Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for violence.
Madam Viasra flew down the hallway, her body practically ablaze. The effect was made all the more vicious as her red hair shimmered in the torch light, bringing out cold, angry eyes. Dr. Akdel kept his distance behind her, giving the Madam enough space to herself--and enough space to where he could dive away if she decided to blow. It was rare to see Madam Viasra this furious, even on a bad day. Truth be told, he found his own mind clouded with betrayal and distrust toward his Queen. He didn't agree with the Madam's decided-upon course of action, but he wanted answers just as much as she, so he went along with it.
How could she be pregnant? The Queen--their Queen--with a child inside of her. The very notion was impossible due to two very prominent factors: Firstly, the Queen hated men and could barely tolerate them, hence her near-complete female staff. Secondly, the Queen hated children, and was infamous for killing a disrespectful child a few years after she had taken the throne. The incident had proven to all that the Queen would likely never have children, and the throne would fall to her closest advisor. It was a dark, chilling thought in the back of the minds of all the advisors; the battle to the end, where the favorite gained control of everything. An heir would not only complicate things, but also put the Queen in danger. If any one of them wanted to kill her before it was too late, this was the perfect time: two birds, one fatal stone.
Slamming the dark-wood double doors open, the Madam dared to send a dagger-like glare at the Queen, who lounged on her throne. "My Lady, I must protest against your recent holding of informatio--"
Immediately there was a thick sense of intrusion in the room, causing both newcomers to the room to stagger ever-so-slightly backwards. Both advisors were taken even farther aback--in fact, nearly thrown to the floor--at the sight of an entirely new face leaning in close to the Queen's ear. The man--it took a second glance to insure that he was, indeed, a man--had long dark hair; very similar to the Queen's own dark chocolate brown locks. His hair was clasped at the base of his neck in a ponytail of sorts, the jagged ends of the strands flitting about his lower back. His pristine black and violet suit was the last either advisor could truly see of him, for their eyes were suddenly filled with the bright flashes of distress and panic. Where Dr. Akdel suddenly felt faint at the prospect of an intruder who had gone unnoticed by all, the Madam shrieked and hurled the closest, most unfortunate vase at the figure. Afore-mentioned figure 'hit the ditch', so to speak, rolling several times on the cold tile floor before shuddering slightly at the pain of the impact. He remained still, and the Madam took advantage of the situation while trying to clear her eyes and compose herself.
"Here I am, trying to ask the Queen a bloody question, and I find an intruder attempting to kill her! Why, I'll wring the guards necks, I think. Wouldn't you agree, Dr. Akdel?" The Madam, becoming all the more flustered at the unexpected event, turned her face so that she could glance at Akdel. The other advisor had gone quite pale, his pupils small and his eyes wide. The heavy feeling in the air had most certainly gotten darker and more sickly, as if some piece of the universe had up and died and decided to rot right here in this very room. Madam Viasra suddenly felt extremely queasy, and turned her gaze back to the Queen.
As her eyes found the throne--the empty throne--it processed that a dark shadow was falling over her. The Madam fell backwards onto her bottom as a crushing weight landed on her. Feeling dangerously nauseous, Madam Viasra felt slender hands wrap around her neck and looked deep into the half-crazed eyes of her Queen.
"Close your eyes," her Majesty hissed, her voice rumbling strangely; the sound was similar to a hungry cat. Madam Viasra stuttered, unable to find words or form questions. "Now! That's an order, Madam!"
The Madam squeezed her eyelids closed, scrunching her face up. In the darkness of her mind, she desperately tried to put the pieces together. The Queen was aware of the unknown visitor, that much was certain. They had seemed close... like old friends. The aurora of companionship had only just processed in the Madam's mind, now that the panic of a possible threat had faded. Dr. Akdel had most likely fainted at the mere sight of the Queen's unexplainable anger. The Queen had gotten from her throne to flat on top of the Madam in less than a second, and... the visitor. Something hadn't felt right about him, nor the air that surrounded both him and the Queen. Had she and Adkel disturbed something? It certainly wasn't frowned-upon activities; the aurora was too grim. Maybe a new pact was being formed? All of the details flew inside of her mind aimlessly, barely connecting themselves into anything important. Both the Madam and her mind were horrid under pressure as of late.
The weight was lifted from her person, and shortly after the Queen grunted something like an order for the Madam to reopen her eyes. The Madam thought to herself that she truly wouldn't like to open her eyes at the moment, choosing rather to calm down. She was unexplainably on-edge, and could even feel the jitters rattle her spine. Why was she so agitated and shaken? All was fine; the Queen wasn't in danger, and she was still alive even after angering her Queen. And yet the sinking feeling of foreboding nibbled at her sanity like a goat to grass.
"Madam Viasra, I take it?"
The Madam felt jelly-like shivers run up and down her spine at the equally jelly-like voice. Over-confident and egotistical, cool and collected, and on top of all: it sounded as if he knew something she didn't. So many things she didn't. She hated people like that.
Opening her eyes, the Madam braced herself for a giant muscle-man or even a strong Luminex of sorts. Instead she saw a symmetrical boyish face with a gloomy expression, lids heavy over pale gray eyes. Rectangular wire-framed spectacles took shelter on the bridge of his nose, and a small, nearly invisible scar could be seen over his left eyelid. What stood out plainly, however, was the abnormal characteristic that the scar had caused in the man's eye: his left eye had no pupil. The Madam shuddered again, slapping away the hand the visitor offered out. "March off," she spat as rudely as she could, struggling and wiggling until she could manage to stand in her irritating corset. The man chuckled at her efforts, declining to offer his hand again. Frowning, she mentally noted that if he did offer once more, she would likely take him up on it. She had been getting so chubby lately...
"My Lady," the man helped the Queen up from the floor--the Madam assumed she had lain there after releasing Madam Viasra--supporting her full body weight without much effort. Madam Viasra found herself acutely aware of the fact that the man had an abnormal voice to go along with his abnormal eye. It was too quiet and whispery for a man, and echoed too much. He probably wasn't human, but other than that, the Madam couldn't even begin to guess. The Queen leaned against the man, resting her head on his shoulder to whisper something hastily into his ear. Then it clicked.
Madam Viasra almost lost her eyes she widened them so fast; as for her eyebrows, they had nearly been fired up into the heavens. Was this man the cause of the Queen's pregnancy?! How... absolutely scandalous. And awful! And so hard to explain away... The public would go into a frenzy, and goodness knows what the nobility would do. As for the other advisors... kiss orderly conduct goodbye, and give greetings to chaos. How to fix it, how to fix it...
"I am unable to have children," the man breathed, his voice carrying itself throughout the room despite its low volume. The Madam almost jumped out of her skin, her eyes widening further. She found that her mind was simply not capable of processing this much information--this many puzzle pieces--in such a short period of time, and gave up trying to mentally put everything together.
"What makes you say that?" She huffed, crossing her arms and giving Dr. Akdel a good kick in a half-hearted attempt to wake him up. He let out a soft snore, and she grimaced. The man chuckled again, the sound eerily quiet.
"I also doubt the nobility truly has any say on the matter of the Queen and her decisions." He added, eyes hooded and carefully observing her. Madam Viasra might not have been able to piece it all together, but she was able to define one thought clearly: this man made her uncomfortable. She had been used to living in a purely female-dominant environment for many years, where the men hardly pitched a fight over breakfast, let alone serious matters. But here this man was, quite obviously pushing her metaphorical buttons, testing how much he could get away with. "She is, after all, the Queen, Madam. Unless you had forgotten?"
"I... I am aware of the fact; I have been under her service for many years."
"What was that supposed to mean? You've been under her service for many years, you say; we all know that, so why voice the obvious? Or was it that you needed to remind yourself?" The man was suddenly right in front of her, leaning his face close to hers. Too close. The Madam flinched back, baring her teeth. "Is it that you have a slightly guilty conscious, Madam? So guilty that you have to remind yourself of your service--and loyalty--to your Queen?"
She panicked and backhanded him, her singular silver ring cutting into his skin. The action was so unexpected, even the Madam herself was taken aback. However, she did not apologize. No one said a word, nor did they move. Finally, the man chuckled in his awfully irritating breathy way, stepping back to flick his finger across the gash. Droplets of blood arced through the air, fizzling away into nothingness. The gash was gone, and all signs of an injury--including the small amount of blood on the Madam's ring--were gone. The man smiled deviously, running his finger down her cheek before spinning on his heel and returning to the Queen's side.
Both the Queen and the man exited the room--making it apparent that the advisors were dismissed--before she could even ask the questions she had wanted to originaly. Why was the Queen pregnant, and why now, blast it?! And who was this new face? She hadn't even gotten his name, and he had managed to tip her over the edge of fury. On top of that, she couldn't help but feel that the man had won something... and it nearly killed her.
"I think, my Lady, that it will be a girl," Theta said softly behind the pages of her book, making sure to hide her face with the leather-bound paper. She heard the Queen jolt and look up from her paperwork, felt the hard gaze as it bore into her skin. Almost like a silver bullet, she couldn't help but think. The thought of it made her silently laugh.
"What makes you say that?"
"It is my personal opinion that you would be incapable of raising--or even birthing--a boy, your Majesty."
The Queen snorted. "And what makes you say that, Theta?"
The advisor smiled to herself, wondering why the Queen bothered to play this verbal game. The likelihood that the Queen already knew where this conversation was going was high, so why bother trapping yourself into a trap you've already seen? "My Lady, you positively hate men and males collectively; no matter the species, no matter the age, no matter the position. You might be able to tolerate the presence of a submissive male for brief periods of time, but even then you couldn't stand a personal relationship."
"Why do I get the feeling we aren't talking about the child anymore?" The Queen sighed, leaning back into her feather-stuffed desk chair. Glancing up, Theta was surprised to see that the Queen had donned her spectacles, which was a rare event. Her power must be fading from either over-usage or under-usage of any one of her advisors, namely her Reaper. Or perhaps she was simply growing old.
Theta smiled brightly, lowering her book so the Queen could see her expression and read her lips. "My Lady, who is to say we ever were? Even from the first sentence, I dare say you expected every word that fluttered from my mouth."
"How poetic of you to say," the Queen grumbled, pushing her chair back to stand. She walked over to Theta's chair--too elegantly for a pregnant woman, Theta noted--and leaned in close to the advisor's face. Theta gave her a sideways look, not fully turning her face to greet the Queen. The action was an obvious act of defiance, and most certainly a test of authority. To Theta's shock, the Queen looked away first, lifting her head to where her eyes could not meet Theta's. A flash of painful emotion trotted through the Queen's eyes, nearly bringing tears forth. How queer. "What do you want, Theta?"
"What makes you think I want something, my Lady," Theta asked quietly, returning to her book. The Queen slumped to the floor next to Theta's reading chair, resting her head on the advisor's lap. Theta kept her face blank, but inwardly she writhed in excitement. The Queen was growing weaker with every day, which meant Theta's own suspicions were likely correct. This choice--this child--would destroy the Queen and all she had worked for if her Majesty didn't tread carefully.
"You always want something. All of you--every last one of you--always wants something from me. I can tell when you're really itching for something when you start twisting that web of words, trying to manipulate me into saying everything you want me to say."
"Now who is being poetic?" Theta chuckled, running her fingers through the Queen's hair. Her Majesty, in turn, made a little sigh and closed her eyes. Keeping the smile firmly out of her expression, Theta allowed her own eyes to close as she dropped her book. "As for what I want, my Lady, I think that, for now, this shall do admirably."
The Queen exhaled sharply in slight annoyance before letting her breathing even out once more. Both women saw the Queen's mistake; she had displayed a weakness that could not be taken back, so why try? It was several minutes before Theta heard the Queen release near-noiseless snores, and by then the sun had gone down outside and the birds had ceased to chirp. Theta listened to the paperwork the Queen had been working on crinkle in the gentle breeze that came from a partially opened window, watched the trickle of fire fade and die out from several lit candles in the room, and felt the air grow cooler.
Finally, the smile broke from inside of her and twisted her lips into a cold grin.
"How uncharacteristically affectionate of you..." She whispered, swiping her fingers down the Queen's dark hair. "Larana,"
From afar, two pairs of eyes stared intently into the darkness, their gaze set solidly on the flickering light of the window in the distance.
"Eh." The first one grunted, frowning. "I'm confused. What the 'ell is happenin'?"
The second one smiled in both amusement and understanding. He could recall when he, too, had been so blind to the exposed display of emotion that most beings allowed to be seen. "The white-haired woman was looking for something in the dark-haired woman; I'm assuming the dark-haired one is a royal figure of sorts, considering the way she was treated. That makes the white-haired one an advisor or something equivalent."
"Well, look at her. The royal figure put her head on the advisor's lap. This displays one or more of two things, see? Either the royal figure showed inferiority to the advisor--thereby exposing a weakness, or the royal figure unknowingly revealed something else. Likely both, judging the way the advisor is grinning."
"So we might need to observe the situation a bit more before we dive in head-first into the beast's mouth."
The first figure blinked blankly before rolling his eyes.
"What ever ya' say, kid. What ever ya' say."
"So I'm beggin' ya', please give us the fundin' ta' repair the walls, m'Lady!" The peasant cried, his eyes pleading from his position on the floor at the Queen's feet. Theta , arms crossed, glanced at the Queen, waiting for the orders to kick the filthy sod out of the castle. To her surprise, the Queen did nothing.
The aurora that surrounded the Queen was less than focused and stern. In fact, this fault in her usually iron-solid arrogance was the only reason the boy wasn't soiling his pants from anxiety and fear. Sharing a quick look with the Queen's newest advisor, a rather gloomy dark-haired man, Theta moved to the Queen's side a rested her hand on her Majesty's shoulder.
"I-it would aid the surroundin' farms an' such, since raiders an' the like wouldn't want ta' wander close to a well-guarded, nicely built wall." The boy stuttered, sensing the weakness that tainted the air.
Suddenly the Queen screamed, grabbing her stomach as tears trailed down her face. Theta, shocked at the unexplained outburst, wrapped her arms around the Queen and dropped to the floor. She felt the Queen's back ripple strangely and nearly vomited when her Majesty's shadow wavered wildly on the ground. The boy gasped, crawling away from them in blind terror.
"Her shadow... it ain't... it ain't right--"
The Queen shrieked, the sound piercing and hardly human. She knocked Theta to the floor and slammed her fist into the dark-haired man when he attempted to approach. Both advisors struggled to regain their lost breath, watching helplessly as the Queen dug her nails into the boy's skull and jerked his head to the side. The boy--no more than eleven years of age, the brave fool--let out a final cut-short wail before he fell to the floor, lifeless. Then the Queen, too, fell to the floor and began to sob.
"He saw... he saw... he saw..." She whispered, her eyes wide with raw panic that threatened to evolve into insanity. Theta winced and stood shakily, staggering over to the Queen's side. Thankfully the Madam and Dr. Akdel were both away on royal business, else this situation would be much more complicated. Akdel with all of his dramatics, the Madam with all of her questions and suspicions. Theta's extreme, near-obsessive with the Queen would raise eyebrows and walls of caution with those two around. She tsked angrily, holding her arms out to the Queen. Her Majesty, completely out of character, dove into the supposed safety of Theta's embrace and began to cry harder. Blood trickled down her chin from her parted lips, causing Theta worry.
"My Lady, calm down. What's wrong with you?" Theta murmured, flinching when the Queen buried her face into Theta's white hair. With a shaky, struggling intake of breath, her Majesty revealed the one thing Theta had been suspicious of since day one.
"I... I'm scared of my shadow," she whispered just as her shadow began to visibly struggled against the Queen. The Queen immediately coughed up blood, nearly drowning in the crimson liquid. Theta could hear the Queen's bones crackle against the force of the unruly shade. Theta held back a scream of terror and a session of vomiting, choosing instead to hold the Queen tighter. Her mind whirring, Theta tried to process what this newest turn of events meant for both her and the Queen. "I'm scared of my shadow, Theta!"
"Larana--" Theta started, knowing she was stepping across a dangerous line as she called the Queen by her name.
The shadow fizzled in and out of existence and finally settled back into a lifeless state, releasing the Queen. Her Majesty instantly fell into Theta's lap, unconscious and bleeding heavily from the mouth and from various cuts that had formed all over her body. The sickly red liquid began to seep through the Queen's clothes, painting both her and Theta in crimson. The dark-haired man limped over to Theta's side, touching the Queen's head gently.
"I fear that, soon," he said, his voice eerie in the way that it echoed in whispery rivers through the air, "we shall lose our Queen, be it to death, or something far more... complicated."
Theta nodded solemnly, her heart heavy with worry for her Queen. She felt it too, so thick it nearly choked her. The Queen would be replaced by another, and her Majesty would be lost for a long time, if not indefinitely. It was only a matter of time. Only a matter of time.