My mother was a great woman. She fought beside the Deserter and faced a great evil. She shifted moons in their orbits, and she helped to rescue the blue-haired Witch, beloved of the Deserter.
My mother was devastated when Rhys chose the Witch for his queen over her. Dejected, she returned to Landen empty- handed. She had not fulfilled her promise to safely return the country's precious prince, and because of that, all but Grandpa rejected her, too, much as Rhys had done. She returned to Satera, her own land, in disgrace.
Despite her noble lineage, my mother married a simple shopkeeper, and I was born. My father, a man named Saerin, died two days later. I was named for him.
Grandpa's wife, the queen, died while I was still an infant. It was when I was ten that he became ill. My mother and I raced to Landen to see him one last time. I clearly remember throwing my arms over him as he lay in bed. I watched, the tears flowing from our six eyes, as he took my mother's young, smooth hand in his own, now wrinkled and covered by the stains of age.
"Dearest Lena," he said. "You have served Landen well. You helped my son to begin his journey, just as I had instructed you to do."
At the very mention of Rhys' name, my mother stiffened noticeably. I could feel my own fingers curling into an eindon's claws.
"You then made your way deep into Layan territory, and did all you could to return my son to me."
My mother's face sank and she looked away. The memory of loss can be a terrible thing.
"And now, sweet Lena, I bestow upon you a high honor."
My mother had suspected what was to come. "No, Highness. I cannot--"
"But you must, Lena. There will be no one to lead them. Look." Grandpa made a sweeping gesture towards a nearby window. "The spirit of Landen was dealt a harsh blow the day my son turned traitor. You are the only one who has the strength, the foresight, to lead them."
"Highness," my mother whispered, facing the king again. "I am nothing but a relic of the horror of that day. I am their symbol of failure."
The king smiled. "What you say is not without truth. But I name you queen, Lena. My will be done."
And he died.
Despite her natural gift for leadership -- something the people of Satera had come to know long before -- my mother was a dreadfully unpopular ruler. The people hated her because it was she they blamed for Rhys' defection. I watched, enraged, as my mother grew old, withered, before her time.
She died on her thirty-sixth birthday. Fatigue, the doctors said. But I knew they were wrong.
My mother, Queen Lena of Landen, had died of heartbreak. My father was dead. Grandpa and the old queen were dead. My mother's parents were dead. There was, as always, Rhys' rejection. And I had grown into a painfully bitter young woman. These are the things that killed my mother.
And it's all because of you, Rhys, you Witch-marrying bastard. It's all because of you.
How I have sat and dreamed, by the hour, of traveling to that monstrous world that you call home! How I would delight in burning to the ground the twin kingdoms of evil that you and your monstrous cousin rule! How I wish I could watch the face of your Witch wife contort into a mask of horror as I hunt her down, and kill her. And then I would relish in relieving you the burden of any half-Witch demon children you've brought into this world. But I would save the final honor for you, Rhys. And as you breathed your last, Landen and Lena, the nation and the woman - - my mother -- who you abandoned, would be avenged.
I know that I have not been the best queen. My rage and hatred of the Layan Rhys and his brood have tainted my heart. Trade has crumbled. Landen's economy staggers. Shipping has stopped. The people no longer walk the streets. Cyborgs prowl the countryside. My subjects cry out for help. But do I hear them?
No. I hear only the mocking laughter of the Deserter as he and his Witch rise to an ivory-towered Layan Heaven, leaving my mother below, heartbroken and shattered, with not even a cyborg to comfort her.
And all I can think about is striking the putrid smirk from that deceptively-handsome traitor face.
Now my spies tell me that the son of Rhys, a pony- tailed whelp, is on his way here. They say he seeks my topaz, a treasured gift my mother gave me, for its magical property to guide the Layan people to sanctuary in the legendary land of Satellite. The son of the Traitor comes here searching desperately for salvation.
The irony is sweet.
Brace yourself, son of Rhys. I will trade the topaz of power only for death, as nothing less can pry it from my grip. And you must be ready to trade your own hope for despair -- just as my mother did -- for I will make sure that your filthy Layan boots do not walk back out of this land, allowing them to dirty it, again.