Notes from the Studio

The Queen of Summer’s Twilight, Chapters Thirty-Three, Thirty-Four and Thirty-Five.

© Charles Vess 2019 Chapter Thirty-Three       This time when The Lord of Darkness and of Death entered The Queen’s city, none there sought to impede his progress. He brought with him no army of shadows, but only a single companion, the last great hunting beast that stalked close by his side, fitted with an elaborate harness made of shining black leather. Although the crowd filling Her throne room was relieved to have their Queen with them once more, as her presence granted them some measure of protection, they remembered well their time spent in the dungeon of the treacherous Lord and trembled.        As for the great dark creature with his twisting horns it was as if they were not even there. Ignoring the murmuring horde of Fae, he and his hunting beast strode the length of the great hall with all their purpose, intent on only one person: The Queen of Summer’s Twilight.        Clothed in resplendent samite, on Her brow a graceful crown of silver, inlaid with green emeralds and in Her slender hand an elegant scepter of gold, The Queen of All Summer’s Twilight sat upon Her great, high throne. One step below, in his acknowledged place of privilege, Thomas Lynn, Knight of the Rose stood, elegantly fitted in a freshly oiled suit of red leather armor, his unbound hair cascading back over the heavy red cloak that fell almost to the step at his feet. With a troubled heart, he watched the Lord of Shadows advance toward Her throne.       Beside the knight, looking as if she would rather be anywhere else but there, even in her hovel leaning against the wall of The Dark Lord’s crumbling city, stood the bottle witch, Mother Hainter. She spared a concerned glance at Janet and her mother standing two steps beneath, before

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The Queen of Summer’s Twilight, Chapter Thirty-One and Thirty-Two.

© Charles Vess 2019 Chapter Thirty-One       When at last the companions emerged from the great forest to stand on a hill overlooking the vast rolling plain that swept toward The Queen’s city, Thomas’ heart leaped. Below, the blackened grass and withered trees were verdant once more. The gentle rolling hills spread for as far as his eyes could see, laced with sparkling streams and stands of towering oak in full leaf. Crowding the sky above, birds of every hue and color filled the freshening air with their sweet song.       Considering the vast distance there was yet to travel, the bottle witch shifted her burden uncomfortably from one shoulder to the other. For the first time, Mairi saw the raw red welts left from its straps and she asked her companion, “Surely now, you will allow me to help?”        Mother Hainter turned to the mortal woman, a fragile smile on her face, “Nae dear. This is my burden ta bear for as long as I may.” Then looking at the other companions, she grinned, “The sooner started, the sooner there.”       However, the Moon above waned from full to crescent as the small company crossed the seemingly endless plain as quickly as they were able. As they drew closer to the Queen’s City, they were surprised to discover that the grass around it was still withered, the trees blackened, and the walls rising before them cracked and broken.        Trying to push aside the despair he felt at seeing the now familiar destruction, Thomas’ quickened his pace and was the first to walk through the ruined gates of the city. Janet looked away from his tortured face, saddened in spite of herself by Thomas’ obvious torment. She turned to the bottle witch, “All that happened back there by that awful river of blood,

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The Queen of Summer’s Twilight, Chapter Thirty.

© Charles Vess 2019       Chapter Thirty       Janet never knew how long it took for their company to travel through the Queen’s great forest. Only the moon above them, slowly waxing greater and greater until it was full and strong spoke to any passage of time. Their steps, though, quickened as they saw, all around them, the once dead land of The Queen become lush with new life. Each blackened tree or withered bush and briar, sported small, fresh buds, shy with the first green breath of life after so long a season of death.       ***************       As if provoked by the burgeoning life all around Janet’s dreams became astonishingly vivid. Once she awakened, sitting bolt upright, her eyes still haunted by the cruel visions that had helplessly unreeled in her sleep.  It was Mother Hainter who clutched the still shaking girl to her breast.        Uncomfortable as she was sharing such intimate knowledge with a mother she hardly knew, Janet whispered to the witch, “I… saw Thomas and The Queen again. They were together… in Her bed. Naked… their bodies entwined. I was in that bed, with them… for what seemed like forever…” The ancient crone wisely said nothing, just wrapped her arms around the young mortal woman, trying to ease the misery from her as best she could.       But in such close company nothing was ever truly a secret. Listening quietly to Janet’s whispered confession, Thomas felt guilt tear at his heart as if it were trying to stop it from beating.        Acutely aware of the icy wall that Janet had constructed between Thomas and herself, the two older women watched helplessly as the Knight tried wordlessly to seek her forgiveness with a hundred unasked for acts of kindness and generosity. After each, the older women looked at other, shaking their heads

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