Queen and Diplomat

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by The Mood is Write, Sep 17, 2016.

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  1. The festival sent the city into a frenzy. This week was a celebration like none other: this week, they celebrated the soldiers from other worlds, and their own part in protecting those worlds by hosting the most dangerous monster imaginable.

    The monster's visage decorated banners, and children threw rotten eggs and tomatoes at targets made to look like it. The creature's face was all red eyes and black horns and snarling wicked teeth, with claws raised and ready. As the day progressed, the festival workers lowered the banners of the monster one-by-one and raised banners that showed an orb of green and blue surrounded by wings, with a twisted halo over top that resembled a sideways numeral.

    Today, the last day of the Festival of Greenstone, a special guest was slated to appear.

    All but the last monster banner had been lowered and replaced with the banner of the heroes, and a hush fell over the crowd, little by little, as the king stepped forward.

    "Good eve, one and all!" His booming voice echoed as he raised his hands. The crowd grew still as people of all ages and walks watched their ruler, heads upturned as the quiet grew and the monarch waited.

    Finally, his voice shattered the silence with a thunderous laugh. "I promised you a special guest tonight: not only has one of our Unifier allies, who protects us from threats and brings us to Heaven with their great strength, but someone special, someone whose presence with us has enabled us to protect existence as much as our revered allies, is also here for the celebration!"

    The crowd began to murmur.

    "I present the monster, bound to the form of a maiden and shackled for your pleasure!"

    A pair of doors opened under the king's balcony, and a tiny woman walked slowly forward, onto a platform. Her figure was petite, more than two heads smaller than the guards who bound her wrists to the platform.

    Her pale skin looked like snow against the blood and black of her dress, which looked darker still against the pale green stones that decorated her jewelry.

    Most striking was her ankle-length golden hair that blew freely in the light breeze, wavy and thick, her vivid red eyes, and a black ring of horns that grew from her head in a crown.

    "I have a few rules!" The king shouted over the excited crowd. "The biggest is you don't touch beneath her clothing, and the second is not to damage her crown. Her crown keeps us safe from her cruelty." The king laughed, and almost immediately, an egg flew at the young woman's face. She closed her eyes, but made no move to defend against it.

    Dzhed stood, ready for the impact, and the egg shattered against her crown. Agony rocked her, and her vision blackened as she felt more impacts against her body and clothing. It felt like forever, but eventually the attacks stopped, and a hand rested on her shoulder. She jumped and turned to look, only to see the king standing with a guard nearby.

    "Time to wash up, Dzhed. You did well, my pet." The monarch purred. The light flickered across his broad form, and Dzhed looked around to see that the guard held a torch, and the night above was filled with stars.

    "Thank you." Dzhed murmured as she turned and bowed.

    "You look pretty, with that martyred expression. Go wash, and meet me in the throne room."

    The night went by with none of the promised cherries, and the next morning, Dzhed laid in bed, nursing bruises all along her arms as she trembled at the memory of the day and night before. Tears flowed freely, and she did her best not to think about how it made her feel. Even the act of feeling the pain of everyone's hatred brought throbbing pain to her head.

    A knock at the door warned her of someone, and then the door opened.

    "You're not joining me for breakfast?" The king walked to the bed and sat on it. "It's tomato soup with soft-cooked eggs." He reached out and slowly rubbed her hip.

    "Please forgive me. I do not feel well." The lie sent burning pain through her. "I feel very sad and want to lay in my bed for a time longer. Please, may I?" The honesty and begging reduced the pain, and she trembled as she felt the grip on her slender hip tighten.

    "Oh?" The man gripped her dress and pulled upward as his hand slid that way. His weight on the bed shifted, and suddenly she could smell his breath as much as she felt it against her neck. "Someone has been looking for you, Dzhed. What do you know about it?"

    She grimaced as his grip on her night gown tightened. "You are- are hurting me." She murmured.

    "What?" He gripped tighter.

    "I... Forgive me. I do not know. Maybe they wish to throw things at me as you have allowed others to do already? I did not enjoy that, your majesty." She closed her eyes tight. "I cannot even strike a spider. I would never harm anyone."

    "You say that, but it's your word and your crown against the Unifiers, and they've done a lot more for us than you. All you do is laze about until I tell you to bend over." He slapped her hip and stood suddenly. "You'll sneak out of the castle and find this seeker. Find out what they're up to, and tell me in the morning at breakfast."

    Dzhed remained silent for several moments. "Yes, your majesty." She hugged herself as she laid on the bed.
  2. [​IMG]

    It was an odd sort of punishment, one that jabbed at his curiosity more than his bruised self-esteem. For a month now Bastion had wandered the streets of the foreign city on his Lord's orders; gathering new faces, new information, and most importantly new resources for her business. Religious zealotry aside, the city was a typical melting pot of cultures. He'd heard as many Delwari merchants bellowing their wares and seen the infamous grumpiness of Lowland tourists as frequently as he had back home.

    What made it odd wasn't the location but himself. Ominously tall with shoulders sturdier than mountains and cheekbones that could cut, Bastion practically projected his otherness even in a city so diverse. The angry red slash bisecting his face from forehead to jaw literally marked him as a gentleman of ill repute, yet his Lord had requested an audience with the King's council months ago and still sent uncouth Bastion as her representative of choice.

    For the past week his social discomfort had swelled, keeping beat with the tide of local festivities. By mid-week his bewilderment and cynicism had joined it, entwining and mutating as he'd watched the locals fall deeper into their revelries, which all but deify-ed their military, their country, their ego. Even with residential contacts, Bastion couldn't fathom celebrations that focused on kicking a downed beast. Even a world-eater.

    Personally, he preferred festivals that glorified beer and food and nothing else. As the final day worn on, he focused on sampling the myriad of greasy, sugary goods that followed any festival regardless of bloody intent. By the time evening set in, Bastion's ill ease only soured his tongue a little, setting his stomach up for a moderate, acidic protest. But he was full and content to join the tide of living bodies as they pressed and flowed into the central square, dominated as it was by a royal dais and a lesser platform.

    "There you are. Just in time to see her." Taelin chimed, her voice full of the anticipation that buzzed around them like static. The young escort spared him a charming grin marred by something subtle, something that rocked Bastion back a step. Viciousness. In fact, the crowd itself radiated a primal blood lust dimmed only by their fists, which clutched rotting fruit and spoiled eggs over a soldier's gun or a tormentor's whip.

    Bastion didn't respond, couldn't, even if the King himself hadn't stepped onto the dais just then to provoke a tidal wave of cheer from the crowd. The monarch spoke, clipped and to the point, wasting no time in giving his people what they wanted. The barbed woman. Smaller, so much smaller than Bastion had ever imagined. She stumbled to the lower platform, provoking imagery of a child, chained as she was by the two hulking behemoths and then left, abandoned to the senseless wrath of the drunken citizens. Perhaps that was the point, the beastly ruse, he considered for a dispassionate second; for a monster to take on such a tiny, pitiful form was to deceive the victim. He'd played that game himself, letting his enemies consider his stature and reduce him to the stereotype of the witless muscle, only to easily outwit them. But. No, that didn't fit. It nagged at him, nettled him even as the first egg collided with the little monster's dark crown.

    "I'm heading back," He mumbled more to himself than Taelin, lost as she was in the thrall of the public flagellation. It would take him years, he knew, to wipe away the memory of violent ecstasy smeared onto her face.

    By the next morning the night's atrocity was a ghost that trailed in his wake. He left the red light district early and ambled along the winding streets until the garbage and dime store hookers gave way to manicured hedges and neatly pressed watchmen. The elegant building he entered was creatively named the Swan, typical lodgings for mid-ranked ambassadors, including Bastion. He'd stayed there for the totality of a night before the lavish lifestyle had flustered him and he sought more, well, homely surroundings. It hadn't taken him long to find it in the form of the Bedside Manor, a busy brothel with a spare apartment in the attic. In exchange for a fraction of the Swan's price, Bastion had gained privacy; valuable, renewable information; and a limitless well of gossip.

    Still, conducting business in a brothel was considered poor manners, so he slipped into the building's adequate library to pass the time with research until his business meeting commenced. He started in historical records, hoping beyond hope that a taste of the kingdom's Unifier past would be there. Or maybe just that little monster's.
  3. "He's in the library at the Swan." Her husband told her as she moped on the bed. "That's all I'm telling you."

    Briefly, Dzhed wondered how he knew that much, but she kept her mouth shut and nodded. "Yes, your majesty."

    The man grunted, then walked from her room and slammed the door. She flinched.

    The pain in Dzhed's forehead increased gradually, until she rose from the bed and sat on its edge. The faces of the crowd from the night danced through her vision each time she blinked. Never before had she been used in that way for the festival.

    Yes, she had been stoned, egged, had other things thrown at her, but never had it been arranged, never had she been chained into place and ordered to stand through it, and never had it been a whole city of people. Men, women, and children from many races and lands joined together to jeer and laugh and torment. Her stomach churned as she remembered how parents lifted their children so they could hit her in the face, breasts, and hair. The echoes of high, shrieking laughter in her ears brought a shudder.

    Her crown offered pressure as a warning, and she stood. The woman dressed herself slowly. She selected simple clothing, suited for wandering the town in stealth, though her crown would surely offer her identity to all on a silver platter...

    He'd told her to sneak. Those words suddenly returned, and she rubbed her temples as she began to pace.

    Her eyes closed, and the crowd appeared again in her mind. So many religious orders represented, even. Clergy from every deity and belief, and so much religious garb-

    Red eyes snapped open wide as the answer appeared thanks to her torment from the day before. A certain local order required women cover their hair and heads with a massive, decorated turban. She flung open the doors of her wardrobe and sought every scarf and scrap she could find, and began by first winding her hair into a large bun atop her head in the shape of a crown, held in place by two combs. Next, the scraps of cloth. She stuffed them within and atop her hair to add to its bulk until it came above her crown, and only then did she begin to wrap the entirety in her scarves.

    Jeweled combs joined, and Dzhed did her best to ensure the top of the turban was flat. It looked bulky at the front, but at least her most telling features were hidden.

    A flutter of giddiness teased at her stomach, and she draped a veil over the turban, then wound a black scarf atop it, to hide her face. The long veil also partly-hid the bulk of her bust.

    Her body trembled with fear and excitement, but the threat of pain from the crowd kept her moving forward. Her feet slipped into sturdy, simple-looking shoes, and she finally exited her room.

    Most servants ignored her, assuming correctly that the king gave some sort of order.

    As she walked, her back straightened and her shoulders dropped. Slowly, she slipped free from her unease, and her emotionless mask settled onto her features. She stepped from the child and into the role of the hated Queen Dzhed.

    The day progressed forward, and Dzhed made her way to the Swan. She had to ask directions several times and make an excuse about why a member of a very local order needed an inn. To meet someone who wanted to hear about her order, she claimed, and the person appeared to accept it.

    By the time she arrived at the Swan, Bastion had uncovered (rather quickly) that once upon a time, his own people had a story much like the one that led to the local festival.

    Several hundred years ago, angels in green descended from the sky. They brought a sealed demon with black horns and gave her to a hero of old as a reward for his impressive deeds, and a sign that he had been chosen for his ability to protect the world from the demon.

    The local story happened ten years ago. The king, faced with impossible odds and an enemy army that outnumbered his own by a factor of five, set his generals in charge of the army with a focus on defense and sought peril to find an artifact. He returned a week later, half-dead, and used the relic to obliterate the enemies of his army.

    The day the king was well enough to sit on his throne, the Unifiers appeared directly outside the castle with the monster and led her inside. They explained that the weak-looking creature they had bound in gleaming shackles would destroy the entire world and all of the distant stars, planets, and beyond. They showed him something nobody else could see, and the man immediately accepted their request to keep her at heel while they fought against wicked forces in worlds beyond counting, past the furthest stars.

    Since the king had already been widowed three times, and had six heirs, he took the sealed monster as his wife.

    This story, much more recent than the one from Bastion's history, had great detail. It listed some of the Unifier soldiers by name. Sketches of their faces, clothes, and more adorned the pages, scribbled by some overworked scribe, assigned to record every event within the throne room.

    Each of the three books he found with mention of the subject told the same story, with varying amounts of detail and accuracy.

    A stranger walked past Bastion's table in the library. "If you like the queen's story, this is a funny coincidence." A children's book with two dates inside the cover: an estimated original date very early in history, and another date twenty years prior. The title page on the inside showed a woman with giant, sagging breasts, clawed fingers ready to strike, a snarl of sharp teeth, bleeding red eyes, and a black, barbed crown grown from her forehead. She looked ready to devour the reader. More images decorated the same page: monsters, each. A bull man, a goblin in a massive crown, a giant, a snake-woman, and more surrounded the one with the black crown.

    The following pages told the story of a hero of old in simple language. He went on a journey and killed monsters to seek out the lord of monsters so he could avenge his dead younger sister. Blue angels came to him when he bested the Lord, and gave him a monster princess. They told him he had to watch her and ensure the seal that kept her from destroying everything did not break. He agreed, and immediately removed her head with his sword.

    He took her body back home with him and locked it into a sealed cave. The next day, he woke to find her seated beside his bed with her head bowed. He allowed her to follow him for three days before he adopted her as his new sister.

    Halfway through the small tome, a stranger clad all in black and covered in a knee-length veil stepped into the library. Had it not been for the bulge of flesh on her chest that pushed at the veil, it would have been impossible to know the stranger's sex. She looked around slowly, then sighed as movement under the veil revealed pale arms. The veil shifted against her chest as she rested her hands atop the large slope.

    Dzhed, clad in her disguise, could see several people present. She began to wander slowly, glancing at book titles as she passed each one. Unused to subterfuge, slight shifts in her posture offered someone like Bastion a very obvious clue about her snooping.
  4. [​IMG]

    The library was busier than he'd anticipated, but Bastion continued on undaunted, weaving around a few of his fellow ambassadors and their retinue. He found the documents, the tomes, and the books almost too easily. In his experience, anything worth finding wasn't so quick to present itself. And sure enough, the man skimmed through pages, books, finding the same story scribbled onto each. Angels, bound monsters, heroes. The only thing that struct a deep, curious cord with him was what the heroes did with the monster. They adopted it, married it. In any other fairy tale the hero would have sought a way to destroy the evil or lock it away without having to babysit the damn thing. They certainly didn't wed it and bed it.

    Bastion snorted derisively as he shoved the last book aside, the sketches of monster and king left to stare at the empty ceiling. The girl looked the same in the local's decade old story as she had on that platform that day before. Not so unusual, no, but he highly doubted she was the same creature from eons ago. So they replaced her, he figured silently, chewing on his bottom lip. Took a bastard child or an unfortunate servant girl, trained her, and presented her to the next champion when she came of age. But the crown; it had looked so real. No magic or skill he had ever encountered could even begin to replicate those bizarre barbs sprouting like mushrooms from a dead log. Nothing he had encountered yet; he corrected, considering his next line of research even as a stranger approached his table to produce another round of little monster fables.

    The queen's story, the stranger said, with a certain amount of familiarity that unsettled Bastion. He spared his fellow researcher a quick, considerate glance. He was met with unremarkable features in unremarkable but expensive clothes. An ambassador's servant then. Fair enough. Bastion uttered a thanks before swiveling the children's story closer to him. It was educationally terrifying; the perfect sort to teach bad children to brush teeth, or go to sleep, or to treat their sisters like royal abominations. Yes, he was certain the local spawn played such a cruel game everyday on the city's streets, much like they had the day before with their parents and their queen.

    Idly flipping the pages, eyeing the crass, disturbing illustrations, Bastion found himself wondering what would happen if the seal broke. If he broke that seal. If nothing else, he prayed to unnamed gods that it would wipe the dimwitted cruelty from every savage civilian in the damned city. If it took the rest of the universe with them, well, so be it.

    A whisper of fabric drained the malicious thoughts from his weary head. From the corner of his eye he caught sight of a veiled nun- or priestess- or whatever her order called her- shuffling around the library. Here or there where a person sat entranced by their reading material, the woman would lean, not so subtly snooping. To what purpose, he couldn't imagine. By the time she eased over to his table, Bastion had flipped to the final page of the colorfully imagined children's book.

    "If you need help finding something, ma'am, I'm sure the librarian would be happy to assist." He commented, calling her out on her amateur spying. Although he found most religious figures to be odd, she struck him as stranger still. It was the gossamer veil, obscuring her face and inspiring a chill to run thin, sickly fingers down his spine. As casually as he could manage, Bastion stood, gathered the books and tossed them indifferently onto the return tray. The research had been a bit of a bust.
  5. She paused as she saw the books he read, and her stance shifted. Her veiled face shifted from his books to him, in time for him to speak. Her head turned to either side, and then, half turned full around, she stopped, then looked toward him. "Oh. You were speaking to me," she realized in a hushed whisper.

    Her voice was high, and she enunciated each word and syllable with a sense of care completely missing from the local populace. Where others slurred and skipped sounds, she took special care to speak clearly.

    The woman's hand continued to rest on her chest as she watched the man toss the books into the tray. "I do not need assistance immediately, but I see you are studying a topic I know intimately. If you would like, there is a park not far from here. The breeze should be nice today."

    If she believed in gods at this point, she would have prayed for one to send a breeze. Too long repeating the same story ripped hope from her that there was any power stronger than the Unifiers.

    She put pause to her thoughts and realized there was something else she could do. "I also have a tome from my personal collection. It was very difficult to obtain. If you can guarantee its return, I may allow you to read it. This book details each of the monster's stories, what happened between them, and some information about the time before the first story."

    Her crown spread tension along her forehead, reduced by the thought that she could use the forbidden diary to entice the man to talk to her about his reasons. "I'm not to give my name, but you may call me-" Instead of offering something right away, the words trailed from her lips. "Those close tend to call me Kyaereste, or Kara if that is too difficult."

    They meant 'dearest', but she couldn't remember much more than that. A few fleeting faces appeared in her vision, mouths forming each of the two words, but pain blossomed and reddened the faces. They turned to blood and oozed as her hand shot out to catch herself. Her fingernails, medium-length and shining, pressed into the grain of the wooden table as she swayed.
  6. [​IMG]

    Very cute; the startled spin, the glancing, as if she hadn't been the only one snooping by his table.
    "Aye, I was speaking to you." He retorted dryly, quirking one thick brow. His fresh scar strained and itched with the movement.

    "The next time you want to spy on someone, I recommend leaning less." Bastion added, folding his arms across his chest. He looked down on her; not because her criminal skills were so lacking but because she was honestly that short. It impressed upon him then- mostly from the strain in his neck- that she must have been at least two solid feet shorter.

    She spoke again; her melodic voice proper and trained like a well educated clergywoman, yet she lacked the local inflection he had witnessed in the few other religious disciples he had come across. An offer. Both dark brows rolled high on his forehead at that, tightening the scar into a taut line.

    "And why would you do that? Do you often go to the park with strangers?" He inquired, baffled. In his home city a person would sooner spit at you than offer to have a pleasant conversation in the park, and from what he'd witnessed so far, her own city wasn't so different. If it was her city, he amended, bearing in mind her highborn cadence. He clipped his next remark short for she mustered the resolve to speak again, sweetening the deal with promises of an incredible book.

    "Are you a Unifier priestess, then?" He asked, for he couldn't imagine anyone else being allowed to posses such a mythical tome. Or having absurd practices like being forbidden from revealing your birth name. Bastion was about to say as much when the petite woman seemed to crumble under the weight of her turban, pain evident despite the veil as she wavered and clung to the table. Instinct sent him forward, one hand gripping her upper arm firmly in an attempt to keep her from collapsing completely.

    "Steady there, strange Kyaereste. Are you alright?" Sincerity tinged his gruff tone. "I'll go with you to the park if it means you don't collapse on me..." Clarity, cruel mistress that it was, informed him of the softness pressing against his knuckles just then. Apparently, when one's body was sixty percent breast it was nearly impossible to keep from grazing them. Bastion, cheeks flushing, marveled at the facts he learned every day as he oh so gingerly released his grip and let his arm swing back down to his side.

    "...Though I doubt you lend out your collection of rare and impossible tomes for free." He finished the thought, eyes darting away from the woman as if he could will his embarrassment to pass. "I can't imagine I have much to offer a priestess." Bastion gestured for her to take the lead on their quest for sunlight and manicured vegetation. For a split second before they moved away, he could've sworn he spotted movement by the closest bookcase. Almost as if a hand were readjusting a book to block the view.

    "Hmm. But I suppose I can start with a name. Call me Bastion, if you care to call me anything at all." He said, letting the library and its nosy inhabitants fall from his thoughts as they were bathed once more by daylight.
  7. His answers came to each of her statements and questions as she gave them. He was quick, as proven when he caught her and began to lead her from the library. Once steadied, she followed his lead, silent for several steps, the memories purged willfully to drive off her agony.

    As they entered the sunlight, she blinked to ward off the worst of the light, thankful for her veil.

    "It is a pleasure to meet you, Bastion. The park best for quiet discussion is that direction," the woman offered as she inclined her head toward a quiet part of the city: specifically, a part of the city that recently had a flood. Few of the inhabitants could remain during reconstruction, but the park was intact and had looked maintained from her window.

    As she stepped forward to take the lead, already slightly winded, the disguised queen began to walk in that direction briskly, long enough for him to notice that she had an idea where she intended to go.

    Finally, she knew he had questions, and it was the time to answer them. "I am not a Unifier, nor do I go to parks often at all, let alone with strangers. I cannot leave my home often, so kind people occasionally give me small treasures and tokens. The book of which I speak is one of those gifts."

    Dzhed had no answer to whether or not she was alright, and for the offer in exchange for the book, she decided she would answer when they arrived.

    Along the way, she did pause to look back. "Was I that obvious? Back in the library, I mean." A quick glance around confirmed they were only minutes from their destination, so she assumed. Then again, she walked more slowly than the people and dots she watched from the window. Short legs were a curse.
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