By: Catherine Olaso
The identical twins erupted from the Queen’s womb in a jumbled ball of scrawny arms and legs intertwined into a tight knot, their tiny bodies for the moment, inseparably one as each tried to out wail the other.
“Your Majesty.” The Herald looked anxiously at the King while a weeping handmaid covered the Queen’s lifeless form with a sheet. “Which child is the oldest? Which daughter inherits the throne?”
The King’s sad expression turned solemn, his blue eyes troubled. “Surely, a bad omen befalls us. Even in their births, my daughters war.” His prophecy bled into resounding condemnation as the twins grew, for truly, no two sisters hated each other more.
Chaos and contention ruled the castle, stormed the arched halls and shook the stone columns to their foundation until the King tolerated the unbridled rage no longer.
“Idrid shall be heir!” he declared in a fit of desperation and spent nerves. “Aster follows in succession.” His fist slammed hard onto the wooden table, spilling the soup. “So let it be written! So let it be done!”
“Father, no!” Aster screamed and hurled a bowl of apples across the room, her heart as cold as the March frost fogging the windows of the dining hall. Only thirteen, she knew the decree doomed her.
Bitter rivalry consumed the sisters until the King died, leaving Idrid monarch at seventeen. Her first command banished Aster. “I cannot abide her insolence and venomous tongue a day longer. She can sleep with the dogs and peasants.” Idrid toyed with the shimmering ruby dangling from her neck. “Let my sister live only to call me Queen.”
Aster wrenched free of the guard’s hold, her green eyes seething. “Curse you and all who speak your name. Do not forget dear Idrid, you and I cannot escape the other. I will claim what is mine.”
“Be gone with your hollow threat,” Idrid hissed. She rose from her gilded throne and pointed a withering finger at Aster. “Since our birth, you and I have always tangled, but on this day I cut you loose.”
Aster’s protests shook the castle, her screams sharper than daggers as the guards dragged her away.
~ 6 Years Later ~
“My Queen. Aster’s forces have breached the barricade.” Queen Idrid’s advisor furrowed his wrinkled brow, his voice breathless and raspy. “The soldiers need reinforcements and supplies to hold the advancing army.”
Queen Idrid paced the stone floor, her hand a tight fist at her mouth. Aster had proved relentless in her quest to dethrone her. “Damn my sister!” she spat, kicking over a stool. “No longer will she afflict me.”
Idrid’s rigid posture softened as she glanced toward the oratory. “Hail the Dark Servant,” she said, aware of the hush stilling the room at the mention of the necromancer.
“Majesty, you’ve forfeit too much in your desire to crush Aster.” A Courtier dared speak everyone’s thoughts.
The Dark Servant’s favor exacted a price. Wealth meant nothing. Each service demanded something personal from the Queen. An eyelash, a fingernail clipping, a nick of skin, a lock of hair… all kept within the jeweled box the Dark Servant hoarded.
“Bring him forth,” Idrid raised a stubborn chin. “I fear him not.”
Spiced incense burned throughout the castle for two days, the wisps of pungent smoke a malignant summons.
On the third day, the conjurer presented himself to the court. Idrid drew a sharp breath, but kept her voice steady. She knew better than to show weakness to the pale diviner. “I ask you to end the war. Let Aster and her army perish in defeat.”
The Dark Servant contemplated Idrid’s request for several tense moments, his shrewd black eyes studying every face before resting on the Queen’s. A cunning smile parted his lips. “A brash request demands a high price, my Queen. You are prepared to pay for such a generous favor?”
Idrid felt the tingle of a thousand snakes slither across her skin. She swallowed, then nodded. Nothing would prevent the revenge her sister deserved. “Name it.”
The Sorcerer pulled the jeweled box from beneath his satin robe. A gasp shrilled the room. Idrid didn’t flinch as he opened the lid and drew forth a small, clear vial with a sharp point on the end. “Your blood, Majesty, easily settles the debt.”
The secretive tone in his voice gave Idrid pause for half a second. In her anger had she been too rash? But the deal was forged and her Queen’s honor held firm. She gave an arrogant smile and presented a stiff arm to the Dark Servant. Crimson dripped into the vial, each drop meticulously counted by the Sorcerer.
Idrid swayed when the sharp point broke from her flesh. She caught her balance and clamped a trembling hand over the stinging prick. Sweat beaded her face, flushing her cheeks and quickening her heart to a furious tempo. “Victory!” Idrid stumbled into a velvet chair. “You promised.”
The Sorcerer laughed, adding the vial to the contents in the box. “Idrid and Aster,” he taunted. “Which sister deserves fealty when both possess a heart more vicious than mine?” He closed his eyes and raised the vessel into the air. “In the ashes of these alms, a new Queen shall rise.”
The court cowered and dropped to their knees.
Except Idrid. She disintegrated into fine, gray ash, whirling toward the box, each rotation a perfect synchronization with Aster, materializing on the throne. But just before Aster’s image became whole, she too exploded into powdery ash, sucked with Idrid into the jeweled tomb.
“No!” screeched the Dark Servant, thwarted by his own cunning.
For twin required twin, each unable to escape the other. Both forever tangled in birth, life and death.