The Queen and Death

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
A short story about the queen who saw death.

Submitted: January 05, 2019

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Submitted: January 05, 2019

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( TRIGGER WARNINGS: discussion of death, sickness, and attempted suicide. )

She could always see death. Though, his form took many shapes. Often, they were never fully clear, like a shadow, or a brief movement in the corner of the eye. It never scared her. Not even as a child. No, she always thought it her imaginary friend. And the older she became the more she realized what he was. For he was always accompanied by the loss of those around her. Some sort of warning of what was to come. Or a comfort it was finally over.

He never spoke and she never spoke to him. But she could always see him. He was there when Father never came home. The first time she ever saw him, gliding through the halls. He looked at her and she stared right back. He didn't have a face but, if he had she supposed his expression would have been just as surprised as her own. For the living are not supposed to see him. Right?

When she was on the cusp of womanhood, not yet reaching her first blood, she warrants the whole kingdom must have seen him. A sickness took hold of the nation. It swept throughout all households, indiscriminately stealing away life from a multitude of families. That was the day she learned death cared little for human distinctions. The poorest servants up to the wealthiest and most prestigious were victim to its hold. Even the little heiress grew ill. With a fever upon her, none seemed to pay much mind to her mumblings, to the way her eyes wandered away from concerned faces. She saw him. Lingering. Lurking. Had he come for her?

But he left, and she grew strong again. 

She was well of age when she saw him again. Famine ravaged the land. Even the food within the palace was scarce. A harsh summer rendered an even more severe winter. She suspected many houses saw the face of death during those dark days. She walked among the commoners, tarried in the streets, listened to the cries of mothers as they held their gaunt children. It was only a moment then, a passing in the corner of her eye. But she knew it was him. She wondered if he would visit her too.

There were times she never knew the reason for death’s visit. But she still saw him. She saw that shadowy figure, cloaked in an otherworldly swarm of darkness. It really should have frightened her. Yet, it never did. She would look down upon the city sprawling out before her home and see that form moving through the crowds. Visiting other nations, she would spot him. He moved among the people as if he were just another merchant, or some errand boy. But he was not going to fetch goods for his master. He was harvesting souls.

He passed between the pillars of the coronation room the nights preceding her ascension. She didn’t reckon it likely he had any interest in congratulations. Perhaps his way of doing so, was in taking away the spirit of her last parent, ushering in her own reign. She did not believe herself ready, not truly. Maybe that was the time she began to perceive that death was not her friend. He was a force which came and went as he pleased. He stole and gave nothing in return. When would he take her away?

She once fancied to force his hand. The blade was curled in her fingers and she wished to rid herself of the overwhelming burdens upon her shoulders. She was no longer a naive girl. Although, she might argue she never was foolish in her youth. She was heir to a throne and all the innocence of youth had no place in her life. But now she carried much alone. She might have even plunged that dagger into her flesh to let another face these worries. And then she saw him. Death looked upon her and she looked back, filled with shame. He walked away and she placed her weapon back on the nightstand. It was not her time.

The following month she met the one who would become her betrothed, she who would be her queen. They would rule side by side. She never told her lady of death. But the nights she spent wrapped within her lover’s tender arms she knew she had been wrong. Death was her friend. And it had not been her time.

So many years came and went. That dark friend seemed ever present but she grew so accustomed to it she rarely took notice any longer. Eventually, it seemed inevitable he would linger. War came, and she believed herself fortunate it had not visited sooner. For her nephew was heir and he was old enough to assume leadership should she fall. At some point, she wondered if it was only a matter of when. Her bones were weary and that youthful glint in her eye had long faded away. Death must come for her. He always took everyone else, but she knew eventually it would be her turn. Better her than the young man she knew would become a great king.

She always believed it would not be her choice.

One day death would come and insist upon whisking her away, whether she wanted it or not. But in the end, perhaps it was in her hands. For it was her duty to step between danger and her successor. She would rather her life be taken by their enemies than him. She could have taken a blow like that much better in her younger days. But she was no longer possessed with that sort of strength. And as she lay there, chainmail and armor glistening in the setting sun, she knew He was there. Greyed hair had somehow become unfurled, pooling around her wrinkled face. She should have been panicking. That's what is expected after all. Should her mind not still have been on the battle raging around her? Instead a sense of quiet and calm seemed to fill her. All the chaos was far away. So very far away.

“Is it time?” she wasn't certain if her lips truly formed the words. But nevertheless, an answer came back. A familiar shadow loomed over her.

“Yes, child.”

He was clearer than ever. His form looked feminine now and it puzzled the dying queen. Brows weakly tethered together and before she even formed the thought, it answered her.

“Your father was gone before you knew him. Absent from your life. And so, you saw me as man. As something you lost.”

“And now?”

“Now you are the one leaving-”

“My wife. Oh, my love…”

“She will not be far behind.” A hand extended towards her and she reached out to take it. She expected death to feel cold. But it didn't. In fact, it didn't feel like much of anything, not in a fleshly sense of touch. But as the dark fingers of death curled around her it felt more like an old friend. Like a memory. Like the peace she always sought.

“Why now? I always thought it'd be sooner.”

She could finally see the face now. And it wasn't grotesque or terrifying. Instead, it was as if she was looking upon the most welcoming face one could imagine. The features seemed to be like every kind stranger, every encouraging elder, every smiling child. It was the face of everyone who suffered more than they should have and only ever let it make them more charitable. “I do not control time, little one. I only come when it's decided. Each story has an ending. And this one is yours.”

 

 

 


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