tagNonHumanQueen of Hawks

Queen of Hawks

byReGats©

"Your majesty, I must speak to you about your meeting today!" cried out the familiar sound of Sir Edcott from around the dividing screen. Queen Gwenverre didn't need to see him to imagine the look of consternation on the thin, mustachioed man's face.

"Sir Edcott, we are still being dressed," Queen Gwenverre said from her seat in front of the triple mirror. A young attendant dutifully combed through her hair with a shell comb, while another had opened Gwenverre's sizable closet open and was looking to her queen for guidance.

"That one, dear, the leaf-green one," Gwenverre directed. She, currently, was dressed in her thin nightgown. It was still the early morning, and she had yet to have breakfast, but she was eagerly anticipating this day.

"Anyways, Sir Edcott, must we remind you how rude and improper it is to barge in on a young woman being dressed? The shame!" Gwenverre chided as she gazed at herself in the mirror. She wanted to look her best, and she was a good deal there already. At 23 years of age, she was pale, tall and thin, her royal blood giving her a gentle chin and straight nose. Her hair was long, straight and brown as tree bark and her severe eyes as green as emeralds. Her breasts, hips, and buttocks were of modest size. She never considered herself less than beautiful, but much to her ire, there were golden-haired fools with thin waists who considered themselves more beautiful than her. She doubted they were good for much.

"Yes, I know I shouldn't barge in, but your guest!" Sir Edcott exclaimed. Gwenverre could imagine him wringing his hands as he faced away from the broad dividing wall that hide Gwenverre away from the rest of the word as she dressed.

"You shouldn't question, Sir Edcott. We live in an interesting world, and if we are to prosper, then we must form interesting alliances," Gwenverre commented. Her hair brushed and combed into a auburn river, she stood up. The attendants immediately untied the knot at her nightgown's neck, letting it fall to the floor. She stepped out of the pooled cloth into another ring-like pile of cloth. Her servants pulled it up to under her shoulders, then tied it from behind strategically down the back so that the fine white wool formed a chemise that hugged her form.

"But the people you are dealing with are utter barbarians! They barely wear clothing! They raid and kill and eat raw flesh!" Sir Edcott worried.

Gwenverre tuned out his whining as her selected dress was put upon her. It was full-length, close-fitting, and made in a series of layered greens that gave it an effect of the Sunlight dancing through a forest canopy. It left her shoulders bare, as per the standards of the time, but its long sleeves opened like bells at the end. She stepped into green velvet shoes of the very best make. A silver diadem was placed upon her, and her hair was quickly brushed a few more times for good effect.

Admiring herself in the mirror, Gwenverre felt satisfied with her choices. It would do quite nicely, she thought.

She turned, and her attendants pulled the divider aside. Amusingly, Sir Edcott, dressed in blue, was still prattling with his back turned. "... They don't build anything, and did I mention what poor eaters they are? Oh! Princess!" he exclaimed, turning around.

Queen Gwenverre sighed, rolling her eyes. She wasn't married yet, so the court refused to call her by her rightful title. She had many suitors, as whomever won her hand would win the Kingdom of Estrinor, a land rich in forests, hills, and rivers, bordering the mountains.

Estrinor, sadly, was not the biggest, nor most influential kingdom. She would like to blame the states that bordered with non-human lands for that fact. Being placed in the middle of a landmass wasn't terribly incredible. She was just thankful for the long spells of peace.

"We know of our potential allies' habits. We also know of their mountainous homes' wealth of silver, and we also know how dangerous they could be to our enemies," Queen Gwenverre said firmly.

"Yes, yes, of course, your majesty. There is also the matter of suitors to consider..."

Queen Gwenverre sighed and hurried off to the royal dining hall for breakfast.

***

After the hum-drum meal of being harried by Sir Edcott, Gwenverre was ready to put a knife to her ears. Her father, may he rest in peace, found fit to have Sir Edcott try to raise Gwenverre when he died. Sir Edcott found and replace her favorite teachings, like archery, with stuffier ones, such as the pointless sewing. She couldn't replace him, as that would be a slap to her father's memory and he did possess a good point here and there. Given her current position, the only effective teacher now would be experience.

She had turned to the long, gilded Throne Room for the daily entertainment. With luck, it would be most exciting. Sadly, Gwenverre felt that her eagerly-anticipated guests would be delayed by her own court.

Before Gwenverre could sit upon the throne, a stick-like worried man in dark clothes glided up next to her. "Your Majesty, I have information regarding our trouble with the western bandits," he said.

"What is your news, Sir Douwn?" Queen Gwneverre cooly asked. Sir Douwn was her spymaster, in charge of gathering information as it pertains to the royalty of Estrinor.

"These bandits strike at merchants traveling on the roads to and from our western neighbor, of course. Now, a patrol did manage to deal with a small group, but the hills and crevasses there seem to hide a far larger amount. On the group that was dealt with, however, there were these," Sir Douwn whispered as he opened his gloved hand to reveal a smattering of gold and silver coins. They were printed with a drake's head on one side, and the face of a bearded king on the other along with a date listed in olden letters.

"Hmm," Queen Gwenverre muttered to herself as she held a coin and turned it over and over. The drake's head was the symbol of Spinmarsh, their western neighbor, but it seemed much too clumsy a ruse. "Was there anything else?"

"Yes," Sir Douwn said with a weak, but wicked, smile. "This letter."

Sir Douwn passed her a curled length of parchment, burnt at one end. A seal of red wax stamped with a boar's head was still stuck to it.

"So, Ghulona is at fault," Queen Gwenverre muttered. Ghulona was Estrinor's southern neighbor. It edged the inland ocean, and used the boar's head as its symbol, calling on the tenacity of the animal to mark its personality.

Sir Douwn nodded. "I think that the bandits are just a ploy to weaken us. If we send the army after them, they would be chasing the scoundrels across the countryside and leave us vulnerable to Ghulona's forces."

"I believe you have heard about our guest?" Queen Gwenverre inquired.

"Yes," Sir Douwn nasty smile widened. "They would be perfect to deal with our foes, and I imagine their gossip would not be half-bad either."

Queen Gwenverre nodded, and Sir Douwn slide away.

She was interrupted yet again on her way to the thrown by a massive man with a colossal mustache clad in red with golden thread inlays. "Ah-hah! Your Majesty! I must request that you address something!" he spoke in a bellowing voice.

His voice shook around the hall and rattled Queen Gwenverre's ears. "Magister Magriller, what could be the cause of your concern?" she asked, checking her tone.

"Ah, well," Magister Magriller, minister of economics as well as the head of the merchant's guild, looked from side to side nervously, and then continued in a much quieter voice. "I am not happy with our sources of revenue. I saw Sir Douwn, he should've told you about the bandits..."

Queen Gwenverre nodded. "Yes, I would expect those to cut into our taxes," she inferred.

Magister Magriller nodded worriedly. "I do think we need to raise taxes. I am not sold on the alliance you are proposing today."

"What is there to worry about?" Queen Gwenverre asked. "They have quite a lot of silver they can't use. That alone should take care of our finances."

Magriller shuffled about on his fine leather boots. "Yes, yes, but they have no incentive to allow us access to the silver!"

"Never underestimate their curiosity, Magister Magriller. Even if you can't find something to sell to them, they will," Queen Gwenverre assured him.

Magister Magriller stomped about with worry, before finally settling to join the growing crowd of nobles. Given time, he'd find a use for the alliance, Gwenverre was confident in it.

As he left, an old scarred man, clad in ceremonial armor and his face torn by a vicious slash, swooped in to talk with Queen Gwenverre. "I wanted to speak to you about this alliance..." he began with age to back him up.

"General Halbork, what is it that you ask?" Queen Gwenverre inquired again. As the minister of war, and the most experienced soldier that Estrinor had likely ever seen, General Halbork had a certain sway in the court that no other noble could ever quite lay claim to.

"How assured are you of this alliance?" General Halbork asked.

"Well, I am reasonably assured of this alliance. I did meet them during that unfortunate accident. This would provide them with an extra layer of security beyond that already afforded to them by their homes," Queen Gweverre stated.

"Well, all right, but I want to know if they would join our army in times of war, Your Majesty," General Halbork inquired.

"Their queen is quite ferocious; I wouldn't not expect it," Queen Gwenverre replied.

"Ah, good, good. I have seen them work before to tear apart a man," The old man scratched his chin as he turned away. "Nasty pieces of work, very nasty."

Queen Gwenverre left him to think and finally sat on her throne. Not ten feet away, Sir Edcott rolled out a scroll. She knew this list well. It listed potential suitors and everything known about them, including wealth levels, geographic locations, and lineage. As information trickled in, Sir Edcott tweaked and altered the list, sometimes pressing on new lengths of paper or blotting out extremely poor choices. "As I would like to remind everyone, we still have no king, and therefore no prospect of an heir. I would like to take the time once again to list some suitors that I, as your most trusted advisor, found, ahem, suitable."

Sir Edcott opened his mouth, and the announcer stepped into the room. "Your Majesty," he declared loudly, though not exactly proudly, "May we present The Queen of Hawks!"

He stepped aside to let Queen Gwenverre's awaited guest in. The Queen of Hawks, stepped into the throne room, her yellow raptor eyes scanning across the gawking crowd and her talons sinking into the long green carpet that stretched from the throne to the door. She walked until she was a mere ten feet from Queen Gwenverre, followed by her two guards.

Beneath her benevolent facade, Gwenverre was ecstatic. She was almost smiling on the outside, and inside, she had a big happy grin. Her heart was aflutter and throbbing with possibilities, for before her stood the Matriarch of the local Harpies, Piktis.

Many eyes stared at Piktis and her two guards, some frightened, others confused, and few ambivalent or better. Piktis stood rather short, though she was large for her kind, as her double-bent legs held her low to the ground. Her human torso was excellently muscled and well-defined, and her brown-feathered arm-wings were folded close to her body, each of her three-fingered scaled hands relaxed and comfortable. Her face was severe with high cheekbones, its eyes gleaming over its hooked nose and tight lips.

It was true that the harpies were barbaric. Piktis wore only a loincloth with several pouches tied to it around her waist, and it itself only covered her front. Her buttocks were hidden by the large fan of her brown tailfeathers. Her legs burst into feathers mid-thigh, and bent then bent again to connect to broad, strong scaled taloned feet that could crush bones. Covering her meager breasts was a bizarre and massive necklace made from the skulls of small animals, beads, and feathers of a dizzying variety of colors.

Piktis had a wild mane of brown feathers for hair that continued down her back, thinning out into a line of fluff to her tailfeathers. Similar tufts of down decorated her sternum and her thatch, trailing up and down to her belly button. Woven into her hair were simple sticks, rocks, and more animal skulls. However, her most striking and different feature was the blue tattoos placed onto her skin. Deep blue symbols were printed onto her face, breasts, and stomach, curling lines made to look like the sun, rain, and gusts of wind.

The two guards behind her were male, and far less decorated. They only wore the blue markings and the loincloth, not having the skulls nor charms of their leader. Their broad chests were bare, save for the archaic azure lines tattooed into them. Their hawkish eyes swept across the room accusingly, searching for any threat to their leader.

The court rustled with discussion. The lords and ladies doubted Queen Gwenverre's choices, but she had her logic. The harpies resided in the mountains and hills, and flew far for their hunt. Their society was loosely organized; Piktis was queen because no-one wanted to fight her. Tribal matriarchs looked up to her and followed her trends. Still, Piktis had enough hold among the tribes that a good suggestion from her would be listened to, and they'd even follow her into battle if need be.

In truth, Queen Gwenverre had met Piktis earlier. She had done something foolish that lead to being stuck in the mountains alone. When she met Piktis, their encounter had struck up something in her she was eager to explore.

"Not even human..." murmured someone from the attendants.

"Naked barbarians..." another one chided.

"Ugly, dumb beasts..." came a third voice.

Piktis' head swiveled around, her hawk-like eyes glaring at the crowd. "I can hear you," she said with a faint accent, "And I can understand you perfectly."

The crowd quieted, but did not cease.

Gwenverre cleared her throat, which fully silenced her court. "Queen Piktis, we are pleased to have you here today. I trust that the voyage was safe?"

Piktis fluffed her feathers and said, "There's no reason why it wouldn't be."

Queen Gwenverre smiled to herself. Discretion was not a part of the Harpy mindset. "Ah, good," she said. "We are quite concerned about bandits and ruffians located near the western borders, quite close to your mountain homes. We did worry for your safety."

"I'd be more worried about those bandit's safety if they ever cross us," Piktis declared.

"Yes, we are sure you are confident. But we do note that humans are wily beings, and we are concerned for the safety and states of our neighbors," Queen Gwenverre stated.

Piktis ruffled her feathers impatiently. "Can you get to the point? You've called us down here for a good reason, and it isn't to shock these rockheads," she said, waving one wing out at the court.

The crowd almost uniformly stepped back and cried out in shock. One could make a choir out of their synchronous noises, Gwenverre mused. "Very well, then" she said, refocusing herself, "We seek an alliance between the Harpies of the Talon Mountains and the Kingdom of Estrinor. We believe it would be beneficial to both of our lands. I do believe that the silver in your lands is quite bountiful, for what you lack in common goods and arts. Estrinor is a bountiful land, but we are beset by contentious neighbors. We could support each other in more militaristic endeavors, and the Harpies could benefit from the fields of war, should it turn to that."

"Furthermore, we would like to show you around a small portion of our kingdom for the day," Queen Gwenverre continued, holding up a hand to stop Sir Edcott from protesting directly to her. "Such an experience might help you decide your land's future."

Piktis said, "Sure, why not?", and that was that. The hubbub of the court resumed, ladies turning to each other to gossip and lords commenting dismissively to each other.

Queen Gwenverre stood up from the throne, and Sir Edcott immediately rushed to her side. "You do know that the harpies have no land, your majesty?" he said, "The 'Talon Mountains' are our mountains! They are properly named the Mountains of Estrinor!"

"I have learned," Queen Estrinor said with a measured voice, "That the harpies call them the Talon Mountains. And, if you have ever tried to take something away from somebody, you will learn that they object heavily."

"But, your majesty, why are you aligning with these beasts in the first place?" Sir Edcott protested.

"Simple. Did Lord Douwn not talk with you? Did you not note my concern of bandits? If we were allied with harpies, if we could make use of them in times of conflict, then we would have an edge over our foes. The Border Kingdoms, where humans mix with the inhuman, have strong armies bolstered by dwarven craftsmanship, elven magic, and even orcish resistance. And, we would like to note, they are the most powerful and influential."

"We are dealing with uncultured barbarians! They may have silver, but I doubt all of their tribes would let miners up the mountains! Besides, if the other nations become aware of our dealings with monsters, what would they think of us? Do we really need such creatures?" Edcott protested.

Gwenverre waited to answer, giving the illusion of mulling it over, before saying, "Yes. We are in the depths of human-held lands. Our forests do not contain any connection to the world of the fae, there are no known tunnels leading to our mountains, and we lack for ports that connect to oceans. Harpies have both keen senses and flight. Now, we do have guests that need our attention." She walked away from Sir Edcott with the day's plan on her mind.

***

The first place they visited that day was the open-air gardens. The warm summer breeze blew through the ornate displays of flowers. Red, yellow, blue, purple, of all kinds of petals, swayed with the gentle winds. Queen Gwenverre had no patience for growing flowers, she was a queen and not a gardener, after all, but she could appreciate the display.

With her were a few select guardsmen and some of the more curious noblemen and women, including Sir Edcott. They were no longer grumbling and complaining. Instead they watched their guest as she investigated the gardens.

Queen Piktis was simply enchanting to watch. Her rough barbaric nature was at odds with the carefully-organized gardens, the small skulls she wore a perfect opposite to the blooming flowers. She hopped and fluttered from flower patch to flower patch, skipping along the ground by beating her wings and never staying for long. She gazed with utmost interest at the flowers, then jumped to another patch within seconds like an eager songbird.

Her guards, in contrast, did not particularly engage with the garden. They perched on a stone brick wall nearby, trying their best to be stoic. However, Gwenverre had caught them multiple times looking as much as Piktis was at everything. The lords, the ladies, the flowers, Qween Gwenverre's guards, Queen Gwenverre herself, everything was observed, and not with paranoid scrutiny. They were looking with as much attention as Queen Piktis was at the flowers.

Piktis took longer to abandon the garden than Gwenverre thought she would. Gwenverre thought she would breeze past the flowers, only stopping occasionally to sniff them, but every so often, she would double back and return to a patch seemingly at random.

When she finally was satisfied with her trip to the gardens, at more than three hours later, Queen Piktis and her retinue was escorted to an outside luncheon composed of sandwiches and fruits. There was wine, but Queen Gwenverre didn't trust Piktis to be able to be any measure of sober. She was too light to be able to handle alcohol.

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