Reclining with her feet before the fire, Myrischka was entirely relaxed.
“Is it done, then?” she asked the Guard. A mercenary, he had been a part of her network for years now. She would ensure that he was richly rewarded.
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
“Hmmm.” Myrischka considered. “How?”
He glanced down at her for a second. “You’ve never wanted to know before.”
She stared back at him, waiting. After all, none of the others had been a child of hers.
“Under the ice.” He cleared his throat briefly. “He was – unconscious. Didn’t know it was happening.”
Fortunately, the man stared straight ahead while saying this. His hands always behind his back at second attention, but Myrischka liked that he never patronized her, as one in his profession might.
Myrischka felt a distant touch of disquiet; she recognized it as such and shrugged it away. She had only borne children to remain Queen. She allowed herself a personal fondness for them while they were very small, but beyond that, they had been of no use to her.
Myrischka folded one of her legs across the other. “And the other?”
“Our men are waiting for Hewart’s cub.” Her mercenary shrugged. “Whether he’s unaccompanied or escorted, enough men are waiting to fulfill the task.”
Myrischka smiled slowly. “Good,” she purred. “Bring me his head if you can.” She breathed in a deep, satisfied breath, imagining the look on Hewart’s face when he received his son’s body, bereft of its head.
“As you like.” The mercenary nodded his head. Another thing she liked about him. He didn’t Majesty her repeatedly. He understood his purpose and rarely overstepped his bounds. In fact, Myrischka did not even know his name, and she appreciated that in a mercenary.
She held up her hand. “I still have not received those pigeons. That troubles me.”
The merc glanced at her, as if expecting a question soon.
Myrischka brushed her hands in the air. “Pay it no heed now. Two days of information gleaned through torture cannot be of consequence. Do you have a man in place waiting for them, should they arrive?”
He inhaled and replied, “I do. As soon as they cross the Green Gates, we will accompany them, then – relieve them of their burdens. So to speak. As pre-arranged.”
She nodded slowly. Excellent. She despised loose ends.
Myrischka looked back up at her mercenary, disguised as a Palace Guard. He stood still as ice, staring across the room as he waited to be addressed, as if she did not exist.
“Very well, then. I’ve had a long day, and I barely slept last night, so I shall be retiring to my chambers.” Only part of that was true. Nabol had been preoccupied with something last night, for he had simply not gotten it right. His report from Munsolrysche had been more entertaining. She had finally just thrown him out.
Myrischka stood up and rose a hand to cover a yawn.
Her pet mercenary nodded and, turning sharply on his boot heel, exited her rooms.
He had closed the solar door. Good. Once inside her bed chamber, Myrischka nudged her slippers off. Then she stalked over to the corner of the room. Bare and devoid of art, she stared at it. She’d never thought to use it again. But now she smiled….
Myrischka shoved at the unseen door with her shoulder. Part of her was impressed that it actually opened still.
She slipped inside the hidden chamber, lit the wall sconce from the candle in her lantern, and continued down the marble hallway.
After she’d given Munsolrysche his children, Myrischka had her entire chambers rebuilt, the entire wing completely redesigned. Now she had an entire wing to herself and only entertained as necessary. But – she had kept this private marble hallway. Munsolrysche probably forgot its existence long ago. Well, she thought, as she slipped down the marble floor in her bare feet, that would be a risk she would have to take.
Finally, she arrived at the other end of the hallway.
She shoved the door open, peeping into her husband’s bed chamber. Myrischka held her breath, listening, her back against the wall. But no – the only noise was the crackling fire and the snores of her husband in that enormous bed.
She padded into his room on her toes. The thick carpet felt much warmer than the ice of that marble hallway.
With contempt, Myrischka stared down at this man who ruled Ambsellon, who snored before her, unaware of her presence.
Myrischka slid silently into his bed, slowly as ice dripping from an icicle. Munsolrysche stopped snoring for a moment, as she lay there, staring at him, but then immediately began snoring even louder.
Myrischka climbed atop her husband then. Gods, he had grown even fatter then she recalled. She took the fattest pillow on the bed and forced it over his face. He saw her just long enough for his eyes to widen with hatred. She smirked at him and covered his eyes as well. He could make no noise whatever.
She had to straddle the bastard – he kicked and flopped like a mating walrus. Just as he slowed, Myrischka took out the knife. She plunged it into him – into his fat belly, his neck, his shoulders –
The blood sprayed all over her, of course, and dripped from her chin. She sank her knife into him once for every single year of marriage, and for each child she’d had to bear him, remembering how he’d ridden her like a drunken pig fucking a sow.
And then, at the last, she took both hands and sank the knife into his heart. She left the knife there. Poor Nabol, she snickered. It was his bootknife, after all. A gift for a child from a soft king, engraved. She had snuck it from his boot last night. He had probably noticed it was missing, but how to ask her if he had left it in her rooms?
Finally, she crawled off the fat fuck. The pillow had fallen off and his eyes bulged in death.
Ugh, the blood was getting sticky on her hands. Just as much a pain to clean up after in death as he had been in life. She shook her head with disgust.
Myrischka slipped back into the marble chamber, extinguishing flames as she went.
The knock sounded upon Myrischka’s oaken door some time past early morning. She slid out of bed and tied her mantle tightly about her as she padded to her door.
A number of Palace Guards – Kings Guards, of course – stood in her hallway. They all bowed with the sharpness that their stations demanded.
“Your Royal Majesty,” the first guard proclaimed.
Myrischka sighed with impatience. Burning her clothing last night had taken longer than she’d anticipated. She’d prodded it with a red-hot poker in the fire to be sure absolutely no trace remained, and then inked a number of numbers down on parchment. She’d thrown that in and half burned it, so that it appeared as if that had been what the she’d burned of late. Myrischka in no way believed her rooms would be searched, but she was merely safeguarding herself in all ways.
Dryly, Myrischka answered, “I presume there is a reason you and your men have awoken me?”
The Kings Guard bowed again. “With greatest apologies, Your Majesty, but there is.”
Myrischka waited and then, with a roll of her eyes, spun her hand around. “And…?”
“It’s His Royal Majesty, the King….” The guard trailed off, unsure how to proceed.
Myrischka sniffed. “What, then? Has he gotten his dick frozen to another ice statue again? I’ve told you then and I’ll tell you now, I won’t take care of that again. Hot water will take care of that, and frankly, in my opinion, the hotter, the better.” Myrischka pretended extreme annoyance – actually, recollecting the first scene, the annoyance was no act – and started to close her door.
The Kings Guard coughed - he was too young to have heard that story – and immediately said, “No, Your Majesty, if you please – the King is –” And he leaned closer. “He’s dead.”
Finally, she thought. She schooled her expression. All knew there was no love lost between them, therefore, a show of sadness and tears would be unrealistic. She took a deep sigh and leaned against her door jamb, crossing her arms. After a few seconds, Myrischka shrugged. “Well, then. Let us change the guard. Send for a bird for Bryranth at – wherever he is now, and have him return at once.”
The Kings Guards exchanged worried glances and shuffled their feet.
Myrischka arched an eyebrow. “Do you not know where Bryranth is? Riversberg? Wessex? We must change the guard at once.”
The Kings Guard who had been addressing her told her, “Prince Bryranth returned home not three days ago. He was seen dining in the Great Hall just two nights past.”
Myrischka frowned. “Well, then! Why are speaking to me? Speak to the Crown Prince – he is now the King. Long live King Bryranth!” She gestured, annoyed, to send them on their way. She wanted to smile, for they were quite flustered.
“If you please, Your Majesty. Prince Bryranth is not to be found.”
“And have you looked in all the ladies’ quarters? He is his father’s son, after all. I’d try even the maids’. Toll the bells, if you must, that might get his attention.”
“If it please you, Your Majesty, we have looked throughout the Palace, and throughout the city. Prince Bryranth is not to be found. Thus, we have come to you.”
Myrischka stood straight. “Not to be found? Did he leave again? Hunting? Ice fishing? Come now, he is our new King!” She allowed irritation to creep into her voice.
“No horses were checked out, and no tracks in the snow around the Palace, Your Majesty.”
She sighed and shook her head with an air of disgust. “Very well. How did the man die?” Myrischka backed away suddenly and covered her face. “Not fever? Not plague?”
The Kings Guards shook their heads. The leader immediately negated her inquiry. “No, no Your Majesty, the King was not ill.” He dared to step forward. “If I may…?”
Myrischka pulled her mantle about her.
He leaned down to her. “The King was murdered!” he whispered. He looked horrified.
Myrischka had wondered what this moment would sound like, and now she knew. How delicious, how satisfying….
She wanted to grin, laugh…. But, of course, that was impossible. Myrischka pretended shock. “Murder? What brings you to such a conclusion?” she questioned aloud, feigning disbelief. She acted as though they were simply being dramatic. Mainly because she wanted to see what they knew….
The Guards’ eyes grew round and though they maintained their forward stance, their eyes looked all about, probably from shock as well as the absolute knowledge that the King had, indeed, been murdered. Myrischka wondered how many people knew now – the bells hadn’t tolled yet.
The main Guard leaned forward and told her, “He were strangled, Your Majesty, and… stabbed as well. While he slept.”
“Your Majesty, with the deepest of pardons,” asked the Kings Guard behind him, “but, do you own a knife?
“How dare you! This is Her Majesty, The Queen of Ormon!” hissed the Main Kings Guard.
The second Guard lifted his eyebrows and held his ground.
“Your Majesty, please forgive him,” uttered the Main Kings Guard.
Myrischka yawned and smiled. “Not at all. He’s the sort of man we need in our ranks. Do – please.” She allowed the twelve Guards in.
“I own two knives.” Myrischka padded across her fur rug to her desk, her mantle rippling behind her as she strode. She tied it tighter once she stood behind her desk.
Opening the first drawer released a woodsy smell that she’d always enjoyed. Myrischka picked up her hunting knife, a gut hook at the end and partially serrated, one that she’d carried on countless hunts. She laid it before them on her desk. “My hunting knife, as most of the men I hunt with will confirm. A truly excellent tool. Unfortunately,” and Myrischka sighed, “the weather has not been accommodating of late for hunting.” Her disappointment on that fact was real.
She enjoyed how some of the Guards eyed it with hesitation.
Then Myrischka slipped her hand along the mantel of her fireplace. She held up her other knife and laid it before the Guard as well. “A betrothal gift from my uncle. The hilt is ivory, my initials inlaid with silver.”
“That will be quite enough, Your Majesty,” the Main Kings Guard said as he turned a glare over his shoulder at his compatriot. Though she did admit, they looked at the knives with some curiosity. Myrischka never once considered using a weapon of her own for just such a reason.
“If you’d like to examine them…?” she gestured smoothly.
“No – no. As it happens, we already have the –” and the Main Kings Guard took a deep breath. “The murder weapon. That is to say, the knife that killed him.”
Myrischka turned a look of purest contempt upon them. “And yet you stand here in my chambers? Having awakened me? When you cannot find the King-to-be and you have the weapon who killed the King-who-was? What nonsense are you about?”
The guards had the sense to look guilty. “You’re here, telling me someone has slaughtered the King of Ormon. You have the murder weapon. Are you not wasting precious time standing in my chambers instead of looking for the person who committed this heinous crime?” She waved her hand emphatically. She had to convince them, after all.
But soon enough, the bells would need to be tolled. Before he started to stink. More so than he normally did, she smirked to herself.
“We ordered the gates closed as soon as we discovered the – his body,” the Main Kings Guard informed her.
“Well, there’s a start,” she commented dryly. “Have you any idea who would do such a thing? Other than, of course, all of the Eastern Shield? Who had access to him day-to-day? What would have caused someone in his social circle to commit such an act of violence?”
Ugh. Did she have to handhold them through the entire process? The knife had Nabol’s initials inlaid upon it, after all.
The main Kings Guard bowed and gestured for his men to leave. “Yes, Your Majesty.”
“And do find Prince Bryranth. We need to change the guard, after all. And I want the bells rung at noon. Have his body wrapped and –” Myrischka brushed her hand in the air, for she had no idea how kings were laid to rest once dead… particularly one in her husband’s condition – “seen to as tradition accords.”
The main Kings Guard bowed.
“I expect a report at mid-afternoon on your progress,” Myrischka called as he closed her door.
Then she smiled.