Queen Victoria the Enlightened
The tale of Queen Victoria begins on a calm spring afternoon. The rain had settled, and the sun came out to stay. King Arthur and Queen Charlotte of Barda were on their way back from a neighboring country, where they had settled a trade agreement. They were a very happy couple, as the queen was expecting her first-born child any day. What she didn’t know was that “any day” had come upon them.
The king rushed to the queen’s side, but there wasn’t a doctor among his men, and the closest village was miles away. The few fathers among the group hurried to the queen to help. The men thought they had it under control, but something went wrong. The queen started to panic, her breathing quickened and her face grew pale. The king was frightened, and out of sheer terror, started screaming for a doctor, for help, from anyone.
When he looked up, he saw someone on horseback approaching from inside the forest.
“Hello? Can you help my wife?” The king called, desperately.
“Your wife is beyond my care, but I can help the child she is going to lose,” he responded. When he emerged from the thick grove of trees, the king was shocked to find that he wasn’t speaking to a man on horseback. He was, in fact, speaking with the centaur of the forest.
“Thank you, sir,” The king choked out, bewildered at the creature that was standing before him.
The centaur knelt down and helped the queen give birth to her only heir, a girl. As the king said goodbye to his wife, the centaur took notice to his daughter. The problem was, that the baby girl wasn’t breathing. He took her into his arms and pushed a little extra bit of life back into her. The men anxiously waited for any sign of life, any movement.
Finally, the centaur held out the child to her father, and she burst into tears, full of life and energy. Relief washed over King Arthur as he held his baby girl for the very first time.
“Thank you, sir. Who should I send for in the future for help?” the king asked.
“Phillip. If you or your daughter ever need help, I will await for you in the forest,” Phillip responded.
18 years later
I awoke to the sound of my father’s voice. “Happy Birthday, sweetheart.”
I smiled. “Thank you, father. I’m excited about my queenship ceremony this morning.”
“Yes, yes, of course. All the arrangements have been made. It starts at ten. Don’t be late,” he joked.
But, I would never be late. The Queenship Ceremony occurs whenever a princess of Barda turns 18 years old. On her birthday, she receives her quest from her father that she is to complete in order to prove herself loyal to her country and her people. Only then does she take her place as the queen of Barda.
I sat up in bed and stretched as the door closed behind my father.
“Victoria, I have your gown done!” I heard a voice call from my bathroom.
“Well bring it in, Gwen,” I call back, laughing.
Gwen, my lady-in-waiting, and I have been together since I was young, and we’ve always been as thick as thieves.
She walks in and I gasp as I sprint out of bed.
“It’s beautiful!” I exclaim. It’s ruby red with long sleeves and gold detailing. “I love it.”
“I knew you would. The seamstress gave me lots of options, but I knew you’d pick this one,” she replied.
I pulled her into a hug. “Thank you. You’re the best!’
“I know. I can’t help being wonderful,” she replied. We both burst into laughter.
I decided to start washing up while Gwen got my dress ready. “Gwen, have you seen my hairbrush anywhere?”
“It’s on top of your dresser!” she called back.
I made my way to my dresser and spotted my hair brush. “Thank you!”
I started to brush out my long, dark hair and started to let my thoughts wander as Gwen came into the bathroom. “Hey, Gwen. How neat would it be if I could have a brush that brushed my hair all by itself?” I asked as I set the brush down. As soon as I let go of it, it started to move all by itself. It flew up in the air towards my head before I caught it.
“What just happened?” Gwen cried.
“I must’ve hit it or something,” I said. Weird things like this seemed to be happening more than they should’ve. “I wouldn’t worry about it. Besides, I need to get ready.”
After I finished getting ready, there was a knock on the door.
“M’lady? I’m here to escort you to the ceremony,” called a man from outside my door.
“Coming, Captain,” I called back. Captain Tristan McKinnon, captain of the guard is also my lifelong best friend. His father was the previous captain, and after he retired, my father appointed his son to be his successor. There wasn’t a day that went by that he wasn’t escorting me places or keeping me safe.
I opened the door and joined him outside. “Are you ready for the ceremony?”, I asked him as we started toward the courtyard.
“I think I’m the one who should be asking you that,” he responded with a chuckle.
“Well, you’ll be accompanying me on my quest, according to tradition. You should be just as, if not more, prepared than me. Who knows what we’ll have to endure?” I said.
“This is true. But today isn’t my day. It’s yours. Don’t forget to enjoy it,” he reminded me.
“Thank you, Tristan. I’ll keep that in mind,” I told him with a smile.
When we arrived at the royal courtyard, where all of the queenship ceremonies have been held, I could start to feel the nerves sink to the pit of my stomach, I took a deep breath, and saw my father who was already out on the stage in front of the people.
“Welcome, people of Barda to Princess Victoria’s official Queenship Ceremony!” my father bellowed to the mass of people. They cheered in reply. “I am delighted to present my daughter with her quest. If she completes her journey, she will return with the title of Queen of Barda. And here she is now: Princess Victoria!”
I took that as my cue and walked onstage. The crowd roared with applause as I waved to them.
“Let the ceremony begin!” my father said as the cheers died down.
I nodded and knelt before the king.
“The quest is simple. Venture into the Sherwood Cavern. There, you will complete several tasks. Only when you complete the tasks of the cavern and return to the castle will you earn your place as queen.
"Oh man. The only people who enter the cavern for any reason can expect a long and painful death. Nobody makes it out and lives to tell the tale. I looked up and caught Tristan’s eye. The look on his face told me he wasn’t looking forward to accompanying me on this quest.
“Do you, Princess Victoria Gaunt, accept this quest of queenship?” my father asked me ceremoniously.
“Yes, your highness,” I replied, straining against the wavering in my voice.
“Then it is settled. Let your journey begin!” he yelled as he held his hand out. I took it and pulled myself up and the crowd celebrated. I waved at them before running offstage towards Tristan. He pulled me into a hug, as he could see the shock on my face.
“What was your father thinking? He might as well hand you over to the executioners!” he said.
“Tristan, don’t worry. My father wouldn’t let me do anything I couldn’t handle. It’s going to be fine. And besides, you’ll be there to help me through whatever is in that cave,” I replied, reassuring myself more than him.
Tristan sighed and grinned at me. “You’re right. With me by your side, you’ll be the safest girl in the entire country.”
I laughed. “You’re head is too big for your own good.”
“I’m not denying that.”
The next day, after the arrangements had been made, I found myself at the capital’s border with Tristan, my father, and his men.
“You’ll do great sweetheart, I just know you will. You are the most capable young lady I’ve ever known,” my father told me as he gave me one last hug.
“Thank you, father. I’m going to make you proud,” I replied.
“Good luck, Victoria,” he said as he pulled away, and pointed in Tristan’s direction. “Be sure to look out for that one. He can be a bit of a handful.”
I laughed. “I will.”
Tristan walked over to my father and shook his hand. “I’ll be sure to keep her safe, your highness.”
“Thank you, Captain,” my father replied.
With that, we turned and started towards the cavern on foot.
“So, what kind of things do you think you’ll have to do in the cave, huh, Vic? Fight an ogre? Slay a dragon? Oh, maybe, you’ll have to do a puzzle! You hate puzzles!”
Tristan had been talking like this since we left the capital.
“For the last time, Tristan. I don’t know. Stop asking!” I replied with a laugh. “I really hope it’s not a puzzle, though,” I admitted under my breath.
“What’d you say?’
“Nothing,” I said quickly.
“Oh, maybe, you’ll have to uncover some secret talent or power or something that you didn’t even know you had. How cool would that be?” he asked.
“I’m pretty sure I don’t have some undiscovered talent, Tristan,” I decided. “If I had some special skill, I think I would’ve figured it out in the last eighteen years.”
“I don’t know. Stranger things have happened.”
We kept walking until we reached the edge of the forest.
“Here we are,” Tristan said. “From here, we have to cross a few miles of forest before we reach the mouth of the cave.”
“We’d better get going then, hadn’t we?” I looked over at him. He nodded his response. I smiled back at him, and we both took our first steps into the Sherwood Forest.
After a couple of miles of forest had been crossed, we decided to set up camp for the night. As I was out gathering firewood, I heard some footsteps off in the forest. I didn’t think much of them, as I figured it was just an animal. After a few minutes, I heard them again, only this time they were closer. I decided to go over and check it out. I walked for a minute or so when I heard my name being called.
“Victoria…” The voice whispered.
“Wh-who’s there?” I called back. I turned all the way around, but I couldn’t see through the darkness that was descending onto the forest floor.
“So it is you, then. You’ve grown so much since I saw you last. To be fair, you had just been born. I would hope you had-,” the man said before I cut him off.
“What do you want?” I insisted.
“To help you, of course,” he replied. When he stepped forward, I could see he wasn’t a man at all. I was looking at a centaur. “My name is Phillip. I’m the one who saved you when you were born.”
“You’re lying. My f-father told me his men saved me. I’ve never been told of a centaur,” I replied, trying to comprehend what he was telling me.
“Your father is doing what I asked, which was to not tell anyone about me and the other centaurs of the forest. If word got out of us and our magic, who knows what people would think?” he explained.
“You saved me with magic?” I pressed.
“Yes. Your mother, on the other hand, wasn’t as lucky. It was too late for her,” he told me. “She died before I could heal her. She got very sick right before she gave birth to you. We were lucky that she could even get you out of her before she died.”
I stood there for a moment and tried to soak it all in.
“Victoria, where are you?” Tristan was calling for me.
“Over here!” I yelled back.
I listened to his footsteps as he approached us.
“Goodness, Vic. Don’t wander off like that. You worried me…” he trailed off as he noticed Phillip. His military instincts took effect immediately as he drew his bow and arrow. “What are you doing here with the princess? We are here on official business.”
I was so startled I grabbed onto his arrow before I could think twice about it. “Tristan, it’s okay. Phillip knows my father,” I explained. But, before I could finish, the arrow seemed to force itself out of my hand. The only problem was that Tristan didn’t move the arrow. It just hopped out of my hand and onto the ground, where it started hopping away. I was so caught off guard that I stood like a stone as Phillip started chuckling.
“I was wondering if it would ever have any side effects,” he said as his chuckle turned into a full on laugh.
“I don’t understand what’s so funny!” I practically screamed at him. “That arrow might as well have sprouted legs the way it just moved around.”
“Victoria, when I save your life the day you were born, I knew it would have lasting effects on you. You were too little to have any resistance against the magic I was using. You must have soaked some of it up and stored it away until now,” he explained.
I didn’t think I quite understood. “So I’m the one who made that arrow come to life?’
“I didn’t see your friend magic it around. And I certainly didn’t,” he replied.
“But, I don’t know how to use it. Or control it, for that matter,” I explained.
“She’s right. If she can’t control her powers, then she can’t protect others from them, either,” Tristan added.
“Of course, of course. If you two would follow me to my shelter, I shall get you just what you need,” Phillip said and started off in the direction away from their camp.
“So you said that this ring will let me control my powers?” I asked Phillip again, just to reassure myself.
“That’s right. When you intend to bring something to life, just touch that object and think about what you want it to do. Your powers will take over and do what your mind tells it to do,” he told me.
“Thank you again, for everything. I don’t know where I’d be without your help,” I said. And it was true. I wouldn’t be alive without his help. “I should really be getting back to camp, though. We’ll want to rest up before heading to the cave tomorrow.”
“I completely understand. Good luck on your quest, Princess,” he responded.
“Here we are, Tristan,” I said as we approached the opening to the Sherwood Cavern.
“Are you ready, Vic?” he asked, looking from the mouth of the cave to me and back again.
“As ready as I’ll ever be.”
“Then let’s get started with this quest of yours.”
We took the first steps into the cave and were immediately swallowed into the darkness.
“Tristan, where are you? I can’t see where I’m going,” I called out, my hands outstretched to feel for anything in front of me.
“Here, let me light a match,” I hear him say. All of a sudden, the light coming from the match filled the room in which we were standing.
“No wonder it got so dark. The cave has closed up on us!” I said, taking in the massive cavern that surrounded us. “It looks like the only way out now is through.”
“Hey, Vic. Come check this out. I think I’ve found your first task.” Tristan had found a scroll that was rolled up on a podium in the middle of the cave. He spread it out across the surface of the platform and started to read. “It says, ‘To the Princess Whom It May Concern: The Sherwood Cavern is filled with three tasks that you must complete to earn your queenship. They have been designed to test your ability to rule. Each one represents a skill you will need during your reign. Only after completing all three will you earn the right to rule the country of Barda.’ That doesn’t seem so bad.”
“I have a feeling it’s not that easy,” I replied. “Anyway, I don’t see a way out of this room. Getting out of here must be the first task.”
“So, where should we start, then?” He asked as he picked up the scroll.
“We better keep this with us.”
As soon as he finished his sentence, the whole room started to shake. “What’s happening?” I yelled over the rumble.
“That podium must’ve been boobie trapped. And this whole place is going to fall down around us if we don’t find a way out. Start looking for an opening!” he hollered back.
I started peering around boulders when I had an idea. I pushed the small rocks out of the way with ease, but concentrated on the boulders, and had them move out of my way on their own. After about the fifth one that I moved, I spotted a medium-sized hole in the wall.
“Tristan! I found it! Let’s go!” We crawled through the opening as fast as we could away from the falling stones.
Once we were safe in the next room, we took a moment to breathe. “Glad we got out of that one. I can only imagine what this next task is going to be.”
“Why don’t you go find out. There’s another scroll waiting for you over there,” Tristan responded, pointing towards the next scroll.
I walked over to undo the bindings and read the note aloud.
“Congratulations on completing the first task. This next one will not be as easy. To move on to the final task, you must solve a riddle. Through the door in front of you, will be a room with two doors, and a man guarding each door. One door leads to certain death, and the other leads to the final task. One man always tells the truth, and one always lies. You may only ask one man one question, and once you open a door, you must enter it. And there is one last catch: You must complete this task alone.”
I went to look up at Tristan, but when I looked around, he was nowhere to be found.
“Tristan!” I called. “Where are you?” There was no answer.
I thought about going back to look for him, but something in my gut told me I wouldn’t find him unless I finished this task like the scroll said. So I grabbed the scroll, approached the door in front of me and stepped through it.
Sure enough, there were two men, each in front of a door, just like the scroll had said. I read through it again, to make sure I read all the rules. Then I thought about what question I needed to ask. I knew it needed to be something about which door to pick, but I didn’t know how to tell if the man would be telling me the truth or not. Then it hit me.
If I ask one man what the other would tell me if I asked which door led to the next task, I would always get the opposite door as the answer. The truth teller would tell me what the liar would say the next task is, so I would need to go through the other door. The liar would lie to me about what the truth teller would say, so again I would need to pick the opposite door. I picked out the man on the left.
“Hello, sir. I would like to ask you this question. What would the gentleman over there say if I asked him what door led to the next task?” I smiled at my solution.
“He would say to enter his door, m’lady.”
“Thank you, sir. I would like to enter your door then,” I told him, and he took a step aside.
I opened the door and stepped through into a pitch black hallway. I could just make out a light towards the end and decided that following it would be my best bet. As the light got brighter, I started to wonder about Tristan. Whatever happened to him?
I emerged into the room at the end of the hallway and immediately found out what had happened to him.
“Tristan!” I yelled, running over to where he was being held captive. He was strapped to the bottom of a guillotine, unconscious. I kneeled down next to his head, holding it in my hands. “Tristan, are you okay? Who did this to you?”
He grunted a little as he woke up. “Vic? What’s going on?”
“After we found the exit from the first room, I found another scroll. It told me my task, and at the very end said I would have to complete it alone. When I turned around to look for you, you were gone. I didn’t realize someone had kidnapped you. Who brought you here?”
“I-I’m not sure. I remember you picking up that scroll and then everything went dark. I’ve been out until just now,” he replied.
“We need help, and quickly. I can’t just leave you here, and I don’t want to hurt you untying the blade-” I was cut off by another voice.
“I can help you, but for a price.” I looked over to find the man from the last task standing in front of the hallway I used to get into the room. “I will release him on one condition.”
“You’re the one who took him! How could you?” I screamed at him. I was angry and distraught. I hated the man for taking him away, but I was so upset that I might end up losing my best friend.
“It was quite easy,” he responded. “All I had to do was distract you with a stupid little scroll, and whisk him away. You didn’t have a clue what had happened.”
“What do you want from us?” I asked, cutting to the point.
“Wow. The little princess isn’t afraid to cut straight to the point. If you must know, I only want two things from you. That ring on your finger, and for you to forfeit any rights you had to the throne to me. Then, and only then, will you get your little captain back.”
“You are a monster!” I yelled.
“Oh, and one more thing. You have until this sandbag runs out to decide,” he told me. He stabbed a bag of sand that was being suspended from the ceiling by a rope. The sand immediately started to stream out of the bag into a pile on the floor.
I didn’t think much of it until I looked up and noticed the blade of the guillotine starting to slip from its position.
The man let out an awful laugh. “Good luck,” was all he said before he disappeared back down the hall.
Tristan spoke up as soon as the man left the room. “Vic, listen to me. You don’t have to do this. I’m here to protect you and the crown, and I’m telling you that I don’t want you to save me.”
“But, Tristan-” I tried, but he cut me off.
“Victoria Gaunt, listen to me. Do not give him what he wants. If you hand over your right to the throne, you won’t be able to take your place as queen. You can’t give that up. Your people need you.”
“B-but I need you,” I mumbled.
“What was that, Vic?”
“I said I need you, Tristan!” I replied, my emotions overwhelming me. I looked up to find we had spent over half of our time arguing. “I can’t believe I have to tell you this, but I don’t think you understand. I love you, Tristan. I have since we were young. The only thing I’ve ever wanted to do was grow up, become queen, and marry you. And if right now I have to give up one of those things, it’s going to be becoming queen, because I can imagine life without royalty. I can’t imagine life without you, Tristan.” I could feel the tears streaking my face. I took a deep breath and wiped them away.
“Victoria, please, just listen to me-,” Tristan tried to argue with me, but I was done with his pleas. He wasn’t going to change my mind.
“I’ve made up my mind, Tristan.”
“That’s good to hear, princess,” The old man entered the room once again, that evil look still plastered onto his face, “because you’re almost out of time.”
I looked up to find that he was right. The sandbag was frighteningly close to the ceiling, and the blade was that same distance to Tristan’s neck. I started to worry that I wouldn’t have enough time to talk to the old man before the bag ran out, and an idea came out of nowhere. I walked over to the pile of sand on the ground and took it in my hands. I concentrated on it for a moment, and it started to flow back up into the bag, raising the blade of the guillotine. I sighed with relief and approached the old man.
“Take it,” I said, removing the ring from my finger. “Take this and my power, I don’t care. Just let him go.”
“Vic, don’t do this,” Tristan tried to stop me, but there was nothing he could do.
I crossed the room and gave the man my ring. He held it in his hand for a second before examining it more closely.
“Now please let my friend go,” I told the man.
“Very well, then,” he replied. With the snap of his fingers, the blade returned to the top of the guillotine and released Tristan. Then the man did something I never expected him to do. He took my hand and put my ring back on my finger.
“Congratulations, princess. You have completed the final task of your quest,” he said, a sincere grin plastered onto his face.
“I-I don’t understand,” I said, my thoughts racing through my head.
“The tasks were set up to test your readiness to be queen. The first tested your ability to act under pressure. The second tested your logical thinking skills. This last one was to find out how selfless you really are. The greatest rulers are the ones who are willing to give up their most prized possessions to save someone else. You really are ready to be the Queen of Barda.”
It took me a moment to let it all sink in.
“So, it’s over? The quest, I mean. There aren’t any more tasks I’ll have to complete?” I asked.
“No more tasks, m’lady. Just the journey back to the capital.”
There were so many emotions that had built up inside of me, they all just came out of me right there. Tears began streaming down my face, and uncontrollable sobs racked my body. Tristan had removed the rest of his restraints and rushed over to me. I threw myself at him, grateful for his understanding.
“Hey, Vic, it’s okay. You did it!” He said, trying to comfort me. “We can go home! We can go say hello to your father, have some celebratory cake, and then go to bed. How does that sound?”
I laughed at him in between sobs, a smile on my face. “I’m so exhausted.”
“The exit is just down this hallway,” the man told us, pointing to another opening I hadn’t noticed when I first entered the room. “Good luck, Miss Gaunt. You’re going to need it.”
“Thank you, sir,” was all I could manage in between deep breaths.
“Come on, Vic. Let’s go home,” Tristan said, and we started out of the cave.
We walked for what seemed like forever before we reached the edge of the Sherwood Forest.
“We’re almost there, Vic. Do you think you can make it? Or do you want to camp out here and wait until tomorrow morning?” Tristan asked me.
“I can make it,” I reassured him.
“Then we better get moving if we want to get back to the castle by sundown.”
“I just wanted you to know that I meant everything I said while you were in that guillotine. Every word,” I admitted as my face started to flush a rosey color.
He smiled at me as he leaned in closer, pulling me towards him by my waist. “And I just wanted you to know that I feel the exact same way.”
I smiled back at him, and before either of us could think twice, he leaned in and kissed me.
Victoria Gaunt and Tristan McKinnon made it back safely to the castle. After they both got a good night’s sleep, the king called another town meeting to announce Victoria’s completion of her queenship quest. He formally granted her place on the throne and gave her the queen’s crown.
After becoming queen, her majesty continued to learn about her strange ability to bring objects to life, and how to control it with Phillip’s help. She started using it to help her kingdom, and help around the castle.
And I know you’re wondering what happened to Tristan. After Victoria took her place on the throne, they started having a romantic relationship, and he proposed to her a year later, on a calm spring afternoon, just like the day it all began. They got married, and Tristan took his place beside his wife on the throne of Barda.
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