The Soldier and The Queen.

Prologue:

In the pale dawn light, a dark figure scuttles over ruined Parisian rooftops. Low on four limbs, its abdomen scrapes over broken tiles and split guttering. Stumbling, it pauses, tasting the air. Shivering it clasps a fur coat closer with reptilian claws. Cold blood oozes from a deep cut in its flank. A yellow lizard-like eye narrows from underneath the cloak and a long blue tongue darts out, it’s ridged tip licking the dripping injury.

The long fingers of dawn stroke the rubble. Steam rises slowly from deep fissures. Hidden furnaces warm dark figures as they hide from view. The smoke from ovens mingles cooking smells with less pleasant scents that seep up into the deserted streets.

The Arc De Triumph, one of the first monuments torn down during the ReOrder, catches the rising sun. As if smashed by a massive hammer, its edifice of stone litters the avenue. Scorch marks suggest a fire of immense heat; a scene of battling gods. Long deep grooves note where parts of the once impressive landmark have been dragged off to serve some other purpose.

The Eiffel tower, too massive to suffer the same fate, is a shanty township providing shelter to those who can climb. Ragged canvas flutters like loose bandages. Rusty bloodstains smear and mix with mouldy garbage caught in the iron railings. 

A buzzing sound jolts the figure back to action. Scrabbling around in the knapsack knotted to its back, the reptile draws out a complicated-looking device. Cobbled from what looks like an aeroplane radio, it fiddles furtively with several large dials.

“Bzzzzzschrt…..crackle…..with renewed vigour and vim. Reports suggest Queen Majesty will be visiting her constituents in Paris after all. All hail our Queen! Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurr….zzzrtt..crackle… On other fronts, the twenty-first brigade is pushing west effectively. So far Berlin has been reclaimed, and it won’t be long before Germany is returned to the Crown. There have been no fatalities or injuries on our side. As we all know, it is only a matter of time before John Matthews declares victory and…..Chrtttttt…cackle…. In other news, don’t forget to attend your local Animus branch for all your talent needs. Next Thursday marks the release of Rhino 3.5. Be early for your shots. All Rhino Derivates will be eligible for a free dose. That concludes today’s News of Everything. Peace Be With Us And All Hail Our Queen.”

The lizard thing snapped the radio shut. Taking out another item, this time a smooth palm-sized pebble, it mutters to itself. Stroking it gently the object emits a dim blue glow. An image becomes visible on the stone’s surface. A train of soldiers rides through a snowy wood. Central to the consort is a golden carriage. Red tapestry curtains are closed, its inhabitant unable to be seen. A pale hand, however, rests on the window frame, caressing the wood.

On the ring finger is a large blood ruby surrounded by iron.

The soldiers number over a dozen and are well-armed. Older men. Battle-hardened with many scars and sword shorn beards. Some with missing limbs. Large and imposing, an elite squad of royal protectors.

The view closes in on the rider at the right of the royal carriage. A handsome young boy who couldn’t be more than sixteen. However, his hair is grey, and his manner grim. His eyes are flecked with yellow and the colour of rain. Although determined he contrasts with his burly compatriots. His body is supple and light. His skin smooth, dark and beardless.

Around the young soldiers neck hangs a stone medallion. It bounces against ornate silver armour with every step his storm coloured stallion takes. 

The view zooms out and above the travelling riders. Dark shadows can be seen gathering ahead of them on the forest path. The scene turns dim as if a storm is rolling in. Lightening and rain begin to hammer the entourage, and the horses become agitated. Several throw their riders. 

The shadows draw closer and consume the scene in completely. Screams can be heard amongst snarling and terrifying guttural moans. 

Then silence. The screaming darkness drifts away. Horses and soldiers alike lay dead on the now crimson snow. The gilded carriage is on its side. There is no sign of the inhabitant.

The young boy is still like a discarded toy. His legs bent at impossible angles, his armour cracked open and his helmet gone. A close view of his face shows his exquisite beauty, but his flecked eyes are dull and a thick thread of scarlet spills from his full lips.

The medallion is gone.

The scene in the stone blurs and fades. The soldiers and their royal client fade into the snow and the pebble ordinary once again. 

Tucking the stone away, the creature rocks it head back and forth, muttering.

“Yesssss, he was there. Me is right.” 

A distant canine howl sets the creature off again. Slithering down the side of the broken apartment building and into the cracked foundations, it disappears out of sight.

To be continued…