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Lady of the Night

Deep within a forest sat a massive gothic castle. Within lived a Queen dressed in black who always hid her face behind a veil. She was known by nearby settlements for her unwavering kindness and willingness to care for young women and children as well as her sharp tongue.

How such a sweet voice could turn so quickly into a frighteningly sharp weapon of ice at the slightest wrong word, no one knew.

But most dared not enter her lands, for fear of the monster that lurked in the darkness, swallowing any who crossed its ruler.

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In a room, in one of many spiraling towers, sat a young woman dressed in mourning wear. Evelynn, the Lady of the castle. Moonlight shone through the curtains, washing over the woman’s silhouette. On her knees, dress pooling around her like spilled ink, she clasped gloved hands in prayer around a gleaming silver locket. Distantly, the sounds of a cheerful party echoed up through the stone.

Tears burned behind her shadowed eyes. While she cared not for those bastards below, those powerful men and women who abused what they had been gifted without effort, who looked down on those who were born to anything less than perfection…. she still dreaded the night to come. Necessity be damned.

The door creaked open, drawing her from her spiraling grim thoughts, spilling flickering candlelight around the shadow cast by a tall man dressed in a sharp black suit.

“It is time, my Lady.” He said stiffly, waiting at the door. The woman pressed a kiss to the locket before raising one slender hand. Immediately, the man stepped inside and helped the young lady to her feet. They stood for a moment, and then the woman took a deep breath and nodded. Setting the locket down on a side table, she allowed her butler to lead her down.

A few moments later, the duo arrived before a shimmering golden ballroom filled with noble men and women dressed in colorful clothes and glittering jewels. Stopping, Evelynn left her servants side and peered over the balcony, hidden eyes shifting over the assembled guests.

“Will they be sufficient, my Lady?” He asked. Evelynn hummed, nodding. “Perhaps one too many.” She murmured, voice as fine as silk. “People may become suspicious.” She paused and chuckled. “Well, more than usual anyway.”

“They won’t.” Assured the butler. Turing back, Evelynn took in his frigid gaze, her heart clenching. Both for his blatant loyalty and the horrid cruelty she had placed there. An arm was offered and together they made their way down to the main floor.

Once down, he released her arm and stepped away. From within his jacket, he drew a silver bell, and shaking it gently, the room fell silent. The music ceased, and one by one, the invited nobles turned to face their host. Replacing the bell, the man clapped his hands twice, and immediately, all the staff swiftly left the room, locking the doors and windows as they went. Once the last bang sounded, the man stepped to the side, gesturing grandly to his lady.

“Presenting your esteemed hostess for the evening, the lovely Lady of the Night, Evelynn.” The assembled crowd shuffled and clapped. Failing to notice or summon a flicker of care as to why the servants had left.

Evelynn curtsied before inclining her head towards her butler. She nodded, sharply, a signal between them. Her last order for the evening. The man nodded back before turning and making his way up the steps. Only then did murmurs overtake the crowd, most filled with disgust, barbed words directed to a fleeting back. Fewer, the smarter ones, the paranoid ones who clung to their position and wealth for safety. Not that it would help them here. Silently, Evelynn stood, speaking only when a door slammed shut above.

“I am sure you are all curious as to why you were invited here.” Her voice, smooth and gentle like water passed over their ears, echoing in the packed cavernous space. The crowd watched, confusion growing as she removed her gloves and set them on a nearby table. “But first, there is a story that comes with this castle that I would like to tell.” Evelynn tilted her head at the silent shifting crowd, tasting the fear in the air as the atmosphere grew heavy.

“Centuries ago, there was a beautiful princess who was soon to be crowned Queen. She was adored by all her subjects, kind and clever, she had one fatal flaw.” She paused, watching recognition paint several of her guests faces white. Many eyes shifted to the locked doors, though most drew up their chins, forced confidence, useless, for their power meant nothing to Evelynn. “Her curiosity.”

“Many times she had been warned of the dangers that lurked within the woods of her home, that under no circumstances was she to leave the safety of the palace walls at night.” She shed her heeled shoes next and then faced the crowd. “So of course, the night before her coronation, she decided to walk the edges of the wood. She snuck past her guards and dived into the night. Alone.

“She couldn’t help herself, she was young, prideful, her hunger for knowledge insatiable. She walked until she came across a pond, its stone barrier worn down and cracked. So mesmerised by her reflection in the dark water, she failed to notice the figure creeping behind her as she leaned over the edge. Failed to see the gapping maw filled with glinting dagger teeth.” Evelynn’s voice fell, as silent as the frozen crowd. Her fists curled at her sides as she continued the tale. Voice turned hollow.

“It dug its teeth into her pale neck, the force of its attack sending them both into the pool. For whatever reason, the monster dissolved in the frigid water, perhaps it knew it had completed its terrible deed. But the princess did not notice this, she could only scream, bubbles pouring out of her mouth as she painted the water red. Could only feel the poison burning in her veins as she fought for the surface.” A growl fell from their hosts lips, causing the nobles who weren’t frozen to flinch back violently.

“They say the beast passed on its curse when it attacked. That the young princess had become a monster. Yet, her people still loved her, worshiped her more even as they withered and died while she remained. Fated to live forevermore,” Evelynn reached up, nails—claws gleaming black, and began removing her veil.

“With a terrible hunger.” The people moved, already rushing at the locked doors before she finished, trembling and trampling over each other as they pounded on the wood and glass, fighting to put distance between themselves and their ‘host’.

As their grim reality set in, the people turned, their pleas dying on their lips as they stared at her face.

Golden slitted eyes like a serpent, black scales creeping around her face from her hairline, pointed ears, and gleaming fangs poking out from crimson lips.

Her form trembled, skin rippling. She smiled sweetly, sadly.

“I am truly sorry for this,” She gasped, clawed hands twitching, inching towards her stomach. “I hate it, but I have no choice you see.” She groaned, falling to her knees, arms wrapped around her middle, grasping at her dress. She pressed her head to the floor, back arching, and large black wings burst from her back with a sickening crack.

She raised her head, sweat dripping down her brow as her eyes flashed, black creeping down her neck and across her arms.

“But you are cruel people,” she groaned again, claws digging groves into the marble floor. “That must count for something right?” She grinned, then threw her head back, a scream ripping from her throat, shifting swiftly into an earth-shaking roar, drowning out the cries of the noblemen and the ripping if her dress. Evelynn grew, rising above six times her previous size.

Then, a brief moment of choking silence as the people took in the sight of the frightening creature that had once been their host. Then, the creature turned its ravenous eyes on them, and screams filled the air as it descended upon them.

What followed was a sickening chorus of cracking bones and splattering blood.
——
High above the hidden bloodbath, within his Lady’s tower stood the butler, a gleaming silver locket in hand. He clicked it open, inside sat a picture faded by the passage of time. A beautiful woman with dark hair, before her face had been marred by demonic eyes or scales.

He clicked the locket shut and placed it on the table by the window before pivoting on his heel and leaving the room. There was much to prepare. They couldn’t leave the ballroom filthy it would be disrespectful, and as they’d learned, their Queen was a messy eater.

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‘Beware the Queen,’ the people cry. For she may be kind, but she is not merciful. So do not be cruel, do not threaten or spit curses at the Queen, for those are the ones the monster hungers for most.

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