The Lake of Shades: A Fantasy, Part Six
Inside the palace of the great city, Dinas Gwyn, a woman stood before a mirror as her lady-in-waiting stroked her long hair the color of black onyx, with a comb of ivory. It had been the gift of a wealthy admirer whom she had visited in a distant land and played with like a toy or a dog while accepting his expensive gifts.
She used him for her own gratifications until she grew tired of his moody ways and had leaked their affair to the idiot’s wife as well as to the bishop and stayed in the city long enough to enjoy the unraveling of her former lover’s entire life.
Iyana had no time for love, and she was bored with wealth except as it gave her leverage and advantage. Her passion was power, and she was ready to expand her land holdings by means of warfare. But for that, she would need a much more powerful army than the mercenary forces she now employed. It was time for her to unveil her secret weapon. But she was unable to do so until the bounty hunter she had hired returned with the stones.
She knew the shades wouldn’t be able to resist their one chance to escape imprisonment. Soon she would have them. She would keep the royal family under the spell and would release the royal guard with one threat. For every deserter among the spirit-warriors, the soul of one member of the royal family would be annihilated rather than allowing them to pass on to the heavenly bliss they all anticipated.
The Queen knew the loyalty the subjects of the Spirit-King felt for their King and the whole royal family. There would be few, if any, who would seek his own eternal reward at the expense of those he had served and loved in life.
Under that threat, they would do her bidding forever. They would be her supreme fighting force that killed but would never die. They would march through enemy lines hacking, piercing, slicing until every enemy combatant was dead. The time would come when her enemies would see them coming from a distance and flee. The genius of it all, she thought, was that she wouldn’t even have to pay the spirit-soldiers. Iyana’s musing was interrupted by a knock on the door.
The Queen’s servant opened the door only the slightest and peeked. “It is the Captain of your guard, My Lady, Captain Fletcher.”
“What is it, Captain? You know how I loathe being disturbed for every menial thing you find difficult to handle on your own.” The Queen threw back the door to reveal a man of considerable height and breadth who cowered before her like a child.
“Forgive me, Your Highness, I thought it would be wrong if I did not tell you in person what is happening on the green outside the city. You see…”
“What are you rambling on about, you fool? Oh, never mind, I’ll look for myself.” Iyana crossed the room and opened a door that led to a balcony overlooking the city with Tillerton in the distance. Separating the city and town was a large green field used for grazing animals as well as gatherings and markets. Permitting the peasants to use this valuable land was one of the Queen’s few acts which the people characterized as kind.
“Captain Fletcher,” she called over her shoulder. He stepped onto the balcony.
“Yes, My Queen?”
“Was there a market or some other public gathering planned for today on the green?”
“No, Your Highness.”
“Then disperse that mob immediately.”
“Yes, Your Worthiness. But I would like to add one more thing if I may.”
“What is it? You should think twice about asking me for more money for your men. I’ll remind you about the lashings you took last time you played such a fool.”
“It is just that the three roads leading into Tillerton are filled with peasants coming from all the towns and villages of Her Majesty’s kingdom.”
“Then send them home.”
“And if they will not go, should we wound or kill a few of the men to scare the rest of them away?”
“What? You would kill rent paying, tax paying men for no reason? You fool, get out of my sight and rid the green of those filthy people.”
“Yes, Your Highness, as you please.”
As the Captain left the balcony, the Queen called after him. “And watch carefully for that peasant bounty hunter I hired to go on a particular mission. If he is here and has not come to see me, I want him bound and dragged into the dungeon. You remember him, don’t you?”
“Yes, Your Majesty. A smallish man he was. I remember him.”