The queen was looking out the window, at men pushing carts through the castle grounds, women running after chickens and carrying breads, soldiers standing guard and knights unmounting their horses, two men dragging a condemned man to the platform and the executioner inspecting his axe. They were hard years, constant wars with her neighbours and the people suffered. How was she supposed to keep the peace with the endless raids on her border villages? They called her a warrior queen as her reign had been that of war and violence and because she had led her troops into many battles, but what she really wanted was a man she could call her king and little princes running around the castle.
Fate had pushed itself unto her and she had no choice but to oblige. A queen could not be seen to be weaker than a king would. There were enough greedy relatives waiting for the opportunity to oust her, with or without bloodshed.
The executioner raised his axe, and the queen walked away from her window.
She turned to look into the large mirror on the wall. The dark hair flowing from under her crown, almost merging with her black velvet dress. Black, the colour of mourning. Her future king, the one she had chosen, was dead. She looked into her own eyes, saw the stony stare. Am I evil, she asked herself. She didn’t hesitate to condemn people, to send them to the gallows. It did nothing to her to see them hanged. It gave her no pleasure, but she had no choice. You couldn’t allow yourself to be sensitive to that sort of thing. She ran her slender finger down the pale face. Wondered if she was still beautiful. There was a tiny wrinkle sprouting from her eye, but it was hair thin. Her face was still smooth, her features still those of a young woman. The only thing that may have made her look beyond her years was the sternness of her gaze. The coldness of her eyes, the authority she projected.
So why had he rejected her? He was nothing but a knight. A war hero, with many battles won, but in her name. His ancestry wasn’t much to boast about. His father had been a minor earl and yet, the man she had chosen rejected the idea of becoming her king.
Her face grew dark, thinking of their encounter. He kneeled before her, as one should. She complimented him on his victories and admired his body, his face and the fire in his eyes. He will be the father of the future king, she decided. But after weeks of courtship, he made his excuses, got himself out of her noose and claimed he had to leave for some battle or other.
One does not disobey the queen.
She lifted a glass of blood red wine and wetted her lips. Any moment now.
There were footsteps out in the hall. The queen put the glass down and smiled at her mirror image. They may think they can defy their queen, but they are wrong. She applied red colour to her lips, fixed her hair. No man should be able to resist this woman. She smiled and held back the tears. She was good in holding back tears, concealing her emotions. Some called her the Ice Queen. They knew nothing.
There was a knock on the door. She straightened her dress and waited a few seconds before answering. ‘Yes, come in.’
The door opened, and two soldiers entered, one carrying a covered silver tray. ‘Your Majesty.’
Silently, she gestured towards the table. The soldier put the tray down and walked backwards towards the door. ‘Thank you.’ She smiled, and he left, closing the door.
Here we are again, she thought as she sauntered towards the covered tray. My love.
She lifted the silver lid, revealing a heart laden with diamonds and gold. Her face showed no emotion as she picked up a large ring with a deep blue stone from the soldier’s heart.
‘You should have given me your heart, my darling. Now I was forced to take it.’
She arranged the jewellery around the still warm heart and put the ring on her finger.
The widowed queen.
This story is the ninth installment in the Moments series