The Fifth Sun / Excerpt
1. Hail and Well Met
Elizabeth --- York, Rose Castle --- 22 years old
It was a sad but true fact that hunting vampires was frequently boring and often involved a great deal of sitting in cemeteries. Elizabeth sat on her camp chair throne. Her royal posterior had grown numb with sitting. God’s Teeth, this was dull. It was a threadbare tapestry of tedium. A milk-and-water feast of monotony. A plodding platitudinous affliction of repetition.
She couldn’t think of a word dull enough for what this was.
Elizabeth kicked her sandaled heels and waited for Dickon of Norfolk to wake up from the grave into which he‘d crept to sleep away the hours of daylight. He was a sluggard this vampire. A sluggard and a Spanish spy. Then again, he had had a very heavy meal of three people before his sleep. She wondered if he’d be a handsome spy, but such had never been her luck. Her brother-in-law, King Felipe, always sent such plain vampires to creep about her kingdom.
She adjusted the folds of her classique-style dress and her crescent moon French hood. It was bit chilly to be dressed as a Greek goddess, but that was a sacrifice that she was willing to make. Plus, the pearl bodice showed off her trim waist.
The moon rose in the sky and more nothing happened.
Elizabeth could actually feel her flesh becoming boring. Feel herself melting into the chair, which would be unfortunate since it was an heirloom. The chair Richard sat on the night before Bosworth. Before his son, Edward, received the sacred snuffling kiss of the White Boar of Scotland that made him the next Hunter King. The night before there was a joined Kingdom of York and Scotland with young Edward its confused ruler—the selfsame kingdom that Elizabeth now ruled as Hunter Queen, drawn out of English exile by the same snuffling unchallengeable choice.
That’s it, focus on interesting things. A battle where a twelve-year-old was blessed with the strength to wield his father’s axe like some steel butterfly and decide the fate of nations. She could imagine herself there, dressed like the prophetess Deborah, or perhaps as Queen Boadicea. Although, given that Edward had fought Elizabeth’s grandfather at Bosworth, there would be some question as to what side she’d be on. Also, there was the whole issue of time magics being inordinately dangerous, unstable, and the cause of extremely frizzy hair.
It was the year fifteen fifty-five and that was all there was for it. No time magics for the Queen. She was stuck here to the monotony of infinite tedium infinitum. Waiting
Finally, hand pushed back the stone slab, followed by Dickon himself. He was not handsome.
She smiled at the collared vampire. Elizabeth said, “Don’t you know that you should never keep a lady waiting?” Dickon lunged at her. She slid fluidly to one side and kicked him in the arse. Dickon stumbled and turned around.
“Tell me,” she said, as she held up a glittering stake, “does this weapon go with my outfit?” She danced forward and snapped a sharp kick to Dickon’s head. She said, “Don’t let the fact that I am about to kill you in any way interfere with your answer.”
“Bollocks,” said Dickon, who turned on his dirty heel and fled.
She ran across the tiny graveyard and quickly cornered Dickon by the old rectory. “Since you don’t like the stake, we’ll have to try something else.” Elizabeth tossed the jeweled stake at Dickon’s head. As he flinched, she pulled out the French rapier that she wore baldric-style on her back. It had sentimental value.
It was also very sharp. Of course. Feint, kick, lunge, and Dickon crumpled to the ground in the moonlight less his head. Although, technically his head fell also. Tumbled and rolled to the feet of young James Merriweather, one of her pages, who goggled at Sir Reginald, the head of Elizabeth’s guards. The guards quickly dressed her kill. They ripped open what was left of Dickon’s shirt and broke open his ribcage with a bone saw. Elizabeth made herself watch as a guard pulled out her trophy, the dying demon worm that had animated the vampire’s withered heart.
Elizabeth accepted the thing and held it up to the cheers of the crowd that waited outside the church yard gates.
“God bless and keep you, Your Majesty,” called out one old woman.
“As I have a Hunter’s body and heart,” said Elizabeth, “His blessings on us all.”
Elizabeth handed her rapier and the worm back to a guard. She said as heartily as she could, “God’s Teeth, I’m hungry. Don’t be standoffish, girl, hand me some chicken.” One of her maids scurried forward with a chicken leg and a lace-trimmed napkin. Elizabeth ate and waved at the crowds.
Elizabeth tossed her chicken bone over the low fence and into the crowd. There was a quick scramble for possession of this hungry relic.
She glanced sidelong. Her head of Council, Sir Cecil, looked like he’d eaten the chicken bone. She shook her head. “Oh, don’t hang back, my Spirit. What is it?”
Cecil stepped out from behind a particularly dyspeptic angel. “Your Majesty knows that I would never interfere in your sacred duties as the Hunter.”
“Piffle. Interference is your bread and butter. So? Was my style not like to Diana at the hunt? Was my justice not swift enough?”
Cecil smiled, “The safety of your kingdom lies between your two shoulders and in your heart. With portents pointing to some rising darkness, it was reckless to throw aside your weapon to make for a better show.”
She decided not to remind him who was Queen here. She rather thought the crown gave it away. “Yes, but my Lord of Council,” Elizabeth leaned forward, “I give a good show that my people might love me better,” and she waved once more at the crowd, who had waited for hours to have a good spot to watch their Queen hunt a vampire.
Elizabeth waved and the crowd cheered. Elizabeth blew them a kiss and they cheered all the more. Elizabeth glanced at Cecil and gave him the wink, and for all that her Spirit tried not to, he smiled.
Elizabeth glanced over her shoulder and pitched her voice up to carry over the sound of a guard hammering the dead worm to the church door as a sort of warning. “Men who seek to win me should not sit at home all day amongst the cinders but should, in time of peace, keep themselves employed in warlike exercise.”
The men of her court glanced at one another. Murmured amongst themselves like so many doves.
She strolled to them and her court parted before her. They awkwardly stumbled around graves. She walked over them. The dead wouldn’t mind. “Or perhaps in some quest like in the days of old.” There was a distinct murmur and Cecil turned a shade somewhat puce. She gave her winks to her suitors. Each in turn. “Perhaps a ruby apple from the garden of Hesperides. Or a coat of Basilisk skin.”
Kat, one of her ladies of the chamber, called out, “My lady that’s not the sort of quest I send gentlemen on.” She laughed.
Blanche, another of her ladies, said, “We all know where you’d send them questing.” This set Kat to laughing all the more.
Elizabeth rolled her eyes at them. She waved to the huddled musicians. “Enough with melancholy tunes. We would have a galliard.” She looked around the graveyard. Her court grumbled. The crowd cheered.
“Dancing, Your Majesty?” asked Lord Heinrich, an emissary of the Emperor Charles of the Holy Roman Empire.
“Yes, steps arranged to music.” She spun on her toes.
Lord Heinrich made a good attempt and said, “Your Majesty looks like a veritable angel.”
Elizabeth said, “I’d rather you said that I looked like a Prince, for it is by my princely seat and kingly throne wherein God has constituted me.”
She jumped in a rustle of fabric, feeling for a moment like flying. Then she was down to earth again.
“Your Majesty . . . is . . . as . . . radiant as . . . a sum- . . . summer’s day,” puffed the Duc de Montrachet, his plump face glistened under an unfortunately pink hat.
“I could not possibly be more radiant than yourself, my Escargot,” said Elizabeth as she spun away.
“An excellent leap, Your Majesty,” said Sir Christian as his feet skimmed an inch above the ground. “If I may say, you are like a falcon in that dress.”
“However, unlike a falcon, I’ll not stoop,” said Elizabeth as she spun away.
Sir Robert Merriweather jumped and spun. He showed off his quick, light steps. “Your Majesty is particularly glowing this evening.”
She said, “Good sir, if you are trying to imply that I am rank with sweat, you have but to come out and say so.”
“Your Majesty is in a royal mood this evening,” said Merriweather.
“Then it is a good thing that I am royal,” said Elizabeth and she spun away. Danced her court amongst the crosses to the cheers of the crowd. She hadn't a care in the world. Perhaps this night, she'd be too tired for dreams.