The Dracorlla woman slinked into the castle. The castle seemed to be
a living thing, changing with each new master. The castle was thick and white, the walls glistened like the trails left behind snails. It shone with its own light. The spires and turrets were like broad spiraling pillars that held up the sky.
The forest stopped short of the castle, the land being cleared of it for hundreds of meters around on every side. The queen did not like the forest. She said that it was too dark, and things hid in the shadows within it.
The Dracorlla woman stalked the castle’s halls heading towards the main throne room. For her people’s sake, she served this queen, but only in body, not in heart. She paused before entering. She looked at her reflection in the castle walls, the abundant candlelight made her reflection move before her. She checked her hair, making sure it was neat and tidy. She brushed the road dust off her glossy green scales. The queen did not like anything or anyone to look untidy.
A Troat, the small goblin-like creatures that basically ran the castle and had done so since the beginning of time, ran out of the throne room chased by a scattering of silverware.
The Troat, dressed in little more than rags, looked up at the Dracorlla woman with her large frightened eyes.
‘L … Lady Kavain,’ the Troat said, bowing. Kavain recognized her voice.
‘Dorv, so … she’s in a good mood today?’ said the Dracorlla woman.
‘And clean that up! The light that fire immediately!’ screeched the queen from inside the throne room.
‘I … I …’ stuttered Dorv.
‘Go on.’ Kavain kindly dismissed the Troat who scurried back inside to grab the scattered silverware. She did so as quickly as possible but had to duck a flying knife that landed in the wall above her head with a twang. Dorv then ran past Kavain, bowing first and then scampering away.
The Dracorlla woman named Kavain, first of her name, pulled her back up straight. She cracked her long neck and wrapped her tail around one of her legs to keep it out of the way of possible flying objects. Then she entered the throne room.
The queen sat on her throne as God would sit atop the clouds, she stared down at the servants that still scampered about her feet, heads down. Her bones looked too big for her skin, too sharp, her mouth too large. She had more teeth in her mouth than Kavain, and that was saying something, but they didn’t all fit. It was like all her pointy, little teeth seemed to be fighting each other to get out in front, breaking each other in the process. Her eyes had become sunken in her face and the skin around them receded. Her skin had taken on a grayish pallor, like that of a putrid corpse. And when the queen moved, which wasn’t much, she scuttled like an insect, her joints no longer working like they once had. This is what happened to humans when they came to Evermeer. Eventually.
The throne itself was made of an opalite stone that shone with trapped rainbows in the bright chamber. A Troat servant mussed about the hearth of one of the many fires, but this one was unlit, something Kavain rarely saw.
The queen shielded her eyes with her hands and turned her back on the unlit fire. She peeked out from behind them for a moment and noticed Kavain walking into the room.
‘Ah, Dragon lady, thank the light you’re here,’ said the queen, clicking and pointing her fingers towards the unlit fire.
Kavain gritted her teeth and bit her tongue at the slur. Dragon.
‘Your Grace,’ she said with a graceful flourishing bow.
‘Get out of the way!’ screeched the queen to the Troat still trying to light the fire with a candle and kindling. Another piece of silverware, this time a fork, whizzed past Kavain and struck the Troat in the back. He winced and shouted in pain and backed away.
Kavain placed a hand on his shoulder as she passed. ‘You might want to move … and perhaps stop giving her things to throw,’ whispered the Dracorlla woman.
The Troat gave her a curt smile and rushed off.
‘Well, c’mon. We haven’t got all day!’ screamed the queen. Nothing she ever said was quiet.
Kavain fixed up the pile of sticks and logs so the fire would keep easily, then she opened her mouth and lungs. Fire roared from her mouth in a great rolling wave of orange and blue. And for a moment she thought of turning the fire’s fury on the hideous queen that sat behind her. But another human would soon take her place. They always did. One would skulk up from the Wastes to take the throne.
Sometimes, it is better the devil you know than the one you don’t.
She shut off the fire and turned back to the queen who unfurled herself from her hidden position. Kavain licked the residual flames from her lips with her forked tongue. The queen clapped her hands with happiness and Kavain smiled, but her smile soon faded we she realized that the queen was not smiling at her.
Kavain turned to see a Vulpex, a vixen if Kavain could judge correctly. She had a much more slender face than her male comrades and her coat was more orange than red. She was large, almost as large as the giant bear-dog that had threatened her when she was with the human girl. The vixen’s coat was ruffled and patches of down were missing from her wings. She had been in some kind of struggle. She also dragged a big black sack in her teeth.
The queen stood up from her throne, still clapping her hands with joy. ‘Elloware, my dearest! You bring me a present.’ She came down from her throne in her rickety manner, all backward gangly limbs and jittering movements.
Kavain couldn’t help the sneer that came to her face, but she tried to hide it by turning her face and readjusting a lock of her hair that had wriggled loose.
Elloware dumped the bag on the floor. ‘Yes, Your Grace,’ said the giant flying fox.
‘Well, show me!’ commanded the queen.
Elloware bowed her head and began opening the bag with her mouth and wing tips. She peeled back the bag and out rolled a small creature, its four legs were crumpled in on its self like a dead spider and its downy coat shimmered with many colors, iridescent like the opalite stone throne. Its mane spread out on the floor, glistening like spun sunlight.
Kavain couldn’t stop the gasp that came from her mouth. Likewise, the queen gasped too, but it was an entirely different sound.
‘A Ky …’ Kavain’s voice came out breathier than she expected.
The creature that lay on the ground before them was an ancient thing, from an ancient clade of beings. But these were different to anything else left alive today. They were made mostly of light in the way other beings are made mostly of water.
The queen wriggled and clapped with cruel delight. Kavain scowled at her. There was a reason these beings were no longer around.
‘I’ll get the blade,’ said the queen creeping off.
Kavain knelt down next to this magical creature. It was horse-like in shape and when standing would’ve barely come up to her knees. ‘It’s just a child,’ she whispered.
Elloware gave her a sideways glance with a raised eyebrow. Kavain stood up to full height and brushed smooth her ruffled scales.
‘Wake it,’ said the queen as she scuttled back to them.
Elloware roused the child Ky. It stretched out its little limbs, its hooves clacking on the cobble floor. Its big eyes blinked open and seeing the queen and the Vulpex above, it let out a cry. Elloware tried to hold it down and Kavain turned away to face the fire.
‘What’s its name?’ asked the queen.
‘Farla, Your Grace,’ said Elloware.
Kavain watched the beautiful flames dance as the screams of the child Ky rang out behind her. The flames reached up into the air as if they knew that something unholy and terrible was happening. There was the sickening thud of a blade striking flesh and sinking deep. The screams of the Ky became gurgled and the sound chilled Kavain’s blood beneath her scales.
She heard the queen whisper the name of the Ky and there was a whooshing of air all around them.
Kavain squeezed her eyes shut and tried not to shed tears.
Then it was all over.
Kavain turned back before the queen could really notice that she had averted her gaze. But she still tried to hold her head high and not look directly at the body on the ground.
‘Would have worked better if it had been happy first, but beggars cannot be choosers. Get rid of it,’ commanded the queen with a wave of her bony hand.
‘Yes, Your Grace,’ said Elloware with a slight bow and she put the creature back in her sack and began dragging it away. But not before glowering at Kavain.
It wasn’t that they disliked each other exactly, it was more of a mutual distaste for what they both did. Neither of them could believe that there would be another being that could stoop as low as they did, another that could stomach the queen’s dirty work. But they both knew that each had their reasons. And they were the same. Survival.
‘Do you have something for me?’ asked the queen, sitting once again on her throne. The queen now looked brighter, she radiated her own light atop her opalite throne. But to Kavain, she still looked like a dead thing.
Kavain approached the throne again, minding the smear of shimmering blood across the floor. ‘If you consider information something, then yes, Your Grace,’ she said, the disgust was evident in her voice, but she knew the queen was too self-involved to notice.
The queen huffed like an insolent child. ‘Information.’ She said the world like one would say cat vomit or rotting flesh or moist. She leaned back in her throne lazily, bored to death already. ‘You could’ve at least brought me something to drink or a gift or something. C’mon then, out with it.’
Kavain almost considered not telling the queen what she had come all this way to tell her, but she was there for a reason. Besides, what did she care what she did with the girl? She was only a human.
‘There is a girl. A human girl,’ started Kavain.
‘So, there are lots of humans in the Wastes. What do I care?’ said the queen, picking something out of her teeth with a skeletal finger.
‘This girl can … sing,’ Kavain said.
The queen stopped what she was doing and looked at Kavain with her dark, goggle eyes. ‘Sing?’ The queen let out a howl of laughter that made Kavain feel physically ill. ‘Has it really been that many years?’
‘I guess so, your Grace,’ said Kavain.
‘Are you sure it is the one?’ said the queen.
‘Certain, I saw the trees bend myself,’ said Kavain.
‘So … the prophecy is true … alright. Bring her to me,’ said the queen with a dismissive wave of her hand.
‘… Her whole body or just her head?’ Kavain asked.
The queen smiled her shark’s grin. ‘Bring her to me alive.’