The Bloodless Queen
The marketplace was crowded with traders, peasants, merchants, and more. She scanned the crowd with piercing violet eyes. A pickpocket was just a few paces to her left. She shifted, allowing her worn leather coin purse to collide with her leg; it was still there. A trickler entertained a few drunkards and absconded with the inebriated men’s gambled money. A heavy set, dark cloaked man stood off to the side in an alley. Her eyes narrowed as he shrunk before her eyes, turning into an old man. A Morphius.
The roads stunk with the smell of rot and human decay. A few beggars sat along street corners. Her nose wrinkled at the stench of diseased flesh that rose from them. A few poorly dressed soldiers slumped at their posts, drunk, asleep, or simply uncaring. The squalor of the city made her ill. She tugged her steel blue cloak further over ash brown curls. She grit her teeth. What had happened to her city?
She pushed her way through the crowds, slowly making her way to the center of the city. A jade covered tower rose in the air. She glared at the green, shining tower. As she made her way closer, she saw a line of guards, standing a stone’s throw away from a high wall. She knew from experience that they formed a ring around the walls, a human barrier around the royal citadel. The muddied streets turned to snow-white cobblestones. The guards blocked the path, an unending wall of soldiers. Unlike the ones in the town, these were sharply dressed and at attention. Swords glittered at their belts, their forest green uniforms pristine and unwrinkled.
She made her way towards the human barrier. She was only a few paces away before sharp steel was pointed at her neck.
“I have an urgent message for Her Majesty,” she stated calmly.
“Leave, woman. The Queen has no time for your kind,” the guard answered coldly.
“Indeed. Even if I bear this?” She pushed back her hood. The soldier’s eyes widened slightly.
“Traitor! Blasphemer! Seize her!” She smirked. Hands grabbed her on either side, forcing her down. She calmly submitted as she was dragged over the white cobblestones. She couldn’t help but laugh inwardly. I’ll muddy ‘Her Majesty’s’ walkway, she thought to herself with strange glee. She was pulled roughly through a high, marble gate and matching courtyard, up white stone steps, and through high, mahogany lined halls. She smiled as she caught glimpses of familiar rooms, floors, and walls. She raised an eyebrow as she was led to large black doors. To the Queen herself, then. She must be desperate.
She was dragged inside a wide hall and flung to her knees.
“What is the meaning of this?” a cold, deep, but feminine voice demanded.
“Your Supreme and Gracious Majesty,” a soldier began, “this woman has blasphemed by wearing the mark of the Sovereign Heir.”
“Show me,” the voice ordered angrily. The soldier roughly snatched back her blue hood. She looked up through thick lashes, smiling broadly. A thick braid hung by her left temple, a gold chain woven through it. From the chain hung a gold medallion engraved with a raven’s head, encircled in silver. Her smile turned vicious.
“Hello, mother,” she sneered. Before her, on a glass throne sat a rigidly thin woman. Her jaw was sharp, black hair streaked with gray piled upon her head under a diamond studded diadem. A deep purple gown hung about her thin figure, emphasizing the violet eyes that mirrored the ones that stared back at her.
“My daughter is dead,” the queen replied harshly. “You blaspheme against this crown and are a traitor to your sovereign and your kind.”
“Says the woman who condemned her people to years of war and death to extend her own life.” The queen’s eyes narrowed. The alleged traitor rose to her feet.
“Kneel before your queen!” a soldier roared to her side. She did not turn, meeting the eyes of the queen.
“I am Calene Tabitha Nymira Iona Rendoleth, Sovereign Heir to the throne of the Triple Alliance, Defender of the Tri-Empire, Warrior of Air and Form, Princess of the ancient line, born of the Blood Queen Nymira Venessa Bathelie Rendoleth and King Consort Agnar Gryn Jonelle. I have never knelt before her in my life, and I will never do so again.”
“Liar!” The soldier unsheathed his sword.
“Hold,” the queen ordered calmly. “Iona…”
“I thought that would be the clincher.”
“The hidden name I gave my daughter. Only her and myself knew that name. Not even her father knew it. How did you come to hear it?” The princess rolled her shoulders. Suddenly, her dress changed beneath her. Worn brown cotton changed to blood red silk. It flowed up her legs, changing to tighten about her hips. It curled around her waist and up her torso till it fastened around her neck. Fabric receded from her upper back and arms, leaving her tanned skin bare. Beautiful, sculpted muscles stood out along her arms and shoulders. Black lace swirled around her torso. A slit in the dress revealed high, black leather boots. A matching belt was about her waist, with a sheathed, silver hilted dagger suspended from it.
“Is it not true, that the Sovereign heir was a Formia? A matter changer? But she was special, your daughter. She was not only a Formia, but also a Morphia. A matter and face changer, the first ever known to be born.” The princess turned slowly, her back facing the queen. Wings sprouted from her bare upper back. They were the black wings of a raven, increasing in size beyond the princess’ arms length. She turned back towards the queen.
“I know the name Iona because it is what you called me, the first time I flew above the courtyard below.” Iona glared at the queen. “I am your daughter, oh Blood Queen Nymira.” She spat the words like a curse.
“You left,” Nymira accused. “Your people need you, and you fled.”
“You chained me to the deck of a ship. You drugged me in my sleep!”
“And they found your body on the broken deck of that ship,” Nymira continued.
“And your mercenaries are useless!” Iona roared. “I trained them myself, did you think I could not beat them? Did you think, in all my years as your general, that I ever trained an army I could not win against? That I would be so foolish as to give you a weapon to harm me?” Nymira glared at her.
“My daughter is dead. She would never accuse me of such a thing as sending mercenaries against her.”
“I said no such thing, you made that connection,” Iona sneered. “Guilty conscience, mother?”
“Do not call me that.”
“I am your daughter. Do you deny what is before your face?”
“My daughter lost all right to calling me mother when she fled the battle when our people needed her. You are correct, she was the Defender of our people. Yet when we needed her most, she ran.”
“You forced me away because I sought peace. You brought the war upon our heads.”
“I did no such thing!” Nymira shouted. “The savages of the northern lands…”
“Sought revenge for the children your soldiers stole from them! The offspring you slaughtered for their blood! How many times did you inject yourself with their blood? How many times did you fill your body with the blood you stole from children to prolong your life?” The color drained from the queen’s face.
“Blood Queen. A fitting title. Not because you are the blood heir to the throne. But because you sit in pools of blood that keep you alive. Because your heart pumps blood that is not your own, but that which you stole.” Iona’s expression morphed into disgust.
“You dare,” Nymira whispered.
“Only your daughter would know of your despicable rites. The inhumane price of your own life. Do you still deny me?” Iona demanded, voice equally soft.
“You are not my child,” the queen whispered shakily. Iona growled. Her hair receded, leaving her scalp bare. Only the braid still swung beside her temple.
“Morphiae cannot hide scars, tears in the skin. Or especially burns.” Iona turned. An angry brand was on the back of her neck in the form of a raven’s head.
“I am the Sovereign Heir. This mark cannot be denied.” The queen sucked in her breath.
“Calene,” she began, clearing her throat. “Welcome home. I am sorry you have suffered such trauma, that it has so impaired your memory and…”
“No! I am Iona, not Calene. I face this as your daughter, not your Heir. And I have suffered much trauma, but all at your hands. No longer.” She pointed at the queen. “You, Nymira, have betrayed your people. You have brought war, famine, disease, and death upon the heads of my people. You tried to murder me and strip me of my birthright. And by the mark upon my head, I will avenge those who died in your wars. Those who you killed to extend your own life. I will not bow to you, traitor queen.” She drew the dagger from the belt at her waist. She slashed the shining blade across her forearm.
“Iona, don’t…” Nymira began. Iona sheared her braid off with her bloodied knife and allowed the blood from her cut to dribble onto the brown rope.
“By the ancient rite of succession, I cast the blood of my people against your throne. I name you betrayer of the Tri-Empire and demand my birthright in full. You will pay for your crimes against my people with your crown or your life. The price you pay is yours to decide.” She tossed the braid at the foot of the throne. Nymira swallowed.
“You would kill me?”
“To defend my people, anything. You taught me that. Or your words did.” Nymira stared at the ground. Slowly, her hands reached up to take the diadem from her brow.
“It is yours. Now let me leave, in peace.” Iona stepped forward, taking the diadem in one hand.
“It is not that simple, mother,” she hissed. “Guards, take her away.”
“Y-yes, Your Majesty,” the guards stuttered softly. No one would dare question the Rite. Not a guard, not a lord, not a peasant. If Nymira had given up her crown before even the lowliest of witnesses, it would be enough. Nymira met her daughter’s gaze. She sneered suddenly, her features twisting with hate.
“Long live the queen,” she hissed. Iona watched as she was dragged away. She placed the diadem upon her own brow.
“Long live the Blood Queen!” a shout rang through the guards. Iona’s gaze snapped up.
“No! Not the Blood Queen. Nymira has sullied that title. If we are to survive, our monarchy must be bloodless.” She breathed out hard through her nose, raven wings flaring behind her. Formia talents caused her dress to change color, red and black seeping from the fabric to leave it bleached white. She raised her head, letting her Morphia abilities run hot in her. Snow white hair sprouted from her burned scalp to curl about her shoulders. Her eyes shone dangerously, violet changing to cold grey. Her skin drained of color, turning ghostly pale: bloodless. Icy lips smiled victoriously. Against all odds, she was now their queen; and they would remember her name.