Happy Fictional Fridays!!!! (I hate myself so much right now.)
Let’s get part two of this crappy story going.. (SPOILER ALERT: It’s a long one.):
Dus squinted through the darkness; the weapon threatening him dripped with blood. Her gaze was unrelenting fury, her presence- confusing.
What was the queen doing, out here in the woods alone?
She flashed a smile before speaking again, her voice filled with all the power and authority she had claimed for herself.
“Do you know who I am?” She didn’t need to ask, already knowing the answer from the recognition in his eyes. He replied, ducking his head in an awkward show of reverence- still clinging to the small hope that he might be spared.
“Yes, your majesty.”
“And are you loyal to me, peasant?” Her words snapped, filled with a greedy and entitled venom.
He did not hesitate, despite trembling in fear. “Yes, your majesty.”
She studied him a little while longer, before withdrawing her knife. She sighed and extended her hand; Dus wondered if it was some sick and twisted trap, but took it anyway.
Her grip tightened after he rose from the ground, and she snarled at him. She drew him in, closer. “If you so much as look at me the wrong way, I will not hesitate to slit your throat and feed you to the wolves.”
He looked down at his feet, unsure of what to do. He only responded with another uncomfortable, “Yes, your majesty.”
“Good. Now, you are headed to Garicton? I am in need of an escort as far as Fridbandagale, considering mine is… indisposed at the moment.” Dus felt an eerie tingle across his spine, noting her appearance. “You will be compensated for your trouble.”
“It will be no trouble, your majesty.” He fiddled with his hands, unsure of how to speak in front of a girl. Much less a queen. Much less the stuff of nightmares.
“Oh, good. Then the honor of my presence will be enough payment for you?”
He was just hoping to live through the night, cowardice creeping through his mind. “Yes, your majesty.”
They’d ventured off in silence, not stopping for any breaks along the way. When the sun peaked through the clouds, the young queen hid her red curls beneath her hood once more.
Dus only looked back a few times, cautiously, to get his bearings. He was careful not to make eye contact with her- in case she changed her mind about sparing him. She was known to kill for much less, after all.
Fridbandagale was a day’s journey from Garicton, according to his map. And if that were the case, she undoubtedly would be present for the spreading of the ashes. But that was the least of his concerns.
Because according to his old master’s writings, the first clue for the Sword of Morality lied at the Fountains. And how would he be able to explain that he was searching for a weapon to destroy all evil, to evil incarnate?
Before they’d left, he’d caught a glimpse of her flipped over carriage. And the carnage that surrounded it.
She hadn’t spoken a single word to him, scarcely acknowledging his presence. But the boredom of the slow journey had caught up to even the foulest of creatures.
“They betrayed me, you know. My men.” Dus was startled by the sound of her voice, unsure of how to react to it. “They didn’t think I could hear them, but I did. I listened as they plotted to kill me.
“They had set a trap. The carriage fell over. They were attempting to catch me off guard.
“But when they opened the doors, it was I who ambushed them.”
Dus wasn’t sure why she was telling him this, but kept his attention forward. “I know what the people think of me. I know what you think of me. I can sense you judging me now, the ruler of darkness. Wielder of all things wicked.
“But that is not who am.”
She rode up next to him, and he allowed his eyes to drift. Now in the glow of the morning, she was even more fearsome to behold. He caught himself speaking, before he even realized the words had begun to come out. “Then who are you?”
She glowered at him, before her attention darted off somewhere distant. “I’m a survivor.”
He wondered at her words, as they pressed on, searching to find truth in them. He marveled at what kind of life she must of had, what horrors she must have encountered to get where she was now.
He couldn’t help but feel a sliver of pity towards the ruler. But only a sliver.
There was blood still dripping from the hem of her cloak. He cleared his throat.
“Are you injured, your majesty?” Her eyes were glazed over- it took a while for her to respond.
“It’s only a flesh wound.” He could see now the dampness of the cloth around her middle.
“Maybe I should take a look at it.” She scoffed at him.
“What would you know of it?”
“I am, or was, a physician’s apprentice.” She stared at him, with an unreadable expression before halting her horse.
“Very well then.” They set up in the cover a a few clustered trees. She removed her cloak, revealing a stained, wet white blouse.
He grabbed a medical kit that had been stashed by the urn in a saddlebag, while she lifted her shirt only to expose the wound.
He examined it with confidence- it wasn’t as bad as it could be, but the gushing slice was far worse than a mere ‘flesh wound’.
“We’ll need to clean it out. And sew it up.” He reached for a bottle of ale, unscrewing its cork.
“Do you always drink on the job?” The queen questioned. He couldn’t tell if she was joking or not.
“This will hurt.” She nodded, putting on a brave face as anyone would.
He tilted the bottle. She screamed.
After several long days of traveling, they’d finally made it to the outskirts of town. Queen Zinnia had been healing nicely, though she threatened to kill Dus if he ever told a soul that she had cried.
She never said much about herself, rather quizzing him on who he was and what his life was like and what was it like to be a peasant and a physician and why wasn’t he a knight.
He found it easy to confess these things to her, considering whenever he did struggle for an answer she would threaten to break all of his bones and shove his own sword through his mouth.
They had reached the hilltops- the town just in sight. It was the gateway, that lead to the fountains.
One more hill and they would reach the entrance. One more climb, and his promise would be that much sooner to being fulfilled.
The longer time he spent with the queen, the more curious he became. She didn’t seem as cruel or evil as everyone thought, in fact, he was beginning to think that what she had said before was true. That she was merely defending her life in the choices she made. Surviving.
Perhaps her people had misjudged her. Perhaps he had misjudged her.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a glorious blur, whirling through air. It just missed the queen, whose horse bucked her off in fright.
Dus climbed down, to see if she was alright. But Zinnia was already on her feet, glaring at the source. A dark figure emerged, a bow in hand.
“Hello, daughter.” The figure sneered, taking off his hood to reveal a scarred and disfigured face. Dus recognized them immediately as burn marks.
“Father?” Zinnia gasped unsure what to make of the threat. It was odd, seeing her so vulnerable.
The man flashed a wicked smirk, and Dus grasped the hilt of his sword. The people had been quick to forget the wickedness of King Erebus. But he remembered. That man was the reason his own father died.
“You should have been more careful to be rid of me.” He glanced over at Dus. “Where is your guard, little queen? Did something happen?”
Zinnia’s eyes widened, realization seemed to smack her face. “You,” She breathed out, her voice swirling with disbelief. “You are responsible?”
Erebus snickered. “You think you have the people’s loyalty, but how quickly they forgot me. And now, behind your back they are rising against you. They think I can bring them peace.
“But when you are dead, and I am crowned, I will set fires to the villages as you set a fire to my chambers. And they will all burn.”
Dus watched as Erebus pulled an arrow from his back. The tip ignited into flame. He looked to Zinnia’s side- her wound had reopened, her shirt moist and red.
“You would punish innocent lives, over an accident?” There was a rawness to her words. The pity that Dus had begun to feel for her grew into something more- he suddenly understood her. He didn’t know what horrors she faced in the palace, but he saw in her now the same face he looked at in the mirror all his life. A broken human, judged on the sins of those around them. Except, she didn’t have the choice to be good as he did. She had to make the wrong choices, in order to stay alive.
“Fitting that you travel with a traitor’s son.” Erebus pulled back his bow, aiming for the kill. “Since you betrayed me.” The burning arrow whirled through the air, time beginning to slow.
Traitor’s son. Traitor. These words were an anthem that sang inside his heart.
Dus darted forward, pushing his queen to the ground.
The arrow connected, thudding into it’s victim’s chest.
***Writing Prompt: The hero dies for the villain? 😵⚔️😵⚔️😵⚔️
Tune in next week for the grand finale!!!! (Well, I wouldn’t say grand. More like ‘eh, it’s okay’.) 😝