My husband snores. Some nights are worse than others. On one bad night in particular, I found my thoughts growing darker and darker as I lay there next to him unable to do much more than grit my teeth against the sounds he was making. Forced out of my bed, I found that Murandy (who’s bedroom is next to ours) had already given up trying to sleep and was out on the couch watching Netflix. That spot taken, I disappeared into the writing room. Here’s what I came up with:
The Queen’s Intent
by Justine Alley Dowsett
The Queen lay still next to her sleeping husband, contemplating his murder.
A pillow… Her first thought was naturally drawn from her environment. There were many pillows in the royal bedchamber; some tassled and some not, but all expertly constructed of costly fabric. No, too simple.
Strangulation? She questioned, raising a blonde brow over hazel eyes. Too obvious, and too much room for error.
With every wheezing rattle that marked another intake of breath, her thoughts grew darker. A twist of the neck? Elegant, maybe, but a little out of my reach, physically speaking, and there’s no use trusting a servant or a guard to the task.
They were loyal enough and to her, not to him. Noblesse guards to honour the heiress of the Noblesse House. No matter that he was the King and she his wife, it was the Noblesse name that mattered and the blood of the ancient noble house ran through her veins, not his. Their marriage had been one of convenience and subterfuge; a way for the Noblesse heiress to marry while keeping the family name alive and take control of Ismer in the process.
No, it wasn’t that Aganetha Noblesse did not trust her loyal guardsmen, it was simply that involving them threatened her most cardinal rule. Three people can keep a secret, she reminded herself, if, and only if, the other two are dead.
Not to mention the fact that it would be so inconvenient to have to dispose of a guardsman as well as her buffoon of a husband.
It will have to be the knife, she decided. There is simply no other way to be absolutely certain that the job is done to my satisfaction.
“Lionel.” With an exaggerated motion, the fair-haired Queen of Ismer shook her husband, the King, awake and found herself growing quickly annoyed at how long it took him to rouse to her summons. I could have easily done it while he slept and he would have been none the wiser.
“Lionel!” She shook him again, more sharply this time.
“What! What is it?”
“I think I heard something, over there by the balcony window.” She did her best to sound frightened.
“It’s likely nothing,” he responded, already rolling back over to resume his nightly imitation of a badly tuned Wellish horn.
“No,” she protested, “I swear it was something. A rattle perhaps, or the click of a latch.”
“Alert the guards, then,” he instructed, determined as usual to make her despise him further by being as obstinate as he possibly could.
She flopped onto her back with a sigh. “You’re right,” she whispered, after waiting until he’d drifted enough to take in a breath and ready his fog-horn once more. “It’s probably nothing.” She waited again, sure of her timing now. “Only…”
“What is it?” he demanded and she silently exulted, a grin blanketing her perfect features in the darkness. I have him now!
“Well, I’d sleep much better if I knew what was out there…”
“You want me to go and check.” It wasn’t a question.
“If you would.” Her response wasn’t a request.
With a noise that was half-sigh, half-grunt, Lionel Noblesse hauled himself out of their four-poster bed in a reluctant fashion. His dark brown hair was tousled and his back bent just enough with laziness that his long white nightshirt swept the carpets that covered the cold stone floor. He circled around the wide bed frame to head for the far balcony window she’d indicated with a quick gesture of her head.
This gave her just enough time to reach for the dagger she kept in her night table drawer.
This is perfect, she thought, internally grinning, if he looks back, he’ll only think me scared and wanting to defend myself. He has no clue that he is one that needs defending.
She stood and plastered a frightened look on her face, so there would be no possibility of error. He reached the balcony door and swung it open, pushing aside the white silk curtains to peer out.
“See,” he called back to her, speaking in a conversational tone, meant to set her at ease. “There’s nothing out there.”
“I know,” she told him, standing much closer to him than he expected her to be as he turned around. She could see the surprise in his eyes at her nearness and the sudden strength of her expression in the pale moonlight. She wasn’t frightened now, nor nervous.
She was eager. Determined. Confident. Free.
Surprise was the last expression she saw on her husband’s face as she drove her curved dagger into his soft belly and upwards, under his ribcage. She had to do a thorough job; she knew she’d only get one shot at this.
“Guards!” She shrieked at the top of her lungs the moment she saw the life go out of his eyes and he started to topple.
They came rushing in at her call, without a moment’s hesitation. I’ll have to commend them for their quick response, she made a mental note before correcting herself. No, I’ll have to punish them instead. They did let their King be killed right under their own noses after all…
“Assassins!” She told them, tears of triumph meant to look like grief streaking down her face and sparkling on her cheeks as they caught the light of the guards’ torches. “I was asleep… they must have stolen my dagger from the nightstand there,” she pointed, “and used it…” She faked a sob. “I woke then, but they fled out through the balcony door…”
All the evidence in the room fit the very plausible scenario she painted for them, save for the lack of visible assassins, but her loyal guards had no reason to doubt her grief-stricken words and the Noblesse House did have its enemies…other noble houses and powerful families that were nearby or in residence that she would be sure to blame for this.
It was a measure of her self-discipline that she was able to keep her expression contorted in grief, when what she really wanted to do was grin in triumphant glee.
I’m free and for the rest of this night and each night thereafter, I will sleep in peace!
The Queen’s Intent is a glimpse into the history of Ismera, the setting for Unintended by Murandy Damodred and myself. Unintended, a Shakespearian style romantic comedy about good intentions launches August 17th, 2015. Subscribe to this blog to keep up with information as it becomes available, or subscribe to our mailing list at www.mirrorworldpublishing.com
My apologies to Robert Dowsett, especially for making him edit this!