Part I: Incendium

Aegis-wreck, that King worn like a shield,

And now she stands, bare-breasted,

staring as barbs fly-

Arrows from the star-crossed side of field

Drawn from a quiver, and a sigh.

Justice may be blind,

But Venus sees, what mortal men

have tangled in their trap.

Her eyes do not falter, they,

net the gross misfortunes

of the gambled heart.


She walked out of her castle, left

The smoldering palace crumbling all around.

Optineo, steady steed she mounted

And while she rode

She felt the very earth tumble to the ground.

Gaining the view, she vaulted thus along-

The rock-strewn ridge was just wide enough

to hide dark horse, that rider

all in gold and sparkling

flickered with the flames of scaléd song.

And how had the beast become the castle heir?

From smallest raised in dungeon as the lair

Gift from a witch to a prince,

Shell-shocked to find,

Fascination had turned to despair.

Too late the egg had grown and festered there,

Hidden in the half-truths, there to lie.

Wait for the moment nothing else was left,

Claw-cracked, the raised death-dragon’s

Eye did spy.

The treasure of the castle, walking there,

Four feet away from all that she held dear.

Jewels of a crown none else could possess,

The witch’s spell was magic deep, and feared.

And as crowns go, his head had grown too weighty,

For the burden of self-government.

And all about the castle were the debts

incurred for magics multiple, and spent.

When wand’ring in bleak woods, he came upon

A mesmerizing spinney, benighted as his queen was fair.

And all that nymet was lacking in the good,

was made up in the magic in her air.

Darkness fell in waves unto her roots, and oddly gold were eyes that watched him thus.

And he was lost before he knew to look,

Eros eclipsing Athena’s best counsel-wise.

A snowy owl to Queen then flew,

Message of the wisdom of the age.

All the letters spelled impending doom,

 Apples bitten, lamps lit in the gloom.

She knew him, riding out, and saw

The onyx orb within the citrine-studded chest of ebony.

And he had said, it was a tribute still.

And she had known it as a laden levy.

Imploring him to destroy the burden there

And be done with the witch’s spurious spells.

Words passed between the Monarchs as two Kings

Drawing boundaries for an armistice.

And all was well, except he never meant;

that pact of peace was all convention spent.

The dungeon secret kept, until at last

The scaly truth clawed out.

Wyvern can’t be managed, truth be told.

And once it stands upon its own two legs,

It flies by power found in wings twelve-fold.

Its breath is not the spark that starts the thing,

Just the poison that leaks through all the stones.

And builds until it catches fire, all disclaimed-

Innocent, then, the Wyvern still could stand

It wasn’t he who introduced the flame.

The moon was peak’d in the vaulted heavens

 When, the King, who fell himself to Prince,

(By virtue of his cast-off crown)

to stairs betook himself to look

the chest of onyx, buried in the ground.

The enchantment to which he gave himself he could not leave-

Called to him, sirens singing in the stars.

And forgetting to have himself lashed to his mast,

No crew came forth to save him from the song.

Drowning, he grasped the lock, and fell headlong.

The rosy-fingered dawn approached at last.

And bringing Truth, and Justice, in her wake,

The light of sun shown on the Prince’s slumber

Forcing his dark treasure to awake.

Concealed again, he hid it in the depths

Of his own castle-gate he brought it in,

And visit’d in secret full-moon nights,

Anticipating secrets there within.

The witch’s power grew in things destroyed.

In all, possessed the fate of this live corpse-King,

Who walked while he was dying from the plague

That festers deep in castle and in men.

The Queen had found the hatchling coolly disposed,

Breathing noxious vapours staunch and foul.

Wafting green smoke from black scales

Blind, it ate the chest, then opened eyes,

Golden snake-slits settling on her, spy

the last bulwark of this castle conquered nigh.

Here she had run, and grabbed her sword, too late

To save the castle swirling with Circe’s sorcery.

Tumbled treasure boxes from their beds to flee,

On foot, both fleet and delicate,

left with liege most faithful folk, but fey.

 Where they went, in all that saining smoke swirled,

vouchsafe, but spent to Sovereign;

left she was with cryptic copper key and crystal charm’d

secrets and despair in castle keep.

Flung to the winds and fate they met the paths,

One to the West and one far to the East.

The Queen, she sought to fight until, at last,

She realized the destiny designed.

And slinging her aureate sword, Fideli, across her back,

One snowy owl and emerald cloak for company,

She rode hard, until the refuge in the forest she did find.

And there we leave our Queen, but not all gone;

And not is this the last of her long tale.

Tyche turns Rota Fortunae,

the die is cast and lot alloted there,

(the game’s all cleromantic air)

and that which plays upon the wheel cannot

be upended by capricious Fates.

The way to happiness is thus-

not suff’ring strung along,  nor warped by Moirai-

Clotho with her spindled twists of fate

rolls out the thread but does not all decide,

A Queen has will which even Fates can’t pick.

For seeing the Wyvern strut out of the fire,

and lift his wings, inhale,

 swell his belly on her subjects’ suffering-

She knew that she must, somehow, at last, prevail.

Citation Information

Karise Gililland, “The Quest of the Golden Queen,” An Unexpected Journal 3, no. 3. (Fall 2020), 79-86.

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