Winter Queen: Part 4 (Short Story)

Time slowed to a crawl as she waited. She knew this was yet another test, but it irritated her none the less. Each encounter had increased in tension as they took the required steps in a dance which was older than time its self. The danger also increased as her opponent gained knowledge of her abilities and limits. One day in the not too distant future, he would win. It was never a matter of if, only when.

 

There was a bitter taste in her mouth thinking such things. Of course she had known the price she would have to pay the moment she had found his little book tucked away in her mother’s library, where, no doubt he had arranged for it to find someone just like herself. Young, foolish, ambitious, and willing to do anything for power.

 

She doubted he had expected her to best him in a contest of wills. The fact he had underestimated her had been a pleasant surprise, but as she quickly found, he was a poor loser indeed. Everything she gained was done so only through these painful, brutal contests. Winning gained her knowledge, loosing would cost her soul. The annoying part? He had to win only once.

 

At last a shape appeared on the far side of the ring, indistinct at first, then resolving its self into the figure of a man, apparently at his ease, slowing walking toward her. He was of indeterminate age, wearing a wrinkled black suit. His shoes scuffed, the tie crooked and hanging loose. His black hair was in need of a trim, just over the ears and hanging in his eyes. One might think it a trick if the light, but she knew, those eyes were black as night and totally inhuman. He stopped at a respectful distance and bowed low, his hand touching the ground, a blue stone twinkling on his ring finger. It was a gesture meant to be as mocking as the smile which played across his lips.

 

“It brings joy to my heart whenever you deign to grace us with your presence, your Majesty.”

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