She awoke to the birds singing in the nearby trees. “The sweetest way to wake up.”, she thought as she turned to her left to see the daylight streaming through the window. She lay for a moment longer on a luxurious bed covered in white linens. Her room was spotted with decorations of all kinds. Gold. Silver. Brass. And even some expertly crafted wooden animals as tribute. There were even not so expertly crafted items amongst them, but she gave them a chance at on the wall because she believed in the thought behind them. One was of her fallen husband, the king, holding a sword high in the air ready to lead a charge.
She smiled to herself thinking of the life she led, and how even her husband and king was no longer with her, that she never felt truly alone, for her people loved her. Both her and her husband didn’t become leaders of their people through royalty, but by being chosen by their people. They were instrumental in the organisation of their armies and making decisions that eventually lead to their people being saved, rather then a violent and brutal death. And for that, the people were extremely thankful to them.
The queen decided to get up and walked over to the window to the right of her bed. A breathtaking scene of the morning sun, shining rays through forested trees standing tall. Just ahead of the bedroom window was a small fountain in a clearing of grass made of stone. Children were playing in and out of the fountain, smiling and laughing.
Life was as perfect as it could be within the walls. They had come a long way from the village they once created and settled upon. They were now a thriving city where people from all over would come to trade and to see the lands for every bit of it was meticulously carved and taken care of. That is how much the citizens of this great city loved their home. If heaven were a city, this would be it. The large stone walls were carved out of the surrounding mountains in perfect shapes with sharp corners. Large crafted crystal stones decorated the entire place in spectacular design giving off light it had collected from the sun during the day, to allow the city to glow at night.
But every city wasn’t without its share of misfits. For a city who’s main export was the very same crystal stone that helped create it, there were plenty of people who would take as much as they could without paying the city for it. And since that is what made the city what it is, the punishment for stealing such a thing was severe.
However the queen was fair and would listen to the entire story the alleged thief had to tell. You see you don’t get chosen to become queen by your people, by not being smart. And smart she most definitely was. There was a particular thief who had offended repeatedly. Constantly making up stories to get everyone to feel sad and sorry for them, allowing them to be freed without punishment due to perceived circumstances they couldn’t control and losing the will for a proper life. But with a queen who raised a city was not a fool and would soon catch on.
The queen would soon have to make one of the toughest decisions she had ever had to make, for she loved her people dearly, and while this particular man or any other for that matter, was a thief, they were still a part of this city’s family. The problem with taking advantage of your own people once to often? Someone would catch on. And the offender would pay the highest price.
A large crowd was gathered around the outdoor Throne Hall. The queen sat in her throne completely still, not a single muscle in her face betraying her inner sorrow of having to do what she was about to do. The people weren’t barbaric and chanting horrible nonsense. No, they stayed quiet and waited for the command of their queen. They knew what was about to happen was something that had not happened for a very long time and that the crime must have been very severe.
There was a clear path between the crowd, straight ahead to the throne. The thief was handled by two guards and brought before the queen. The thief made no attempt to escape, and made no comments about innocence or therefore of hatred. In fact the thief was extremely smug, believing himself a master storyteller of sorrow that would win over the hearts of everyone. But his heart began to pound faster and faster upon realising the look on the faces of the crowd. This time things were different.
He finally locked a gaze with the queen. He stood up ever so slowly but firmly without falter or seeming weakness.
“You are hereby banished from this city. You were caught stealing our precious stones, which would have been forgivable had you not been selling them to our enemies.”. She paused while the hushed gasps travelled through the crowd. Everyone knew what he had done, but no one would even begin to think of this. Who would do such a thing after having lived in one of the most perfect cities that ever was?
“I sent an agent to follow up on what you did with what you stole, and they tracked our stones to the stronghold of our enemies. The same enemies who took our lands and banished us, left us to die until we discovered this place and called it out own. Our home. They came for us, and we fought to protect ourselves and our beloved city. This is unforgivable.” She slowly turned and walked away from the throne to withdraw to herself. She could only hold a neutral face for so long.
She wept all night for banishing one of her own. But while it wasn’t harmful to sell the stones to the enemies, it was the interaction with a people who would sooner seek to destroy them and take their stones as plunder after having taken the land they wanted so much. The people who wouldn’t give a second thought about ending all their lives for personal gain.
The thief woke up and found himself laying in the dirt just outside the city gates. There was no way of climbing back in, or digging under, or bribing a guard. The integrity of an entire people is what kept that city alive and flourishing all this time. For they knew the value of respecting one another. The thief was angry at this point, fuming with rage. Madness had taken over, knowing full well that he was at the mercy of his own mistakes. But none of that mattered. The queen would pay.
The thief began to walk out towards the plains. Not knowing what he was going to do next, he never seemed to stop walking. He was given enough food and water for a few days. What ever would happen to him next was up to him. 3 days passed and after following the dirt road that seeming lead to nowhere, he decided to make shelter by a small hill and trees near the road. He would hunt and attempt to keep himself warm and alive for as long as he could.
During the night, when the fire he created had begin to die down and the night became still, a rumbling sound awoke the thief. He ignored it at first, but when it got louder, he got up to inspect what could be making the noise. It was coming from above him, from the night sky. He looks up to see what could have been the most beautiful scene of orange fire, if it had not seemed like it was coming right for him. Luckily, the ball of flames overshoots where he stood and hits the ground in a plum of fire, smoke and dirt. It was close enough that he could feel the heat, but far enough away to be safe.
The thief waited a while and let all the small fires die down. He walked over to the newly formed crater to see what had crashed with such violence. At first it didn’t seem like much, but upon getting closer, he saw the steaming hunk of rock sitting in the crater glimmer under the moonlight. The material was shiny, like a mirror. It had also managed to break on impact. There was a liquid that was leaking out from the rock, though not nearly enough light to see what it was. After being satisfied that there was nothing else to worry about, he walked back to his shelter and waited for day break to investigate further.
Morning had come, and he was quickly awake so as to get back to finding out what had made him believe he was going to die. He made his was back to the crater, and upon looking down into it he was instantly blinding a bit by the reflection of the sun on the reflective rock. He covered his eyes and walked around the rock until there was barely a reflection to skew his vision. What he found next amazed him. The liquid that was leaking out of the rock looked like pure silver. It was as if a mirror had turned to water and just sat there in a pool of itself. The thief was taken back a bit by how something so fiery and violent could hit the ground nearly destroying itself, could end up so beautiful to see. He had never seen anything like it, which was odd considering he came from a city that built its foundations over crystals that would retain enough energy to give off light.
He was afraid to touch it or do anything with it. So he kept his distance and studied this new substance for the next few days. He brought plant life to the liquid material to see what would happen to it. He watched animals go near it and birds even land in it. The liquid was thick but still flowing.
A few days later he began to notice the plant life looking sickly. The same went for the animals. The birds themselves didn’t survive the initial encounter, for the liquid was too thick and heavy, leaving them with no ability to fly again. Eventually other quicker animals caught them to make their meals, and even those animals were looking more sickly then they had ever been. Moving slowly as if gravity itself was becoming too heavy, the animals eventually stopped moving because it cost too much energy. They laid down to rest for the last time.
The thief was still furious at what had happened to him and the madness began to take a toll on him. Even though he had manage to take a break from being in rage due to the falling star, everything came flooding back. The liquid. The animals’ death. It began to give him an idea that took hold and he ran with it. He rummaged through his belongings to find something suitable that he could gift to the queen as an apology. Since he was somewhat of a decent storyteller, he had the perfect collection of words to ensure the queen would accept.
He found himself a locket that would be made of stone and glass. It was designed to hold something within it, as a keepsake of sorts. He carefully managed to get some of the liquid inside the small glass encasing, not too much bigger then his own thumb, and closed the top part off with the stone that was originally there. It created a perfect seal, and he wrapped it all around with the leather straps to keep it secure. Now you could see through the front and back of the glass, and the locket had once again take shape of a small rectangular container holding a circular glass piece in the middle.
After hunting enough food, carefully inspecting each kill so as not to accidentally ingest his newly discovered poison, he set out on his journey back to the gates of the city. Upon arrival he took of his pack and his shirt and laid himself bare before the guard so as to resemble humility. The amulet was in his hands displayed forward above his head as he knelt and began speaking, “Please, take this gift for the queen. Tell her that I do not expect anything in return. It is but my most humble of apologies for the wrong that I’ve done and the harm that I have caused. I love my city and I would like nothing more then for it to be known that I regret what I have done. And while I will never return, that I will take what this city has taught me and spread it far and wide.”.
The guards were surprised at the new found behaviour and decided to take the gift to the queen. For the queen would decide what would happen in any case. Whatever would happen, the thief would never return and the gift would take up residence amongst the collection of the queen.
She was feeling much better now, after having lost one of her own people not to death, which would have been more bearable for her, but due to a decision that she had made. A decision that would haunt her for a while to come. So it was understandable that she would have become quite intrigued by her gift of apology. She knew she could never allow him to return, but it made her happy that he would even try to become a better person, to acknowledge the wrong that wasn’t just against her, the queen, but against the entire city. Having heard the message accompanying the gift, she began to feel better and a warmth travelled through her body. If anyone was paying any attention to the crystals of light at the time, they would have noticed the crystals surge just a tiny bit brighter so as to flicker like a candlelight. But it was a hard thing to notice during the day.
She had no reason to be suspicious, as the guards would have checked the locket thoroughly before sending it to the queen. So she put it on, as a reminder of both what she had done, and what it had resulted in. In her mind, it had changed a callous heart into something that wanted to be better. She was looking for the better in a human being, and had found it. It was one of the first times the queen would wear her gift everyday and not remove it for any reason ever. This is how much she loved her people, not that those other gifts didn’t mean anything to her, but this particular gift was the symbol of change. A symbol of hope even for those seemingly lost.
What she did not know was the small crack that was forcefully created at the top of the amulet. So while she wore it around her neck, the black stone with silver liquid suspended in glass would compliment her attire as queen matching the colours of the banner and the city itself, the poison held in place by gravity.
The love of the queen was known to the entire city. Which is why the thief knew that what he had done, especially in the way he had done it, would result in the queen wearing it around her neck at all times. Her love of her people would be her own undoing. So when she would sleep at night, the locket would become tipped over. However because the fracture was such a small one, combined with the fact that the silver liquid was so thicker then water or even oil, it would take a while to seep through the crack. And so hours passed while she slept, and the liquid began to leak little by little and seeped into the queens skin. There wouldn’t be much of a trace at first. But by the third day she would discover a liquid silver stain on her gown to which she would dismiss as the pendant having been broken at some point. But it was also the 3rd day since the poison would have entered her system.
The colour had drained from her hair and her skin. She would come to look like a ghost in physical form. None of the doctors could explain why it was happening until one of the maids of the queen reported to the guard that the only thing to have changed with the queen was the new gift she would wear and how it had been broken and was leaking.
The queens heart had been broken like never before. That she would show nothing but love of her people, even during something as hard as exile, and this is how the most selfish of people would treat her. Would try to take her life for thinking of the greater good, of the city, rather then thinking only of herself. Through the coming days she wouldn’t have had enough energy to angry about it all. Not that she would want to, because she was too busy blaming herself for what had gone wrong. That if she had just given the thief another chance, he would have never become so evil. She was wrong of course, but the poison tends to do odd things to the mind.
The people began to notice, that even though they all knew she was dying, that the queen had lost herself, her inner being. She had pulled away from everyone, because she didn’t want to be seen dying. She didn’t want people to suffer through having to watch her slowly disappear. For the first time in a very long while, even though she might have been surrounded by more people then ever at once, doctors, family, children, she felt truly alone. No one would understand her pain. No one would understand the heartbreak. No one would understand the inner rage that was poised for violence towards the very end. The physical pain of the poison was tremendous for sure, but the queen was able to ignore it. What brought her down the most, was the betrayal of her love for her people, beginning from the very act of stealing.
There was a particular amulet that the queen always wore and never took off. It was the amulet that was first carved out of the precious stone before the city became a city, by her husband as a gift. It also emitted a glowing light and it would make her feel as though her husband and king were helping watch over her. During the end, the queen could do nothing but shed tears looking at this amulet. This happened so often that she didn’t realise she had allowed her tears to fall onto the amulet. Her tears were mixed heavily with the poison as it coursed through her veins. Such powerful emotion mixed with the silver liquid coming into contact with the amulet of light, something began to happen. Every stone that had ever come out of that city began to flicker. And not just a little flicker from a candle. Violent flicker of flames in the wind. As the queen breathed her last breath, the city went dark. Every stone that had ever emitted light, was just another crystal stone.
Her love of her people gave power to the stones. As long as she was alive, the stones would bear light and show the way. But without her love emanating into the world, the stones no longer had power.
The queen was adrift in the spirit world and began to realise what it was that was happening to her city, and her people who would now be in panic. And even then her love for her people had not been lost. And so in the spirit world before she drifted away to what would come next, she touched the amulet on her chest and spoke out, “I know you think you have no power without me, but please, continue to shine for those who would feel as lonely as I had come to feel towards the end. No one should ever have to feel that.”.
From the spirit world she would look to her own lifeless body and wait for a sign that the amulet of light had heard her wishes, at which point the amulet on her body would light up as bright as it had ever been, once, and flicked off for a very long while to come. And seeing that had given her a small amount of hope, with which she drifted off away from the physical world for good.
The people of the city began speculating on what was happening, and by now the news of the queens death had spread. The queens family knew that the city was over and now vulnerable and they had to act quickly before their enemies knew what was happening. The people of the city began to destroy every last trace of the stone from the city itself. Once the stones had been destroyed they were thrown back into the mine where they were dug and they would then collapse the mine itself as well as the tunnels to the entrance. It would then be covered up in soil and a garden would be set over it, giving the entire area the impression that there was never a mine there. Any invading force would be able to take the city without the queens leadership for sure, but they would never discover what made the city so special. Because it was never the stones in the first place, but the love that came with the first two people who found them.
The invasion had happened sooner then anyone expected. There was nothing anyone could do, except for hide the traces of where the stones came from, which was easy for everyone involved. They knew they had to protect the stones, because none of them knew what powered it in the first place. Some had begun to think that it was connected to the queen, but they never got to finish that thought, because the city was once more nothing, and the people had no choice but to exile themselves and find a new home. The city, and all who lived in it, where gone. All in all, her enemies had gained nothing.
The agent that had discovered the thief in the first instance stayed behind, and with him 3 others. They chose to stay behind to see what they could learn from the invading army. You see the invading army only wanted the land, they didn’t care about the people, but so many new faces ended up in the city, no one could tell the new citizens from the old, so the 4 agents of the queen blended right in. It wasn’t long before the agent in charge learned that the second-hand behind the invading leader, was of course, the thief. The only one who could know what was happening to get an invasion army ready so quickly.
What the thief had no idea of, was the higher power at play. Perhaps the same power that allowed the stones to shine. During the celebratory speeches, it came time for the thief to speak of triumph. But before he could utter a syllable, 4 arrows whistled through the air and pierce him in the neck at the same time. Both jugular and carotid arteries, along with the spine severed from the arrowheads meeting at once. You don’t become an agent of the queen without being highly trained and deadly. No a single person would see who fired the arrows, and where they were now. The agents regrouped and left the city once and for all. What no one would realise was that the arrows were fired from the four cardinal directions; north, south, east and west. To symbolise that there was no direction the thief could run in to hide.
Four millennia passes. Every stone that ever was, whether destroyed, sealed in the tunnels of the city, or sold to travellers as well as the enemy, had turned to dust. There was no longer a trace of the stones of light, save for one. The amulet the queen wore, the very first stone carved out from the earth of the city. Over the time, the necklace portion had been stripped, the etches of where the amulet was held place was smoothed out, but the amulet survived. But not in the likely of places. The amulet itself didn’t have any special symbols or carvings, it was just a small rectangular block. What was special about it in the first place was the fact that it was glowing as brightly as the love of the king for his queen, and love of the queen for her people.
The amulet of light had ended up in a bowl of other crystal rocks as a display piece, in an office. No one would understand how special one of the 327 little rectangular crystals would be. Or what it would do for a city. During the day, the office had plenty of people running around with busy work, unknown to the little crystals that were there. When the day was done, everyone would just leave, as the entire building was automated. No one would bother to turn the lights of, because came time for everyone to go home, the building would power itself down. For anyone needing to stay late, their keycards would activate only the lights they needed to work. So if anyone had stayed, only their office lights would remain on. It was almost as if the amulet was influencing its surroundings to remain hidden.
In this building, within the same very office, the light would never go out. When the building powered down, that office would remain lit all through the night. Not a single person thought twice about it, as they always assumed someone had stayed back to do some work. And since the building was big enough, there could always have been easily more then one person in the building. No one thought twice. No one asked any questions. After all you can’t ask questions about something that seemingly isn’t there, right?
But there were hearts in the city that would always see. And they would always wonder. The amulet would give off a bright light for all lonely hearts in the city, to remind that someone else was awake. Someone else was working away. And that those lonely hearts weren’t alone being awake in their sorrow. When the light of the amulet was gazed upon by a lonely heart, the heart would begin to be filled with warmth and a sense of belonging. For all hearts that weren’t lonely, they would just see an office building with some poor soul working into the night.
The love of the queen had no bounds and her wish beyond death had been fullfiled. The amulet of light would keep company to those that needed it most.
If you managed to make it to the end, I can’t thank you enough for reading. It is truly appreciated. I know I have a lot of work to do before my storytelling gets better.
Also I apologise for any mistakes and plot holes you might discover, as I was worried my editing nature would take over and this would never get published, so I hit that ‘publish’ button as fast as I could after the story was complete to ensure that my fear wouldn’t hold me back. I will definitely be re-reading this to change any mistakes I find. If you find any mistakes, please feel free to leave a comment below!