The Tragedy of Parvos Quescane

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
The Princess lingers on her deathbed. The lords scheme and wonder. The Vizier considers. It is coming.

Submitted: August 17, 2011

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Submitted: August 17, 2011



The princess Quester, Lady of the Southern Lands and Queen-in-waiting of the entire kingdom of Pescquaria, extended her emaciated, white hand for water. She was so ill that her voice had been lost, and it was only magic that was holding her alive at all. As the vizier Qafa, of the Southern Lands and High Holy Advisor of the King, drew water from the pump beside the door, the King, sitting at her bedside, wondered whether it was worth it at all. The princess was without speech, without sight or hearing or rational thought, and her last words – a month before – had been a request for peace. The King could not grant it. He instead sat, empty of tears and strength and heart, and waited.


Lord Pavister of Clore sat alone in his chambers. He watched through the stained glass window, and supped his water. He – apparently alone -  suspected Qafa of something. The man had seemed shifty since the death of Lady Quellock, the nurse – since he had become the princess’ chamberlain. Of course, as mere mayorlord of a small city on the East Coast, he was in no position to accuse the man. And he was disinclined to draw attention to an Easterly lord, as the general unease towards them since the War of Caphrael, thirty-eight years ago, had never lessened. So he was forced to content himself with sitting in his chambers, across the courtyard from the princess, and try to see through the glass that coloured and seemed almost to melt his view in the cold, hammering rain.


Night falls. Lord Pavister schemes, furiously impotent and fully certain of what he assumes is true. Qafa sits alone in his spartan room, wondering. The king and queen are powerless. All they can do is hold hands and watch as their daughter slips away.


Under the castle, something is waking. It is old. It is cruel. It is powerful still. And it is alive.


“Salt! Who’s got the salt then?” The cook, as usual, descended into a fit of pique before realising that the salt had been laid on the table behind him. He then grew even more irritable at the fact that yes, he would like them to only touch the salt cellar when he was watching, and no, of course you wouldn’t know how to salt the food. Parvos Quescane stood watching the cook grow redder and redder until you could see a resemblance to the beetroot he was cooking. Parvos was only a basket-carrier, though, and decided to move on from the fascinating spectacle and deliver the last of the beets to the basket beside the door.

Said door then opened into Parvos’s nose, upsetting said beets and knocking him sideways onto the floor. “Ungggghhhh...” he groaned as his nose began to bleed. The person that had opened the door marched imperiously into the room. The cook, the maids and servants all backed in horror against their counters. For who should have entered the room but Qafa, The Vizier and High Holy Advisor to the King, walked into the room. “I wish to inspect these kitchens for evidence.” he said in his rough accent. The cook walked up to him and, when he realised that the top of his head was below Qafa’s eye level, tapped him on the shoulder. “What do you mean? Evidence? Evidence of what, pray?” “Poison.” Everybody gasped as one. The only reason could be that he was looking for the cause of the princess’ sickness... and if he found anything, or thought he had, they were all in danger. “Now please,” Qafa continued, “I would like you all to leave. Immediately. No exceptions. Anybody who lays a finger on a board or a toe on a vegetable peeling will be executed on charges of treason.” And so Qafa was left in the kitchen to save the princess.

An hour later, he returned, and said no, there was no poison, and he would investigate the maids who brought up the food and the pump that carried the water, if the King was still certain the princess was being poisoned. He then left and, after checking the princess’ food, spoon-fed her and tipped water in her mouth, all the while regarding her emaciated, disease-ridden figure in quiet horror. Then he left, to do his important work.


Lady Tellor Asqueae sat in her room stitching a ripped cuff on her dress. She loathed the rain, and the way the damp and the fog and chill seeped into her room and froze her bones. She disliked Lord Renword and Lord Teshel and Lord Pavister and Vizier Qafa. She disliked the disturbances – music and dancing and drunkenness. She disliked any noises at all while she worked. She was in general an unpleasant woman, though even she did not deserve what happened to her.

Her door was smashed down, she saw a tall figure with two yellow eyes, and died with her sewing in her limp, cold hands.


“Three people killed in one night, Hessa! This is not an accident! Lord Pavister of Clore, Lady Tellor Asqueae and Lord Fessulom of Pergeth were all found dead in their rooms. They aren’t wounded, they weren’t ill. They are alive in all respects except they... aren’t.” The mortician raised his glasses. “Go. Tell the King and Queen. Tell them to lock their doors tonight.”

His servant left and was never seen alive again.


Parvos Quescane sat in a sickbed and sobbed. He had clearly seen Vizier Qafa check the kitchen – from where he had lain on the floor he had been able to hide and watch. His curiosity had always been his downfall – and now the nurses believed he was mad.

“I saw him! He’s the poisoner! You must believe me! He poisoned the salt! He –” The nurse wrapped a ballgag round his mouth and all he could do was cry.


The Queen was crying. As far as she could see, it was worth listening to the lad that had been found in the kitchens. The King believed the thing that had knocked him out – apparently a bottle smashed over his head – had damaged his head. Of course, he would have welcomed a clue as to the identity of the poisoner – but he had sat by his daughter’s bedside for a month and heard nothing untoward. He trusted Qafa. This vitriol would do no good.


Qafa told the King and Queen that night that it was only a matter of days – if not hours – until the princess died. The Queen glared balefully and spat at his feet as he left. The King did nothing. He just stood there as his heart broke.


Parvos lay asleep, bound and gagged, as something with blazing eyes crept through the doorway. It glided, as light as a cloud and as quiet as a fox, until it reached the bed of Parvos Quescane. It snapped his gag first, then the leather straps binding his limbs to the bed. Then it struck him across the cheek, drawing blood but waking him. Then before the child had opened his eyes, he had leapt from the window and glided slowly and silently to earth. The child saw the open door and window and grabbed the first thing that came to hand – a vase of flowers on the locker of a soldier next to him. He, too, was silent and light of tread, and he crept from the sickroom in the dark and empty corridor.


Qafa walked alone. Fear was in his heart. His main aim had been achieved – but in its achievement he had caused a disaster. He trod quickly, the hems of his long khaki robe shifting as he walked and the torchlight gleaming from his clean-shaven skull.

Something was watching him.

Something with two yellow eyes.

He didn’t have time to scream.


By the time Parvos reached the scene, all that was left of Qafa was white powder, scattered from a leather pouch, and spotted here and there with crimson. He picked it up. He was vaguely aware of smoke rising from his fingers – and only then felt pain, complete and horrific, and dropped whatever it was he had lifted. He looked at his now-numb fingers and found that they were blackened and burned. And it was now it was clear what Qafa had done.


The King stood and watched as his daughter’s breathing grew more and more laboured. As her face grew paler. As she died. And he cried. For the first time in twenty years, he cried until his chest was sore, until he was doubled over from pangs of pain in his stomach. And he fell from his chair. He could not move. His life was wasted. He didn’t care anymore. The King was broken.


Parvos stood, his serious eyes gazing upon the streaks of blood on the floor. They continued – apparently through the wall – and then stopped. There was no body, no remnant. Nothing.


The queen was alone. She sat in her chambers and drew on her makeup. She drew it on her lips, her eyes, her cheeks – and then two long streaks down the side of her face. Like tears.

And through her door, watching, were two yellow eyes.


Parvos Quescane was grabbed round the mouth, and his arms were pinioned behind his back. He was held by two large men, one of whom held a knife to his throat and the other holding him – and was taken.


The queen nearly fell from her chair when three loud thuds came at the door. She assumed a solemn face and opened the door. She stepped smartly out of the way as a young man – no older than fifteen, was hurled through the door into the mahogany end of her bed. “Found in the sickroom corridor. There was a load of blood around him. He’s mad and I think he’s killed somebody.” Luggor, the master of the nightly guard, glowered stupidly at the child when the queen failed to answer. After a long, awkward pause, the queen sent him away.

She sat and waited for him to speak.

He sat and waited for her.

“I know you didn’t kill him, you know. I know exactly what happened to Qafa. You need not fear to tell me what happened.” He shook his head. “I would like to leave.” “You cannot.” He looked at her again – and realised that despite the streaked makeup on her cheeks, her eyes were not red, nor her manner sad. “Maybe I was wrong. But once she was dead...” She began to sob now, only now. She had not shed a tear before.

The door rattled. The queen screamed in horror and hobbled into a corner, huddled up and shivering despite the fire blazing in the hearth. The door rattled again, and she whimpered and whispered to herself.

The door was smashed down. A tall figure stepped into the room. Despite the roaring fire, it seemed only to cast shadows on him, so that only his silhouette could be seen.

He was massive, seven feet tall at least, and apparently armoured in steel and iron. His eyes blazed yellow, not as bright as the fire but still more painful to look at. He grabbed the queen by the neck and lifted her into the air. He twisted with his hand, and dropped her in a lifeless heap on the floor. He then walked out, and nobody in the castle ever saw him again.

The King fell on his own sword a week later, heartbroken by the deaths of his daughter and wife, and his brother, a relatively unknown man previously living in the Far South, succeeded him to the throne.

Parvos saw Qafa again, though, twenty years later. He was sitting in his chambers, alone, wobbling a small block that he had noticed was loose, when it and a number of blocks from above it collapsed into the room. Out of the hole fell two things: a skull, and a large leather bag. The skull was clearly old, dusty and dry, and its jaw fell off when Parvos lifted it. He opened the bag and lifted out one, two, three, four, five scrolls of yellowed, dusty paper. He began to read.


To Qafa,

Most High Holy Advisor to the King,

Vizier to the Court,


I trust I find you well. By now, with the aid your considerable skill, the Princess Quester can no longer speak and is close to death. I wish for you to continue with the riddling of her food with the powder you found in the catacombs beneath the castle. I will supply another servant to replace the one you lost in the rockfall a week ago.


Her Holy Majesty,

The Queen


To Her High Holy Majesty the Queen,


I trust I find you well. I humbly confess to have had a small accident: when mining the poisonous powder for the Princess’ food, my pickaxe slipped and gouged into the rock. I am unsure what happened but I do know that the new servant you supplied was crushed beneath the rubble of a massive rockfall. I have sufficient powder now to kill the Princess but as you wished I need a servant to aid me in procuring more to silence Lady Quellock.


Your ever-humble servant,

Qafa, Vizier


To Her High Holy Majesty the Queen,


Something is woken. As I returned to mine yesterday, the place the last rockfall recently occurred had crumbled further. I found a large skeleton, clad in rusted armour, and massively tall. I thought nothing of it but the apparition appeared at the foot of my bed last night. I have attempted to bewitch it to silence my enemies but my control is rapidly waning. I shall attempt to hold it under my power.

Your ever-humble servant,

Qafa, Vizier



To Qafa,

Most High Holy Advisor to the King

Vizier to the Court,


I trust I find you well. The princess dies as I write. I prepare myself to mourn. I have one more task for you, as you may have guessed – to kill the king. Use this wraith you have apparently woken, perhaps, for the deaths of your enemies make its power clear. Once this is done I will prepare to assume the throne and present you with the rubies you sought for your service.



Her Holy Majesty,

The Queen.



To her High Holy Majesty the Queen,


I fear to kill the King. The wraith is entirely out of my control and enraged at my attempts to rein it in. I fear for myself and for you.


Your ever-humble servant,

Qafa, Vizier


Parvos Quescane, one of the most honoured men in the Kingdom, sat back in his chair and thought for a long, long time.

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