The High Queen Sorceress (complete)
Author: jessicaw

Chapter 8
chapter 8

“All hail the king!” The announcement made her shake to the core. They were standing in the receiving room of the palace. It was a grand place with ceilings reaching higher than any tree she could ever remember seeing.

The windows stretched from the floor to the very tops of the celling, giving way to decadent white and grey striped marble ceilings with golden angels etched into the stone work. Flying buttresses arched across her head, holding the ceiling up. They were made of fine pale grey stone and had vines of delicately carved leaves wrapping around them, reaching up and expanding across the ceiling to form a sort of canopy. The angels sat atop of them, watching her every move. 

In between every third window was a thin strip of stained glass depicting scenes of benevolent and revered kings. In one, a king was depicted as Gralee, the God of wealth and power. In another, a woman with demon like qualities laid slain at the king’s feet. He held a sword above his head, fresh blood dripping from its tip.  In yet another, a woman was shown begging the king for forgiveness from her sins.  

The ground was paved in the same white and grey striped marble that was on the ceiling. It felt cool and soothing on her aching feet. The marble stretched before her and turned into stairs leading to the king’s throne. There was only one throne, a large, magnificent chair made from pure gold with more scenes depicting the king as he conquered both beasts and women. Winning wars, prospering, and bestowing favor upon his people. The cushion was made of deep crushed purple velvet and thicker than her head.

There were two thick purple pillows on the floor, one smaller than the other, but not by much. This was where the king’s wife and daughter sat. They were not considered queen or princess. Those titles had been stripped when women were branded as the enemy. Giving women titles gave them power and a sense of entitlement. Women were not allowed to have power and they owned nothing. “Bow, on your knees” She heard a voice say. It was the commander. She looked up at him and he gave her a look of warning. Quickly, she dropped to both knees and fixed her gaze at a speck on the ground.

There were dozens of people in the room dressed in all sorts of finery. They were mostly male, but a few women worthy enough dotted the sea of men here and there. They wore big hats and splendid dresses of rich yellows, handsome greens, and pale blues however, they wore no jewelry other than thin, plain bands around their fingers to show their marriage and all in all, even though they looked exquisite, compared to the men, they were quite plain.

The men wore fantastic tunics in every rich, bold color imaginable. They had shoes so pristine and shiny, that they almost sparkled more than the rings on their fingers and the jewels at their throats. Their hats were also extravagant, with large bright plumes sticking out of the caps. Any one of them could have been a king, they were all so richly adorned.

“All hail the king” The announcement rang out once more. The people split to stand on one side of the room or the other, the men dropping to one knee, the women to both. The men knelt their heads while the women were practically touching the ground.  The lower the bow, the lower the rank.  Only she and the commander remained in the center of the room. 

He nudged her and pointed to the ground. She bent so low that her forehead rested on the stone floor. It immediately sent pain running through the backs of her legs and across her back.           

Something swept past her. It was the shiniest, most magnificent pair of shoes she had ever seen. They were black and glossy with silver buckles. The buckles had purple stones encrusted in them. They were filled with white socks that were so white, they almost blinded her. She kept her head on the ground; her heart beatting faster and faster. She thought she might black out. This man was going to sentence her to death. She squeezed her eyes shut and imagined that she was a bird, soaring higher and higher, up, up, up to the heavens where no one could catch her. Maybe if she concentrated hard enough, she would actually turn into the bird.    

“All rise.” The voice snapped her back to reality like a hot coal placed on her back. Her eyes tore themselves open, but she didn’t lift her head. The shoes were standing in front of the throne. She waited until the shifting of people standing up around her had stopped before lifting her head slightly, but not rising. She remained in a bowed position. She could see the pale purple hems of the dresses of the king’s wife and daughter standing in front of their cushions. These women were going to watch her be sentenced to death and they were not going to help her. She thought she might cry.   

The King sat down in his chair and motioned for his wife and daughter to do the same. She could see the daughter’s face, watching her with an expressionless stair. She had sandy brown hair that had been braided and pinned up. There was a smattering of freckles across her cheeks and nose. Her pale green eyes stared into her with a look of oppression. At least this girl shared some of her pain.

“Read the charges” The king’s voice boomed. She felt the commander grab her arm and drag her to her feet. She stood limp in his grip as a man came forth with a large scroll.                                       

The king was a short man with a plump, round stomach. He was clothed in purple and red, the colors of royalty. He wore a red cap with a large purple feather atop of it. He must have had on at least thirty rings, each adorned with a gemstone as thick as her wrists.  Around his neck were layers upon layers of fine gold chains and purple and red gemstones. He had big bushy eyebrows and a thick beard. His hazel eyes were looking her up and down. She made sure not to meet his gaze.

The man unraveled the scroll and cleared his throat. He took in a deep breath and seemed to grow three feet as he stood up as straight and tall as he could. “This woman is here by officially charged with the murder of a sword smith with one of his own weapons. She murdered him in cold blood after breaking into his home in the dead of the night to steel his sheep so that she might use them in her satanic rituals and call forth Girelight to come down and devour the souls of everyone in the village;  leaving her to the spoils.” 

A horrified gasp swept through the room as the onlookers stared at her in disgust and repulsion. “And what do you have to say for yourself?” The king’s harsh tone made her feel sick all over again. “I am innocent” She said quietly.

“Innocent? Innocent!” The king laughed a deep and mighty laugh. “If you were innocent, you would not be standing here before me with so much guilt that you could not look me in the eyes. Oh no, if you were innocent, you would shout it out loud for all to hear. You would scream it at me! But you are not innocent, now are you? You stand before me with guilt written all over your face that is why you do not fight harder to object the charges brought against you. You are a murderer. A treacherous and vile woman.” He spat at the ground. His wife winced just a tiny bit, her dark brown hair braided and pulled back in the same fashion as her daughter. She had the same pale green eyes with the same look of oppression seared into them, but unlike her daughter, they were fixed on the ground. 

“What is your name, witch?” He asked her, rising from his throne as he did. He began to advance towards her. “Keara.” She replied, the word barely leaving her lips.                                                                    

“Keara” He replied, as he came to rest, inches from her face. “I, Haden, King of Galanda here by sentence you to death for your sins of murder and witchcraft. What have you to say for yourself?”

Keara felt a small pain in her back; the commander was prodding her, urging her to speak up.  She looked up at the king, tilting her head back until her eyes met his. “I am innocent.” She said, in a hard and resolute tone. “I am small and weak, orphaned when I was nine. My father abandoned us because you said he should. He left us to fend for ourselves; I have spent my whole life trying to survive. No one will help me or take me in. They give me no work, no food and no companionship. I have never had nice things. My mother was killed by your guards for a crime she did not commit. I have done no wrong; I have left the world alone even when I starved.    

When I was sick, I had no medicine. When it rained, I had no shelter. In the winter, I had no blanket. Your men took that away from me when they took my mother.  You took everything from me; why should it be any different now. All I have ever wanted was to be invisible. To stay out of people’s way and live my life. If you would allow a man to blame me for his crimes against someone so much stronger and more formidable than I, go ahead. I have no reason to continue living my life anyway.”     

She stood ridged in the commander’s arm. The king glowered down at her, shocked at such an outburst. The room was hauntingly quite. She stared the king dead in the face. A small fire of defiance bubbled in her eyes. No one moved a muscle.

His pudgy hand shot up and struck her hard across the face. She reeled backwards; the commander’s hand breaking away from her arm due to the force of the blow. She hit the marble floor and little bolts of light flashed before her eyes.   

The onlookers erupted in laughter and cheers. She could feel the dark wet blood leaking out of the back of her head. She closed her eyes against the pain as all the air in her lungs forced itself out of her body. She wanted to die.

She tried to lift her head, but it felt like something was pushing down on her. She lay pinned to the floor as her temple throbbed. “Guards!” She could hear the king scream. “Take this insolent little roach and teach her some proper manners!”   

She could hear guards approaching. A couple of bystanders were shouting words of encouragement to the king. “Give her fifty lashes!” “No! Make it a hundred” “Break every bone in her body!” “Burn the witch!”  The footsteps of the guards were drawing closer. She could hear the distinct ringing of the metal chains as they knocked together.  

“Your highness” A voice called out. It seemed like it was practically on top of her. “Your highness!” It called again. The guards were there, the metal chains knocking together and spelling out her impending torture.  

Slowly, the noise in the hall died down. The chains still clinked together, but even they did so in such a hushed manner, that she could not help but feel that they too wanted to know what the interruption was about.  She tried to look up, but was still pinned to the ground and unable to move.  She squeezed her eyes together as tight as she possibly could, trying as hard as she might to become one with the ground and dissolve into it.     

“State your name and business!” came the harsh, rather annoyed voice of the king. “I am Brine Joustafix, commander of the king’s personal gaurd second class.” Keara opened her eyes. She saw a purple boot right in front of her face. The other was out of view. She tried once more to get up, pushing harder this time. The thing on top of her head forced her back down, making her realize why she couldn’t get up. It was the other purple shoe. The commander was standing on her head!

 “Your highness,” He began, the honey dripping from his tongue as if falling off of a spoon. It was so rich she thought she could smell it. He bowed with a sweeping motion, his purple cape falling over his head, momentarily hiding the king from view. His eye caught hers and there was a look of warning. He did not want her to say a word. Within a second, he stood back up, the long cape brushing her grimy brown hair into her face. The movement of his foot on her head brought fresh pain to her wound; she thought she might be sick.

“Your most honorable and benevolent majesty, I am indebted to work for such a fearsome and courageous man as you. May your life be long and rich, your tables overflowing, your kingdom always safe and your bed never cold. I am inspired by your strong and decisive hand. That you would not let the impudence of a mere woman degrade you and that her lies cannot deceive you of what you know to be true and right. You are fair and just in your punishment to the wretched thing, but your majesty, perhaps, I think, maybe a bit too lenient on her as well?”

Keara wanted to cry. She thought this man to be good and just, but now he was asking for a harsher punishment against her. She could feel the tears welling up in her throat. They bubbled in her lungs and she felt like she was choking.    

“Lenient you say?” The King’s voice cut through her like a hot knife. “What then, commander Joustafix, would you have me do?” Bine’s foot shifted on top of her head, rolling it toward the ground. She was staring directly at the white and grey striped marble floor. “This witch coaxed a beast into the woods and killed one of my men while we slept.” The people around the room gasped and crossed themselves. 

“She is a witch, no doubt, but not a very powerful one. Torturing her for a little while then hanging her will keep her from harming anymore of us innocent men. However, it is a swift and quick punishment to put the thing out of misery. She killed my man hoping I would in turn kill her. I plead with your majesty to not let the little wretch off so easily.”  

“Killed one of your men by luring a creature into the woods, you say?” The king walked back to his throne and sat down, rubbing his beard with his fat, pudgy fingers. The gems that adorned them sparkled in the sun shine.

“Perhaps, commander, you are right, but what would you suggest to be a harsher, more tormenting punishment? Maybe we can parade her up and down the street to show the other would be witches their fate should they try to cross us?” There was chatter up and down the hall as people agreed with the king on what a good idea this was. Brine shook his head and held up his arms, calling for silence before continuing.

“Your majesty is clever and shows the intelligence of one hundred men, but allowing the witch to be shone off in public might rally the others to plot against you. We cannot kill all the women, then who would we have to do our bidding and pleasure us?”  

The chattering began again. Once more, Brine raised his hands. The king sat, quietly and intently, patiently watching and waiting for him to continue. “I ask that you let me take this wretch. I personally take major offence with her crimes against my men. Let me take her and use her to do my bidding, to show her what it means to be the filth of this world. She will live out the rest of her days indentured to me. I will make her wish she had died. I will make your punishment seem like a holiday.” He leaned on his bent knee, placing all of his body weight on her head.                                                                               

It throbbed and screamed in pain. She began gasping for air, fighting against his foot as yellow, red and black sparks glittered and twinkled before her eyes. He moved his foot down, across her face and onto her neck, applying so much pressure, that she could no longer breathe. Her hands came up and she grasped his foot, trying as hard as she could to pull him off. Her body was screaming for air. She began writhing like a fish on land, Gasping and pleading between dangerously shallow breaths for him to let her up.       

Right as she began to black out; he lifted his foot off of her. Air came spreading back through her body like the plague. She panted, propping herself up on her stick thin arms, sucking in air as if it had been the most decadent thing she had ever tasted. She was facing the floor, the grey grains swirling and dancing before her eyes as her arms threatened to break under her own weight.

The hems of the women’s dresses and the men’s shoes danced around her, blending together like a kaleidoscope.  Her entire body was heaving up and down, up and down. The dirty brown rags hanging off of her like leaves about to fall off of a tree.  

She could see a puddle of blood. Her blood. The throbbing pain in her head came shooting up. She crushed her eyes shut. She could feel wetness on her cheeks. The people around her began to laugh as a tear hit the inside of her chapped, cracked and bloody lips. She was crying.  

“Enough!” the king’s voice bellowed across the room. He rose from his magnificent throne and crossed the area between them. The commander nudged her, rolling her onto her back. She lay on the floor, staring up as the King’s round, pudgy face came into view.      

 She tried to hide the fear, hurt and sadness in her eyes, but he was reading her like an open book. His hazel eyes bore down into her flesh, ripping every last ounce of courage from her as easily as if he had of been pulling out her hair stand by strand.                                                                                                 

He looked to the commander with amused eyes. “And you promise that you can make her suffer like this for the rest of her life? A punishment more severe than anything I could have employed?“ Brine bowed a small bow. She could see his eyes. He did not look at her, but stood staring into the marble tiles.           

Without looking up, he replied. “Your honor embarrasses me with such compliments. It is not a punishment that you yourself could not have thought of, and one that I must confess, could better be carried out by you than I, but I hold personal issues with this scum, and it would bring me great honor and pride to be the one to make her suffer for her crimes.”  

The room was dead silent. The angels on the celling watched from their perches, passing their judgments on to her. Condemning her to burn on the plains of hell for everything unholy and tainted that she was.

The King let out a boisterous, whole hearted laugh, slapping his commander on the back. “Of course my boy, of course you are right. It is a punishment I could carry out better, but I am a kind and benevolent, righteous king, as you yourself have said. I will grant you the girl, if it pleases you so. But tonight you will dine with me!”  The room erupted in cheers and applause as the people yelled their approval.   

When all had settled down, the king’s beaming face scanned the room. It was a good day. “You can take her to the dungeons until you are ready to leave. Tonight, you will stay in my nicest guest suites and gorge until you pass out!” The commander bowed, honored by his king’s generosity. “Your majesty, I could ask for nothing more, but please let my prisoner share the room with me so that I might keep an eye on her tonight, lest she try to escape.” “Of course, of course!” The king bellowed. “Smart thinking my good man, smart thinking indeed! Guards! Take the maggot up to commander Joustafix’s room and get her situated for him. Have the maids draw him a warm bath and provide him with anything he desires. Call upon the chefs and have them prepare my commander’s favorite dish. Tonight we feast!”

 

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