The Queen is Dead
“Where are you going father?”
Aleja’s voice was soft, an echo of a whisper. Aleja moved her long black hair from her face and stared at her father, the once mighty High Chamberlain of the Island of Corazon who was now just plain Taka, with emerald green eyes that glowed in the dim light of the room.
Looking at her now, her slender frame silhouetted by the cool blue light that emanated from the walls, Taka couldn’t help but feel that he was living with a ghost.
“You are not my child..” Taka thought, “…you are your mother’s.”
“I need to see an old friend,” Taka turned back towards the door. “I’ll be back in the morning.”
“It’s not safe to go out at this time. What if someone recognizes you?”
“Why don’t you tell me the truth?”
Taka paused. He felt a slight vibration in the panel by the door, as if her voice had reverberated through the walls.
“My business is my own Aleja.” He said in a tone that suggested that he would tolerate no further questions. “I will talk with you in the morning. Now go to sleep”
Aleja stared at her father in silence before bowing dutifully. Her hesitation spoke volumes to Taka, and was more painful the mocking words he knew others spoke about him in his absence.
“Your meal will be waiting for you father” Aleja said, her face inches from the floor. After the appropriate amount of time had passed she raised her head up and slid the door shut.
Taka moved deftly through the cold and empty streets of the city of Mir, the capital of Corazon. As he drew closer to the Walled City the streets and paths narrowed. Taka covered his nose as he passed through a gate and entered the Walled City. The air was filled not just with the smell of the discarded trash and fetid water that covered crumbling streets, but also with the stench of a humbled and degraded humanity. The lucky few that earned some keep by gutting fish or reusing waste lived in the narrows and crawlspaces that honeycombed the area.
When Taka had served in the Queen’s court he had come to know the people of the Walled City well. The Queen had called them “her children” and had often sent him into the city to ensure they were fed, given work, treated with dignity. But now the Queen was gone seven years of Consul Rule, led by a bloated pig named Lumen, had reduced them to wretches.
“Out of this earth, there will grow a Garden of Eden” the Queen once said to her court, her hands filled with dirt from the Walled City.
“Out of this shit, you couldn’t grow a weed” Lumen mocked to his co-conspirators behind closed doors. In the years since her death, now that he governed not just the capital but the entire island, he had governed liked he truly believed it.
Taka smiled as he thought about the weeds that will grow out of Lumen’s corpse after tonight.
Taka walked through a maze of alleyways until he reached a chapel. There were no doors in the entrance, simply a hole in the wall big enough to race a chariot through. Birds perched in the rafters above, their cooing mixed with the coughs and wheezes of the desperate souls that rested inside. No light from outside entered the glassless windows. Taka let his eyes adjust to the dim before he walked toward a door on the far end of the chapel. He opened the door and entered a small windowless room.
Once inside Taka traced on the walls a series of shapes. A wall it slid open to reveal a metal elevator. Taka entered and then descended.
Taka entered a room that was almost a mirror image in size of the chapel above. But unlike that tattered ruin the walls of this room were covered in an unbroken silver sheen. Two large chambers connected by a serious of wires and tubes laid on a platform at the far end of the room. The chambers were made from the same metal as the walls, but were covered by an enclosure of frosted glass. A low frequency humming sound coming from the chambers vibrated through the floor.
Taka knelt before one of the chambers and removed his hood to expose a black ram’s skull tattooed on the back of his head. The ram’s horns extended from the crown of Taka’s shaved head and curled into tips beneath his ears.
Taka placed his right hand on the frosted glass. As he chanted a screen became visible on the metallic base. After entering in a series of shapes he stood up and backed away slowly, never taking his eyes away from the glass as it defrosted.
Taka dropped to his knees at the sight of the woman lying in the chamber.
“My Queen” He said as tears formed in his eyes. “May Justice reign.”
The Queen’s skin, as black and smooth as polished obsidian, was covered in a diaphanous sheet that glittered in the cloud of diamond dust that enveloped her. Her sapphire blue eyes were closed, locked in the sleep that claimed every Queen before their death.
Taka wiped his eyes and turned around at the sound of the elevator door opening. Two men, both wearing the mottled cloaks of Serviles, stepped out of the elevator. The taller man approached the chambers in bold strides with his hands on his heart. The shorter man lagged behind in a shabby imitation of the reverential steps Taka took when he entered the room.
“High Chamberlin Taka.” The tall one said with a bow.
“Marshall Agrippa” The Taka replied with a nod. “Forgive me for asking you to wear the robes of a servile, but as I’m sure Chamberlin Geist has explained it was necessary to disguise our efforts in a place where the Consuls would never lower themselves to come.”
I’m familiar with the need for such precautions High Chamberlin, and take no offense at the disguise of my rank. Please permit me to remove my robe so that I may approach our Queen.”
Taka nodded his assent and motioned for his assistant, Chamberlain Geist, to remove Agrippa’s disguise.
Marshall Agrippa wore his military garb underneath the rags. Taka cast a contemptuous look at the medals on Agrippa’s chest, for what could have a man done to deserve them in a country that had not seen a foreign war in centuries. The Order of the Chamberlain, who created the Queen and served as her advisors, had no need for such vanities. The horns of the ram tattooed on his head were enough to show Taka’s accomplishments. Still, Taka had more respect for the military were stationed in many of its inhospitable regions than he did for the Consuls governing from Mir who grew fat as they profited off their positions at the people’s expense.
Agrippa approached the Queen and knelt down before her, placing his right fist on the floor. Chamberlain Geist joined him after discarding his own disguise. Taka waited patiently behind them as they finished their homage.
“It’s time High Chamberlin” Geist said after reciting his oath.
Geist opened the glass cover of the other chamber to expose the young girl inside. The girl, also asleep, was much younger than the Queen, perhaps sixteen or seventeen. All the body hair was shaven off her bronze skin and the same gossamer cloth covered her body.
“I know her…” Agrippa said as Geist removed the cloth from the girl’s body, “…she is from a lower house. Are you sure she’s serviceable for this procedure?”
“Her house is small but has connections to ancient regal lines.” Geist said as he wrote inscriptions on her flesh with a thin brush.
“It is difficult to find girl with the appropriate qualities and not arose too much suspicion.” Geist continued as he finished painting the girl’s eyelids. “The procedure must be done the same time every year, which adds to the difficulty of escaping notice.”
“This can’t go on forever Geist.” Agrippa said. “Remember the purpose of the procedure is to bring the Queen back, not simply sustain her in sleep. For every year the Queen remains dead, support for overthrowing the Consuls wanes. Even in the provinces and coastal defense towns, many have given up on the idea of the Queen and have accepted rule by Consuls as the new reality. And, for men in my position, supporting the Consuls can be quite profitable.”
“The Queen is not dead Marshall Agrippa.” Taka fixed Agrippa with a hard stare. “The treachery of the Consuls will be repaid and the malignant illusion of democracy will fade from history.”
Agrippa nodded, but said nothing.
Geist closed the glass cover of the girl’s chamber and began the process. The men’s reflections in the walls shook as a throbbing bass tone rumbled from the chambers. The cloud in the Queen’s chamber became a whirlwind as it filled with a red mist from the headboard.
“What is that?”Agrippa asked Geist.
“Microfibers.” Geist said. “They act as conductors and allow the life energy from the girl to be transferred to the Queen.”
“Then why does the girl have to be to be attached with wires?” Agrippa said as he pointed to the girl’s chamber. “It seems primitive to me.”
“The wires are needed for the energy extraction process.” Geist replied.
“Why not use the mist for that?”
Geist cast a nervous glance at Taka, who nodded his head then resumed his silent vigil by the Queen’s side.
“The extraction process requires….”Geist paused and scratched the eye of the ram tattooed on the back of his head. The horns of Geist’s ram were noticeably shorter than Taka’s and barely reached the tops of his ears.“…more invasive measures Sire.”
Geist stepped away from the chamber as a series of wires emerged from the girl’s headboard and slowly surrounded her. Most wires were as thin and sharp as a threaded needle. Three of the wires, two that hung over her eyes and one over her heart, were as thick as a rope. There were hundreds of them, all hovering over the girl’s body like coiled snakes about to strike. As the wires got into position both chambers let out series of chimes, at first discordant but gradually joined together in harmony. As the final note hung in the air the wires impaled the girl. Agrippa turned away as the wires slowly bored deeper into her. There was a faint smell of burned carbon as the wires cauterized the wounds. Even with hundreds of wires piercing her skin not a drop of blood could be seen on the girl, and she did not make a sound.
“Is she still alive?” Agrippa asked Geist after wiping the spittle off his chin.
“Yes Sire. She will not die until the process is complete.”
“What is happening to her?”
“She is giving her life to the Queen. Her blood, electricity, her sequence. Everything the Queen needs to repair and sustain her corporal form.”
“Why hasn’t it revived her? I read that this process… Sacrificial…”
"…Regeneration” Geist finished dryly.
“Yes…Sacrificial Regeneration…if it sustained the Queens of the past why is our Queen still asleep?”
“Much of the knowledge about the process was lost over time Marshall Agrippa” Geist replied. Taka, long grown weary of the Marshall’s questions, kept his vigil by the Queen’s chamber. “My lord High Chamberlin Taka rediscovered the ancient art while creating this Queen.”
The wires burrowed deeper into the girl and the red cloud swirling around the Queen grew darker. Suddenly from inside the cloud, like lighting in a storm, a shock of electricity struck the Queen. The Queen showed no response, not even a twitch or shudder, as electric blue waves illuminated her body.
“The transfer has begun. We will know success by morning.” Geist said.
"I must go to my post.” Agrippa said with a click of his heels. “Contact me only to confirm success. I will be ready, as will my troops.”
“Thank you Marshall Agrippa.” Taka replied with a slight bow. “Geist will accompany you out of the Walled City.”
Agrippa and Geist left the room. Now alone, Taka thought back to the creation of this Queen, a more peaceful, but no less powerful experience than her regeneration.
The genetic line the Chamberlains used to create the Queens before her had lost its power. For reasons no one understood, in defiance of all common knowledge and science, the Queens were living shorter lives. In the past there were stories of Queen’s of immense power and authority serving for hundreds of years. Those were the Queens who served before the Cataclysms, before much of human knowledge was lost, before kingdoms were swallowed by the sea, before the clouds covered the Sun and humanity forgot how to dance among the stars.
Now, without them, Corazon was no longer a sanctuary in a hostile world, but a ship adrift in an endless, turbulent sea.
“What water did not cleanse, the fire will purify” Taka repeated as his thoughts him far from this underground sanctuary. Only when he heard the elevator open did he realize how much time had passed.
Taka turned to scold Geist for his long absence but stopped himself when he saw four men roughly escorting the bruised and bloodied Geist into the room. The men, dressed in leather street clothes, were all carrying knives with them. The blades, sharp and hot enough to cut through steel, were ideal for fighting in the narrow confines of the Walled City. The Serviles referred to the hated and feared weapon as “butcher blades”. The City Guards themselves preferred the name “Reapers” for the way they cut through thick crowds like wheat in a field.
Taka did not recognize three of the men, a motley crew that consisted of a young, curly haired man, a scarred bald one, and a squat, black haired man. Taka recognized the leader, Captain Petain. He was a feared street fighter; as hard as stone and just as thick.
Petain raised his blade and addressed Taka.
“Taka, we are here to bring you to justice for your crimes. I order you to stop your machine and release the girl”
Taka made no move as the men approached him.
“Justice…” Taka said with a laugh, “…funny to hear that word coming from you.”
The men stopped as they reached the steps of the raised platform. Taka noticed their grip on Geist loosened as they looked at the Queen’s chamber. The cloud was darker now, almost black, and she was not visible. The men’s attention drifted to the body of the girl in the other chamber, the wires enveloping her body in a strangling embrace .
“What have you done Taka?” Petain said. “Fucking young girls not enough for you anymore?”
Petain lifted his sword from his left side, and stood with his legs apart in the warning stance the City Guard used shortly before an attack.
Petain called out to the curly haired guard. “Arrest Taka and you-” he spoke to Geist with a kick, “-release the girl.”
“If I’m being arrested why aren’t you and your men in uniform?” Taka raised his hands to them, as if he were preaching. “And who do you wish to be released?” He held out his hand to the chambers, “There are two here.”
The guard’s momentum slowed as they peered the Queen’s smoke filled chamber.
“Have you not told them Captain?” Taka said to Petain with a smile. “Did you tell them I am a murderer out for revenge on those that betrayed me?” Taka’s voice echoed through the room as he addressed Petain’s men. “Betrayed our Queen?”
Taka looked at the men approaching him. The force of his gaze stopped them in their tracks.
“If you believe that you are serving justice for our people then Lumen not only poisoned our Queen, but your minds as well.” Taka said.
“Still making baseless accusations Taka?” Petain replied. “The compromises that spared you punishment for the bastard girl you sowed in the Queen’s High Priestess will mean nothing after this crime has been exposed.”
Petain grabbed Geist from his men and spoke directly into what was left of his ear.
“You are going to turn off this device, or I’m going to start cutting again.” Petain said as he placed the blade over Geist’s genitals. Geist, tears forming in his swollen eyes, shook his head yes and let Petain lead him to the girls’ chamber.
“Men,” Petain said, “if Taka gets in our way kill him.”
The moment Petain took his first step up the platform a flash of electricity from inside the chamber lit up the room. Momentarily blinded, Petain’s men stumbled and covered their eyes. The cloud inside the chamber dissipated, and the Queen was now completely in view.
The curly haired guard dropped to his knees at the sight of the queen. The black haired guard’s sword fell with a clank onto the floor as his compatriot stood with his mouth agape. Even Petain stopped and stared.
“Now do you realize who you are fighting for? This is you Queen!” Taka stalked across the platform like a tiger in a cage. “Do you dare raise up arms against her? She who is the light that guides us through these dark times? She who is the mother of the people she serves? Thru her, Justice rules our world. Through the Consuls, nothing but patronage, corruption, and vice. The people chose the Consuls to lead them, and now the Consuls choose to rob them. If you continue to side with them, you are complicit in humanity’s descent into baseness.”
Petain, now recovered from his stupor, shouted to his men.
“Advance on him!”
Taka stood in front of the chamber and held his arms outstretched. Petain threw Geist down on the steps and raised up his sword in Taka’s direction.
Taka shouted to the guards “If you stop this process now, your Queen will surely die. Her blood will be on your hands and hell will be waiting for you!”
Petain screamed at his men.
“Destroy the Queen’s chamber if you must! Your duty is to protect the lives of the people, not to make them slaves once again!”
The black haired guard lifted his blade off the floor and moved towards the chamber. The curly haired guard, still kneeling in front of the chamber, let out a terrible scream as he cleaved his comrade’s head off. Blood sprayed across the room as the black haired man’s spinning body fell down the steps and slammed onto the floor. The remaining guard turned around and sliced downward towards the curly-haired guard, who parried the blow but fell backwards from the force it. After he regained his footing the two began to exchange blows, and with each hit the blades sent a piercing ring cascading though the room.
Captain Petain screamed at his men to stop. Geist, perhaps sensing this was his one chance at escape, tried to sneak away. Petain slashed downward on Geist and cut him in half from his left shoulder to his right hip. Geist garbled out pitiful, choking screams as his torso slid off his waist.
Petain, eyes stinging from Geist’s blood and blade still in the finishing position, was not prepared for Taka’s attack. Leaping on Petain with the speed of a man sixty years younger, Taka grabbed Petain’s sword arm with one hand and wrapped the other around his throat. Petain, his eyes bulging out from the strain, freed Taka’s hand from his neck and bull rushed him into the glass covering of the young girl’s chamber. The glass shattered and shards were sent flying as Taka crashed into the girl. Taka felt a stabbing pain in his back, but the scream he heard was not his own. He looked up to see Petain reeling backwards, blood running through his fingers as he covered his eyes.
Eyes blinded and bleeding, Petain charged at Taka. The pain in Taka’s back shot through his body as he dodged Petain’s sword thrust.
The blade found an opening between the wires and sliced open the chest of the young girl, who let out a blood curdling scream as Petain fell into her and knocked her from her place in the chamber. Taka leapt on Petain and smashed his face into a large piece of broken glass. Petain grunted and then went limp as Taka ground his face into the shard.
Once he was sure Petain was dead Taka collapsed exhausted to the floor. The girl dangled from the side of the chamber, her convulsing body hung from the wires like a freshly caught fish.
Taka turned around and saw the other guards lying on the floor. The bald one was dead, his head impaled by a blade onto the floor. The curly haired man gasped as he tried to keep his intestines from slipping out of his body. Taka approached him slowly.
“Is the Queen safe?” The curly haired guard said as he tried to prop himself up on one elbow. The blood from his abdomen flowed out of his body in a steady stream.
“Yes my son” Taka said knelt down behind him and laid his head in his lap.
“Be strong my son. I need to know if more men are coming.”
The man shook his head no. “Captain Petain…” the man struggled to speak “was working on his own. We were loyal to him…he wanted…suspected…things about you.”
The man paused and smiled at Taka. Tears glistened in his eyes. He looked towards the Queen’s chamber.
“I felt her love for me…” The man said as he drew his final breath. A single tear ran from his lifeless eyes.
Taka said a prayer over the man then laid him gently onto the floor. The Queen’s chamber had filled with the red smoke once again, and small burst of electricity could be seen entering her body. He went to the girl’s chamber and entered in a sequence that disconnected her from the wires. The girl’s body fell to the floor with a wet thud.
Taka laid his head on the Queen’s chamber and thought. If the process took the girls life, then the Queen could revive or a least be sustained for another year. If the girl was killed in the melee, the Queen would die a final death. Taka looked at the Queen for any sign of distress, any sign that she could be fading. There was nothing. No way of knowing if the Queen would live or die.
Geist, even if he were still alive, could not find a suitable candidate in the next few hours. Taka knew if there was any hope of saving her, of bringing her back, it would have to be done now. And he was the only one who could do it.
The omnipresent, grey and turbulent clouds hid the light of the dawn. Taka, wearing Geist’s cloak, used Petain’s vehicle to speed through the side streets and make his way home. The pain in his back was excruciating. As he exited the vehicle he stumbled and left traces of blood in the snow. Taka grimaced as he walked into his house. Aleja waited for him in the dining room, his soup and pickled vegetables she prepared for him sat steaming on the table.
Tears welled up in Aleja’s eyes as she helped him take off his cloak and she saw the bruises the size of the plates on the table. She cleaned the scrapes and picked out the tiny fragments of glass in her father’s arms and back. She did not stop to ask him what happened as she helped him clean and dress his wounds.
Taka refused Aleja’s offer of a painkiller. Once he had been cleaned and dressed in new clothes he asked her to come with him. Taka could see the suspicion in her eyes. He told her not to worry, that the men who did this could not hurt her now. He checked for Geist’s drugged cloth, used to subdue victims, before entering the vehicle and returning to the Walled City.
Once in the basement of the chapel Aleja screamed at the sight of the bodies splayed on the floor.
“What happened here?”
Taka put his hands around her shoulders and led her into the room. He spoke to her softly.
“I have been trying to save our Queen, and these men tried to stop me. They were supporters of Consul Lumen, the man who is responsible for the poisoning of the Queen” he paused and stared into the ocean green of her eyes, “and for the death of your mother.”
Aleja stopped. Taka could not tell whether the look on her face was one of anger or incomprehension.
“It is because of his hatred of me that you have suffered.” Taka continued, “The Consuls killed my greatest creation, destroyed humanity’s last hope, and ordered the death of the woman I loved. Your mother, Aleja. A man like Lumen is not worthy to rule us. He has sacrificed nothing to gain what he has.”
Taka walked Aleja to the Queens chamber. It was much clearer now, with almost no trace of the red smoke left. The Queen remained in sleep, but now there were small wrinkles visible in her once perfect skin.
“I need you to help her Aleja. We have all made sacrifices, but now I must ask you to make the greatest one. I need you to give your life to her.”
Aleja drew away from him. Tears spilled out of her eyes at the sight of the porcelain white body of the mutilated girl on the other side of the chamber. Aleja backed down the stairs. Taka followed her with arms outstretched.
“This is an honor Aleja, few can help the Queen this way. Your life will flow through hers. You will live forever through her. You must believe me, I never wanted to ask this of you, but the hypocrisy of the Consuls has left me no choice.”
Aleja closed her eyes and covered her ears.
“I don’t believe you!” She screamed
At the sound of Aleja’s scream the room shook as if it had been hit by a small earthquake.
“She carried your child and you did nothing to protect her!” Aleja screamed with her eyes shut. The walls and floors vibrated as she shook her fists by her sides.
Taka steadied himself until the vibrations subsided. He approached his crying child with arms open wide.
“Aleja, I loved your mother. The choice the Consuls gave her was no choice at all. How could she, a high priestess, allow herself to be cast down with the Serviles? How could she allow her brilliance to be wasted gutting fish or cleaning the sewers or worse!” Taka yelled. “They knew they were killing her. She wouldn’t betray me and they wanted her to pay for it.”
“Your pride took my mother away from me!” Aleja yelled. “Now I’m all that’s left of her and you want to throw that away.” Aleja pointed at Taka as she spoke, “I see what you are now! I can see it! You were never worthy of her love. Nor of mine!”
Aleja sprinted towards the elevator with Taka stumbling after her. She was faster than the wounded man, but did not know the codes and was soon cornered. Even in his weakened state, years of discipline gave Taka the strength to subdue her. He placed the drugged cloth over Aleja’s mouth, and watched as her accusing, emerald eyes grew cloudy and then closed.
“Forgive me Aleja…” he said as he swept her hair from her face “…but it must be done.” The serene look of peace on her sleeping face was more terrible to him than any of the ghastly sights and smells of the dead strewn about the room.
Once in the chamber the needles came into Aleja quickly. The red cloud emerged faster than before and the storms inside the Queen’s chamber were more violent. The Queens body shook with the force of some of the blasts as Aleja arched her back in concert with the shots of lighting. Taka turned away at the sight of their agony, and covered his ears to block out the screams that echoed through the room.
Then, suddenly and without warning, the lightning and the screaming stopped. The mist in the Queen’s chamber was gone and the room was silent once again.
Taka looked at the Queen, but could not tell if she were alive or dead. There was no indication on the monitor screen. The same could not be said of Aleja. He put his hand to her chest and throat, and felt nothing. No sound of breathing. He opened her eyes. Her pupils were dilated, and did not react to the light he shined in them. He closed her eyes and fell sobbing against his daughter’s chest.
Taka felt a hand placed gently on his shoulder. His Queen now stood behind him, her wet, blood red gown clinging tightly to her body. Her eyes were no longer the ice blue gems that he remembered, but a mix of blue and green, the expression on her face impenetrable.
Taka kneeled down before her. His voice quaked as he spoke.
“My Queen, your High Chamberlin is here for you, to do your biding; so that you may serve, and Justice may reign.”
The Queen said nothing as she gestured for him to get up. At seven feet she stood almost two feet taller than Taka.
Without a word the Queen removed the bloody robe. The blackness of the Queen’s skin was smooth and reflective as dark marble.
Taka saw his face in her skin, and quickly turned away from his visage.
“My Queen,” Taka said in a tremulous voice “we must prepare you to greet your children once again.”
The Queen placed a bloodied finger on Taka’s lips to silence Taka.
Market day was always a tense time in the Walled City. Many of the day’s transactions ended with accusations of cheating from either buyer or seller. Violence was not uncommon and the City Guard always kept a high profile in the more crowded markets. Several guards were in the process of beating back a group of Serviles arguing with a Merchant when the sound of the Queen’s chariot filled the square. It was a beautiful, chiming sound that carried for blocks without seeming to grow louder or dimmer. Several fell to their knees as Taka’s voice bellowed through the streets.
"Make way for your Queen!”
Taka stood with the Queen stood on her silver chariot, drawn by of horses made of fire. In a cycle of immolation and rebirth; each horse was consumed by its own flames only to be replaced by another springing to life from its ashes. The Queen was wearing a crown of glass pillars and a red kimono with an image of a golden Phoenix on the back whose tail wrapped around her feet. The sleeves, short and tapered at the elbows, exposed the large ivory and wood bracelets the Queen wore on each arm.
The Servilles cheered at the sight of the Queen. Many of the merchants also joined in the revelry that ensued. A guards left the scene, but the others began to join together in a defensive position. One group of guards began to make their way towards the Queen’s chariot.
Taka saw them coming.
“Your Queen was betrayed, poisoned by your oppressors, she needs you, her children, to fight back and restore justice to our world. Do not let them stop us!” Taka said as he pointed in the direction of the guards.
The Serviles, many only armed with knives and rocks, released their pent up fear and anger upon the Gaurds en masse. The Guards hacked away at them, killing dozens before being overcome by the sheer numbers of people. Some of the Servilles took the weapons from the dead guards and formed a phalanx in front of the Queens’ chariot. Their yelling was unintelligible, full of joy and fury. Servilles began to turn on some of the merchants, overturning their carts and raiding their supplies. Some of the merchants were lucky enough to escape with their lives, but no guard was spared the violent release of years of frustration and anger. Even the guards who had dropped to their knees at the sight of the Queen were cut down.
As Taka yelled orders from the chariot he began to hear a slight buzzing sound; as if a wasp had lodged itself in his ear. He picked at his ear and screamed louder in an attempt to suppress it.
The makeshift procession left the Walled City and entered the capital that surrounded it. Taka heard explosions at the far away city gates and knew Agrippa had launched his attack. Taka looked at the gleaming spire in the distance where he was to link up with Agrippa’s forces. To get there the crowd would have to move through the Consul’s district.
“Your death will not have been in vain Aleja.” Taka screamed to no one. “Your sacrifice will have meaning.”
“My life had meaning”
Taka turned around at the sound of the Queen’s voice. But she did not look at him and gave no indication that she had spoken at all. The buzzing in his head was becoming louder, more incessant. He continued to urge the Serviles on.
“To the Capital! On to the Capital!” Taka pointed to the spire in the distance.
Both the crowd and piles of dead grew larger with every block. Most people joined in the procession for those that did not were either cut down or bludgeoned with rocks. Agrippa’s attack kept most of the guards occupied at the city gates and there was little organized resistance until the procession reached the Consul’s district. There several guards attacked the crowd on its flanks. Taka shouted directions to the armed Serviles to protect the Queen at all costs.
As the guards were pushed back Taka looked to the Queen. She stared into his eyes.
“You betrayed my mother. You betrayed me.”
It was not the Queen’s voice he heard, but Aleja’s.
The chariot stopped suddenly and Taka fell backwards off the chariot and into the muddy ground. Taka looked up to see Aleja standing in Queen’s place, her body glowing as if on fire.
Taka blinked, and Aleja disappeared. The Queen still stood on the chariot, standing like a statue, her gaze fixed to the horizon.
Taka clawed at his ears. The buzzing in them became an incessant pounding. He screamed at the Serviles surrounding the chariot.
“I don’t care how many there are! You are to get the Queen to the Capital now! Kill any that stand in your way!”
The Serviles protecting the Queen zealously obeyed, cutting down anyone in their path, even members of their own caste.
The battle raged all around Taka. He saw guards hacking their way towards them, Consul families being swarmed upon by the enraged crowd, and projectiles being fired from the city gates into the Consuls’ homes. A series of explosions raged through the Consuls defensive line. Agrippa’s provisional troops, some dressed in rags, some even barefoot, began to attack the Consul’s from behind. It did not take long for the Consuls to realize they were surrounded.
Taka, his face and clothes covered in dirt muddied by the blood on the ground, made his way back on to the chariot. He looked at the prisoners huddled before him and then called out to the crowd.
“You will suffer no more! Your Queen will bring you justice!”
The crowd roared in approval.
“Where is the deceiver?” Taka called out. “Where is Lumen?”
Agrippa made his way through the crowd with Lumen and threw him to the ground by Taka’s feet. Lumen was the same age as the High Chamberlin, even born on the same day. But their appearances could not have been anymore different. Lumen was large, obese, and his years showed clearly on his face. Even with the support of Agrippa’s troops he had trouble walking into the courtyard. Taka sneered at the sight of the Consul as he pulled at the sweaty nightclothes that clung to his ample, purple flesh. As Lumen tried to stand Taka placed his foot in his chest and pushed him down.
“Kneel before your Queen!” He screamed. The crowd roared its approval. Shouts of “Death to the traitor!” and “Cut the fat from the whale!” could be heard. Lumen looked around nervously as he struggled to kneel.
“The time has come for you to pay for your crimes Lumen. In the name of the Queen I sentence you to death!”
“Am I to be giving no defense?” Lumen shouted into the sky, “Have our laws no meaning now?”
“You have lived by your own laws for too long Lumen, and you will not be saved by ours.” Taka said as he pointed into the crowd “Nor will your family!”
Agrippa’s troops led more people into the area before the Queen. There were men, young and old, but also women and children. Lumen looked at them and then screamed at Taka.
“You can’t mean it Taka! I beg mercy for my family! The children! They have committed no offense against you or the Queen!”
Seeing no mercy in Taka’s eyes, Lumen pleaded with the Queen.
“My Queen, I beg of you, please stop this madness! You have always been just, you can’t allow this!” Lumen shouted though his tears.
“You dare address our Queen in such a manner!” Taka grabbed a large stone and hit Lumen over the head with it. Agippa’s troops backed away as Taka leapt onto Lumen and smashed the stone into his face.
“You did this! You brought this upon us!” Spittle flew from his mouth as Taka pounded Lumen’s corpse with the rock. Bits of brain and skull flew onto Taka’s face. Lumen’s hands twitched and then dropped to the ground. His rage finally spent, Taka left the stone in the crevice of Lumen’s skull and stood up.
Taka’s legs straddled the dead body as he looked over at Lumen’ family, huddled together, the children screaming as the crowd moved in on them. Some of the family tried to resist but were beaten and pelted with rocks. But their blind hatred soon consumed them as well.
A Servile who beheaded one of the children was set upon by a group of Servile women wielding the serrated knives used to gut fish, which worked just as well on humans. The women gutted the man on the muddied ground. A group of Agrippa’s troops attempted to stop the women but quickly fell back as the women plunged their knives into the first man to lay a hand on them. Explosions rocked the courtyard as the crowd, with no more consuls left to feel their anger, turned upon itself. In the butchery that followed there were no longer any Servilles, no City Guards, no Consuls or Chamberlains, only meat.
Marshall Agrippa, calling out helplessly for order, disintegrated in a fiery flash of red and orange.
Taka grabbed his head in agony. The buzzing sound had drowned out all the noise of the chaos around him. The pain was sharp. It was if the horns tattooed on his head were drilling into his skull. He saw a vision projected on the murderous bodies in front of him. He was giving his vows to the Queen in the Ancient Cathedral. He knelt before her and pledged his devotion to her and her people.
“I will protect the source of life,
the sequence of life,
and the sanctity of life.”
The words echoed ceaselessly in his head. He heard them in a thousand different voices; his own, the Queens, Agrippa’s, Lumen’s, and Aleja’s. As Aleja’s voice came to the forefront of the echoing cacophony he felt as if the words themselves were ripping their way out of his skull. He tore at his skin with his nails. His body contorted and he screamed uncontrollably; now oblivious to the hell that surrounded him.
He saw Aleja standing in front of him.
“What do you see when you look at me father?”
Taka held out his arms out to embrace his daughter but touched nothing but air. No matter how close Aleja appeared to Taka she remained out of his reach.
“What do you see father?” She said again.
Taka knelt down in front of Aleja.
“Forgive me! Forgive me!” he screamed.
Taka felt Aleja’s hand on his shoulder. She raised him up and held out her arms. Taka wept as he embraced her. He felt her heat as her arms wrapped around him. He struggled against her embrace as the heat grew more intense. Aleja’s body became a flame.
“I know what you saw father. In my face; you saw your failure.”
Taka yelled out Aleja’s name before his body burst into flames. Taka’s blacked body slumped to the ground.
The flames from Taka’s lifeless body grew and quickly encircled the Queen’s chariot. Some in the crowd rushed about to find water to put out the flames, others stood and screamed, but all attention was drawn to the Queen’s chariot and flames engulfing it.
The Queen walked on top of the flames. Light from the flames glittered in her tears and grew brighter until her face was obscured by it. The light swirled around the Queen and then coalesced in a fiery crown. The crowd pleaded for forgiveness the Queen hovered above the flames. The light from her crown created a fiery vortex between her open arms. The air filled with screams as the fireball burned through the crowd. In the instant before all were incinerated by the flash of light from her hands, all in the crowd heard their Queen speak.
“What the Water did not cleanse
The Fire will purify.
Your Queen serves you thus-
So that Justice May Reign.”