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Ashana Lian's Fantasy Lab

Fantasy and Fantasy Writing from every angle: fantasy and sci-fi novels, films, artwork, superhero cartoons, children's and YA books, manga, anime, video games and comics. Put the microscope on 'Geek Culture'.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Fiction Friday: King Of Dreams

Inspired by this image; The Measure Of All Things, by Anndr Kusuriuri

They call me the King of Dreams but that does not make it so. They have no right to call me anything; they know nothing about my power, about the sheer extent of it.
       The real King, the King of Buillaird, came to see me in my chamber as he does every so often. He’d stand over my shoulder and watch me paint, and I would slow down on purpose to spite him. Art is the language of the divine. Such a thing is an art, it cannot and should not be rushed. Especially when what I paint changes the course of the future.

       Alright then, I’ve told a lie. My paintings do not change the future per se. I am a Seer, not a godforsaken meddler of a future no person could hope to understand until it happens.
       I see omens, then I paint what I see. The king takes the paintings, sits in a war room and decides whether it is a help or a hindrance in this great war. I eat, sleep, idle, and listen to the opposing army of Andles still trying to break down the outer walls of the castle. The king comes back, complains, orders I paint more and paint faster, and leaves to glut himself on food and wine.
       Sometimes, that tricky thing called fate allows us Seers what we call a conditional. This is when there is more than one future that is equally likely to happen, and I have to power to directly push the wheel of time toward one or another. To guarantee it, I paint it.
       “Hey,” the boy said abruptly, his tone hostile. He clenched his baton.
       “Shh, you’re disrupting me.” I said.
       “You’re not supposed to be painting anything other than the battle!”
       “I’m not,” I shot at him, despite that my painting was definitely of a woman. “She will directly influence the battle.”
       The boy narrowed his eyes and tried to tell if I was lying. “Don’t believe you.”
       “You don’t?” I sneered, “Well what are you going to do about it, then? Burn the painting? The omen that might change the tide of this war your people are losing?” With a self-satisfied smirk on my face I turned my back on the boy and picked up my thinnest brush. “Unless you understand my divine gift better than me, boy, be quiet – and go and get me some more silver from the stores.”
       His expression was tense. “What you’re painting... is that a future that will definitely come to pass?” The boy asked. He was becoming very annoying. He is the youngest warden the King of Dimwits has stationed to guard me, and I think I would have preferred the court jester, or perhaps a dog.
       “Yes,” I snapped. “All of my paintings are the guaranteed truth.”
       I didn’t mention that I can also “lie” in my truths, however... like changing the angle of the painting, making it seem perhaps that the Andles army would invade at dusk, not a dawn. Making it seem as though the queen is outside, in mortal danger, not in the castle garden. Omitting things is technically not lying. It’s great fun! It sends the King of Idiots mad with worry, and I just sit back and chuckle and eat my custard-topped strawberry tart, yum.
       “These painting on the walls...” the boy began.
       My nostrils flared as I sighed, irritated. He’d become so much more talkative after my stunt at the redday festival last week – it had been before this new wave of soldiers from Andles and the King of Insufferable Halfwits had thought that finally, after years of solitude, he would permit me out of my lavish prison of a chamber. I was allowed to view firsthand a very old castle that was falling to pieces. He flaunted me in front of his guests in the royal hall – and who wouldn’t, for I am rather beautiful – and he had my paintings all over his walls. But I marked all of my paintings with my own blood, so I told the King, “I foresaw this castle would burn.” and then I said a quick incantation I learnt from a light elf and my blood on each picture, under layers and layers of paint – and oh, what a sight! They all caught fire at once. The ladies screamed and fainted and the lords and soldiers shouted and wine was split and food was ignored... and I walked right out of the castle. Well, almost. I was almost at the great gates, I was almost outside where I’d be able to look up and see nothing but sky – when the king’s brute of a guard barrelled into me, growled, and almost beat me senseless before he dragged me back to my chamber and locked me in.
       But in one of my conditionals, I decided to send his squadron out to battle, knowing he would die out there. So who had the last laugh?
       “These paintings. What do they all mean?” the boy asked, looking around. Dozens and dozens of the same painting, in chalk, in pastels, in paint, in colour, in monochrome; on scrolls, or canvas, or napkins, or small squares of parchment. I observed them with frustration.
       For I have a puzzle, a puzzle I have tried to solve since my first day of confinement. I’ve been having a dream about a maze. Never walking through it – but above it, looking down on its structure. It had little scribbles here and there which might be clues, I am not sure. It’s a funny thing to dream about, I know. On every scrap bit of material or paper I could find, I drew it, over and over again. The King of Imbeciles slipped one into his sleeve as if I wouldn’t notice and went way with it. Evidently he did not discover that it was a curse against him and he’s permitted me to keep drawing it. I guess it doesn’t bother him. I thought once I drew it a certain number of times, I would finally understand what it meant. But after all these years, now it drives me mad.
       “If only I knew. Then I could finally take them down.” I murmured. He opened his mouth again.        “Will you hush and go get me that silver!” I hissed at him. Finally, with a dirty look to me that children really shouldn’t be permitted to use, he left.


        So, the King of Oafs paid me a visit today. He was accompanied by a new brute, who stood proud at the door in his soldiers uniform. His back was to the corridor, and his hungry eyes never left me. I rubbed the most tender place where the previous brute hit me last week and scowled at his replacement.
       “How are we doing, Blue?” the King of Buillaird asked.
       Blue. He thinks he’s so funny. All Seers have my pale complexion and naturally tinted hair. I personally think any other hair colour is ridiculous. And ‘we’! Why the ‘we’? I do the painting.
       He stood over my shoulder – don’t worry, I had the painting of the beautiful woman put aside and facing the wall – and watched me paint the castle, surrounded by the enemy. I admit, it had been a slow day for divination. I had trouble seeing beyond this point in time because the beautiful woman had filled my mind, her blue eyes and silver hair, and oddly pale skin.
       I had no idea who she is. But when a Seer’s mind is filled with an image, strongly and repeatedly, it is of great importance. Quite often, it is directly related to that seer’s good fortune, or misfortune. I hope she is my good fortune. But the maze, I have a bad feeling about.
       The brute said dangerously, “The King of Buillaird asked you a question.”
       “The answer will never change, Your Majesty.” I replied. “Such a thing as this cannot and should not be rushed.”
       The king’s smile turned into quite an evil leer. “Time is not our friend at present, Blue, make it happen.”
       The boy returned right about then and paused. When the King of Cretins saw the boy's salute, he laughed and patted the boy’s head. “How’s he been, boy?”
       “Working hard, Your Majesty.” the boy replied, which came as a surprise to both me and the king. “If I may give my own opinion, Your Majesty – he doesn’t take breaks, he divines all day. I think it makes him tired, Sir – er, Your Majesty. He does little else and sleeps very heavy.”
       The new King of Brutes howled his laughter and grinned wolfishly at the King of Buillaird. “Boys say the craziest things when they’re looking for a promotion.”
       “No, no, it’s an acute observation.” the king said, smiling. “I am already aware, son. Once, we had the time to wait. No longer. We must have the upper hand against the Andles army or they will crush us. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to see everything you love handed over to the King of the Andles.”
Even now, we could hear the yells and the efforts of the opposing soldiers. I do not say ‘enemy’ because they are not my enemy. They are the enemy of the king. So actually, in many respects they are my allies.
       The boy shook his head. With a nod, the king and his brute left. I counted to ten, then retrieved the picture of the woman, staring at it intently. Something about her... I couldn’t name it. I didn’t know why her skin was that pale – like mine, but not pale light, pale... dark. Colourless. It seemed strange. I suddenly felt tired.
       “So. Why did you lie for me?”
       The boy gave a start. “Lie? I didn’t lie.” He hesitated, then plunged forward, “That woman... I saw her in court today.”


       She thinks herself the King of Queens. You can tell by the way she talks, by the way her holds her head, perched high on that skinny little neck. She glides across the floor like a swan.
She never bothers to visit me because she doesn’t actually care about what I do. I take one look at her face and I know she does not believe in the divine, probably not in anything she cannot see. I think she grew bored and simply wanted to put her foot up someone’s arse. And so the Queen of Buillaird paid me a visit.
       I stopped when her maids and courtesans opened the door for her because I was so unaccustomed to female visitors and couldn’t imagine what on earth she would want. I lay down my brush but I was incredibly frustrated at being distracted at all. She strolled into my chamber without looking at me and took a good look around, gazing at the sketching of my secret puzzle, all over the walls. Finally she stopped by the biggest one; a scroll that sprawled from ceiling to floor.
       “Is this some sort of curse?” she said, pointing casually to one, the tail of her long sleeves lifting off the floor. She said it with amusement. I didn’t know what it was with these people and curses but I felt too tired to play their games. When she finally looked at me after the long silence, I gently brushed my long, blue-tinted hair over my shoulder to silently show how magnificent it was compared to hers. Her eyes hardened. I grinned. I can’t understand why humans obsess over their hair so much but it amuses me to make them feel inferior about it, as much as watching rats run around in a box.
       “I’m sorry, Your Majesty, I have to return to my –”
       “Like you cared about that before.” she said at once. “I noted how fast you jumped at the opportunity to leave.” Her eyes flicked to the boy, who was looking at the queen with a deep frown.  He hadn’t said anything yet, weighing up the situation. Or perhaps I had stolen his line. I wondered if he was more intelligent than I gave him credit for.
       “Of course, Your Majesty, why wouldn’t I? Wouldn’t you? Do you think I don’t wish to see the sky, or that I have no family who is waiting for my safe return? I’m the youngest son, you know.”
       The boy made a noise of interest – I knew to him, I must’ve looked at least thirty. I am actually over double that age.
       The queen heard. She gave the boy a firm look. “You. Out.”
       He bristled. “Your Majes –”
       “Out!” she demanded, but she placed an insulted hand on her fluttering chest. “Where do you find  the nerve to answer back to your queen?” The boy gave me a look – it had me confused because it wasn’t a warning... in fact it look more like fear.
       The queen stopped beside my easel once he’d gone. “Tell me about your family.”
       I went very still. Too many painful images rose to the surface at once, wrapped up together with a bundle of longing for my home. “I don’t have time for this.”
       She laughed, throwing her head back so I could see the long smooth line from the tip of her chin to the base of her neck. “You have all the time in the world! What’s the matter? You don’t strike me as shy. Come then, tell me about your Seer people.”
       Her eyes finally fell on what I was painting and her face went rigid. I didn’t dare to glance at my portrait. I didn’t want to miss any expression that slipped on her face that might give me an advantage over her. Sharply, she said, “All of you, get out.”
       The maids hesitated and shot me frowns, as if being alone in a room with me was dangerous, which made me smile deviously. The queen laughed with surprise when none of them moved. “It seems I don’t warrant enough respect in this place to be listened to.”
       The maids gasped. “No, your Grace – !” one called out in fear.
       “If I see any of your faces again, you will all be banished. Find another occupation. And before you go, arrange for your replacements. Thank you! Goodbye.” the queen said boredly, leaning uncomfortably close to me as she gazed at the painting. The door slammed and at last, utter silence.
       “Illicit paintings, I see. This is not what the king commanded.”
       “The king commanded me to paint whatever I divined,” I snapped at her, “I am tired of being told I am not doing precisely what I sit here all day and do. You must all be blind.”
       “I suggest you correct how you speak to me.” She tilted her head. “Who is that? A distant relative? A lover?”
       “Of course not.” I couldn’t hold back my scorn, “Where would I find a dark-skinned lover? Yushkans don’t just turn up in Buillaird, in this exact chamber is even less likely. Do you think a Seer has it in them to travel all the way to Yushka? We’re not meant for travelling. We’re meant for sitting around all day looking at the sun or stars.” I added, “And not being locked away, either.”
       “A clever jest.” she said wryly. Then she raised her head haughtily. “Well, I didn’t think so. I saw this woman in court this morning.”
       I almost said ‘The boy told me the same thing yesterday!’ but just about held my tongue. I guessed it would be bad for the boy if it was discovered he was telling me things. Instead I said, “I... divined that she would be important, though I do not know exactly how.” then the meaning behind what she said drove home and I said with a bitter edge, “I don’t appreciate being tricked and tested. Nobody gets into these rooms expect the king and the boy. And now, you.”
       She smiled. “I thought you would appreciate a new face. She walked to the window and watched the soldiers hammer at the gates through my rusting window. They had a barge now. I’m not entirely sure what took them so long. Or perhaps I subconsciously divined it so long ago, it seemed to take an age to come to pass. Suddenly, she turned to face me and held up her long auburn hair with one hand, so I could better see the slope of her shoulders.
       “Do you think I’m beautiful?” she said.
       “Not remotely,” I lied, though I pitied her. I could see this was not vanity. This was what came about from a lifetime of being ignored. I said simply, “I apologise; it’s hard to find beauty in a prison. Perhaps if I viewed you outside I would have a different perspective. What say you and I go out to the garden...?”
       She scowled and stalked out. “I wouldn’t be so witty if I were you. I do not divine you being released anytime soon.”
       Jeering that a pathetic human like her would have a divine gift was ten times more insulting than her jibe about eternal imprisonment. I think it’s the most insulting thing one could tell a Seer – to reduce our gift and our art to guesswork. She’d better not come back. My hand might just slip.
       That night there was rain. I heard it batter against my window pane with such a din that I couldn’t hear the opposing soldiers. The boy was curled up at the foot of my bed, still, peaceful. I don’t know what came over me – maybe it was his innocence, maybe it was that I get very sorrowful during rainstorms. Maybe it was because the boy had a care, a caution, a suspicion about him that none of the other watchers before him had had. I could see him doing something great, being one of those fair-haired heroes those idiot singing humans wail about in ballads.
       Abruptly, to the sound of the rain, I began talking about my homeland and about the legacy of Seers, and about why we adopted the human name for our race instead of our own. How we lost our ancient language. That gets pretty lengthy because we have two philosophers who drew different conclusions based on historical Seer artefacts, but for once I didn’t feel exasperated by it because it gave me more to talk about. The sound of my own voice made me feel better about the rain. I talked until my throat was hoarse and then decided, in the lapse of the patter of rain, that it would be a good time to go to sleep. Then, so gently,        I felt the boy’s hand rest on my ankle.
       “You’re a prisoner here, aren’t you?” he whispered.
       Oh. So he had been awake. “I wouldn’t let anybody hear you say that, boy. It wouldn’t even be an execution.” I turned on my side and wriggled about until I found a good sleeping position. “They’d carry you off so fast and so quietly, nobody would remember you’d been here at all.”
       “My sister knows I’m here.” the boy argued. “And my parents.”
       “Yeah well, there’re ways to shut them up.”
       He was quiet for a long, horrified moment. “You mean... you mean...?”
       “I mean money, if they’ll take it. If not, they’re not likely to bother with torture, just put them on a slave trip to the Andles Isles or Yushka or... a pillow over their faces.”
       The boy swallowed. “You’re that important?”
       I didn’t answer.
       “How did you get here? Surely you wouldn’t be here if you knew they’d imprison –”
       “You’ll get yourself killed,” I said softly. “I can protect myself fine against the King’s fury. The same is not true for you.”
       He had the sense to shut up.
       The day after the next was his once-a-week rest day. I take it there are still ways in an out of the castle, so I suppose he went to see his family, get some fresh air, fresh food, and all of the good stuff a sensible human being would look forward to. Only, unlike the five rest days previously, he didn’t come back.


       He’d been killed. I have not divined it and cannot know for sure, but the intuition of a seer is heightened due to a better understanding of how the mind of men and women work. It’s the reason we have to... emotionally disengage. It’s the only way to cope with some truths. So then, why did the death of a boy I barely knew, assigned to keep me imprisoned, trouble me so greatly?
       My new watcher arrived. It was after a whole solitary week had passed – the door was flung open with such a flourish the water-rusted metal window of my chamber finally broke away and hit something below with a loud clang, and then there was another muffled bang. I swivelled around, brush in hand. Standing there, smiling faintly down at me, was the divination that had been haunting me.
       It was the woman from my painting.
       I hated her on first sight. She was extremely beautiful and no doubt lethal should I underestimate her. But I hated her because I knew she wasn’t what she seemed, and I wanted all the answers now so that I wouldn’t be threatened by her later.
       “Hello, Asher.” she said to me, her voice every bit as smooth and silky as I’d imagined.
       I groaned aloud. “Not you. Go back, and tell them to send another.”
       She laughed at this and clapped her hands. “Aren’t you pleased with me? But I volunteered to attend to you – I was the only one at court who was chosen. We’ll have so much fun. I won’t be like your other watchers. You’re cooped up in here all day! Let’s have fun.”
       Oh God, she was deranged. I sighed and eyed her suspiciously, then did a double take.
       Oh GOD, she was a drow.
       Should I feel elated or insulted? The King of Fools clearly did not underestimate me, or he wouldn’t have sent a Dark Elf to watch me. Unbelievable! I hadn’t seen one in so long, I just couldn’t place that eerily pale-dark skin. For the first time in a long-time, I was wary. I did not trust her evil magicks. There is a saying among the divinely gifted – know well the power of a drow. Which is one of those things that doesn’t mean anything.
       The next time King Baboon came to see me, I told such a big fat lie that my seer mother would have died laughing.
       “Her magick is interfering with my work!” I complained.
       The king raised an eyebrow. “Really?”
       “Yes really – !” idiot! I didn’t add. “You know nothing about those gifted with divine talents. We try our best to remain pure and keep above the river of filth in this world, but how do you expect me to perform at my best when right under my nose is evil magic?
       The king's laugh boomed in my chamber. “Oh come now. You know that dark-magic-good-magic nonsense is over. The Light and Dark elves have remained as one since they allied with humans against the giants.”
       “Do not underestimate the motivation of a lone elf,” I warned, “You know they are loathe to be away from their kin. What’s this one doing so far from home?”
       “This one was a gift from the King of Yushka. He will be our ally in this war.”
       “Our ally? Will he now?” I mimicked, childishly, I admit. The King warned me off and told me to continue working. Seeing that my plan had failed, I shrugged it off and kept painting. With a brush in each hand – I can paint well with either or both – I painted the king’s personal guardsmen being shot by arrows to release my stress. All too soon though, she was back.
       “Did you miss me?” she beamed. I scowled and shuffled away from her.
       “You’re distracting me, go away.”
       “Aww, you still haven’t warmed to me yet?”
I kept my back turned to her and sulked until I had an inspiration. “There are ways you can earn my trust.” I said slowly.
       Her humour vanished. She watched me carefully, and her voice was quiet when she said, “Go on.”
       “Find out what happened to the boy who was my watcher before you.”
       She raised an eyebrow. “Why? Did you grow fond of him?”
       “I don’t have time for your stupid games,” I spat, “Take it or leave it. Until you decide to take it, piss off.”
       Her face lit up with surprise, and then deepened into a scowl far more foreboding than my own. “Beings of the Divine shouldn’t let such filthy human words be tasted on their tongue.”
       “Beings of the Magick shouldn’t make such an effort of annoy them, then.” Urgh, I hated that she was right. Human curses were beneath me; awful words were for awful people.
       Funnily enough though, she did as I requested. I don’t think she liked what she found. When she came back, she looked subdued and her expression was extremely displeased. Her childish facade was entirely gone.
       “You knew he was dead, didn’t you.”
       I put my brushes down and gave her my full attention. “Yes. Why did they kill him?”
       She gazed around at the walls, covered with my puzzle, then she took out a piece of folded parchment and lay it down. . I hadn’t even noticed it was gone from the wall. Poor boy, and his brave efforts. I looked at it sadly, knowing what she was going to say before she said it.
       “He was asking too many questions.” she said simply. “As it happens, no-one knew what it meant so his death was in vain. Yet... amazingly... I, the foreigner, know exactly what this is. I studied this immensely before I came here – because I was not sent from Yushka. But you knew that, didn’t you?”
       I watched her. A glimmer of the sun was out, but its ray didn’t even reach her. She absorbed light. Her blue eyes seemed to shimmer. Her pink lips stretched into a hesitant smile.
       “I come with a message from the King of Andles.” she said. “He says words cannot express his sorrow. He says... he misses you more than anything.”
       I was so stunned that I couldn’t help but laugh. What a pitiful message to send an elf to risk her life for. Even a dark elf. “Tell him it’s not enough. His sorrow doesn’t erase eight years of servitude to the enemy.”
       “He only meant it to be temporary. He meant to end the war.”
       “That what he said when he first befriended me. Then he sent me off to his ‘ally’ and look! Before I know it, they are enemies and I am hostage. War. I should have known better, but...”
       “You could not foresee it.” she whispered, sucking her breath in with astonishment. “Why?”
       I gave her a dark smile. “Another Seer must have pushed the wheel of time towards that future in the face of a conditional. Because of that, a small moment in time was hidden from me. I didn’t think for a moment it would lead to this.”
       The drow was surprised. “I didn’t know that could happen.”
       “But of course. Otherwise, what would happen if two Seers chose opposing futures for the same conditional? The passage of time would fracture. Everything would exist at once, and then nothing would exist at all.”
       II had made her very uncomfortable. I revelled in that for a moment, but then I had to think about how calm and rational she was for a dark elf. Or maybe my father’s stories were exaggerated. I said brightly, “Now the King of the Andles Isles has royally wasted your time, you should leave before you are exposed.”
       She paused. “You’re not going to expose me yourself?”
       “Why in hell would I do that?” I said confusedly. “You are nothing to me.” Then I had a thought. I gave her a wicked grin. “Although, I didn’t much like your message. I’m in a bit of a foul mood. I have already painted you, but I can alter the image... perhaps... chickenpox?”
       She gave me an angry glare.
       “I could call it even, if you tell me what on earth are these.” I pointed to my puzzle all over the room.
“I tell you what I told the boy,” she explained with a sardonic smile, “It’s simply a map of this castle as it was before the war against the giants. From what I can tell, little has changed.”
       Like the idiot of idiots, I stood there, astonished, and at once I saw it. I saw the structure, I recognised the key for the doors and the stairs. “I have been dreaming of this image since I first came here.” I said quietly, staring around at my chamber.
       “If that is so, then you truly are the King of Dreams, Asher. You divined the way out before you even knew there was one.” The look she gave me was of the utmost respect. “It’s interesting that drawing all of the floors on the same page makes it look like a maze.” The moment she said it, I wanted to hit my head against a wall. Finally, she went to the door. “Do you want me to take a message back to the King of Andles?”
       “Yes, please. Tell him I am disappointed in him.”
       She pursed her little pink lips. “He won’t take well to that.” I shrugged. I hardly cared. After all, it wasn’t as if he planned to get me out, was it? She cleared her throat, “I’m leaving now.”
       I hardly dared to believe my own divination; that the other secret corridor leading from what I guessed was my room was true. I moved to the wall and inspected it. When I leaned against the wall, it began to swivel until I stood in a dark passage. To think this had been here all the time made me want to laugh and scream with rage at once.
       I looked back at her and said wearily, “Me too.”
       I suddenly divined that I needed to grab two things – a pot of paint and my longest, thinnest brush. I didn’t know what for. I followed the narrow passage in a spiral downwards; I think I was inside the wall. After all the tower I was placed in was circular, like my room. I came to a dead end and had to assume it did the same thing as the swivelling wall in my room. Naturally to conceal the secret passage, there was no sliver or crack to allow me to see what was on the other side, but I could hear a low and steady talking. It went on for ages. Finally, when I could take no more, I braced myself and pushed through.
       I knew this room. I had seen it only once, but I knew it. It was the king’s war room. The king stood at the head of the table, nearest me, and around it sat his generals and the queen and other important lords. Between me and the king was a guard. When I’d pushed through, thankfully there was no sound, so no-one immediately noticed, but the next instant the queen made a noise of alarm and half rose from her chair. The guard just in front of me turned and I automatically threw the paint in his eyes. He gave a yell of surprise and the king turned, his face filled with amazement. Such amazement. I don’t know why but this filled me with such rage, the man who betrayed me and my oldest friend the moment he had his hands on a Seer.
       That short moment became a very long one as I stared at him, filled with rage, and I didn’t know when my white hands had snapped the brush in two. It dawned on me. Every moment previously had been leading up to this point. Rushing at him, I slid the broken tip into his stomach. He didn’t cry out, or yell, he didn’t do anything. Maybe he didn’t realise that I’d stabbed him. He just kept staring at me with those amazed eyes. He didn’t even sink to the ground.
       “You have forgotten,” I whispered to the dying king, “I don’t need to paint your death to make it happen.”
       Perhaps it is just me, but the King seemed to smile with a bitter irony. Then, out of thin air, a arrow appeared in the side of his throat. Then his hold went slack, and the stare of his grey eyes had no focus behind them. For me this seemed to happen very quickly, but it was only when I glanced up that I realised it must have taken a long time. Not a single person could move in the stunned silence. But finally, the queen screamed. It was a sound of agonising torture that snapped the guards into action. I spoke up hastily,
       “The man who puts a hand on me will die. I have painted it.”
       It made them pause. I did not move, hoping my confidence with strike fear in them but in actuality, and I was petrified. I was taking a huge gamble when I was so close to freedom; my strength isn’t what it was and I’d be no match for them in a fight.
       “For God’s sake, someone do something!” the Queen screams at them, “He has killed my lord, your king!
       I think it was the guilt of having stood there and watch their king die, but it took them a lot of effort to lunge at me again. The three who almost had hold of me, including the silver-faced guard behind me, suddenly went sprawling across the floor with arrows buried in their right sides. Now we weren’t all struck dumb, we looked to the source – the windows were gaping holes, and from the long bent nails, it looked like a frame had been there before... but it had probably been knocked off by a water-rusted window directly above... which had fallen off because a certain drow had banged my chamber door open. Thank goodness, she turned out to be my good fortune.
       I wondered why, at this exactly moment, the Andles army had brought out their archers. But in the grand scheme of things, it didn’t really matter.
       With a serene smile of certainty, I stepped over that man’s body and past his former court. they parted for me like I was the King. I knew they wouldn’t harm me. They believed that only their king could protect them from my ‘curses’, and now they have no king. The drow waited for me in the royal hall, surrounded by charred walls. The rest of the guard had already died by her hand.
I couldn’t help but laugh. Softly at first, then so hard that my vision was blurred with tears. A funny thing, isn’t it? The king, in the end of it all, died just as easily as all the men he sent to their deaths. Now, he can be the King of the Dead for all I care.
And I? I am the King of the Free, and at last I follow the drow outside of the castle for the first time in years and look up at the sky and take a deep breath in. The air never smelt so sweet.

Ashana Lian ,
03 October 2014.

If posted, the Author's Notes link will be here.

Image: Unconquered Castle by Anndr Kusuriuri

Inspired by this image: Drow Portrait by Carrie Best

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