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The Right Hand of the Queen

Will she choose the right hand or the right man? Saucy steampunk satire.

By Addison AlderPublished 8 months ago Updated 2 months ago 11 min read
Top Story - October 2023
The vivacious and imaginative Princess Lydra of Lu'tess (Images by MidJourney)

In the realm of Lu'tess, there was a vivacious and imaginative princess called Lydra. She was the most popular and talented heiress of the living dynasty, but she had a peculiar secret.

She had fallen deeply in love, not with a dashing prince or a charming artist, but with an object of devotion quite unprecedented: her own right hand.

Lydra's days, from the first moment of dawn to the last minutes before sleep, revolved around the palm and fingers of her right appendage. Their bond grew strong as they embarked on fabulous and imaginary adventures together.

Everywhere she went, her hand was at her side. Every day, while painting colourful sunsets or crafting miniature sculptures, Lydra found companionship in her right hand, a loyal and dedicated confidant like no other. She named her hand Rama and dressed him up with finger-sized accessories, stitched and sewn after the fashions of the day.

As time went on, Lydra's friends grew worried. They were baffled by her affection for her dominant limb. They noted with particular concern how she insisted on referring to it in the third person, and had given it a curious foreign name. They attempted interventions, but Lydra's affections were unswayed.

They tried distracting her with potential suitors. They introduced her to many wealthy and influential men, but none compared to the connection she felt with Rama. As her friends persisted, presenting one man after another, Lydra found her focus drifting and tumbling down the whorls of his dexterous fingers. She would brush his palm across her lips and whisper to him her secrets.

Elsten, the land's most brilliant inventor

Lydra's peculiar love caught the imagination of the land's most brilliant inventor, Elsten. He had long admired Lydra from afar. Her friends had even judged him a worthwhile suitor, but she had shunned him the same as all the others.

At the time, seeing his disappointment, she had consoled him with these words:

'My hand always knows, never lies, always agrees and never asks why.'

Unlike the others, Elsten had taken note of her devotion to her right hand. He realised that this was the only and truest way to her heart. So he determined that he would craft for her a glove.

He would make this glove from the very finest materials, designed with every ounce of his creativity and inventiveness, and imbued with all his soul and humanity, in the hope that through its exquisite brilliance she would see the depth of his love for her.

In order to ensure that the lady would accept delivery of the glove, he sent it by way of a mechanical baby elephant. Tantalised, she received the charming creature in her courtyard, where it bowed before her. It gently extended its silver and steel trunk, and presented the marvellous glove to her.

The mechanical baby elephant extended its silver and steel trunk

Her right hand, Rama, reached out and upon touching the glove, realised its exquisiteness. Lydra, feeling her hand's delight, accepted the wondrous gift.

The mechanical baby elephant reported back its success to Elsten, whose hope was kindled.

Over the following weeks, the miraculous glove performed exactly as its maker had designed it. A miniature loudspeaker allowed it to tell its thoughts and feelings to its wearer. It complimented Lydra's artwork, and told her fantastical stories, and recited poetry full of sentiment in its attempt to win her affections. It recounted humorous anecdotes during their evening strolls, and charmed her in quieter moments with gentle bonhomie. It was attempting to create a connection to supplant the one Lydra had with Rama.

But no matter how charming or witty the glove became, every night Lydra would remove it and place it in a drawer in her cupboard, and close it there in the dark. She was unwavering; her heart remained loyal to Rama. Her connection with Rama was profound and could never be replaced by a mere accessory, no matter its brilliance.

One evening, Lydra was sitting in the twilit garden talking with her glove about some childish fantasy, when it happened to say some words, innocuous in themselves, which turned her spine cold:

'I do agree and I would never ask why.'

These were words she herself had said! The words she had said only to the inventor, Elsten.

Her heart raced as she realized that all this time the glove's words were not the glove's. They were Elsten's. It was his voice which had been disguised and transmitted through the glove's tiny speaker.

The miraculous and treacherous glove

Hurt and betrayed, she summoned him to her courtyard the next morning, and from her balcony she berated him.

"How could you invade my private world?" Lydra's voice trembled with a mix of anger and vulnerability.

Elsten looked down, his hands fidgeting nervously.

"I didn't mean to deceive you," he admitted, his gaze meeting hers. "I just wanted to understand you better, to find out what made your connection with your-- with Rama so unique."

Tears welled in Lydra's eyes. "You should have asked me. But instead, you violated my trust."

And she threw the extraordinary glove from the balcony to the courtyard below where it smashed into countless unreproducible parts, its brilliance dispelled forever.

Elsten felt his heart was crushed. He knew he could never put so great a part of his soul into so wondrous a machine ever again.

Lydra was devastated by Elsten's betrayal. She retreated into the sanctuary of her chambers, where Rama became her sole companion once again. The vibrant world they created together felt safe and rich, a world where love knew no deceit. The psychic walls which she built around it towered higher with every pulse of her blood beneath the scars of Elsten's duplicity.

Lydra retreated into the sanctuary of her chambers

Days turned into weeks as Lydra remained absent from city life. She found comfort in her art, rediscovering the expressiveness of her right hand. She painted with a fervor born of heartache, using Rama directly on the canvas, drawing tempests from the emotions that consumed her. Her isolation was self-imposed, because she knew it was the only way to protect herself from further hurt.

The seasons turned and the town whispered of the tragic recluse, and the treachery of the inventor. Elsten's hurt turned to regret and then finally to resolution. He knew he had caused her pain and he must make amends by showing Lydra that he understood the depth of his mistake.

The extraordinary glove was smashed into countless unreproducible parts

He salvaged what he could of the shattered pieces of the wondrous glove, and he took apart his robot elephant. Then he spent a hundred nights crafting and transforming these materials into his final brilliant invention: a flock of intricate mechanical birds.

Each bird carried a unique melody. They were designed to sing Lydra's favorite tunes, to fill the air around her with the music she loved. These birds were only joyful novelties, but each still carried a tiny part of his soul and he hoped this would be enough to make the melodies resonate with her, and to bridge the void between Lydra's dark sanctum and the living world.

In the hour before dawn, Elsten hid the mechanical birds in secret corners of Lydra's garden. As the sun rose, the garden came alive with a symphony of birdsong, a chorus of delicate melodies that carried the weight of his remorse and his longing, and the sweet emotions she must miss in her isolation. He watched from a distance, hoping that the music would find its way through the windows and into Lydra's heart.

As the day progressed, Lydra drifted in and out of sleep, where her dreams reverberated with a mysterious cacophony. Upon waking, Lydra found her home possessed by the same ghostly echoes, which now encircled and harassed her. Fear clenched her chest as she struggled to distinguish her outer reality from the chaotic din inside her head

She burst from her bed, threw open cupboards and dressers, tore the fabric from the walls, and smashed every mirrored surface, but found no source for the noise.

She reached a dreadful conclusion: the melodies must emanate from inside her mind; that the music was a manifestation of her unraveling sanity.

The house stifled and smothered her. She needed air, to cool herself before her blood boiled in her veins. So she threw wide her garden doors and ran outside.

But there the noise was only louder. It was even more insistent, piercing her eardrums like steel needles. She clutched her head, eyes wide with distress, lurching and grasping at her hedges, her plants and flowers.

And there she stumbled upon one of Elsten's mechanical birds. What is this contraptions? What is it doing here? This clockwork devil had been sent to torment her, to punish her for forsaking the men of her realm.

The truth dawned upon Lydra about these mechanical devils

Lydra lashed out in frustration, swinging her fist at the damned machine. Wherever she traced the noise, she found more mechanical birds, smashing and scattering each one.

But in her fury, she was careless and did not notice the fine machining of the contraptions. With one wild swing, metal slashed open her right palm.

Rama was torn open.

She immediately knew something was very wrong. As blood cascaded and she tried wiggling Rama's fingers, she saw the tendons moving up and down, the severed ends extending and retracting into the boundaries of the wound.

But the panic she felt was not from seeing the injury: it was that she could not feel it. She could not feel anything. Rama was completely numb.

Lydra sought the town's surgeon. He immediately set about gathering implements and treatments. A dozen stitches were necessary to close the gash. Ointments cooled the inflammation, while tinctures of sterile agents treated the mustard suppurations.

As she watched him work, her mind called out to Rama, to her wounded ally, but his silence brought a greater pain than any injury, and she knew she had severed forever the only connection which had brought her solace.

In the weeks that followed, she convalesced in the shade of her beautiful garden. It had once been vibrant with colour and warmth, but now it felt like an exhibition of decay, the mirror of her heart. Her inner world, previously a vast and secret palace, was now a ruin amidst a wasteland.

The absence of Rama's touch left a void that seemed insurmountable. She was trapped in a cycle of despair, each time realising he was so close but yet as distant as if he were in another land. His inert weight crushed her soul.

One night, at her lowest point, as her tears spilled into darkness, a figure approached from the shadows, silently, purposefully.

She was not afraid, because despair had taken away both hope and anxiety and without these she had no fear of the future. Not even death could be as bad as her present.

A figure approached from the shadows

But the interloper was no assassin. It was Elsten, his expression a mask of the profoundest sorrow. He knelt before her, and reached out his palm in a gesture of contrition and repentance.

"I gave you my soul, but it infuriated you. I gave you my genius, but it drove you insane. All I have left to give is my body."

Lydra hesitated. Her ego fought her as it wavered between eternal unremitting pain, and capitulating to this man's desires. Slowly she reached out to him, her dead fingers trembling as they met his palm.

The moment they touched, a tingling sensation shimmered along the fissure of her stitches. Rama came alive, his nerves barely and briefly firing, long enough to tell Lydra what must be done. And she knew at once he was right.

She looked into Elsten's face, scrutinising him for the sincerity of his intentions. And he returned her look, unfaltering.

Lydra finally answered him, her voice resolute and terrible:

"If you truly want to be mine, then I have a single condition. I will take your most talented and gifted hand to replace my own."

Elsten's let the weight of her request sink in. He knew that by sacrificing his own right hand, he would be giving up everything that made him him: his art, his skills, his brilliance. No longer could he be the most inventive engineer in the realm.

She fixed upon him, sensing his reservations.

"The surgeon will do it. But will you?"

He raised his eyes to hers, assaying her fierce expression, then with a deep exhalation he nodded, his heart renewed by a mixture of determination and hope.

"I shall. Anything to be with you."

For a day and a night, the surgeon and his team worked tirelessly. Even in Lydra's sedated state, she felt the tang and torpor of Rama's severing. Her soul wept. Meanwhile, the surgeon's assistants were severing the nerves and tendons of Elsten's right wrist, before beginning the critical process of reattachment, fibre by fibre to Lydra's own vacant stump. The operation was delicate and dangerous and riven by risk for all involved.

As hours passed with no news, the people of the city waited, their own affairs forgotten, knowing the import of the operation: the exorcising of their beloved princess' haunted soul, the resolution of an issue that had rent their communities, and that overall the operation's success would demonstrate to all that only a sacrifice made of love could resolve this tragedy.

Twilight came, but for Lydra it was dawn. As the anaesthesia left her body, Lydra was returned to the world. A sensation enveloped her right hand side which felt both strange and welcome. Elsten's hand, now her own, lay gently on her hip.

The bond they shared was no longer merely as acquaintances; they were fused by flesh and by will.

Elsten heard the news of Lydra's steady recuperation. He knew the sacrifice he had made and his heart swelled all the same, because they were closer now than he had ever dreamed possible.

He shuttered his workshop, knowing he had no further need for such contraptions. Without a right hand, he no longer had the ability to craft things with his former precision and brilliance. But he knew it was worth it.

As he saw Lydra come and go about the city, and saw her elevated again as a vibrant and vital heiress of the realm, he saw the joy his hand gave her every day. With his deft right hand, her art once again flourished.

He heard reports that, with her new right hand, she had taken up the lute and needlecraft and whittling. Elsten saw how his hand had given her life, and he praised the opportunity and the honour she had bestowed upon him.

As he passed a gaggle of townsfolk, he saw a placard being raised announcing the imminent union of the houses of Lu'tess and De'Rayne, concomitant with the ascendance of Princess Lydra, now Bridequeen of the Two Realms. Elsten beat his battered stump to his chest in furious gratitude at this joyous news.

He returned that evening to the place where he was sleeping, a sheltered crevice under a nearby bridge. He lay down on his handless side, on a nest of hay which a kindly farmer had given him. This was all the home that he could afford now.

As he curled up in the sharp straw, pulling tight his cloak to protect himself from nipping rodents, he smiled, comforted by the goodness of his intent.

Then he fell into a dreamless sleep.

Elsten fell into a dreamless sleep

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About the Creator

Addison Alder

Writer of Wrongs. Discontent Creator. Weird tales to enthral and appal.

All original fiction. No reviews, no listicles. 👋🏻 Handwrought in London, UK 🇬🇧

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Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insight

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

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Comments (5)

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  • Randy Wayne Jellison-Knock8 months ago

    "All love is unrequited. All of it." -J. Michael Straczynski For true love asks nothing in return, not even love itself.

  • Raymond G. Taylor8 months ago

    Fabulous story and so far I have only looked at the pictures and captions. Brilliant illustration. Now to read the story…

  • Susanna Kiernan8 months ago

    Your imagination is a wild place, my friend

  • StoryholicFinds8 months ago

    Great story and congrats! ❤️

  • Mattie :)8 months ago

    Awesome story, Nicholas! I love this!

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