Harry & Ginny
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Marquis Black - The Dark Wars: Empire's Rebirth
Chapter 12 - Chapter XII: To Be A Queen
When Elizabeth woke up, the first thing she noticed was the enormous amounts of light.
For someone who'd lived the better part of half a decade in darkness, such an amount of light was both welcome and unwelcome. Her eyes had never adjusted for this amount of light, and so she shut them tightly, though it comforted her to know she was no longer in her cell.
Elizabeth's eyes shot wide open, making her groan immediately as the overbearing light flooded her vision once more. Bringing up a dainty, milk-white hand to her head to stop the oncoming headache, she heard voices suddenly ring about her.
"The heir is awake!"
"Your Majesty! Your Majesty, are you alright?" asked a concerned, male voice. From the sound of it, he couldn't be much older than twenty-five.
"Lights…too bright," she moaned. Immediately, she heard something click several times and, upon opening her eyes, she saw that the light had been dimmed.
Looking around her, she noticed that she was lying on a red-sheeted four-poster bed with golden drapes. Looking to her right, she saw a couple of women looking down at her concernedly. She smiled wearily at them, which they returned with a curtsy. She then turned her eyes to her left, and saw the most piercing, lovely emerald-green eyes she'd ever seen.
"Your Majesty, are you alright?" repeated the green eyes. Elizabeth shook her head and, refocusing, noticed that the owner of the green eyes was a young man with untidy black hair in a blue, Field Marshall's uniform. He was sitting on a chair beside her bed and leaning forward, while two more men stood behind him, both looking just as worried.
One was the man who'd found her, and she now saw that the man's former live-skin scars had now become a dull brown colour, meaning they'd healed nicely. Instead of his beige uniform, he now wore a red, British Redcoat uniform, with the epaulettes of a general on his shoulders.
To the man's right stood the largest man Elizabeth had ever seen. Well above two meters tall, he had a full head of red hair and a full beard, which he was stroking ponderingly as he gazed down at her with intelligent, yet concerned eyes. He was wearing the sea-blue uniform of a British Navy officer, with the epaulettes of an Admiral on his shoulder. All of them seemed to be carrying their respective hats either in their arms or on their thighs (like Harry).
"Wh-Where am I?" asked Elizabeth drowsily.
"You're onboard the HMIS Retaliation, Your Majesty," answered the man with the green eyes. "One of your ships."
"Aye," answered the huge redheaded man gruffly. "All we own is rightfully yours, Your Majesty."
"Why do you keep calling me that?"
The man with the green eyes seemed surprised for a moment, and turned to look at the dark-skinned man who'd broken into the prison.
"She doesn't know?" asked the man in amazement.
The dark-skinned general shook his head. "Correct, Field Marshall. I deduced her identity from her parents' names."
"Who were they?" demanded the Field Marshall.
"George Black and Christina McAllister," interrupted Elizabeth, who was getting annoyed. "What does that have to do with anything?"
Both the huge redhead and the dark-haired man gaped at her, then at the general, who nodded.
"Y-Your Majesty," gulped the green-eyed man. "George Black and Christina McAllister were the guardians of the British Crown's shadow child," he told her. "You are the daughter of His Imperial Highness, the former Prince of Wales."
For the second time, Elizabeth fainted.
Minutes later, she re-awoke to arguing. Opening her eyes slightly, she saw the women fretting around her, while the three British officers were arguing near the room's left window.
"You never said she was the shadow child!" she heard the Field Marshall hiss.
"Does it matter?" asked the redheaded man gruffly. "She's a legitimate candidate for the throne."
"Staples, a shadow child is the most dubious, if legal, successor to the throne," explained the dark-skinned general as he rubbed his forehead. "Her very succession will cause an uproar in the Covenant. McDonald and O'Connor will never accept her."
She briefly heard the Field Marshall groan. "I forgot about those two."
"So what happens now, then?" asked the admiral.
"We need to convince O'Connor of Her Majesty's claim. He's the only one McDonald will listen to," stated the general.
The Field Marshall nodded silently, but was still rubbing his temples. This issue was bringing on one massive headache.
"O'Connor's not about to submit to anyone," noted the man called Staples. "Wimp he may be, but he loves his freedom too much. Him an' his men."
"Which means, no McDonald," summed up the Field Marshall. "Which means civil war."
"Surely it won't come to that," protested the general. "Right?"
Both the admiral and the Field Marshall stayed silent.
"Sulu, we can't allow O'Connor and McDonald to stay outside Imperial authority," stated the Field Marshall slowly. "As it stands, they're nothing more than pirates, and their continued existence would mean our automatic sanction of their actions."
"Potter's right," admitted the admiral, though it sounded to Elizabeth that he was having a hard time coming to terms with that action. "If O'Connor and McDonald don't submit, it'll be war."
All three men turned sharply to look at Elizabeth with wide eyes, while the women started shooting questions at her about her health. Elizabeth impatiently waved the questions away and repeated her query. "Why must there be war?"
"Your Majesty," started the man called Potter. "O'Connor and McDonald are two of your former officers. They command substantial legions of men and weaponry. To have them roam the globe free of any authority is to invite chaos."
"I agree with the Field Marshall's assessment," agreed her rescuer, the man called Sulu. "O'Connor and McDonald are a threat to Your Majesty's well-being in their present position."
Staples, for his part, grunted in agreement. Elizabeth briefly wondered how such an uncouth man had ever risen in British society.
"Can you not negotiate with them?" asked Elizabeth, waving away a bowl of soup that her attendants were imploring her to eat.
Potter shook his head. "I'm sorry, Your Majesty, but neither will even entertain the idea of a shadow child sitting on the throne of the Empire."
"Shadow children are supposedly a myth, Your Majesty," explained Staples. "Until Sulu rescued you, I thought them to be a myth, too."
"You see, during the English Civil War, Charles I implemented the shadow child tactic to preserve the throne, in the event that both he and his son, Charles II were to die," explained Sulu. "Ever since then, the practice stuck. As the heir to the throne, your father, the Prince of Wales, had you raised in hiding by two of our Armed Forces' most experienced Special-Ops agents, George Black and Christina McAllister."
"Then how did they get me?" demanded Elizabeth. "Why were those bastards able to kidnap me? To take me away to that dreadful camp where they…where they…" she broke into tears as she remembered the horrible experience of being raped for the first time.
All three men seemed enraged at the idea of the heir being thus violated. Still, revenge would be theirs, as the prison guards had all been brought onboard the Retaliation for summary judgement by the heir.
Nonetheless, they had a question to answer, and Potter took it upon himself to answer it.
"Habit, I imagine, Your Majesty," answered the Field Marshall. When Elizabeth raised her eyes to meet his, he ploughed on. "They were so used to the veil of secrecy, and were so self-assured as to the integrity of their cover, that they never saw the Death Eaters coming."
"Hubris," summed up Staples. "A common flaw."
Sulu nodded wisely.
Elizabeth nodded slowly at this answer. She supposed it made sense. "What's to happen to me now?" she asked in a small voice. "I don't know anything about ruling…or anything!"
Harry looked at his new Queen with pity. He truly sympathized with her, and he could feel that both Sulu and Staples felt the same way, despite the gruff exterior the Irishman displayed.
"Your Majesty, we'll be setting in Harrisburg soon," Harry informed her. "You'll be announced to the crowd after you've had a chance to settle in the palace."
Harry cleared his throat while both Staples and Sulu chuckled. "Yes, Harrisburg. It's the capital of my faction's lands."
"Oh, okay…what other factions are there?"
Sulu stepped forward at that and bowed low to Elizabeth. "I am General John Sulu, Your Majesty. My faction is the African Imperial League," he told her. "We joined forces with the Field Marshall some time ago, when we learned of your survival."
"Name's Tybalt Staples, Your Majesty," Staples introduced himself by thumping on his chest. "Admiral of the Imperial Navy and leader of the Asian Loyalist League."
Elizabeth nodded to both men before turning towards Harry. "And you, Field Marshall?"
Harry bowed. "I am Harry James Potter, Your Majesty; Field Marshall of the Imperial Armed Forces after the demise of Lord Irons, and leader of the Northern Britannic Loyalist Forces."
"They…all sound so…extravagant," noted Elizabeth slowly, causing all three officers to goggle at her, while her attendants laughed.
"Yes, well…" sputtered Harry. "We'll just be leaving then, Your Majesty, if that's alright with you?" Elizabeth nodded. "We need to coordinate the fleet."
Harry grinned at her as he put on his bicorn, along with Sulu and Staples, who were already opening the door. "Have a look, Your Majesty" he prompted her, motioning to the windows with his gloved hand.
Once Harry had left, the girl-Queen-to-be pushed off her blankets and, admiring her nightdress for a second, got out of bed, despite her attendants' protests, some of whom were glaring at the place where Harry had been before leaving.
Taking slow, tentative steps, Elizabeth made her way to the window on the left side, which were covered by red drapes with golden lacing. Opening them, she briefly wondered what the Field Marshall had meant when she finally noticed what she was looking at.
The sky, with numerous, huge ships flying to the side of the one she was in!
They were bloody flying!
Elizabeth fainted for the third time.
Hours later, Elizabeth woke up to see she was still in the red-and-gold bedroom. She scrunched up her nose slightly at the sight. She had more of a taste for silver and green than red and gold, although she did admit that the British Redcoat uniform was quite dashing. Looking around, she noticed that only one attendant was in the room, and she'd fallen asleep.
Feeling mischievous and curious, Elizabeth slowly slid herself out of the covers and quietly made her way to the door. Giving her attendant one last look, the young heir quickly made up her mind and snuck out of the room, only to find herself in a luxurious corridor. To each side, she saw a guard dressed in a red coat, wielding a pike, and each sporting a rather ridiculous black hat of sorts. All of them had their eyes on the young heir, who smiled nervously at them.
"Um…hi?" she tried.
The guards stayed silent.
"I'm…um…just going for a walk, alright?"
Silently, the guard nearest to the door opened it for the heir, who looked at the young man gratefully.
"Thank you," she said earnestly. She was mildly disappointed to get no reaction from the guard, who simply stared straight at the wall before him.
As she walked down the hall, she found herself somewhat disappointed at the life of a Royal. She'd thought it'd be glamorous and fun, but if the guards had been any indication, then her days were doomed to solitude, deference, and silence.
The young heiress walked through the empty, metallic halls, wondering why there wasn't anyone around. She'd come up to several guards on her travels, but all of them seemed bound to silence, and beyond the first guard, none of them granted her entry into the rooms they protected.
Finally, after being rebuffed for the seventh time, Elizabeth felt her patience snap as she tried to enter a room from whence she could hear several odd sounds.
"What is the matter with you people?" she screamed finally. "You tell me I'm to be your thrice-be-damned Queen, and yet you act like I'm a horrible nuisance!"
She pointed her finger at the door, glaring at the guards. "In the name of the British Throne, I order you to open this door!"
That did it.
Faster than she could realize, the guards had stiffened, saluted, and opened the door for her. Blinking wildly, she stood immobile as the doors slid open, revealing a training room. Inside, she saw her three officers giving her approving looks.
"Well done, Your Majesty," praised the Field Marshall. "Very well done."
The huge man she knew as Staples nodded. "Ye've got spirit, Your Majesty," he told her, before grunting in the Field Marshall's direction. "I say she passes."
The dark-skinned general nodded. "I agree with the Admiral."
Harry bowed low to Elizabeth. "Apologies, Your Majesty, but we needed to be sure you would be well-suited for the throne."
Elizabeth looked scandalised. "You were testing me?" she screeched. "How dare you!"
Harry looked entirely unapologetic. "Your Majesty, do you know how long I've gone without hope?" She shook her head. "Five years. Five years, during which I butchered, killed, tortured, and maimed in the name of a throne that sat empty on an island none of us here have set foot on since its fall."
Harry quickly closed his distance to Elizabeth and cornered her with an arm slamming into the wall behind her. "I've had enough of the nightmares. I'm done with fighting for a cause that doesn't exist. If we were to give you our lives, our commitment, and our men, you had to prove yourself worthy of sitting on that illustrious throne," he hissed.
At Harry's words, Staples nodded grimly, while Sulu merely reached up to touch his facial scars.
"Do you know how many died to rescue you?" continued Harry, now definitely intimidating her. "How many lives were lost in that aerial battle you probably thought nothing of?"
Elizabeth shakily shook her head.
"Thousands, Your Majesty," Harry stated bluntly. "I lost a friend there. He refused to retreat and leave you at the Death Eaters' mercy. So he rammed his ship into the American command ship and blew himself up."
Elizabeth's eyes widened at that, and her mouth fell open in shock. Sinking to her knees, Elizabeth felt tears slowly accumulate in her eyes.
"Why?" she asked, heartbroken. "Why did they die? Why for me?"
Harry stepped back and gave her an unforgiving look. "You are the symbol of peace, power, and justice for the Empire, Your Majesty. Your very existence managed to rally more men than any one of our recruiting speeches. The moment it was heard you were alive, men and women flocked to our recruiting offices."
"Ye are the Empire, Your Majesty," repeated Staples. "In flesh and bone, ye are the Empire. Your beauty reflects its beauty. Your courage, its courage. Your strength is the Empire's strength," he stated, advancing a few steps. "Admiral Hawke knew that when 'e blew up the Redemption," he added for Harry's benefit. Harry merely looked away, crossing his arms.
"We're all ready to lay down our lives in your name, Your Majesty," Sulu added softly. "But only if you're willing enough to handle the burden of fulfilling the dearest wishes of those who've already died in the name of Crown and Empire."
Elizabeth merely gaped at the three, and so they remained, until finally, Harry gave a sigh of frustration and stormed out of the room.
Both Staples and Sulu watched their comrade leave angrily, but said nothing. Only a single look at each other told them that they both would leave him alone for a while. He hadn't had the time to grieve, after all.
"Why is he so mad?"
Both Staples and Sulu turned to look at Elizabeth, who was still sitting on the ground, back to the wall. "Did I make him mad?"
Both officers stayed quiet for a moment, exchanging knowing glances. Staples seemed to be nudging his eyes towards Elizabeth, while Sulu was doing the same thing to him. Eventually, Staples sighed.
"Fine," he grunted. Sulu merely gave him a triumphant look.
The huge Irishman turned slightly towards Elizabeth, though his eyes remained fixed on the window in front of him. Through it, he could see Harry's 96th Rifle Regiment training in hand-to-hand combat.
"Jeremy Hawke was Potter's friend," Staples explained softly—so softly that Sulu looked at the huge Irishman in wonder. It had never occurred to him that Staples could be so gentle. "He's the Admiral that blew up the Redemption so we could win."
Elizabeth looked horrified at that.
"Potter asked Hawke to retreat, but the man refused point blank. The way I heard it, he said he refused to return to a life of what he considered to be piracy, and that if the price to free you was his life, then so be it."
Silence ensued after that comment.
"How did they meet?" asked Elizabeth.
Sulu took over now. "The Field Marshall saved Hawke's life in Canada, back when the Empire had just fallen," explained the general. "Hawke had been abandoned by the regional fleet with about two thousand sailors and soldiers in one of the many bases we had under siege. Hawke was, since then, one of Harry's most fanatical supporters."
Staples grunted in agreement. "Fanatical is an understatement."
Sulu nodded, smiling nostalgically. "Aye. Hawke was downright devoted. He never questioned orders, and he always found a way to make a loss into a victory. A clever tactician, and a gentleman," said Sulu. "That is, if said lady was a supporter of Field Marshall Potter. Otherwise, he was downright vicious."
Elizabeth couldn't help herself. She giggled. She immediately slapped her two hands to her mouth, however, as her eyes grew wide in horror at what she'd done.
Staples and Sulu, however, seemed amused.
"There's nothing to look so horrified at, Your Majesty," reassured Sulu. "We still find it amusing ourselves. Still, it was nonetheless true. Hawke was a follower of Field Marshall Potter through and through."
"Hmm…" Elizabeth said musingly. "Wait, you said Hawke was rescued by the Field Marshall when the Empire fell, right?" Nods. "How old is the Field Marshall? He can't be a day over twenty-three! How in the world did he reach so high a rank?"
Now the two officers seemed sheepish, much to her amusement.
"Well…Your Majesty…" Sulu stumbled over the words.
"Truth is, the ranks are popularly appointed," confessed Staples. "When the Empire fell, I was just a captain—my ship being theLocker."
"I was a Lieutenant-Colonel when the news arrived in Africa," admitted Sulu.
"What about the Field Marshall?" asked Elizabeth curiously.
Sulu and Staples exchanged glances. "He was a Major General," answered Sulu at length. "He only reported to Lord Irons, the then-alive Field Marshall and Head of the Armed Forces. When the Empire fell, he was the highest ranking officer in the field that had survived the coup."
Elizabeth was shocked. "What happened to all the other generals?"
Sulu shrugged. "Most of the generals were armchair generals. They were in London, or the other colonial capitals, when the coup went down."
"I…see…" Elizabeth said slowly. "So why give yourselves such high ranks? Isn't that for your superiors to decide?"
Both officer shifted uncomfortably.
"Until you were rescued, Your Majesty," admitted Sulu, "We had no superiors. When the Covenant of the Five Lords was created—"
"The Covenant of the Five Lords," repeated Staples. "The five most powerful Imperial warlords that predominated over an area of former Imperial control. I am the Lord of Asia, while Sulu here is the Lord of Africa."
"The Field Marshall is Lord of North America," continued Sulu. "While the two others, O'Connor and McDonald, are Lords of the Caribbean and the British Isles, respectively."
"So McDonald is your leader?"
Both men adopted disgusted faces. "Gods below, no!" spat Staples. "There's no way I'd ever call McDonald my boss."
"McDonald may have the British Isles as his territory, Your Majesty," Sulu clarified, "but he's not a very popular warlord, nor does he have very sizeable forces. He only has the British Isles by virtue of his base being closer, while the Field Marshall's is closer to Canada."
Elizabeth nodded in understanding. "Still, you haven't answered my first question," she reminded them.
Elizabeth nodded. "Why is the Field Marshall so hard on me?"
Staples and Sulu shifted uneasily. "Your Majesty, the Field Marshall isn't very convinced with your ability. He feels that, by acting like a victim, you're dishonouring the memory of his fallen friend."
"Truth is," admitted Staples, "Potter's the one who lost the most in that battle. About five thousand soldiers, right?"
Sulu shook his head. "Seven thousand, three hundred, and seventy nine. Plus six ships," he added quickly.
Elizabeth's head had drooped by now. So many people killed…all to save her. She now felt disgusted with herself for ever having entertained evil thoughts towards her rescuers for not having shown up earlier.
"Your Majesty, if I may?" asked Sulu. Elizabeth looked up weakly and nodded. "In my opinion, Your Majesty, perhaps the best thing you can do to ease the Field Marshall's dislike and honour those men and women who died in your name is to start acting like the sovereign you're going to become," suggested Sulu. "You will be our Queen, Your Majesty, and we will be answering to you, and only you. You must be our guiding hand and our leash. The Field Marshall would have never walked out on the former Queen, nor acted as aggressively, but your lack of reaction confirmed, in the Marshall's opinion, your lack of ability."
"But what can I possibly do?" asked Elizabeth, a tinge of whining in her voice.
Staples frowned momentarily before crossing his huge arms across his wide chest.
"The first Elizabeth began the Empire," he told her. "The second, preserved it with the Muggle Commonwealth. The question now is: can you, the third, rebuild it?"
Both officers looked down at the redheaded teen, who seemed to be mulling it over from her seat on the ground. Finally, when both men seemed about to give up and take Harry's example, Elizabeth silently stood up and, tossing her red hair back, glared at the two officers defiantly.
"Yes," she affirmed. "I can."
Sulu and Staples merely grinned.