“I tried to warn them,” Canterwright said. He laughed, looking at his fellow conspirators’ angry glares. “We played for keeps. Tried to get you good, and lost. No use crying about the rules we would be cheering over later.”

Viola nodded. Someone understood, truly. She gestured, and Nalus unlocked the cage. She stood before Canterwright.

“I confess, you were not what I expected, Canterwright. You are not a sycophant, or a pervert, or a power-hungry idiot.” Viola knelt down next to him. “By all accounts you were an honest lord, building up your own power. In time, you could have had a family that rivaled any other. Why risk it all?”

The lord looked up at her, and shrugged. “I hate women in power. You just can’t handle it. Sooner or later you’re going to get flummoxed, or angry, or frantic. And we will all die because you thought you could hold it together.”

Viola’s eyes glinted. “So you’re a patriot, then?”

“Women were never suited to rule.” Canterwright winked at her. “Why don’t you just get yourself a nice man, and go back behind that throne where you belong?”

Viola’s hands glowed blue. She didn’t speak, but instead snarled.

“Nothing personal, Viola.” Canterwright leaned back, and closed his eyes. “You’re just not suited to power.”

“I would watch your words.”

“Maybe that’s why you killed your dear old daddy,” Canterwright said. “Because he finally told you the truth. That you are nothing more than an insignificant little girl.”

He froze solid in that position. Calm, cool, collected. He grinned, as if recalling a funny moment.

“Countess!” Nalus breathed.

“Move!” Viola shouted.

Nalus ran for the door. The countess screamed. Ice flew off of her, straight at the nobles. They screamed in response, but to no avail. They were trapped.

She calmed in seconds. But it was long enough to end her enemies. They stood in place, frozen stiff. Many clutched at the bars, or scrabbled at the walls. A host of little statues, ready to break into a thousand pieces.

Viola cursed herself, her weakness. How she could not handle even one noble needling her. She had to be stronger, better. There would always be more Canterwrights, but she only ever had one chance at ruling. It was perfection, or nothing.

“N-n-nice temper, c-c-c-countess.”

Viola looked at Illyana Petrovich. Her hands were frozen to the bars. Hair tangled in frost and ice. But her face was twisted into a grin. She laughed, looking around.

“Can’t handle some simple words. Oh, the mighty fall.”

Viola straightened herself, wiped away any wrinkles. “A minor flaw, yes. One that no one will ever tell, of course.”

“Right, because I’m dead.” Illyana sighed. “I threw a tomato and called you some words. In fact, that’s the only thing they ever did to you.”

“And plotted my overthrow,” Viola muttered. “And imprisoned a friend. Tried to kill two children.”

“Like you care. You are only concerned with holding on to power.” Illyana’s face twisted into a snarl. “I wish my husband had killed you.”

Viola smiled, and shattered the bars around Illyana. The woman flinched, but was unharmed. Viola leaned in close, making sure that the woman could hear every word.

“Gregor has forgotten you,” she whispered. “He’s calling me mom.”

Viola patted Illyana’s head. “I think I’m going to adopt him. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?”

She walked away.

“You’re a monster!” Illyana screamed. “You are evil. If there is a God, He will kill you!”

Viola picked up a piece of iron. “Oh, go join your husband.”


I don’t want to talk today.

            What have you given me lately, words? Poor lives, worse action. Pain.

            My actions shall define me. And when you learn to be civil, I’ll return.

            Until then. I am the Countess.


copyright 2018 Jack Holder

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