When the Duke of Wyrrefordshire returned from his expedition of the Icatian nebulae, he presented Queen Lisette with three decapitated heads of her most dissenting voices.
Her majesty sat her bony rump on the very edge of the Great Hall’s throne, eager and restless to see what the duke had brought her after a long six moon sojourn. She had greatly missed her childhood playmate (and secret lover) and yearned for him to come to her bed that very night.
The gifts were proffered at her feet with all the pomp and circumstance expected of a decorated homecoming warrior. Three sumptuous boxes were marched in, each of a different material, carved in the most intricate of wrought designs from the greatest artisans of the realm: ivory, jade and bronze, to symbolize the three stretched corners of Lisette’s galactic empire. The boxes sat on palanquins, each carried in by a quartet of porters, and each porter wearing the twelve heralds of the empire’s twelve M1 colony planets.
It was a dark morning filled with black and red lustrous light on Lisette’s planet capitol. Great heavy storm clouds brewed in the East, cackling and crackling.
Gaspar Nassogne, all of 234 lunar cycles young and rakish, Duke of Wyrrefordshire, led his thirteen-man procession to a full stop, bowed deeply before the Queen Regent in exaggerated eloquence and poise, and spoke, “My glorious celestial star, from which all life, truth and beauty is sourced, permeating graciously to her triskadeca realm, Queen Lisette the first of the Vlaams, Daughter of Valyr the fourth, Soul Sister of the Saturnine Satellites, Mother of the Goddard Engine, Conqueror of Galaxies, here I stand before you returned from the Icatian shores humbly bearing gifts beseeching your pleasure and blessings and acceptance.”
Lisette Vlaam, even younger yet at 197 lunar cycles, bristling with budding womanhood, signalled accedence with the most slightest of nods, almost imperceptible to anyone but her most loyal of subjects (her chin shifted perhaps two degrees), while she stifled the mad rushing glee for Sir Nassogne within her bursting petite frame.
Gaspar took a quarter-step forward and spoke with mock meekness, “Your Grace, I seek permission to step within your deepest, innermost circle. I seek your validation and permission, for I am most unworthy.”
Lisette nodded once more. Her brilliant violet eyes gleaming with anticipation.
Gaspar placed his right foot firmly one full step towards his queen and kneeled before her. With a flick of his pinky finger behind his back, he commanded the first quartet of porters to advance. “From the rebel region of Petrovosk, where black-gold seeps up through the grounds, I present to you, Dmitri Borys, leader of the neo-Scalzis.”
As he said this, the porters gently placed the palanquin down and lifted the ivory lid up, revealing Dmitri Borys’s head, his dark raven hair matted with his own blood, dried and crusted against his forehead and face, his piercing brown eyes staring out.
Lisette’s small lips turned downwards. The nobles, court attendants, men-at-arms, advisors, ladies-in-waiting and Gaspar’s procession all gasped in turn, a hundred heartbeats quickening simultaneously. Gaspar, himself, physically shook but quick regained his composure.
Lisette had expected jewels, gems and exotic fabrics. Strange fruits, curious breeds of orchids, wild alien beasts. The atonal, yet beautiful, instruments of Locria. A mechanical wonder from Phreyxia. A new furry pet, even, from the jungles of Morwynne.
But not this.
She held on to her absolute silence and it deafened her court.
Cardinal Mazarin, her most trusted advisor, her dark confidant, doctor, seer and mage slipped in from the darkness behind the throne, sidled up to her left ear and whispered in his soft, calming lisp, “My star of stars, Breathless Melody of the Universe, Reuniter of the Broken Kingdom, may I submit to you that this is a gift of exceeding value? Dmitri has risen armies against you and in your exponential mercy, you have let him go. The Duke of Wyrrefordshire has removed an irritable splinter from the ring finger of our empire’s omniscient hand.”
Queen Lisette smiled. A collective sigh of relief bloomed in the vaulting hall and reverberated back in assurance. “A kind and generous gesture, my Duke. We shall place his head atop the Black Rock so that our enemies may look upon its gruesome face and fear the indomitable might of our empire.”
Gaspar bowed his head. “As she has spoken, let it be so.”
The court repeated, “As she has spoken, let it be so.” Four of the Queen’s men-at-arms sifted through the audience and took the first palanquin away.
Gaspar appealed to his queen again. “Your Grace of Incalculable Beauty, mother of our empire’s one hundred and one billion souls, Destroyer of Darkhan-Uul, may I lay at your feet the treacherous scribe, Zinn Chomski who wrote lies against you in his uncountable screeds.”
Once again, with a simple jerk of his small finger, the second palanquin came forward. The porters carefully lifted the jade lid. And inside the box lolled the head of a grey bearded old man, his protruding onyx tongue a ghastly sight.
Lisette, not expecting yet another vanquished enemy, a checklist of things she had no desire for, rolled her eyes. At this, one cannot help but notice Gaspar’s trembling hands, waning smile and stooping shoulders.
Very quickly, next to the queen’s left ear, Cardinal Mazarin spoke softly again, “The Sun of our System, Voice of the Masses, our Goddess of Eternal Youth… perhaps this, too, has immeasurable value to the enduring fortitude of our hundred-thousand-year empire? Zinn has written volumes against Her Father, Valyr the Great and now proceeds to prevaricate against you, Her Rightful Will, Force and Might. His silence is worth more than the palace’s four-hundred-and-ninety-nine rooms filled with treasure.”
“Very well,” Lisette spoke, her fair face denoting a faint hint of a smile. “You have served me, us and the empire, with an act of boundless contribution, Duke of Wyrrefordshire. We shall place Zinn’s head atop the Black Rock as well so that aspiring and future equivocators be muted and silenced.”
Gaspar shuddered and bowed awkwardly. “Y-y-yes, my Grace. As she has spoken, let it be so.”
The quivering court repeated, “As she has spoken, let it be so.” Yet another four of the Queen’s men-at-arms filtered through the mass, took up the second palanquin and carried it out of the Great Hall.
The Duke of Wyrrefordshire, who, by the pubescent age of 169 lunar cycles had led armadas of her Majesty’s intergalactic fleet to victory in three separate wars, defeated the Aresian Giant in monomachy and scaled the impossible heights of Sagarmatha in half a lunar cycle… the one man in all of the Queen’s empire who successfully seduced and bedded her, now shivered with goosebumps mottling all over his entire body.
“Perhaps, your Queen,” Gaspar minced slowly, “presenting two gifts from the Icatian shores to your fearful and awesome beauty, in the blinding presence of your exquisite wisdom, has worn me down. Perhaps one morning is too much for this lowly subject of inconsequence, weak as he may be, and perhaps, if I may so kindly beseech you, I shall continue tomorrow morning instead?”
“Yes, I agree,” whispered Cardinal Mazarin into Queen Lisette’s ear. “Perhaps the boy duke has learned his lesson, and perhaps in your vast cosmos of forgiveness let him recompose himself?”
Lisette ignored Gaspar’s plea and Mazarin’s suggestion.
“I’d rather not,” she declared. “This morning has ran rather quite late already. Let us finish and be done with it. Show us your third and final gift from the nebulae of Icatia, Duke of Wyrrefordshire.”
Gaspar dipped his head below his waist, an overcompensatory bow. “Yes, my Grace.” And with one final twitch of his finger, indicated for the third and final palanquin to come forward. “From the Sri Malakan rainforests, the… Shaman Mystic Ororo Revane, who dared to claim beauty greater than the Queen, luring with her evil magik the greatest young minds of our generation to her Hut of Lascivious Temptations, a whorehouse of elven maidens committing the most foul of carnal acts, leaving men desolate of soul, empty of mind…”
The last quartet of porters heaved the thick bronze lid off the third box. Inside, a tangled mess of blonde locks, the distinctly pointed ears of an elf, a most ravishing, seductive face of Ororo Revane, drained of the warm blood that once pulsated through her, transforming hulking men into melted pools of uncontrollable lust.
Lisette sighed, and her hand swept the gift away. Yet another four men-at-arms appeared as if out of nowhere and carried the third and final palanquin away. The young queen eyed Cardinal Mazarin with an askance glance.
The Cardinal scurried to the front of the throne and announced, “The Court is adjourned.” ☣
This week’s Garage Fiction prompt was provided by me, Jinn Zhong…
Please, please, please check out the rest of Ms. Lebrun’s artwork on her DeviantArt page here: http://ghislaine-l.deviantart.com/ They are all haunting, harrowing and beautiful.
These weekly scenes & stories are part of an ongoing project codenamed “Garage Fiction”. Since January 2015, three writers (Nicholas Brack, Dogwood Daniels and I) have committed to writing a flash fiction or scene each and every week. We post on Fridays and dissect on Tuesdays via podcast.