In the dead of night we come upon the castle. We are an army. An army of the forgotten. An army of the usurped, the persecuted and betrayed. We have brooked long lockdowns and isolation, to the point where we almost became locked down at heart. But always within the heart there is a spark, from which can be lit a great and raging fire. Even with such fire, we light our arrows, dipped in blackest pitch – darts of death which flame in arcs across the starlit sky...
It was painful to me to set fire to my childhood home, Caer Nonpareil, now tainted as Caer Pathogen under Koronin’s tyrannical rule. But I was complicit in this arson. I fired the first arrow. This way we drove them out: out of their beds and onto the battlements, where we sent more flaming arrows. And as they fought to contain the flames, the rebel army climbed the walls, before Koronin could dream up any black magic to combat them.
I was to wait outside until the heavy oak portcullis was opened by the rebels who now stormed the courtyard. It did not take them long, nor did they suffer many casualties, though they inflicted much hurt upon the enemy. They were under strict instructions from me only to fight and kill Koronin’s soldiers. All household staff were under my protection, and instructed to take shelter by the rebel warriors.
As I entered my rightful home for the first time since it had been usurped by the evil wizard Koronin, I knew that the attack was not yet over. They would never take the wizard alive, and he had retreated to the high tower where he kept his books of magic. For sure he planned to escape, and cause as much harm as he could in so doing.
With a rebel escort, I climbed the spiral stairs, carrying a blazing torch, and unafraid. Sir Nicholas and Hobbs broke down the door to Koronin’s inner sanctum, entreating me to let them enter, but I would not hear of it.
‘This will not be a physical fight,’ I assured them, ‘but a battle of wit and willpower. This final battle I must face alone.’
I found him in the library, within the attic of the tower. This was my childhood refuge; many a kingdom of imagination I had explored here. Here was the world of the Word, and I knew its power. His words were all conjuring magic and deceit, no match at all for a True Queen.
He wore long robes of deepest purple, and when he turned to face me the face was worn, wan and sallow, like a melted-down candle. His eyes were black and hollow as hell. It was the first time we had met face to face.
‘So,’ he addressed me, ‘the Queen is come, and would reclaim her rightful home.’
‘Not would, but will,’ I corrected him, ‘and my title is Majesty.’
‘Well, Majesty,’ he continued in a mocking tone, ‘have at it:’
And so he conjured up a throne, bedecked in gold and jewels, right there in the centre of the library. Of course it was an illusion, and dangerous to approach. I did not move one inch. The throne burst into flame, which rose high to the roof, threatening to engulf my world of words. I stood firm.
‘You cannot hold me with your spell of fear,’ I told him. ‘I care nothing for your conjurings and pyrotechnics.’
And I watched as the flames burned a hole through the roof, through which entered a deluge, as if out of nowhere. We had not seen a cloud in the sky that night. The flames once put out, immediately the rain stopped. Though I was glad to be regaining my ancestral home, I sighed to think of the extensive repair works which must follow.
Koronin stood soggily opposite the ashes of his conjured fire. He tried to look intimidating, but had all the intimidating qualities of a wet dog.
I took my adamantine blade from deep within my cloak and I approached him. His magic spent, he climbed a ladder to the rooftop rafters and he jumped. Perhaps his evil spirit left his body and flew into the night to cause more mayhem in a far off land, but his mortal remains were soon discovered in (and swiftly removed from) the inner courtyard. And just so simply it was over. The only weapon that the Wizard ever had was fear.
For their service to Lockdownia, I appoint Sir Nicholas Duke of Quarantinia, and Hobbs becomes Sir Hobbs of the Stone Castle. It is a little dilapidated, I grant you, but it will make a fine seat for a nobleman once the repair works are completed, as will Caer Nonpareil, once it has been restored to its former glory. Sir Nicholas will oversee the works, as I must now make haste to my family in the Southlands to spread the happy news that Koronin has been defeated, and rejoice in the spring of nothing left to fear.
To you, my friends on the far side of the crystal screen, I offer my most grateful and respectful thanks. You have come with me on my journey, out of the depths of winter into the sunlight of the spirit. You have helped to remind me that love is true plenty, and fear has no power over the courageous heart. Though I have faced mortal danger and endured hardships beyond number, it is thanks to you that I have never had to face them alone. Perhaps one day I will be able to visit you in your mythical kingdom. Any time you wish to visit mine, just close your eyes and journey through the portal of imagination.
I remain as ever,
Your Queen in another lifetime,
from the near side of the crystal screen.
I hope you enjoyed this series. Read the full story in the Chronicles of Lockdownia archives.