Queen Verita surveyed the field of carnage that polluted her throne room in disgust. That it had come to this. Foreign soldiers slaughtered before the throne, the most officious and historical location in her young Kingdom, by a Dungeon monster. Her ancestors would shake their heads in despair if they knew of this farce.
Brusquely she ordered her Guards to clean the room and do something about the dead and escort the townsfolk out of the room. Then she ordered two soldiers forward to seize the ambassador and bring him before her. The Regixian was still frozen with terror on the dais, shaking in fear as his eyes stared vacantly at the broken bodies of the men and women he had brought here to fight.
When Corrin had been pulled through the air to her death he had been so terrified his legs had lost all their strength, causing him to collapse onto his knees. As the two Queen’s Guard hauled him up by his armpits they sneered in contempt as they noticed the damp patch on the front of the ambassadors trousers.
The Queen thought for a moment before signalling another of her Guard to attend her.
The soldier approached and saluted smartly. “Take the head of Corrin and put it on a spike at the castle gate. That should take the wind out of any mercenary scum who want to try and continue their rebellion”.
The soldiers saluted again. “At once your majesty”.
The Guard picked his way through the remains toward the fallen Mercenary Union president to complete his grisly task. Soon he walked briskly out of the hall carrying a red stained cloth wrapped around a roundish object.
When the mercenaries battling desperately to push through the gate and into the castle recognised the head being held up high on the tip of a spear they were filled with equal parts rage and despair. They knew they would never grasp the profits they had been promised to secure their support for this uprising now. Many mercs decided on the spot to flee the country as fast as their legs could carry them. If they were quick enough they may be able to avoid arrest. After all, they could ply their trade anywhere the Dungeon was, which was everywhere!
The news that the Queen had taken back control of the castle spread through the city like wildfire. The citizens cheered and poured into the streets to celebrate. Many were glad to have their benevolent ruler secure again on her throne but many others were simply glad the fighting had come to an end and peace could once again return to their lives. After weeks of fighting, death and destruction they wanted to get on with rebuilding and forget any of this had ever happened.
Inside the castle ambassador Andron was dragged before Queen Verita by her Guards. When he was unresponsive a soldier stepped forward and slapped the man viciously until he was able to come back to himself.
“It’s a shame we had to speak under these circumstances, ambassador” Verita drawled.
Andron spluttered, trying to draw himself up and regain some of his dignity. His efforts proved fruitless whilst he was being held upright by two callous soldiers who gripped him so tight he was sure to bruise the next day.
“You can’t treat me like this Verita!” he spat, “do you think Regix will stand for this?”
His gumption rendered Verita speechless for a moment. “You know” she bit back, “I find myself not caring a whit what Regix will stand for or not. As far as I’m concerned your pox filled nation of rats can jump in the Dungeon so they can live amongst their own kind!”
Andron gaped at her. “You dare?!”
Verita looked at one her Guards and gave him a subtle nod. The soldier immediately stepped forward to deliver another powerful slap to the ambassador, drawing blood.
After letting him recover for moment the Queen resumed speaking. “I do. You’re going to scurry back to your nest, rat. When you get there I want you to tell them that I’m coming. I’m going to march into Regix and burn it to the ground for what you’ve done here”.
The quivering ambassador retreated before Verita’s fury. Unable to muster a response he could only hang his head as the Guards dragged him out of the castle. They would throw him on a horse and send him on his way back to his own land within the hour.
For a moment the Queen was left to her own thoughts. Finally, she let herself feel relief. She had thought it was all gone. The night they had fled the castle, slipping through a hidden gate in the darkness, she had wept. All the work of her ancestors, the toil and sweat of the citizens to carve out a new country from what had been monster infested deathzone, gone to waste. All because of her.
Now it was back in her hands. All of it. The traitors had been rooted out. She would take a sword to the merchants who had backed this coup, wash away the stink of rebellion with the blood of traitors. Once again Liria would experience a meteoric rise, no longer suffering from the leeches which had drawn away its strength. The light of justice was shining on her kingdom today!
For a kingdom basking in the light, why was it so dark in here?
Puzzled, Verita caste her eyes around the room only to find that the glow lamps on the walls had been extinguished! On one side of the room a single lamp remained lit and frozen above it like a gigantic spider was the monster, holding still as if a child caught with a hand in the biscuit tin.
The Queen could only stare at this strange creature who had made her resurrection possible. Probing mentally she found the mind bridge she had been maintaining.[Monster. What have you done to my lamps?]
Suddenly the final light winked out.[Just taking a little of my payment in advance]
Verita was stunned. How could a monster be this shameless!?
The monster’s pitiless voice echoed in her mind once again. [It seems you have what you want, Queen], Verita always felt the way the monster said “Queen” sounded doubtful for some reason, [I have fulfilled my end of our agreement].
It was clear what the monster wanted, now that it had done what it had promised to do, it wanted to be paid.
Verita carefully studied the still creature latched onto her wall. Despite not turning to face her she knew the insect was watching her just as she was watching him.[I never learned your name, monster] despite tactfully asking several times the creature had simply refused to share it, declaring that “monster” was fine. [You never did] the monster agreed, clearly refusing her yet again.
Veritas mouth tightened and she covertly signalled to her Guards in the throne room.
Still the monster was watching her. Its voice rang in her mind.[Do you know of the phrase “Tit for tat?”] [I don’t] she frowned. [It means that should one be treated well, they will return that goodwill, but should one be treated poorly, similarly it will be returned in kind]
The Queen drew herself up. From the corner of her eye she could see her soldiers slowly shifting their positions. [Are you threatening me monster?][Yes].
Silence lay between them for a moment. The monster spoke first.
That cold voice sent a shiver down her spine. It seemed the monster had been able to guess her intentions. This creature was so powerful already, and it would only go stronger, smarter, more deadly in the future. How could she let it roam free?
Not to mention, should word of her alliance with Dungeon monsters be leaked, her reign would be destabilised. Most people hated and despised monsters, viewing them as the enemy of civilisation, if they knew she had willingly borrowed the power of a monster, trust in her authority would be shredded. The Guard would not speak, the townsfolk could be persuaded and the people in the city would not be believed. People saw all sorts of things in the heat of battle. The key to silencing the issue was in not letting this monster go!
In her heart the Queen could not believe that the monster could do anything to her here, in the seat of her power. In her own throne room there were many hidden cards she could deploy, not to mention the powerful Guards around her. It was over.
The Queen sneered, throwing all pretence aside.[You can only blame yourself for trusting too easily, creature!]
She signalled to her Guard who immediately drew their weapons, over twenty blades drawn in unison!
In that instant the wall directly under the monster burst inwards as if smashed with a battering ram! Bricks and mortar flew across the room and the Queen sought refuge behind a hastily raised shield by a nearby Guard.
With heavy footsteps a new entity entered the throne room, obscured at first by the stone dust that hung in the air. The soldiers tensed at this unexpected development, weapons and shields drawn as they braced for anything.
As the dust slowly settled the giant form of a powerfully muscular ape was revealed. Huge hands knuckled the ground as it moved, staring balefully at the humans it loomed over them. After it had pushed through the new hole it had made in the wall the creature drew up to its full height, towering high as the ant began to climb down from its perch.
The Queen watched stunned, the situation was changing too rapidly for her to think. Her soldiers weren’t sure anymore if they should engage and were waiting for her orders!
Before she could signal them the ape raised one hand and flung something towards them. The object arced through the air before landing heavily with a thud and rolling to a stop. Only when the shape groaned and shifted slightly did the Queen realise what it was.
“Captain Pendlen!” she cried.
This was the Guard captain that had been captured with her! As the giant ape raised another hand the Queen and her Guard flinched back as if it were going to throw something else at them but instead it simply dragged a bulging sack off the ground and flung it over its shoulder.
From across the room the Queen could see the sack appeared to be filled with small round objects, their outlines bulging against the fabric. Cores!
She stared at the monster climbing down next to its ape pet in disbelief. How was this possible?! Is this some sort of heist!?[You disappoint me Queen] the monsters’ voice chilled her mind again, [from beginning to end this matter has been…. too predictable].
Rage burst inside the Queen’s chest and she raised a hand to point at the two monsters as she screamed “Kill them!”
Her Guard charged immediately but quick as they were the ape was faster. Raising its free hand high it smashed it down onto the stone floor at its feet with a deafening crash! The room was once again showered with stone and dust.
When it cleared the soldiers were stunned to see the two monsters were gone, as if they had never been there. They tentatively approached, shields raised high and eyes scanning constantly, only to find the shattered floor opened into a tunnel that led straight down. The walls of the tunnel were threaded with veins of blue light and echoing from within the screams and roaring of thousands of monsters could be heard.