THE LAST QUEEN - {Works of Spurius, Book I}



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Ordeith

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THE LAST QUEEN
or
The Nightmare of the Ivory Manse
Ghost queen, archangel aid
seven VI SIX conspirators, coup
By the powers of m Moonlight, rain, midnight. Angel prologue
It began in moonlight and rain It happened beneath a rain-slanted-slashed moon
devils & ghouls​
(Pre)Gothic Horror??

Dark Fantasy.​
By SPURIUS, the Greatest Author who ever Liv Was or Will Be
____________________________________________________​


Ϡ Marutia | Fort Londe, the night of the conspirators' attack

From across a great distance, the angel heard her mistress's soul cry out.
Entering into flesh, she arrived in rain, under the moonlight.

Her wings tore through the heavy summer air, shirking off arrows and stones with no more difficulty than if they were raindrops. She felt them even less. Her Majesty's pain — shock, fear, anger, confusion — pressed upon the angel's senses, deadening them to all else. The hell-spitting flames, the tears that smarted her eyes, the cries of the slain and betrayed...

To Marutia, these belonged in a separate world.
They had consequence, yes, but only in some far-removed place that had no queen.

She landed well behind the gatehouse of Fort Londe, to where the inner hold loomed over the armory and knights' ward. The fire and fighting had long since moved elsewhere, but there was no mistaking what had just taken place. The yard was littered with a hundred different coats of arms, torn and dirtied on the ground. Further away, a heap of bodies, clad mostly in nightclothes, lie in a shapeless tangle. Marutia stepped over the bloodied dirt with hardly a thought, whispering only in haste a prayer for the betrayed.

Her Majesty the Queen was nearby; the guardian angel could sense her, faint though she was. The inner hold—its western tower—beckoned to her with a breathless voice. Six voices, she realized.

Then a wave of nausea slapped her body. Her stomach rolled and surged, and bile shot up the back of her throat. She spat, and pushed off the ground with renewed haste. The forces of hell had awoken in Fort Londe; Her Majesty's danger was graver than anything she had known.

How can the moonlight be seen during a rainstorm?
Magic. Does not matter.
____________________________________________________​


Ϡ The Black Knight | Dungeons of Fort Londe, the night of the attack

He sat in absolute darkness, in which his metal body disappeared into the black stone walls.

Without muscles or skin, he had no need to move; without lungs or a heart, he had no need to breathe. The Black Knight belonged to the fort, and the fort permitted neither light nor life. The witch-queen dragged him from the dark, returned his sword to his hand, and set him upon her foes — but always he returned to the lifeless stone of the fort. The walls embraced him, and he settled back into stillness as if no time had passed. In the dark, the knight could sink into himself, and escape the realm of flesh-clad men.

The Black Knight reposed, but he did not rest. His anger was a fire unto itself, such that he did not need light. Everything stood clearly to him, outlined in a bloody red haze. Even after his heart had stopped and his eyes had withered, and his corpse had been removed from his armor in pieces, he could still see the face of the queen who burned him. He heard her voice, and the voices of her descendents. They mingled with the voices of the fort, its soldiers and servants...

Every moment of every day, he prayed for their destruction.
And now, listening, he heard — at last — an answer to that prayer!

The fires, the cries, the weapons, the sorcery — together they formed a distant roar that sent tremors through the very walls of Fort Londe. As the soldiers gasped and sputtered up above, fighting some unknown foe, the fort itself thrummed with new life.

The Black Knight could sense it; something portentous was taking place. Her Vile Majesty's order was being challenged.

"Gaoler!" His voice, a hollow rasp, carried far into the dungeon. "What news of the fort? Invaders? Wiltou speak?"

No reply sounded, and that excited the knight more than anything the jailer might have said. Then he heard it! A thundering clap of sound — the destruction of some wall, some tower! The tremors reached even his black cell. He could hear the individual pieces of wall, crashing, crumbling...

Were this a dream, it could ne'er be so sweet! Ye slinking dogs of the bitch queen...
 

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Ϡ Enchantress Urganda | The Ivory Manse, three nights after the attack

Three raps, sharp and precise. Officious, precise, fretful, obedient.
Urganda knew the chamberlain's man from the moment his hand touched the door.

She had half a mind to let him fret for a little while longer. There was delicate magic at work in her chamber — and magic, contrary to what most believed, did not accommodate the petty needs of men. Magic demanded respect and time. And space.

Since the night of the ritual, not an hour had passed without some blustery northern prig telling her about a problem that did not concern her. The manse was the chamberlain's domain, the Church and clergy belonged to the holy pontiff, the military followed Sir Bercilak the Green, and so on. Magic, and magic alone, was Urganda's expertise. What qualifies me to deal with servants, or pass judgment on prisoners? It was all so foolish, really. It made her head hurt in a way that no powder or potion could soothe.

She pursed her lips, and turned deliberately from the door. "Enter," she said.

Whatever they saw in her, she could not see it. Urganda was merely returning the world to its proper balance of humors, just as a living body desires a balance of blood and bile. Any proper servant of Hell would do the same, given the resources with which she had been blessed. To be sure, she wished her co-conspirators the best of luck in their ventures, but at times...

The door opened, and the chamberlain's man wasted no time in airing the latest grievance. He stepped forward in his stiff white collar, coat decorated by the chain of some office, and began speaking from the moment his hand left the door handle. "Honorable Enchantress," he began, "Chamberlain Wellager Salsberg NAME seeks your magical opinion on the matter of the ... kitchen servants, and their proximity to Her Majesty." His voice was low and sonorous, more than a little nasal. Glancing at him, Urganda suspected that it was due to the metal fork that pinched his nose — a tiny brass thing which held two glass lenses beneath his eyes.

If he has trouble seeing, she thought, why keep him in a position that requires frequent use of the eyes?

With one hand, Urganda was heating a copper basin over a brazier; with the other, she gestured over to a chair. That is what chamberlains do, yes? Look at things? Comment on them? The man, annoyingly, did not move to sit down. He seemed to expect some kind of acknowledgement.

"Go on," she replied. "What of the kitchen servants?"

"They suspect, and we fear that they will not prove loyal."
His voice carried a trace of panic, but it was difficult to note on account of his nasality.

Urganda kept her hand steady, as only the pit of the basin required heat. "Then let us be rid of them," she said, "in one way or another. I would imagine that every servant who worked closely to Her Majesty will need to be replaced, in time. I trust your master's good judgment — which hardly needs help from me."

"He wonders, however—" The steward paused, tried to phrase his question in some particular way, with a few hms and hums in the meanwhile. "My master wonders ... if there is any magical remedy to this problem. If the queen could be — well, forced through magic to act like a proper queen. We have the best cooks, servers, tasters. Good servants are difficult to replace."

"More difficult than it is to tame a demon? One which has been bound to the flesh of a powerful sorceress?" She smiled, and he blanched. He seemed ill at the mere mention of the queen's true nature. Urganda allowed him to stew uneasily while she tended to the basin. Now that the bottom was sufficiently heated, she added the powders and oils that she had set out in advance, mixing them loosely with a casual flick of the wrist. Meanwhile, her free hand searched high and low for the key ingredient...

"Ah! There it is!" She gave a titter of satisfaction. With another flick of her hand, a tarnished medallion plopped into the middle of the loose mixture. It sank to the heated bottom. How that came into his hands, and onto the battlefield, only the Devil knows. The mixture would first strip away the corrosion and tarnish, and then work on the enchanted metal itself.

Satisfied, she set the copper basin aside. "Fret not," she said.


More on this scene later; Warlock — finish Prologue first!
What happened in towr? A mystery?
What is the medallion?
Tower destroyed/dismantled/teleported?
Angel flies overhead, carrying Queen's soul
Green Knight? Red Knight?

Captain Edgar.
Queen and Angel — in the forest.
 
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Ϡ The Green Knight - Sir Bercilak de Hautdesert too hard to pronounce Bredbeddle | The Ivory Manse, three nights after the attack
Are these even the same character?
who cares, they're both green

Sir BarciBredbeddle marched through the deep, solemn halls of the Ivory Manse, coming to a stop outside of Her Majesty's chambers. Pausing a moment as if in uncertainty, the Knight raised a large, mailed fist and brought it down on the intricately carven doors. Before metal struck wood, however, the portes swung open as if by a breeze, and the knight's eyes adjusted as cold sunlight through frosted panes was replaced by the dim warmth of open torches flames.



from cold sunlight thru frosted panes
to dim-dark warmth of open flames
the demon-queen sits all enthroned
on a royal seat of seat of royal bones
the greene knight now to her inclines
his mighty head in
[illegible]
the bitter fruit of murd'rous schemes
the Queen is dead; long live the Queen

The Greene Knight knelt before his Majesty's throne. She gazed at him with warmth distrust lust interest disgust love hunger hatred fear disdain. "To what do I owe the pleasure, Sir Bercilak?" she inquired. Her voice was almost starting to sound human; still, it made the knight's skin crawl under his green armor (Is his skin green, or just his armor? Much more interesting if the former) to hear it. Not that he would ever dare make mention of it.

"Your son requests your presence, your Grace," the Green Knight intoned. The Queen's laughter was like silver bells falling over a waterfall.

"Is that your role now, sir Knight? to act as a messanger to my Son, the royal Prince of nothing?" The Green Knight remained kneeling, silent. The waterfall of laughter continued for awhile, then stopped as suddenly as if it had flash-frozen mid-stream. "I will go to him," she said, standing. "Come Bredbeddle, I trust you will accompany me? I am not allowed outside of my royal chambres without a companion, as I'm sure you will recall." (*rules of her demonic summoning -ed.)

"Your Majesty," the knight intoned cowardly politely. "Perhaps you could be prevailed upon to wear clothing... more appropriate to your royal position."

"No," the Queen said shortly. "Mortal clothing is bothersome and boring, and a Lady's clothing most of all. I shall go as I am." ....

boring chapter, get back to the night of the attack
revise, revise, revise

 
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Editor's note: Discard the previous chapter, everything writ therein is false. Most likely the prose version was derived from the poetic script, "from cold sunlight thru [sic] frosted panes...," which is well-attested through the 3rd century, but is here modified to incorporate the characters of the 'demon-queen' and 'greene [sic] knight'. The poem's authenticity cannot be called into question (as all poems are known a priori to be true), but the prose is undoubtedly Spurius.

Here is how events truly conspired.
Ϡ The Young Prince | The Ivory Manse, three morns after the attack

Dawn rose chill over the Ivory Manse, and a cold sunlight filtered in through frosted panes. Down the deep, somber halls walked the youngest of the six conspirators who had deposed the late queen—her own son, Prince Lucius, a boy of tender years but hardened heart. As he came upon the intricately carven doors of his mother's former chambers, he hesitated only briefly before throwing them open with a resounding crack that the echoed through the long halls many minutes before fading away.

Inside all was warm and dark—no natural sunlight was allowed into this chamber, the high windows blocked off, a dozen or so torches smoking and sputtering along the interior walls. One could hardly make out the intricately drawn symbols that covered every window and door and chimney chute—in short every entrance to the room... or exit. But the young prince knew they were there, and he drew courage from their presence to enter into that room which was no longer his mother's, and which for reasons he dared not contemplate held some deep repugnance to him now. He was careful to shut the door behind him.

"My dearest son," a voice said from the dim opposite end of the chamber, a voice at once like and unlike his mother's. "You have come at last to your poor mother's aid."

"You are not my mother, demon," the boy snarled, but he stayed rooted firmly where he was.

"Am I not?" the voice asked, and now the boy's eyes had adjusted enough to the gloom that he could see a vague figure laying indolently across a throne-like chair. "But you came from this body, did you not? My body." One of the figure's hands drifted lazily down its stomach. "And who gave me this wonderful piece of meat, if not my dearly beloved prince?"

"Enough!" the boy shouted, or at least he tried to shout—the word became strangled in his throat and came out with scarce the force of a whisper. The demon-queen laughed then—laughed with the sound of a thousand silver bells flowing over the edge of a waterfall. It was a laugh the boy remembered from before memory, but he couldn't connect it to the being in front of him.

"Come to me, my sweet baby boy," the demon said with all the seduction of a mother. "Come to a mother who loves you more than that previous saint who inhabited this body ever could." Unwillingly, the boy found his feet dragging closer to the beckoning voice.

"Come to me," his mother's voice whispered from the shadows. "I will give you all that you ever desired and never had." Disembodied hands reached out from the darkness to embrace him, draw him in, forever. "Come."

And just as one of these hands was about to lay itself gently on his cheek (or was it reaching for his neck?), the prince jerked suddenly back and held up his left palm. The silver bells froze mid-fall; the hands withered away; and his mother's inviting smile became set on her face like some terrible rigor mortis.

Sweat beaded his upper lip, and his breath came in small gasps of air, but his blue eyes shone clear. "Urganda told me what this symbol means," he gasped triumphantly. "It means I control you. It means you have to do as I say. It means you will give me all I have ever desired... because I will make you."

Slowly the smile relaxed itself on his mother's face, and it became smaller, sharper, a feral grin that was all teeth and no humor; an honest smile. "But of course. What else are mothers for? Now come, tell your mother—what is it you truly desire?"

Shaking now not from exertion but excitement, the teenaged prince told his 'mother' all his deepest desires, all the things he could never have told his mother. And attentively, obediently, lovingly, his 'mother' listened.
 
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Ϡ Royal Taster - Cathy | The Ivory Manse, three nights after the attack.

Whistling, humming and tone death singing... Gone. Only silence.

What once was a lively bunch, down in the Ivory Manse kitchen, was now a silent one. The servants kept their heads bowed, fearing the worst of being imprisoned, or flogged in public before peering eyes. Several rumors had spread. Some saying they weren't loyal to their new queen and others saying, they attempted to murder her with poisoned wine. None of which were true. Cathy bit down on her thumb, overseeing the chefs slaving away in the kitchen, speaking in hushed tones and hunching over boiling pots of soup. All of them too afraid to speak up. Huddling like children. A bunch of cowards in her opinion.

A ladle dropped onto the stone floor. Clattering noisily back and forth. The sound carrying far more louder than intended in a bustling kitchen. All eyes fell upon the young lad that stood their defiantlysheepishly beneath their glares before kneeling on the floor, sarcastic sincere apologies spoken aloud for all of them to hear as he humbled picked it up and returned to his dish. A small smile tugged at the corner of Cathy's lips, recalling fond memories of being scolded and schooled by fellow cooks on how to hold a ladle properly.

"Clumsy." Cathy remarked cheerfully. The tension in the air was cut by a dull, invisible knife as she swung off of her stool and joined the young lad's side. "Finnian, you should be more careful." The tone of her voice was enough to make the young lad look up. Their eyes meeting for a brief moment until he chose to look away. What was once a home to the pair of them, was now known as something strange, foreign and unrecognizable to them. Any traces of anything familiar, simply vanished into thin air. They only had each other.

"Blimey. 'ee didn't reckon they'd be so scared like cattle." Finnian replied. "Oh, Cath 'ee, I'll be needing those knives back."

The word 'knives' turned a few heads that Cathy had to smack the back of her friend's head. "You idiot," Cathy seethed, "Do you want them to speak of treason to the guards? I doubt they'll let it slide." A few glanced their way, already whispering beneath the palms of their hands and eyeing the door. A groan escaped her throat that she set the "borrowed" knives down on the counter that she was using for target practice. Something no man, woman or child ever dared to do; afraid to be caught in defying the queen. Henceforth, it was why Cathy liked Finny. Even though he said something remarkably stupid from time to time.

"Kidding. Don't be so uptight, Cath 'ee." Finnian replied, flicking his wrist and a sharp knife slid into his awaiting palm. "Any that harms 'ee, won't wake with anything beneath the waist. 'ee hear me?" Nobody spoke. The hiss of water boiling over, pans clattering, and extravagant meat sizzling were all to be heard.

Cathy let out the breath she was holding. "Next time, not so loud." Casting her eyes left and right, did she speak in an undertone for Finnian's ears alone. "You know Chamberlain Wellager has guards posted outside our kitchen doors. Ears are everywhere. No one is safe. They might get rid of us all together." This got his attention for a brief moment as a flicker of concern entered Finnian's green eyes. "I stay, only because of you and my loyalty to--?!" A spoon was shoved into her mouth that she swallowed the contents down with a coughing fit.

"Don't 'ee get so careless now." Finnian said darkly, "Watch yourself and find 'ee fairies 'ee speaks of all of thy time." His green eyes awaiting her approval on the contents of dessert. The aroma of chocolate wafting in the air was heavenly, exquisitely divine to her senses upon his watchful stare as she swallowed it down. No poison detected on her tongue.

"I'm not sure its possible." Cathy said dejectedly, as she handed back the spoon to his awaiting palm. Her blue eyes watching him scoop up the raspberry sauté sauce that complimented the chocolaty sponge cake. A bit of saliva forming in her mouth as her heart raced in excitement to try it next. That is until the kitchen door slammed open with three guards standing in its entry way.

"Cathy Fairchild," The head guard paused, eyes wandering across the room until catching her eye. "You're to be brought under questioning of his Chamberlain Wellager's Salsberg command."

"Of what 'ee reasons?" Finnian demanded, picking up a knife and stepping in front of Cathy.

"Don't!" Cathy whispered, grabbing hold of his wrist and taking hold of the knife in her other hand. "I'll be back. I promise." With another tug of his wrist did Finnian back down and look over his shoulder at her. The pleading in her eyes was enough for Finnian to frown and shake his head before turning completely around to hug her with his skinny arms.

"I be looking for 'ee, if the hour is nigh." He whispered in her ear.

Cathy nodded against his shoulder, tears starting to prick her eyes at the sincerity of his voice. Fate was looming overhead as she charged her destiny head on without a backwards glance. Forcing herself to let go of the young lad, did she approach the guards and watch them part for her in respect mockery. The door slammed shut behind them as they stood together in the barely lit hallway made out of stones. Not even the sound of clinking armor could comfort her racing heart, as she was walked herded to see the man that called on her.
 

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Ϡ Ancient Madman, the Hidden Jack, Maestro of Malevolent Doings and all Varied Murderous, Malicious, and Merry Acts, the Old Jester of the Ivory Manse l The Far Fire



"You've been met with a Terrible Fate, haven't you? . . ."


The words had been ingrained into the fabric of the soul that dominated the Platinum Mask, in age long ago, and yet soon to come, ere the wheel that was time continued its haughty grind. When old Dragonsbane had lived, and even farther back still, ere the sorcerer of Olaphis muttered his tales of the kingdoms long before (and all that was desired from him was simply the removal of his organs, post-petrification - after all, who wouldn't absorb such a powerful human's soul?), and even longer back, when the Lord of Sunlight rebuked the darkness, and became but a cinder.


Many times he had sat next to this fire, ancient sword eternally fixated into the blaze (and none now lived who remembered such an occurrence of an entity placing the sword therein, as the sword had always been both within the fire and ashes' embrace). Sure, it had moved every now and then, the fire growing larger and then dimmer, sometimes going out and sometimes being relit, though none of it ever truly mattered in the end; all would come to darkness eventually, and eventually, all would return to light. Such was mankind's power, such was its weakness.

Caloo, callay, whatever shall we do today, hence? The Mask warped from its blank-faced state, the mouth curving upwards in a dark, twisted, near-maddeningly joyful smile with the sound of the metal itself warping to create the visage. Gibyr Witticus stood up from sitting at the fireside.

It had been long since the Queen's Warlock had contrived the plan to spellbind him. Long had he sat here, waiting, pondering, struggling ceaselessly to ponder over how to thank the man.

Perhaps hang him by his intestines? Play him a sonnet whilst tapping upon his beating heart, as his blood drains? Provide him with a bird's perspective from falling off a cliff? Decisions, decisions! After all, he has done what is necessary for His Majesty, and I should know, no proper royal ruler wants to leave loose ends about! And, now that I am free of the Queen's eyes, I can serenade the Ivory Court to a new, more desirable tune, no?


He rose from the fire, nine little bells twinkling their terrifying sound from the ends of his almost ludicrous hat, and began his stroll through the forest beyond. Some say it had once been a kingdom, others a fortress. None of that mattered anymore, just as the flames would and always shall, fade in the end, only to rise again.
 

Ordeith

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Ϡ Enchantress Urganda | The Ivory Manse, three nights after the attack

"Fret not," she said. "Her Majesty can be controlled directly, if need be. All relevant persons have been instructed in that. But though our new queen is a greedy, gluttonous, lustful, proud, power-hungry creature of evil, she knows her place well enough to behave. Without our direct intervention, that is. Besides! How will she learn to be a proper monarch if she isn't allowed to fill the role herself, in her own way?"

The Chamberlain's man seemed dissatisfied with this answer, but he was trained well enough not to press the matter. Instead he broached another topic — the Warlock. "He has been with us from the onset of the revolution, and since then he has proven to be suspicious! Very suspicious!" The steward's nose tensed with excitement. "The Lord (Lady?) Chamberlain expresses great concern over his presence!"

Urganda sighed. "This self-proclaimed Warlock is hardly a problem to us. Allow me to approach him first."
The Warlock was, in fact, an enormous problem. At the present, she had no idea how to approach him.

"Very well." Again, a dissatisfied rumble from the depths of his sinuses.

These northerners put on such airs, she thought, it's a wonder they don't lift off the ground whenever they speak. Urganda gave an idle stirring to the medallion in its mixture, and said nothing. And the Chamberlain's man said nothing. The two stood in unfinished silence, listening to the metal disc sizzle. "Is there anything else," she said at last, "which wants my attention? If not, then I don't see much use..."

The steward adjusted his lenses, politely rubbed his nose, and repositioned his feet. His eyes flitted upward, then down at his feet. He coughed a few times. Urganda wondered whether the man might actually be ill — or whether he knew too much. There was guilt in the shadows of his eyes, in his half-starts and coughs.

"Just speak plainly," Urganda said. "Whatever weighs on your mind, I had best know it. For everybody's sake."

He nodded gratefully, though he still hesitated one last time before speaking. "I, on ... merely my own behalf, would like to know. Of the Queen, and what is to be done ... to her." Somehow he made the capital letter audible.

"Ah, the Queen." The witch nodded knowingly. She set aside the copper basin, and stepped away from the table.
Through the window, the Moon was a bright pale-gold. Even in exile, the Queen shone her mighty emblem for all the world to see.

On the night of the coup, Urganda had placed more than a dozen sealing circles in the Inner Keep's west tower. Every entrance and exit, including the windows and archer-holes, bore a sign against the interference of Heaven. Tawelc, for silence. Dallin, against prying eyes. An inverted Lleuad, to counteract the Moon's influence. Hundeb, to contain the ritual. Somehow, the angel's eyes and ears had pierced every one of them. She burst through the oaken doors, wings aflame, and stole the Queen's soul as it was about to dissipate in the darkness. The tower wall crumbled beneath the force of Marutia's strike, leaving her free to escape with the conspirators' most dangerous enemy.

The greatest witch of the South acknowledged, without malice, that she had been beaten. Love, she thought. Strengthened by emotion, a pact runs deeper than any laid enchantment. And it was love burning in that angel's eyes — love, moved to anger.

"I believe the Queen to be somewhere in the old forest," she replied. "Perhaps her soul is being guarded by the Fay. Perhaps the angel has found refuge in the ruins there, or by the Sacred Fire. My most powerful agents are seeking her, and I soon expect results." Urganda regarded the Chamberlain's man with a tired smile. "And that is all that I trust you to know. I will be speaking with your master soon, I imagine."

For once, the nosy official did not seem to object. He bowed low, bade her a good night, and exited quietly.

________________________________________________________​

Ϡ Some time later, though not too long...

The silence lasted only long enough for Urganda to dry and store the magic medallion.
Outside, the hall echoed with the tread of soldiers' boots — and a good deal of shuffling, besides.

My own activities notwithstanding, it's the dead of night! She stuck her head out the door to find a small crowd of castle domestics, flanked by a handful of guardsmen. They tramped past her chambers with no sense of anyone beyond themselves. Only a few of the servants met her eyes, and then only for a moment. They seemed to fear her more than the guards, or whatever awaited them at the end of their march.

Urganda couldn't say which irked her most — the possibility that the Lord Chamberlain had acted without bothering to hear her sought-after advice, the likelihood that he had heard it and acted rashly, or the noise. The man who runs the castle and city. Hmph. He isn't giving much thought to the castle-folk and city-folk. The sorceress hoped that he knew what he was doing.

Behind the crowd, seemingly late to the caravan, was a girl in the company of a lone guardsman.
They seemed in no hurry to catch up, however. Urganda saw her chance, and seized it.

"You there," she called. The soldiers glanced back at her, before realizing that their lone peer was the asked-for man. "Let me see that servant with you. Bring her hither, please."

The guard hesitated a moment, looked back at his charge, then obeyed as if it were the most natural thing to disobey the Lord Chamberlain. Though it was quite natural to avoid crossing an enchantress. Urganda took the wench gently by the arm, and drew her inside the room. "My thanks," she said, and shut the door.

She shot an eye up towards the stone idol on her worktable — an ugly, crudely-made thing. At her silent command, it whispered to her in a voice that only she could hear: "Catherine the Fair Child. One-and-twenty years. Taster of royal victuals. Doubtful, doubtful! In love — or tragically on the verge."

Urganda made note of it all. Taking pains not to upset the girl, who was already as stiff as a board, she offered one of the open seats. To show that she meant no harm, she sat down first.

"Please relax," she said. "Whatever they had planned for you, I have no interest in letting it happen. You are safe here — and now the Lord Chamberlain himself is the only person for whom I'll open my door. And even then," she smirked, "I'll only open it a crack. So ... do sit down, Catherine. We ought to talk. About your position, and everything that has happened in these past few days." The enchantress rested her head on her hand, and looked Cathy up and down. For a peasant and a person in love, she didn't look hopelessly slow-witted.

Perhaps she would offer the information that seemed to elude the Chamberlain's men.
 
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Ϡ The Warlock, Izan | The Ivory Manse, three nights after the attack

Footsteps echoed softly along the silent hall, once so vibrant and noisy, now naught but a hollow shell of itself. The walls were lined with portraits of royalty past, men and woman who bore the name of Dragonsbane, from Sephryus Lucien Sigmund(?) Dragonsbane, slayer of the legendary blood dragon of Naug the elder dragon of Prox dragons, to the despised Arnaud Dragonsbane, whose portrait had been harshly torn across the face by five claw-like marks. The Queen's portrait was scheduled to be added shortly, though the certainty of it being added on time was now questionable.

The sound of footsteps steadily grew louder as someone drew near the hall's exit into the slightly more lively section of the castle, where many a chambers resided. From the darkness emerged a light, though dim and distant at first, it grew brighter as the footsteps grew louder. Twas not like the flame of a candle, which flicker and flare, but a steady, unwavering glow. It was like the glow of something dead brought back through vile magics.

Soon a figure emerged from the darkness, though he appeared very much like it. The man wore large robes of the darkest blacks and deepest purples, one that appeared entirely too large for him. The robe's bottom hung just above the floor, occasionally dragging slightly between steps, while the sleeves hung down to his knees, well pass his hands.It had seen its fair share of combat, torn and worn in several places, especially the end of the sleeves, which had been torn ragged. In one hand, held from beneath the cloth, was a black book covered in several, mysterious runes etched in what seemed to be blood.

When the man stepped from the darkness and entered the hall that ran adjacent, he nearly ran into a group of mumbling guardsmen, complaining about something concerning a witch and orders. The man cursed as he pulled back his hood, revealing the eerie light to be an unholy glow that was emitting from his right eye socket. He followed the guardsmen's path back down the hall, and laid eyes upon the enchantress Urganda's chambers, which, for him, quickly explained the guardsmen's annoyance. No doubt that self-important conjurer had stuck her nose into other people's business—again.

"No matter, I shall simply pull her from her delusions, for I have a bone to pick with that conjurer of illusions." the man growled as he walked toward the enchantress's door. How dare she steal his supplies? None of the other fools in that castle knew a thing of the arcane outside of the demon that now sat upon the throne, meaning only that vile witch could have been the one to have taken them. "Uraganda, I demand you open this door right now!" The man slammed his fist against the heavy door, echoing loudly down the hall. "Or else, you'll regret it, you unsightly sow of that I do vow!"
 

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Ϡ the handmaid, helena | the dark morning after the conspirators' attack
(Capitals, capitals!)
no, no, it's the style. like e. e. cummings?
Who IS that???

though the enchanted bell that hung by her bedside rung, the young lady with the blonauburn hair rose to no light in her window. she was puzzled, at least. it was morning, and morning was for the sunshine to burn above the sleepy earth, and birds to sing for the heavy-eyed humans. she pulled her nightgown'd body out of her bed and looked into the queen's other maids' room, expecting to find someone to gossip the strange morning predicament. she found no one.

"isa?" she tried, her soft voice a coarse croak minutes after waking. "melanie? juda?" no reply came.
why are they gone? to be decided later. maybe.
perhaps, she decided, they already began the day's duties. they were such a hard-working group.

with nobody to watch, helena decided that this particular morning she would take her sweet time. she disrobed, and clothed, and brushed her curls, and washed her face. she dared to dab a sweet scent behind each ear. she expected, in the many minutes she took, that at least one of her fellow handmaids would come in. to ask her where she was, or to hurry her along. but once more, nobody came. this was beginning to weigh heavy on the young lady's mind. she exited the quarters
what what what???
lost my train of thought
what was happening again?
 

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Ϡ Royal Taster - Cathy | The Ivory Manse, three nights after the attack

Do you believe in Fairy Tales?

Among the feeble and weak, many would claim all of the tales were true. None were false nor a mere old wives tale; meant to get younglings to eat their greens, listen and behave to their betters. The singular word "magick" was enough to send the underbelly servants in the Ivory Manse into a tizzy. Some of the servants were afraid to say the same words thrice, while others kept a chicken bone wrapped around their necks to prevent ill will from being inflicted upon them as they hid it beneath the collars of their tunics. Believing magick was evil and the devils work. Cathy herself had been ridicule by others for being born with a spirited will, performing flawlessly in her tasks and being able to do the impossible. Finnian would scowl at others for scorning her openly, despite her reassuring him it meant nothing. Cathy allowed herself a small smile at the thought of him defending her. Finnian was her champion.

There was a unspoken bond between the two of them. Finnian was the first to accept her as one of his own, never thinking to ask if, she could do magick or cast spells. Obviously not. Even though, children would point their fingers and scream at the sight of her. For kicks, Cathy would pretend to cast a spell on them with a wave of her hands to make them runaway in fright. Only to backfire. The same children would come back asking for good fortune or to heal their sick, beloved ones. Cathy shook her head, feeling the curls of her long brown hair brushing the tops of her brows. What a bunch of fools. They'd be wiser to pray to their gods or seek it elsewhere.

To feel her elbow grasped gently by an actual enchantress in the flesh was enough to make Cathy's face drain of color. The magick flowing through a mere touch of thy hand was a big giveaway. A number of thoughts went through her mind as the stunning enchantress pulled her into a room. It was rare to be in the same room with someone with immense power at their beck and call. A miracle that mustn't be looked at to closely. Cathy nodded in the right places as the enchantress spoke to her, waiting to take a seat. It'd be improper for her to sit first.

Cathy sat down in an empty chair across from the enchantress, placing her hands under her bum to avoid fidgeting and slowly lifted her eyes up to meet hers. A slow bead of sweat slid down the back of her neck, making her shiver in fear and reminding her it'd be bad if, this enchantress knew what she was up to in the middle of the nigh. Cathy held her tongue for a brief moment, casting her eyes around the room before settling them down on the enchantress. It was rumored fairie blood was useful in spells. The bottles of unidentified liquids was enough to make her stomach queasy. This wasn't a social call, and it'd be foolish to think as much. The enchantress wanted something from her.

"Milady, you're too kind to ensure safety to someone such as I," Cathy said politely, "I am a mere taster to the royal crown. I believe I haven't done anything wrong — rumors have spread of awful deeds being done behind closed doors. I imagined the Chamberlain plans to devise a way to keep the servants loyal to the crown," Cathy bit her lower lip, "I am unsure of what he has in mind but, I speak on behalf of the chefs below that they haven't done a thing."

"I enjoy my position as a taster of extravagant dishes," Cathy's eyes flicker with distrust, "I don't mind being given a poison with an antidote to keep my position and prove my loyalty to the crown. If Milady has anything in mind, she'd like to discuss, I'll speak plain and true. I do not wish to displease you."

Finnian's scowl flashed behind her eyes for a brief moment. Cathy hid her frown then jumped in mere fright as the door was hit rather violently, and shouting could be heard outside of it. "Milady, I hope I did not bring trouble to thy door?"
 

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Editor's note: Some versions have censored or exorcised this passage outright for its sexual content, judged inappropriate for the sensitive minds of women and children. Men seem to quite enjoy it.

Ϡ The Demon-Queen | Early morning after the attack

"Your Majesty," the knight intoned cowardly. "Perhaps you could be prevailed upon to wear clothing..."

"No," I cut him off with a chop of my hand. "Mortal clothing is bothersome and boring, and a Lady's clothing most of all. I shall go as I am." I run a hand down the curve between chest and hip, producing a slight frisson as the tiny, almost invisible hairs bend under my palm. What a remarkable thing, this human body. "I shall never understand you mortals' aversion to your own bodies. Why do you feel the need to cover up and hide this remarkable gift from Nature?"

"Our Lord God..." the Knight began.

"Oh shut up. I've heard enough already." Of course it would be that prude.

The wretch next to me continued pretending to avert his eyes, though he was clearly salivating underneath his helmet. Disgusting. Perhaps there was some reason behind this mortal custom of "clothing" after all.

"Come, Sir Bercilak, my 'son' awaits." Obediently, the knight rises and makes to follow me. "Ah," I say, holding up a delicate finger. "In front, if you will. Shield your queen from profane eyes." Yours in particular I finish silently, as the knight with a much greater show of reluctance takes up his position in front of me. Together we emerge from my exulted exalted prison cell. And once again, as we leave, I feel out the barriers which hold me, the barriers my keepers pass through with apparent ease... but I cannot grasp them. Not yet.

Out in the chill of dawn, my entire body is seized by such a sudden, violent sensation that I let out an involuntary gasp. Small bumps erupt all over my skin and my nipples harden against the cool air. The shock of it nearly takes me off my feet, but the sensation is not entirely unpleasant. Oh, what a thing to be corporeal!

"Eyes up front!" I bark at the knight, who had begun to turn upon hearing me gasp. As we walk down the long hallways, I begin to realize there might be another justification for wearing clothing, at least during the early hours of the morning; the sensation which had so shocked and titillated me upon leaving the throne room is becoming more mundane and uncomfortable the longer I am exposed out here. The soles of my feet have already numbed to the cold flagstones we walk upon, and the little bumps on my skin only serve to remind me how ineffective the hairs on my body are at conserving heat energy. It seems there are some downsides to having a body as well.

Just as I am getting ready to instruct the knight to turn back to the throne room, however, we chance upon an open door, and I stop mid-step. The cold forgotten, indeed banished, an unaccountable warmth spreads through my body as I stare through the cracked door. Inside a maid, similarly déshabillée, stands in front of a mirror, dabbing something behind her ears.

"Stay a moment, sweet knight," I call softly, careful to direct my voice away from the doorway. My escort halts and immediately starts trying to get a glimpse behind him. I don't care anymore, ignoring him to focus on the beauty before me. Slowly and deliberately she finishes her toilette, then she finally dons an outfit (odious thing, but on her it does not look so unfavorable) and leaves through another doorway. Not saying a word to the knight, I slip quietly into the room. A sweet aroma lingers in the air, gentle reminder of the body that had recently been there. I pick up the brush she left on the single, tiny table in the room; a few strands of auburn hair still cling to it. Playing with this, I leave the room and address the knight, who is openly staring at me now.

"My son will have to wait," I say distractedly. "You are right--this is no state for a Queen to call upon her Prince. Send my maids to the royal chamber; it is their job to attend to the Queen, is it not?"
 
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Ϡ Enchantress Urganda | The Ivory Manse, three nights after the attack

As expected, young Catherine was fearful and compliant, willing to say whatever she thought would please the Enchantress most. But as Urganda had hoped, she was also willing to tell the truth. It was in half-terms that placed the royal taster at a safe distance — "rumors have spread," "I am unsure, but," — yet it was truth all the same.

Urganda smiled privately. Fairies lie unashamedly, but half-bloods almost always speak true.

"Hm! No, you won't displease me," she said. "'Plain and true' describe you best, Catherine. You're forthright and honest. And as I always reward like with like, let me be honest with you: First, you shan't be taking any poison. Second, I know little of these rumors, but I can guarantee that some of them are true." The witch opened up her private smile, let Catherine share in the secret. "They say that the Queen is not herself, yes? That she is changed, or mad, or possessed? That her mind is not wholly her own? All true, to some degree. With Her Majesty's ... nude escapades, three days ago, how can we go on denying it?"

Urganda leaned in closely, though not so far to make her guest feel uncomfortable. Her smile dropped, though her air of confidentiality remained. "Her Majesty is partly under the influence of a demon. The powers of Hell have returned to this plane, child, like a storm that has been brewing on the horizon. There is no stopping them; they are already here, ready to wreak havoc on our world. The question is not whether they can be stopped, but what is to be done about them — and Her Majesty acted as she felt best." The lie was conceiving itself in the moment, weaving with the flow of her words. Spinning tales was hardly her favorite activity, for many reasons, but the Enchantress could do it well enough.

"She took a pact with a demon," she whispered, "in order to appease the lords of Hell. In exchange for the Queen's pact, they ceased the advance of their army, and vowed to treat men peacefully. I was brought here to help Her Majesty control the beast that nestles in her soul. Progress has been slow — and now I've become aware of ... malicious persons. Within the Ivory Manse. Those who would use the Queen's predicament to their own ill gain. Do you understand me? I wan—"

Before she could finally deliver the point of her winding story, she was cut off by a heavy pounding that shook the entire door, frame and all. From outside, "Urganda, I demand you open this door right now! Or else you'll regret it, so get your cash now so do I avow!"

Catherine asked, in a half-squeak, whether she had brought this intruder to her door.

"No," she sighed. "This 'trouble' and I were destined to clash, I think." Urganda rose with a grunt, and sorted unhurriedly through her many vials. She continued to speak low, though distracted by her task. "Remember, child: There are much fouler things than hellspawn in this world." One vial, then two, slipped into her palm.

On noiseless bare feet, she edged closer to the door. "But a moment," she said through the boards. "Your request is being considered." She removed the stopper from her first crystal vial, and whispered an incantation. At once, its contents smoked and billowed upward in a light puff, which wafted through the door crack. "Dar luz de mi imagen para este brujo, Izan," she murmured. Then she opened the other vial, and quickly whiffed its contents. The liquid charms were designed for lovers separated by a great distance; by the scents alone, which could be applied to a letter or some tiny article, the lovers would see each others' faces — hear each others' voices.

Slowly the Warlock's grim face materialized in the air, visible only to her. Urganda scanned over every crease and fold, every shadow and wrinkle of that ugly face. Izan's luminescent eye, ever a mystery to her, glowed wrathfully. So it isn’t the Chamberlain who snatches up servant girls in the dead of night…

"I made an unfortunately binding promise," she said, "to keep this door shut. Hopefully you are not opposed to a … remote conversation?"


_____________________________________________​


Ϡ Captain Edgar | Outer Yard of Fort Londe, four days after the attack
Goal: convenient story progression
Get to the Forest!!

Captain Edgar awoke standing up, it seemed to him. He was in the outer yard of the fort, between the gatehouse and the first inner walls. Soldiers were carting bricks and mortar, or walking to and from the training yard, or else just standing at their posts. Not one of them seemed to acknowledge his presence. He shouted and laid hands on them, but none of them paid any heed.

When he threw a brick, a few workmen stared in disbelief — at the brick, rather than at him — but were soon brought back to their task by a soldier. Their voices were audible, but indistinct. It felt as though he were listening from a great distance.

But there were other voices.

Dead, dead! All dead!
Treasonous curs...
Where am I?
Who are you?
Flyyoufoolswhydon'tyouflyIdon'tunderstand...
I shall never see the Sun again.
Where is the Queen — Where is Her Majesty?!​

They sputtered and faded, quick as raindrops, all about the fort.

Sometimes Edgar felt a heavy presence among them, before a group fell silent. It made a lazy, haphazard trail across the yard, and the voices disappeared in its wake. He couldn't see it. But he could feel it moving, a heavy disturbance of the air; and he could sense that it was dangerous.

Slowly he backed away from it. The gate was open for supplies from the town, and he ran through it.
He ran out of Fort Londe, out of the city of Drakenberg. He ran towards the forest; Her Majesty was waiting there, he could feel it.

The old chapel in the forest. That's where she's gone...
Of course. Why can't they see it...?

The Green Chapel.
 
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Nami

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Ϡ
the handmaid, helena | the morning after the attack



the maid of soft and sweetest fire
and her youngeth heart's desire
steps to see her paramour
steps on t'ward her chamber door
the girls and she do handily
clothe the esteemed majesty
with touch so subtle and disguised
with care to keep unchastisized
tho' something swam there in her miss
poison threat to maiden's bliss

"oh, sweet," she whispered hastily
whilst preening her most patiently
"might you feel unwell this day?
your eyes, i'm 'fraid, are dull as gray
tho' usually shine heartily
akin the sun like family
i fear the light in both has gone
pray-tell, your grace, is something wrong?"

the queen did send the maids away
'cept the maiden she bid stay
"oh, dear," she answered warmily
"i feel naught but yearning stormily
'n with a touch on skin so silk
i feel as sweet as mothers' milk"
the girl surrendered quickly then
the hungry wolf, the nubile hen

but later as the nights on sweep
she felt the easeless growing deep
and on night three as she did wake
with royalty, tho' with heartache,
wished to stray from unease's love
(lust, it t'was) and lackthereof
she sniffed the 'state and she did find
the fellow worksmen were not blind
the ruler they did follow under
would not lead her land asunder
and so! the maiden sworeth true
"fear not, my love, i will save you"
 

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Ϡ The Warlock, Izan | The Ivory Manse, three nights after the attack

What the witch requested had been more than the warlock could bear. How dare she? First, she absconded with his very rare, very valuable ingredients—ingredients, mind you, that no other person in the entire castle apart from her and himself would require, let alone be able to use in any form or fashion—and then she even refused to face the warlock face-to-face, far too ashamed or cowardly to do so. The very thought threw Izan into a hysterical fit.

"Am I opposed? Of your door closed? Of that, you can be sure, for this is a crime I can't endure!" Izan threw his fist against the wooden door once again. "I know quite well it was you, you vile witch, who stole my bone shard of a lich, my perfect scale from a golden drake, and an undead heart, there's no mistake. A tattered soul, eye of a troll, phoenix's feather, dragon leather, acid rain, Argoth's Bane, a serpent's tongue, and a song unsung. These things of mine did you steal, and you certainly can't quench my zeal, to have returned to me what is mine, for my claim I won't resign."

Izan withdrew a step from the door, taking a moment to eye it meticulously. If Urganda wanted the door to remain closed, for whatever the reason may be, no doubt it would be backed up only by a simple 'please.' No, the door was liable to be enchanted in some sort of way, be it a binding enchantment or something to repel forced entry. The witch was always careful in guarding herself, he noticed.

"However..." A dark grin grew across the warlock's face as he concocted a clever scheme. He shuffled slowly beside the wall, moving as if he were skating on ice. He moved and grinned as discreetly as a starving wolf in a field of sheep. "Indeed, a binding promise is a powerful force, and to break one is simply coarse, so open shall your door not swing, and to the wall shall it still cling. So I shall not use your door—so that you might keep what you swore—but instead make one of my own, right here, through this very stone."

Izan's glowing eye ignited like a raging inferno as bright as the sun, illuminating the dim hallway ten times what the hanging torches could manage. A dark, grim chanting poured from the warlock's mouth, though the voice did not sound his own. The voice did not hold Izan's sharpness or touch of insanity, but instead carried with it a dark calmness and a devil's intent.

With his word, the stone walls began to shift and change, as the large, stone blocks unfurled themselves from one another and slowly slid free. In the beating of an eye—though to Izan it felt like a solid hour, as he contently watched the minute details of gravel shifting and the designs of small dust clouds—the stone rocks shot past Izan, granting entrance to the witch's quarters. He stepped through—the stone blocks still floating in air—and the stone blocks followed, rebuilding the wall behind him.

"There," he said, with a cocky grin, "your promise you have kept, so now I ask this you accept: Return my ingredients to me, and I shall then leave you be."
 
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My Dearest Cathy,

I hope this missive finds you well, though i Fear you may blame me for my lack of correspondence. it is not that i do not fervently desire to speak with you, but my service to Our Queen Has left me almost no leisure to sit down let alone write. these last few months i have Been like one Possessed. of course i do not begrudge any of my time to the queen. She is in all ways so splendid and marvelous, in our entire kingdom there Is Not one like Herself. if there is any way such an ordinary girl as I am can fill some Need or service for our majesty, i am blessed to do so!

oh cathy, i know you understand me. for Your service to our queen is an even greater Help. how i envy your courage, every day to Prepare yourself to die in our queen's service! not A plate of food, not a Dram Of wine, makes its way to our queen's lips except you taste it first, to make sure no vile Poison might threaten her health. sometimes i fear you do Not remember that you yourself are Mortal, But i know what you do, you do for love. as do i.

thinking back, i am Infused With memories, memories of our home and The Sacred hills where we used to go up to gather Herbs. you would fashion yourself a crown Of Mistletoe, And me a crown of Hemlock, and we would laugh and play and Tremble at our own imperious beauty. in those days we did Not care about queens or realms or fiefdoms--If It Is the innocence of youth that brings happiness, we were Truly happy.

when The messengers of the Queen came and selected you for her majesty's service, it must have seemed Divine Providence. to be the one who Shall Protect the queen from Her enemies is a great and noble calling. But i admit, If it were within my power, She would have chosen another. Is it wrong for me to have felt this way? when you left, my world dropped out from Under me; i felt myself beset by Demonic grief, and no amount of good Influence or care could succor me. Those sacred hills became bereft of beauty, the Same Herbs we had gathered became odious to me. in such ways Will nature Reveal a broken heart.

now It may Please you to laugh at my youthful folly, but in those days i could not Help it. to Me, You were the world. now that we Are both in the queen's service, i hope that we can regain The closeness that we lost. though i have been here for some years already, it is Only recently that One of the cooks (finnian i think? he had a queer way of speaking) told me how I might contact you. if we Can but meet, i Trust our connection will be restored.

Your Loving,

Helena

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Ϡ Royal Taster - Catherine | The Ivory Manse, three nights after the attack

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A migraine would be most accurate to describe this deranged insightful conversation the halfling was in. If Cathy was meant to smile at the secrecy of what the enchantress was revealing to her — folly would be all she'd receive. The mere thought of a hell spawn possessing their queen sounded about right. Demons were considered befoul creatures without virtue or morals, creating chaos for their own entertainment. So a mere woman that bled red like any other human being, traipsing down a hall without clothes on was not nearly as bothersome to her as the contract being done for the greater good of the people. The Queen she knew cared more about herself than her kingdom — spoiled in riches, drunk off the finest of wines and having affairs with men without vows.

"What da devil did 'ee get ye're self into now, Cath'ee?"

If only she knew what it was. Catherine shook her head as the enchantress's words sunk into her thick stubborn skull. Had there been no interruptions, surely the Enchantress wasn't asking her to give names? None of the servants in the Ivory Manse below in the kitchens mention the queen, or the strange behavior to befall her. Too afraid to lose their tongues. Except for Finnian. The lad was her protector. He wouldn't let harm fall upon her, because he knew there were a few scared men that were itchin to cast her under a butchers block. Hence why he threatened them mere hours ago from his tiny slip up. Unfortunately, he couldn't stop their loose tongues from being drunk nor the bribes to go without prying eyes in the darkest of nigh. There were plenty of people within the kingdom that would point fingers at anyone else to avoid the noose wringing around their necks from the misdeeds they've done. However, Cathy knew it was likely more than protection Finnian had in mind, when it came to her.

"Whatever could anyone gain from our Queen's mishap?" Cathy called after the enchantress.

"What does Mi'lady mean by taming the beast that digs its claws into our beloved Queen?"

"And if what you say is true, Mi'lady," Cathy breathed deeply, gathering her wits about her as she spoke in a hesitant tone full of bravo, "How can I be of help to you in keeping our Queen safe from herself and those who intend to harm her?"

Cathy hoped her words did not fall on deaf ears as the questions weighed down on her mind. Truth be told, she wasn't sure what to make of the Queen herself — believing she was a wolf in sheep's clothing. Thankfully, the Enchantress didn't pick up on her being a possible candidate in be ridding the kingdom of this fake Queen. The urge to speak to her further about it was becoming a problem. She didn't know what else the enchantress wanted from her nor why she wasn't willing to give her up to the Chamberlain. What did Cathy have to offer this Enchantress she didn't already have? Besides her blood full of magic that hasn't even been tapped into quite yet?

The dreaded silence was slowly eating away at her mind as she awaited the Enchantress from speaking to whomever was at the door. Cathy's eyes went to the basin filled with ingredients. Despite being on guard around the woman full of magic, she felt herself get up off of her stool and quietly wandering over to it; something unseen pulling her over to it. Perhaps she was enchanted? It was rumored that witches and those whom practiced magic conducted it inside of a object of their choosing. Would spilling it be her death or not -- Cathy was unlikely to find out as the Chamberlain himself stepped into their quarters, smiling darkly and demanding the return of ingredients.
 
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Ϡ Enchantress Urganda | The Ivory Manse, three nights after the attack

The Warlock was nattering on in half-verse, about ingredients and potions and thievery...
...and then his voice changed. In an instant, the heat and inflection fell out of his words; his timbre dropped to a low, dead growl.

Urganda's eyes shot to the conjured image of Izan — to his mouth. As the Warlock grumbled his incantation on the other side of the wall, she used her "lover's mirage" to read his lips like a book. It was a practice taught to all enchantresses of her lineage, passed unwritten from the very first Urganda to the latest, to counter rival sorcerers when they tried to imitate their betters. Urganda knew every spoken language — human or demonic, living or dead — and could unravel a spell through that knowledge. But he is speaking too low, she thought, or is it his hood? The tilt of his head? Why—?

Suddenly the smoothed stone wall blasted apart, ripped brick-by-brick into the hallway. The noise was unearthly. Catherine nearly fell out of her seat, and the ugly stone idol cupped its hands over its pointed ears. It sounded like a rock had been tortured and wounded to the point of spitting up rock-blood, which now floated in the outside hallway. Through it all, Urganda could see the Warlock’s charmed eye, glowing.

Then Izan stepped through the cavity, which closed behind him. Calmly he requested the return of his stolen ingredients.

Urganda scarcely heard him; she was still too rattled by what had just happened. I did not know that language, she thought. He spoke a language that I could not recognize. She met the malevolent glowing eye with something like respect, and more than a touch of guarded fear.

Then she realized that this was her first true face-to-face meeting with the Warlock. And, conversely, it was his first square look at her. His fleshly eye looked no further than her body, while his magical eye searched deeper, deeper within her. Urganda could feel it trying to peel through her magical defenses...

Of course! The eye is a familiar of some kind, and it casts magic for him. The eye is the true Warlock; the man is merely a carriage for it. Urganda blinked, and turned away. Hastily she gathered the items Izan had requested — anything to get that monstrous eye out of her workshop. She snatched up vials and bottles indiscriminately, knowing that every one was easily replaceable, and that most of her visitor's so-called "ingredients" were complete nonsense. Though some of them did exist, hardly any was useful in today's practical magic. For the "phoenix's feather," she grabbed a quill; for the "perfect scale of a golden drake," a small brass plate; for "Azog's Bane," a cup of charcoal residue.

She passed them all to Izan's hands with many sincere apologies, and he thanked her with such smugness that no one could doubt his ingratitude. Clearly pleased at having won some great victory, the Warlock marched out the door, into the hallway, and loosed a positively maniacal laugh. To his lungs' credit, he continued the same strain of laughter all the way down the hall.

Urganda gauged his distance by the sound, and then returned to Cathy.

_______________________________________________________________________​

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KingdomKey

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Ϡ Royal Taster - Catherine | The Ivory Manse, three nights after the attack

The exchange between the Enchantress and Chamberlain was a frightful one Cathy decided upon, as she walked hurriedly slowly out the door with a stiff back and straight face. The urge to scream squeak was there at the back of her throat and trying to claw past trembling tight lips. There was nothing more worrisome than a secret. Too many eyes and ears to learn of it. Something the Enchantress was obviously counting on. No doubt cackling or following her every movement now with watchful eyes. A sensation of goose bumps abrupt across the forearms of her skin that she folded her arms beneath her heaving breasts and stared pointedly down at her own two feet; expecting the floor to swallow her whole. Cathy was collateral damage trust worthy in the eyes of the witch. Which couldn't be farther from the truth.

"Cath'ee, 'ere 'ee are!"

The 'oomph' escaped her lips upon knocking head first into a firm chest. A pair of hands set themselves onto her shoulders with a familiarity that spoke full of promises that she melted into them without thinking twice. The depths of the Ivory Manse were not to be underestimate beyond the looming walls of death and shadows nor the corridor doors that lead to befoul things unimaginable to the purest of minds of a child. If Cathy looked closely enough, she might be able to see the blood that soaked through the panels of the wooden doors of such a place. The tone death singing was starting to look good to her.

What happens after this?
I don't understand. This isn't matching up to the right events. A skip in time, maybe.
Hurry! Somebody give me the next line!

"'ee in 'ere?"

The cheerful tone of voice, which she was accustom to was masked with concern, and detectable in Cathy's ears, pulling her away from the spiral of thoughts inside her mind, and looked up into the face of a friend. Their surroundings slowly coming into focus like a camera lens as the scene of them together in a darken stone hallway evaporated into a brightly lit room with tapestries of their demonic queen hung on the walls behind them, and the carpet beneath their feet became quite real. The sound of voices nearby that weren't their own.

"Finnian, I'll be needing them back." Cathy spoke in a hushed tone.

A dumbfounded expression fell across Finnian's face as he opened his mouth to speak, but Cathy placed a finger across his lips. "This isn't thy time to ask 'ee questions." Whenever she used his accent against him did Finnian understand how dire the situation truly was. A smile quirked up from the side of her mouth as a plan was hatched in her mind.

With knives I can maim scar a maid into talking. The mere beauty of their flawless skin being transformed into something grotesque is a woman's worst nightmare. However, its not my intended target. The queen herself is now a demonic one, and to remove the problem, holy blades will be needed... and a pig.

However pesky guards were a troublesome matter as they roamed up and down the brightly lit hallways; either in a drunken gait or a rigid one with eyes that pierced them with a snarl cheerful look. A place neither herself nor Finnian belonged. The blessing of an Enchantress was a double edged sword, but it was not a matter Cathy had time to quarrel herself with until the time was right.

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Ordeith

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Ϡ Marutia | The Green Chapel, four nights after the attack

Centuries of wind, water, and hungry moss had reduced the statue to little more than a green-and-gray lump behind the altar. It could barely be called the silhouette of a man, now. The fingers blurred together, and the stone cloak now looked like a second pair of shoulders. Its staff had melded with the monster that lay at its feet, so it seemed that the serpent was sending a long tendril up to grasp at the man’s face.

Or rather, where the man’s face would have been; the statue’s head was stricken from its body, and lay shattered on the chapel floor. If anyone living still knew that face, he or she was now forbidden to look upon it.

Such was the fate of that vainglorious liar, Arnaud Dragonsbane—who did not slay a dragon at all, but stole its power from the witch that had birthed it. Before the overthrow of the last Dragonsbane king, Marutia spent little time among humans. Second only to God, her greatest love was for magic and sorcery, and neither of these powerful loves demanded that she wear flesh. Even so, she recognized the human king whose deception had spanned heaven and Earth: the slayer of dragons, slayer of truth. What false hope he gave to his people, at such a terrible price! The greatest deceiver of all, the archangel mused, yet destined to come again, before this world is over.

These thoughts came frequently to Marutia during her vigil, now four nights long. The statue of Arnaud Dragonsbane was illuminated from below by the soul of Her Majesty the True Queen, which fluxed with the light and colors of the moon Moon. It outlined every surviving detail of the king, from his weathered stone staff to his blunt stone boots.

The soul was in stasis—now a round will-‘o-wisp that lacked all traces of the woman inside. Not since the night of the attack had Her Majesty appeared as herself. Four nights ago, the archangel carried her to this safe ground, laid her ghostly body upon the altar, and watched helplessly as the Queen turned her soul away from the world. Since then, Marutia had prayed and prayed, beseeching God to restore Her Majesty’s form…

…but it was no help. It was not for want of strength that the Queen remained weak and numb.
The pain of betrayal was too great, Maurtia suspected, especially for one who was perpetually showered by her subjects’ love.

The archangel also suspected that God did not wish for the Queen to wake. She wondered, in her heart’s darkest corner, whether it was punishment for her own misplaced allegiance. God knows all—and so He would know that Marutia, Archangel of Sorcery, had secretly come to cherish a human woman above Him. Forgive me, Lord, and have mercy. She turned her eyes from the soul-orb, back up the ruined face of Dragonsbane’s statue. Do not send her down an undeserved path to ruin.

Hours passed, each marked by another prayer for Her Majesty's soul.

Then somebody else approached the chapel. The faint snapping of a twig was enough to alert Marutia to another presence, outside in the wood. [ADDENDUM: To be properly included in the narrative, somewhere. It was not because her senses were particularly keen, though they were certainly keener than those of ordinary mortals. Rather, the Green Chapel is situated in an unusually silent portion of the Fairy Wood; there the air is both sanctified by the power of the chapel, and profaned by the image of Dragonsbane. Elsewhere in the forest, the soundscape is rife with the noises of magical creatures. There, not even the wind makes a sound.] The angel drew herself up, with pain shooting through her knees and a dull ache in her stomach. She stood at the chapel entrance, hand poised over her sword hilt, and listened.

After five minutes, nothing more could be heard. Even so, her empty stomach still roiled at the presence of evil. Something is here for the Queen, she realized, or soon will come after her, once it knows that she rests here. She turned back towards altar—and when she did, something moved in step with her shadow. Marutia shouted a word in the tongue of angels. Behind her, at once, the intruder turned and fled. She saw leathery black wings, the snout of a pig or dog, and a coat of coarse dark hair...

She darted out in pursuit—but before she could clear the moss-eaten archway, the demon let loose a horrible scream. "God preserve us..." Marutia muttered. She could hear it thrashing about, pounding its body against the ground with a series of dull thuds.

Sword in hand, spell on her lips, she flashed from the chapel in a blaze of heavenly might; but instead of an enraged demon, she found a dead one. The imp was impaled upon the quavering, half-formed sword of a ghost. A ghost, an apparition, a shade. It was a vagrant soul of some kind, though evidently much weaker than Her Majesty. The silhouette faded in and out with the moonlight, sometimes long enough for its clothing and armor to become distinct, but never to the point that Marutia could see its face. It seemed to be looking at her, though. It seemed to be expecting something.

What is your name? she asked him.
That was a much safer question than, say, "Who are you," to which a ghost could answer anything.

Edgar, it said. My name is Edgar, of Fort...

...Londe? she finished for him. Her message was tinged with hope and assurance of an ally.

The ghost seemed displeased, or confused. Of ... of the fort. I've brought friends.

Marutia was about to respond, to inquire what sort of "friends" the shade had brought into the grove, but the message fell flat before she could send it. Nestled in the trees and brush, hovering indistinctly in the night air, were hundreds of dim, quavering lights. From them, snippets of words and half-words fell upon her mind's ear. It was nigh overwhelming, and she could not shut it out.

For those who could hear it, the silence was broken by a murmuring chorus of the dead—all betrayed soldiers, whose pain and distress were their only tethers to this world. Though they had no hands with which to hold anything, they reached feebly toward the chapel...

We are Queen's men, the ghost of Edgar insisted. Queen's men, Queen's men...

Marutia looked back to the chapel. She could feel Her Majesty's soul stirring inside.


Days 'Til the Queen's Awakening: 3
 
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SwagStarIV

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Ϡ KidD and Trisk | Outside the Palace, 1 Day before the Queens Awakening

KidD had just entered the confines of his laboratory, an off brand dispensary for tokens and other miscellaneous items, and was heading to his personal office. Trisk, following behind, stated, "KidD... I know you've been waiting to try these for a while but... These aren't your normal herbal remedies." KidD looked back with a devious grin and dashed to his office. He slammed his door behind him and began to pack a small wooden box with the herbs. After he finished he looked up and was startled by Trisk sitting on his desk. She then stated, "That's a little much don't you think? At least be careful with the dosage." KidD removed one of his artificial fire tokens, and placed it into a slot on the bottom of the box. In the next few seconds, KidD found himself in a state off euphoria. The vibe was so intense, in his mind he was standing still staring at Trisk, while in reality he was rain dancing and singing his sentences. KidD said, "Trisk! These fairy herbs are out of this world. Why have you been keeping this from me? I love you soooooo much! I simply can't resist." Trisk watched KidD prance in circles until he fell and rolled under his desk.

Trisk began to search KidDs person and stated, "KidD I think you may have over did it. Usually we don't start our festival dancing until an hour in. How much did you put in ther-" When Trisk opened the box, revealing 3 remaining nuggets she exclaimed, "KidD! You're only supposed to take 3 max! If you take to many then you could die! How much did you put in here!?" KidD was still envisioning himself standing still in front of his desk witnessing a realm of colors that he had never seen before. His vision then showed Trisk embracing him, and beginning to gracefully touch his face. Once behind him she reach her hands in his shirt, and pulled him closer. KidD was in the happiest place he could be, when suddenly he rushed back into his body, burst from beneath his desk, and grabbed his board on the way towards his escape chute. Trisk, though startled herself stated, "KidD! Calm Down! You have to get a grip of yourself! Its just the dust! You can't fly! You're only slightly made lighter!"

KidD was shot through the chimney of his store. As he gazed down at the neon lights which read, Bank or Jank, he looked up towards the sun and saw various embers flowing off of the edges. He pondered to himself, It seems a lot larger than usual, but either way, "It is gorgeous..." KidD turned his body back towards the front. As he soared towards the castle, specifically towards the window of his royal confines, KidD placed a magnetic token in his bored and drifted towards his room. He could see a cloaked being in the room shuffling towards his closet. As he prepared to embrace the crook with his dagger, he crouched on his bored and prepared for impact. Once he did he clashed into the cloak and plunged into the closet, which was then locked behind him. KidD struggled to get out of the cloak, but was simply to intoxicated to sporadically deal with the occaision, so he calmed down and began to escape this dark cloth of suffocation. Trisk teased him from the other side, "Hey KidD... I have a treat for you the starts with a B and rhymes with fun!" KidD's mind began to wander from his thoughts of boarding to the wonders of Trisk and her riddles.

Ϡ Hitro Aer | KidD's Royal Lab, 1 Day before the Queens Awakening

Hitro came through the entrance on a hover board of his own. He heard KidD and Trisk speaking and had already figured out her riddle. He shot pass Trisk and went up the wall, eyeing the plate of food in her hand, and snagged it as he scaled down the closet door. Hitro rode the arch of the window and stated, "Thanks!" He grabbed the chicken off of the plate and rode into his own room. Trisk opened the door with haste, and KidD raced to see what the treat was. Not seeing any other apparent reward he eyed Trisk breast and looked around towards her rear. Trisk, though flattered, was far pass that mindset. She told KidD, "The answer was brunch! Come on... Think I would just hand the goodies out like that?" KidD waved off the statement, then realized... He was incredibly hungry. Trisk deviously snickered and stated, "Hitro has it." KidD turned to Hitro's Observatory and rode his board towards his colleagues room. Hitro rode pass KidD right after he entered and said, "Here you go! That chicken leg hit the spot! I'm good on the rest."

Ϡ Irene | Royal Observatory, 1 Day before the Queens Awakening

Irene was watching Hitro eat the fairy brunch from outsied the window. She was flying off the ledge and had the best spot to stay away from the hormone driven Hitro. Then she felt hands on her shoulders. "Aaaaiih" It was Trisk. Trisk asked, "So what you doooing?" Irene, though in a panic, mustered the reply, "Well thanks to you and your fairy dust Hitro is going to be hotter than a comet! It's one thing to deny a man who has no true care in what he ask for. It's a completely different ball game when your dealing with a man who knows what he wants and will do anything to get it. Especially when their as honest and genuine as Hitro!" Trisk cut her eyes and stated in her flirtatious manner, "Ooooh I get it. First your little hubby takes my special brunch and hogs it to himself, then you hide from the rewards? Hahaha sometimes I just don't know Irene..." Irene then stated, "Stop! This isn't funny! First it's the calling. Him beckoning for my presence. Then it's eyes... Oh sweet feather of nexus, Those eyes! Then comes the true battle..."

Trisk asked, "The True battle?" Irene continued, "Yes. He starts to get all friendly and close. Smiling and teasing me in every direction possible. Then I'm confused, trying to figure out what a cod is, or if he really meant cause but the fluctuation of gravity between every movement of his lips are so radically interfered by the WAVES OF RADIATION HE HAS BEEN POISONED WITH it just so happens that it sounded like, what is now apparent to me, the name of a fish. Now I'm thinking about water which is something that I obviously can't handle right now and there goes my defense. I'm now melting into every word that simply goes in and out of my now physical cranium, yet also is coming out of his oh so graceful frame of a body. Worst of all... My body is now naturally craving something that is mutually wanted, unlike the majority of the time that I spend with him, so could you pleeeease stop hovering over my neck like that? I'm starting to get that rush in the chest." Trisk then questioned, "Anxiety?"
 
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