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Fantasy Horror Speculative

“Come forward!” demanded the old woman in a sickly voice. She sat upon the throne, her hunched and withered body lost inside the regal gown and robes that long ago fit her snuggly. A crown sat upon her head, heavy on her brow. “Stand before me grand-daughter. Hear what I must say and do as I bid you.”

The young girl was trembling, but she walked forward, slowly at first, and stood before Queen Valda. Her hands were folded before her and she bowed gracefully. She did not have the courage to look the queen in the eye.

“Vahnessa, you are young and naïve,” she began, her voice full of gravel. She spoke slowly, often pausing to wheeze and catch her breath. “Only fifteen summers have passed since your birth. I’m sure you feel that I’ve taught you nothing and that you feel ill prepared to rule. That does not matter.” She coughed and cleared her throat before continuing. “Rhylaria will pass to you when my body fails. The recent death of your parents has deemed it so.”

Young Vahnessa began to weep.

“A queen does not cry, girl!” snapped Valda. Sympathetic murmurs for the princess were whispered by the courtiers and nobles present. The queen was known for her cruelty. It was no secret to her that most of her subjects hated her. The kingdom would rejoice after her passing, of that she was sure. She continued after casting a hateful glare at the members of her court. “Now is not the time for wasted emotion,” she gasped to catch her breath, clutching her hand to her chest. “Your parents are gone. You are the future. Show no fear, else your enemies will strike you down. It is important that you obey my every word and heed my wisdom. I have ruled longer than any.” She laughed, which quickly became a wheeze and cough. “Very soon the kingdom will have a new ruler. A beautiful young girl with a whole lifetime ahead of her.” 

For a while there was silence in the room, but for the labored breathing of the queen. Her uncontrollable coughing wracked her body violently. Unseen at this distance from her courtiers, a tear ran down her cheek. She was ready for the pain to end, for her body had lived too long. The joy of life was gone and her golden years consisted of only misery and agony.

“Climb the stairs and stand at my side, girl,” she ordered after she regained her breath. “I have something for you.” After the princess timidly climbed the stairs of the dais to stand beside the throne, the queen pulled a small straw doll from her robes and placed it across her lap, stroking its straw hair with her gnarled and broken fingernails.

Vahnessa reached for the doll on the queen’s lap and her hand was slapped violently and cruelly. The sharp sound echoed throughout the hall and again a whisper of discontent rose from the crowd. 

The queen glared at her subjects hiding in the shadows of the room and she responded angrily, doing the best to raise her voice, “Silence, you impotent dogs! If you are disturbed by my actions then draw your daggers and come forth to slay me!” She paused, coughed and waited for a response to her challenge. None came, in fact, the men and women in the room slunk deeper into the shadows. “I thought as much from you gutless, groveling swine!”

Turning her attention back to her grand-daughter, who was still rubbing the welt on her hand, she lowered her voice and began to speak. “This gift is not for your hands now, girl, but it will be soon. It shall remain on my lap until I pass. After, you and only you shall take the doll. You shall hold it tight and let no harm befall it. Do you understand, girl?”

The princess nodded, still too terrified to look her grandmother in the eyes.

“Let me tell you a little story,” she began softly. “This doll has been passed down for generations in our family. From grand-daughter to grand-daughter for hundreds of years. Legend has it that the woman who created the doll and first gifted it to our family was a witch.” She gripped her robes with her left hand and the doll with her right, as she stiffened and waited for the pain to pass. “Silly, right?” 

The princess nodded in silence.

“I do have a sort of love for you, Vahnessa. I have become… attached to you. More so with your mother, as I knew her longer. I do regret that she had to pass. The only thing that is important now, is that you take care of the doll. It must remain in the family or misfortune will be the result. It will give you the wisdom to rule. I know you will do well when my body is dead. I know you will be a great queen... just like me. Hold it close tonight and think of your mother. It will... comfort…” The queen trailed off. She clutched her breast again and released a heavy breath. It would be her last.

When enough time had passed and the people in the room were sure the queen was dead, the throne room erupted in relief and a celebration ensued. Before her handmaidens could shuffle her away from the dead queen, the princess reached out and snatched the straw doll from her grandmother’s lap. The girl, because her eyes never left her feet, had not witnessed the eldritch wisp that escaped the queen’s mouth with her last gasp of life. She was unaware that the near invisible, swirling mist disappeared into the straw head of the ancient heirloom. She held the doll close as she was marched out of the room.

 Later, in Vahnessa’s bedchambers, servants tucked her into bed, kissed her cheeks, hugged her in celebration and explained to her that tomorrow would be a bright new day for both her and the Kingdom of Rhylaria. She drifted off to sleep, hugging the little straw doll and dreaming of happier times. Sometime in the night, the ghostly green wisp slipped out of the doll and into the mouth of the sleeping princess.

******

Valda opened her eyes. The first thing she was aware of was the crisp clean air that filled her lungs and the lack of crippling pain that usually came with breathing. She bounded out of bed and looked at herself in the standing mirror. She took a deep breath again and smiled. She twirled in the mirror and laughed with excitement as she reveled in her newly acquired youth and beauty. Sighing in relief that the transference had worked again, she threw open the shutters and gazed down upon the kingdom she would continue to rule. She vowed to herself that those groveling insects would rue the day they whispered ill of her. She could not wait to hear what all the good folk would say about the late queen. She returned to the mirror, giggling to herself, staring for a time, in awe of her new being.

The skipping from one life to the next was not always without regrets. She wondered what her grand-daughter may have become one day if allowed to live, but she tried not to dwell on it. She had grown quite fond of her daughter and regretted having to get rid of her, but she preferred to occupy the more youthful body of her grand-daughter. It was easier convincing the young to hold tightly to the doll anyway. Fifteen was old enough to rule and those who would take advantage, thinking her but a child, would quickly regret it. After all, she was seven- hundred and thirty-two years old and she had learned a thing or two about dealing with her enemies. 

Starting anew was always so exciting and fun. She stared into the mirror and smiled. With this young body, it would not be difficult to attract suitors. It would not be difficult to bear children and perhaps if she lived long enough and started soon enough, she would pass the doll to a great grand-daughter this time. Life was good again and she rushed off to begin her day as the new queen.

October 02, 2020 22:04

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13 comments

Kristin Neubauer
21:39 Oct 04, 2020

Wow Ryan! This is a brilliant story! It’s so perfectly crafted and developed - I was hooked from the first sentence. Your writing - the language, the dialogue, all flow so smoothly. And the twist! I did not see that coming. I think you are such a talented writer - I’m so sorry I’ve taken so long to read (it’s been a crazy week). I’m going to look at your other one and hope to read more!

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Ryan Dupont
00:03 Oct 06, 2020

Kristen - Thanks for your support. I am new on Reedsy and it was nice to know that someone enjoyed my story. Your comments really made my day. Thank you!

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Kristin Neubauer
13:21 Oct 06, 2020

I am glad you're here! I started on Reedsy in July, I think. Some of my favorite authors (if you haven't already discovered them) are: Thom Brodkin, Sarah Greenwood, Skyler Woods, Rambling Beth, Amany, Abigail Airuedomwinya, Natalie Strawbridge, Maggie Deese, Molly Rogers and Jonathan Blaawu (read Into the Icarian Sea - it's amazing) (I hope I'm not forgetting anyone).

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Ryan Dupont
21:01 Oct 06, 2020

Thank you for the info Kristen! I will check them out. I think being a part of this community will be great. It's nice to have a group of writers to support and to be supported by.

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02:02 Oct 07, 2020

Wow thanks for the shout-out Kristin 😁

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Kristin Neubauer
09:39 Oct 08, 2020

One more, Ryan - check out Yolanda Wu too. She writes some of the most exquisite fantasy!

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Ryan Dupont
19:39 Oct 08, 2020

I will do that. I have been reading stories from those writers you recommended and they have some good stories. I have really enjoyed them and will continue to follow them. Thanks for letting me know!

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Yolanda Wu
06:09 Oct 15, 2020

Thank you so much, Kristin!

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Yolanda Wu
06:17 Oct 15, 2020

Wow, Ryan! You really have the fantasy genre down-pat. Both of your stories that I've read so far have taken classic fantasy plot points and turned it into something new which I really admire. At first I truly thought it was a grandmother passing the throne to her granddaughter, and I thought the straw doll was a cute heirloom type thing, but no! You hit me with that twist and it was sensational. Not only is the plot amazing, your writing is as well! From the beginning, you describes the grandmother so well and Vahnessa's naivety, and you re...

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Ola Hotchpotch
05:07 Oct 08, 2020

Your story was interesting. It has a magical quality to it even though it was evil. Evil for the grand daughter whose life she took. Bad for her enemies who thought they had got rid of her. She now has a new body to last for many more years and the wisdom of centuries. Keep writing.

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Ryan Dupont
05:38 Oct 08, 2020

Thanks for taking the time to read my story and thanks for the kind words. I am glad you liked it.

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02:11 Oct 07, 2020

Wow this is a wonderful story. The pacing kept moving the plot forward holding onto the reader. I loved the dialogue and was genuinely surprised by the ending. And the title was creepy and it pulled me in. Awesome job.

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Ryan Dupont
08:21 Oct 07, 2020

Thanks for the kind words Sarah! Thank you for taking the time to read it. It's nice to hear that people enjoy my stories.

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