Miscellany

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10
The Once-Lovely Queen

And some more flash fiction from FB: Her power was waning. And so was she.


She had been beautiful, once.

The queen turned away from the mirror, but then forced herself to turn back, to acknowledge what she had become. Time had taken its toll, of course, as it does to all, but magic had taken its toll as well. Her hair, once the color of flame, was now rusty straw that straggled down over her thin frame in its soot-black gown. Her formerly ruby lips had paled; her skin was parchment now, thin and dry. And her hands…well, some spells left a mark when you used them, and to cover these she had gradually progressed from wearing fashionably low necklines to high, short sleeves to long and then to dripping lace cuffs and finally to gloves because the marks on her fingers were especially telling to a knowledgeable eye.

Luckily, she’d gotten rid of most of those years ago. Nobody in the kingdom now knew the ways of magic, and she had been brutal about maintaining that ignorance. The marks of an inheritance of power were now thought by the people to be the marks of a curse, and most infants so marked never saw the waning of their first full day. Those who escaped death, whether through parental ignorance or foolish love, were upon discovery a death sentence for the entire family. The people believed the ‘cursed’ infant bodies were buried in some secret place on hallowed ground, to protect both their infant souls and the village as well, but that was a tale with barely a drop of truth in it. She ate those children, consumed their power through the new flesh, and had the bones buried in a graveyard deep in the woods whose stone walls and stout gate had been erected by magic and were guarded by spirits of the damned.

There had been no bones buried in the graveyard in quite some time, however. And with no refreshment of her power, it was waning – and so was she. She frowned at the reflected image, shaking her head. Unless she wished to dwindle to a stooped hag, something must be done. A new source of power must be found. She raised a hand to the heavy crown she wore, and her frown deepened. Someone else would have to be charged with this task, for she could not leave and had not enough power left to compel the services of daemons nor enough beauty left to bewitch some hapless man into a more willing servitude. She pushed her straw hair over her shoulder and allowed herself to turn away. She would think on it, and come up with a way to lure someone desperate and foolish into doing her bidding. If she were clever enough, they might even be convinced they were doing a cursed queen and her dwindling kingdom a favor.

 

Deep in the woods, a child sat atop a stone wall, swinging his feet. The little pipe he held to his mouth poured forth a sweet, simple tune, and at the base of the wall a mist was gathering…

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