The Queen of the Meadow contest entry (Winning Story) for the Steem Monsters/Splinterlands monster card named Lyanna Natura.
The Queen of the Meadow
The grassy fields were buzzing with crickets and cicadas; grasshoppers and ladybugs jumped and flew about. A large dragonfly perched itself atop a large leaf from a bright yellow flower, in the shade of a large old oak.
‘And for you, my loyal subject, I will grant eternal life!’ proclaimed a young Lyanna to the dragonfly. Its wings fluttered before it took flight again. ‘Fly off and spread the word. I am the Queen of the Meadow!’
‘If you’re the Queen of the Meadow, you will need a crown!’ said a man, his stubble thick, his smile broad. He bent down low and embraced Lyanna, her leafy skirt rustled as he did so. ‘And, as the father of such a mighty being, I have just the crown for this queen.’ From behind his back, he brought up a flexible twig.
‘It needs decorations!’ Lyanna said, placing her hands on her hips.
‘Of course!’ Lyanna’s father took her hand as she guided him into a garden of majestic flowers.
Lyanna picked a flower from one of the bushes and fastened it to the crown. She placed two fingers on the plant’s stem, from where she had taken the flower, and quickly the tear healed and grew a new sprout with a small leaf.
‘One day, you will be able to make gardens grow in full bloom, my child,’ Lyanna’s father said merrily.
Lyanna picked a few more flowers in this manner and fastened them to her makeshift crown. Picking up some baby’s breath, her father added to the crown the finishing touches. He placed it atop his daughter’s head.
‘You do me proud, Lyanna.’ Her father kissed her brow, embracing her and she returned the affection tightly.
A voice was heard afar. ‘Llewellyn, where have you gone to now?’ An elderly woman dressed as a noble approached. ‘My good graces, you cannot wander off so far. I don’t pay you to galavant, but to tend to the gardens.’
‘Apologies, Mrs, Barnsworth,’ Lyanna’s father said, standing up.
She waved a dismissive hand. ‘Never you mind. It looks like you have crafted an art of beauty. You should consider entering the fair contest. You and Lyanna could win a hefty amount of gold, more than I could pay you. It wouldn’t be enough to afford you your own place, but it would be a start.’
‘But we like working for you, Mrs. Barnsworth,’ said Lyanna, smiling up at the old woman.
‘Then come help me plant that tree over there.’ Mrs. Barnsworth smiled as she took the little girl’s hand. Lyanna’s father walked further down and continued his labor, watching his daughter laugh merrily as she danced around the tree.
10 Years Later
Mrs. Barnsworth entered Lyanna’s chamber, carrying a tiara. Lyanna stood before a grand mirror, wearing a beautiful green gown with white lace and silk embroidery. She took a deep breath.
‘Oh, you look absolutely lovely,’ said Mrs. Barnsworth. ‘Llewellyn, get yourself in here and tell your daughter she is absolutely beautiful in my old gown.’
Lyanna’s father strode into the room. ‘My, you are as radiant as your mother was when I first met her. If she was here today, she would tell you the same. Your face shines like hers. She was a native to these lands, and were the tribe still alive, I’m sure all the young men would vie to win your heart.’
Lyanna looked at her father. ‘But this is a noble do, father. I don’t know that the other nobles will think the same of me.’
‘Lyanna,’ her father said, ‘you have been invited to a ball by a young noble man. It would be a mistake to think he has not taken an interest in you. I’m sure you can do no wrong in his eyes. You are my daughter, a gardener’s daughter, and you have a rare gift. The love you have for all that lives gives life in return. And any young man would be a fool to turn down the opportunity to be blessed with your love.’
Llewellyn embraced his daughter. Lyanna held her father tightly. When she pulled apart from him, Mrs. Barnsworth stepped forward, placing the tiara on Lyanna’s head.
‘It will add to your charm, Lyanna. This was mine as well. No noble will look down on you tonight, not dressed the way you are. Keep your chin up, keep your shoulders back, and show them that nobility comes not from how much gold you have, but from how much love you carry within your heart.’ Mrs. Barnsworth stepped back. ‘Oh, an if anyone gives you grief, remember that annoying chant you used to sing while dancing around the old oak. That’ll stun them into silence, that’s for sure!’
‘Thank you, Mrs. Barnsworth.’ Lyanna shared a hearty laugh with Mrs. Barnsworth and her father.
‘Now, go,’ said Llewellyn. ‘Enjoy yourself at the ball.’
Lyanna prancied herself to the carriage that awaited her and soon found herself amidst an entourage of noble men and ladies, all dressed lavishly. Many of them gave no notice to her, except for a handsome man, who stood by the door, greeting all these nobles. He broke off and walked up to her before she had reached the door.
‘Lady Lyanna.’ He bowed politely. ‘I am so honoured you could make it.’
‘It was gracious of you to invite me, Mr. Whitfield.’ She curtsied, as Mrs. Barnsworth had had her practice so many times before tonight.
Mr. Whitfield took her hand and gave it a gentle kiss. Lyanna felt herself blush.
‘Please, walk with me,’ he said offering her his arm. She took it and they strolled around the mansion.
Mr. Whitfield plucked a flower from the garden and offered it to Lyanna. She took it and placed it in her hair, tucking its stem beneath the tiara for good measure. Then she pinched the stem where the flower had been plucked out and a sprout emerged.
‘Remarkable,’ said Mr. Whitfield. ‘I’ve seen you work my gardens and I must admit, I had to see it to believe it when I’d first heard the rumours of your talents, but I will never tire of admiring your handy work with the earth.’
‘Is that why you invited me here this evening?’ asked Lyanna.
‘No. Well, yes, in part…’ he trailed off.
‘You could have given me a task in your gardens and simply watched me.’ Lyanna placed her hands on her hips, and smiled.
‘Well, in truth…’ Mr. Whitfield looked at the ground. ‘There is another reason.’ He looked up at her again. ‘I hope you don’t mind me being so forward, but I believe you are the most beautiful young lady this land has known. I have eyes only for you, if you would care to accept my heart.’
Lyanna smiled, but before she could answer, a noble couple approached, sneering at them.
‘Well, well, if it isn’t the gardener’s daughter,’ scoffed the woman. ‘Nothing magical about you at all, I reckon.’
‘Mr. Whitfield, you disappoint me,’ said the man. ‘Not only are you looking to court a woman clearly your younger by several years, but much, much, much below your station.’
Mr. Whitfield took a step towards the man. ‘Perhaps Lady Lyanna is just a gardener’s daughter, but her worth is ten times your fortune and more.’
‘Please, Mr. Whitfield,’ said Lyanna, ‘it’s all right. Let them scoff all they want. It does not bother me.’ Lyanna thought back to her youth. ‘I am after all, the Queen of the Meadow.’ She giggled even as she said it.
The couple walked off, laughing away at her statement. Mr. Whitfield turned to her.
‘Indeed it seems you are more than that,’ he said. ‘You are queen of my heart.’
Lyanna and Mr. Whitfield exchanged a smile before returning to the ball. There were many speeches and many more dances. Lyanna met several nobles who were kind and took interest to keep in touch with her. She even taught her new friends some of the tribal dances of the people where her mother came from, which to her surprise, had earned much respect from some notable folks.
When the evening was winding down, Mr. Whitfield offered to take Lyanna back home himself.
‘It would be my pleasure to ride with you,’ she said.
She saddled up behind him and they rode to the garden farm.
When they approached the farm, Lyanna could see fire afar. Her heart sank as worry fell over her. Mr. Whitfield tightened the reins and the horse galloped towards the farm. Everything was ablaze: the garden, the farm, the giant oak.
Lyanna jumped off the horse, hurrying towards the house.
‘Lyanna, wait, it’s too dangerous to go running through the fire!’
‘But my father and Mrs. Barnsworth could be in there! We need to save them.’ Lyanna continued to run ahead, Mr. Whitfield behind her. ‘Who would do such a thing?’
They ran into the burning house, and Lyanna followed the sound of coughing. She found Mrs. Barnsworth unconscious but still alive. Mr. Whitfield took the old woman in his arms and carried her out of the house. Lyanna took a cloth and wet it, and brought it to her face. Breathing more easily, she ran up the stairs. She found her father lying unconscious on the floor in the hall. She placed her hand on his chest and his breathing steadied itself. He opened his eyes wide, then sat bolt upright.
‘Can you walk?’ Lyanna asked. Llewellyn nodded. She helped her father up and they walked to the balcony. Below were some bushes. ‘They will cushion our fall.’
They jumped down and hurried towards Mrs. Barnsworth and Mr. Whitfield, who stood near the pond. Lyanna bent down and placed her hand on Mrs. Barnsworth’s chest and her breathing eased, like her father’s had, though the old woman remained unconscious.
‘I see those around you are always filled with more health,’ said a booming voice. ‘But you cannot heal forever, not when destruction and death abound.’ The fires rose around them and spread across the meadow. ‘Your powers must be stopped.’
‘My powers? Yours must be stopped! Clearly.’ Lyanna shouted back defiantly.
A fiery being appeared as though from within the fire, as though he was the fire. He was tall and looked like a great warrior. Lyanna squared her shoulders and stepped towards him, despite the fire around her.
‘You don’t frighten me,’ she declared.
‘Oh? Perhaps you shouldn’t be so trusting, of your abilities as well as of those around you.’
‘What are you talking about?’ Lyanna asked confused.
The fiery being pointed towards Mr. Whitfield, who bowed his head.
‘I’m sorry, Lyanna, I never wanted it to be this way. I do love you, but, I serve another being more powerful than you.’ Mr. Whitfield walked into the fire, unharmed by the flames.
‘No!’ Lyanna shook her head.
‘It’ll be all right,’ said Llewellyn, placing a hand on his daughter’s shoulder. ‘We can protect the farms and gardens.’
The being laughed. A flame wrapped itself around Llewellyn, engulfing him. He screamed in pain.
‘Father!’ Lyanna cried out.
‘Stop!’ Mr. Whitfield cried out. ‘Please. Her father is not the one you want to stop from becoming powerful.’
‘You fool,’ said the being. ‘He is the reason Lyanna’s powers have grown. We must take away all that she loves, all that breathes health. She must not be allowed to come to full power.’
‘Why would you think that?’ asked Lyanna. ‘I have done nothing to wrong you.’
‘No yet you haven’t, but you will. Thus I am here to ensure that day never comes to be,’ said the being.
‘By declaring yourself as my enemy, you are only ensuring that that say does come to pass,’ said Lyanna angrily.
‘We’ll see about that!’ said the being. He closed his hand into a fist and the flames around Llewellyn grew more intense. Then her father fell to the ground, nothing more than dust. Lyanna screamed out, horrified. The being did the same to Mrs. Barnsworth.
‘No!’ Lyanna sobbed.
‘Now that they are gone, unfortunately, that also means I must kill another.’ He whirled on Mr. Whitfield. The man’s eyes grew wide.
‘What? No!’ the nobleman protested.
‘I cannot allow the love between you to feed her power to bring healing upon these lands.’
The being thrust a fire blazing sword into Mr. Whitfield’s gutt. Lyanna fell to her knees, weeping. She placed her hand on the dead, dried grass, as the fire continued all around her. She focused all her magic into the earth, and slowly and the grass became green again, the fire began to fade as the greening grass spread. The flames around the oak subsided and its branches grew leaves again.
Lyanna stood up and stared down the being. ‘Stop me now if you think you can!’ she said.
The being scowled and grunted in dissatisfaction. ‘We will meet again, Lyanna Natura.’ With a whisk of flame, he was gone.
Exhausted, Lyanna fell to her knees, clutching the ashes that were once her father. Tears poured down her face.
I have lost all those whom I could call family,’ she sobbed to herself. ‘Love of the Earth around me, if anyone can hear my plea and come to my aid, show me not all is lost.’
A branch from the willow tree that drooped into the pond reached towards her and wrapped itself around her into a warm embrace. Lyanna could hear the bustling of the wind in the leaves and soft murmurs as creatures of all shapes and sizes approached her, some hurriedly, others more reluctantly. Lyanna wiped her eyes, bewildered, as one of the beings bowed before her.
‘You have always summoned love to give us health, and we have always been there,’ the creature said. ‘Summon us and we will fight with you and for you, our Queen of the Meadow.’
Lyanna was always spirited with the power of the Earth to give health and to heal. But a fiery attack took all those whom she loved. That is when she found her true family, summoned by her plea, as she was proclaimed their Queen of the Meadow.
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