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Chapter 3: Long Live The 7th Queen

Long Live The Queen

By Hope MartinPublished 10 months ago Updated 10 months ago 15 min read

Be sure to Read First:

Prologue // Chapter 1: The Queen is Dead...Again // Chapter 2: The Ball

Iris looked up into the night sky, her golden eyes narrowing. Beyond the fog of evil that lingered in dense clouds above the castle, the moon glowed brightly, creating a hazy red glow around it. It was at its peak, and already the creatures in the golden cages were reacting to its call.

Iris's eyes slide back down to cages where the men and women within were stirring. Some were holding their heads with their hands, eyes closed in pain, while others were on the ground, curled in a ball writhing in pain. Some of them let out cries of pain that slowly shifted to guttural growls and snarls of pain. Iris could not peel her eyes away from the scene before her, as each of them sprouted fur, and bones began to break audibly under screams of anguish as their bodies began to contort in reaction to their shift, at the same time fighting the magical properties of their cages that kept them from shifting.

Watching human beings transform into beasts was the most horrific and yet fascinating thing she had ever witnessed in her life. As clumps of bloody flesh fell off their bodies replaced by fur and completely new anatomies, Iris found a new respect for were-people, and a new wave of pity and anger surged under her surface. This kind of misery should never be put on display, in her opinion. Here these men and women were at their most vulnerable states, and this foul mad king had them on display for the warped nobles of his land to amuse at, during a ball he was going to choose the next woman he intended to kill.

Iris looked around her at the faces of people around her watching with grotesque fascination and disgust at the humanoids changing into different creatures. Out of everyone, there were enough in the crowd that had sadness and pity at the corner of their mouths and within their eyes that let Iris know she wasn't the only one who saw the cruelty in this spectacle. It was violence on a new level, a subtle torture that nobody could do anything about.

The fury surging under the surface made it hard for Iris to keep her face straight. She wasn't even aware of how her nails dug into the King's arm as she stood at his side, a prisoner without a cage. It only took moments for the horrific event to end and by the time it was done, there were two large werecats the size of lions, two large wolves, and one wolf-like creature that stood on hind legs in the cages. Her eyes were glued to one who stood on two legs, he was snarling, drooling, and now charging uselessly and madly at the cage he was trapped in.

“You have a Lycan in that cage. That's a Lycan.” Iris said numbly, and Jonathan practically purred in satisfaction next to her. Her grip relaxed on his arm now that the screams of pain had quieted.

“Indeed, I do! Do you like him? Isn't he majestic? Such creatures were made to be admired.” His question caused her eyes to slide to the man, one brow sliding upwards. He was looking at her with a bored expression, but his eyes were glued to her. They were almost yellow in the moon and torchlight of the garden. Iris felt a shiver crawl up her spine at the intense interest in his eyes that betrayed his true mood to her.

“I refuse to answer trick questions.” She said blandly, and Jonathan let out a low laugh. "I simply thought they had gone extinct a half-century ago."

“Smart girls are so much more fun to tease.” He responded. Iris swallowed her repulsion for the despicable man and looked back to the cages. The werecats were hanging their head, their ears low back against the head, tails tucked around their body. The wolves were baring their teeth half-heartedly at the nobles who were stepping closer to look at them, though the fight did not reach their eyes.

The only one who looked like he had a scrap of pride or fight left was the Lycan. And again, Iris swallowed another surge of anger. These were sentient creatures, with souls, minds, hearts, and families. They were no different than elves, fae, or even humans. They should not be in cages. Nor on display like freaks for amusement in cages meant to cause agony.

The mad king was indeed mad. And worse than Iris imagined. The thick aura rolling off him was making her sick to her stomach. Jonathan was now grinning sickly, his gleaming green eyes taking in the sight of the beasts in the cage as if he was physically stimulated by their broken spirits and humiliation.

My mother’s predictions have never been wrong. And that’s fine… if I am going to be shoved into the dark… then I will choose my own path in the shadows. Iris's mind was racing, her heart pounding in her chest with fury and conviction. If her mother was right, then that was going to be fine with her. She would not wait to die like the others before her time in this accursed palace had done.

“Yes, they are wonderful, aren’t they?” Jonathan’s voice boomed loudly beside her, making her jump slightly. Her hand was still in the crook of his elbow and Jonathan stole a glance at her as she used the opportunity to let go of his arm and back up half a step. “Now that the opening festivities are done, I invite everyone back inside. Eat, drink, be merry. I will strike up the band and commence visiting with the available maidens here. Thank you, everyone, for attending.” Jonathan addressed the crowd, and as people began to make their way back inside, Iris stood very still.

When his putrid eyes looked down at her, she forced a small smile on her face for politeness. Normally they were hazel, but with the combined moonlight and firelight from torches in the garden, they looked a sickly yellow-green. Those eyes were cold, and they slid up and down her body for a moment before he spoke again.

“Don’t look so sad, Miss Santanero. I have a feeling we’ll be meeting again soon.” His whispered voice insinuated a promise that left Iris with chills, her skin crawling and dread filling her stomach. He turned and walked back into the palace, where most of the crowd was heading. Iris watched him go, unable to move for a moment as her heart raced with her mind.

Mom is never wrong. And with what he just said... I can safely assume I am absolutely not getting out of this. I have a comfort in one thing. He can’t kill me if I find a way to kill him first. She had just made up her mind when the feeling of a hand on her shoulder had her jumping again, whirling around defensively. Her eyes took in the sight of her dark-haired father and relief filled her bones. Instinctively she stepped closer to him, a hard shudder going down her back.

“You alright, my darling?” He asked softly and Iris shook her head. She suddenly felt faint, and she leaned into Breon weakly. He wrapped his arms around her tightly, helping support her weight, his eyes wide with worry.

“I need to sit down Daddy.” She answered and he helped her to a nearby stone bench, turning her away from the cages. They sat in silence for a while, letting people file inside until there were only a few people lingering outside, young girls with guardians or parents hoping to avoid the King for as long as possible.

Music began to play from within the palace and the music notes drifted faintly to their spot out in the quiet courtyard. Iris noted that the gardens around them were lush and green. And it wasn't the first time tonight she wondered how something was possible – it hadn’t rained in years and water was scarce. Most sources of water were drying up and it would be difficult to pull water from a river all the way to the palace. Even farmers couldn't get enough water to have a proper field most years.

“Talk to me. What's wrong?” Breon urged her, his eyes scanning her stressed and pale face. The crashing of the Lycan in the cage behind her stopped, and she turned her face to see he was calming after more people were leaving them alone, the crowd thinning rapidly. She turned back around in relief, sitting on the stone bench unceremoniously.

“Mom’s never been wrong with her premonitions and predictions.” She said slowly to her father, and Breon frowned. There had only been one time before in their lives together that Breon had ever wished his wife was wrong in her talents before now, and that was when she predicted the era of darkness falling on the kingdom. The wish for his wife to be wrong this time was even stronger, but he knew better.

He sighed and sat down next to his daughter, wrapping his arm around her shoulders. Iris took his silence as confirmation of what she was saying and permission to continue.

“I think he will choose me. And when he does… I want you and Mama to be okay with it.” She told him in a stern soft voice.

“I am not okay with my daughter marrying a man that will kill her. You are mine and your mother's whole world. Everything we do is for you, and you gave us so much love that we could extend it to the people of our land. You're my baby. And if I could steal you both away and hide you forever I would.” Breon responded, his voice cracking. Iris reached up and grabbed his hand that was around her shoulders and shook her head.

“Daddy, you don't have to worry. Because I’m not going to let him kill me.” She said defiantly, and Breon looked at his daughter confused. She paused, turning her body to look at Breon, her golden eyes swirling, this time allowing the fury to show on her face. “That man, for the good of the kingdom, has to go. I don’t know what he is, but it's hard to say he’s human. Look at these men and women, Father!” She hissed, brandishing her hand towards the cages where she failed to notice that all the were-beasts had all settled, and almost every one of them had their intense eyes on her, their ears perked forward and toward her.

The hearing of a were-creature is normally enhanced 10x a normal humanoid or animal, and they were all picking up on her words. She was speaking quietly despite her anger. She could not afford to be overheard, though she was not considering that she already was.

“There is not a single soul in this world that deserves the kind of life that they are living. On display, humiliated, and caged! How long has it been since they have been fed decently? Or set free to be allowed to move? All this little display he put on was a mockery, not only to them but to all of us! The entire kingdom is his toy for disparagement, and we are all in his cage. And our silence only confirms our futility and obedience to him. I can't stand for it!” Iris clenched her fists, her voice shaking with hatred and fury.

Breon looked at his daughter then and realized he may have underestimated her strength, and regret filled him. Instead of teaching his daughter to not be noticed, he should have been teaching her how to fight. But his daughter was a force to be reckoned with, much like his powerful wife. And suddenly hope filled his heart, though it was filled with uncertainty. He smiled at his daughter and nodded.

“You’re right. What will you do?” He asked softly, and Iris looked at him, her face falling into a small smile, leaning forward to speak more softly but so that he could hear.

“I am going to usurp the Mad King. I am going to set this kingdom free. I am going to kill the king.”

“You can’t be serious?” Breon leaned back to look at his daughter with shock. Iris was gentle and never had a confrontation in her entire life. His big-hearted daughter who knew nothing of violence except of hearing it just declared she was going to usurp the mad king who likes to murder his wives. The idea was almost laughable for him. He raised his eyebrow at his daughter and crossed his arms in a patient way.

“If I am going to die, then I might as well go down fighting.” Iris folded her own arms, her golden narrowing. Breon couldn’t do anything but run his hands through his hair in stress. She had a point. Never had he expected this to come from his wife’s prediction. But, then again, he realized that he had given up. And so had Windya. All they did was try to teach her how to survive as long as possible until he decided to kill her. It never occurred to either of them that maybe they could have taught her a different way. Thank the Gods that she was able to come to this conclusion on her own.

“Okay.” He said, nodding tiredly. “Okay.” He repeated helplessly, and Iris reached over and took his hand. He looked at his daughter and thought back to when she was a child, his heart breaking with each beat. She was looking down at her feet, biting her lip lost in thought, and he had to fight back tears as he silently prayed that she could be that innocent child again. "What do you need?"

“How should I do it?” She asked quietly after a few minutes, her golden eyes going back to his face, looking uncertain and lost. Breon frowned and thought hard. Even if he was a cruel murdering mad king, it was treason to usurp a king. Jonathan had plenty loyal to him for whatever reason, and not all were against the way he ruled his kingdom.

“You’ll need to get supporters first. People who would back you as Queen, people who will be willing to step up and say they will follow you as queen even if the king is dead, even if you murdered him. Then come up with a plan to safely take the throne. It doesn’t have to be a violent takeover, either. You have skills in leadership, use them to your advantage. Arrange a coup de tat, and have support.” Breon advised, and Iris nodded.

“When I find supporters, depending on who and what they are, I can better come up with a solid plan. Thank you, this is a good place to start.” She said, and Breon grunted his agreement. Iris stood and sighed. “We better get back in there…” she said mournfully and Breon stood.

“How will I survive losing you tonight?” Breon muttered and Iris smiled.

“You’re not going to lose me.” She said as she hugged her father tightly, closing her eyes. For a moment Breon held his daughter tightly, taking in her scent and the way it felt to hug his little girl. He was terrified, his heart filled with anguish at the reality of the situation. When he let her go, he cleared his throat, barely keeping back the tears that threatened to overwhelm him.

What were the chances of his daughter surviving? He didn’t want to think about it. He took her hand in the crook of his elbow and began to lead her inside, both straightening their backs and putting on their neutral faces.

The ball dragged on and on, and throughout the course of the night, Jonathan would come back to Iris, and dance with her. Their chat was idle, most of it the King taunting Iris and trying to get a rise from her as they twirled about the floor. When it suited him, he would drift off to another girl, but always he returned to Iris. She would try to politely decline each time, making Breon both proud and terrified at the same time. In the end, no one says no to the king more than once in a row, not even his brave daughter.

Breon could only watch helplessly as the king lay his monstrous hands on his daughter again, and again. The helplessness, fear, and anger coursing through Breon was a feeling he never thought he could feel. No matter how much forwarning he had, he still couldn't help but internally thrash against his daughter's fate, screaming internally each time his daughter had to twirl in the arms of a monster. And finally, well into the wee hours of the morning, it seemed the King had had enough toying around. Iris went to her father’s side as King Jonathan went to his throne and clapped his hands, signaling for the band to quiet down.

“I can't tell you how incredibly boring most of you girls are.” Jonathan reached out and took a cup of whine from the ghoul that served him, taking a long and exaggerated drink from it. Whispers floated around the room, and Iris could feel the anxiety in the room spike intolerably. "I don't understand why all of my nobles have raised a bunch of sniveling wenches, and can't even compose themselves when dancing with their king. Some of you even cried. As if some of you weren't ugly enough you had to go and make your faces swell!" Jonathan laughed cruelly and Iris gritted her teeth in anger as his words cut at the women in the room. She held onto her father’s arm tightly, her heart pounding.

“None of the less, as you're all here, you might as well attend my next wedding..” The slender man drawled his words out as he approached a pedestal that had been raised on the grand stairs of the ballroom that led to the higher reaches of the castle.

“My new wife shall be…” Jonathan paused, looking through the crowd until his eyes fell on Iris, and he smiled wickedly. “Iris Santanero. Come here, bride. And let us be wed.”

Sighs of relief could be heard all around Iris. She felt her stomach flip, and she took a deep breath. She knew this was coming. There was no reason to succumb to fear yet. She looked up at her father's defeated face, and nodded, leaning up to give him a kiss on the cheek.

“You’d best give me away, Daddy.” She said softly, and Breon jerked his head in a stiff nod, holding onto her tightly as he walked her toward the stairs. She stepped up them, followed by a minister of the King’s own choosing. Breon gave his daughter away, his eyes avoiding the king so that he could not see the hatred in the brown eyes that were brimming with tears.

The minister began to speak, but one look from the king and he skipped to the vows.

“Do you, Iris Santanero, take Jonathan Rolland to be your lawfully wedded husband?”

“I don't have a choice,” Iris answered, her eyes narrowing while the king in front of her grinned wickedly. When the minister turned to him, Jonathan didn’t even let the minister finish his question before he waved his hand impatiently.

“Yes, yes. I do.” He answered gruffly.

“You may now ki-“ Iris wasn’t expecting to have to kiss him. She thought he’d forgo that formality. But her face was roughly yanked up, and a stern gruff kiss was planted on her lips before she had time to process what was happening. When he pulled away, he turned and raised her hand and grinned. Iris could not help but feel as if the walls were closing in on her, but she held her face straight as she faced the crowd. Her eyes scanned the crowd, seeing faces crumpled in pity and sadness, some of them mixed with intense relief in their eyes.

“Long live the Queen!” Jonathan said with audible laughter dripping from his voice. But the solemn response echoed throughout the ballroom seriously while Iris's golden eyes glued to her father’s sad and angry face as everyone echoed the words. There was nothing celebratory in the echo of the phrase, and there was a mournful note to it as many voices rang out through the ballroom as heads bowed down deep, and fists went to rest over hearts.

“Long live the Queen…”

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!

Young AdultThrillerHorrorFictionFantasyDystopianAdventure

About the Creator

Hope Martin

I am a published author of a book called Memoirs of the In-Between. I am doing a rewrite of it, as it needed some polishing. I am a mom, a cook, a homesteader, and a second-generation shaman.

Find me on Medium also!


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Comments (2)

  • ThatWriterWoman10 months ago

    I am so curious as to how the were creatures are going to play into the story! I hope they will support the new queen!

  • ThatWriterWoman10 months ago

    I am really enjoying how this story progresses! An excellent new chapter!

Hope MartinWritten by Hope Martin

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