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Chapter 1: The Queen is Dead... Again

Long Live The Queen

By Hope MartinPublished 11 months ago 17 min read

If you haven't read it yet, make sure you read the following chapters first:

Prologue: The Mad King

Jonathan was lying in a large bed, naked, sweat dripping off him. His breaths were deep, ragged, his wild eyes staring at the woman that lay next to him. Her mouth was open, her teddy-bear brown eyes open, blank, and lifeless. He let out a deep laugh, satisfaction spreading through him as the warm glow of his orgasm faded away from his stomach.

That was his favorite thing in the whole wide world. They never saw it coming. All his brides feared him, hated him, and he reveled in their torment. He would allow each bride to live a year, maybe two, depending on how boring or pathetic she was. This one had only lasted ten months. She had been fair with golden hair, but her personality had been so... lacking. Empty-headed and dull, all she ever did was tremble and cry when he walked i the room.

He stood up after a leisurely amount of time, the blood growing sticky on his flesh. He looked around the room they were in. His sixth wife had been plain, there was nothing fancy in here, though she could have requested anything. He was cruel but he didn't like things to be... boring. And that is exactly what she had been. His hazel eyes turned to the dead woman on the bed with a sneer spreading across his perfect lips.

"Good riddance." He said cruelly before throwing open the door to her chambers. "White Man..." he summoned softly and smiled as a pale white creature came from the shadows. Where it should have had eyes, there were none, only black empty holes. Its skin was porcelain white and had no hair. You could see the bones jutting out beneath the skin that sagged off the creature. Jonathan looked at the ghoul and sneered.

Once his 'friend' had died on the roof of the tallest tower, Jonathan had paid the most powerful witch in his service to turn his corpse into an obedient ghoul - but only after the vultures had pecked out his eyes. He renamed the ghoul White Man, for the filth did not deserve a proper name. And death was too kind for the man who had once been his most trusted confidant, a brother. No, he would spend eternity serving Jonathan, if Jonathan could help it. And he would make sure White Man spent it cleaning up corpses, a reminder that if he had just kept his hands off of the woman who had belonged to Jonathan before, none of this would be happening.

"You don't deserve it, but I have a treat for you in here. Have a bite to eat... your yearly meal is behind this door..." Jonathan stepped aside and gestured. "Another one of my wives for you to defile and touch. It's okay, really. I may have killed her, but her death is your fault, isn't it, White Man? Go ahead. Have your yearly meal... when you're done I'll have the servants clean up the rest. Go, and taste the sweet flesh of my latest wife. It's what you do best, isn't it, White Man?"

The ghoul nodded silently, bowing its head as the monstrous king passed him, smelling thick of blood making the ghoul drool. Obediently, the ghoul turned and entered the room. Waste not, want not, after all, right? As far as Jonathan knew, it didn't feel a thing except hunger. Irritation swept through him, and he felt the familiar pang of unsatisfaction. He wished he could hurt more. Especially this disgusting walking corpse...

A servant was passing through the corridor, and she stopped when she saw Jonathan, covered in blood and naked. Her eyes went to the room next to him, and her face paled, her body trembling visibly. Jonathan smiled at her, walking slowly. His bare feet hardly made a sound as he approached her. Her big brown eyes never left his face, the terror and dread unable to be torn off of her expression.

"Tell the head servant that she has a mess to clean up. And a ball to prepare for in two weeks' time. I'm in need of a new plaything. Oh, I mean wife. Excuse me." The throat chuckle that left him as he leaned to the servant, towering over her made the small woman step back.

"Yes, your majesty." She whispered, nodding, tears welling up in her terrified eyes.

"Good girl. But dear. You're in my way. Move." Without warning, Jonathan's fist came flying and connected with the tiny woman's face and she flew backward, landing loudly on the stone floor. Jonathan stepped over her, laughing cruelly as she stayed on the ground, to terrified to move until he was gone.

It wasn't much different than a normal day in the palace.

In the countryside of what used to be a lush and green kingdom, spread across leagues of land, villages dotted the dry dead landscape. Most of the nobles succumbed to poverty, doing what they could to survive. Many of them couldn't even be bothered to care for their territories. Resources were so lacking that there was nothing they could do. For the Mad King did not even care for his bannerman enough to make sure that they were doing well at least. But in each village, the people were worse off.

And each time the Mad King killed a Queen, they all knew that the struggling nobles would be called forth to offer up their daughters for his sick pleasures. Whomever daughter belonged to would be rewarded handsomely, and it would help the people of their village for a time - but each of them knew it was certain death for their daughter. Six wives in the eight dark years since the King had lost his mind. And countless others. Servants who had gone missing, creatures who were slightly magical, peasants and people, just because. People who went into the castle...but never came back out.

Darkness covered the sun in a disgusting gray haze, and most of the wildlife had left. People were starving across the land. When Jonathan went mad, and began his reign of bloodshed and terror, torturing and killing anyone who slighted him, the surrounding Kingdom withdraw their alliances and trade contracts. No income coming into the Kingdom, and none going out.

When people tried to leave his kingdom the Mad King stationed border patrol across the lands, which made it difficult for the people to flee. They were ordered to capture all would-be refugees and bring them to the king...so that he could do whatever he wished with them. Eventually, tales of disembowelment, decapitation, days of torture and rape, and bloodletting spread across the kingdom, and people stopped trying to leave.

In one of the villages far to the east of the royal city was a noble family that reigned over their village with kindness. They worked to provide for their people. They grew what food they could, captured raised, and bred whatever animals they could. It wasn't much, but it was enough to keep their people loyal and kind, and most of them alive.

This territory of 20 miles belonged to the Santanero family. In a Kingdom where desolation prevailed, their people looked to them hopefully. They had kept them alive, and for the most part in good health. They were kind and strong. Windyna Santanero was the lady of the house. And she was part Elven-fae, though her husband Breon kept that fact hidden ferociously. If the Mad King knew that there was still a fae who had their freedom, it would spell doom for his family.

Breon was a loving father and husband, stoic and strong. His dark black hair was kept neat and tidy, his back was always rigid as he was a retired general - given the privilege of a good life before Jonathan had lost his mind. He was tall and fit for an older man, at the prime age of 45. His wife was beautiful, with silver hair and golden eyes, a trim waist, and delicate elven features from the slender long fingers to the tips of her elegant (but shorter than a full-blood elf) pointed ears.

She kept this always covered with a scarf or a hat when she was outside of her home. And they had but one daughter. Iris Santanero. Her hair was as dark as her father's and fell in cascades of dark curls down to her shoulders, and her ears were almost normal looking, though her features were sharp, and her eyes were golden. Thankfully, she was mostly human in appearance. Her beauty, however, was a thing of terror for her parents. Not many normal girls could compare to their daughter in looks, and it was enough for her to stand out.

Iris was blessed with a sharp mind that worked fast. When the Mad King began to take wives, Breon had hidden his daughter as best he could, his worst fear was that her beauty would captivate the king. Luckily, she had been too young to attend the balls for the better part of the past six years. The only redeeming quality about the Mad King was that he was not into children. That, at least, he still appeared to hold sacred. Still, Breon kept his girls away from the King.

They gave the excuse of a family spread fever at the last ball where Jonathan would choose a new wife. However, the excuse was met with ire and rage from the King - a messenger bringing them the warning that if they failed to appear to another event, Jonathan would send his people to slaughter them, and everyone in the village.

Breon and his wife prayed every night that the latest Queen would make the difference - that she would survive. At least survive long enough for them to find someone their daughter could marry so that she would not have to attend the balls. However, due to the state of the economy, none of the noble's priorities were marrying their sons off to anyone’s noble daughter. Everyone was too busy trying to survive. Not to mention, every marriage between noble pairings had to have the King's blessing.

Either way, they went, they had no choice but to expose their daughter to the Mad King - and Windyna who was gifted with premonitions knew without a doubt the moment the Mad King lay eyes on her daughter, she would be chosen. The moment Jonathan met Iris, it would be her daughter's doom.

Iris, in all her glory was strong, to say the least. Since she was a child, her mother and father had tirelessly trained her to be a leader. A noble, who would take care of a group of people. They exposed her to the evils of the world and the dangers within. They exposed her to bloodied, beaten corpses. They kept up with the news in the capital about the atrocities. Iris did not know what life was supposed to be like, but she did grow up knowing that the way things are and the way things are supposed to be were much, much different. Breon and Windya worked so that their daughter was educated, strong, composed, and able to handle horrifying ordeals by exposing them to her. Iris was by no means innocent or naive, but her kindness was an innate thing that her parents were certain could never be snuffed out.

But ever since the darkness filled the sky, Iris felt oppressed. Gifted with the ability to sense darkness, malevolence, evil... the sky itself always pressed down upon her head. The dark haze that refused to allow rain to fall and the sun to shine made her sick and withdrawn often. It was as if whatever had cursed the land and sky was eating away at Iris' body. Breon and Windya took care to treat Iris with care, but their daughter was wilting more every year as her power to sense evil grew.

But today was not one of those days when Iris spent the day reading inside with a fever. Today was her twentieth birthday, and her parents, despite the condition that life had put them in were determined to celebrate. So, she was going to be in a good mood - even if it killed her. She was not aware yet that it had been four days since the death of the latest Queen. She only knew that life was continuing as it always had, and today the baker had found a way to make her treats. It was not real bread, for they had to find other resources. Crops would not grow, so that meant there was no flour.

The Baker, who was now just someone who made treats with what he could once used to be a large and jovial man. And the kindness in his eyes had not left.

"For you, Lady Iris. For your birthday." He had said gently, placing the small treats in her delicate hands. Iris had wrapped her arms around the Baker.

"Thank you so much!" She gushed at the beautiful treats on the plate he had brought her. Already she had received a dress from the Seamstress, a pair of shoes, and small little odds and ends that people from the village had come to give their heiress. It was one of the few territories where kindness still flourished, and things weren't done to gain favor, but simply out of love.

"Miss Iris, I hope your birthday is full of joy." The Baker smiled happily, the hug from the young girl making his sagging cheeks flush with embarrassment.

"May I eat one now?" Iris asked him, and the Baker laughed.

"It is your birthday, Miss Iris. I believe that means you can do whatever you want." The Baker said happily.

"Oh, eat one with me please?" She said, plucking one of the gummy treats. It was squishy but felt chewy, but it was shaped like a flower, and dyed blue. The Baker looked at the plate of treats hesitantly, he hadn't been able to make many. "Please?" Iris' golden eyes flashed pleadingly, and the old man could not resist the small sweet woman-child.

"If you insist Miss," he said fondly, before picking one up himself. They both plopped them in their mouths and while the Baker would feel empty that he could not make mountainous cakes and beautiful pastries anymore, he felt satisfied he was able to make anything taste sweet at all. Iris clapped her hands, making happy noises as she chewed.

It was her happy delighted reaction that filled the Baker with joy. It was the little things, little things like love and happiness that helped this village thrive better than the rest. The Santaneros did their best to keep faith, hope, and happiness alive in their village.

When the Baker was off, Iris brought the plate inside as her mother was setting out a larger than their normally strictly proportioned meal.

"What have you there darling?" She asked, her golden eyes sweeping her daughter's face.

"The Baker brought us treats for my birthday," Iris said happily, setting it in the middle. There were three left on the plate, one for each of them. "There would have been five for us to share, but I insisted on eating one with the Baker after he went through so much trouble for me." The young woman explained apologetically, suddenly worry crossing her delicate features as if she feared she made a mistake that could hurt her family.

Windyna smiled proudly at her daughter. Her husband and herself had worked hard to instill kindness in their daughter, and sometimes she felt as if it worked too well, for Iris worried herself to death about their people, and their family sometimes.

"I am glad that you did. That is after all the politest thing to do when someone brings you food in these times." At her words, she watched her daughter's face smooth out in relief. She was so proud. Today was so special, the day that her little miracle came into this world. But it was also special because Windyna knew that something was about to change.

Something was going to happen to her daughter, though she could not put her finger on it. She just knew... it was big. It had filled the woman with dread - but she knew that fate could not be changed - and premonitions though never set in stone, were never clear either. She had discussed her feeling with her husband, and together they had decided that today would be as special as possible - just in case the worst were to happen.

Breon entered the room, his dark eyes taking in the two beauties before him, and he smiled broadly.

"Good evening family." He said happily taking his seat. "Oh, are those from the baker?" He asked, pointing at the pretty flower-shaped treats. Iris smiled and nodded. "I thought so, I saw him leave as I was coming home."

"Are we ready to eat?" Windyna came with the last plate. It was pitiful, and as she looked at what she scrounged up she longed for the times that seemed so long ago so that her daughter could have a proper party.

"Thank you, Mama. Thank you, Papa. I hope you didn't put us out for this. I love you guys." Iris said gratefully, bowing her head gratefully.

"Nonsense. Happy birthday my beautiful." Breon said, joy seeping into his heart. His wife and daughter were his pride. And no amount of money, food or any other kind of riches would ever change that.

"Happy birthday sweet girl. Now eat up." Windyna said, and as they sat to eat.

As usual at dinner, their table was filled with laughter and conversation. When they shut their front door at night, they did so with the intention of shutting out the darkness. They worked hard to make sure that their home was happy as possible, and tonight was no different.

Iris was happy. Life wasn't that bad. So long as their people worked with them to stay alive, and she had her parents, life was truly what you made of it. In the family room, her mother was curled up into her father's side, reading aloud from a gilded book, one of their last valuable possessions, telling them lore of the Elves, while Iris sat practicing her embroidery as she listened.

The peace did not last long though, and a sharp knock rapped on their door, cutting off Windyna's words.

"Who could that be?" The woman whispered, dread filling her heart.

"Perhaps just a straggler with a last-minute gift for Iris..." Breon said, standing. Windyna knew this wasn't true, and that feeling of dread spread across her gut. Iris knew whatever was outside wasn't necessarily bad, but she too had a feeling it wasn't one of their people.

When Breon opened the door, he narrowed his eyes at the man he saw there. The man wore the King's sigil upon his chest - the face of a satyr, his expression twisted in a snarl. Once it had been a beautiful crest, one of blue and green, a mushroom peacefully in the center. Not long after, Queen Rosaline died however, the King demanded a change. The messenger wore the usual uniform of black and red now, his hat shadowing his face.

"Excuse me Sir Santanero. I come bearing news." The Santanero village was the last village that bore a noble to the east, and from the weariness on the man's face, Breon could not help but extend his hospitality.

"Come in. Sit and have a bite and a drink."

"Thank you, Sir Breon. My horse..."

"Never fear, despite the times I still have a few helpers..." Breon let out a loud whistle, and it was just a few minutes a young lad came out of the barn, his mouth full of what must have been his supper.

"I'm sorry, I know it's later than usual, but please take care of the horse." Breon told the boy. In exchange for shelter and food, the family had taken in another family for work. They kept the grounds up, took care of what animals they could, and foraged for food. The boy nodded, happy to do his job.

The messenger stepped inside after taking off his hat, and he bowed respectfully to the two women who had stood up to see who their guest was.

"I thank you for the hospitality. May I proceed with the message, from the King before I sit?" The messenger asked hesitantly.

"Sit and let us make you a plate while you speak." Windyna was ever the noble. No matter the message, she knew that it was not this man's fault, though she was almost sick with the feeling in the pit of her stomach.

As the messenger sat down, and Windyna helped him to a serving of everything that was left the messenger bowed his head.

"The Queen is dead. And in 10 days' time, there will be a ball so that a new Queen shall be chosen. You are required to show up and offer all unwedded daughters you may have to King Jonathan." The messenger did not touch his food yet, waiting for the hostile response he had been getting from each noble family he had visited within the last four days.

Instead, Breon nodded and forced a smile on his face.

"We understand. Please eat. Once you've eaten you must rest. You look like you're about to keel over any minute, good man." He said gently. The Messenger grabbed his plate with such enthusiasm that Windyna, though rage was bubbling through her could not help but feel sorry for him. Who knew what cruelty he had experienced bearing this news...?

Her golden eyes went to her husband, who stared at her in return. Despair was swimming through his eyes helplessly, and they both turned to look at their unusually beautiful daughter, who was looking at them with an expression that could not be read.

"My daughter. We must prepare." Windyna said softly. Iris nodded. Never had her parents ever kept anything from her, including the premonition that her mother had that the King would one day choose her. It wasn't exactly the greatest way to end her birthday, but she would take it in stride.

"I am as prepared as I will ever be Mama. You and Papa made sure of that. I know what will come. We all do. Thank you for the wonderful birthday. I'm so glad I got to have this last one with you." Iris voice trembled, but no tears fell. She didn't know what truly awaited her, outside the safety of her village and family. But her mother had warned Iris all of her life, and Iris knew that everything was about to change.

Fiction

About the Creator

Hope Martin

Find my fictional fantasy book "Memoirs of the In-Between" on Amazon in paperback, eBook, and hardback.

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Comments (1)

  • ThatWriterWoman11 months ago

    Oh, Iris! I hope she's ready for King Jonathon! What a compelling tale! I was drawn in so quickly and I felt as if I was not reading at all but granted access to a window into this magical world of darkness and defiance! You, Hope, deserve more recognition for this! The characters really shine, I can see you put a lot of effort into them! VERY well done!

Hope MartinWritten by Hope Martin

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