ACT I, In which the stage is set...
The fire roared in the Queen’s parlor, Elizabeth herself sitting on the edge of its flickering orange glow. She let out a faint cough and wiped her lip, signaling to the guard with a wave of her withering hand. He bowed to her and turned to the door, opening it. Two more guards marched in, between them a tall, slender man with hair of frayed straw, adorned in rags, old boots and a red vest. Beneath his matted blonde locks, one could see the scar that rose up his cheek and came to a point just below his right eye. The three guards stopped several paces behind, and the peasant stepped before the Queen, who looked to the fire rather than him.
“Your majesty,” he said, bowing, but not kneeling, “I am Patricio Ramos, and—“
With a wave of her hand the Queen had his silence. “I know who you are, Spaniard. I am, after all, the one who sent for you. My agents told me of your presence within our borders, and I knew that I had to meet you.”
“And what the Queen of England desires, she gets, yes?”
“The matters I wish to discuss with you are more pressing than a mere Queen’s avarice, dear Patrick.” She said, “I fear that our world may be ending, Spaniard, and all the armies of England and Spain and France would be powerless to stop it.”
“Of what do you speak, your majesty?” he asked.
The Queen coughed again and sighed, at long last explaining, “From across Europe, I hear these claims, and within my own country, I have witnessed enough that I know them to be true. The ground shakes violently, and even cracks at times. The ocean recedes dramatically, and the next morning, it rises higher than it ever has. The skies are haunted by furious storms, and mariners lose their way on the sea, as they swear that the stars rearrange with each night.”
“So, what would a simple Spaniard have that could make any difference?” Patricio inquired.
“Ah, but you are no simple Spaniard.” Elizabeth answered at a raspy hush, “Your skill is renowned, a marksmen of truest form. And that very talent may give you great aid in pursuit of a certain… artifact.”
“Yes, an old treasure of the Knights Templar, as it were… in legend, at least. My advisers have looked over the records, and the tales told of it lead us to believe that it could very well be the source of these disturbances.”
“And, pray, what are the tales?”
“No matter.” Said the Queen, “It is coveted by every emperor and every order across the world. Some believe that it is a weapon, others that it is a device of the Holy Father, but they all want it, and they are willing to start a war over it. I task you with retrieving it first.”
“And what do YOU think it to be, your majesty?”
The Queen furrowed her brow beneath her crown, breathing slow, heavy sighs as a woman weary of life would, “I think it… to be the last hope of my kingdom, of my people, perhaps of every last man on this Earth. As vague as it is, we must not chance letting it fall into the hands of anyone else, or it could spell catastrophe just as easily as salvation.”
Patricio stepped forward, taken aback by what he had been told, "Your majesty, I am honored by the consideration, but this task seems more suited for--"
He was cut short by a sharp statement from Queen Elizabeth, “You regret the deeds you have committed in the service of Spain, is that correct, Patrick?”
Her eyes were no less piercing for their age, and under their potent gaze, Patricio shamefully replied, “Yes, your majesty.”
“And what might those deeds have been?”
Patricio turned from the Queen, a catch in his throat as he spoke, “I stood by as countless souls were burned at the stake. I myself set the torch to them more than once. When we were rounding up the Jews, a… a young woman, a mother, fled for the hills, her child in her arms. I… I took my bow and… shot her. I shot her down, an arrow through the neck bringing her to the ground. When I and another of my party went to retrieve her, we found that the baby had been crushed beneath her lifeless frame. We dragged them both to the fire we had built on the edge of the village, and I cast them in. I watched them burn… I watched them all burn…”
“Well, young Patrick," said the Queen, "Under my employ, you may do far more than avenge your wrongs. You may very well save all of God’s creation… from absolute oblivion.”
"Than I will accept." said Patricio, determined to rise up from the snare he now wallowed in, beset on all sides by his memories.
The Queen coughed once again, more violent than before, and wiped the blood from her lip. “Than... than you shall be equipped for the journey. You shall be traveling with Artair Edan Sinclair, my senior most adviser on these affairs. He is a master of the sciences. both nature and physic. And he partakes a bit in the dark and the supernatural, I wager, but his knowledge will aid you in your journey, as it has in these dwindling years of my life.” Suddenly, the doors behind them opened and in stepped a tall man. His blonde hair was groomed and neat, as a man of status would keep it. He was dressed in fine blue and grey clothes, threaded with gold. Leather and chain mail padded his frame, and a cape cascaded over his shoulder. Everything about his dress insisted a privileged noble, yet the worn brown gloves, the scars that decorated his neck and the edges of his face, and the sword at his waist with the gold painting scraped from the hilt, made it more than clear that he was a fighter. The Queen gestured to him, and he gave a polite bow, “Also accompanying you shall be Sir Mason Hansford, my top agent on secret dealings, both within our borders and beyond. Not a leaf falls in all of Europe that he does not know about.”
“I am the same way, your majesty, if in a more literal sense.” Said Patricio.
"There are three horses in the stable for you. Now, rest, Spaniard. You ride at dawn." the Queen announced, signaling for them both to leave. Patricio and Sir Hansford bid Elizabeth ado and exited the parlor, leaving the Queen with her thoughts. A drop of rain struck the glass at the far end of the room, and before the Queen of England could even acknowledge it, a thousand more pelted the window, and the crack of thunder filled the air. She sunk in her seat, and her heart plummeted deeper with each roaring bolt that tore the sky. The darkest days were ahead of them still.