Buckingham Palace, United Kingdom, Wednesday February 14th, 2035
On this 14th day of February, Queen Iseult Windsor, reigning monarch of the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth Realms, firmly stood inside the Blue Drawing Room of her castle, surrounded by advisers and military experts. This room, located on the principal floor of Buckingham Palace near the Music Room, had been redesigned into a war room with the intent of hosting strategy sessions, under the orders of the Queen. The room was still decorated with the blue and pink lapis stones that could be found throughout the palace, a reminder of 19th-century interior designs that remained in existence inside the castle to this day.
Her aides were explaining to her the geopolitical situation relating to the war that had been instigated by France, Russia and Germany against her nation. Her heart was about to burst with sadness because of the current situation; she never thought it possible that it would come to this. Yet, she remained strong and level-headed. She continued to listen to her advisers.
"As of now," noted one of them, "the Coalition's campaigns have been quite successful. France stormed through Belgium while Germany invaded the Netherlands during the month of October 2034. The French then invaded Norway while the German attacked Denmark."
"The most likely intention of our enemies seems to be the encirclement of our nation and the capture of nearby port cities in order to launch a pincer attack against us," thundered the confident voice of another brown-haired military expert. "They have also solved problems related to logistics and supply routes, because they intend to use the territory of the countries they defeated in battle. They made sure these nations would not support us when the time comes to launch their final assault against us."
As Iseult listened to the explanations provided by the two men, her heart flinched and a single thought kept echoing through the reaches of her mind, the thought that everything was over. Her enemies had won, and there was nothing else for her to do except admit defeat. She could not bring herself to do that, however; her convictions brought about this war, and her convictions would see her through.
"Fortunately, their campaign was not without problems," one aged grey-haired adviser delivered his report. "The efforts of the French were at first thwarted by a magic user named Clara Jacobs, during the invasion of Bruges, in the Belgian province of West Flanders. However, they ultimately took over the country while she was unconscious, with the help of a newly created military unit known as the Organic Slayers."
"The Organic Slayers are an elite special forces unit meant to act within the borders of invaded countries to eliminate users of the so-called... Organics... so that they never run across someone like that little girl ever again," the man continued, looking into the cerulean eyes of his monarch.
The man, an esteemed advisor named Edward Wright, had his back slightly bent, his hands resting on the wooden surface of the large oval table in the middle of the war room, a table surrounded by the myriad of advisers participating in today's strategy session.
"In fact, elimination of these Organics has become the primary focus of their campaign, and our defeat has become but a minor part in their plans," the grey-haired man continued. "It would be folly to think this war would end if Your Highness abdicated the throne. With all due respect, I hope Her Majesty was not considering such a course of action..."
"Easy for you to say," Iseult thought to herself as she caressed a lock of her long golden hair, her eyes shying away from the experienced professional. Could he even see what she felt deep inside? Didn't he mind the anguished cries of the British population, appalled by the prospect of waging a war within their borders? Her subjects were no fools, they knew they would soon share the fate suffered by Denmark, Norway, Belgium and the Netherlands. Something had to be done... But what?
"Aren't there any good news?" the Queen asked her advisers, her voice trembling with emotion. She quickly regained her composure and followed up with other questions in an attempt to reassure her subjects that she was still the confident monarch they had grown to respect. "We have several allies in the Commonwealth of Nations and in The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, could I get a status report on that?"
"Certainly, Ma'am," an energetic brown-haired adviser said with a grin, adjusting his glasses as they reflected the light of the setting sun that pierced through the room's windows. "Our allies in the Commonwealth have been working tirelessly for us, using their influence in the United Nations and NATO to garner support for the cause of our defense. Canada and Australia have been particularly stellar in their performance; they have assisted us in securing the support of our steadfast ally, the United States."
"As such, progress has been made in NATO," the adviser continued, his American accent a stark contrast from every person who spoke before him during the strategy session. "As you know, Germany and France are members of NATO, but their belligerent actions towards fellow members like Belgium and the Netherlands have been rewarded with temporary expulsion from the organization."
"NATO leaders have used this restructuring process as a pretense to admit new allies like Japan and Israel into the organization, honorarily bestowing the position of Secretary General upon a Japanese official, Ryunosuke Heisashi. The reorganization is complete, and NATO is ready to intervene. They were waiting for the process to end in order to invoke article 5 of their Charter to intervene in the war and defend member nations."
"The communications we have received from them indicate they will assist us when the Coalition invades. They will also fight on behalf of member nations who have lost their sovereignty because of the invasions. It is to be noted that NATO would rather contain the enemy than wage a total war with them; they are in no hurry to ignite a Third World War. They will not deploy the full extent of their capabilities at first, but their help will still allow us to defend our country admirably."
"There is one final thing I would like to report," the American adviser said, noticing his lengthy address could have exhausted his audience, especially given the fast rythm of his speech. "Certain leaders of NATO have been emboldened by the presence of Russia in the Coalition."
"Russia has not participated in the confrontations to date, but has been the main supplier of weapons to the French and German armies. Not only that, the Coalition is mainly composed of countries who used to belong to the defunct Warsaw Pact during their heyday as constituent countries of the former Soviet Union."
"Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, they're all members of the Coalition; only the Baltic States backed out. These countries supply the Coalition with manpower and weapons. Some of NATO's personnel view this geopolitical situation as the very reason why their organization was created in the first place, and see the current conflict as relevant to their mission."
A silence fell upon the room with the last words of the American professional, as if the end of the strategy session had finally been signalled. Not a moment too soon, for everyone who had taken part in the meeting was exhausted after having delivered lengthy status reports for hours on end. Iseult politely invited the experts to leave Buckingham Palace and return to their homes, where their families were waiting for them.
Although times of war called for extraordinary efforts, she acknowledged her advisers had worked diligently today. Darkness had already shrouded the city of London in its shadowy cloak. Once the elegant monarch had finally been left alone in the Blue Drawing Room, she took a moment to collect her thoughts and noticed how tired she was.
She removed her crown and put it on the table in front of her. The sight of the oval furniture now repulsed her; she had spent far too much time standing in front of it today, listening to her male advisers one by one. She also removed her majestic red cape from her shoulders, folded it several times and gently laid it on the wooden table besides her crown.
Turning her back on these symbols of her royalty, she walked toward an empty canvas meant to be blessed with the magical touch of an artist, waiting to be filled with the many colors of a painter's imagination. The elegant woman pulled a chair toward the canvas and sat on it, but as she adopted that position, she felt the weight of her emotions subdue her fragile physique. She almost wanted to let out a cry, and indeed teardrops did moisten her slender eyelashes.
She was used to suppress her emotions, however, for it was something she had to do every day when facing her subjects. It was unbecoming of royalty to cry in public, a belief she had learned early during her childhood. She also found that her painting would be a better use of her time than weeping over her tragic circumstances.
No longer wasting any time on her reflections, she let her inspiration take over and poured her emotions on the empty canvas. She started her picture with the use of the color green, a color evoking her unwavering faith in the boundless possibilities of the future. As she started drawing the Buckingham Palace Garden, she suddenly recalled herself strolling through the horticultural paradise in the company of her dearest deceased mother. Setting her eyes on the canvas, she let herself be entranced by the painting she had begun and plunged into a nebulous reverie.
* * *
Buckingham Palace Garden, London, Sunday July 28th, 2013
A young Princess Iseult, only 7 years of age, walked in the Buckingham Palace Garden in the presence of her mother, Queen Victoria Windsor. Walking along the gravel paths of the 42-acre paradise, the child reveled in the discovery of the exotic flowers and plants decorating the horizon. Her cerulean eyes lost themselves in the beauty of the park's azure lake.
Natural wonders were not the only things to be seen inside the legendary garden. The lush park also featured several works of art, including the famous Waterloo Vase, a testament of the United Kingdom's rich history. Iseult's sophisticated tastes allowed her to appreciate those artistic creations, even though she was but a child.
"What do you think of all this?" Victoria Windsor asked her beloved child as they strolled across the park.
"I love it, everything here is so beautiful!" Iseult told her mother with a tone of voice betraying her exhilaration.
"I'm glad you have the finesse to appreciate everything you see here," the mother said with a wide smile, caressing her daughter's golden hair and looking fondly into the blue eyes of her offspring. "It would have pained me to have raised an ignorant brute," the middle-aged woman teased her child in a manner that would have been unbecoming in public.
Iseult did not mind her mother's candor, for she knew the monarch possessed a heart filled with boundless benevolence. She simply giggled and returned her mother's amused gaze, tightening her grip as she held the hand of a parent she adored.
"You are sufficiently refined to enjoy works of art and natural wonders, but you should possess the subtlety to understand that these things are not the greatest wealth a person can aspire to," the mother diligently told her child.
The parent stopped walking in front of a small hill in the center of which stood a red rose, surrounded by lush greenery. This flower, basking in the brilliant light of the morning sun, had a perfect form; it was the most beautiful bloom Iseult had ever laid eyes upon. Like her mother, the child stopped walking, entranced by the charm emanating from the lovely red flower.
"What do you think of this flower?" the mother asked her bewitched child after letting out a small cough. "Unknown to the general public, this is a family heirloom, one of our dearest treasures. This flower never withers; it has somehow remained in this particular shape for centuries."
"Really?" Iseult shrieked with surprise, fascinated by the natural wonder standing in front of her.
"And yet even this heirloom pales in comparison to the feelings that must have been felt by the person who gave this flower to our descendant," the mother continued to instruct her child. "That is because feelings, creativity and passion are the real treasures of this world," she concluded, imprinting upon the mind of her child a truth that would shape her destiny forevermore.
"The person who received this flower must have been the luckiest woman on Earth," Iseult concluded after pausing to consider her mother's wise words.
* * *
Buckingham Palace, London, Wednesday May 1st, 2024
Although the first day of May lacked the international recognition Saint-Valentine's day enjoyed, it was still revered in Prague as the National Day of Love, a day where individuals kiss to honor the Czech poet, Karel Hynek Mácha. Even though Iseult knew this, her heart felt absolutely nothing as she readied herself for the festivities that were to take place in the throne room of Buckingham Palace a few moments from now.
Holding her golden hairpin between her pressed lips, she slowly and carefully arranged her long golden hair, folding it several times as was her habit. She looked at herself in the mirror and acknowledged her own beauty with her cerulean eyes; the rosy skin of her shoulders were well complemented by her silky red dress, gloves and ankle-boots. However, she also felt the man for whom she had spent several hours preparing did not deserve such attention.
Her mother had invited countless guests for this party, hoping the event would strengthen a relationship she hoped to forge between her daughter Iseult and Count Clemens of Schönborn-Buchheim. Both individuals were born the same year, and Queen Victoria had worked tirelessly in years past to bring the two children together. However, the Queen was admittedly disappointed in the fact that Iseult had never shown an interest in the boy. The mother wanted her daughter to be happy, but marriage did not seem such an important concern to the adolescent girl.
Interrupting Iseult's stream of thought, someone opened the door to the princess's private quarters; it was Count Clemens, coming to see how her preparations were coming along. Dumbfounded, he stood silent near the entrance to the room belonging to the royal heiress, admiring her exquisite elegance. He was dazzled by her golden hair, which seemed to reflect the rosy light of the setting sun in his direction. He was enthralled by her provocative clothing, even if he knew red and pink had always been her favorite colors.
"What are you doing here?" the girl snapped, trying her best to remain polite and level-headed. "Never mind that, do you plan on just standing there?"
Caught red-handed, the adolescent boy did not know how to respond. He looked around the room nervously, then rushed to the side of the princess, noticing she would probably need someone to finish buttoning her dress from the back. The boy hoped that boldly taking initiative in this way would earn him the favors of his beloved. As Count Clemens approached her, he could feel a certain tension about her, as if her actions were annoying her.
"What are you doing?" she asked him. Unwilling to make a scene, she simply allowed him to fasten the back side of her dress. A few moments after, the count broke the uncomfortable silence by leaving the room, noting Iseult still wanted to bring final touches to her presentation.
About an hour later, the guests gathered in the throne room of Buckingham Palace and danced, for such was the purpose of this event. Couples waltzed together under the brilliant lights used for this special occasion, rediscovering the charm of their love anew.
Iseult sat on the same table as her mother, partaking in discussions brought forth by Her Majesty's acquaintances. Queen Victoria was pleased that her friends appreciated her well-mannered daughter, and liked the level of maturity shown by her offspring. However, she was worried because Iseult did not enjoy the company of individuals her own age, regardless of gender. Since tonight was a night of celebrations, she would have rather preferred for her child to dance than talk politics...
The Queen's thoughts were interrupted as she coughed incessantly, under the worried eyes of her dearest daughter. Fortunately, the short spell of illness she just endured was quickly followed by more pleasurable moments.
A smile illuminated the mother's face when she saw Count Clemens walk toward her only child, albeit with some timidity in his demeanor. She knew the boy was shy, but she also firmly believed he possessed a heart of gold. She had faith in him, and knew she could entrust her only daughter into his care. She shifted her attention to her daughter as the boy asked Iseult's hand for a dance. The young girl looked away from the count, however, clearly showing disinterest.
Moments later, the two adolescent individuals danced like the other couples present in the room. Others were looking at the young couple with astonished eyes, for both young adults mastered the steps required for a waltz. The boy's composure had changed from a timid one to a confident one, yet Iseult's demeanor, in his presence, was still aloof and uncaring. The couple turned to the rythm of the music and turned again; while the count found the dance to be enjoyable, the princess simply saw the event as one of her responsibilities.
Their beautiful waltz ended with the music's delectable melody. Princess Iseult excused herself and left the room, seeking comfort in the breeze of spring and the starry sky she found outside the castle, in the palace's garden.
Sitting on grass, surrounding herself with lush greenery, she reveled at the sight of the stars above. Seeing a shooting star journey across the sky, she closed her eyes and made a wish deep in her heart. Soon after, she heard the voice of Count Clemens drawing near, and concluded the gods had seemingly preferred to mock her wishes.
"Iseult!" the boy called out to her as he left the crowd of guests to join her side in the garden. Breathing heavily, he regained his composure from his quick walk as he approached her. "It's good that you like horticulture so much... Here!"
His tall body towering over hers, the count lunged forward and presented a flower to the girl as a token of his love. The healthy bloom was a white lily adorned with the color yellow at its base.
"The color white represents virtue," the young man explained. "This lily represents the purity of our relationship. Iseult, I would like our bond to remain pure and true like this flower until the end of time."
Iseult looked at the lily and listened to the words of her noble interlocutor. She remembered the wise words spoken by her mother in the past; it was not the beauty of the flower that mattered, but the feelings conveyed by the person who offered it, and the nature of the heart that accompanied the gift.
"I can't accept this..." Iseult regretfully told her suitor, her eyes drifting away from his.
"Why?" the young man asked after considering her words for some time. "Is there... someone else?"
"That's not it," the girl replied, devoting her entire attention to the floral family heirloom that firmly stood on the other side of the gravel road near which she was sitting. "Clemens, your heart is just like the flower you hold in your hand: white, bland, insipid and colorless. It does not burn red with passion. I could never accept something like this, I'm terribly sorry..."
The young adults remained silent, surrounded by the natural wonders of the Buckingham Palace Garden. Under the myriad of lights shining across the starry sky, they considered the true nature of the emotions they felt for one another.
* * *
Buckingham Palace, United Kingdom, Wednesday February 14th, 2035
Iseult laid the final touches to her canvas, entitled "Garden of Eden." Depicting a scene she had seen many times in her dreams, the painting represented two bare-bodied lovers whose eyes met under a clear cerulean sky, in the midst of a heavenly garden filled with a multitude of lovely plants and flowers.
The colors used in this artwork reflected Iseult's feelings about her future. The use of rosy tones expressed the passion felt by the two lovers, while the use of white depicted the purity of their relationship. Together, those two colors symbolized a relationship the Queen longed for, a relationship with a man that would shoulder some of her burden during these trying times of strife.
The use of the color green reflected the painter's hope for a peaceful tomorrow, while the use of blueish hues contrasted with all the other colors, adding a heavenly touch to her creation.
Black and grayish colors were used to portray the shadows projected by objects present in the painting. These shadows represented the darker side of reality, the other side of the love shared by the two protagonists portrayed in the artwork. These shadows symbolized death itself.
Plunging one more time into the recesses of her mind, Iseult recalled the final moments of a woman she had adored her entire life, the moments when death's icy grip altered her destiny forevermore.
* * *
Rideau Hall, Ottawa, Wednesday August 14th, 2030
Today was Iseult Windsor's twenty-fifth birthday, but it was a day marked by sadness. Queen Victoria Windsor, knowing illness would soon claim her life, embarked on a journey around the globe with her only daughter. She intended to instill her wisdom into her child as they both traveled to member countries of the Commonwealth of Nations. From Australia to Bangladesh, from India to South Africa, from Jamaica to Sierra Leone, almost all countries of the organization had been visited. During each trip, the Queen explained to her child her view of the world, including its rich history.
Their travels concluded themselves as they reached Canada. Unable to endure the burden of her disease any further, Queen Victoria requested that she be treated inside her private quarters at her official Canadian residence of Rideau Hall. This establishment would later be known as the place that housed Her Majesty's deathbed.
"Iseult..." the sickly mother called out to her daughter from her bed. Sitting at her parent's side, the princess held her parent's hand tightly; in this manner, the child expressed to her mother the depth of the emotions taking hold of her heart.
"You will soon be known as Queen Iseult Windsor," the Queen told her offspring with a satisfied smile drawn on her lips. She experienced a mother's joy to have raised the best daughter in the world. Iseult's sophistication was unrivaled; the parent knew her daughter's intelligence and maturity would benefit mankind for years to come. She felt she had no regrets... Or perhaps there was one regret that still haunted her heart.
"I regret," the mother told her child, "that I couldn't do more to make this world a better place. Promise me, Iseult, that you will speak out against the injustices plaguing this beautiful world of ours..."
"I promise, mother!" Iseult said, her teeth gritted and her eyelashes moistened by tears.
"You brought it with you during our travels, did you not?" the mother asked in a whisper. "Our family heirloom..."
"Yes..." the princess said, showing the healthy red rose to her parent.
"Then, will you show it to me? Your talent, a miraculous talent that will change the destiny of our beloved world, a talent others have yet to discover... Show it to me one last time..."
Iseult did not let go of her mother's hand. She closed her eyes as tears rolled down her cheeks. Moments later, her rosy skin glowed in response to a dim light emitted by the red flower. The dying mother whispered praises in awe of her daughter's ability as they both journeyed through the memories of past generations who held the undying flower in their hands.
They witnessed firsthand the feelings that filled the heart of the woman named Rose as she lived every moment of her eternal love story with her destined inamorato. This woman had accomplished legendary deeds during the endless cycle of reincarnations that constituted her immortal existence. She had been known by many names throughout time; humans once knew her as Venus before bestowing upon her names such as Aphrodites, Juliet Capulet and Iseult of Ireland.
"But mother, what's in a name?" the beautiful maiden told her mother as the parent closed her eyes one final time, carrying a content smile into eternity after witnessing the divine destiny her child had been blessed with. "To me, you were the finest rose ever to grace our world."
Gary Germeil, M. Sc.