Are you sure you are ready for this sacrifice?
Elizabeth pulled her attention away from the lure of the flames. The wind howled outside the canvas walls of her tent and threw garish shadows around the tiny alcove. The sound of the rain that pelted her army outside calmed her instead of invoking fear. They’ve been camped off the Coast of Calais for days and the heat had been terrible. She delivered a moving speech that morning to her troops at Tilbury and the soldiers have been revived. Her generals argued all day on how best to use their seeming “luck” against the Spanish Armada.
Only luck had nothing to do with it.
“Your Royal Highness,” Blanche’s voice broke through her musings, “you must rest now. Tomorrow will be a long day.” Her Chief Privy Woman had been her rock before she could even walk, yet as she approached the twilight of her life, Elizabeth wondered how much long can Blanche stay with her.
“It is you who must rest your old bones,” she took her servant’s hands in her own and held it for a long time. ”I have arranged for you to retire to the country. You need to spend more time with your family.”
“Dear child, I cannot leave until I see your throne and your realm safe.” The old woman’s lined face showed signs of fatigue, yet there is still an unnatural light burning bright in her gray eyes. “You are still of the royal blood of the fairy court, and I... I have vowed before the Sidhe that I will never leave your side.” Blanche had been with her as she moved from one household to another as a pawn to the game the royals played. Her position in the line of succession made her life a delicate balance of power and intrigue.
And it was such a balance. She is a child of balance. Born from the House of Tudor, she was Henry VIII’s last living child. Yet her mother’s bloodline gave other people pause. People around her have always whispered that her mother was a witch. Those rumours have a spark of truth—her mother is a direct descendant of Queen Titania of the fairy court.
Anne, driven by vengeance against Henry for casting aside her sister Mary, cast an enchantment on the King—a seduction which drove him mad for her and led him to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Drunk on the power of her new position as his mistress, she didn’t mind being cast out of the Sidhe Court for performing forbidden magic.
“Aye, I am grateful for everything,” Elizabeth closed her eyes, as if that can dispel the memories from her murky past. Queen Titania sent Blanche to her years ago. Blanche was the one who taught her about her other lineage and used it to help her ascend the throne. “I promise this will be the last.”
Confusion tinged Blanche’s face. “What do you mean, Your Highness?” She tightened her hold on her kinswoman’s hands.
“I will sacrifice everything for my people.” Color left the old woman’s face. She felt her terror through their linked hands. “Do not fear for me.”
“My child,” Blanche pushed away some of the hair that escaped from her bun. Her touch sent healing energy through Elizabeth’s tired body. “Be careful. They might ask for more than what you can give.”
“Help me prepare Blanche,” she stood and faced the flames once more. “I am ready.”
“I offer my life, my blood, my magic...” Elizabeth drew a silver dagger and pricked the end of her pointer finger. A single ruby drop formed and she spoke the words of a Summoning. A lone candle stood in the middle of the fairy ring, its flame standing straight as an arrow despite the cold breeze in the grove. The ground is covered in foxglove, primroses, clover and thyme— ingredients needed to call the fae.
The drop fell onto the flame, where it sizzled and steamed. Her chanting rose to a fever pitch.
“I call upon you, blood of my blood...Hear me!” Eerie silence filled the grove. The wind died down and even the night insects seemed to have been silenced.
The flame wavered once, twice before it rose from the tip of the candle to hover a few inches before her eyes. She stared at the floating light as it slowly unfurled, shifted and finally took shape—a butterfly. Elizabeth didn’t flinch as it hovered to inspect her. The night seemed to pause as all manner of elementals started to enter the grove. Pixies, gnomes, fire salamanders, sylphs... called by one of their own.
“Why hast thou summoned me?” The sound was hissed from a thousand distant voices.
“I am Elizabeth Tudor, born of Anne of the Sidhe. I implore you to aid me in my battle against these enemies of my God, of my kingdom and of my people.”
“What have thee to offer, Elizabeth Tudor?
“Everything. Every last shred of my body, my magic, nay—take my youth and my years.”
“Thou art the last of the Tudors. Thy father’s line will die with thee.”
“I will die anyway if we don’t win this war. I will not live past the day the empire takes the throne.”
“You are strong Elizabeth, and foolish; the strongest woman, nay even stronger than most men.” That single, achingly beautiful voice rang through the grove. The butterfly’s gossamer wings slowly grew as it rose higher to the sky. A face formed from the flame and soon Elizabeth is face to face with Titania, queen of the Sidhe. She wore a tiara of intertwined Hawthorne, primroses, and elderberry.
“Your line would die. There will be no issue from your body, no spark to fuel your fire.”
“Will it save my people?” There could be no hesitation.
“Then so be it.”
“I will grant your wish but know this: be ready for the consequences.” Elizabeth went on her knees and touched her brow to the ground. Titania placed her tiara on Elizabeth’s head.
“One queen to another. Prepare yourself.”
Titania and her attendants rose in a whirl of golden fire.
“Let thy world burn then.”
She rode astride her war steed as the storm brewed in the sky and a lone ship sailed to the middle of the churning sea toward where the Spanish Armada sat in vigil. Tonight’s outcome would tip the balance between her and the Empire.
She saw them as they hovered in the sky, invisible to the naked eye but she is part fae and could track the movements of her race as they soared across the open ocean by the thousands. The waters are alive with more than the usual sea creatures.
She felt weary. Her body is their conduit to this world, her power the thread that bound them to her will. Already she could feel her magic being drained. She anchored herself into the fairy ring, and far below to the ley line that coursed beneath the earth where rich energy flowed and fuelled her elemental army.
“Your Highness,” she didn’t turn to acknowledge the presence of her general beside her. He is not of the Sidhe, and thus saw nothing of her invisible army amassing from a distance. “The weather has gone for the worse. We must seek shelter.” The weather disturbance is a ploy to keep eyes away from the unnatural forces playing tonight, but her general didn’t need to know that.
She held up her hand, “be still general, and watch.” Her companion kept his silence though he still fidgeted like a skittish colt. They never seem to get used to her acting more level-headed than most princes.
The first crack of lighting arcing across the starless sky marked the start of their attack. The single ship suddenly burst into flame as thousands upon thousands of fire salamanders emerged from its hull. The surprised Spanish troops could do nothing as the fireship ate away their sails, their planks— their very people. Elizabeth hardened her resolve.
She uttered the words to a Seeing.
The power leapt to her call. Her consciousness lifted to the ethers and she chose the form of a flaming butterfly to witness the unfolding battle. The sylphs—elementals of air— aided her flight. She chose to land on the main mast of the Duchesa.
“Turn! Turn!” The captain urged his first mate in a frenetic wave. A horde of salamanders have overrun over twenty of the ships, forcing the crew to abandon them or burn to death. Hundreds of soldiers jumped over the dark water in hopes of safety only to be lured by the undines to their deaths. All around the creak of breaking wood, crash of waves, cry of dying men, and the smell of impending death underscored the chaos.
“Capitan, we will be run aground. The tide is turning and we are but a few leagues from the coast!” The harrowed man clutched his maps tightly.
“What sorcery is this? Have the pagans called their gods to rain fire on us?” The captain spat. “The duke is a fool.”
A giant wave rocked the ship and the frantic sailors didn’t know whether to bail water or put out the fire first.
“Sinverguenza! Get to your positions! Row! Row! We must get out of the channel lest we be swallowed by the tempest!” She admired his tenacity, yet he is the enemy.
She rose up to the air when she saw her own navy take the advantage.
A sudden booming sound broke through the din of screams. The Armada started to fire its cannons at the approaching ships. A hundred or so of them are slowly returning to formation.
She needed something— a distraction.
She dispelled the Seeing in a flash. The disorienting feel of being back to her body sent all her senses reeling.
“Mi’lady?” Worry tinged her general’s voice.
“I am well. Get the troops together. We will retaliate.” She looked into his blue eyes. “Victory is upon us.” The man gave a salute before he urged his horse to gallop back to the troops.
Elizabeth gathered her will. The storm still raged around her and the cold invaded her body. But it was the power rushing through her to feed her army that made her feel heady and sick. She needed to hurry before she is burned by the very same power she sought to tame.
Dear God, let me have more strength.
She pictured the image in her mind, reached beneath for the ley line and started a Conjuring.
Thou are not alone.
She felt it. Blanche’s hand over her own—her presence anchored her, lent her much needed strength. They came one by one. Her people. Her Sidhe.
All four of the elemental races joined in the Conjuring.
The golden dragon raced down the dark water with a cry of challenge. Somewhere a bell started to toll as the world burned bright from the combined heat of her passion and the last of her magic.
Dawn’s light tinged the sky pink. The Spanish Armada’s ships lay in ruins though over a hundred managed to flee toward the treacherous coast of Norway. Almost 5,000 men perished in the fires, twenty-four ships sank and thousands of captives would face trial.
Elizabeth closed her eyes. She felt very weary. Already she could feel the aftermath of the battle in her bones. She raised her head and stepped down from her horse.
She could barely feel them, her elemental brothers and sisters. Soon enough they will fade from her entirely.
“It is done.” The distant voice was no more than a whisper. The last of the flowers in the fairy ring shrivelled before crumbling to dust.
But she felt no regret.
The last queen of the Tudor line stood up and turned to return to her troops.
The Golden Age has come.