Sunday, September 13, 2009

Chapter Forty-Four

She should be readying herself, she knows. The ritual will be dangerous, and even weakened by the light of the morning sun, the Demon in the Mirror will not be dominated so easily.

And yet, the Queen cannot stop staring at her wounded hand and thinking of that Dwarf, that damned Dwarf. All her plans and predictions ruined by a heinous little creature and his snapping jaws.

She is dying, she knows, as her blood gives in, drop by precious drop, to the undead plague. At best, she has a day or two before the Dwarf’s bite will kill her, reduce her to a hungry, mindless corpse, trembling in the summer storms.

In one hand the Queen still holds a slice of her apple, steeped in the liquids of sleeping death. How easy it would be to taste its poison and leave this burden to another.

But, she wonders, could the apple protect her? Could it still her heart, stop the curse, and leave her waiting, dreamless and breathless, for love’s first kiss?

Does it matter?

No one would come save her, not in this doomed kingdom where the bravest of men fled like cowards, leaving the Queen alone to save them all with magicks darker than the tomb.

No. She is too important to remove herself from the game. She will cast her spell and carry on for as long as she is able. Two days is not much time, but it might be enough to save the world. And if it isn’t, then as the last whispers of her life fade, she will take a bite from her apple, and fall where she may.

Absently, anxiously, the Queen prepares the courtyard for the spell that must take place. Soon everything is in position – the red spider’s silk, the knife of bone, the golden bowl of water to catch the sunlight, and, of course, the Magic Mirror to view its reflection.

All that she needs is the blood, the sacrifice. Two gifts, a Dwarf and a maiden, sleeping eternally. Two answers to any question, two visions into the past or the future.

But what’s taking the mad witch so long? Could she not carry their bodies this far? Could she not think of a shape to shift into with such strength and mobility? Or more likely, did she give in to temptation and eat the girl?

Cursing her luck when it comes to lackeys, the Queen strides into the castle. Quickly she passes empty hallways and bloodstained corridors. The crone will certainly be punished for this delay. She should know the importance of this ritual.

The Queen steps into the Chamber of the Door, ready with an angry command, but the unexpected sight kills the words in her throat. Of the Dwarf and the maiden, there is no sign. In their place, a solitary figure lies bleeding on the floor - the plump, unconscious body of the witch.