Read The Lost Queen Online

Authors: Frewin Jones

The Lost Queen

The Lost Queen

Book Two of The Faerie Path

Frewin Jones

For Claudia

Faeries tread the faerie path
One daughter walks between the sundered worlds
Danger haunts her footsteps there
In Mortal Realm a darkness is unfurled

Seek a mother long-time lost
Forge dark jewels that bring forth light
A crystal sword shall show the way
And love shall conquer evil's blight

Contents

What Happened Before…

On the eve of Anita Palmer's sixteenth birthday, her boyfriend,…

Part One:

Between the Worlds

I

The van's horn blared loudly in the quiet of the…

II

Tania and Edric were stumbling up a steeply sloping, night-dark…

III

School on Friday morning was a strange experience. Tania found…

IV

It took Tania and Edric an hour on the Underground…

V

And found herself in that small tower room again.

Part Two:

Mortal Lives

VI

“You are a Pisces sheep and your element is metal.

VII

“Okay, that went well on the whole. But I want…

VIII

After lunch on Thursday Tania, Edric, and the other students…

IX

Tania was on stage, lying across Edric with her eyes…

X

Tania woke up feeling strangely clear-headed. She wondered why she…

XI

Despite her burning desire to pass on the wonderful news…

XII

Tania lay on her bed, her eyes closed, her arms…

Part Three:

Sisters in Exile

XIII

Tania wondered if she had fainted and fallen into some…

XIV

Despite what Sancha had said Tania felt a crushing weight…

XV

Tania stared stupefied as the great horse drew steadily nearer…

XVI

The night-dark blanket of clouds was just beginning to turn…

XVII

“No! Get away from me! I won't go with you!…

XVIII

It was mid-afternoon. Tania and Edric and the three princesses…

XIX

The summer afternoon had given way to a warm, shadowy…

XX

Titania parked her dark blue BMW about fifty yards down…

XXI

“Which direction are they coming from?” Titania asked.

On the eve of Anita Palmer's sixteenth birthday, her boyfriend, Evan Thomas, took her for a speedboat ride on the river Thames. Her birthday surprise turned to terror when they saw a ghostly shape on the river and Evan, swerving to avoid it, sent the boat crashing into a bridge.

Anita woke up in hospital. Her injuries were superficial, but Evan—although otherwise physically unhurt—remained unconscious.

Anita's parents brought her a curious parcel: a birthday present sent with no card and no name. It was an old leather-bound book with blank pages that mysteriously filled with words when Anita started reading.

The book told how Princess Tania, seventh daughter of King Oberon and Queen Titania of the Realm of Faerie, disappeared from the Royal Palace on the eve of her wedding to Lord Gabriel Drake. It was while Anita was reading this story that she learned Evan had vanished from the hospital. Later that same
morning, Anita—believing herself to be experiencing a vivid dream inspired by the story in the book—followed a young man in Elizabethan clothes into Faerie.

The young man introduced himself as Gabriel Drake and explained that Evan was in fact his servant Edric Chanticleer, sent into the Mortal World to find and retrieve Anita. Gabriel believed she was his lost bride, Princess Tania—the seventh daughter of Oberon and Titania, with the power to walk between Faerie and the Mortal World. For five hundred years, ever since the disappearance of Princess Tania and the subsequent loss of her mother, Queen Titania, the eternal Realm of Faerie had been plunged into a sad and gloomy twilight.

When Gabriel took Anita to meet Oberon, the king was so overjoyed that his lost daughter had returned that light and life came back into Faerie once more. Soon after, Anita met Princess Tania's six sisters, and as she learned more about this strange world—and
remembered
things she could not possibly have known—her certainty that this was all a dream began to waver. At last she was forced to confront the fact that she was truly Oberon's lost daughter.

Torn between the enchantments of Faerie and the desperate need to get home, Anita—now acknowledging herself to be Tania—learned that the mysterious book sent to her in the Mortal World was her Soul Book, a living diary that chronicled all the days of her Faerie life.

Tania had believed that Edric as Evan loved her,
and full of pain and anger at his betrayal, she grew closer to Lord Gabriel. It was only after Edric told her the true purpose behind Gabriel's dramatic rescue of Tania from the Mortal World that she was saved from falling under his spell. Gabriel Drake had planned to marry Tania and use her unique power to enter the Mortal World and bring back a terrible poison called Isenmort, known to mortals as metal, a substance so deadly in Faerie that its merest touch meant instant death. The Faerie Palace was torn apart with treachery—even Tania's own sister Princess Rathina tried to force Tania to marry Gabriel.

In the end Gabriel's plans were thwarted and the evil lord was banished by Oberon.

Peace returned to the Realm of Faerie but Tania was convinced that her mother, Queen Titania, was still alive, and had sent her the Soul Book. She and Edric returned to the Mortal World to find her.

Part One:
Between the Worlds

Camden, North London

The van's horn blared loudly in the quiet of the early morning London streets: three short bursts followed by a cheery whistle from the driver.

Princess Tania, seventh daughter of Oberon and Titania, King and Queen of the Immortal Realm of Faerie, turned her head to look. The driver of the van was half leaning out of the cab, grinning at Tania and her companion as the vehicle sped by.

Tania laughed. She didn't mind the effect she and Edric were having as they walked along together; it was quite funny, actually, and that driver wasn't the first person to have reacted enthusiastically to their strange clothes. They had already been on the receiving end of several odd looks on their journey from Hampton Court in southwest London to Camden in the north of the city.

Tania knew why they were getting these reactions: Their ornate clothes would have blended in perfectly in an Elizabethan court, but they struck an odd note in twenty-first-century London. Tania was wearing a full-skirted, olive green velvet gown with long sleeves and embroidered panels picked out in leaf green and russet red stitching. Edric's clothes were similarly archaic: a dark gray doublet and hose trimmed with black brocade and with puffed sleeves slashed to show a lining of pearl white silk.

Edric smiled. “He probably thinks we've been to an all-night costume party.”

“Probably,” Tania agreed. “One thing's for sure: He'd never guess the truth.” She paused and gazed into Edric's wide, chestnut brown eyes. A thread of wind caught his dark blonde hair and whipped it around his smiling face—the face of the boy she loved. A seventeen-year-old boy called Evan Thomas, who had turned out to be someone quite different—just as she had turned out to be a different person from the girl she had always thought she was.

Three days ago she had been Anita Palmer, an ordinary girl on the brink of her sixteenth birthday. Three days ago she had known nothing of the enchanted world of Faerie. She smiled to herself. Back then she had been only half alive.

Three days ago she had loved a boy called Evan, but now she knew who he truly was: Edric Chanticleer, a young courtier of the Royal Palace of Faerie.

The sharp click of heels on paving stones brought Tania out of her reverie. A woman was walking toward them, staring at them in amused curiosity.

“Hello, there,” Edric said. “We've just come from the Immortal Realm of Faerie.” He nodded to Tania. “She's a princess.”

“Is she?” the woman said as she passed. “Good for her. The pair of you certainly brighten up the place.”

“Thanks,” Tania called as the woman walked on and disappeared around a corner.

Edric grinned. “You see? People are okay with the truth.”

She looked thoughtfully at him. “So long as they think you're kidding,” she said. “But that's not going to work with Mum and Dad.”

Edric's face became serious. “No,” he said. “I know it won't.”

Tania glanced down at herself. “I can't turn up at home dressed like this,” she said. “I'm going to have enough explaining to do without these clothes.” She had been out of the Mortal World for three days since both she and Edric went missing from hospital following the speedboat accident—three days and nights for her desperate parents to fear the worst. She had to get back to them as soon as possible and let them know she was all right, but not in her Faerie gown.

Edric looked up and down the street. “The shops aren't open yet,” he said. “It can't be much past seven o'clock. But even if they were open, we haven't got
any money to buy clothes.”

Tania frowned, thinking. “There's a charity shop not far from here.”

“That won't be open, either.”

“It doesn't matter.” She gripped Edric's hand. “Come on. I know where we might find some things to wear.”

St. Crispin's Hospice Shop, Camden

The charity shop had an assortment of items laid out in the window—everything from books and vinyl LPs to toys and games and ornaments. Deeper into the shop they could see racks of clothing and one shelf that appeared to contain nothing but folded crocheted blankets.

“Just like I said,” Edric commented, peering through the glass. “It's closed.”

“No problem,” Tania said. “Come with me.” She led him by the hand into a narrow alley that ran alongside the shop. A doorway was sunk into the wall about ten feet down the alley and up against the door, they found a pile of plastic bags, boxes, and bin liners.

“People leave stuff here for the shop when it's closed,” Tania explained. “With any luck we'll find some clothes we can use. We can do a swap.”

Edric crouched down and opened the nearest bag. He pulled out a garish green-and-purple knitted sweater. “What do you think? Should I try it on?”

“Over my dead body.” She knelt at his side and started working at the knotted string that held closed
the neck of another bag, hoping that the clothes inside would turn out to be more wearable than that purple-and-green sweater.

 

“Okay, I'm decent again,” Tania said. She had changed in the shallow confines of the sunken doorway while Edric had turned his back and guarded her from the gaze of anyone passing the end of the alley.

He was already in normal clothes: a pale blue shirt and a pair of blue jeans two sizes too big for him, held up with a black leather belt.

Tania stepped out of cover. “Do I look all right?” The choice of clothing hadn't been ideal, but she had found a pink T-shirt and a calf-length, brown denim skirt. She had discarded her red velvet Faerie shoes in favor of a pair of white sneakers that fit reasonably well.

Edric smiled. “You look lovely,” he said.

She raised her eyebrows. “If you say so,” she said. She crouched and carefully folded her Faerie gown into one of the bags. “And it's not like we're stealing,” she said. “Just making an exchange.” She looked up at him. “Imagine their faces when they see this lot.”

Edric reached down and she took his hand as she stood up.

“You'll need one of these,” she said, opening the fingers of her other hand. She had brought the two small flat gemstones from Faerie in a pocket of her gown. Now they lay in her palm, oval-shaped and glimmering fitfully in the pale morning light: Black amber, the most
precious mineral in the Realm of Faerie.

Edric picked one of the jewels out of her hand. “Remember,” he told her. “You're as vulnerable to Isenmort now as I am. You have to keep this with you all the time.”

“Yes, I know.” For several weeks before she had entered Faerie, Tania had been getting electric shocks off anything made from metal. As the Faerie half of her spirit came alive, so had her susceptibility to metal—to the lethal substance known in Faerie as Isenmort. Oberon had given her these two pieces of black amber for protection; unless she kept one of them close by, the touch of metal could be deadly to her. She slipped the jewel into the pocket of her skirt.

“You haven't told me how I look,” Edric said. “Am I respectable enough to meet your parents, do you think?”

She adjusted his collar and smoothed the creases on the front of his shirt. “You look just fine,” she said. “But you can't come home with me.”

Edric frowned. “I'm not leaving you to face them on your own.”

“Yes you are,” she said firmly. She lifted her fingers to his lips to stop him speaking. “Listen,” she went on. “No matter what I say, Mum and Dad are going to blame you for what happened. I need to talk to them on my own—that's the only way this is going to work. If you come with me, it'll only make things worse.”

Edric looked at her for a few moments without speaking. Then he nodded. “Perhaps you're right,”
he said. “But we haven't even decided what you're going to tell them.”

“I wish I could tell them the truth,” Tania said. “But I can't. They'd think I've gone insane.”

“So we have to come up with a plausible reason for why you disappeared from the hospital and where you've been.”

“I'm no good at lying,” she admitted. “If we make stuff up, we have to keep it really simple otherwise Mum will suss it out in ten seconds flat.”

“Okay,” Edric said. “Nice and simple. You've already told them the story about my coming from Wales, haven't you?”

“Yes,” Tania said. “And I thought it was true at the time. It sounded perfectly reasonable: You didn't get on with your stepfather so you came to London to get away from him.”

“You can tell them you went to Wales to try and find me when I left the hospital,” Edric said.

Tania nodded. “Yes, Wales is good. It could easily have taken me this long to get there and back. But we have to choose a particular place.” She racked her brains—she had never been to Wales but one of her classmates came from a town in the northwest of the country, a small coastal town in Snowdonia. What was the place called? “Criccieth!” she said aloud. “That's it. It's up in the north of Wales. It could easily have taken me a couple of days to find you there. I'll tell them I wasn't thinking straight, that I was frantic with worry about you after you vanished. I went to
Criccieth and found you at your parents' house.”

“Tell them I had freaked out because I thought the police were going to prosecute me about the boat crash,” Edric suggested. “And you persuaded me to come back.”

“Yes.”

He looked anxiously at her. “Are you sure you wouldn't rather have me there with you?”

She shook her head. “Trust me, you don't want to be there. Stay with me till we get to the end of my street, then you should go to the hostel and keep your cell phone on. I'll call you as soon as I can.” She grabbed his hand. “Let's go.”

 

Tania and Edric stood at the corner of Lessingham Street and Eddison Terrace. Anita Palmer and her parents lived at number 18, down at the far end of the long residential street.

“I don't want to leave you,” Edric said, holding both her hands in his.

“It's only for a little while,” Tania said. “We can talk on the phone.” She frowned. “What day is it?”

Edric thought for a moment. “Thursday.”

“Then I'll see you at school tomorrow,” she said. “Keep your fingers crossed for me that everything goes well.”

“I will.” He looked into her face. “I love you.”

“I love you, too. But go, please.”

He started to walk away.

“Aren't you going to kiss me good-bye?” she called.

He turned back and suddenly they were in each other's arms.

And then, far, far too quickly, she was alone on the street corner in the early morning light, watching him leave.

He turned and waved. She lifted her hand and waved back. She saw his lips move, mouthing,
I love you
.

I love you
. She formed the words soundlessly.

Then he was gone.

She started to walk down the street. The sun blazed between two buildings, sending her shadow skittering away from her, filling her eyes with dazzling light and wrapping her in the warmth of the early summer morning.

Had it all been a dream, everything she had seen and done in Faerie? Her father the King. Her six sisters: carefree Zara; solemn-eyed Sancha; Cordelia with her beloved animals; Hopie with her stern gaze and healing hands; Eden, her unhappy eldest sister who had believed she was responsible for their mother's death; and poor deluded Rathina, who had done such terrible things for love of Gabriel Drake, who had never loved her in return.

Real? Not real?

Tania walked along the street she had known all her life, gazing amazed at all those strange, familiar houses, knowing as she approached the house she had always called home that the girl she had been was gone forever.

 

Tania's hand trembled as she reached for the doorbell; it felt odd to have to ring at her own front door, but then her missing keys were just another part of her old life—the life that had been stripped away from her over the past three days.

A thousand raw emotions churned through her. The pure joy of knowing she was about to see her parents again, and the apprehension over how they would react. The fear that things could never be the same again in her life, and the wonder and delight of knowing who she really was. The overwhelming intensity of her love for Edric, and the desolation of being apart from him. Memories of Faerie, memories of this world. All tumbling together as she stood under the porch and waited for the door to open.

Something in her wanted to run and hide—something stronger kept her there.

She saw a shadow approaching through the glass panels. The blood pounded in her temples.

Be brave! Be brave! Be brave!

The door opened and she saw her father's familiar round, gentle-eyed face. But the change in him was devastating. There were dark bags under his eyes, his skin was gray and his usual cheerful expression was gone, replaced by misery and despair.

Tania's mouth was parched. She swallowed painfully. “Dad…?”

He gave a wordless shout, his eyes lighting up, his face stretching into a huge relieved smile. He jerked the door wide open and almost threw himself at her.

She gasped as the breath was squeezed out of her. She put her arms around him, her eyes shut, clinging on tightly, feeling his stubble against her cheek, smelling the familiar scent of his soap, her face buried in the collar of his dressing gown.

She had no idea of how much time passed as they stood like that on the doorstep.

Finally he let go of her enough to draw her over the threshold and close the door behind her.

“Mary!” he called, his voice shaking. “She's here!”

Tania tried to speak—to apologize—to explain—but her throat felt achingly tight and her voice wouldn't come.

Her father pulled her along the hallway. She saw her mother appear at the head of the stairs. She saw her grip the banister rail, her face a white blur through Tania's tears. She saw her mother's legs buckle under her, so that she sat heavily on the top step, her slender body wrapped in her old blue dressing gown.

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