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Horror Thriller Suspense

It felt as if I was dreaming, when I heard the news. Of all the ladies of the court, I was the one chosen to serve the king. Mother always told me I had more courage than my father and when they announced this position and though I was only sixteen, I didn’t hesitate to apply for it.

Tears of joy poured down my mother’s face when I told her the news. “I’m so proud of you, Clare,” she cried. “Go and do our family proud.” Playfully, she brushed me to my room to pack my belongings.

The next day, had I found myself standing in line for inspection. A dozen of us were standing side by side, as the Head Servant examined each of us. When he stepped in front of me, he stopped and eyed me from head to foot. Though for only for a moment, his eyes paused at my cleavage. Then continue to scan down. Flushed with embarrassment, I courageously stood firm.

“You’ll do,” he said to me. “What’s your name?”

“Clare, sir.”

“Come with me, Clare. Today, you will serve the king. I’ll escort you to his chambers, where you can perform your duties.”

As I followed the head servant down the hall, anticipation mingled with doubt clouded my mind. “Excuse me sir,” I asked him. “What do I do when I go in there?”

“Don’t fret over it. I’ll show you when we arrive.”

His reply gave me no assurance, but I thought it couldn’t be that hard. A moment later, we were standing in the king’s antechamber.

The room was small, but elegantly decorated. A Persian silk rug laid on the floor and tapestries adorned the walls. Next to the door was a marble top table and on it was a silver platter with a variety of cakes and wine.

“Pick up that tray and I will announce your presence to the king. From there, you can figure it out on your own.”

The thought of being in proximity of the king filled me with excitement. Steadying my trembling hands, I lifted the tray, as the head servant opened the door to the main chamber. As I walked through the door, I heard it close behind me.

Then, there was silence. But in that silence, the sight of utmost beauty took my breath away. As in the antechamber, the floor was covered in carpets and the wall were decorated with tapestries. But what impressed me the most were the stained, glass windows. From wall to wall, sunlight would pierce the glass, and emit all the colors to the rainbow within this room.

As I absorbed the beauty beholden on me, I slowly approached a long table where one man was sitting. I curtsied and whispered, “Your highness.”

 A smiled crossed the king’s face, as he stood. “It seems quite awkward,” he replied. “Curtsying and holding a serving tray at the same time.” He pointed towards the table. “Please. Put it down.”

As I did, the king began to circle me. As he did so, a feeling of uneasiness invaded my soul. For an unknown reason, the thought of the serpent from the Garden of Eden came to mind.

“So, who do I have the pleasure of seeing?”

“Clare, your highness.”

He continued to circle me. “Clare, you say. You must be new to the court. Had I seen your face before, I surely would not have forgotten it.” He stopped in front of me. “So, Clare, why are you here today?”

“To serve your Royal Highness.”

“To serve, you say. How would you serve me?”

“Sire?”

Slowly, he brushed his hand across my breasts. “How would you serve me?”

Involuntarily, I jumped back and began to stammer. “Sire, I’ve made a mistake of coming here. Please excuse me.” Turning away, I dashed for the door, but as I was about to push it, I heard him shout.

“The only mistake you will make is if you leave now.”

It was as if his voice cast a spell on me. So close to the door, I was. Freedom was only a footstep away. Still, I was frozen by the implied threat of his words.

“I’m sure your quarters are quite nice in the palace. A room, board, and access to all the niceties we have to offer. But I can assure you, we have other places much less to your liking. The dungeon for instance. I’ve never been there, but I’ve heard it’s quite unpleasant. Damp, dark, total isolation, and the food is nothing to write home about. Enough garbage to survive on, I promise you, but only enough.

“You’d survive in the dungeon and unfortunately your suffering would be great. But you don’t have to worry about that. I would never let someone as beautiful as you experience such agony. Instead, you would spend your life in court, never having a thing to worry about. Sadly, to say, that won’t be the case for your mother. You see, someone must pay for your indiscretion and who better than her? She would spend the rest of her time on earth, trapped in that hole in the ground, serving that dismal sentence for you.

“So, tell me, Clare. What is your choice? Leave, or stay?”

Like an animal in a cage, there was no escape from my fate. All hope faded away, as I succumbed to the power of the king. Drawing on what courage a had left, I turned to face my enemy. “What do you wish of me, your highness?”

Jubilant, the king beckoned me to come forward. As I stood inches from his body, I smelled the rancid odor of his breath. As he placed his hands on me, he began to pant. I choked on his foul breath, as I closed my eyes.

It’s at this point in my nightmare, where I would always wake up. Of all the horrors I experienced that day, I thank God I haven’t had to relive those last moments. A part of my life was torn away in that unthinkable moment, never to be returned. What remained was a void, left to be filled with hate and anger. Even a mere thought of what had occurred, brings me to the edge of tears.

But now wasn’t the time for crying. I had too much to do. Wiping my eyes, I took a deep breath. As I glanced around the room, I found myself in familiar territory. The blue painted walls, and matching curtains, told me I was in my bedroom. I rose and was greeted by the morning sun. calm returned, and I couldn’t help but to smile, for this day had finally arrived. This will be the day I get my bitter revenge.

Since that horrid day, I have waited patiently, for an opportunity to arise where I could get near the king and finally, that day came. It was All Hallows Eve and the king had declared there would be a masquerade ball this evening.

I went to my desk and opened the drawer. There, lying in the center of it was the key to my revenge. Since all weapons were banned from the palace, except for those carried by the royal guard, I had to procure a weapon for my own, and what I found was a silver butter knife.

When I took it from the dining room, it was indifferent from any other knife there. Its dull edge and rounded tip made it a harmless utensil, used by all. But from the first evening I brought it to my room, I began to transform that tool, into a weapon. For hours each night, I would hone the blade, ever making sharper and more deadly, until the day came, it was a lethal weapon, bearing a pinpoint tip and razor-sharp edge.

Assured my treasure was safe, I went to visit my mother. I had to only knock once before she opened the door.

“Clare,” she cried. “I wasn’t expecting to see you before the ball. What brings you here today?”

“No particular reason, Mom. I just wanted to see you.”

“I’m flattered to hear that, but you don’t have to wait. You can come anytime, day or night.”

“I hope that’s true.”

“Hope?” Clare’s mother whispered. “What do you mean hope? Is there something you’re not telling me?”

I never had the heart to tell her what happened, and I wasn’t going to tell her now. There was nothing she could have done, and there was no need to make her suffer needlessly. Still, I needed to warn her. “If something should happen or even if you hear any rumors about me, I want you to leave the palace immediately. Take nothing and don’t look back. Promise me you’ll do this.” I’ve never seen her look so afraid.

“I don’t understand, Clare. What’s going on?”

“If you do as I say, you’ll have nothing to worry about. Now promise me!”

“I promise! I promise!”

Lovingly, I embraced her for what may be the last time. “Thank you, Mom. Always remember how much I love you.”

Quickly, I turned away and left. As I walked down the hallway, I heard her call out, “Clare! Come back.” She began to sob, but I didn’t turn around. I was afraid if I did, I wouldn’t be able to go through my plan. I turned the corner and as I did, her sobs faded in the distance.

By the time I returned to my room, I was recomposed. As I opened my trunk, the hinges creaked. Inside, laid a black evening gown, a shawl, red on one side and black on the other and a mask, with two faces, one on the front and one on the back.

I put on the gown and gazed at myself in the mirror. Everything was perfect. It fit like a glove, accentuating all my curves and had a low neckline in the front. A perfect lure for the king. Next, I put on my mask and I draped the shawl over the top of it, so the red side was exposed. Finally, I took the knife out of the drawer and gently slid it up my sleeve, not wanting to cut myself. I took one more look in the mirror and was satisfied. It was time.

Retreating to the hallway, I found myself following other masqueraded patrons heading to the ballroom. Upon entering the ballroom, I found myself lost in a sea of faceless men and women. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized how difficult it may be to find the king.

My mind began to race. What would make him stand out? Looking towards the throne, I found it empty, but next to it were two guards staring at someone. I followed their eyesight and located their target.  There, stood a man, masked and dressed commonly. He would have been indifferent as everyone else, except for one thing. He was wearing a golden belt.

As I walked towards the king, I examined those nearest to him. Were they guards? Their jesters told me they were anything, but professional. So, they weren’t guards. I breathed a little easier, seeing my odds for success have increased significantly.

As I came closer to the king, I slowed my pace down to a near crawl, began swinging my hip and smiled seductively at him. His eyes laid their hooks on me and wouldn’t let me go. Closer I came to him and the closer I got, the more he was enthralled with me. As expected, his eyes came to my breasts and stopped there. He wasn’t alone, for those standing next to him did the same thing.

Now, I was so close, I could brush up against him. I whispered in his ear, “Your highness.” He was about to speak when his face froze in shock. Quickly I stepped away, leaving the bloody knife in his stomach.

The crowd gasped, as the king fell to his knees. While all eyes were trained on him, I shifted my mask around and flipped over my shawl from red to black. Then, I meandered through the crowd, losing myself in the chaos.

The guards searched for the faceless lady in red, but their efforts were in vain and soon we were all released to our quarters.

Three days later, the church bells tolled, signaling the king was dead. I reveled in knowing he had suffered for so long and prayed he would be sent through the fiery gates of hell.

But my vengeance wasn’t over., for there was still one more who needed to pay the price. The king may have been the one who assaulted me, but the one who put me in the jaws of that monster, still lives. The Head Servant. I opened the drawer where the knife used to lay and pulled out a jar containing a green powder. Hemlock has been known to kill many a man. I’m sure it can bring down a creature like you. Your days, unkind sir, are marked.

October 25, 2021 18:44

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11 comments

Tommie Michele
23:32 Oct 31, 2021

Cool story! I love the open ending and I was rooting for your narrator the whole time. You have just the right amount of description—not overpowering and heavy, but enough to do justice to your setting. Nice work, Howard, and best of luck in this week’s contest! —Tommie Michele

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Howard Seeley
04:54 Nov 01, 2021

Thanks. I admit, it's one of my better works. I'm currently elaborating on the story, trying to put a little more detail in the plot. If it doesn't get picked up here, I may submit it to some magazines or contests.

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Tommie Michele
05:51 Nov 01, 2021

If you do, let me know how it goes! It would be awesome to see your story in a magazine :)

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Mark Nero
10:10 Nov 04, 2021

Great story, you said a lot with what you 'didn't' tell.

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Howard Seeley
18:27 Nov 04, 2021

Thanks. I was a child raised in the early 70's. I recalled ,when I snuck a look into Playboy magazines, I discovered I was more enticed at what was hidden, than what was revealed. Playboy may have forgotten that trick, but I haven't.

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Annalisa D.
23:50 Nov 03, 2021

I enjoyed your story. It pulled me in right at the start and kept me reading to see what happened. It was entertaining and well done.

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Howard Seeley
03:11 Nov 04, 2021

Thank you for taking the time to read it. Clare's personality was completely transformed by her loss of innocence, being replaced by anger and rage.

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Molly S
17:31 Nov 01, 2021

Well done. The inner dialogue from Clare has depth and made me feel for her. I also love the open ended ending, implying that assault is not always limited to just two people.

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Howard Seeley
03:21 Nov 04, 2021

It was heartbreaking, what she went through, and sadly, her innocence was lost. But in the end, her courage and strength paid off, bring her justice.

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Bruce Friedman
02:53 Nov 01, 2021

Great work on this, Howard. The story propelled me forward. Rich vocabulary.

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Howard Seeley
04:55 Nov 01, 2021

Thanks, so much. It's funny. When ever I use women as main characters, I seem to get more depth in the story.

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