(WP) Blood Like Poppies

(WP) Blood Like Poppies

               The
Queen has summoned her executioner to her chambers for a ‘private audience and
repast’.

               The
page kneels before the woman, so petrified that the parchment, sealed with
bright green wax, trembles in hand.

               “Thank
you,” She murmurs, slipping him a couple of coins for his trouble.

               The
missive is short and to the point, “Meet me for dinner in my private chambers.
You and I have something to discuss.”

               Something
tells Poppy Bloodletter that this is not exactly a social call.

               Perhaps
her luck has finally run out, and her queen has discovered one of her many
secrets.

               She
goes to her room and changes her clothes. When she comes out, she is dressed in
black, as if she is attending a mourning ceremony. Gloves, shot through with silver,
adorn her hands, to mask her fear.

               There
were many different kinds of armor, she has learned, and she will be a fool not
to protect herself in what little ways she could.

               The
queen is not a patient woman, and there is no use in delaying the inevitable.

               **

               Poppy
is announced by the queen’s page, and after several long heartbeats, she is
allowed inside. She is escorted through the sitting room and brought to the
queen herself, and there she is, pouring tea herself.

               Poppy
realizes that there is not a servant to be seen, and she can feel her heartbeat
all through her flesh, but especially in her throat. She doesn’t dare speak;
she just waited, the minutes stretching out like taffy.

               “Do you
remember, my dear, when you first came to my castle, when your father demanded
you be trained in the arts of killing and assassination?” The Queen looks up at
her, beckons her to sit at the small table, across from her.

               The
Queen was dressed in a gown of forest green, with emeralds dotting the bodice.
Along the hem, there is a ring of garnets. To Poppy, she looks like spring
embodied, given human form. With her dark skin, dusted with subtle glitter, and
black curls, the color is a stunning contrast. Her eyes, though, are the red of
the poppies that gave the executioner her name. She is beautiful, terrifying,
and arresting. More like a goddess than a monarch.

               “How could
I forget?” Poppy murmurs in reply, smiling in spite of herself. “It was the day
that my life changed forever. You told my father that I would be taking up his
trade, once he retired.”

               “That
is also the day that you swore fealty to me, my children, my house and kingdom,”
Queen Kali whispers, and a cruel, sharp smile graces her full, lovely lips.

               “I
feel, my darling Poppy, that you have lost sight of your duty. Are you unhappy
here? Is there anything you need that I have not provided?”

               As she
speaks, her voice grows dangerously lower, more like a growl than a purr.

               As if
to give Poppy more time to answer, Queen Kali quickly uncovers the food she has
ordered for them both: a tureen of spiced lentil stew, a roasted haunch of
beef, crusted with mushrooms and spices and served with a rich wine sauce,
thick, dark bread slathered with butter and still warm, and for dessert, meringue
lemon tarts.

               She’s
really pulling out the big guns, Poppy realizes.

               “No,
not at all, Your Majesty. I appreciate everything you’ve done for me.”

               “Then
why, my dear Poppy, have you spent all of these years lying to me? Betraying myself and the Crown? I know
what you’ve done, and consider this your last meal. You will die for your
crimes against the Kingdom, Poppy Bloodletter.”

               **