The Lost Queen

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Authors: Frewin Jones
rustling as they sped along, her hair streaming.
    Zara brought them to a breathless halt at a familiar doorway.
    Tania looked at her sister, puzzled. “This is your room,” she said. “I thought we were in a hurry to get to the Festival.”
    â€œIndeed we are,” Zara said, her eyes shining.
    â€œThen what—”
    â€œOpen the door!”
    Puzzled, Tania turned the handle and pushed the door open.
    She already knew what she would see: the walls and ceiling painted to resemble a seascape, the floor-boards colored like shingle, the furniture shell-encrusted and draped with navy blue covers. But all alive—a living painting in constant silent movement.
    And that was exactly what she did see as she swung the door wide—except that when she had been in this room before, it had been in daylight; now the room was wrapped in the sultry, dark glamour of a Faerie night.
    The second thing that struck her as she stepped over the threshold was that she could hear the sound of waves washing over shingle. There had been no sound from the living paintings before. Was this some new enchantment? But before she had the chance to ask, she realized that it was not wooden boards that she felt beneath her feet; it was crunching, yielding shingle. And then she saw that there was no furniture,no walls, no ceiling. The door opened onto a long beach that glimmered under the huge, shining sphere of the Traveler’s Moon.
    â€œThe King has not opened this gateway since before the Long Twilight,” Zara said. “See yonder: The Cloud Scudder is in full sail. Shall we board her, or would you stand here forever on the brink of wonders with your mouth agape?”
    Ahead of them, the pebbled shore sloped down to the foaming sea. A small rowboat lay close to the beach. A man stood by the boat dressed in a uniform the color of the summer sky, the water swirling around his booted legs.
    But the small boat did not hold Tania’s attention for long—something far more astonishing took her breath entirely away.
    A three-masted galleon lay at anchor on the rolling sea. Its planks and timbers and ropes and masts and spars; its sails and rigging; its decks and prow and the deep, wide curve of its keel all shone silver-white, as though the whole vessel welled with trapped moonlight, casting a shimmering sheen onto the dark waters that lapped its hull.
    â€œBehold the Cloud Scudder ,” Zara whispered, her lips close to Tania’s ear. “For five hundred years she has lain becalmed in a cold harbor, but tonight she will fly over the moon to the Island of Logris.”
    Hand in hand they crunched their way down the shingle. They stepped into the water, the lapping waves sucking the pebbles from under their feetwith a sound like distant high-pitched laughter. Foam sizzled on the sea-rounded stones.
    The waiting man bowed low and helped them board the small boat. They sat together in the stern as the man pushed the boat clear of the beach and jumped aboard. He fended the little vessel away from the shore with one oar, then sat and began to row with long, powerful strokes.
    It wasn’t long before they drew up alongside the towering silvery ship, their boat bumping gently against the timbers as the oarsman grasped a rope hanging from the deck. Zara stood up, using the man’s shoulder to steady herself. More ropes came snaking down the side of the ship, including a long loop of rope with a small wooden platform at the base.
    Zara stepped onto the side of the boat and then onto the wooden platform. She held on to the rope with both hands.
    â€œHaul away!” called the oarsman, and Tania watched as her sister was hoisted up the lofty side of the ship.
    A few moments later and Tania craned her neck to see Zara being helped onto the ship. The loop of rope slithered down again. The oarsman nodded toward the wooden platform.
    The boat bobbed and shifted under her as Tania stepped up onto the side,

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