It was mid winter in Turia.
Large flakes of snow had fallen on the ground, covering the earth with a
glistening blanket of white. Queen Eleanor sat looking out from her window. The
book in her hand had remained on the same page for the last half hour. A
roaring fire crackled in the fireplace. The room felt too hot and she wished
for a walk outside to take in some fresh air. Eleanor rose from her seat and
requested her lady in waiting bring her cloak.
Majesty, it is freezing outside, would it not be better to sit on the far side
of the room away from the fire?” she suggested.
did not agree. “The cool air will revive me, and the nausea has now passed.”
The Queen had a kind and compassionate nature.
She treated her servants with respect and they loved and respected her in
return. With her husband King Eldwin, she ruled the kingdom of Turia
with wisdom and justice.
lady in waiting returned with the cloak and both made their way to the garden. Ruhan Castle
had beautiful gardens, Eleanor spent many hours there. After instructing her
lady in waiting to leave her until she called, she headed towards her beloved
rose garden. A hardy bush of red roses still bloomed. She brushed the
sprinkling of snow from the petals and inhaled the heady fragrance of the
largest of the blooms. In doing so, she pricked her finger on a rose thorn.
Three drops of ruby red blood fell from her finger onto the snow below. She
gazed at the drops and ran her hands along her swollen stomach. I wish to have a daughter whose skin will be
as fair as snow, lips as red as blood and raven black hair like mine, she
child had been long coming. Eleanor’s pregnancy had not been an
easy one. The King worried about her health and surrounded her with physicians
and servants. She loved her husband but felt overwhelmed by so much fuss and
attention. She often took refuge in her garden.
a gust of wind blew across the rose garden. Eleanor felt a sharp pain in her
chest. Fragments of the hobgoblin’s looking glass pierced her heart. From the
moment the splinters of glass entered her body she became cold and unfeeling,
her heart turned to ice. She tore the rose blooms from the bush and crushed
them in her hands. The petals crumbled. To her the roses looked ugly and
imperfect. She cast the remains onto the ground. A very different Queen Eleanor
returned to the castle that day.
King Eldwin did not notice the change in his wife until they sat
down to dinner. “How
are you my dear, did you have a pleasant day?” he asked.
“No, I did not,” she snapped.
“You were out hunting all day. I endured an insufferable day of boredom within
these castle walls.”
fine as one can be, carrying your child,” she replied.
looked at his wife’s face. He saw a hardness in her features he had never
encountered before. When the servants brought their dinner, Eleanor criticised
all the food placed in front of her. She found the soup too hot, the chicken
too cold and greasy. Nothing was to her satisfaction. She eventually excused
herself with complaints of a headache. Eldwin went to Eleanor’s bedchamber
later in the evening. Although they had separate rooms, they always slept
together in the same bed. They had married out of love, not convenience. Theirs
was an equal marriage Eleanor had granted Eldwin the Crown Matrimonial,
enabling them to co-reign.
maid prepared her mistress for bed. Asking the maid to leave, Eldwin entered
the room. He took his wife in his arms and embraced her; she did not return his
embrace. When he tried to kiss her, she turned her head away. He grew angry.
“Eleanor, what the blazes is the matter with you?”
she replied. After clearing her throat she said, “From this night on I want to
he grasped her arms. “We have never passed a night apart since we married.”
glared at him. “Release me, you are hurting me.”
released his grip and looked into wife’s eyes. “I will not beg, Eleanor. There
is a great change in you today. I know not what has happened, but I intend to
seek an answer.” He kissed her cheek then slammed the door as he exited the
spread throughout the castle; the Queen had been enchanted or cursed. Eldwin
barely recognised the woman he had married. Many thought she was possessed,
they feared her. She now screamed orders to her servants, severely punishing
anyone who displeased her. She threatened them with floggings and ordered many
thrown into the dungeons on a whim. The King however refused to allow his wife
to carry out her threats. Her temper tantrums became so violent he had her
imprisoned in her rooms for a month. He sought medical advice from far and
wide. Having searched the whole of Eliedda not one person could give the King
answers. They thought the pregnancy had some blame and she would return to
normal after the birth of the child. Eldwin held onto that hope, but his heart
grew weary with worry.
time, Eleanor gave birth to a healthy baby girl and the kingdom rejoiced. She
felt no love for the child, even when holding her in her arms. When she stared
into her daughters blue-grey eyes, her heart remained cold and hard. She passed
the baby straight away to her maid and ordered a wet nurse, Agnes, to attend to
the child. It would not be feeding from her breast. The idea repulsed her. This
should have been a moment of tenderness and love between a mother and her
child. It did not go unnoticed by the King. His wife remained unchanged, his
heart saddened and he mourned for the loss of his tender, loving Eleanor.
days after the baby princess’s birth her baptism took place. They gave her the
name Khione, after the mythological goddess of snow. Eleanor watched from the
window as the procession entered the chapel for the christening service. She
did not attend the service, feigning a severe headache. She returned to her
embroidery work and ordered her maid to come back later in the day, to dress
her for the evening’s christening party. Even though Eldwin was not expecting
her to attend, Eleanor did not wish to miss this particular opportunity to be
the centre of attention.
evening, guests dressed in all their finery filled the Great Hall. Many
dignitaries, kings, and queens from neighbouring kingdoms attended the party.
Eldwin entered the hall proudly carrying Khione, his heart full of love for his
daughter. For the first time in many months, the King smiled. Eleanor took her
place beside her husband. She looked as beautiful as always, her glossy black hair
braided and pinned up with golden hair combs. Her skin looked milky white
against the crimson red of her gown. She wore a necklace of gold and glittering
rubies, given to her as a wedding gift by Eldwin. Her grey eyes glowed with
excitement as she saw all the admiring glances from the guests. She received
many compliments, this gave her much pleasure. For all the coldness in her
heart, she delighted at compliments on her beauty.
Princess received gifts from many kingdoms. A dark haired man dressed in black
robes stood before Queen Eleanor, he bowed and presented her with a gift. “I am
Alor, Your Majesty. This gift is not for the Princess, it is for you. Only a
woman as beautiful as you deserves such a gift.”
with the flattery she accepted the gift from the mysterious stranger. “Thank
you, the mirror is exquisite.” Eleanor admired the oval shaped mirror
surrounded by an ornate gilt frame.
think you will find it most useful Ma’am. You must hang it on the wall of your
bedchamber, though no one but yourself should gaze into it.” Alor bowed again,
then returned to the crowded party. A wide smile spread across his face. As he
left the castle, he began to laugh, a crazed demonic laugh.
her directions, Eleanor’s servants hung the mirror in her bedchamber that
evening. In her eagerness to see her reflection in the mirror, she left the
christening party early feigning tiredness. She hated to look at herself in the
castle mirrors. Her reflection did not look appealing to her. For some strange
reason she felt compelled to look at herself in this mirror. Eleanor entered
the room and removed the silk scarf covering the mirror. She had given
instructions for it to remain covered and no one should look into it but
herself, just as instructed. When she saw her beautiful reflection, she was
overjoyed. Her eyes sparkled, her face radiant, her lips full and red. No other
mirror made her look so handsome. Extreme vanity filled her stony heart.
spoke aloud to the mirror. “Who is the fairest in the land?”
mirror began to glow, and she stood back in shock. A green light shone from
within and a hooded figure appeared. It spoke with a deep voice. “You, my Queen
are the fairest in the land.”
stared at the mirror in astonishment. “Are you real?”
“Oh, yes, I am a magic mirror and know
everything. I see all and only speak the truth.”
marvelled at this wonderful gift. She had no idea who had given it to her, nor
did she care. As long as she remained the fairest in the land, she felt
contented. She consulted her magic mirror often, needing constant reassurance
of her beauty.
watched as his wife became more and more detached from himself and their
daughter. He became both father and mother to his little girl and he loved her
dearly. She returned his love tenfold. Her love was balm for his wounded heart.
He found in Khione all the goodness that once belonged to Eleanor; she had a
pure heart and extreme kindness. Eleanor felt no jealousy of the close
relationship between father and daughter. She encouraged them to spend as much
time together as possible. When Khione embraced and kissed her mother, she knew
she did not relish it. However, she loved her mother unconditionally, and hoped
that one day she would return her embrace.