Surrounded by a thick security detail, with her shoulders back, her head held high and a slight constant smile playing on her lips as her eyes skimmed through the adoring, cheering crowd that lined her path, their queen walked gracefully back to her car. Just like her person, her car too was ringed by its own security detail; a lead car followed by a second, before hers which was tailed by yet another four wheel drive with a pickup of armed guards bringing up the rear.
The elaborate ensemble was simply a show of wealth, power and might, not serving any actual security purpose, for the possibility of any of her subjects wanting or trying to hurt their queen was pretty much non-existent. There was no reason to for she was the perfect queen; she was beautiful, tall and elegant, soft spoken yet well learned, and from a good family. She had born their King two children in the five years since she married him; a prince had been presented just under a year after the wedding, followed by a princess two years later. She made regular public appearances, usually at Kingdom functions where she appeared beside their King, but also at different charity and community events like the one she was just leaving. Everywhere she went, she left generous donations and word was that it was her that influenced the King into his rare acts of kindness to the needy. What was there not to like?
No, she had nothing to fear on these streets outside the palace walls, it was within those walls, in the garrison that was the royal palace, where the real danger lay.
The King’s sleeping chambers were separate from hers, although a short passageway connected the two. The unusual marital sleeping arrangement didn’t raise any eyebrows, for after all, the welfare of the entire kingdom depended on the King, and so he could hardly be expected to sleep with his wife for an entire night. He was an important man, and important men needed their rest. Very few knew that the real reason that the King and Queen had separate sleeping chambers was that that she wasn’t the only woman who graced his bed.
Of course there had been the hushed whispers about the different young women, none of them above twenty, that were sometimes brought to the palace in the dead of the night by the King’s private driver, being returned to wherever they had come from an hour or two later, with smug smiles and bulging brown envelopes. But these were only whispers, and even if there was any truth to them, one could hardly fault the King for tasting the different fruits of his Kingdom. The girls who were rumored to have “visited the King” were envied by their peers, and mothers silently prayed that one day their daughters would be picked to “visit the King.”
However, while a few might have known of these visits, only the Queen actually heard them, for the passageway was short, and the girls were usually noisy lovers. She would listen to her husband grunt, while the visiting girl moaned and made all the sounds expected of one chosen for this honour, and wish he would make her make those sounds too, rather than the cries, pleas and screams that her “visits” to his chambers elicited. She never left his chambers with a smug smile like these girls they brought him, instead her face would be tear streaked, and she wouldn’t walk with a proud, accomplished gait like they did, but crouched over slightly at her waist which she clutched with one or sometimes both of her arms.
With these girls, he clearly kept his darker un-royal side hidden, for even while stark naked, with his backside up in the air, he still had to maintain the act of “King”, and took them like a General leading his men to war, hard, firm and powerful. During these visits, he made sure that he made an impact, but took care to cause his guests no pain.
There was nothing royal about him though, when he summoned her to his chambers; Then he was like an animal, no, worse than an animal, a monster, for animals were never cruel just for fun, and they didn’t derive pleasure from causing their own pain, the way he did. He liked the look of pain – well at least on her he did, and he enjoyed the sound of her pain too, for when she screamed, it only seemed to excite him more, and he went faster, harder, deeper, in places he had no right to be, in places not created to receive a man’s manhood.
When she was on her back, he groped her breasts and squeezed her nipples, not hungrily and full of passion as good lovers would, but cruelly and roughly, her pain causing pleasure only to him. Only when her pain peaked was he able to attain his own release, and only then did he enter her womanhood, bruising it in his haste to climax. Satisfied, he would then set her free with a shove from his elbow, or a nudge with his foot, and those longed for words; “Go, I must rest.”
Dismissed, she would limp and stagger back through the passageway, leaning against its walls for support, nothing royal about her gait, or tear streaked face and disheveled hair; Like this, she was no queen, just a broken slave.
It had been this way from the start of their marriage, and when it had become obvious that this was the way their sex life would always be, she had mustered the courage to tell her parents of her husband’s dark side and that she wanted to leave the marriage. She would never forget their reaction; her mother who had always dried her tears and soothed her as a child, had on this occasion struck her hard against both cheeks; “No self respecting woman speaks of what goes on in her marital bedroom, and he is not just your husband, but your King! You are no longer a girl, but a woman, a married woman, and a Queen at that, so return to the palace and start behaving like one,” she had hissed through teeth clenched in anger.
Her father, who had always been a rock of security had simply shaken his head sadly as he spoke; “We raised you well, gave you everything, including a King for a husband, do not repay us by bringing shame to our family name,” he pleaded quietly, and then turned and walked away. Her mother spat once at the ground in disgust, then turned and followed her husband out of the room. She had watched her parents leave, wiped away her tears, and returned to the palace, never again raising the subject to them or anyone else.
When her son had been born, she remembered staring at him in wonder, completely speechless, and while the attending royal midwife had put down her behavior to the typical reaction of a first time mother, the truth was that her wonder had been that this perfect child was the result of something so ugly. That he was not grossly deformed as a reflection of his conception shocked her, and two years later when his sister was born, her reaction had been exactly the same.
Now as she lay alone on her bed listening to her husband actually make love to the girl in his, she felt her eyes grow heavy, and gave in to the need to sleep for tomorrow was going to be a big day. It was the King’s birthday, and there was going to be a grand celebration; she was determined that it would be followed by a grand, Kingdom wide mourning.
The sound of drums and jubilatory ululations filled the air as the royal family made its way from the palace to the marquee tent overlooking its vast gardens that were today filled with guests of the Kings Birthday party.
The King dressed in full ceremonial garb walked alongside his son, the four year old heir to the Kingdom clad in a miniature version of his father’s outfit, while the Queen walked a step behind them holding the hand of her daughter, the queen in traditional wear, her princess in a pretty girl’s frock, the only one of the four not dressed in traditional garb. As a princess, she didn’t have a role to play in the Kingdom’s future, and so for now, she had the luxury of being exactly what she was – a little three year old girl.
The large crowd and noise didn’t faze any of the children, for they had been raised in the spotlight and knew that they were different and special. They also understood that being special meant that they had to behave a certain way and most times they adhered to this, especially the prince who as the heir to the Kingdom, had always felt the pressure to be “just like Daddy.” Hopefully that would change after tonight, and he could finally escape from his father’s dark shadow, the Queen thought to herself as she smiled at their guests, and silently reminded her daughter to make the occasional wave with a slight squeeze of her hand. The weather was perfect, the cake gigantic, the food and drinks in plenty, it was indeed a birthday fit for a King, and if all went according to her plan, it would be the last Birthday this King would celebrate.
As a child growing up, she had watched her grandmother scoff at the idea of modern medicine and stubbornly stick to her herbs and berries, even when it was clear that they were providing no relief from the cancer that ate away at her body. Before her strength had started to fail her, making it impossible for her to go on her harvesting trips into the forest that bordered her home, the Queen had often accompanied her grandmother on these harvest outings.
“Our land gives us all the medicine we need,” her grandmother would say while pointing out different plants and their various healing properties. The queen had found these trips fascinating and soaked up all the information her grandmother imparted like a dry sponge placed in a puddle of water. It was from these trips that she had learned of the “flower of death”, a highly poisonous plant that once ingested, killed within minutes.
Although her grandmother had been dead for the past three years, the land continued to bring forth its herbs – and it’s poisons, and on a recent visit to her grandmother’s burial site, while picking flowers for the grave, she had candidly picked a few leaves from this flower of death and hidden them away in her purse, waiting for the perfect time to use them – that perfect time was going to be tonight.
The sounds of celebration in the gardens continued late into the night and wafted faintly through the thick palace walls as the queen once again made her way through the passageway that connected the King’s chambers to her own. In the past, she had always made this journey with a sense of fear and trepidation at what awaited her at the end of the corridor, but tonight was different, for tonight her heart raced with the fear of discovery and not the fear of pain as tucked in the bodice of her nightdress beneath the sheer gown she wore, was a small folded piece of paper containing the ground leaves of the “flower of death.”
The King kept a flask of black tea by his bedside and drank from it continuously each night; on the nights that the queen was summoned to his chambers, her first task was always to fix him a cup, usually while he disrobed, and her plan tonight was to slip in the poisonous ground leaves while he wasn’t watching and then get him to take a sip of the tea before claiming her body. If her grandmother was right, a sip would be all that was needed to accomplish her deadly mission.
Reaching the door to the Kings chambers, she paused and took a deep breath before knocking lightly; “Enter,” the King answered, his tone cold and detached, as though he was calling in one of his aides for a set of instructions, rather than his wife for her body.
She opened the door slowly, and kept her gaze downcast as she entered the huge room, not out of respect for her King, which is probably how he interpreted it, but rather so that he did not see the glint of anxious excitement in her eyes; “Happy Birthday your Majesty,” she murmured quietly.
He snickered at her felicitations as he strode over to where she still stood by the door, making her heart skip a beat at the fear that he might discover the venomous package tucked in her bossom.
Thankfully, his hands only stopped at her face as he squeezed her chin painfully between the thumb and forefinger of his right hand and tilted up her face, helped by his left which held her hair in a tight fist as he pulled on it; “And here comes my birthday present,” he sneered, before releasing her abruptly and pushing her towards the chest of drawers by his bedside where his flask of tea stood; “Fix me some tea, it’s going to be a long night,” he ordered brusquely.
Not that long, she thought to herself determinedly, her heart pounding as she walked to the drawers and stood before the flask, her back to him, effectively blocking his view of her preparations.
She emptied the crushed leaves into his cup and hurriedly added the tea and sugar, not allowing her fear of discovery to make her hesitate at any step, lest she attracted his attention. Her mission accomplished, she turned back to face him where he sat perched on the edge of the bed, and kneeling, proffered the steaming cup to him.
He accepted it without so much as a word of thanks, and took a small sip of it as she watched with baited breath.
His face scrunched up in disgust at the sip, and he passed the cup back to her so roughly that some of its contents spilt over the rim and scalded her hand; “Have you never learnt how much sugar I take in my tea? There is hardly any in this,” he complained irritably.
“I’m sorry my King, let me add some,” she apologised and quickly added an extra two teaspoonfuls to the tea before once again holding out the cup to him.
This time, the taste of the tea appeared to meet with his approval as he took one sip, then another, and another while she remained on her knees in front of him, staring down at the plush carpet, wondering just how long she would have to wait for the poison to take effect.
As it happened, not more than a few minutes, her grandmother had clearly not been exaggerating when she said it killed within minutes, the queen realized when suddenly, the cup fell from the Kings hands, and landed beside her, its dark liquid seeping into the carpet around her knees.
Only then did she dare to look up, and found herself looking straight into his eyes, as he was now bent forward at the waist clutching his stomach in agony, his mouth open in a silent gasp for air, his eyes glazed with pain and shock, yet still questioning, asking her what was happening, why it was happening.
She had fantasized about this moment for years, imagining how good it would feel to watch him die. She had imagined laughing at him as he lay dying, or maybe spitting at him while gloating about how after all these years she had finally gotten her revenge, but now that the moment was actually here, she did none of those things, and simply watched him wordlessly as the light in his eyes faded and then like a candle snuffed out by the wind, it was gone, and he toppled over, landing beside the cup that had killed him.
Picking up the cup, she headed into the adjoining bathroom and rinsed out the dregs before returning to the bedroom and replacing it by the lifeless body of her husband. With the evidence of foul play disposed of, she glanced at the King one last time, before turning to head back to her own chambers.
Tonight she was the avenged slave, tomorrow she would be the widowed queen, robbed of her husband by a sudden heart attack, and she needed her rest she thought to herself as she made the journey through the short passageway for the last time.