No Judgement in Mercy
A Fantasy Tale
The Kingdom of Nuimor was rich and beautiful. Dense forests covered most of the land through which rivers meandered, many of them flowing into Lake Penleche. There were two main mountain ranges, the largest of which were the Hastlam Mountains in the East. The most rugged was the Chadon range in the North. There the highest peak, Mount Ledal, towered above one of the most formidable forts that bore its name.
The land was ruled by King Aidan, the third of that name, and his beautiful queen. So fair was she that there was even a rumour that Queen Ashryn had elven blood running in her veins. She was the King’s second wife, his first having succumbed to a terrible illness that had swept through the land some ten years ago, and thus she was much younger than her husband. The previous queen gave birth to a son before she died, and named him Prince Nyren. Queen Ashryn loved the boy as if he was her own, even after Princess Keya, her own daughter was born. Soon after that, alas, the King himself fell ill. He never really recovered, and his ailment rendered him frail and incapable of fathering any more children.
One of the Kingdom’s most loyal subjects was Braelyn. He was an officer in the King’s Guard and had been secretly in love with Queen Ashryn before she married the King. They remained close friends even after that, and as the years passed this friendship developed into an intimate affair. When King Aidan discovered this, he did not object. He realised that the Queen was much younger than he was, and thus - because of his frailty - he could not satisfy her desires. Instead of being angry at her, he felt sorry that she found it necessary to seek attention elsewhere. He also respected Braelyn, her lover, and assured himself that his trusted officer would not mistreat her in any way. Thus he comforted himself with the knowledge, that in the event of his own passing, she would be well cared for.
At first the lovers would meet in secret, sometimes under cover of darkness or even in disguise. But soon they felt safe enough to openly show their affection towards each other. Even then, out of respect, they would not do so anywhere near Montburn Castle, the King’s residence, or even in the city of Kathdell, Nuimor’s Capital. They even had a special place, deep within the forest near Lake Penleche, where they would go to enjoy precious and intimate moments together.
Alas, what the lovers did not consider was that their secret place was close to the fortified town of Falkeston, the home of King Aidan’s younger brother. Prince Valryn was as vengeful and wicked as his brother was kind and generous. After a particularly vicious argument - that culminated in the younger assaulting the King in a fit of rage - the prince stormed out of Montburn Castle. He took up residence in the large fort that overlooked Falkeston, and secretly gathered a number of followers. Fortunately these were not enough to manage a full-blown rebellion against the throne, but Valryn was ever watchful, waiting for an opportunity to vent his jealousy and hatred upon his older sibling.
The affair between Queen Ashryn and Braelyn - sadly - afforded him just such a chance! One day, he and a party of his associates were out hunting near the lake when they happened upon an old cottage. Thinking that it was empty, they decided to investigate it. That was how they discovered that this was the couple’s secret place. The prince said nothing, but returned to Falkeston, all the while contemplating a scheme in which he could use this against the King. Not only did he covet the throne, but he despised the fact that it was going to be handed down to the Crown Prince, Prince Nyren. This was because he too had a son whose name was Revalor, and he wished that it was he who would become ruler of this great land. Revalor and his cousin were roughly the same age.
Valryn also felt that his brother was too soft on the people, allowing his subjects to prosper instead of taxing the heart and soul out of them. Thus he was certain that he was better suited for the role of monarch. Not only that, but he had made sure that his son was just as skilled a despot as he wished to be.
Prince Valryn went to his brother and told him: “Your wife - our Queen - is seeing another man! Not only that, but her lover is not one of us. An honourable man he might be, but he is not of a noble house.”
“That other man to whom you refer is loyal to me.” Replied the King, “And I am certain that he will treat her better than many of the so-called nobles of whom you speak.”
“You are aware of this tryst?” The Prince responded, “And yet you will do nothing!”
“I am old and frail.” His brother explained, “I can no longer please one so young and lively. Thus my answer would be yes - on both accounts.”
Another argument followed, after which Valryn began to plot his brother’s downfall. First he tried to rally the people against their King by telling them about the affair and his unwillingness to deal with it decisively. But soon he realised that their loyalty to their monarch was too strong, and even his most manipulative and persuasive words would not sway them.
Because of this, he devised a more diabolical plan: He called upon the services of one of the most devious assassins in the land, a man named Gorred, and together they hatched a scheme against the King.
One winter’s afternoon the King was in his chambers with his two children. Even though there were roaring fires in the many hearths positioned all around the castle, it was still very cold at times, so when one of the King’s advisers entered wearing a hooded cloak, he thought nothing of it. The man approached his ruler and bowed low. Then he spoke.
“Your Majesty.” He said, “By your leave - Your presence is required as a matter of urgency in the Council Hall.”
King Aidan called upon his servants to take the children to the nursery, and then responded: “Lead the way Lord Almar.”
Bowing again, the adviser turned as if to follow his master’s instructions. Then he said: “Nay - after you my liege.”
The monarch rose and was just in front of his adviser when the figure sprung into action. Throwing off his cloak, he grabbed Aidan’s hood, and with one swift stroke, stabbed him in the neck. The King’s dying words were: “Guards - to me!”
As the doors flew open, Gorred leapt through the arched window, landing safely on the soft snow on the ground beneath the sill. He had to correct himself quickly, or else he would have plummeted to his death off the cliffs upon which the castle was built. Even though there was a moat, it had frozen over, and the ice was as solid as rock. Before his escape, the assassin had dropped the dagger he had used to slay the King, the same weapon he had conveniently stolen from Braelyn some time before.
When the guards came to investigate, they found the King lying in a pool of his own blood, and the dagger lying on the ground near to where he lay. As there was no-one else in the room at the time, there were no witnesses as to what had really happened. Although the evidence was pretty damning to say the least, no-one could believe that Braelyn had gone so far as to commit actual murder. Nonetheless he was arrested under suspicion. After all, the murder weapon did belong to him. Even though he did have an alibi, there was no-one who could verify it as he had been alone at the time that the deed was committed. He also claimed that the dagger in question had recently been misplaced, a statement that appeared to be more than a little convenient.
What did not escape the people of Nuimor’s notice was, that no sooner had King Aidan been buried, when his brother assumed his position as the new ruler of the land. Queen Ashryn was confined to her chambers, and guards were posted at her door to prevent her from leaving. Luckily, just before her imprisonment, she had sent Prince Nyren to the home of one of her most loyal admirers. He was in charge of the royal stables, and his name was Ayen.
The Queen suspected that something terrible was about to happen, and thus left strict instructions.
She insisted: “My dear Ayen - If anything should happen to me, now that my husband is dead and my beloved wrongfully imprisoned, you must take the Prince and flee to the old fort to the North-east of the Chadon Mountains. I have sent Princess Keya elsewhere. Although it saddens me to my very soul to do this, it will be best for both of them to be separated until this trouble is over.”
Tears streamed down her face as she embraced her stepson, and watched him leave. She whispered: “May the Gods preserve you my son.”
When King Valryn discovered what she had done, he was infuriated! He demanded that she tell him where the child had been taken, and when she refused, he had her beaten until her face and body were covered in cuts and bruises. One of the guards who was on duty when this took place was horrified by this act of brutality. Although he was not particularly loyal to the previous monarchy, the guard detested the way Queen Ashryn was treated, as were a number of his colleagues. Eventually the news reached Ayen’s ears. He and two of the watchmen then developed a plan to rescue both the Queen and her lover.
The attempt was successful, although one of the rescuers was captured. Without even standing any form of trial, he was dragged out into the city square, and beheaded in front of his own wife and children, who were forced to watch as he was slain. Public executions had been outlawed for over a century, so the people looked upon this in horror. Valryn - who had earned the title of ‘Usurper King’ - sneered as the sword was brought down onto the victim’s neck. No sooner had the soldier been slain when the tyrant addressed the shocked crowd.
“May this serve as a warning to any who dare to oppose me!” He barked, a sadistic smile on his face, “They will suffer the same fate as this traitor!”
Even so, the Queen and Braelyn were free. They were reunited in the small village of Selsnes, deep in the forest to the North-east of the Capital city. One evening they were together in the garden of their host. Queen Ashryn seemed more than a little distant, as though something heavy was weighing on her mind.
Braelyn asked: “What troubles you so my Queen?”
She turned towards him, and he could see that she was weeping. He took her in his arms. She buried her fair head into his manly chest, and they stood there for a while in silent contemplation.
At last she looked up at him, and replied: “Valryn and his thugs will not stop until my children and I are dead, my departed husband’s line ended. As long as I am alive, my children are in danger. Thus, to keep their location safe, I must die. If he captures me again, Gods alone know what torments he will put me through to make me talk. Nay - I will depart this world on my own terms.”
“You speak of suicide?” Braelyn asked incredulously, to which the distraught Queen merely nodded in reply, “No my love! There must be another way!”
“Alas beloved, I have thought long and hard, searching for an alternative.” She assured him, “But there is no such option. Search your own heart lover. You know this to be so.”
“But I cannot imagine life without you.” Braelyn admitted.
“You must my sweet.” Queen Ashryn insisted, “You must both for my sake and for that of my children. When they are old enough, I want you to tell them of my demise, and the terrible events that led up to it. Perhaps then my son will rise up against that villain, overthrow him, and take back the throne that is rightfully his.”
Unable to reply, Braelyn nodded his head in response. The following day the couple made their way to the mountain hamlet of Varken, where Princess Keya was living under the watchful eye of her guardian, Lord Camus. Braelyn felt that it was best to leave mother and daughter to spend these valuable moments together without any interference from him, so he kept his distance.
One night the Queen was certain she could hear strange noises coming from outside her window. She kept the drapes closed and did not dare to investigate. The next morning the night watchmen reported that they spotted a shadowy figure crouched on the balcony in front of her chambers, but it had vanished into the night before they could react.
Braelyn stated: “It is clear that the Usurper will soon discover our whereabouts. We cannot stay here.”
They left the small village the following day. Queen Ashryn left strict instructions with Lord Camus. She said: “When Braelyn returns to you, you must send word to Prince Nyren. Braelyn knows the whereabouts of his hiding place. Using the safest and most secret paths, he must be brought to Varken. Send word then to the garrison at Fort Ledal, so that they may send an escort to guard him while he journey’s thence. He must remain there until he is ready to retake the throne.”
Lord Camus acknowledged her, and the two lovers departed, heading North-east through some of the most rugged country in the whole of Nuimor. Fort Ledal had been built in such a way that its inhabitants could keep a watchful eye over the Northern and West coast. It was said, that on a clear day one could just see the spires and towers of Kathdell from the highest watchtower. It also acted as a refuge to which the ruler of the land could flee if he had been dethroned. Built almost entirely out of solid rock, with steep cliffs on three sides and a narrow entrance with a moat on either side of it, this formidable fortress was nigh unassailable.
The lovers were welcomed by Commander Goren, the garrison’s senior officer, and shown to their quarters. They spent two blissful days together, but alas the couple knew that they could not last. It was only a matter of time before one of Valryn’s spies would find them and even kill them both. And so, after one last night of heated passion, Queen Ashryn was ready to carry out her plan.
Before she took the deadly dose, she tearfully said: “You have been the bright star in so much darkness. Your warmth, your touch, your smile - these and so much more - shall I carry with me to the Evergreen Realm. Even there shall I remember them in my heart until we meet again, and are reunited forever. Weep not for me my love, but rather for those who remain under the tyranny of that Usurper, my brother in law, for soon shall I be free of all the wickedness with which he has inflicted this once beautiful land. I pray that the true heir to my late husband’s throne will cleanse it and make it whole once more. Kiss me one last time, that I might bear the taste of your lips with me on the path that awaits me.”
Braelyn bent over and kissed her, not wanting to let her go. Reluctantly their lips parted, and Queen Ashryn put the small vial to her lips. She struggled to swallow the liquid within that burned all the way down. Once or twice she lurched forward, but kept herself from bringing up by sheer determination. Within seconds the light from her eyes began to fade and her face became ashen. Her breathing started to become laboured. She coughed, and a trickle of blood dribbled out of her mouth. With one final convulsion, one last desperate breath, the beautiful Queen Ashryn sank into oblivion still holding her lover’s hand.
Her last words were: “Forgive me - my love ...”
Braelyn kissed her dying lips again and stroked her hair, tears streaming down his face which he lay atop her breast as her heartbeat slowly ceased. He then whispered his response.
“There is nothing to forgive my Queen.” He replied through clenched teeth, “There are many things I can pardon, and many more that I have in my lifetime, but the treachery that has led to this moment I will never exculpate! Those responsible will pay dearly, mark my words!”
Just then all composure abandoned him. He stumbled out onto the balcony outside the chambers where the couple had spent their last night, and fell to the floor sobbing uncontrollably. Words could not express the anger and grief that poured out of him as each gut-wrenching cry seemed to tear his very soul apart. Just before dawn, he awoke cold and shivering. He was lying in the exact same place and position as he had when he cried himself to sleep.
A small procession, led by the local priest, carried the Queen’s body to a secret tomb. She was borne on a bier made of rough logs, and covered with ceremonial herbs and flowers. Above her head was the delicate crown she wore while she was still in power. Her gown, though simple, was befitting a lady of her position. Her hands and fingers were decorated with rich jewels, and her eyes were covered, not with coins as was the tradition for common folk, but with two gold pendants.
As they lowered her into the small cave, Braelyn hugged her knees, pressing his cheek against her lifeless thighs. He almost incoherently mumbled a last farewell before he and the other pallbearer exited the grave, and a large stone rolled in place to conceal the entrance.
News of the Queen’s tragic death spread throughout the realm, and the people of Nuimor mourned her parting. But far from sinking into despair, anger welled up within their hearts. Even those who were still loyal to the tyrant Valryn at last saw him for what he truly was. Thus it was, that even before Prince Nyren was old enough to lead the revolt, the citizens rose up against him. At the forefront of the uprising were a number of the Usurper’s own captains, led by Braelyn himself. It was not long before King Valryn found himself contending with a vast army with little more than a handful of men who were too blind - or too corrupt - to realise that their days were numbered.
On the main bridge that led into Kathdell, the final battle took place. It was not long before Valryn’s ragtag band of brigands was defeated, and he stood alone at the mercy of those he and his family had extorted, abused and mistreated ever since the rightful King of Nuimor had been slain. He was about to end his own pitiful life when a young figure came up and knocked his sword from his hand. When he looked to see who it was that dared deny him his planned escape, his heart sank at the sight of his own son looking down upon him with disdain.
In a voice filled with disgust, Prince Revalor stated: “No father! You shall not deny these people the justice they deserve. You taught me to be ruthless and cruel as you are, but I am man enough now to know better!”
“It was your mother who poisoned your mind and heart.” The fallen monarch spat, “I was right.”
“You had her killed because you are delusional!” The young man retorted, striking his own father with the flat of his sword so that he fell face down onto the cobbles, “In your mind, anyone who disagreed with your tyranny was a traitor to the crown - the crown that you did not deserve, nor were even fit to wear!”
Valryn was taken captive. Before his hearing almost a year later, he was stripped naked and forced to wear rags. He was then dragged barefoot through the streets of Nuimor’s Capital. The people stood on either side. They spat on him and struck him as he passed. Those that could not reach him jeered and hurled clods of horse manure at him. When he stumbled, the soldiers forced him to stand up again, and the cavalcade continued until it reached the ‘Hill of Reckoning’, the place where criminals would be tried and executed if needs be.
The High Priest stood in the centre of the henge dressed in full ceremonial robes. Behind him were the other ten members of the Council, which had been reinstated shortly after Valryn’s defeat. In order to silence it, Valryn had held many of the body’s members hostage, even threatening to kill them if those that remained spoke a word against him. Sadly four out of the fifteen clergymen had lost their lives before they could be freed.
Outside of the small circle, the crowd that had gathered stood in expectant silence. The hearing itself was very brief. As the Priest stated: “... There is little need for lengthy deliberation when the crimes committed are so heinous, the evidence so blatantly clear ...”
Before long the verdict had been given, and all that still needed to be carried out was the final sentence. The clergyman concluded: “Lord Valryn, erstwhile Lord of Falkeston and self appointed Ruler of Nuimor after the planned assassination of your own brother, your crimes and repulsive deeds do not deserve to be included in the annals of history, save as a warning that such evil can fester in the hearts of men. Let this sentence act as an assurance that such evil shall not prevail. Thus you shall be put to the sword in the presence of those whose trust you have squandered and whose lives you sought to ruin. May the Eya yet receive you. So may it be.”
He then took his great sword in both hands and raised it high above his head. As the mighty blade crashed down upon Valryn’s neck, the people cheered: “Gone! Gone! The Usurper is gone! Gone! Gone! At last he is gone!”
As Prince Nyren was still too young to succeed his father, Braelyn was appointed Lord Protector until the rightful heir could take the throne. Queen Ashryn’s body was at last removed from her grave in the mountains, and finally laid to rest on the banks of Lake Penleche, where she and her lover had spent so many intimate hours together.
To this day, a memorial stands in a pond next to the lake. Upon the stone monolith a circle was carved, after which the stone was split in half to signify the Queen’s tragic death. Beneath it, in a stone lined sarcophagus, lie the remains of Nuimor’s most beloved and treasured Ruler. Braelyn ordered that his own body be buried next to that of his lover. He never remarried, and devoted himself to the teachings of the Eya once his term of office had been concluded. In his old age, he held the office of High Priest.
Prince Nyren was crowned three days after his twenty-first birthday. By then he and his cousin had become close friends, and Lord Revalor was appointed Lord Chancellor, the new King’s right-hand man. Although the years that followed were not free of strife, a concerted effort was made to restore Nuimor to its former glory. King Nyren married, but alas was only blessed with an heir after his Queen suffered two consecutive miscarriages. However, the couple were granted the pleasure of four children after that, the oldest of which succeeded her father and was crowned Queen Ashryn the Second.
About the Creator
I was born in Rhodesia (now called Zimbabwe) and currently live in South Africa. From an early age, I seemed to have a knack for poetry. I have written a number of stories, poems, and several novels, ranging from fantasy to non fiction.
Actually, there is no judgement when there is mercy. That reminds me the second coming of Christ Jesus mercy will cease and judgement will rule the day. Nevertheless, the story is fantastic and its contents understood.