Posts Tagged ‘Red Snow’

The land of Susiname lies the south. It takes a strong minded adventurer to wander along the silver coastlines. To delve further into the deep forests Is a quest not for the faint of heart.

It was a land of monsters. Giants, trolls and other monsters of the unspeakable variety roamed deep inland.

Susiname was also a kingdom of great division. King Desmond died. It is told that he faced the great Malwock Beast in protection of his kingdom but the beast had the better. With it’s poison the king was turned to stone. A monument was erected in his memory at the gate of the Genya Estate (home of the Susiname royalty). Some say it is merely a monument. Other’s believe that it is the petrified king himself who lies beneath.

The kingdom erupted into a civil war. A new king could not be chosen. Desmond’s daughter, Asana, was but a child of six. Blood was shed but before a full scale war was declared among the Dukes, King Roman of Navaria, a powerful neighbouring kingdom to the North and King Benjamin of Elgany, another powerful neighbour stepped in and brought peace to the troubled land.

Control of Susiname was given to those who owned the respective lands within the kingdom. It kept peace for a time. Beneath the glorious sun kissed surface, beneath the noses of the powerful benefactors, lay a horrific injustice. The Counts were unsatisfied with their gains. They wanted more. They needed labour to toil their lands and the labour was expensive. A trade began in human lives. Sold into slavery were those who had nowhere else to go, those deemed lower in caste and those who had no means of paying their debts.

Susiname had its monsters, but for each new child born into slavery there was a desire to escape into the unknown, no matter what they would be up against.

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Another dead and the town had gathered. Set deep in the Mendelov Woods the village of Caster was hidden from the wider world. The timid people had presumed themselves safe until recently when bodies began to be found, torn apart as though from wild animals.

A bear or a wolf,” a recently widowed woman cried, clutching onto her children. “What ever it was it ripped poor Frank to pieces.”

The town mayor raised his hands to try to calm them. They were frightened. They hadn’t seen anything like it before. Frank Islay was the most recent but it had been happening more and more lately. Frank had been found close to the village entrance. He had been torn limb from limb. His eyeballs were ripped from his skull and what remained of his face was shredded beyond recognition. Only a lvoing note from his wife that he carried in his pocket had identified him.

It was no bear!” one of the village elders called. “I’ve read about this kind of thing. It used to happen all the time. It is some kind of monster.”

The town erupted into a frenzy.

We’ll have no talk of monsters,” said the mayor sternly. “There are no monsters in these parts,” he grumbled. His twinkling blue eyes met the gaze of his grandchildren. He didn’t want them to be frightened.

There are monsters. I have seen them!”

The gathering acknowledged as a stranger amongst them. He had been with them ever since the killings began. He had sat quietly in the tavern every evening before retiring to the small room he rented. No one had conversed with him. Strangers were always welcome in Caster but since he didn’t seem willing to share they left him be. Now they turned to him as though he had answers to life itself.

My name is Edgar Scholtz,” he announced. “I have seen attacks like these before.”

Edgar had a captive audience so he continued.

They prey on the evil amongst us. The liars, cheats and thieves.

The widow sobbed. “My Frank was none of those things,” she protested. He was a good man.”

Edgar thought about it for a few moments.

None of us are without misdeeds to our names. A stern word at the dinner table could be enough to invoke the wrath of this creature.”

The mayor himself was now intrigued. “You say you have faced these monsters before?”

Edgar nodded. He smiled just enough to be charming but not so much to seem as though he wasn’t taking the situation seriously.

They are of an ancient magic that is the blackest ever found. They are drawn from pure souls and sent in search of sinners like hounds on the blood trail,” Edgar explained.

The crowd gave a collective gasp. They considered themselves good people but there were misdeeds they had committed. If we take a closer look, haven’t we all?

The creature you face is called a Hangram and I will stop them.”

Are you ready to face the Hangram?

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There were no features on the image, just the outline of a woman’s frame. Black and white except for the prominent red rose that the silhouette held in her hand. Helena had only been a maid at Castle Kroestov, in the snow covered land of Navaria, but a few weeks so she was still acquainting herself with the many paintings that graced the walls.

The silhouette didn’t look towards the artist. Instead she offered a delicate profile with a soft outlined nose, long elegant neck and slender, statuesque frame. She reminded Helena of the old queen – Francesca. Having been dead many years Helena had only seen her in pictures but the resemblance to the silhouette was incredible. A title beneath the mahogany frame read ‘Dust and Devotion’. No artist laid claim to the work.

Helena smiled. Never before coming to Castle Kroestov had she been surrounded by so much beauty. She reached out and graced the intricate pattern carved in the frame before wiping it with her dusting cloth. She then drew her finger softly over the head of the silhouette and down the face. She felt a sharp pain fire from her fingertips to her head. In her mind’s eye she saw Francesca. She was on horseback, her long flowing black hair caught in the wind. Her blue eyes raged with anger but her lips held a serene smile. The scene appeared to be set on the outskirts of a village, at the very edge of the forest. Francesca was surrounded by adoring villagers but a man was before her who didn’t share their admiration. A thick rope was tied around his neck. His hands and feet were bound and the ropes were harnessed to three horses. He said nothing but his eyes were leaking emotion.

Declare your dedication to me,” spat Francesca. “Or be returned to the dust of the earth.”

The prisoner shook his head. “I will never devote myself to a witch.”

Francesca removed herself from her horse. She pushed into the crowd and drew a little girl from amongst them.

Eleanor!?” gasped the prisoner, recognising his daughter.

Francesca gripped the girl close to her side with one hand and wove the long fingers of the other through the girl’s fair hair. “Daddy thinks he is above the rules I have set forth,” said Francesca to the girl. “Isn’t that rather naughty?”

Eleanor nodded her head in agreement.

Do you think I should have him torn apart for such defiance?”

This time the child did not answer. She stared at her father with a torrent stupefaction only a child unschooled in the cruelty of the world could muster. “I don’t want my daddy to die!” she sobbed.

Francesca tightened the fingers that were in the girls hair and pulled at it. “What did you say?” she asked with a severe snarl.

The little girl began to cry. She tried to pull away but Francesca’s grip was too strong. The tearing at her hair was a numb pain compared to seeing her father captive.

You will watch the horses tear your father to pieces and then you will be next.” Francesca looked behind to her people. “Pistol!” she barked the order. One stepped forward without hesitation, placing a pistol in the hand Francesca had freed. She thrust it towards the little girl. “Horses don’t like the sound of gunshot. It frightens them and when they are frightened they run with all their might. You can pull the trigger.”

Annabelle, Francesca’s closest friend, had been standing close by watching the scene unfold. Becoming frustrated she snatched the gun and fired it into the air. The horses that the prisoner was tied to screamed. They reared and dashed in opposite directions. The prisoner was dragged across the rocky floor briefly before his body was torn. Francesca’s supporters held her horse as tightly as they could so he wouldn’t run too.

Francesca threw the little girl to the ground, sobbing in horror at what she had just bore witness to. Francesca’s lip curled as she stared at Annabelle. Annabelle could feel her breath struggle to gather in her chest. “How dare you interfere like that,” said Francesca. “I was amusing myself.”

Annabelle could feel a tight grip from inside her chest. Her heart pushed against it as best it could. “That man was never going to change his mind. We were wasting a beautiful morning,” she gasped.

Francesca’s nose crinkled. The pain in Annabelle’s chest seared. Blood began to pool in her mouth. “One way or another he was ending this day a corpse. You still have the daughter. She is ready for a lifetime of torment,” Annabelle managed. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

Francesca looked at the Eleanor still sobbing on the ground. She laughed and released her hold on Annabelle. The little girl was dragged onto her feet by an invisible force that Francesca summoned. Her face was awash with tears. “I’m going to take you to a new home,” Francesca warned the little girl with venom. “Perhaps I will eat you slowly. One little bit of flesh at a time.” She pushed Eleanor back into the arms of Annabelle. “Bring her with us,” ordered Francesca. She turned her gaze to Annabelle and spat, “I’m not done with you yet!” She climbed back onto her horse. Her followers lingered behind as they made their way back home.

Annabelle pushed Eleanor in front of her. “Move!” she barked.

Helena stumbled back from the silhouette. She couldn’t decipher whether the scene she had relayed in her mind had been real or if the gloomy castle was causing her to imagine things. She stumbled from the dream. She looked at the silhouette again. It was serene, silent. Black and white except the blood red rose. The silhouette had quite a tale to tell…

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Ravensedge is a mighty kingdom perched high on the Elinway mountains. The king’s residence in the Sparrington Fort had been an impenetrable fortress for generations. The old king, Alfred, had died leaving only his daughter – Princess Anne. With no male heir, Alfred had made a selection amongst his trusted Knights Guard as a suitable successor. Sir William Raleigh had been the most obvious choice. William was a noble knight, a learned man and if the rumours were to be believed, already held the heart of the fair princess. However, to the astonishment of the kingdom, Alfred chose instead Sir Henry Deveraux to be his son in law and therefore king of Ravensedge. Henry too was a fierce knight but he had always struggled to best William in tournaments. Henry focused on his accomplishments more than his learning. Anne didn’t care too much for him either. Something had inexplicably changed Alfred’s mind. The wave of support Alfred had shown towards Henry spread. Anne married him and he was crowned king. Like a creeping curse the people of Ravensedge followed Henry without question. Only Henry himself knew how he came to be on the throne and he would show no mercy to those who would uncover the truth.

It was a warm day in Ravensedge. The sun was high and strong. A cool breeze flowed down the mountain to the luscious greenery and the Wilton Woods that lay at the bottom. King Henry was holding court in the Kings Hall. It was a long room with thin slits for windows. The floors were a heavy marble. Henry sat on the throne of Ravensedge as his subjects brought their concerns to him. The queen’s chair beside him was vacant.

Henry could see that Sir William was eager to speak so he leaned his head on his hand, stifling a yawn and ushered him forward.

You look a little anxious, Sir William,” said the king. The gold of the crown that circled Henry’s dark feathery hair glinted in what little light the room allowed.

William raised his chin and stood proudly. He would always be Henry’s closest rival, even if no one seemed to remember it so. “It’s been several weeks since the death of King Alfred. It was always his wish to demonstrate the might of Ravensedge across the kingdoms. Now would be the best time to do this. If Your Majesty agrees that a suitable time of mourning has passed.”

A smile broke on Henry’s thin lips. Before Alfred’s travel away from the mortal coil the people of the court barely looked at Henry twice. He was of no noble blood and fought tirelessly to be taken into the Knight’s Guard. Now that they asked his permission for everything he was given a great deal of satisfaction.

You’re suggesting that we go to war?” asked Henry. “To what end?”

As the king’s dark eyed focus narrowed on him, William ran his fingers through his thick blonde hair nervously. “Imperialism, Majesty, pure and simple.”

Henry laughed. “I like the way you think Sir William. I have always wished to see the kingdoms of Navaria, our closest neighbours, draped in the black and yellow of Ravensedge. It would also be quite a boon to have the wealth of Elgany at our disposal.”

William’s gaze dropped to the vacant chair. “Will the queen not be joining us?”

Henry felt a flutter in his stomach. He was angry what he should be asked such a question.

She needs her rest,”he replied, probably saying more than he should have. “Pregnant women can be terribly fussy. Only her own maids will see her until she gives birth to my son.” The court was watching him. Their judgemental stares caused his own to lower to the ground. “You impudent knave!” he barked. “You have no right to ask of the queen.”

William bowed low. “I’m so sorry Your Majesty. I meant no offence.”

Henry stood as tall as he could. His chest heaved. “You have overstepped your bounds too many times. I will have your head if it ever happens again.”


When the court had cleared Henry told his aides that he wished for some time alone.

I’m not to be disturbed,” he warned.

Of course, Majesty,” said the young squire. He was an apple cheeked young boy who hailed from a long noble lineage. Henry had never learned his name. The boy dashed off to see that the knights and nobles met the king’s demands. Henry removed his crown and sighed. He wiped the sweat from his brow. The crown was a much heavier burden than he ever imagined.

Through the Kings Hall was a narrower corridor that led to the south west of the fort. Along the corridor lined images of previous Ravensedge kings, watching Henry with judgemental stares like those of his court.

‘What do they know?’ grunted Henry to himself. ‘They had the throne handed to them by birth. They didn’t have to struggle as I did to become king. Kissing the arse of some old fool just so he’ll give me a second glance and perhaps consider letting me marry his daughter.’

His thoughts carried him through the corridor and up to the second floor of the south west tower. He had the only key to the room. He kept it on him at all times. The long, black, iron key was too important to be entrusted to inferior hands. The door opened with a soft click. As it swung open he was met with a shrill shriek. Anne had thrown herself in the corner. Her flowing, white gown was stained with blood. The stain was heaviest around her pregnant stomach. She was holding a silver dagger in one hand, the other was splayed like the claws of a cat. Her magnificent hair was in disarray. She looked more like a mad witch than a queen.

Henry pulled the dagger out of her clutches. “What have you done!?”

I will never bear your child!” she screamed. “My womb is for regal children and will never be infected with the dirt of your seed!”

Henry slapped her. She stumbled backwards.”I am your king,” he roared. “You will bear me one hundred children if I order you to do so.”

My father never wanted you,” she spat venomously. “You are a useless knight then and a joke of a king now. My father wanted William.”

Henry threw her onto the floor. “I am the only one who knows you are here. Where did you get this dagger?”

Anne was breathing heavily. At first she refused to answer, until finally she said, “I will never tell you.”

Henry growled, “Now I have to fetch a doctor. You are lucky you didn’t kill yourself you stupid whore of a woman.”

As Henry locked the door again he heard crash as Anne threw her piss pot against the other side.

When Alfred had first chosen Henry as his successor, Anne had been as compliant as the rest of them. Now she remembered the struggles Henry had trying to prove himself against William. Whatever bewilderment the kingdom had fallen under it was wearing thin. Henry was running out of time.


It had been a trip to the surrounding Wilton Woods where everything had changed for Henry. He had been frustrated by his constant humiliations trying to beat William, the king’s failing to acknowledge him and Anne’s refusal to offer him a second glance. He met a tall, skulking creature named Benedict there who offered him the chance for all his dreams to come true. A month had passed and all his dreams were beginning to take the shape of nightmares. He had to find Benedict again. He had to make Anne succumb to him and have his child. With a son of true royal blood his rule would never be questioned again.

He waited at the same spot he had first met the unusual man, until darkness began to charge across the sky. He was preparing to leave when he heard a rustling in the foliage of the forest floor. There was Benedict again. He was so pale he almost glowed in the dusk.

I get the sense I don’t have a happy customer,” he said with an underlying shrill malice. A wide grin spread from ear to ear.

Anne hates me. My knights want to go to war. It won’t be long before they all remember.”

Benedict emitted a throaty laugh. “You were warned that ambition can be toxic. You can only control people for a time. Sooner or later their minds become their own again.”

Henry became flustered. “I need more of the drink you gave me. I need to secure my place as king and then it won’t matter if they have their own minds. They won’t be able to question my crown.”

Benedict stretched out his arm and turned the palm to the sky. A small glass vial appeared containing luminescent green liquid. “Now I want you to be sure of this. The last dosage left quite a bitter taste.”

Henry snatched the vial and gulped down the contents. Benedict watched him intently. “Aren’t you going to ask what the price is? Ambition like that doesn’t come for free.”

Henry climbed onto his waiting steed. “If it will make Anne bring me a son and controls my knights I don’t care what the price is.”

I’ll seek you out when payment is due,” called Benedict as the king rode back to his castle. “You will care for the price,” he grinned. “And you will pay it.”

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Check out other Red Snow fairy tales exclusively on this site:

A Trail of Ashes (A Red Snow Tale)

Whispers in the Woods (A Red Snow Fairy tale)

The Unwanted Throne (A Red Snow Tale)

The Tower (A Red Snow Tale)

It has been done. I have left it all behind. The last sight I had of my kin was of them burning, begging for it to be ended. Still pleading with me to stay with them. It was disgusting.

My lover still claimed me to be the one for him. I removed the heart from his chest. The blood was still warm as I devoured it. So great was my fury that they tried to stop me and greater was my horror at what the love of the king had made me see.

Tessa, the eternal child, was the last to speak. A curse she warned me of. That was laughable. Her power could never match mine for I was queen and only an immense power could keep them in check. I possessed that immense power. She quipped about a plague that would follow me to my new home and a tragedy that would befall all those who crossed my path.

She said my new husband would be driven insane by the images of what I had done. My misdeeds would forever flood his fragile mind. She said that food would spoil rotten in my mouth, my skin would burn at the touch of silk and any children produced from my marriage would suffer from cradle until they begged for death.

She doesn’t frighten me. She will be forever in the form of a child because of the power I hold over her.

My home has been reduced to ashes in my wake. The evil of its people forever banished.

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Also on this site:

Whispers in the Woods (A Red Snow Fairy tale)

The Unwanted Throne (A Red Snow Tale)

The Tower (A Red Snow Tale)

The gulls cried and the waves crashed. The island kingdom of Alnwick had been consumed by two weeks of mourning. King Robert had passed and now his eldest son Malcolm was the rightful ruler. Malcolm was preparing to abdicate his throne. His birthright was a burden he had never wanted. In the cover of darkness he would depart to the East to live in quiet simplicity with Mae Ling, the woman who had stolen his heart.

Malcolm was strong and kind. He had all the attributes of a great king but since he wasn’t fully committed to his duty he felt the task lay better with his younger brother, Edmond. Edmond was equally as kind but he was but a boy of sixteen and not ready to rule a kingdom.

Malcolm looked out onto the sea. The salty air washed across his face.

Are you sure about this?” asked Edmond.

Malcolm lay a gentle hand on his brother’s shoulder. “The throne of Alnwick should only be occupied by a ruler who is wholehearted. My mind is constantly driving me elsewhere. I can think of no one better for our people than you, little brother.”

Edmond had always looked upon Malcolm with admiration but his decision to abandon his people was difficult to understand.

If you leave you can never come back,” Edmond reminded him.

Malcolm offered a smile, filled with warmth but lacking in intensity. “I leave today because I never wish to come back.”

Edmond opened his arms, wrapped them around his brother and embraced him. He lowered his voice and whispered in his ear. “You are a coward. You are running away from your responsibility and I will never forgive you. The moment you leave these shores you become an enemy of this real and as its king I will bring you to call.”

Malcolm stepped back, pushing Edmond away from him. He seemed a little shaken at first but then he laughed. “Save some of that fire in your belly for your council. You are going to need every last drop of it.”

Mae Ling approached them. “We have to go,” she urged. Her long emerald robes trailed in the soft white sand. A boat lay in wait for them.

Malcolm embraced his brother again. “Forget your childish tantrums,” he said. “If this is to be our last, we will not part in such a way.”

Edmond’s shoulders depressed. He clasped his hands together in front of him. “I’m sorry. I’m just upset.”

Malcolm sighed. “You will be king. You apologise to no one,” he said. “Learn that and you will be a greater king than I would ever have been.”

Will you not change your mind?” asked the younger.

The time for that is gone. For us this is goodbye.”

Mae Ling kissed Edmond on both cheeks. She took Malcolm’s hand and they crossed the beach to their waiting vessel.

Edmond returned alone to Eccleshall to face his people and accept his new place as king.


When Eccleshall was alerted the abdication of Malcolm, the mother of the princes – Jane – wept herself dry of tears.

I have buried a husband and today I lose a son,” she had said to her youngest, clutching his hand gently. She had aged rapidly in a short space of time. Deep lines had formed around her eyes which leaked despair. Her copper coloured hair had dulled.

You still have me mother,” Edmond kissed her hand. “You will always have me.”

The Queen Regent took a sharp intake of breath. She caressed her cheek. “You are a darling boy Edmond,” she said. “ Alnwick needs you.”

The Royal Council of Alnwick brought together noblemen from all round the island to the capital city of Harborough where Eccleshall lay. Not crowned yet, Edmond had chosen not to occupy his father’s throne but instead sat on a high backed wooden chair next to it.

The behaviour of Prince Malcolm is disgraceful,” uttered Lord Miley, a very stern man from the upper shores. He took no notice of Edmond. Edmond sat quietly and allowed the Lords to conduct their conversation.

We need to make this change as quickly and as smoothly as we can,” stated Lord Pilrick of the lower coast.

Lord Miley rang his hands in frustration. “What will the people say when it isn’t Malcolm occupying the throne?”

An argument erupted. Edmond stood. The Lords were too busy bickering over something they had already agreed they couldn’t change.

If I may,” Edmond called over them.

Lord Pilrick rubbed his ample stomach and bowed low. “Of course, his Highness must have his say.”

The Lords of the council stared at at them. Most of them had known him as a baby in his mother’s arms. He was an adorable, fair haired prince who they enjoyed seeing playing in the yards of Eccleshall and learning the princely traits but they would never see him as more than that. He was much beloved but none of the Lords took Edmond seriously as a king. Now that he had their attention Edmond had forgotten what he had wanted to say, if he had had anything to say at all.

I’ll do my best,” he muttered and sat back down.

Lord Miley said, “Of course you will.” His condescending tones where as good as a roll of his eyes. He was disgruntled that the little boy would play king whilst the adults attempted to conduct the true business of Alnwick.

Edmond had watched his father conduct the council before. Robert would never have allowed them to rattle on they way they were. Edmond knew he was failing before he had even been given the crown. He cursed Malcolm for his selfishness. He cursed his brother for even thinking he deserved to leave. Mostly, he cursed Malcolm for not taking him with him.

A heavy bell chimed alerting the council to a visitor. It was only with that the Lords silenced. An Alnwickian guard pushed open the door. He stood tall, stared straight ahead and bellowed, “His Grace, Justus Vosoloo, Royal Council of Navaria!”

In stepped a man with a looming presence. His fingers were laced in gold and his towering, muscular frame was clothed in the finest of red and black fabrics. His strong, square jaw was set in bemusement.

Alnwick welcomes Your Grace,” began Lord Miley, “But I must say, your timing doesn’t serve you well.”

Justus removed a golden handkerchief and wiped his forehead. The warmth of Alnwick bathed his soft, black skin in the dew of perspiration. “King Roman of Navaria has requested my presence here. He received word from Prince Malcolm that he no longer wished to be king of this great realm. He was instead leaving the duty to Prince Edmond.”

Lord Pilrick’s brow had knotted in a severe frown. “With respect, Your Grace, but what business is that of Navaria?”

None,” replied Justus. “My king just wished me to offer respect to His Highness. He was concerned that in the bounds of great knowledge of this council his little cousin may find himself overwhelmed. I’m here to observe and offer advice if called upon, nothing more.”

Lord Miley grunted. “This is a very difficult time for Alnwick. We do not need some foreign devil making it worse.”

Justus raised his voice slightly. His resonating tones danced around the walls of the hall. “I beg to differ, My Lord,” he answered. “This situation will only be difficult it you allow it to be. Of course I can only go by what I hear but I’m sure Prince Edmond will make a fine king.”

Justus crossed his arms over his chest, observing closely. Edmond stared at a portrait of his father that hung on the wall. It had been created early in his reign. Robert was a pillar of masculine strength. He was broad shouldered, strong armed and with a full beard. Edmond pushed himself to be something of the man his father was.

I want to speak to Justus,” he cried out. The Lords slipped into stunned silence once again. “Get out!” he called.

The looked at each other for approval before finally granting the prince his request. When they were alone Edmond gasped, the pressure from the council lifting from his chest.

I can’t do this,” he admitted.

Justus pulled him from the wooden chair and onto his feet. “Of course you can,” he said. “It’s in your blood.” He pushed Edmond onto the throne. “Don’t let them bully you.”

I still can’t believe what Malcolm has done,” Edmond stated.

Justus took the wooden seat. “Sometimes we take a path different from the one others think we should. A lot of responsibility has fallen on you but I’m here to help, Your Highness, or should I say, Your Majesty.”


The Alnwickian Lords did what they could to keep Justus at bay. His powerful presence at Edmond’s side had made things difficult for them.

With Malcolm gone they would have Edmond as a suitable figurehead on the throne. He would smile and wave at the people whilst they made the true decisions. Justus was encouraging Edmond to have more opinions of his own which was dangerous.

Edmond had been summoned to the hall. He tried carrying an air of superiority but it only resulted In his shoulders hunching. He tried to keep strong eye contact but every time he was addressed he would tremble. As a prince he had had no fear. He had given public addresses and he had held the crowd to his opinion but as a king it was more difficult, more real.

He noticed that Justus was absent. “Where is His Grace?” he asked. Some of the Lords looked up but none of them answered.

His Majesty would like to take a walk,” said Lord Miley.

Edmond had not made any such request, “Would I?”

Of course,” Lord Miley insisted. “It’s such a nice day and we would love to hear your thoughts on the future of Alnwick.”

Edmond was flattered. He was making progress with his council. Their true intentions were not apparent to him.

If he can form opinions, let him form ours,” Lord Pilrick had said earlier that morning.

They pulled the boy away from his Navarian guard dog. They were confident that by the end of the day they could have Edmond dismiss Justus and have him sent back across shore where he belonged.

As they were heading towards the gardens a young girl tried to push through. “Your Majesty! Your Majesty!” she cried, waving a note above her head. “I must give this to you,” she insisted.

Edmond felt a sharp tug on his arm. He was dragged away from the girl. “Who was she?” he asked.

Lord Miley and Lord Pilrick shared a stare.

She’s no one, Your Majesty,” said Miley.

Pilrick dismissed it as though it were of no consequence. “Just a silly girl, nothing to be concerned about.”

The reign of the puppet boy king began. Edmond never forgot the girl. She wasn’t seen around the castle and he worried that he would never learn the urgent message she carried until the of her return when the kingdom of Alnwick would erupt into war.

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The door creaked. The lock clicked. She took a seat at the finely carved oak table. It was a dusty old room in the farthest side of the castle. The narrow window would have offered a far reaching view of the sea if it weren’t obscured by stained glass. The sea roared against the rocks below as the wind raged a violent war through the early evening. The glow of a single candle was all that illuminated the oval study.

She reached below the table and from inside a wicker basket she drew a viper. The creature hissed at her but she had no fear. She spread its body along the table at full length. From the inside of her cloak she drew a dagger. Clutching it in one hand she severed its head with the other. She put the head to her lips and rested it there for a while before splaying her tongue and swallowing it. When she felt the chewed remains nestle in her stomach. She leaned her head back.

On this night, cold and dreary,

I will not lie hungry and weary.

Let them hear every word of my call.

Those who stand against me, in pain shall fall.”

Her incantation was disturbed by the shuffle of a child. Her eyes sprang open. In the corner was a heap of purple silk. She climbed to her feet and pulled the silk away revealing a cage, large enough to hold the biggest brute of a dog. Sat in the middle was a boy who had seen no more than eight summers. He clutched his knees to his chest and whimpered.

You’re disturbing me!” she snapped.

The little boy dared not meet her striking blue eyes. “I want to go home,” he sobbed.

She smiled. She clutched the bars of his cage. “The only way you are going home little boy is as chopped up pieces in a box. Would you really put your mother through that? Now shut up before I silence you completely.

She spat on the boy. The skin on his face where the sputum landed burned. He pushed himself as far away from her as he could but his efforts were fruitless. There was no safety to be found.

A knock at the door stopped her from moving any further. She rolled her eyes impatiently and threw the silk back over the cage.

Come in,” she ushered the visitor. The impatience was telling in her voice.

Her most trusted maid pushed the door aside.

Your kingdom awaits, Your Majesty.”

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