The True Queen

A solitary bird called out as the sun was setting. Reds, pinks, purples, oranges, and golds stained the sky as it faded into the evening sky. Lonely, lazy clouds drifted across the horizon in darker hues of the coming night. From within stones walls, Zachary looked out at the cloud-shadows covering the lands as far as he could see. She could see him from the shadows in the room. Of course he couldn't see her. She watched the man sigh and release the curtains from his grasp, causing them to whisper as they fell back into place over the window.

Barely making any sound, he turned from the now-covered window and walked to his bed, sinking into the welcoming sheets as he sat down. He ran his fingers through his hair with a frown on his face. The brunette wanted to reach out and brush the frown away, to bring back his smile, but it was impossible. Her choice had been set in stone before she had been born, no matter what path she could have taken.

The shadow-girl watched for a moment as the king before her silently grieved. For what, she would never know. He was now well-on in years, close to being fifty, and had been happily married before the queen had died. Perhaps he was mourning the dead queen still, seeing as how he had never taken a bride. Her ghostly hair fell about her as she shook those thoughts away. It did not matter anymore, for she could do nothing to comfort him. With a hint of a smile, she faded away, a whisper of his name escaping her lips.

Zachary lifted his greying head, swearing he had heard her voice whispering his name. He scoffed at himself and lay down on the bed, telling himself it was his imagination. The king closed his eyes. As he slept, dreams of a brown-haired Rider with a penchant for trouble danced within his mind.

From outside the window, Westrion watched the sleeping man, the man who still loved the Avatar-Rider Karigan. The death god knew that his Avatar still loved the king, though she would not admit it, no matter how many times she would visit the mortal man. For a brief moment, the god felt a twinge of guilt for taking the girl from this man but knew that there could have been no other way to save the kingdom.

Back in the tombs, Westrion had spoken through Agemon to the girl and told her that she was claimed by the dead, that she was dead already though she walked the earth still. Even in the in-between world, he had spoken to her, reminding her of her not-then-fulfilled destiny.

Storm grey eyes stood out like midnight stars as he lowered his ghastly lance to touch the king's brow. The faintest wisp of smoke slip from the pointed tip and into the man before the death god melted into the night. On the bed, the king drew a shaky breath and a spectral white cat that would haunt the tombs stood as a sentry by the bed, having seen the actions taken by the god.

Days later, Zachary II ascended the throne and then buried his father in the waiting sarcophagus below. As he stood within the tombs, he looked at the two smaller sarcophagi, one filled and one empty. He had never understood why two had been made. It had been his father's secret that he took with I him in death. The new king heard shuffling and turned to the door to see a hunched over figure, Agrimon the son of Agemon.

"Who was this for?" Zachary II ran his hands over the ornate lid, more ornate than his mother's.

"It was the True Queen's." he rasped out. Reverently, he polished away the dust that had collected on it. "Your father loved her."

"There was a queen before my mother?"

The caretaker shook his head. "Yes and no, milord. She was supposed to be the queen but she never returned to accept your father's hand."

"Did she run away because she did not love him? Was it an arranged marriage?"

"Far from it. She was touched by the god Westrion and fought valiantly for the kingdom as a Green Rider. We here below knew she would be our queen even if she never married King Zachary. However, she did not return form the final battle against the Blackveil." The caretaker lifted his smokey grey eyes to the man's brown orbs. "She faded into the world of spirits as Westrion's Avatar, where she was destined to be. She had been claimed by him when she was born, for she could see spirits and unnatural shadows even without the Rider brooch. My people were not surprised when the Birdman had taken her to be his servant forevermore. Your father was devastated. She had vanished right in front of him, horse and all. He had seen the god Westrion claim her with his spear." He dropped his eyes back to the empty sarcophagus. "This was supposed to be Rider-Avatar Karigan's final resting place, where she belonged. Now, your father is with her in spirit."

The young man looked down at the caretaker and then back at the sarcophagus. The lid was halfway open, waiting for a body that would never return to the land of the living. Agrimon's feet shuffled away and left him standing there alone.

The torch's light flickered and for a moment, he saw the face of a young woman with long brown hair dressed as a Rider lying within it. Then it vanished but in that moment, he knew. She had returned to the tombs and was lying in her resting place; though he was, perhaps, the only one to ever have the chance to see her in such away. He paid his respects to the dead and began to leave. But at the doorway, he felt compelled to turn back. There, by his father's final bed was the young woman he had seen standing next to a younger version of his father, and behind them was the birdman Westrion. He bowed as they faded away and the new king could've sworn he heard his father say that he was proud as the woman claimed the two kings looked almost alike.

The young man treasured that image in his heart and told the story to his brothers and sister, and then to his own children in later years. In his heart, he hoped that he would be able to meet the True Queen once his time to pass into the wings of Westion had come.