I thought I would regale everyone with a witty and on-point review of the new Scrivener iOS app that I would read and also probably my wife and maybe 3 or 4 other insomniacs. With that in mind, I downloaded the app to my iPad and immideatly started poking away. My thoughts? Not important. Frankly, nobody cares but me and the other Scrivener junkies who have been having fantasies of an app like this for years.
In my haste to run it through it’s paces, I started another project. Yes, stupid, I know. But, this one is fun. It’s supposed to be light hearted and, contrary to what you might think or your wife tells you, is not a romance. In spite of the lead up you are about to get, there is no sex, milky-white skin, lush curving landscapes scented of lavender, or any other description that might be co-opted for use in a randy adult scene. Yet.
Her’s was the tallest, blackest, most evil looking, and most importantly, only tower in the land. At least in her land. She’d had it built special. After all, a dark queen couldn’t have a bland old castle of the usual design of a stinking moat round high walls with a few stubby towers. It really had to be something special, something that said dark queen and sorcerous on every stone. Indeed, she’d seen to that as well. Every stone laid had the words property of the dark queen, etched somewhere on its face.
As she did every morning, she stood at the largest window in the highest room atop her tower and surveyed the dark lands stretching off in all directions. It was easy to tell which bits belonged to her. Every corner could be described as foreboding orchards, brittle wheat fields, ancient twisted forests, and the occasional gloomy city. When the country wasn’t covered in heavy roiling clouds, it was being pummeled by any of a variety of different storms.
There was one bit of land visible from the tower that wasn’t hers. It was the bit that had for years resisted every attempt, both forceful and ingenious, to be subsumed into the dark lands. Out at the very of the edge of the horizon it glittered. A land of shining golden sun and rolling green hills, seemingly perfect in every way. It wasn’t a large country. Hers dwarfed and surrounded it, actually. But that country was held, and had been for ages, by Prince Charming.
Her eyes landed on the precious little sliver off in the distance and she gritted her teeth and pulled an ugly face. “Prince Charming,” she scoffed. “If people really knew Pete.”
The truth was, it wasn’t so much that she wanted that land as she wanted to live there. It was something she wanted so badly she was starting to feel desperate for it. That place was vibrant and positively glowed with life. After all, she wouldn’t be young for ever. Well, she could be, it was part of the evil sorcery of being a dark queen, wasn’t it? But all of that was just, well, tedious, and she’d rather like to get on with life. Maybe have a few chickens, learn how to bake, and pop out a few fat babies. Anything had to be more interesting than sulking at the top of a tower, telling off Demons and Gargoyles, intimidating subjects and keeping her lands just at the very edge of horrible without going over the cliff into unlivable. Being the dark queen was a lot of hard, thankless work and all she would ever have to show for it was a murky expanse of land and a lot of really unpleasant subjects.
She leaned against the open window frame and tapped her long fingernails on the stone sill. Between Pete, ye olde Prince Charming, and her own dedicated and very wrong-hearted minions, she couldn’t even escape. Everyone would either be trying to kill her or save her. Of course, there wouldn’t be any telling which was which and she’d end up dead in the process anyhow.
Finally, Hexe pushed back from the window and spun around. Except for Melbourne, her ever-present Gargoyle, she was alone.
“My, dearest dark queen, ruler of darkness, most lovely of the land—” Melbourne said.
Hexe threw up a hand to silence him. She didn’t look at him. It was beneath a dark queen to look directly at her subjects when they spoke to her, it was only at her own discretion that she should deign to gaze upon anyone, especially when the subject was as hideous as Melbourne.
“Mirror?” Hexe asked.
“What?” A tall floor to ceiling mirror across the room barked in a rasping growl.
“Our dear friend Mr. Melbourne has attempted a compliment. Would you please set him in his place?”
The mirror didn’t hesitate, lighting into the queen’s appearance at once. “The dark queen’s hair is as limp and lifeless as a pot of cooked noodles, her makeup has been applied with far too heavy a hand, possibly with a mason’s trowl, and her clothing is as stiff as a school marm’s.”
Hexe was still not looking at Melbourne, but she was also a sorceress and didn’t need to look. His ugly little flat face carried a slack look of horror which was more than adequately conveyed an unnatural bulge of his already very wide eyes. She let Melbourne stew for a moment.
“I suppose you were going to ask me if I’m ready to meet with my council?” She asked.
“Oh, yes, my most majestic and terrifying dark highness.”
“Tell them I’ll be along presently.”
The heavy footsteps and thudding of a heavy oak door made for a conspicuous auditory trail of his progress that continued on for some time.
“Mirror?” She asked.
“For the sake of all the gods above and below, I am not interested in hosting another pity-party,” the mirror snapped.
Hexe strode up to the mirror to look at herself. Straight Raven hair, pale skin, bright red lips, dark brown eyes, heavily adorned with all manner of makeup, and a very straight and stiff black dress. She looked grim, respectable, and, if she did say so, ever so slightly frightening. “It’s not a pity party, Luc. I just want you to make me look that way again.”
If the mirror had a face, Hexe would have seen it raise an eyebrow. “This is the definition of a pity party, queen. You need to be who you are and focus on your responsibilities. You’re not some foolish farm girl.”
“Just do it,” she said with a sigh of exasperation.
Luc, didn’t shake his non-existent head, though he certainly would have done, right before changing her reflection. Instead of the dark and beautiful queen, Hexe saw a pretty, but thoroughly ordinary farm girl. Her brown hair fell in loose curls to the shoulders of a plain and slightly stained-up dress. There wasn’t any makeup on her round round, happy face, and her body was rather more curvy.
“Did you add more weight this time?” Hexe asked.
“Just a few pounds. I thought you might like a bit of extra curve just there around the hip.”
Hexe nodded, “I have heard this figure is all the rage.”
“This is an absurd dream,” Luc said. “You’d be bored as hell if you weren’t the dark queen, you know.”
“The heart wants what the heart wants,” she said vaguely.
“I can only make you look this way in the mirror,” Luc said. “You’re still going to look and sound and most probably act like the dark queen of darkness, no matter where you are or what you look like.”
“People change, Luc,” she said, still drawn in by the image and the shifting this way and that to admire her new curves. “I don’t suppose you might see about the bust a little?”
Her bust, as reflected in the mirror, slimmed.
“No, not that way. Bigger.”
Luc’s non-existent eyes rolled, but he obeyed and her chest grew to the size it had been a moment earlier and then grew just a bit larger. It wasn’t a significant change, but Hexe felt it made for an enormous improvement.
“Ah, much better,” she cooed, straightening up and admiring the new prow.
She wished she could keep this figure. It was lovely, and it seemed so unfair that she could only see it reflected back in the mirror. Then the thought crossed her mind, why did she have to? She was the dark queen, a sorcerous. She could do what she pleased. Sure, summoning that sort of magic would take quite a bit out of the land and make the people just a bit poorer and hungrier, but they’d live. They always did.
Hexe raised her hand in front of her, fingers poised to snap. She didn’t strictly need to do this, but it made the magic feel punchier. One click of the fingers, and a considerable amount of magic, and she would be that image, through and through.
“Oh, no,” Luk said. “Don’t do that.”
Hexe could feel the power swirl with ever greater presence around her. The hair on her arms stood on end. All she had to do was unleash it and she’d take on the new form. Just the thought of it was intoxicating. Sense won out though, she let out a long sigh and lowered her arm. The sheer power filling the room ebbed away.
“I suppose you’re right. Hold that image though. I like it.”
“As you wish,” Luk grumbled.
Hexe sighed, “I suppose I’ve put off the council-thing long enough. Stodgy old bastards.”
“Didn’t you call the meeting?”
“Well, yes, but that doesn’t mean I have to enjoy it.”
“But you will, because that’s who you are.”
She walked over to the door and grabbed the handle. “Enjoying power doesn’t make me feel whole.”
“Yes it does,” Luc called after her.
Hexe slid out of the room, letting the door slam behind her. Much to her displeasure, Melbourne was standing outside.
“My dearest, darkest queen, they are all gathered and waiting.”
“I know, you already said so. Why aren’t you down there keeping them occupied?”
“Because they sent me up to fetch you, your darkest, most fearsome, grace.”
“Let’s get this over with then.”
Hexe wound her way down a dozen flights of stairs followed by the thudding footsteps of Melbourne. When she reached the door to her council chambers, she stopped and waited for Melbourne to open it. He pushed it open and she entered the room, holding her chin up high and keeping her eyes trained forward. Taking no notice of her inferiors was usually not a problem. They were a motley assortment of stinking old men, demons, and mad wild-haired wizards. This time, however, she spotted someone new out of the corner of her eye. He was so out of place she almost turned her head to take a proper look, but she was the dark queen. Turning her head to look at anything in that room wouldn’t do.
When she reached her seat, Hexe had to force herself not to look in the direction of the unexpected attendee. Instead, she put on her best face of disdain, the one with the slight frown and raised eyebrow, that was her favorite. Then, starting at the farthest point from the one she really wanted to look at, she let her eyes slide to each person. The Demon lords were huddled together off to her left looking as polite and deferential as demons could. Then there were the barons and dukes. For the most part, round old men wearing a mix of haughty and cowed expressions. Then, he eyes lighted on the man she had wanted to take a better look at. He was much younger than most with broad shoulders, dark, intense eyes that reminded her of a hawk and a very strong and straight jaw.
Since he hadn’t ever been there before, she felt she could get away with examining him at length without suspicion. Under her gaze, most men would cower or look away. This man did not. He looked back at her. If it had been any other man in that crowd, she’d have had him tossed into the the dungeon without having another word. That sort of uppity behavior couldn’t be tolerated. This man, though, had the part of her brain usually involved in scheming working overtime on strategies to get him to his feet and turn around, preferably without a shirt.
“Who are you?” She asked.
“I’m Gregory the son of Duke Winthrop. My father —”
Hexe held up her hand. “You will address me as your grace, her royal highness, her most illustrious queen of darkness, or something equally flattering.”
Gregory nodded. “As I was saying,” he continued without the slightest hint of proper form. “I am the son of Duke Winthrope —”
“You will stand up and address your queen properly,” Hexe said.
Gregory stood up. Hexe felt a little thrill of pleasure run down her spine. Getting him to his feet had been a very good idea, indeed. Now, she needed him to turn around, and then there was the matter of that shirt, though that second bit would be tricky.
“My father,” Gregory pressed. “Asked me to come in his place at this meeting.”
Hexe eyed him. If he kept on like this, he’d go from being interesting to a better looking version of the boring old farts she already had to deal with. This was not going to do.
“Melbourne,” she said. “This man has twice insulted me by not addressing me properly.”
“Shall I have him locked in the deepest, most horrible dungeon?” The gargoyle asked.
“No. Bring him to the top of the tower. I will deal with him when we are finished here.”
Gregory bowed and turned around to leave the council chambers. Melbourne stumped along behind him. Hexe’s eyes tailed him out, and it was a tail. When the doors shut, her mind went with him and became quite randy in very short order.
Several moments passed before she regrouped to address the remaining attendees. There was some business regarding prince of trolls, though she felt that topic really wasn’t worth the effort anymore.