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Chapter 2: The Ball

Long Live The Queen

By Hope MartinPublished 11 months ago Updated 11 months ago 19 min read

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Prologue//Chapter 1: The Queen is Dead...Again

Everything was ready for the ball. To be honest, Jonathan always looked forward to these parties. On top of all the dancing and young girls fit-to-be-wed, there were narcotics and booze, and it was the one chance that many of them got to have a decent meal. Jonathan enjoyed watching starving people eat. They would make themselves suffer all at the one chance they had to be a glutton. But then again some of these sad sacks of sagging skin and bones really needed the calorie boost.

Jonathan’s cruel hazel eyes watched as servants and slaves got the ballroom ready from his throne. He would never lift a finger to help, but he enjoyed the uncomfortable tension his presence caused. The way the help winced and cringed at sharp and sudden sounds. Those closest to him would start to shake when Jonathan shifted to get comfortable in his gilded chair. He was in a good mood, and watching them work around him in a terrified scurry amused him to no end.

The last-minute preparations such as food were being laid out on big, gilded tables. The band that was going to be playing was setting up their equipment on the stage on the far left of the giant ballroom. Centerpieces made of flowers smithed from gold, silver, and gemstones dotted the long tables that held the buffet of foods. Loaves and rolls of bread, cakes, and all sorts of meat, vegetables, and fruits covered the tables.

Already guests were arriving, servants showing them to rooms so that the ladies could freshen up from their travels and change. His cruel hazel eyes lingered on the faces of the women being brought before him as he caught glimpses of them being led away by servants, lude, and cruel thoughts floating in his mind about all the things he could do to them. His eyes landed on a young petite woman who passed the door, her blonde hair up in a braided bun on her head. His eyes lingered on her thin neck, and he licked his lips at how...fragile it looked.

Jonathan was dressed in a simple black tuxedo, with red trimming. His hair was styled in a loose fashion around his shoulders, falling in thick cascades around his deceptively beautiful face. He always looked forward to these balls so it was imperative that he dress for the occasion. Picking out his next victim, there was something sickening and satisfying about it. The whispers that shrouded his mind grew listless with the mere thought. The next walking corpse bride.

He stood and stretched, his hand reaching and was met with White Man, holding out a goblet of wine the color of blood.

"Ah...good ghoul." Jonathan sighed happily, taking a sip appreciatively. "Bitter. Just like me." He let out a soft laugh. It was rare he was in a good enough mood to let himself slip into jovial tribulations. But tonight, was his favorite night of the year. It was like Christmas... but better. And what made it even more splendid... is that it was a full moon.

There would be plenty of entertainment tonight.


Iris and Breon had left Windyna at home, for her own safety. If she, who was half-Elven, showed her inhuman face to the Mad King she would be locked away in his castle for the rest of her days. At least that's what the rumors said about non-humans making their way into Jonathan's castle.

It was a two-day ride by horseback to the castle, and Breon and Iris had gone slowly. They wanted to be late as possible, just enough time for Iris to change and get to the ball in time. Breon was hoping that if she wasn't there any extra time, Jonathan might not notice her. While most guests had opted to arrive a day early and rest - Iris had a little more stamina thanks to her Fae blood. However, she was worried about her father.

"When we get there, we will try to bypass the king and go straight to the chambers assigned to us to change. We will take as long as possible to get to the ball. If King Jonathan sees us at least once, no matter how brief, he won't be able to say we did not attend." Breon was reminding his daughter, knowing that the royal city was looming ahead of them.

"I know father." Iris sighed softly. Since the moment the messenger had come into their house announcing the Queen's death, her mother and father had been drilling her. Plans, rehearsals, how to act, and how not to act. Her parents had been getting intel on King Jonathan's interest in women from a family friend in the castle - but Iris did not think it would help.

Her biggest disadvantage was her fae blood, making her prettier than the average human girl. And unfortunately, even when Iris tried not to stick out by leaving herself plain, she still outshined most human girls easily. Iris had the issue that if she wore a hooded cloak, most of the time that would catch attention as suspicious, but if she did not cover her face, she would have adoring fans quickly. And it wasn't that she had a certain trait that made her more beautiful it was just all of her. Iris had a slight frame, but her breasts and bottom were curved, but not overly so. Her skin was perfection, not a blemish to be seen. Her facial structure was perfectly angular and symmetrical. And her rare golden eyes stood out the most, framed by ebony locks of hair.

Not that Iris thought these things about herself, it's just something she had been told. There had been several instances where her fae beauty could create dangerous situations, for herself and others around her. Once, at a birthday party, back when things were still good enough for parties to be held, two noble brothers got in a fistfight over which one was going to marry her. A cretin in town once cornered her in an alley but luckily the blacksmith had passed by. Her beauty wasn't something Iris was vain over. In fact, today it frustrated her more than ever.

Jonathan liked obedient women who were easy to break. Iris had to act strong, stronger, and more independent than she'd ever been. Perhaps if she didn't come off as obedient he wouldn't want to waste his time with her. But she still had to be obedient enough not to spark a challenge in the Mad King either. All the while, not quite being disobedient enough to get a death sentence while she was here. Iris looked up at the dark sky, as the royal city that had once been brilliant and beautiful drew closer. She could feel the evil getting thicker and thicker as they rode on, pressing deeper into a cloud of malevolence that only she could feel.

Despite her mother and father's plans, conviction, and determination, Iris Santanero knew she was not leaving that castle tonight or tomorrow... or ever again. She felt it in her gut, and as the wind howled in her ears, she silenty sent a farewell to all those she knew back home...

Upon reaching the palace they were ushered into two bedrooms to change, and Iris could not help the fear that snaked through her as she showered and changed into her outfit in the room alone. Every noise made her jump as if she were afraid the king would walk in on her at the very moment. She knew it was useless to be afraid, but she could not help it. Iris was very much attracted to the thought of living her life out and growing old one day.

Maybe he won't choose me like Mother says he might. Maybe he'll look right over me this time. She looked in the mirror at the purple dress she'd chosen. Royal purple complimented her porcelain skin and golden eyes, and she grit her teeth at the mirror agitatedly.

Unfortunately, she didn't have a remedy for her golden eyes, or her natural beauty. She turned and left her room, opening to see her father waiting in the hallway for her. He wore a suited uniform, one that decorated veterans of the old military wore. It was white, black, and red, and she smiled at how handsome her father looked, even if he did appear uncomfortable.

"Daddy..." she murmured and Breon held his arm out to his beautiful child, wincing at the sight of her. Even dressed in a plain ballgown, she stood out elegantly, like a dark purple rose in a garden. Sir Breon had a sinking feeling in his stomach but there was nothing that he could do. Their absence had been noticed last time and it was a risk this night of having his entire village slaughtered by the Mad King.

Iris knew the risk. And she agreed. If she hadn't agreed for the safety of their village, Breon would have risked sneaking her out of the country instead. But there was nothing he could do to protect his brave, beautiful daughter. He simply had to pray and pray hard that she would be missed by the King's lustful and cruel gaze.

Upon entering the ballroom, much to both of their dismay, they were announced, and at the Santanero name, King Jonathan looked up - feeling pleased that his threat had been heeded about that noble family showing up for this affair.

His gaze fell on them briefly, glimpsing over them vaguely. Jonathan almost mistook Iris for plain, as her head was low, and her hair covered her eyes. But her gaze shifted in the slightest as she made her way down the stairs gracefully, trying to keep from falling over the form-fitting dress that she wore. She had a nice body, but it wasn't that that caught his attention. It was the smallest glimpse of her golden eyes that he caught, and immediately he wanted to know more.

But he would be patient. After all, there was literally a kingdom's worth of women here to choose from. He would take his time to talk to them all. The party is never over until a new queen was chosen.

When Breon saw the King's gaze rise and fall on them, a small ray of hope blossomed in his heart. Maybe the king did not notice her. Maybe they could go home together after all, and he could tell Windyna that they could breathe until the next time.

He led his daughter to the food table and nodded at her. "Eat. While you have the chance," he said softly. "It will be a good reason to keep your head down."

Iris nodded. The last thing she wanted to do was eat - not while her mother was going without back at home. Along with everyone in their village. But she did want to keep her head down, and her father was right. It wouldn't attract attention, and she could keep her face down where it could not be noticed either.

Her golden eyes scanned the table, and the amount of food that sat there made her sick looking at it. All around her, nobles and noblewomen were putting food high on their plates, and the ballroom was filled with chattering. Most of the girls here looked relaxed, and Iris could not fathom, as she noticed that the girls had dressed beautifully in bright colors. But what astounded Iris further was the laughter and ease that these people walked with. This was her first time, and her golden eyes went to her father, face furrowed.

"I don't understand, how can they be so relaxed, knowing that one of them is going to get their death sentence?" She whispered to her father, and Breon looked down at his daughter.

"Because none of them have the gift of premonition in their house telling them their doom. And look at the number of women here. It may not seem like a ball from decades past when allied kingdoms would come with their princesses and nobles, however... there are over 150 noble families here in our Kingdom, and of the families, approximately 133 have daughters - or more than one daughter. King Jonathan only chooses one at a time. They are all confident that they will not be chosen." Breon answered her softly, placing some fresh berries on his daughter's plate. "They have no reason to dwell on their fate. They are all certain they won't be chosen as they haven't been chosen in the past. It's an opportunity to eat their fill and go home after having a fun time socializing. And unfortunately, they have every right to feel that way."

"So... basically I am doomed," Iris mumbled, and Breon shook his head.

"The future is never set in stone just because there was a premonition." He encouraged her. "Though, had I known you were going to dress for a funeral instead of a ball, I'd have warned you otherwise." Breon joked, looking at the dark purple dress that his daughter was wearing. It was plain, with no extra sparkle or dazzle. And in a plain way, it stuck out from the bright pastel ballgowns that filled the room.

"I didn't think the women here would be cheerfully dressed. This ball is basically a death sentence..." Iris responded, sighing, picking up one of the berries, and putting it in her mouth.

It was the first time she'd had fresh fruit since she was 14 years old. The juices exploded in her mouth, and she couldn't help but close her eyes and enjoy it, despite the fact she wondered where it came from and why nobody else had fresh vegetables or fruit.

"You should try some of the meat next... it's simply to die for." A silk voice whispered through her ears and Iris' golden orbs shot open as she felt her father stiffen next to her.

"Your Majesty..." Breon mumbled, bowing his head.

"Breon. Welcome. I see you got my message from last time. Tell me, who is this succulent angel next to you?" Jonathan had made his way over without being noticed, after having amused another greedy noble who had sought his attention. The greedy father of a noble girl, one who didn't hold a candle to the Santanero daughter before him.

"My daughter...Iris." Breon said defeatedly, watching as Jonathan's hazel eyes ran down his daughter's form, and back up as if he were sizing her up. Iris curtseyed to the king, keeping her eyes down, her heart pounding in her ears as terror ran through her.

"Your Majesty. How do you do?" She forced her voice to be neutral, and dull. And she was surprised at how well she actually managed it.

"It won't do for a woman to look down like that. Look at me when you're addressing me. I demand it." Jonathan sneered, and Iris looked up at him, her eyes narrowing as anger coiled deep through her gut. Never once in her life had she been spoken to that way - but then again, her mother had warned her.

When her golden eyes met his, Jonathan could see the turbulence behind them, and he smiled - though it did not reach his eyes. The young woman before him kept her face expressionless, but the outrage in her eyes was louder than any other protest could have been. The defiance that dwelled within the beautiful honey-gold eyes that were now staring into his own, as if to silently say: "Fine. You don't scare me anyway."

"That's better. What pretty eyes. And pale skin. You are gorgeous." The king said appreciatively, and Iris fought the repulsion that crawled through her body, making her want to leave her own skin.

"Thank you." She said stiffly, and Jonathan laughed in amusement.

"You don't know how to take a compliment?" He asked, curious of the girl, his hand waving up to dismiss Breon silently. Breon hesitantly moved further away - but he stayed close enough that Iris could see him, the feeling of doom settling on his shoulders.

So, Windyna was right... the first time Iris met the King she had caught his eye.

"I know how to take a compliment - but I have never gotten one from a King before. Do excuse me." Iris said, taking a deep breath. It didn't matter what the drills and practices that her mother and father had tried to teach her - she had to improvise now. Her father stepping further away had her nerves on edge, and she had to fight the urge to run.

"Smart answer. You don't like me, do you?" Jonathan was perceptive - no one could ever deny him this. He appeared to have an intuition that rivaled the most brilliant of predators. But how was Iris to respond? Her first instinct was to turn and run - or perhaps tell this man exactly what she thought of him.

But she had to be smart, she wanted to live. And even if he continued to speak with her, she knew even if he chose her, she would have a year - at the least.

"I don't know you well enough to know if I like you or not." Iris settled on an answer relatively quickly and Jonathan laughed, this time the smile reaching his eyes. He leaned in to her, his fingers tucking under her chin to force her to continue to look into his hazel eyes. He could see the loathing, plain as day in her eyes, and an undercurrent of fear.

"Oh, but you do know of me." He purred, and Iris let her face fall blank. The closer the king got, the more sick she felt. And it wasn't because she abhorred everything about what this man had done as a king throughout her life, but it was also a force of darkness that shrouded him so thick it was almost a miasma that only she could see

"Everyone in this world has heard of the Mad King Jonathan." She answered dully, and the smile fell from Jonathan's lips, though his eyes twinkled with mirth.

"Is that what they are calling me?" Jonathan asked, the laughter evident in his voice.

"I feel as if you already knew that. This talk is idle. I'm not a fan of it." Iris hated how he was trying to portray himself - it was all menace. Like a cat playing with a mouse. Iris would not be a mouse. The surge of defiance in her was a new sensation, the anger running raw in her. This maniac enjoyed killing women, and she wasn't about to be toyed with.

"Oh, straightforward. Not often are people brave enough for that with me." Jonathan was enjoying the conversation. This one was different. This one might actually entertain him for a while.

"I'm not most people, Your Majesty. I'm not brave either. I just don't enjoy useless conversation."

"Well... I'm very glad about that. Perhaps you'll entertain me for a while before I give some other pretty girl a chance to catch my interest." Jonathan was enjoying this girl. It was rare that a girl would not either simply turn to tremble at his attention or throw themselves at him. Most women only knew of the two methods of survival when it came to him, though neither of them worked. At the end of the day, they were all his toys to hurt and maim.

"You're the host of this ball, are you not supposed to be entertaining me instead?" Iris answered before she could stop herself, the sarcasm leaking into her voice. She hated him. She hated the feeling of pure evil he radiated. Something about it seemed off, and for the smallest moment, she thought she smelt the rotten egg smell of sulfur when he laughed.

King Jonathan was only a mere human, but the evil that rolled off him in waves was thicker than any evil any ordinary malevolent human Iris had ever met. Jonathan grinned and offered his arm.

"Oh, worry not, pretty maiden. Because there will be entertainment. Join me... I shall lead the masses outside. I have a show that everyone will want to see. I think you'll enjoy it."

Jonathan waved his hand to the announcer of the ball, and it wasn't long before the man's voice was booming for everyone to exit the back doors of the ballroom, to the connecting courtyard. Iris' eyes went to her father helplessly, as she had no choice but to slip her slender hand into the crook of his elbow.

Breon followed a few paces behind, wondering what the Mad King had in store. When they exited the ballroom onto the courtyard, the moon not yet quite at its peak, he led Iris to the far side of the large area, and Iris held in a small gasp by placing her fingertips against her lips.

Iris could not help but turn her head from side to side in horror. To her left and right, gilded golden cages held 4 men and 2 women. The people inside were naked, most of them sitting or curled up on the floor of their individual cages, eyes blankly staring or closed. Upon closer inspection, she noticed that one man and one woman both had fuzzy pointed ears poking out of their hair, instead of normal human ears. The woman had white ears, and a fluffy white tail wrapped around her as she covered herself up as best she could with it. The man had a long thin black tail, and he sat with his knees to his chest, his ankles crossed, his black ears flat against his head, staring at King Jonathan with hatred.

They knew they were being watched, and as the courtyard filled up, Jonathan called for silence.

"Tonight, I have a special treat for everyone..." he called out. "To start the festivities, I give you all... my personal sacred ritual of the full moon. The creatures you see before you are were-beasts of two kinds: The beautiful and mysterious were-cat, and the infamously strong and aggressive werewolves..." He paused for a dramatic effect, and Iris fought back the grimace she felt taking over her face. Those poor creatures had absolutely no dignity or control. Iris pitied them so much that her heart ached.

"Inside those cages, they cannot change at will - but no were-beast can resist the pull of the full moon. And tonight, you shall see them all in their greatest glory. Do try not to get too close to the cages. While in human form... they're quite docile. It's a different story when they shift... And the shifting process is made quite a deal more painful from the magic of their cages that prevent them from turning on a normal basis."

Iris looked up at the sky, her face as expressionless as possible as dread filled her. These poor creatures are on display. He gets off on their humiliation and pain! Iris thought to herself, noticing that Jonathan was watching her. She wasn't going to give him the satisfaction of seeing her horror if she could help it.

"Are these the only creatures you...own?" Iris said the last word hesitantly - uncertain if that was the correct term. She did her best to keep the venom from it, but she was afraid that it would be noticeable.

"Oh, no dear Iris. These are just a few. I keep the best of the best for my eyes only... and perhaps the eyes of my future bride." He said, smiling.

"What a lucky girl that will be," Iris responded, and Jonathan couldn't help but laugh.

"What a smart ass." He mused and Iris looked over at him, half tempted to knee him in the stomach. The evil cloud he radiated was making her feel sick to her stomach - and she felt dirty being connected to him with her hand.

"How long now do we have for this spectacle? I've heard were-beasts and full moons are not something people usually survive." She wanted it to hurry up and be over with, and she prayed she came off as anxious to see the transformation.

"Any second now..." Jonathan smiled, as the moon continued to rise steadily into the sky...

My 5-year-old daughter is competing in Nationals at the All American Miss Pageant in Orlando Fl, during Thanksgiving Week this year. It is being hosted with National American Miss. We are trying to raise money for hotel costs, her casual modeling outfit, her formal gown, and to submit her portfolio in a Photogenic. All money I make off of Vocal will be going straight to her Pageant.

If you are inspired by my “amazing” writing (haha!) to donate to Aylaina-Sky's pageant, please tip this story! Every dollar helps!

HorrorYoung AdultMagical RealismHistorical FictionFictionFantasyDystopianAdventure

About the Creator

Hope Martin

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

You can also find it in the Apple Store or on the Campfire Reading app.

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  • ThatWriterWoman11 months ago

    Wow! This story goes even deeper than I expected. It is a truly brilliant piece to read. I could feel her father's worry, her fear when the King appeared, and her panicked empathy towards the were-creatures! This is heart-wrenching! Outstanding work Hope!

Hope MartinWritten by Hope Martin

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