The Queen of Death by Mark Slade
Make no mistake. I murder people for silver and gold.
I know when everyone sees me, they see a slave-girl at first. That is why I can only live in so many palaces and so many kingdoms. Harek and I devised this plan to achieve status among the wealthy. Harek sold me to my first slave master last year. Dougal of the flat northlands in Quada. Cold and bitter lands, only a third of Qauda’s population survive to old age. I slit his throat one winter night and let his blood soak the sheets on a bed we shared. Dougal’s children are now King and Queen, and already have asked me to murder each other. I refuse on account of being in demand. Harek is a jealous sort, but I tell him it’s all a part of the game to bed my victims and one day he can have me for himself.
Rumor quickly spread throughout the Seven known lands. A young girl appears as a ghost and kills those in power. Everyone is frightened of the Queen of death and no one in the Seven kingdoms are safe. Queen Farah in the southlands has murdered more than fifty young women in hope of destroying this terrible spirit. Little does she know that I have already become one of her many slave girls and she will become my next victim.
“Slave girl,” Queen Farah levied her voice over the clearing od the dishes from the royal table. “How long have you been in my royal keep?”
I didn’t know how to answer that question. I dare not raise my voice above a whisper nor any lower than a breath. “Only a fortnight, my Queen.” If I spoke any louder, Farah would be insulted, any lower and she would mistake me for one of her many wives.
“Come here,” she demanded. I paced myself toward her. “Stop!” She screamed. “No further,” her voice trembled. “You look like a girl who has haunted my nightmares. Would you press a blade to your Queen’s throat?”
“No, my Queen. I haven’t a murdering bone in my body.” I said calmly.
Queen Farah sighed, and looked away. I would like to believe that. You have an innocent face.” Her dark, thick eyebrows lowered. “You wear no sandals, yet you bear the confidence that no one owns you.” I began to speak, but her stone face deterred me from doing so. “It is very unsettling. Usually I can read others by their body language. I cannot make up my mind to have you executed. This weighs heavily on my mind as well as soul.”
At that point, her advisors burst in. Two extremely tall men and one rotund man, all in white robes, pointy hats and black stockings.
“My Queen,” One advisor with the long nose spoke and bowed. “The enemy is at the gates!”
“They seek to murder you and usurper the crown for their leader, Goroh of the Ghalos,” the rotund man spoke with the most annoying lisp.
“Please my Queen,” the other tall advisor croaked. His hands shook as if he’d been in an earthquake. “Wake the army and protect your beloved southland!”
“Silence!” Queen Farah screamed. “We shall not discuss this in front of the slave girl.” She rose from her chair and exited the dining area. Her advisors trailed behind her, each one had a walk sillier than the other.
I took the dishes to the kitchen where a deformed servant was stirring boiling water. He grunted, urging me to throw the dishes in the pot. He stepped toward me, his eyes focused on my bosom that clung to my soiled top. I gave him a wry smile, his rough hands squeezed my breasts gently as if he were picking a tomato from the open markets. He grunted and licked his twisted lips. I closed my eyes. My thoughts were with his ravaged little mind. He quickly removed his hands and dipped them into boiling water. He kept them in the pot until I told him to remove them, not uttering a single syllable.
Later in the night, I carefully took the stairwell down to the garden. It was there where I saw the flaming arrows enter the dark skies. Goroh and his men send a message to those they plan to uproot, rape and pillage, then leave a city in ruins before he brings his own people in to rebuild and help repopulate the land. It is how Goroh leaves his mark. Pale skin and green eyes become dark brown and often time’s golden eyed.
The leaves on the spikey cattle bush shake and the three advisors appear. They stared at me and smiled, their rotten teeth protruding from their purple lips.
“We have sent the money to Harek,” the fat one said.
“Five hundred in gold,” the tall one sighed.
“Three hundred in silver,” the old one croaked.
“Harek has not confirmed he has the money,” I told them.
“There isn’t time for such non sense!” The fat one declared.
I stepped forward and they took a few steps back.
“Don’t anger the witch-girl,” the old one patted the fat one on the shoulder.
“I am not angry,” I said. “Although, I am enforcing the rules of the game. I wait for confirmation of payment, then your Queen will meet her death.” I paused for dramatic effect. “But! Only if I receive word we have been paid in full. Do you understand?” I growled. They nodded nervously in unison.
“We only want to rid our land of the monarchy and set up a republic.” The rotund advisor moaned.
The tall advisor gave a pat on the rotund advisors shoulders. “How best can one serve his public, if one only cares for themselves? A senate will care for each village or district of the cities!” He added.
The old advisor could barely speak in between heavy breaths. “Do you not care for politics, young lady? Or is it silver and gold that drives your soul?”
“Politics,” I scoffed. “Just lies from liars! Declarations should be used for wiping asses as well as stroking fires.”
“You seem angry,” The tall advisor said.
“Why didn’t you tell me Gorah and his hordes from hell was coming to the party?” I paced around the fools. Old men and their ideals are the reason the world cannot get along together.
“We had no idea,” the rotund advisor pleaded. “I swear!”
“Listen to us… we still need you to—”
“Murder Queen Farah? If her crown is about to be levied to hellhounds, you better pray for your souls… or run. That’s what I am about to do.” I told them.
“No!” The tall advisor grabbed my arm. I shook him off, but a strange sound caught my ears. A whisper… no… a sigh. Then I realized they were arrows. I turned and saw the rotund advisor and the tall advisor lying on the ground with arrows in the chests. The old advisor was trying to hobble away.
He sold the other two advisors out. But why? He was getting what they wanted as well. Or was there more that he wanted… like the thrown itself! Of course. I’m sure if Gorah took the southlands he would make the old advisor Governor or some sort of title.
Heads appeared above the wall surrounding the palace. Men began climbing over and arrows were dropping from the skies like dead flies. Suddenly, Gorah and his men stood in front of me. The soldier flanking his right drew an arrow in his bow, aiming at my head. I was unarmed, unprotected, and overcome with fear and exasperation. Then again, just to them, I was just a slave girl.
The siege was over quickly and all of the guards were killed by arrows. The staff and slaves were mostly unharmed except a few servant girls. For some reason, I was spared. I was taken to the room where Queen Farah ruled her kingdom. Gorah sat on the throne, the legs of the chair buckling under oversized man’s weight. He only wore the skin of some dead animal and a belt that held his sword. He was staring at Queen Farah’s crown, twirling the silver head piece in his hands. He appeared to be hypnotized until he spoke.
“Where is Queen Farah?” H barked, his voice echoing.
I didn’t speak. I was too busy trying to concoct a way out of this situation. The old advisor stepped forward and began to speak, but Goarah held up his hand to quiet the man.
“I want to hear what she has to say,” Gorah whispered. The old advisor bowed and stepped back out of view.
“I really don’t know, your excellency.” I said.
Gorah let out a hearty laugh. “Already you are worshiping me? I have yet to take the city, let alone this pathetic crown.”
“I wish to be respectful,” I lowered my eyes to his bare feet. There were strange markings on the top of his feet, looked like brands made from a hot poker. I looked around and noticed his legion bore the same markings on their feet.
“In hopes to stay alive, I gather?” Gorah said. “There’s something strange about you… I can’t place it…”
“Your excellency, ” The old advisor spoke up again, walking toward Gorah. His guards reacted quickly, drawing their swords. The old advisor laughed faintly. “Perhaps we should use this moment to look for Queen Farah, have her abdicate the crown?”
Gorah rose the throne, chuckled. He waved his left hand, and the guards sheathed their weapons. He held the crown in his right hand, twirling it on his fingers. Goarah took a few steps and was face to face with the old advisor. He placed the crown on the old man’s head. The old advisor flinched, then a forced smile appeared on his thin lips.
“Is… this what your old heart desires? Don’t speak. I know what you desire… Then you shall have it.”
“Your Excellency… I don’t know what to say…” The old advisor croaked.
“No need to say anything. The crown, the land, the people are yours.” Goarah waved his right hand. The guard closest to the old advisor unsheathed his sword and swung fiercely, the blade severed the old man’s head from his neck. It rolled a few inches and stopped at my feet. The shock and horror was etched on his face. Those lifeless black eyes stared at me. I felt a shiver rise up in me.
Gorah laughed as he bent down. He removed the crown from the old advisor’s severed head. He glared at the crown before stepping toward me. “I think… you should have this,” he offered to me. “From slave girl to… Queen. Does that not appease you?”
“No,” I whispered.
“Power? Does it not… excite you?” Gorah sniffed my neck.
“I do not need a crown on my head to feel powerful,” I said.
Gorah laughed. This time a wheezing cough interrupted his thunderous bellowing. When he finally composed himself, he tossed the crown at my feet. “On behalf of the Brotherhood of the Shadows, I command you to place that crown upon your head!”
I did not flinch. He nodded and his guards drew their weapons simultaneously. I smiled, bent down and took the crown in my hands. “If I do not do as you say?”
“I think you know the answer to that question, slave girl.” Gorah said.
I tossed the crown at his bare feet. I shrugged. “So be it,” I said.
The guards moved closer to me, their swords, mace and battle axes, ready to strike. A blustering wind came through, taking their weapons from their hands, even carrying a few of them inside the small cyclone that came through. Two more rushed me and found that their swords began slicing each other. Other guards just fell to their knees, their hearts burst, or they choked on their own bile.
Everyone in the room was dead except Gorah and myself.
I smiled at him, walked toward him. He stood there, shaking like a child frightened of a thunder storm. I handed him the crown. Gorah began to weep. I noticed his long dark mane was now the color of snow. I seemed to have that effect on people. Tears streamed down his face.
“Oh, your majesty, there is no need for tears,” I whispered to him.
He stuttered as his chest heaved. “You’re not-you’re not going to k-k-k-kill me?”
“No,” I said as I made my way to Queen Farah’s quarters. “I do not kill unless I am being prevented to do my job. And you will not stop me from killing Queen Farah.”
Queen Farah’s quarters was decorated in all the trappings of a royal, right down to the silk bedding. No candles were burning, complete darkness. I felt her presence in the room. The floorboards creaked under my feet. Suddenly, a pair of red eyes flashed.
I lit a candle, pointed it in all directions, but did not see Queen Farah. I was perplexed. Where was she? Then I heard a whisper. I looked up and saw Queen Farah hanging upside down from rafters. Her red eyes shined, sharpened fangs protruding moistened, bloody lips. She held Gorah’s limp body in her claws, draining his blood into a silver challis.
“I was hoping Gorah would finally come to my palace,” Queen Farah hissed. “The blood of another royal only makes me stronger.”
“So the reason he did not try to kill me himself after I disposed of his men was that you already had him in your spell.” I said.
“Oh, yes. I thank you for the distraction. I might not have succeeded in getting his power if you had not ‘disposed’ of his guards. I understand Gorah was quite the warrior.”
“Now what?” I asked.
“Yes… what happens now?” She dropped Gorah’s body. It hit the floor hard and bounced once. Blood splattered her silk bedding. Queen Farah lowered herself down, her body twisted in two different directions, snapping back in normal position when her feet touched the floor. “What do we do? Here we have… the queen of death… and the queen of the undead? Certainly… a troublesome play in our little game.”
I heard footsteps, several of them in fact, enter Queen Farah’s quarters. I saw all the dead guards had sprung back to life, oozing what body parts they had left and dragging entrails behind them. Then Gorah came to life, rising slow as he gasped for air. He placed a hand over the bite marks Queen Farah’s fangs had left. He wiped away the remaining blood with that hand and licked each digit as he laughed.
“There is nothing either of us can do to each other,” I said bluntly. “There are no living humans to hurt or frighten or slowly drain their life from their bodies. I would say, it is best we carried on without each other acknowledging the other.”
I waved my hand and Gorah and his men promptly fell to the floor, and remained motionless for several minutes until Queen Farah batted an eye and they rose up once more, hissing and gasping, posing with their weapons. It was quickly becoming a farce, with my commands and Queen Farah’s commands, the undead rising and dropping to the floor. Finally, my patience was at a loss and the guards burst into flames. Piles of black ash fell in clumps and promptly swept away by a strong wind. Only Gorah remained.
Queen Farah laughed. “Quite a show,” she clapped her hands.
“I wish to leave,” I said, gritting my teeth.
“No one is stopping you,” Queen Farah replied.
“But I leave with your fortune,” I said.
Queen Farah thought about this. I had no idea how this situation would resolve itself. So I asked for one of two things royals hold deep in their hearts: money or power.
“I can offer you something on par,” she sighed.
“I’m listening,” I smiled slightly.
“You can have Gorah and all of his kingdoms. Do what you like with the barbarian. Destroy him… or use him as a puppet. I only ask that your path to world domination stays clear of the southland.”
“Nothing… like now. It is… a friendly request.” Queen Farah’s eyes glowed red.
I shrugged, then bowed. “My Queen, thank you for being… so generous.”
Queen Farah bowed back. “Of course, Queen of death…”
I left Queen Farah’s palace, Gorah trailed behind me and we rode back to his camp. I had my king and soon more kingdoms will be in our grasps.