“We can trade with the elves or we can starve.” The man implored his king. “There is no game on our lands. Our stores will only last us a week.”
The fire crackled in the hearth providing some sound to the silent deliberation of the king.
“We are at war on all sides. The elves attack from the south and the dwarves from the north.” The kings adviser whispered too loudly, “We lose warriors and supplies every day. Dragons roam these lands as a constant threat, and there are storms brewing.”
“And how to you propose we deal with all of these threats?” The king snapped. “We have been fighting these wars for generations.”
“We have been losing these wars for generations.” The man spoke up. “We have alienated people who would be able to help us in this harsh land. We have lost many a good man to this war. Men who would have been better put to work bettering this pitiful city.”
“If you don’t like how King Andrius runs this kingdom you can leave.” The adviser spat.
“Your Grace, we have no where else to go. We depend on you for our lives to continue these wars would kill us all.” He pleaded.
“What is your name boy?” King Andrius asked stroking his thick yellow beard.
“Tadeo,” The man said bowing.
“Tadeo, you have shown great bravery speaking your mind. Most of the people in this city cling desperately to old tradions. I’ve still seen people walking backwards through doors to keep evil spirits away.”
Tadeo took a deep breath, he fidgeted with the lace on the front of his tunic.
“Maybe it is time for peace, a hundred years of war is far too long.” King Andrius said, then addressing his adviser he continued, “Send word to the elves we would like to treat with them, and heal the wounds our ancestors cut.”
Tadeo left the hall. The bitter cold stung his face and the wind whipped his firs around him. Four kings had continued this war, Tadeo’s own father had died fighting the elves, and his grandfather as well. It was senseless slaughter. He could be called away to war at any moment. He made it back to his home, the wind made the door hard to open. A cloud of snow accompanied him into his house.
“How did the meeting with the king go?” His lovely wife asked as his daughter ran over and clamped her arms around his legs.
“He will try to make peace with the elves.”
“That is good to hear.” She walked over to their hearth and stirred their dinner stew.
News spread through the city quickly about the elf queens arrival. Everyone poured out into the windy, cold streets to get a glimpse of the woman.
She rode through the city on a white horse her silver hair a waterfall under a crown of entwined wood studded with carved bone. Her high cheekbones showed no sign of being reddened by the cold. Her cloak of leather and white fir whipped around her. Everyone gasped with they realized she was wearing pants like a man.
She rode her horse without appearing to give it any direction. Its dainty feet crushed ice and snow, and its pink nose billowed mist. Their own horses seemed too large and clumsy in comparison.
She stopped outside the hall and dismounted. Her horse walked to the stables all on its own. Everyone watched her throw the doors wide and stride into the great stone building. Whispers on the street were she had insisted that she come alone.
“How long do you think it will be before we have peace?” Tadeo asked his wife.
She shrugged he had been asking her the same question every day since the queen arrived. It had been a week and she was tired of it, and their little girl could not stop talking about the beautiful queen.
The people in the city adored her, half drunk on the hope of peace. After two weeks of constant deliberation. She rode away on her white horse, silver hair streaming in the wind.
The king stepped out of the castle and stood on the three short steps up to the keep. Over the howling wind he announced, “There will be no peace with the elves at this time. Their price is too steep for us to pay.”
The people screamed in the streets. The only thing they wanted was peace now. The winter was too hard, people were hardly eating and had no strength. Seeing the queen had given them hope that they could survive the winter. There stores had run out a few days ago, only clever foraging was keeping them alive. They were no longer listening to their king.
“Spring will arrive in a couple of weeks, then we will have food again.” The king announced. There were boos from the crowd already having gone three days without food. “Would you have had me give her half of our land? Half of our summer crops? Half of our weaponry?”
There were cries of outrage that he had not accepted the terms. Tadeo hurried his family inside, he could feel the malice in the air. He locked the door tightly he could hear it turning ugly outside. The screams became profane, there were threats of violence shouted at their king, the sounds of violence followed shortly. Tadeo hid his daughters head in his tunic, his wife’s hand on his shoulder.