The kingdom of Jynthel burned.
Dark hues of red intertwining with the ashen grey of smoke.
The corpses of the enemy and friend alike were scattered throughout the once glorious city as evidence of the horrific civil war that had taken place.
But in its destruction, there was a seedling of hope that struggled to survive among the rubble and putrid stench of the rotting bodies.
Jynthel could be saved.
Would be saved.
She would see her kingdom restored if it was the last thing she was going to do.
Her heart broke into two as she gazed upon her beloved city from the heights of the royal palace.
The wind ruffled her hair, playfully tugging at her tangled mess of hair. The scent of blood and sweat from her own body brought back a flood of images during the battle. Swords clashing, armour glinting in the light given off by the bonfires made from buildings, grunts of pain, the silent slicing of throats-
Roughly, she shook her head. There was no time to relive the horrors of killing. She should probably wash the blood off her face, at the very least, before addressing her new court.
She made an intimidating figure, head lifted high, shoulders broad and her posture erect. Authority cloaked her and blood stained her armour, sword and shield. It was undeniable that she was a warrior queen.
Narrowing her eyes, she made a careful assessment of the damage that had been done to the streets.
The shops of merchants and the homes of her people were in ruins although there hadn't been much in the first place. Not since her uncle had taken over and eaten away at the abundance of wealth that had been Jynthel's.
When her parents had ruled, Jynthel had been a prosperous and thriving kingdom. Even the lowest of the low in their society had had food to eat and a home to live in. After she had returned to claim the throne, she couldn't believe the poverty and the overwhelming number of beggars on the street.
She hadn't wanted this war. She hadn't needed more innocent blood on her hands, but her uncle had refused to give up the throne and had declared war on her.
What was she supposed to have done? Back away and let him sit on the throne that was soaked in her family's blood? It was her birthright and he had stolen so many lives just to have the title of 'king.'
It had taken her ten years to rally enough people to come to her aid. It had been ten painful years in which she had learnt about death, satisfaction and the hard reality of the world. It had only taken a couple of months for her decade of planning to come to fruition.
Her uncle was gone now.
And his supporters, the ones that were not yet dead, waited anxiously to have an audience with her.
She knew exactly what to do with them but the only person she was unsure about was her little brother. Even when he had been a baby, he had always been enthralled by their uncle's ambition and exuberance. Now, after a decade of being groomed in his image, how would he react to seeing her again? Would he hate her for killing the only father figure in his life? She wouldn't be able to bear it if he did. He was the only family she had left.
A quiet voice broke her out of her reverie.
She turned and smiled at her loyal captain of the guards.
He still wore the white armband that all her people had been required to wear. On it, there was her own personal sign stitched in gold and it was that of a phoenix.
"We haven't even had the coronation and you're already calling me by the royal title?"
He said firmly, "You are already the queen in our eyes."
"Is it time, Captain?"
He nodded tersely.
"Don't go easy on the prisoners. They deserve far worse than what I know you will give them."
She tossed her head back and laughed heartily, a sound that warmed and produced laughter from the people surrounding her.
A warmth, a glow, emanated from her very being and, despite the suspicious glances she was receiving from the other people in the tavern, she didn't stop. Being quite aware of her station and the strict set of social constraints she was required to follow, she ordered tea instead of the mead she secretly wanted.
The stark contrast between her and the other people in the tavern was only emphasized by her regal behaviour and expensive although plain garments. She sat amongst friends, people who had aided her in regaining the throne and avenging her parents' death, surrounded by her royal guards.
"Your Majesty," a young advisor pleaded quietly and out of earshot of anybody else. "It is very inappropriate for us to linger in this sort of establishment, especially since your position on the throne is not stable and you must be seen to be a regal figurehead for the public and…"
His voice trailed off when her startlingly purple eyes rested on his placid, pleading ones. Her body moved with all the feline power and grace of a panther as she sat up slowly, the light in her eyes fading. Her royal guards tightened the circle around her and straightened alongside their ruler.
"I love my people and every single part of my kingdom, whether they have respectable jobs or are filthy from the miserable state my uncle, the usurper, placed them in," she snarled.
Realising they had an audience, she smiled lazily and said, "My kingdom is secure and so is my throne. Let's not forget all the skills I acquired through my adventures. An assassin would have a very hard time killing me even if my royal guards weren't around."
Seeing as he was about to protest yet again, she stopped him with a single, piercing glance. Those hues of purple swirling in the depths of her eyes held him transfixed and he could do nothing but wait for her to release him from her power.
She lowered her voice.
"Don't you see? My people must know that their ruler cares for them and doesn't hold them in contempt for their poverty. I must fix the deep fissures my uncle created between ruler and commoner. If anything, I am lower than them for I am their servant and only wish to do my best in ensuring peace and prosperity in our kingdom. Can you see why this is necessary?"
The passion in her voice underlined the sincerity of her words and her eyes gleamed. The advisor was taken aback by her love for her people and her kingdom. He saw wisdom, passion, loyalty and a fierce warrior queen within this woman.
Injecting all the respect he could into his voice, he said, "I think I can see why the people adore you so. I think I can also see why your soldiers would go to the ends of the earth for you, why they have given their lives for your cause."
Right there and then, he pledged himself to her, promising his loyalty and love.
She looked at him tenderly. He had meant no harm.
"I promise that I will be careful. I know that this is a chance for your family name to become respected again. I have not forgotten any of those who aided me in claiming what is rightfully mine."
As she spoke those words with her softened countenance and soulful sincerity, looking right into his eyes as an equal, he knew at that moment that nobody would ever hold his heart the way she would.
Leaning back against her seat, she laughed and made a joke about tavern wenches, one that lightened the atmosphere and was inappropriate yet did not seem so when it came from her mouth.
As William watched her laugh, he had a sinking feeling in his stomach that it would be one of the last times she would ever laugh with such heart and glee.
That night, tragedy struck the heart of the recovering kingdom.
The Queen's brother had been assassinated and accusations flew everywhere.
The death bells rang and cries of "Prince Jonathon has been murdered!" echoed throughout the kingdom from one house to another.
Although their uncle had not been a crowd favourite, Jonathon had been a different story and sorrow and shock swept across the kingdom.
In the west wing of the palace, a solitary figure stood, tears silently making their way down her alabaster cheeks.
Minutes later, she stood expressionless, in her warrior stance with all traces of anguish gone from her eyes.
She made a vow that night, one that would make her brother's death her obsession.
And so the reign of Queen Rosemary II began.