The Crown of Aragonia
The children settled as Anaria took a seat at the front of the new school room. She arranged her skirts then looked over the eager faces and smiled."Have you heard the legend of the Crown of Aragonia?" Eyes rounded and heads shook, she nodded, took a breath and launched into story... Back in the days when dragons roamed the mountains and sorcerer-sailors harnessed sea-serpents to their ships to speed them across the wide seas, there was an ancient kingdom hidden in the folds of the High Mountains. It was small, but rich and powerful, as it controlled the only pass across the mountains into Faerie, as well as all contact with the dwarves mining and making in the caverns below their home. It came to be that the Queen of the time - for while they named it a Kingdom, it was always ruled by a Queen - was nearing the time to appoint her successor. For in that far-off, long ago place, the ruler was selected, rather than born, into their role. In many cases it was much and the same, for the Queen would select her daughter and the line would continue on. But this Queen had no daughter, only three sons. On this day, she summoned her sons and gave them a quest. Each of them was to go out into the world and find a candidate worthy of inheriting the throne of Aragonia. The eldest son went west, out of the mountains, onto the plains and found a warrior; fleet of foot, keen of eye and honourable to her core. The middle son went south and found a merchant; sharp-minded, observant and determined to do what was right. The youngest son stayed at home. He believed the ruler of Aragonia should be one who had grown up in her mountains and understood the people and their interests and concerns. Yet, when his brothers returned with their preferred candidates, he had not found one he deemed suitable. They were too flighty, too serious, too opinionated, too docile, too loud, too quiet, too young or too old. No one matched the perfect candidate his mind saw. The morning after his brothers’ return, and after enduring a full evening of their incredulous stares, followed by unhelpful suggestions, the youngest set out from the castle in search of peace and quiet, if not his perfect Queen. He wandered through the high forest neighbouring the castle, paying no heed to his path. In this manner, he stumbled into a pretty clearing, with a young woman at its centre, watching over a small herd of goats. She started up in fright, but soon calmed and they spoke together for many hours. At the end of that day, the prince returned to the castle with his perfect candidate beside him. Her grace, intelligence, courtesy and diplomacy were the joy and envy of all. When the time for the queen’s decision came, she chose the youngest son’s candidate. The new heir, in turn, asked the plains warrior to remain, should she wish, as a general in the kingdom’s army and the merchant as her trade advisor. They accepted and, in time, married their princes and lived happily ever after. Eventually the older queen died and the younger woman ascended the throne. The kingdom prospered and all were content. Yet, as the years passed and the Queen took no consort, people began to murmur. As more years passed and she seemed to never age a day, the murmurs grew louder. The youngest prince, by now well into middle age, had long ago given up trying to persuade his perfect Queen to marry him and had wed the daughter of a local baron. Their three daughters were the delight of his world and it was on their futures that he decided to address the Queen. He was confused and hurt when she refused to consider any of his precious girls for the role of Heir but she stayed him with a lifted hand. “You sought after perfection for your candidate. No human is perfect; that is their gift, for perfection cannot learn. The day you found me, you crossed into faerie and found perfection, for I am not human for all that I love them so dearly.” The Queen stood and moved to the doors of the great hall. “Now you know who I truly am, I cannot stay among you. Rest assured, however, you are still my people, I am still your queen and I will watch over you with love for evermore.” With that, she left the hall, head high, crown sparkling in a light only it could find, and was never seen again. The bards say she watches over her kingdom still. But she is tiring and one day, someone will find the Crown of Aragonia sitting on their bed, or on a forest path, and they will become the new Queen of that ancient mountain land.