When I left home, a tender sixteen-year-old stripling, Mother admonished me to keep a respectful air and my eyes on the ground whenever I should encounter one of the royals.
My first day, I was mucking out Witchlight’s stall, thinking how fitting the name was for the pale white mare, when the stablemaster called for me.
“William, the Lady Grimhilde wants a ride. Ready the mare, and be quick about it,” he ordered.
I hurried to do his bidding, hoping I concealed my nervousness under his baleful glare. I spoke under my breath to Witchlight, easing her into the bit, and got a grudging acknowledgment from Jed. “You do have a way with her. More’n one new lad about lost a finger to that mare,” he said with a chuckle.
“She’s a beautiful lass,” I murmured, stroking her forelock. She nuzzled my shoulder, earning a surprised lift of eyebrows from Jed. I suppose it was that which earned me the honor of leading Witchlight out to the yard where the Queen’s older sister waited.
I did as Mother bade, my gaze on the ground. When I saw the pointed purple slippers, I halted a respectful distance away. The shoes passed me, stepping lightly. The feet within were pale-skinned, small and delicate. A fragrance of patchouli and mint wafted over me with a tantalizing, light touch.
Jed assisted the Lady to the saddle, and I made to hand him the reins, but a soft, yet imperious voice stayed me. “I’m up here, boy,” she said in dulcet tones that tantalized more than her scent. And so I had to look, hadn’t I?
Her violet eyes bewitched me then and there. As if under a dream, I beheld ebon tresses, curled into elaborate twists and knots, and full lips red as pomegranates.
The Lady smirked at my dropped jaw, but her violet eyes held a promise. She came back that evening for a moonlight ride and insisted I accompany her for protection. I could scarce breathe, following her through twisting forest paths. Her slender form swayed, a siren’s call I couldn’t ignore.
We lay upon her cloak in a secluded glade, and gladly would I have given her my life from that moment onward.
The next month passed in agonizing slowness when not in her company, and in astonishing speed when I was.
When first she whispered her plan, stroking my chest with the tips of her fingernails, I near wept with desire to do her bidding.
When I woke the next morning, I admit I was nervous, but that fled as I remembered her promises. I followed my Lady Grimhilde and her sister, the Queen, at a respectful distance as they trotted their mounts through the forest. All too soon, we came to the glade that I now considered to be mine and Grimhilde’s.
My dear lady halted Witchlight and called for a dismount. As I handed her down, she looked into my eyes. I fell into her gaze. She made an insignificant motion towards a fallen limb nearby. I nodded, my gaze fixed hungrily on her lips. One corner of her mouth quirked up. She released my hand, and I near fell over at the loss of it.
Recalling myself to my duties, I hurried to help the Queen dismount. I kept my gaze on the ground. Queen Aeisha took my hand as she slipped from the saddle. “Thank you, William,” she said.
Surprised that she knew my name, I glanced up. Her eyes were sky-blue and filled with innocent purity. My resolve quailed. It’d been easy enough to plan, with Grimhilde’s kisses on my neck, whispering the necessity of righting a wrong. Being the elder, she should have been the sister who married the King.
The Queen turned from me. As in a dream, I took up the fallen limb.
My Lady Grimhilde backed away as I approached. Those eyes, that hunger-filled gaze, bolstered my resolve. A spooked horse, a low-hanging limb–who would doubt a grieving sister’s story?
Except, as I came around, the Queen looked my way once again. She was so slight, her stomach just beginning to round with her second child. Mother raised me to respect life. It would mean certain damnation to follow Grimhilde’s bidding.
I would turn my Lady from this ill-conceived logic. We could run off together, forget all this madness. What need had we of crowns when we had each other?
Grimhilde’s bewitching purple eyes widened as I raised my gaze to hers. She read everything there. Her expression hardened as I shook and shivered.
Quick as a striking snake, she grabbed the cudgel from my hand. The Queen watched her sister with trusting, innocent eyes, right up until the moment my Lady struck her full across the brow.
The sound of contact was a thick, wet thud. The Queen crumpled to the ground. It had seemed such a simple thing, giving my love her deepest desire–until I saw the Queen’s lifeless body. The enormity of our act brought me to my knees.
I looked up at my Lady love, and the expression in her eyes froze my heart right inside my chest.
“You promised you would do anything for me, William. You lied. And you will never — never! — lie to me again,” my Lady Grimhilde said.
She was right. Her spell enforced the truth upon me. I try to not let myself be overcome with bitterness, however, for at least Fate has bestowed me with one gift — Grimhilde often seeks me out, and I can drink deeply of her bewitching purple eyes.
She asks me in dulcet tones, “Mirror, mirror, on the wall. Who’s the fairest of them all?”
Pam L. Wallace lives in California. Her stories have appeared in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Daily Science Fiction, EGM Shorts, and Abyss and Apex. This is her fifth story published by Every Day Fiction.