I was still a little shaken from her test when the maid entered with a tray of tea. I barely took any notice of her until Queen Aria spoke. "You will wait a moment child."
I turned and looked at the Queen to see that she had taken the form of an old woman with white hair piled on top of her head and crows feet under her eyes.
I unwittingly took a step backwards as I noted this. I did not want to get in the way of the explosion that was about to come.
Queen Aria picked up her tea and took a sip from it. Her face screwed up in disgust and she put it down again. "Snargle grass, now really. Couldn't you have tried something a little less bitter tasting?"
The maid started and stumbled backwards in fear. "I'm sorry your Highness but I'm at loss as to what you are talki....."
"SILENCE!" Aria's voice echoed through the hallway like thunder and the terrified woman collapsed to the ground weeping.
The Queen walked forwards with surprising speed for someone who appeared so old. Catching the woman by the arm she pulled her to her feet and stood looking her up and down. "From the outside you appear untainted and yet you try to drug me and my Magician every day without fail for the past two weeks. Unfortunately Snargle Grass doesn't have any affect whatsoever on the Matrilani bloodline and all you succeeded in doing to the Court Magician was giving him a slight headache and inability to get up on time. Now tell me. What controls your actions other then the blood taint I can feel pulsing through your body?"
I moved closer as the woman bent double and clasped her hands to her chest. "My daughter." she sobbed. "He said he could bring my daughter back. He promised."
Something about her made me wary and so I watched her closely as she fumbled with her apron. "Your daughter is at peace." Queen Aria placed a hand on the woman's shoulder. "You must understand why they call him The Trickster? He lies, your daughter died two hundred years ago when he sent his armies to invade the Septiland. She was a good soldier, but she is dead."
"NO!" the woman's arm came up and a knife glinted in the light as she swung downwards.
I lunged forward and grabbed her wrist, stopping the knife millimetres from her Highness's throat. She turned to face me and I watched as the blood taint slowly consumed her and her features changed. She dropped the knife then and lunged for my throat, teeth snapping as she tried to sink them into my skin. I took a step back, pushing the Queen behind me, and drew my sword. The light caught the steel and created little dancing lights around the hall. "I serve the High Queen Aria, protector of the seven lands of The Attic." I intoned as the monster snarled at me. "I give my life to protect the Queen. I will not give in to any form of trickery or temptation." The monster began to laugh a horrible grating sound. "I will not run from evil. I will uphold the law of the Queen. I am the Court Magician."
I swirled the sword above my head at the same time as the monster darted towards me. "Deathhhhhh" it hissed and I brought my sword down and sliced it's head off. "Yeah, yours." I commented drily. The body slowly turned into dark vapour and vanished.
"The blood taint was stronger then I realised." The Queen's voice trembled and I turned to look at her, sheathing the sword as I did so. She was in the form of a young girl again and I secretly wondered if this was her real image. I had been friends with her Highness for around 2000 years, but I was still no closer to knowing what she really looked like. Her eyes flashed from green to blue and even as I watched her hair began to change colours slowly. "This is not good Damien." she murmured as she glided forwards to her throne. "The Trickster's minions cannot be allowed to get that close, ever again!"
I nodded, knowing that this was the time to keep silent as she sighed and sat on her throne, resting her head on her hand.
I took a deep breath and opened my mouth to speak when suddenly she began to shout. Her voice reverberated off the walls and the ground shook. "GUARDS!!!" she roared and they all appeared in an instant, falling over each other while attempting to keep steady on the shaking ground. "Yes your Highness?" they chorused as they knelt in front of her.
"Close the gates to the Plains and the gates to the Quatriland." she ordered. Nobody enters from those areas via the gate. They may enter by way of the river but other then that they must have papers to enter through the Gates. If anyone requests to enter through the Gates then I wish their papers to be brought to me."
"Yes your Majesty." they grovelled. "But begging your Highness's pardon, won't whatever you're trying to keep out just come in via the river?" a young guard asked tentatively.
Queen Aria smiled. "You have never been outside the city have you child?" she asked gently.
"N....no your Majesty." he bowed his head and stammered.
"Well anything evil cannot abide water. It is impossible for them to travel on the rivers."
She then waved her hand dismissively. "You may leave now."
They almost ran for the door and she laughed quietly. "Fearful fools." she muttered and I felt sorry for her. Everyone was terrified of her and I knew she was lonely.
I walked forwards and took my seat at the base of the steps up to the throne. There was a crash outside as a chandelier fell from the shaking earlier. Scurrying footsteps could be heard as people rushed to clean it up. I sighed as the people seeking counsel filtered into the throne room. It was going to be a long day.