The Reckoning (freewrite fiction #19)
He’d known as soon as he’d seen the snakes, wrapping themselves around his ankles like manacles. Should have known, at least, but he’d let it slip past him, just as he had the first time. In truth, he should have known days ago, had felt it on some level ever since he’d visited the queen’s house, but the voices had been sly, the lies they’d whispered in his ear covered so carefully as to shift all the blame.
In his blindness, the man of lights had thought her weak, his queen, and perhaps she was, but he, he’d grown even weaker, had grown lax, thinking he knew all her games and was immune to them.
He’d heard it that first time, behind his closed eyes, he’d heard the spiders’ whispers as clear as his own thoughts and perhaps clearer.
They’d told him, they’d tried to infuse the idea that the queen had gone mad into him, so that perhaps he’d try and take her down. And to think he almost had… He’d thought he was merely witnessing one of her tricks, but he hadn’t. He’d been witnessing a mutiny and successful mutinies all start out slow and on the quiet, with throwaway looks and secret words given in the dead of night to ears willing to listen. So, the spiders had tried to play him against their queen, knowing that if he got caught up in her treachery, he’d turn careless, ignore the sounds coming from the walls. Even in madness, perhaps the clearest sanity.
He’d had so many signs and yet, he hadn’t listened to any of them.
With his last breath, Noah had tried to tell him, but once again, the man of lights had thought himself too good, far too intelligent to need an outsider’s help. Perhaps the boy, with all that poison clouding his brain, had had a clearer view of the situation, had seen through all the spiders’ lies and tried to warn him, by telling a story, a story of betrayal from the unlikeliest of places. And the man of lights had been a fool, left wondering what had happened to the teeth man, when in fact, what he should have been wondering was what had happened to stir the other sailors to such an act. Greed, perennial, but also more than that. An insanity that wouldn’t allow them to put their make-believe weapons away, even when they knew they had been found out and would soon be beaten. And although in Noah’s story, reason had got the better of them in the end, here, only fire would do, for the spiders’ madness was not easy-going, but hardened by centuries of pain and torment, of shadows that would not abide and even in the blackest nights, shone just that extra bit darker. They’d spun so many webs out of the illusions of humans that they’d ended up trapping themselves and were left struggling and without much air.
And so, the spiders had slipped into madness, let the agony devour their eyes, their souls, their very nature. For even beasts of the dark have a soul and a mother, a sense of right and wrong, and the more lost dreams they drowned inside themselves, the more the good inside them disappeared.
In the end, they’d lost their sense, had strayed too far from true north to find their way again, becoming little more than shadows themselves. Monsters. And then, they’d done as monsters do, killing Cami Mermont and so many others, even though it hurt them, even though it weakened them, just to know of their bitter torment towards the end. Ever so anxious at the thought of the sinners being spared, they’d decided to return to something far more barbaric, to the way the world had been before the Others had been chosen, the world of eye for an eye, a world rapt in agony.
For while the Others were relatively new in the inner-workings of the universe, the spiders themselves were infinitely older and reminded of the taste of blood, they’d grown hungry and had elected to kill. And yet, one question still lingered – how?
All the long way there, the man of lights turned this over in his mind. Although powerful, the spiders were not involved in the process itself, never partook in the show of lights, in the forgiveness of sins, merely reaping the spoils, almost as an afterthought. And how had they turned the queen ignorant to their doings? How had she not seen the treason going on inside her own house? Had she truly grown so weak or had it perhaps been a result of ignorance?
So comfortable inside her seat of power, perhaps the queen of lies had turned a blind eye to the doings of her shadows.
What was she doing now? He wondered perhaps for the millionth time. Surely, she’d realized his absence by now. Was she coming to look for him? Had she caught wind of his plans? She might, after all, if so much of her had gone into this car, then she would undoubtedly know by now. And would she come to try and stop him? Were they all on their way here for their reckoning?
They are not.
The words of the car in his mind were oddly calming and the man of lights found himself able to breathe, for the first time in hours.
‘How do you know?’ asked he, more for want of something to say, rather than to hear the answer. The car knew because she knew. The queen had been with him, always, guiding him towards a light she could no longer see herself.
She understood him better than he did, perhaps, and so the car said nothing in reply. They will, though, and soon. They will hunt you down.
‘I know,’ the man of lights nodded. ‘But hopefully, they won’t get to me in time.’
It was all they could hope for, it was all they could ask. And deep down, the man of lights knew he wouldn’t be able to do this and there was even a small voice telling him he didn’t want to. But no one was asking him that, because it wasn’t a matter of want, it was simply a matter of must. Right this moment, the man of lights was the only drop of sanity left. He watched the pedal push into the floor of the car and the world glide past them. It was the queen’s way of telling him that part of her at least was with him. And as he saw the House of Shadows come into view, the man of lights felt ready. This was the day he would kill the spiders. Today was the day he would grind the House of Shadows into nothingness, as it once had been.
Today, the man of lights would kill his queen.
to be concluded