Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hunllef: The Bleak Queen

Even spectres dared not trespass the moats
of Castle Aisling.

           Razor-sharp fingertips clicked ominously on the dusty table.  Upon the elongated surface, ash veins streaked through cold, pale marble.  Metal finger-points drummed again, this time louder, sending dust-moths fluttering up into the stolid air.
            Queen Hunllef’s voice resounded through the banquet hall with such an authority as to set the crows nested in the disused chimney to rustle their ebon wings.  Beyond the wooden doors with their peeling frames, quickly shuffling movements could be discerned.
            The tall entrance creaked open to allow a dilapidated waif of a creature to enter.  Tattered robes hung like loose skin over its skeletal frame and though it walked, it never seemed to take and actual footstep so much as float over the ragged carpet.
            “DRINK!”  The cry of the Bleak Queen caused the waif to recoil in pain, now that it was standing just at the corner of the table.  “You spineless imbecile, can’t you see my guests thirst??”
In fact, the hollow-backed servant could not see her Majesty’s imaginary guests.  This feasting hall was nothing but cobwebs and ashes.  Stale chunks of bread were strangely stacked upon tarnished silver serving caddies as if they were fresh as baked scones.  Fruit cups held corpses of shriveled grapes and bowls of cream had moldered over until only a carpet of spores lined their inner curve.
Deathsight was a natural to the Sluagh, but even the specters of those passed on dared not trespass the moats of Castle Aisling.  On this evening of Samhain, it would have even been likely that some attended her meal, but there were none. It was echoed through the low-creeping fogs of their burial mounds and yards that to breach her domain was to risk final consumption.
The feasting hall was nothing but cobwebs and ashes; stale bread was
strangely stacked on tarnished caddies as if they were fresh scones.
One iron fingertip scraped discordantly along a porcelain plate, chipped around the edges.  The Bleak Queen turned her quarry in her finger tips, as if speaking to it through her black gaze.  Her bladed wings scissored together, in a self-sharpening flap, shearing the upholstery of the high-backed chair further.  Hunllef didn’t notice.
The waif glided silently by her toward the far end of the banquet table. With a vicious sneer, Hunllef hurled the dried carcass at the exposed spine of the Sluagh.  From the front it had a ghostly beauty, but from behind it’s back was skinless and the Bleak Queen wanted to see if the fowl-bones would fall through its preternaturally limber frame and hit the floor.
Shaking with the physical pain of both her Majesty’s voice as well as her physical assault, the Sluagh grimaced and clenched its teeth through translucent lips.  Urn clattered against goblet as the waif tried to feign pouring steadily into the dry glasses.
As it drew nearer to the head of the table, where the Bleak Queen herself was seated, the fear gnawing at the place where a stomach should be was churning and devouring itself in an endless cycle of tightening pain.
Tipping the funeral-carafe all the way this time, one drop, then two…three.  Three drops of dark glamour curdled forward into her vessel, swirling like a rainbow in grey-scale.
"Then. We. Shall. Find some." Her abyssal gaze turned upon the Sluagh
and it felt engulfed in darkness as she spoke. "Ready the bey-hounds."
Hardly had the pouring commence when the Bleak Queen screeched and flew up from her seat. Hunllef’s hands pounded down on the table once as she leaned in close to the waif’s pallid face and hissed venomously.
“What is this bile!?” Mere drops!” Reseating herself, she focused again on her spectral banquet and waved a hand regally. “More wine!  How can we feast on this night of the thin veil without libation?!”
For a moment she seemed to have forgotten the Sluagh was still standing by the arm of her tattered, claw-foot chair.  The Bleak Queen turned a dark eye upon the waif, who finally managed to speak.
“The cask…” it made a dusty, choking sound that seemed to clear its throat, and then whispered simply.  “The casket is empty, Your Majesty.”
The Bleak Queen flung her arm in a rage, back-handing her onyx goblet across the room.  It shattered against the hearth with a crash, causing the Sluagh waver with pain.  The waif’s sunken face seemed to recede even further under protruding cheekbones at the admonition.
            “Donors are scarce, Madame.”
            “Then. We. Shall. Find some.” That abyssal gaze turned now at the Sluagh, who was no stranger to the otherworld, and seemingly engulfed it in darkness as she spoke.  “Ready the bey-hounds and saddle my nightmare.”

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