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Downfall

The Queen and the Hairpin

By Jenifer NimPublished 12 months ago 5 min read
Orientalin - Edouard Frédéric Wilhelm Richter (c. 1875)

Tonight was the night she would kill him.

She gazed from across the room, gripping a bejeweled hairpin in one hand. Without realising, she grasped it tightly, so tightly her knuckles were starting to turn white. The precious gem sparkled at one end, reflecting the shining silver and gold of her sumptuous tunic. At the other end: a sharp and deadly point.

The old buffoon was sprawled on a chaise lounge on the other side of the salon. A selection of slaves fanned him with giant ostrich feather fans while a youthful, lithe, pretty, little thing fed grapes directly into his mouth, fluttering her eyelashes as the king eyed her lasciviously.

Her eyes narrowed as she watched the young whore twittering and smirking, flattered that the fat old fool had plucked her out of a crowd of women. Normally, she didn’t care about his little fancies, but this one aggravated her. Subconsciously, she fingered the sharp edge of the hair pin. Thin, yet strong. Beautiful, yet harmful. Ice cold like a woman’s rage.

The queen gestured for some wine. A slave rushed over with an intricately carved golden goblet and handed it to her reverentially. She sipped the cool, plum-coloured liquid and shrank back into the shadows, her emerald eyes sending out daggers. She swilled the liquid around in the cup as she contemplated the night ahead of her.

Yes, tonight was the night. She could no longer bear the old goat and his bleating laugh and feeble voice. He was an imbecile. Educated by the best scholars the world had ever produced; wasted on a moron like him. He was not particularly interested in court matters or politics, domestic or regional, nor did he seem to have any intellectual curiosity whatsoever. He relied on his closest advisors to tell him what to do, and she was just as contemptuous of them.

The only child of an ambitious father, she had been raised with the aim of entering the palace and given an academic instruction equal to that of any man. The queen had gathered around her a select group of elites, men of power and influence and real intelligence. Men as sharp as the hairpin in her fist. They shared her concerns about the king’s lack of interest and ability, and they supported her fully. When she spoke, they listened. She had earned their respect over the years, and their trust.

On first arriving at the palace, the courtiers had disregarded her, thinking her just another of the king’s exquisite ornamental acquisitions. But in time she had managed to insinuate herself into the inner circle of those she deemed worthy of knowing her true nature. The king she had wrapped around her little finger from day one. It had not taken long to persuade him to bring her to long, tedious meetings, to let her read those dry, dull papers, to hear the most secret counsel of his most trusted advisors.

Perhaps that was why Miss Muscat was irritating her so intensely. The king had once looked at her in that simpering, sickening way. Not that she missed him slobbering all over her, of course. Once she had her precious sons, she had been more than happy to help him build a little harem to take over that side of her queenly duties. But her stock had gone down in his estimation.

He no longer adored her like he once had, or hung on every word that dripped from her lips. He let her roam around the palace as she wished, which made it easier to draw her conspirators around her and formulate her plan, but there was no denying that her influence was waning. And that meant it would not be long until he decided to replace her with a new queen. She had to act now, before the lazy oaf dispensed with her and while her children were young enough that she could act as regent. Soon, she would finally have the power she deserved.

Tonight, she thought, and the anticipation rippled through her, causing the hairs on her arms to stand up. She shot a piercing gaze at her right-hand man, who drifted over with feigned nonchalance. “Tonight,” she whispered, fixing her flashing green eyes on his.

***

The queen sat at her dressing table and removed her jewelry, methodical and unhurried, hoping the slowness of her actions would relax her quickened pulse. The gold bangles rang faintly as she placed them down on the marble top. Her jewels sparkled when caught by the flickering light of the candles. She had asked the king to come to her bedchamber that evening, and he would soon be arriving. It had taken all her inner strength to make the request while holding back any outer sign of revulsion. She would need that strength again tonight.

All her senses were heightened that evening, so she heard immediately when a door right at the end of the corridor opened. Her heart began to beat faster as she heard footsteps proceeding. But something wasn’t right. Those were not the arrogant, indolent footsteps of the king. They were vigorous and authoritative, and they were approaching quickly. And there were many of them.

As her stomach leapt into her throat, her mind started to race. She did not recognise those footsteps, and they sounded ominous. Suddenly, she heard a commotion break out, muffled but audible. She rushed to the wall and pressed her ear against it, hearing the unmistakeable scraping sound of swords being unsheathed. A slave girl screamed, metal clattered to the floor, the footsteps halted momentarily.

The queen’s eyes darted around the room, from the carved wooden chests, to the open window. Could she hide? Could she run? The footsteps resumed their marching, and low, harsh voices came closer and closer. The door burst open.

“My lady, we have been betrayed!” Her beloved bodyguard managed to call out, blocking the door in a final act of desperation. A look of agony crossed his face as a merciless silver sword pierced him from behind.

As a burly soldier struggled to free his weapon from the fallen body of her loyal protector, the queen made her decision. Quick as the flash of a blade, she snatched up the hairpin and concealed it in the lining of her undergarment. The king’s guards poured in, then stopped abruptly, unnerved by her steely gaze and calm demeanour. Haughty, defiant, she raised her arms, inviting them to seize her. As they marched her up the corridor, she felt the hidden hairpin bump against her ankle. She wasn’t finished just yet.

Fiction

About the Creator

Jenifer Nim

I’ve got a head full of stories and a hard drive full of photos; I thought it was time to start putting them somewhere.

I haven’t written anything for many, many years. Please be kind! 🙏

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Comments (1)

  • Esthengel Sweetchild12 months ago

    This was lovely 🌹

Jenifer NimWritten by Jenifer Nim

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