the King replied.

“But what of the Great Mother? Do we defy our Goddess to please the Coyote and stave off the Crow?” Colm asked.

“The Great Mother divided us to prevent war. I should think that she would be pleased to learn that we were once again the messengers of peace!” the King replied.

“It sounds as if you’ve already made up your mind, my lord. So, tell us, how do we seal this reunion pact?” Colm asked.

“The King sent his boy as the messenger so that he could gaze upon my daughter. We seal the deal by offering Avas’ hand to the Prince of Coyote thereby connecting our factions through the blood of their heir,” he replied, feeling the Queens’ stare burn in to the nape of his neck.

When the council dispersed, the King turned to the Queen. “Speak before you burst, woman,” he told her.

“Ava? You’d send the child off to live with a pack of wild animals?” she said.

“They’re not animals and she’s not a child. You should have seen the way she looked at the coyote boy! It reminded me of your wanting eyes the first time we met!” he smiled.

“But, Jonah! She’s not just our child! She was the child of Callum and Dernin. Do you think they’d be willing to marry her off to the Coyote?” Sephora asked.

“I believe they’d want their child to have an opportunity to rule. She lost that when the Great Mother fixed your womb and gave us our son! What happens to her if she stays with us? We die, Culver becomes King and Callum and Dernins’ bloodline is no longer regal. We need this pact and we need to let her go. It’s for her own good,” the King replied.