Stone Hearted; A Shadow Queen's Tale

Mercilessly, blood dripped from the Queen’s parted lips. She sat on her throne of bones and decomposing flesh, her long, black fingernails were steadily tapping on the elbow of a rotting corpse that was posing as her armrest. She sharpened her teeth and ran a pink tongue around the crimson blood staining her lips like cherry lipstick.

One eye emerald green, the other icy blue. She grinned and stood as her throne room’s doors banged open, her welcoming mask folded over her face— not that it was much use with all the blood stains and blackened horns she’d worn like a warriors paint since the robbery. The crew’s leftover bodies lay scattered around her like unwanted trash beside the highway. She tried to keep her eyes on the hired assassin, the scariest man alive, as he entered slowly, his boots crunching on and crushing the necks of the dead.

“Shadow Queen,” he bowed.

She smiled and sunk into her throne, her gown was ripped at mid-thigh to make it shorter, but her cloak hung lower. “Yes? I believe you have astounding news for me, Gourdoni. I hired the best trackers, afterall.”

Shaking, he stood from his stooping bow. “We were not able to catch the thief, my apologies, my Queen.” He looked pointedly at the dusty black glass case sitting in the darkest corner, protected by a thorn fence, highly venomous to humans. Shadow Knights and other Underworld monsters also hover around it. “We lost the thief in the underground tunnels. Whoever he is, he knows the place unlike the others we encountered, we believe he’s from the lower villages, he was headed that way— south.”

The Queen stands up quickly, knocking over a dancing blue flame on a standing torch. The shadows hiss, clawing out for Gourdoni. They take him by the throat and lift him five feet into the air, using the Queen’s anger as feed. His legs twitch and spasm while the shadows reach for his jugular vein, slowly penetrating his smooth baby-like skin.

The Shadow Queen of her realm orders the Shadow Knights to release him. They do and Gourdoni falls to the stone floors, spitting blood, coughing and fighting to catch his breath. The Queen smiles at the fear blossoming in the most scariest assassin alive. She floats forward, her upper thigh exposed, the strapped blade glistens against her black cloak. She lifts her dark staff, swirling with bloody crimson and ashy fog, pushing Gourdoni’s face up. Blood trickles down his chin, she leans forward at the sight. Her thin— but surprisingly strong— hand grabs him, touching the warm blood lightly as it rolls down his ghostly white face.

“You are to get my stolen heart and its thief,” her eyes bore into his red eyes, the eyes of a demon, her staff lay at her side, one hand on her stained blade, the other cupping his weak chin where fangs peak below his upper lip. “That’s an order,” she says sharply, “and I will not repeat it. Get my residents and servants into the arena stands. I believe I have a message.”

She releases him and he scrambles to his feet, manages a small bow, and hurries out of the room and down the corridor. The Queen grabs her suit, blood staining her palms, a staving look settled within her darkening mis-matched eyes. She pulls on a wolfish grin like a light. A selfish, painful grin. Throwing a glance at her empty glass case, where her stony heart once was sealed, now stands empty, the glass shattered and sparkling on the sticky floors.

Her heels click down the hallway, eyes flitting. The shadows trail her like a fog, wrapping around her waist and following her. The black mist never slackened, only darkened with her fire-like anger. She used her abilities the close the curtains where biting sunlight snuck through. The shadows chuckled at the snuffed out light, as if to bully it’s failed attempts, they began whispering to the Queen. She nodded and used her hands to wave them off.

Entering the arena, her peasants and servants stared in awe and a mixture of fear bound with praise, their ruling queen rarely showed her face, never walked out into crowds. But this time, there was a certain hardness in her face, nearly pain. The crowd gasped when she waved a pale hand, all the doors slammed shut, their locks clicking at once.

“I have a bit of news,” the Queen’s voice was like metal on metal, like a car crash in the arena. She simply crossed her hands. Gourdoni shrank back against the wall, the shadows mocked him and laughed at his fear. The Queen’s demonic presence was almost overwhelming, like too much expensive perfume mingling in a small room.

“My heart has been stolen,” the Queen continued. “I have a reason to believe the thief lives in my outlying village,” she pauses, turning to a strange sensation from her left. A pair of milky, hazel eyes stare back, standing out against the crowd even though the boy is sitting, reclined. Rather relaxed for the occasion he’s been called into. “That means,” she scans the crowd of her people, “the thief is in this room.”

On her order, a simple flick of the hand, the shadows dart from the corners of the huge stone room, the black and silver diamond chandelier shimmies as they dart past, searching the crowd, smelling and sensing, reaching deep for the thief that cowers.

“You knew better than to go into my throne room,” she roars to the crowd, slamming her staff down. The ground shakes, the chandelier calls out again, rocking violently, twinkling against the pressure in the room. “And now,” she walks to her throne on the inside balcony calmly, climbing the winding wire staircase and sitting atop the plush seat at its peak. “And now you’ll pay.”

She caught the reclined boy watching her again, his amazingly calm eyes nearly smiled up at her. She stared back, cold and hard, deep as a river. “Find him,” she whispers to the invisible Shadow Shifter at her shoulder; it’s her most feared creation. It shrieks, vibrating through the room. The crowd instantly throws their heads down, shielding them with their hands, screaming into their laps, their eardrums burst, bleeding. The Queen stands on her platform.

“Thief,” she roars, “step forward or I rip your family apart to find you. Your people, your friends.” When she sees no one step forward, she grins her widest grin, stretching from ear to ear. “Children first. Limb by limb,” she growls to the Shadow Shifter. The beast suddenly makes itself visible to the crowd, shaping into a ten foot tall monster, sauntering into the arena while the children are plucked from their mother’s sides, crying and kicking, by the arms of the Shadow Knights. They chuckle with their new game.

A mother screams, darting for her child only to be caught by a blade protruding from her chest. It happens so fast, the crowd doesn’t see it until she crumples to the pit’s saw chipped floors, crimson blossoming like a rose on her chest. She doesn’t twitch, but her five year old baby toddles over to the corpse, patting her shoulder and calling her name.

“You monster!” Someone screams from the crowd. The Queen straightens her crown, twisted with black thorns, and dripping with human blood, resembling a crooked halo at best. At worst, it resembles the feared queen she is known for being.

She smiles, licking her bloodied fingers while the children wail as they’re dissected, piece by piece, limb by limb. “Oh, honey,” she chuckles, shaking her head as she bounds down the stairs, ascending the stands, stopping at the woman and lifts her chin. “You’ve seen nothing yet, my darling,” the Queen says calmly, snapping the woman’s neck with one hand, with one flick of her wrist. The woman spasms and gurgles. At this, someone stands straight up in the crowd.

The Queen twists to see who has come forward while the rest cower, shrinking away from the Queen’s bullying shadows. A boy, her grin widens impossibly. She holds out a delicate hand to her shadows. “Cease,” she orders. They stop mid-action, a blonde eleven year old girl is crying out to her father while her arm is snapped and pulled away from her being. The father is frozen in time, his eyes welled up, a single tear falls and trails like a train on a track, knowing its place. The Queen drops her hand from the air, “I believe we’ve found something.”

“I stole your stony heart,” the boy says calmly, dressed in sweat pants and a T-shirt. He shrugs, “What better way to get your attention, than to steal your heart?”

He falters, disappearing from the air. Seconds later, he reappears at the Queen’s side. He smiles solemnly, ruffling poofy hair, “I suppose we might need to talk about you and I, and the team we would make. Afterall, ‘a Queen is nothing without her King.’ You said so yourself.”

The shadows grab him as soon as they read the Queen’s thoughts. Humans flinch from the shadow’s flesh eating touch, but the boy stays just as calm. “Put him in a dome cell,” says the Queen. “I’ll deal with this thief later, I suppose.” She turns to her crowd. “Clean up your loved ones or I’ll bring them to my den, where they’ll be used as scraps to feed the…“ she pauses, smiling, “the 𝘤𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘵𝘶𝘳𝘦𝘴.”

“I could jump from this spot to your side again. But I suppose that wouldn’t be becoming of I.” The boy is being floated away in the air, calmness still etched into his features. “Where there once was softness,” he nearly whispers, yet it still catches the Queen’s ear, “now had all turned to stone,” he smiles sadly, but still meaningfully. The Queen knows those words all too well…

»——> To be 𝕔𝕠𝕟𝕥𝕚𝕟𝕦𝕖𝕕...? <——«

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