Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Tales from Virdura: A New Queen

Jacob, constable of the Queen’s Guard at Virdura Castle, whistled softly to himself, as his feet pounded the cobblestones. It was a nice night in the city: the sky was clear, and the moon as high, full, and bright.

Over the past few months, the city had been very quiet. After the way that Queen Celeste had dealt with the fraud, Marcus, the people respected her. Everybody knew the new status quo. There were laws, and they were going to be upheld. The queen was going to see to it personally.

A woman’s scream penetrated the pleasant silence of the evening. Such sounds used to be quite commonplace here, but Jacob had not heard one for so long that he had almost forgotten what it sounded like, when a woman screamed in distress.

Jacob ran in the direction of the scream. It wasn’t long before he came across the source. A burly man, hovering over a woman, lying prone on the ground. He spied something in the man’s hand, glinting in the moonlight. A dagger, by the looks of it.

“You there, stop, by order of the Queen of Virdura!” yelled Jacob, as he unsheathed his sword and ran towards the man. The man stood up straight, turned around, and laughed.

“Fancy running into you here, you old dog,” he said.

Jacob recognised the man, Joseph, as one who grew up in Virdura. As young boys, Joseph was rather fond of chastising and humiliating Jacob in front of his friends.

Joseph had been getting himself into trouble ever since. In fact, the constable had run him out of the city almost a year before, for a crime he could not even remember.

“Joseph,” said the constable. “I don’t know what you’re doing back in Virdura, but I suggest you lower your dagger and back away.”

Joseph twisted his face into an expression of mock confusion. “Oh, come on, copper,” he said. “I was just having a little fun. Since when is having your way with a local peasant girl against the law?“ He spat on the ground as he said this, and his spittle landed a short distance from the woman’s face. She was shaking and sobbing, obviously too afraid to move.

“You’ve been gone a while,” answered Jacob, “but you should know: there’s a new queen in Virdura, and she will not stand for such things.”

“Not like Queen Tricia, you mean? Pity. Now there was a beauty – I’d have loved to have gotten under her skirt, I can tell you. Well, no matter, Jacob. I suggest you back away. This wench is mine.”

Joshua lunged at the constable with his dagger. Jacob, sword in hand, easily parried it away. More than parried: the sword hit the blade so hard that it flew out of Joshua’s hand. The constable quickly retaliated, and ended with the point of his sword pressed up against Joshua’s neck. The scoundrel took a step back, let loose a terrible, inhuman growl, and charged at Jacob. But Jacob, sidestepping the charge, stuck out his foot and tripped Joshua, who landed face first on the cobblestones.

Jacob walked forward, and pressed the tip of his sword into the back of the man’s neck this time. “I told you Joshua,” he said, “there’s a new queen in Virdura.” Then he turned his head, and started to ask if the woman was all right. By the time he had finished his sentence, though, she had gotten up and scurried away.

Jacon scratched his chin with his free hand. Not even so much as a thank you. He smiled. Yes, there was a new queen in Virdura.

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