Tales From the Universe Tree: Wolves of Ice and Fire. Part Eight: Pain.
Fetch The Healers!
(Continued from Part Seven)
Yalm and a small patrol of palace guards found Risa cradling Shenal in her arms ten minutes later. Yalm and the guards gaped in disbelief when they took in the scene. One of them gasped when he saw Bongal passed out in a puddle of his own blood. Risa glared icily at them as they entered. Gently, she laid The Queen back down on the ground and then her face hardened and she shot up, the Shogun pointed to two of the men,“You Fetch the Healers,” she barked urgently. She then jabbed a finger at Bongal. “The First Sword tried to kill her majesty! Have the Healer see to him and then throw him in a cell!” The guards just stared at her curiously. Risa clenched her hands into fists. What were they gawking at like Roots Crushed idiots? But then she glanced down at herself. Blood welled up from a dozen little cuts on her arms and legs, her shift held cling to her by a single desperate strap. The hair between her legs was soaked with blood. Her face flushed in anger. Elysium, was there ever a time when men didn’t ogle?! She opened her mouth to call them down for it when Yalm whirled on the others.
“Well what are you waiting for, are your feet made of stone!?” he growled, sounding menacing in a way that only a Gilannri could manage. “Her Grace is wounded, go! Obey the Shogun! Move you green scaled sons of Aurochs!!”
The guards jumped and then saluted their captain and scurried to obey. Two attended to the First Sword, two saw to the Queen. And two hurried out the door, shouting for the Healers. Yalm went to Risa, his reptilian features grim. “My Shogun,” The Gilannri said to Risa. He eyed The Queen worriedly. “Is…”
“She lives,” she snapped, her eyes narrowing on him. “Thank Elysium for that. What happened here tonight, Yalm!? Are your men all deaf?! Why didn’t they come when we called!? What happened to the men posted outside the door?!”
“All dead,” Yalm replied stoically. He pointed behind him to two more guards outside inspecting two bodies that she had not seen before slumped against the wall. “Two of many that fell to that traitor’s sword this.”
“How many?” Risa rushed to her wardrobe and threw on a robe.
“Six that we know of. Three guardsmen and two servants cut nearly in half, the Great Lord of Creation rest their souls. I can only guess as why he targeted the servants. Perhaps they saw what they shouldn’t have. But—”
Dread Formed In Her Belly.
“Who was the sixth?” Risa asked hurriedly. She didn’t care about the why, not now. Bongal had done it and his victims would have justice. There was nothing else to consider.
Yalm hesitated, and his face fell as if he had remembered something terrible and he looked around as if he wanted to be anywhere else. At that moment, Two Healers scrambled into the room to Shenal and Bongal. Their pristine white robes and red and green-winged serpent chokers seemed oddly out of place in that hellish scene. One of the guards around Bongal stumbled and grunted as one of the Healers shoved him out of the way. The other Healer fussed over the Queen. No one was close enough to hear, but when the Gilannri exile spoke again he lowered his voice anyway. “About that, my Shogun.” He began, he swallowed. “Perhaps we should speak more of this where there are les—”
“What is it, Captain?” Risa urged impatiently. “Who was the sixth victim?” dread abruptly formed in her belly like a block of ice. Her mouth dried up.
The ice became colder when the Gilannri’s face fell and his voice suddenly became sympathetic. “I, we first became aware that something was wrong when—”
Any Way To Break Her.
“Say it plain!” Risa held the tremble out of her voice with an effort. She swallowed to work moisture back into her mouth. Her heart seized up suddenly. Why was she suddenly so afraid?
Yalm placed a consoling hand on her shoulder. His scales were smooth but warm, like obsidian after bathing in the light of a fire. “My Shogun…I am sorry. We—”
The Gilannri grunted when Risa grabbed the captain of the guard by the shoulders. “What are you saying!?” fear cracked through the walls of her discipline, the fear of a mother. “Are you…” she couldn’t say it. Bongal would find any way to hurt her, to break her. But would he…even after…Not that! By the Tree, please not that! “Where is my daughter, Yalm?!”
The Gilannri shook his head sadly. “I am sorry, My Shogun.” He said solemnly. “One of my men first discovered that something was wrong when his rounds took him to the Princess Satsuka’s bed chamber. The guards had been slaughtered, and the door hacked off its hinges. The Princess was hiding in the wardrobe, too frightened to even breathe. But— my Shogun where are you going?!”
Something She Needed.
Risa didn’t hear him. She dashed past him out of the room, brushing past guards and bumping those who were too slow to get out of her way. She didn’t see anything. She didn’t hear anything. Nothing else existed. “I am sorry…” Yalm’s voice echoed off her skull like alarm gongs. “Guards had been slaughtered…princess Satsuka’s bedchamber…too frightened to even breathe.” No! No! No! No!
When she arrived at Satsuka’s chamber, two guards barred her way. Begging her to wait. Satsuka clung to her nurse a few feet away from the door and sobbed into the older woman’s dress. The nurse stroked the girl’s hair, whispering something soothingly.
But Risa only had eyes for the little body half hidden by the two boys in maroon robes that she recognized as Healer’s apprentices. As the blood pooled around Yuska. No!!!! Risa shoved the guards aside and barreled past the apprentices, falling to her knees. For a moment she stared. Strands of cloth swam in the blood. Her night clothes lay in tatters. Blood seeped out of her from a thousand deep cuts crisscrossing her body. Risa shuddered. Her lips trembled. “No…” She cradled her daughter in her arms like she was an infant again. A part of her wanted to laugh hysterically. I beat him…it wasn’t supposed to…something inside her shattered. Something she needed. Something she would never have again. She began to weep, to tremble. And then Risa Albus, Shogun of the United Kingdom of Durranna, the sword that protects the realms of men, and hero of Valintin Keep did something she had not done since her wedding night.
She threw her head back and wailed.
(Continued in Part Nine)
© 2017 Will English.