“No! Please. Help! Somebody stop that thing before it kills us all,” Shivali Mneme screamed.
Atticus Perun spun around to see what all the fuss was about. His eyes scanned the crowded marketplace. The man’s sharp eyes spotted the queen on a small balcony in the Parandor Palace overlooking the entrance to the marketplace on Kings Street.
The queen was dressed to kill as always in a light-blue, silk dress that perfectly complemented her creamy skin and long, golden tresses.
She was young and beautiful. Too young for the king to have chosen for a second wife after he poisoned his first wife. It was common knowledge that there had been foul play involved in her death.
But he was the king, and he had no heirs to rule in his stead. He wanted a younger woman, even though none of his counselors approved. Not even Atticus. They didn’t approve of someone young. And especially not of Shivali.
The general consensus was that he should have chosen someone wiser and less frivolous to help him rule the land.
But he was the king, and sometimes it was good to be the king.
Atticus sighed and wondered what it was this time. The young queen was always full of drama. Throwing fits and tantrums. It was draining on everyone in the royal court. It was draining on Atticus. Always having to explain why she couldn’t do something or have her way.
The king’s counselors knew it was especially draining on the king. Which wasn’t good for his nerves, especially in such trying times as these. There were so many important things to deal with.
Threats from the Yunnavion to the south. War between Muilaris and Obonait Empires to the east. Hunger to the west as the smaller rivers of the Clinlam Tributary
dried up. Rumors of dragon attacks coming from the Arnwich Mountains to the north.
And yet, half of their meetings were spent dealing with queen’s latest antics. Trying to figure out ways to help the king smooth things over. Not that Atticus thought the king should.
If it were up to Atticus, he would have invoked the Law of the Line on her. But King Silvius was too much of a pushover. He let the queen get away with murder. Which was really weird because the king wasn’t like that in any other area of ruling his kingdom.
He didn’t have any problems laying down the law. Killing a disobedient or sloppy servent before breakfast never curbed his appetite. But when it came to the queen, King Silvius acted like a silly schoolboy who had just fallen in love.
Some whispered that it was because the king felt guilty over his first wife’s death. Others thought the queen had placed a spell on him.
Atticus pushed his way through the swarming crowds who began to gather in small groups. He finally made his way to the entrance and rounded the corner of Pearl Avenue. And what he saw made his blood run cold.
“A devil of crows,” someone whispered in awe.
It was a lay person’s description, of the large skeletal face and hands that floated up Pearl Avenue in their direction. And it was surrounded by thousands of crows that formed the monster’s body. Hundreds more circled around it as it moved toward them.
“Wraalic Cthiuciu,” Atticus whispered hoarsely.
He had only heard the stories from his grandmother as a child. His mother tried to dissuade her from telling the boy those tales. But every once in awhile, when he was alone with Granny Venere, Atticus would beg her to tell him more.
“Stand your ground and fight! For tonight we feast on crow!” Atticus heard Cicero Pericles, the captain of the king’s guard shouting over the screams of the crowd that was beginning to flee in terror.
Atticus turned to flee himself. There was no way mere mortals could defeat this foul creature with sword and spears if his grandmother’s stories were true. And up till now, he thought this monster was a thing of fairy tales.
Suddenly, he caught a glimpse of a lone figure standing between himself and the Wraalic. Atticus hadn’t even seen where the person came from. At first he thought it was a man wearing a long, flowing black cape that swirled out and around his body in the wind. But then Atticus saw a single, long braid snapping and whipping in the wind.
Was it a woman?
She had a long staff in her hands that she stretched out to the side. As she waved the staff in the wind, a long light blue hue began to leak off the end of the staff. Atticus watched in fascination as stood calmly in the Wraalic’s path to give her power time to grow.
And then finally, she released the ball of light-blue energy from the end of the staff. It arced up out towards the Wraalic’s raven chest. But the shot didn’t even phase the creature. If anything, it only angered it because a flock of raven’s shot out in her direction. Attacking her mercilessly from all sides.
The Wraalic continued coming up the street as if it were oblivious to the birds below it. It passed right over the lone person who tried to stop it.
Atticus looked back where he had last seen Cicreo and his band of brave warriors. But they were nowhere to be seen. Had they fled or been carried off by a band of crows. It wasn’t like the King’s Guard to flee from a good fight, even when the odds were stacked against them.
When he looked up, he was shocked to see the queen still standing on the balcony watching the Wraalic progress up the street. The king was screaming at her and trying to pull her back inside the castle. But he was old and frail. She was young and strong.
Something didn’t seem quite right about this scene. It just seemed off somehow. Atticus couldn’t quite put his finger on it. He backed away down the street he had come and slid into a small alley out of sight where he could still keep an eye on the queen.
The wise counselor watched as King Silvius screamed for his servants to come help them. He swore up a blue streak and threatened to have them all decapitated for abandoning him. The king begged and pleaded for the queen to come with him. But she didn’t budge.
The giant Wraalic floated up to the edge of the balcony. It reached out its hand toward them. Ravens and crows descended around the king and queen.
It was a dark blur, and Atticus couldn’t be one hundred percent sure, but it looked like the queen pushed the king over the edge of the balcony in the confusion.
Atticus watched in horror as the king toppled over the edge of the parapet and tumbled through the crows till he hit the ground. It felt good to see some of the Wraalic’s crows getting squashed in the fall. But it was a small win. The horror of watching King Silvius’ body hit the ground was gutwrenching.
Suddenly, a blue light streaked out of the surrounding chaos of crows and burst on the Wraalic’s back before it could pick up the queen.
He looked, but Atticus couldn’t tell where they were coming from. The mass of swirling crows blocked his view. Then there was another blast and then another. Each blast knocked dozens of crows out of the air.
Atticus couldn’t tell if they were dead or just stunned, but it was a small victory none the less. The blasts came stronger and faster. Each blast knocked more crows out of the sky. After half-a-dozen blasts, the remaining crows scattered and flew off. The Wraalic stood silent and unmoving as if it had lost its power.
One final blast aimed at its ugly, bony head found its mark. And the entire creature disappeared into thin air. All that remained to remind that that what they had seen was real, were the carcasses of blackbirds scattered along the road.
The crowds roared to life and rushed back out into the street to crush the life out of any foul fowl that still happened to be fluttering or even breathing.
They cheered as they gathered around the mage with the staff that shot blue energy to destroy the Wraalic. They held her up over their heads and carried her victoriously through the city and held a great feast in her honor.
Zrele Ghelli was her name. She was given great honor by the queen.
Everyone honored the king with a great funeral procession. They mourned him like they did any royalty they were obliged to. But not because they missed him terribly. Even Atticus didn’t miss him much.
The king’s brother was a much more sensible man. And they no longer had to spend half their meetings discussing how to deal with the queen. They were able to focus their attention on much more important matters.
Well, there was one last thing they had to deal with. That was the fit that the queen threw when she found out that she wasn’t going to inherit the throne after King Silvius’ death.
It was easy for Atticus to convince the board to change a few laws. The Council of the Chosen were only too happy to pass a law that would keep Shivali away from themselves.
And the people, of course, didn’t really care one way or the other who sat on the throne as long as they had food to eat and plenty of entertainment to keep them occupied.
Shivali, of course, had a few choice words for Atticus when she found out that he was responsible for her losing the crown. She issued a few not-so subtle threats.
“I saw you push the king over the edge of the balcony,” he said.
“You can’t prove it,” she replied.
“I also don’t think there ever really was a Wraalic. You only created an illusion to get what you wanted.”
She smiled wanly and shrugged, “Magic is only an illusion. It’s in the trickery of making others see what you want. Then there is no need for a direct confrontation.”
“I always thought that the king killed his first wife to be with you, but I’m beginning to think that this was all your doing. Part of your plan all along.”
“You can’t prove it,” she replied with another shrug.
“Well, I’ve got my eye on you, Shivali. I’ll be watching you closely.”
“Well, then watch me closely because my plan is still in motion. I will yet be queen and sit on that throne whether you like it or not. Even if it means that I have to get rid of you to bring it to pass.”
Now it was Atticus’ turn to smile. She was much smarter than any of them ever gave her credit for in spite of her young age. If she was that formidable of a foe, he might have to recommend that she sit in on some of their Council Meetings. She might just be able to provide some valuable insight and creative solutions to the problems the kingdom was facing.
Thank you for reading this short story. I hope you enjoyed it. Let me know if you want me to write more of this story. If so, tell me which characters or ideas intrigued you in the comments below. If you are an English student, feel free to ask about any vocabulary words or expressions that you didn’t understand.