A Question of Love
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by Carolyn Ann Aish
Category: Historical Fiction/Spiritual/Religion
Description: The princess is determined to discover the name of the man in the tower. She climbs up the ivy into the tower to find out who he is, but does not realize this folly could cost her life. How could one rose make a difference to the question of love?
eBook Publisher: Writers Exchange E-Publishing, 2011
eBookwise Release Date: August 2011
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [152 KB]
Reading time: 92-128 min.
THE FIRST CHRONICLE
Autumn gazed out the window of the carriage, watching as the endless stretches of forest scrolled past. She should've been filled with great joy and excitement, for she was going to meet her fiancee, but instead, that joy was masked by a shadow of concern, solemnity, and deep pensiveness.
The tall trees of the Mira wood flashed past, and yet she did not really see them. Her gaze, like her mind, wandered afar. So much had changed in the past few years, and most of it not for the better ...
Autumn was the princess of Iridescence, the central and most important city of the vast island kingdom of Loz. Her father was born a Scintillate, her mother a Mira. Her mother had died when she was very young, however, and Autumn remembered little of her besides the crystal green eye color they shared. She was often told, too, that she bore her mother's gentle and patient spirit.
Her father remarried a couple years after her mother's death to a Scintillate woman whom he adored. Yet from the moment they met, Autumn sensed a coldness about her. If only her father saw through her web of lies as well. She soon revealed herself as a deceitful, conniving, hard-hearted woman. She believed that Scintillates were superior to Mira and looked down upon Autumn with hatred and contempt.
The king soon died of a heart attack, and many said the queen drove him to his death because of the misery she caused him. Yet before he died, he had the joy of seeing his wife bear him another daughter whom the queen named Summer, again denoting the inferiority of the Mira. "After all," said the queen, "Summer always comes before Autumn."
"Thus it was. The king died, and the new queen treated Autumn cruelly and unjustly. It didn't matter that with her golden hair and fair complexion Autumn could've easily passed as a Scintillate. For in the eyes of the queen, her blood was still poisoned."
Rather, it was the queen's heart that was poisoned, and the poison spread. The queen persecuted the Mira, imprisoning them for offenses they did not commit, until those who yet lived in Iridescence fled to the Mira Vale for refuge. So she completed the first chapter of her life's ambition--to purge Iridescence of all Mira, except, of course, for Autumn, the true heir to the throne. Still, Autumn knew the queen would eventually find a way to get rid of her so that Summer would become queen instead and pass down the tradition of Scintillate purity to all generations to come.
The queen died shortly after, presumably also of a heart attack, or so the healers laid claim. However, much talk ran afoot of the queen being poisoned; any number of Mira harshly dealt with could have proved the culprit. At any rate, the crime was never proven, and Autumn became the ruler over Iridescence.
She was not old enough when her father died to marry and become queen, but she was old enough now. She looked forward to this wedding more than anything in the world. It was the sole shred of light which eased her troubled heart. Not only would she gain a wonderful husband, but Iridescence would gain a new king and, with him, the chance to start anew. For it was both law and tradition for Scintillates that the eldest daughter become queen even if she married to someone from another kingdom. Andy would come to rule with Autumn in the Scintillate palace once they married, while Andy's brother would rule the Mira Vale in his stead.
However, even her joy of this upcoming reunion was shadowed by her sister's hate. Beyond the fact that marrying Andy would bring even more tainted blood into the family, Summer also despised Autumn for what she considered "stealing" her mother's throne.
Autumn sighed. Then, for a moment, she closed her eyes, envisioning and feeling nothing in all the world but him...
He was the ray of hope which Autumn's carriage rode towards. After meeting him only once, she knew he was the one Amiel chose for her. He too wanted to reestablish peace between their peoples. He too bore a gentle, patient spirit which she quickly fell in love with.
Yet as the great wooden wall surrounding the Mira Vale stood before them, as the grand double doors swung open wide, the shadow remained transfixed within her eyes. Her sister's last, hissing words echoed within her mind, "If you marry him, so help me, I will bring such a misery upon you that you will wish for death..."
The carriage passed through the gates, and once again she stared with admiration at the Mira city. The Mira dwelled within the tallest, widest trees in the world, trees that the Mira hollowed out to create rooms within. The trees revealed intricate carvings on the outside for decorations, and bridges were built to connect the trees' upper levels to each other, creating easier passage between peoples' homes and shops.
As the carriage rolled past the houses, she saw and felt the eyes of the Mira boring into her. They were eyes of skepticism, of distrust. Since the wicked queen's rule, it became a common saying among them: "Never trust a Scintillate."
"You can never trust a Scintillate!" yelled Prince Edward, banging his fist on the council table.
"She's not a Scintillate!" Andy snapped back in agitation, his patience waning both with his brother and the rest of the council. "Her mother was a Mira--she's one of us!"
"She looks like them," retorted Jasper sharply, "and she was raised by them, too."
"Does it matter? Does any of this matter? She's not like them, and they're not like Queen Priscilla was. You have no right to judge an entire people based on the actions of one woman's faults--"
"All we know," interrupted Edward hotly, "is that when the Scintillates betrayed us, they forever broke your father's trust--"
"All I know," shouted Andy, for his council had just snapped the last fragile straw of his patience, "is that their queen betrayed us, not the entire Scintillate people, and all I know is that this is the woman Amiel wants me to marry, my father would've approved, and this council meeting is over!"
The council stared, stunned, at their king. Never did he yell at them, nor dismiss them without heeding their counsel. They promptly and silently filed out. Edward paused to gaze Andy in the eye; Andy's eyes flared hotly, flashing serious warning at his brother. Edward departed, and Andy hurried from the council chamber, trying to calm himself down by the thought that he would soon meet Autumn.
Autumn stepped from the carriage and smiled. Andy stood at the top of the wide steps leading up to the three impossibly massive, ornately-carved trees that formed the Mira Palace. He stood so tall, handsome, with that sincere smile and those gentle, blue eyes that, at the moment, seemed bluer than she'd ever seen them.
He descended the steps to meet her and kiss her hand. She smiled and blushed as he said, eyes sparkling playfully, "Lady Autumn, would you care to accompany me on a walk in the woods?"
Her eyes glistened a bright green as she replied, "Yes, kind sir. I'd be honored."
He took her hand, and together they made their way through the city then out through the gate and into the woods. It was such a beautiful spring morning. Both the tree limbs above and the ground below were littered with bright, pink blossoms that felt soft beneath her feet. Autumn often walked barefoot, especially when visiting the wood, and especially in springtime.
After talking casually, Andy approached the subject Autumn waited both anxiously, yet reluctantly, for him to bring up.
"So, I told the council of our marriage plans today," he said.
"Yes...?" she prompted him after he was silent a little while.
"They do not approve--especially my brother, Edward."
He did not speak further. Autumn remained silent until she could stand it no longer. "And what did you tell them?"
"I told them--" he held out his hand and let one of the blossoms flutter down into his palm. Then he gently placed it within her golden hair, "--that you are the one Amiel wants me to marry."
Autumn smiled as he continued. "I truly believe Amiel wants us to be together, and nothing should stop that. I love you, Autumn," he added tenderly.
"I love you, too," she said softly, and they continued their walk through the woods.
Autumn gazed out her window at the setting sun. She stood in the Mira palace where she would be staying as she and Andy made the remainder of their wedding plans and then married.
Wedding plans were not the only thing pressing at her mind though. She thought of her sister, sighing. Would Summer ever see the light? Would she ever accept hers and Andy's marriage? Would she ever see the Mira as equals with the Scintillates? Would their peoples ever be at peace with each other again?
She prayed about all these things, prayed deeply and sincerely from her heart. And then she thanked Amiel for giving Andy courage to stand up to his people, to stand up for Amiel's will and his love for her and not to give into the pressure and contentions that surely surrounded him. She asked that Amiel might continue to grant her courage as well, courage to stand up to her sister.
Sitting down at the desk, pen in hand, she began to write:
"I am writing to ask you one last time if you would like to attend my wedding..."