“I’m sorry!” Kai was on his knees in front of her throne, his hands clasped together pitifully. “I am so sorry!”
The queen could smell his fear even from up on the dais. She quirked one of her perfect eyebrows upwards. “You burned down a whole quarter of the city and all you can say is ‘you’re sorry?’”
Kai paled. “I knew the damage was extensive...”
“That’s putting it mildly.” The queen threw a glare at the mage who accompanied Kai. “I was assured your mages were no threat to my city.”
“We are not, my queen.” The mage stood a little straighter. “Kai passed his test.”
“And yet his magic caused the fire.” She tapped her long, immaculate fingernails on her throne. “Magic he was not supposed to have. Nor was he licensed to use.”
“He was not. Which is why we brought the matter to you.” She folded her arms into her robe. “But should we deem your punishment too lenient-”
“Too lenient?” The queen laughed with genuine mirth. “I assure you, my judgement will be fair.” She turned her attention back to Kai.
“I am so sorry.”
“I know you are. But you levelled a large part of my city. Words alone will not repair all of the damage.”
The queen caught a spark of hope in his stormy eyes. “I am not poor, my queen.”
“Of course not,” she purred. “All of your gold will go a long way towards repairing the quarter.”
Kai let out the breath he’d been unconsciously holding. Humans were so adorable.
“Unfortunately gold can only cover the physical damages.” She paused, stifling a laugh as he froze. “What about all of the lives lost in the blaze? The human lives in particular?”
He puffed out his chest at that. “While this was surely a setback, you have nothing to worry about, my queen. We humans reproduce easily. Our numbers will recover.”
“In that you are mistaken, Kai.”
He paled. “My...my queen?”
“The human population has been declining for some time. While troubling, my advisors assured me it wasn’t a big deal so long as everyone was careful.” She examined her manicured hand. “But now your fire has wiped out a significant number.”
His eyes widened in shock. “I had no idea. My queen, I’m so-”
“Never mind that,” she said, waving off another apology. “Have you any way to encourage your people to reproduce?”
“That’s been tried. In fact, all of the obvious solutions have. And they all failed.” She took a moment to really consider the man cowering before her. “Perhaps you could find out why your people are in decline?”
“I...I...I am scholar, my queen. I could perhaps do a study?”
“No.” She sighed. “There are other, wiser people looking into this matter.” The queen stood, taking a moment to survey her court before focussing once again on Kai. Slowly she descended from the dais towards him, stroking his hair when she was in reach; he shrank back from her touch. “As you cannot fix what you have done, then here is my decree: I will give you immortal life.” He stilled. That was not the sentence he had expected.
Her hand roved down to his face, caressing it before she yanked his chin up, forcing him to look her in the eye. “Do not mistake this for a blessing. For you shall not be allowed even one drop of human blood, though you will beg and curse me for it to the end of your days.” She looked up, meeting the gaze of the mage. “He will lose the magic that runs through his veins. Is this sufficient for the council?”
The mage nodded. The queen smiled back down at her prey and barred her fangs. “So shall it be.”
This was an exploratory piece. I wanted to play a bit with a setting I've been working on. I haven't actually named the queen yet, which is why she's just "the queen" here, but she's an essential piece of the setting. I actually didn't know there was a mage council until I started writing this a few days ago.
Quite interesting - I'm more wondering what the Queen is, rather than knowing her name. I think the ambiguity is good in this case, however. Just like in a horror movie or video game where the less you know about the threatening aspect, the most frightening it really is.
Oh yeah, that's true! I was kind of thinking I would name her, at least for my own sake (even if I don't use her name in any of the stories set in this world).
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