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Tales from the Kingdom of Grim

By Shelley Miller All Rights Reserved ©

Horror / Fantasy

The Ash Queen

"I am all I deserve to be."

The Queen of Grim, known among her people as the Ash Queen, was feared beyond any ruler. It was she who started the Hundred Year Famine and the Great Pestilence which caused the deaths of many men, women, and children in her kingdom. They call her evil, which she may well be, yet her true tale is one that is long forgotten. It is a tale which she, herself, will not speak of. For it is one of kindness turned cold, of a pure heart sullied, and the light of innocence being swallowed by darkness.

Long ago, when she was just a girl, she lost her mother to illness. Her father, a weak man of little value, remarried a widow with two daughters of her own. Only when it was too late, and her feeble father's life was extinguished, did the stepmother reveal  her true, calculating, and cruel self. She treated her stepdaughter with rare heartlessness and worked her like a slave, while her own fat, spoiled daughters laughed gloatingly at their stepsisters misfortunes, delighted spectators of their mother's cruelty.

The girl worked as a servant in her own home, trying her best to remain strong in the face of such a loveless life. While half of her heart hoped for a chance at happiness in the face of such tribulation, the other half started to grow cold. It was this half of her heart that stared at her stepmother and stepsisters with a loathing unfitting a simple young woman. She fought to suppress these dark thoughts and worked with hope in her heart.

But finally, the abuse took its toll. The girl snapped one day after long, grueling hours of housework and far too many beatings and cruel words from the hags that dare call themselves her family. That night, she sneaked quietly into her stepsister's chambers and stole a gown and a pair of shoes and tried to flee the household. She did not get far. A neighbor who knew nothing of the girl's terrible life saw her leaving the house. He caught her, berated her from sneaking out in the night, and promptly returned her to the clutches of her stepmother, telling the stepmother that she ought to do better than teach her girls to run off at night.

It was the worst punishment she'd yet received. The stepmother ripped the stolen clothes from the girl's body while her own daughters laughed and mocked her. The stepmother then started beating the girl with everything she could get her hands on. For a whole day the girl was beaten with everything in the house, hurt and laughed at until, finally, the stepmother took a heavy black kettle from the fire place and hit the girl's head so hard that she collapsed into the fireplace, blood leaking from her hair. She didn't move or make a sound after that.

Fearing she'd finally landed a death blow on the girl, the stepmother took her own daughters out of the house. A royal event would be taking place that night and, she believed, that if the girl died there while they were attending the event, she could claim the girl's death was an accident and she and her daughters would be blameless. They dressed in their finest and took off at once, leaving the girl to bleed in the fireplace.

In those moments, as she lay there dying, that girl surrendered her heart and soul to the darkness she'd kept at bay for so long. All the anger and hatred burned through her, willing her to survive. She prayed to any dark god that might be listening that, if she could survive this, if she could revenge herself upon those who wronged her, if she could take over this unfair and harsh world and rule it as she saw fit, she would belong to the darkness forevermore.

The Darkness accepted her offer. It's wicked voice whispered in her ear.

"Take the ashes that have been soaked in your blood and cover yourself with them."

The girl was barely alive and so it took every last bit of her strength to gather a small handful of bloody ashes and rub them against the gash on her head. Suddenly, the pain faded, her eyesight cleared, and strength returned to her. Rejuvenated and wild with excitement she started covering every inch of herself with the bloodied ashes. Once she was covered, she hurried to the water pump and washed them off to reveal, not only was the gash on her head completely healed over, but many years worth of scars and bruises was completely washed away and replaced with pale, glorious flesh. Her stringy, uneven black hair was now shiny and full. Her coarse, rough hands were now soft and her nails were shiny. The ashes had made her whole again and possessing a most enviable beauty.

She took what was left of the ashes and rubbed them into the tattered fabric of the gown she'd stolen. It too was completely restored and had turned into a fine, glimmering dress of pure black. She donned her new gown, looking finer and more glorious than any woman ever had in the kingdom and she took off after her stepmother and stepsisters.

The royal event being held that night was the wedding of the kingdom's prince to a princess from another realm. It was a union meant to secure peace and prosperity between their homelands forever. As the prince and princess stood at the alter and prepared to make their vows the doors to the chapel opened. The girl, reborn from the ashes, entered the ceremony and approached the alter. Her beauty, a gift from the Darkness, cast a spell on all who laid eyes upon her. Every woman who looked upon her burned with envy while every man was filled with an aching lust. But the man most effected by the beauty that Darkness had bestowed upon the girl was the prince. He was so entranced by her that, without realizing what he was doing, he put his wedding band not upon the finger of his bride-to-be but upon the finger of the girl!

So the girl became the Queen, the Ash Queen, more powerful and seductive than any in all the world. It was she that plunged the world into darkness as repayment of the Darkness that granted her all she'd ever wanted. As long as she sits on the throne, the world will never know peace or happiness again.

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