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The Queen's Crystal Plate




The Queen’s Crystal Plate

 

 

 

 

Once upon a time a king and queen ruled far away in a strange country. It was a land filled with mysterious animals and creatures. In the land there were also dark sorcerers and enchantresses, and fairies along with good wizards that could use their magic to conjure fantastic lights and the most excellent food. There were farmers, shepherds with never ending flocks of white fluffy sheep, goat herders, merchants that sold all kinds of strange trinkets, and miners that toiled day and night for small wages. Several small villages were spread across the great kingdom, but the capital city was where the king and queen lived and ruled from.

The city was splendid. Beautiful and sumptuous gardens were everywhere. Rivers of clear water flowed down the center of the town square where all manner of trade happened between the inhabitants. The wool gathered from the shepherds was spun and sold for an exorbitant price. Farmers would bring all of their crops and do their utmost to cheat and make their product sound tastier and more succulent than any available when it really wasn’t. The goat herders would make goat cheese and sell goat milk to the people, but it often was rancid and not really goat cheese. The merchants however were the craftiest of all those who sold in the market. Their greed was insatiable as they would not only overcharge for worthless objects, but they would trick their unknowing customers into giving them money to invest in amazing wonders far away. The people who fell into these traps were promised vast wealth, but after the merchants left with all of this wealth they never returned. Many starved and stole because of this, but the promise of great wealth continued to be something people were unwilling to let go despite the risks involved.

The lowliest though and despised of all occupations in the kingdom was a miner. These individuals worked all day and through the night to unearth precious gems, coal, metals like gold, silver, and steel. By many it was considered a career of unimportance and setback. The people in the city all were hoping to end up working in the palace for the king or queen. The palace was painted white and gold with high turrets and grand stained windows. It was the envy of all of the surrounding kingdoms.

The king and the queen ruled as justly as they could with the assistance of their oldest and wisest friend; the Wizard of the Wind, Horace. With his assistance the king and queen led their kingdom through dark times and great wars and survived to live on in greater prosperity. Yet Horace’s wisdom was not always infallible. Upon his advice, the king led a raid on the Sorcerer of Darkness, Solath, deep within his mountain lair. The evil sorcerer had been plotting against the kingdom with his dark forces. He desired nothing more then to destroy the king and his entire family line; this would clear the way for him to install his own monarch.

The raid was for the most part successful. The sorcerer’s plan was defeated and his forces thrown into disarray, however Solath escaped with most of his powers intact despite everything Horace and the king did to stop him. Even though they were not able to purge Solath, they returned to the palace successful and celebrated the victory with the people. It was at this time that the queen bore the king a daughter who they called Isabelle. The entire kingdom rejoiced at the birth of their monarchs’ first child and the celebrations lasted for several days.

Many months later, when the king and queen were playing with Princess Isabelle in the palace gardens Solath attacked and killed the king and queen. As he was about to kill Isabelle, Horace saved her and put a protective enchantment around her. Horace and Solath then dueled each other, but Horace quickly won and banished Solath from their world into oblivion. Horace did what he could to comfort the crying princess, but he knew that her life would change forever and that her security would be threatened until Solath was destroyed once and forever. The kingdom mourned many long weeks for their beloved monarchs. Since Princess Isabelle was still far too young to rule, Horace was installed as acting regent until she was to come of age and become queen. There were those though that desired for the king’s nephew, William, to rule and they were carefully plotting his ascension to the throne and biding their time waiting for the perfect moment to strike.

 

 

Many, Many Years Later

 

 

It was the day of Princess Isabelle’s coronation. The entire kingdom had gathered to see their new monarch crowned. Dignitaries from the surrounding kingdoms were also present and carried with them exotic animals and sweet smelling perfumes. A fabulous celebration was planned in the palace grounds after the crowning ceremony. All of the palace staff were working feverishly and without rest. Princess Isabelle was found to be lavishing herself in a giant bath which was filled with the most expensive perfumes and soaps. Her skin was soft and perfect as was her face. She was said to be the most beautiful woman in all of the kingdom, and for a good portion of her life princes from other kingdoms had thrown themselves before her hoping to gain her favor. She however had said no to all of the requests; she preferred to remain alone and enjoy all of the pleasures of life without the responsibilities. She left the majority of the affairs of state to Horace, but she was more than capable to lead her people.

Princess Isabelle was unfortunately unlike her parents. She was unkind, spoiled, and never had enough. She always wanted more and more, and wasn’t satisfied until she had the best of the best of the grandest. The people of the kingdom loved her for her parents’ sake and were hoping she would one day become as great a monarch as they were. Horace had done everything he could to teach Isabelle about being a great ruler, but since he had to deal with the affairs of the state there were many times when he was unable to attend to her upbringing. He regretted it upon seeing her behavior and treatment of others, but he feared there was nothing that he could do for her any longer; if she were meant to rule then she would learn.

Everyone made their way to the grand audience chamber and stood waiting for Princess Isabelle to enter the massive room. By the throne where Princess Isabelle was to be crowned stood Horace dressed in his finest regalia. A page next to the great wizard was holding the gleaming sparkling diamond crown on a red velvet cushion. Other royal dignitaries were present around the throne like Baroness Gracia, who was Isabelle’s father’s sister. Duke Frederick, Isabelle’s mother’s brother, and the Duke’s son William who was next in line to the throne should anything happen to Isabelle. Both Duke Frederick and William looked stoic and somewhat miserable, but Baroness Gracia was glowing with pride and happiness. The trumpets sounded and the entire convocation became silent. As the drums and the horns played their music an honor guard dressed in the brightest colors of scarlet, black and dark forest green marched down the center aisle. A flock of young girls dressed in elegant lavender dresses followed spreading petals of various flowers across the floor. Following the flower girls, a large group of brave and noble knights dressed in their armor with swords held high marched in parade and lined the path to the throne. The music then hit a crescendo and everyone turned to face the great doors as they swung open.

With great pride and pose Isabelle marched down the aisle, with all of her ladies in waiting behind her. She was wearing the most luxurious gown ever made. Exquisite and bright jewels covered it and the material was crafted of the finest silk that wealth could afford. Her blinding violet eyes cast commanding gazes upon everyone whom she passed as they knelt before her. She smiled as she knew that as soon as that crown was placed on her head that she would have absolute power in the land to do whatever she wanted or desired. She reached the throne and sat down as her ladies in waiting flocked away from the center aisle to the sides of the throne.

Horace consecrated the crown to the wind and said some other traditional words, and then placed the crown on Isabelle now Queen with all of the privileges and responsibilities that came with it. The entire chamber erupted into cheers and applause, and Isabelle couldn’t help but smile grandly. She gave a passionate speech to her subjects, informing them that she would rule them as fairly and justly as her parents did and that she would always protect them from dark forces from within and outside the kingdom. Queen Isabelle then retreated from the great hall and retired before the party was to begin. No expense had been spared for this grand celebration and many of the nobles were questioning her financial acumen quietly amongst themselves, because they were concerned with how the people were going to handle the new wave of taxes to pay for everything.

Now queen, Isabelle returned to the palace gardens where they were having the party and was enjoying herself immensely. She danced with all of the young nobles and was laughing hysterically at their rather strange jokes at times; words and things that she had never heard of before, but they made her giddy with delight. Horace was greeting all of the heads of states and ambassadors from other kingdoms, but it was clearly time for the new queen to meet them all. With a sigh, Isabelle took a seat on her throne and began to receive her guests and the presents that they brought. An ambassador from the Forest Glades brought a beautifully hand carved chair lathed in gold. The representatives from the Dwarve Mountain Consortium brought a chest brimming with silver, gold, and jewels. The line of representatives and leaders went on for a very, very long time and the Queen was beginning to tire.

With the wave of her hand and her eyes half shut the Queen summoned the last individual. The man was covered in a black cloak from head to foot carrying with him a small, simple wooden chest. He bowed very lowly and informed Queen Isabelle that he was from one of the far Northern Forest Tribes and that he had a gift for her to honor the day that she was crowned their queen. She asked him tiresomely what it was. The man set the wooden chest down and carefully opened it. He withdrew from it a beautiful and ornate crystal plate. At first glance it seemed like another mere trinket that the queen would simply stockpile away, but then the man began to explain what it was. He told her that it was no mere crystal plate, but that it was a very special plate created by a great sorcerer. He went on to say that any food eaten off the plate would taste more delectable and scrumptious than anything she had ever tasted in her entire life. The idea sounded interesting, but she highly doubted that the plate would actually do what the man was saying. She thanked the man for his gift and had Horace accept it and then sent the man on his way. With a sigh of relief, Isabelle rose from her throne and continued to party now that she was finished with the boring part of her new responsibilities.

The representative from Northern Forest Tribe retired from the festivities and returned to his residence in the city at a nearby inn. As soon as he shut the door and locked it, he dropped his cloak and clapped his hands and the room lit up with candles everywhere. Waiting for him at a table was Duke Frederick and his son William. The man who had given Queen Isabel the crystal plate was the Sorcerer of Darkness, Solath. He had fought his way out of oblivion and returned to exact his revenge and take what he always wanted. He had contacted the Duke and informed him of his plans. Solath confidently promised that he could make William king and ensure his family line forever and he would do this solely for vengeances sake. He wanted two things; he wanted to be made William’s permanent royal counsel, and to be given a small parcel of land in the southeast which was considered to be completely worthless. The Duke agreed to these terms and thus the two set their plan in motion and waited for the queen to fall into their carefully laid trap.

After the night had tarried on for long enough, Queen Isabelle decided to retire. It had been a long day and she had eaten and drank quite a bit. In her state she would shout if her ladies in waiting weren’t moving fast enough, or if the servants didn’t have everything perfectly ready for her. Once in her nightgown, she crawled into bed and gazed up at the ceiling for a while and replayed the events of the day and smiled triumphantly. She glanced over at her vanity desk and saw the crystal plate laying there sparkling and clear. She arose from her bed and examined the gift and was curious how it ended up in her room. Without giving much thought to the item, she set it back down and returned to the warmth and soft comfort of her bed.

Several weeks passed since the coronation ceremony. In that time Queen Isabelle had raised the taxes which angered her people greatly, meanwhile she was spending money without improving much of the kingdom which was beginning to irritate her nobles immensely. She knew that she wasn’t as liked as her parents and it bothered her, but she believed the fault was in others and not her. Despite Horace’s advice, Isabelle began dismissing several of her ministers, advisors, army commanders, and other such notable staff. She replaced them with individuals who were compliant and wouldn’t suggest that her spending habits were to blame for the difficulties within the kingdom and the growingly strenuous relationships with other kingdoms. Very soon her entire kingdom was being governed by incompetents just so Isabelle could feel better about herself.

Conspiracies flew around everywhere about how the queen should be replaced since she wasn’t ready to effectively and properly rule. According to what Solath said, Duke Frederick and his son William weren’t to criticize what Isabelle did or to support her either. Both men were to take a quiet and neutral role to everything as they had done before the coronation. Isabelle began to become more paranoid and reclusive, refusing to see anyone but her ladies in waiting, captain of the guard, and Horace. The old wizard assured her that these rumors were nothing but malicious lies spread by her detractors, and that she still had the love of the people despite the rumors and high taxes. Isabelle did her utmost to believe Horace, but when she asked him what she should do about all of these problems she scolded him for his answers. He informed her to rein in her spending, lower the taxes, and send envoys with peace offerings to the surrounding kingdoms she had insulted. Isabelle flatly refused though and shouted at Horace to leave her presence at once for daring to put himself above her. Horace bowed and immediately left her without a word.

Sometime later, dinner was brought to Isabelle and as she was about to take a bite of the luscious looking chicken breast on her plate smothered in gravy and mushrooms she remembered the crystal plate that she had received during her coronation. She instructed the page nearest to her to fetch the decadent looking plate and put all of her food on it. A short while later the food was on the crystal plate and Isabelle looked upon it expectantly. She picked up her fork, cutting through the soft layers of the chicken, and put a bite size piece in her mouth. She chewed it for a few moments and then swallowed. She closed her eyes and sighed deeply. Never had she tasted anything so divine in her entire life. She immediately ate the rest of the chicken and rang the servants to bring her more of the delectable food on the same plate.

Isabelle finished three rounds of the main course, and then moved onto dessert which was a cake covered in honey and freshly picked strawberries the color of rubies with whipped cream on top. She bit into the cake and her senses tingled with unabashed delight and she quickly consumed the whole piece and rang for more. She did this several times having the servants run at a blinding sprint to get it from the kitchens to where she was dining. After one last bite, hours later she was so full that she believed that she would vomit. She retired to her room and slept well into late afternoon the next day. When she awoke and took her lunch she insisted on all of her food being served on the crystal plate. Once more she ate, and ate, and ate until she could eat no longer and went to bed. This routine went on for many, many days and then weeks without stopping and soon the nobles and ministers of her government began to wonder what was happening to her. Even Horace wasn’t permitted to see Isabelle and his concern began to mount ever increasingly.

Many months passed since Queen Isabelle began feasting regularly on the crystal plate. During that time the kingdom began to fall into disarray and people began to lose hope that their current monarch could ever rule as wisely as their previous king and queen. Horace did what he could to defend the queen, but it was difficult because she rarely admitted anyone, especially Horace, those dreary days. Those who opposed Queen Isabelle were growing in number and Duke Frederick was gaining in power with each passing day as more allies flocked to his cause. His son, William, even began to have his own following of supporters apart from his father and was beginning to become a force to be reckoned with all on his own. Meanwhile, Queen Isabelle closed herself up and ate off the crystal plate day after day until she had become so bloated that she no longer walked but insisted to be pushed around on a chair. She had become crueler then ever and soon her servants and all who were around her day and night secretly began to despise and loathe her.

Duke Frederick and William had another meeting with Solath and told the Sorcerer of Darkness all that was happening within the royal court and that the people were becoming disillusioned with the Queen. He then informed them that the time had come to put themselves in power. He gave them instructions on what to do, and promised that by the end of the night William would be king, and Duke Frederick would be regent. The two men left and returned to the palace and began putting in motion the sorcerer’s plans. By the time night had fallen, they sent a request to Queen Isabelle that they had with them an ambassador from a certain forest tribe bearing a crystal goblet as a gift for her majesty. Upon hearing this, the Queen told them to admit the ambassador with all due haste to her ante-chamber. Now that she had taken the bait, Duke Frederick took Solath into the Queen’s chambers and both of them watched as Queen Isabelle once proclaimed to be the loveliest woman in the land was rolled by a large chair into their presence.

Solath looked on Queen Isabelle with a crooked smile as Duke Frederick was hiddenly disgusted. Both men bowed and the Queen demanded at once for this crystal goblet that she was told the ambassador had for her. With a nod, Solath reached from under his cloak and produced a gleaming goblet made of crystal. He handed it to one of the servants who then handed it to the Queen. She took it and gazed at it in awe and then sloppily licked her lips as she couldn’t wait to sample some of her favorite beverages from the vessel. However, as she was about to order her servant to bring forth a bottle of wine the goblet turned brown and withered away into dust. At first Isabelle thought that she would burst into tears, but then her sorrow turned to anger and she commanded her guards to take away Solath.

With a quick turn, Solath revealed his true nature and with ease disposed of all of the guards and the servants in the room. Panicky, Queen Isabelle fell off her chair and attempted to crawl away as she screamed treachery at Duke Frederick who merely smiled at the fallen queen bloated up to her arm pits. Solath told her who he was and what he had returned to do and that this time he meant to see it through. Horace rushed into the room and stopped Solath before he killed Isabelle and the two engaged in a spectacular battle. It was soon obvious to Horace that he could not protect Isabelle and kill Solath at the same time who had grown in power and knowledge. With a blinding flash of power he transported Isabelle away from the palace and the capital with the cost of his own life. As he transported Isabelle away, Solath struck at that moment of vulnerability and repaid the favor and sent Horace to oblivion. He bound him in oblivion with a spell that would have to be broken if Horace was to ever return. The spirit of the previous king and queen would have to return to the throne if he was to ever be released.

At first Duke Frederick protested that his son could not properly rule while Isabelle was alive. Solath told him to send out agents and spies to find her, and that because she was so large that it wouldn’t be that difficult to find her. In meantime they would tell people that the queen had retired to the country for her health and had installed Horace as regent until her return. Duke Frederick was puzzled to hear this since Solath had just banished the man, but then he understood what the dark sorcerer meant when he himself transformed his body into the image of Horace. The two men then departed the ante-chamber eager to begin crafting their new kingdom.

Far away from the comfort of her palace, Isabelle found herself alone and lost in a dark valley. Night had fallen and there was very little light to be found in the sky save for two moons which were covered by thickets of dark, fluffy clouds. Not one to usually be emotional, Isabelle began to weep bitterly. She looked under her robes and found that the crystal plate was unharmed; she couldn’t bear to part with it even for a moment and so she took it wherever she went. She hugged the plate tightly and counted it as her only friend in the land; she continued to cry until she fell asleep. In the morning she was able to pull herself up underneath a large willow tree and waited hoping that someone would give her passage to a nearby village. Several people passed her by though and ignored her demands for assistance. When she threatened the people that she was the Queen she toppled over and fell into some nearby mud. This caused all of the nearby passers to laugh hysterically and dismiss her as a lazy and rude woman.

Muddied and embarrassed beyond all reason, Isabelle crept back underneath the willow tree. She sat there, still feeling very numb; she had not yet fully processed what had happened to her at the palace. She sat in the same place under the tree all day thinking, all the while enduring insults from passersby’s about her appearance. The sky darkened overhead and soon rain began to gently fall. People hustled about in order to get out of the rain. The crossroad, where Isabelle had wandered to, was soon filling with muddied water as the rain began to pour faster. She still remained under the tree and hugged the crystal place doing her best to keep it dry at the expense of her herself becoming soaked to the bone. A lone man covered in grime and dripping with filthy water stopped by Isabelle though and asked if she was hurt in any way. She did not respond or even look at the man because he was a miner.

The man was relentless though and asked if she had a place to stay, but still Isabelle refused to speak. At a loss for what to say, the man said that he had food and warm drink at his home if she wanted to accompany him. Upon hearing these words Isabelle held her plate closer to her and realized that her stomach was hungering once more. She agreed to accompany the man who smiled warmly at this prospect despite all of the grime and grit dripping from his forehead. She introduced herself as Isabelle and he told her that his name was Declan. She insisted that Declan push her in the wheelbarrow which he was utilizing to carry his belongings and tools from the mine that he had been working in all day. Once he was able to shuffle his stuff around, Isabelle climbed in and he began the arduous task of pushing her. It was quite a difficult undertaking pushing Isabelle with all of her weight through the thick mud as the wind blew the stinging rain into Declan’s face. She kept shouting at him to move more quickly all the while doing everything she could to keep the crystal plate dry.

Eventually they stopped at a small cottage which looked homey enough from the outside despite the dilapidated appearance. A crooked and run-down fence surrounded the cottage and there were piles of chopped wood all around it. To Isabelle it was something less than the lowliest servant in the palace could imagine living in, but to Declan it was home, and peace. Declan stopped the wheelbarrow and assisted Isabelle out and into the dry interior of the cottage. As bad as Isabelle thought the outside was, the interior was vastly worse to her. There was no general order to the place; furniture was strewn about careless and thoughtlessly. The kitchen had dirty pots and pans stacked as high as the ceiling and dirty socks, shirts, and pants were scattered hither and yon about the entire cottage.

Declan swiftly began to clean the cottage, pushing stuff here and there to make a clear path and space for Isabelle by the fireplace. She glanced at him and noticed that he was blushing as he moved his dirty clothes around, stacks of filthy looking plates, and goblets. She found it rather humorous and began to make sarcastic comments about his habits, or rather lack of habits concerning cleanliness. Eventually, Declan cleared enough space and started a fire so that Isabelle could warm herself uninhibited. She sat down in the large worn out cushiony brown chair, which groaned nervously as she leaned back in it. She asked him to fetch something for her feet and he quickly retrieved a wooden stool and put a blanket over its wooden surface to give it some sort of cushion. Once she felt relaxed she demanded that food be brought to her and that he serve it on the crystal plate which she handed him. She told him though to be of the utmost care with the plate. He of course was and began cooking in the kitchen with all earnestness.

Eventually Declan finished cooking what he believed was a delectable dish of porridge, which was something he ate regularly. He brought it to Isabelle swiftly on the crystal plate and eagerly waited her opinion of what she thought of it. Isabelle at once informed Declan that the food appeared to be like muck and smelled of garbage, and stated that she was fortunate to have her crystal plate. With a great big sigh, she began to eat the food and within moments she was wolfing it down until she had licked the plate clean. She then handed the plate to Declan, who was utterly dismayed, and informed him that she wanted more. At first Isabelle’s words didn’t seem to register, but when she shouted at him to move he smartly went into the kitchen and retrieved more porridge on the plate. He brought it back and Isabelle quickly ate all of it and demanded more, but Declan told her there wasn’t enough and that he needed to eat.

In a very firm, but calm voice Isabelle told him to get her more, but Declan again told her that there wasn’t enough. She then screamed at him to get her more, but Declan merely stepped back and shook his head. With her finger pointed at him, Isabelle commanded him and still Declan refused. Stubborn to the end, Isabelle attempted to stand to her feet and plummeted back into her chair. Declan tried to help her but she screamed at him that she didn’t need any help and once more tried to get up but this time she fell to the floor. She didn’t even try to get up again. She crawled on the floor panting breathlessly into the kitchen and began clawing at the table where the porridge was sitting. Eventually she knocked the table to the ground and the porridge splattered all over the floor. She scraped a bunch off the floor and heaved it onto the crystal plate which she had held close to her heart.

Declan watched all of this in amazement. And even though he had offered to help Isabelle again, she ate herself to sleep. Her face was covered in porridge and she snored deeply sprawled all over the floor which was littered with porridge. With some difficulty Declan carried and then pulled Isabelle to his bedroom, which he had prepared for her and put her to sleep after he had cleaned all of the porridge off of her. He then retired to the living room and slept for the night. Early the next morning, Declan got ready for work but he left a pot of porridge for Isabelle. A few hours later Isabelle awoke and literally crawled out of the bedroom and into the kitchen where she found the porridge, but to her disappointment it was a small portion. She however cleaned her crystal plate before placing the small portion of food on it and consumed it ravenously. She then spent the rest of the morning searching for food, but she found nothing appetizing that she could eat right away. Everything the man possessed seemed like it needed to be cooked, and that was something that Isabelle could not do.

With all of the strength that she could muster, Isabelle crawled outside and pulled herself onto a chair and did her best to relax and think about what she was going to do next. However, the clanking of an old wagon and dreadful singing of a man interrupted her train of thought. She looked around the bend and saw a covered wagon with the words “Sebastian’s Fine and Exotic Merchandise brought from all corners of the Realm.” The wagon stopped in front of the cottage and a skinny man with the oddest clothing got off still singing dreadfully. He approached the cottage and was momentarily surprised to see Isabelle but then he bowed his head and declared how lovely it was to see her. Isabelle sneered at the man realizing that he was a peddler, and if there was something worse than a miner it was a peddler. The man introduced himself as Sebastian and asked Isabelle what her name was, she refused and spoke not a word to him.

Sebastian didn’t seem and offended and went about his business. He went inside of Declan’s cottage and shortly returned outside with a cold goblet of water. He offered her some, but Isabelle refused to speak to the man. Sebastian had a seat on a rickety rocking chair parallel to Isabelle. For a while neither one of them said anything, but Sebastian was whistling away. Isabelle, in an irate manner, demanded Sebastian to stop whistling which he did and then he began to hum. About ready to explode with anger, Isabelle demanded that he stop humming which he did. Moments later he began to drum on his legs. By this point Isabelle was ready to lunge at the man. She turned curtly and demanded to know if he was here purposely just to annoy her. She then instructed him that he needed to leave immediately. Sebastian assured her that he wasn’t trying to purposely irritate her, but that he was in fact a good friend of Declan and asked her if she was his friend too. Isabelle told him that Declan was helping her out at the moment, and Sebastian thought that was just the kindest thing. Isabelle though looked away upon hearing these words.

For the rest of the day Sebastian went on about several stories concerning his adventures into the far corners of the realms and about all of the great mysteries that he witnessed. Isabelle ignored the man mostly, who she supposed only wanted to hear the sound of his own voice. She then heard the soft humming of Declan and was relieved to see him come around the bend pushing the wheelbarrow with all of his belongings. He was remarkably filthy and dreadful looking, but at least he was quiet which was more than she could say for Sebastian. The two men greeted each other enthusiastically and Sebastian said what a delight Isabelle had been and put up with him royally. Isabelle scrunched her cheeks together and smiled. Declan smiled warmly and said that she was something remarkable. Isabelle heard Declan and Sebastian say these words, but she knew they were only being polite for her sake; they didn’t mean a single word of it.

Declan invited Sebastian to stay for dinner, but upon seeing the dreaded expression on Isabelle he gratefully declined and stated that he had to be going, but that he’d return tomorrow with Declan’s order. Before Sebastian left though, he gave Isabelle a small leather bound book and told her that he thought she might find it useful. Isabelle took the book and nodded her head in thanks. Sebastian tipped his hat to her and then trotted merrily off to his covered wagon singing as he yanked on the reins and drove away. Declan inquired of Isabelle’s day, and although reticent she stated that it was fine and then demanded to know when dinner was. He informed her that it would take some time, but that he would begin working on it right away. He then assisted her inside and helped down to a chair before entering the kitchen to make a beef stew. After almost about an hour, Isabelle demanded to know if the food was done. Declan said that he was just putting the finishing touches on the food.

With a snap of her fingers, Isabelle beckoned Declan to bring her the food on her crystal plate. However, when Declan brought Isabelle the food it was not on her crystal plate. She immediately demanded to know where the crystal plate was, but Declan refused to tell her and remained silent. She screamed relentlessly at him but still he would not reveal the location of the desired possession. She tried to claw out his eyes but fell flat on her face. Declan backed up a little as Isabelle crawled towards him trying to attack him. After a few more minutes of trying to attack Declan, she screamed that she would find it on her own. Isabelle then presumed to tear the entire inside of the cottage apart for hours searching for the crystal plate, but she was unsuccessful. She then broke down into tears and began to sob without end.

Declan did what he could to comfort her, but Isabelle merely begged him to give her the crystal plate, but he tenderly refused. She asked him why he was doing this to her, and he told her that he cared about her well being and was trying to help her. Isabelle shouted at him that she didn’t need his help but only wanted her crystal plate and went back to weeping. She did this until she cried herself to sleep on the floor of the den not too far from the fireplace. Declan put a few blanket over her and set a pillow underneath her head and retreated outside to the porch and had a seat on the rickety old rocking chair. Inside of the cottage Isabelle stirred and awoke to find herself covered with a pillow under her head. She was amazed at the kindness of the man she was with and couldn’t understand why he was doing what he did. She found the leather bound book that Sebastian gave her by the pillow and opened it. The pages were blank, but she found a pen and began to write in it. She asked questions about where she was, and focused on who she was with; Declan. Why was he so good to her when she was unkind to him, and why would he not give her the crystal plate; after all it was only a crystal plate. She set the book and pen down and fell back asleep.

Early the next morning Declan awoke and prepared breakfast for both he and Isabelle. He was surprised to find her awake shortly after he was, but there she was sitting quietly in her chair. She asked him about the crystal plate, but he would not yield and reveal its location. This time though she didn’t tantrum and instead remained quiet. Declan served her eggs, bacon and porridge which she tried to eat with a straight face and said she couldn’t eat it without the crystal plate because it tasted so horrid. Declan smiled and said that she still wasn’t going to get it. Isabelle remained frustrated but didn’t lash out at Declan. He then bid her farewell and left with all of his mining equipment. Isabelle bored out of her mind picked up her book and was shocked to discover the words that she had written were gone and new words were written instead. The words said that Declan did what he was doing because he truly did care for her, and that she needed to believe and trust him.

Wondering if Declan had written the words, Isabelle grabbed the pen and scribbled a few more words challenging the validity of the authorship. But without a moments hesitation her words vanished and new words saying, “yes it is” were written where hers once were. She was astounded and began writing all kinds of things in the book, which the book answered in return and soon she was having a full conversation with a non-living object which she found very curious. She then heard the familiar obnoxious singing of Sebastian and as best as she could hurried out to meet him. Sebastian greeted her cordially and she returned the favor and told him that the book he gave her was remarkable. He agreed and informed her that it had once belonged to a powerful wizard from one of the far corners of the realm, and then went on to tell her another round of stories. Isabelle soon became bored and fell asleep, but Sebastian continued talking as if she was listening. Declan returned home to find Sebastian talking endlessly and Isabelle snoozing soundly across from him. He left his wheelbarrow full of stuff and beckoned Sebastian inside the cottage.

Sebastian chatted with Declan as he washed the grime and dirt off of himself. Sebastian informed him that he was lucky to have the company of such a lovely woman, and Declan agreed. Although, he did admit to his old friend that he thought she was under some sort of enchantment and explained Isabelle’s parasitic attachment to a crystal plate that she always needed to eat off. Sebastian agreed and asked for Declan to tell him more. The two men conversed for a lengthy bit of time and at the end of which, Declan asked if he should destroy the crystal plate. Sebastian advised him that she was the only one who could destroy the crystal plate if she wanted to overcome the enchantment. Declan agreed and said that in the meantime he had hidden it from her. Sebastian then wished him the best of luck with everything and bid him farewell and told him he would not be around for some time; he had things in the east to take care of. With song in his step Sebastian waved farewell and his covered wagon disappeared once again.

Isabelle awoke later on to “clanking” in the kitchen. She carefully stood to her feet and carefully walked inside to see Declan busily cooking. She was astounded to see that he had cleaned the table and set two place settings complete with flowers. He asked her to sit and told her dinner would soon be ready. She waited until he had put everything on the table and served her. She then bit into the tender venison and Declan patiently waited for her verdict; she nodded her head and said that it was good. He smiled and then began to eat himself. She stared at her plate for a few moments and then uttered thank you. Between the two of them there was silence, and then Declan tried to look at her but she was still staring down at her plate. He told her that she was most welcome. She then looked up smiled as she saw his handsome sweeping smile, which she had never noticed before. The two of them then went on to have a delightful dinner; laughing and chatting away each one telling their stories. He was most intrigued to hear her rendition of being a queen and growing up in a royal household, and how she was cast from it all. Both of them then retired late in the evening. Isabelle wrote thank you in her book and closed her sleepy eyes and fell into a deep dream.

After that night, Isabelle began to change. Every day she would get up and have breakfast with Declan who then decided to teach her how to cook. It took some time, but he was successful and then she began to make breakfast. Then one day while Declan was at work she decided to clean the cottage. She tidied up the den, emptied the fireplace of the mounds of ashes, and got on her hands and knees and scrubbed all of the floors in the cottage. When Declan returned home and stepped through the door he was delightfully surprised to see everything clean and dinner waiting for him. Isabelle was standing in the kitchen smiling warmly and informed him that there was warm bath water waiting for him. It was then at that night during dinner that the two of them realized that they deeply cared for each other and together began to build a relationship and life for many, many wonderful months.

Meanwhile back at the capital. Through the use of his dark sorcery, Solath impersonated Horace and after Isabelle had been gone so long he declared that she had died due to a heat fever and that William would be crowned king. William was thrilled by these prospects, but Duke Frederick was uneasy. His spies and agents had not yet found Isabelle and it would be risky crowning another monarch while the other was still alive and only merely deposed. Solath assured the Duke that all would be well. Solath wanted the Duke though to sign over the land that he was promised. Duke Frederick ever the shrewd and mindful man that he was had all of the land that Solath was requesting inspected and they found it to be useless. Without a moment of hesitation Duke Frederick signed over the land to Solath, who eagerly took the paper and was about to leave. However, Duke Frederick demanded that he do something about Isabelle now. Solath then unleashed a pair of his most powerful hunters and killers. He told the Duke that they would find her and either kill her or see to it that she returned back to the palace for them to finish off.

Several days later Isabelle was gathering some flowers in a field some distance from the cottage. The sun was setting when she was on her way back to the cottage. As she rounded the bend she saw that the porch was in disarray and that the front door had been torn down. She rushed inside and called out Declan’s name but he was nowhere to be seen. Everywhere inside of the cottage was destroyed. However, on the table was a small leather pouch, her crystal plate and a note. The note read that she could take the crystal plate and live out her life in peace and anonymity without ever being harassed or she could return quietly to the capital using the powder in the leather pouch to try and bargain back Declan. Isabelle rolled up the piece of parchment and tossed it into the fire. She gently picked up the crystal plate, smiling as she did, and stared at it longfully for it had been such a long time since she held it in her grasp. She then sighed and threw it on the floor and it crashed into a million pieces. Taking a deep breath she took the small leather bag and grabbed some of the powder in it and said “home” before throwing it to the floor in front of her. In a puff of smoke she was gone.

Brief moments later Isabelle arrived in the ante-chamber that she had been in when she had been ousted by her uncle and cousin. She looked around but saw no one, but then a door crashed open and in stormed the dark sorcerer who had almost killed her, followed by her uncle and cousin. Her heart leapt and sunk at the same time when she saw two very strangely dressed individuals drag Declan in; he was bloodied and bruised a little. She demanded to know what it was that Solath wanted. He was very frank with her and said that all he wanted was to kill her. She pleaded for Declan’s life though and asked Solath not to kill him merely because he got involved through her. Solath found it very touching, but said that Declan was going to die as well and told his hunters to throw Declan at Isabelle. The two of them embraced each other warmly for a few moments. Then both of them turned to face Solath, each one of them firmly grasping the other’s hand. As Solath was about to burn them with a fireball, a blinding flash of light threw everyone off their balance.

Declan helped Isabelle to her feet and then she saw Horace standing not too far from her looking angry like she had never seen before. Solath began to panic and ordered his hunters to attack Horace, but the Wizard of the Wind easily brushed the two men aside and tied William and Frederick up with ropes. Solath quickly vanished and then reappeared grabbing Isabelle and then vanished again but not before Declan and Horace could get hold of her and all four of them appeared in a murky swamp. Horace and Solath began to duel as it rained and thundered overhead. Horace was very powerful, but he was out of his element and Solath was in his and he was beginning to triumph. He knocked Horace down momentarily and then went after Declan and Isabelle. He cast aside Declan like a fly and threw a fireball at Isabelle but it vanished as it was about to impact on her head. Both of them looked around and Isabelle was astounded to see that Sebastian was standing there in something that a wizard would wear. Solath really began to look fearful and tried to vanish again, but Sebastian stopped him. Before the seemingly simple peddler could banish Solath, Horace flung himself on Solath and used his powers, by sacrificing himself, to permanently for all time banish them both to infinite oblivion.

As the smoke and dust were settling Isabelle rushed over to Declan and did her best to comfort him and tend to any wounds that he had. He was fine but both of them were still surprised at Sebastian’s miraculous appearance. With a smile, their friend went on to describe how he had once been the most powerful sorcerer in all of the kingdoms, but wanted a more simple life and so taught four sorcerers his craft so that they could help teach and safeguard the lands. Solath turned evil though and thought that if he was able to control the ruins of Sebastian’s citadel then he would be able to reign supreme over all because all thought Sebastian dead. He also mentioned that he was the one who created the crystal plate and that Solath had stolen it from him. Isabelle asked if they would ever have to worry about Solath again, but Sebastian assured her that Horace’s sacrifice would make certain that Solath was never permitted to leave oblivion again.

Upon Isabelle’s return to her kingdom as queen, there was great rejoicing as the kingdom had been experiencing deep tyranny under Duke Frederick and Solath. Isabelle ruled that both Duke Frederick and William would have their titles stripped from them, along with their families, and be imprisoned performing heavy labor for the rest of their lives. Isabelle also made Sebastian her unofficial adviser, since he wanted to remain in retirement. She then commissioned a great feast to honor the union of their new king, Declan. She had become even lovelier then before she had been eating off the crystal plate and she realized how handsome and wonderful Declan was, and that he really did care for her regardless of her appearance. Both of them were joined together and ruled just as wisely as her parents had before them. The two of them had several beautiful children and all of them lived happily ever after. However, Isabelle made certain that no one in her household ever ate off a crystal plate, just to be certain.