The Killing of Wolves

Thief and (suspected) murderer Red Riding Hood joins with poor boy Pip on an unexpected journey to kill the Big Bad Wolf. Along the way, they run into a host of fairytale characters and dangerous challenges that they must overcome so Red can have her revenge on the wolf and Pip can go back to the life he used to live. But they uncover more than they thought they would, scandalous secrets straight from the heart of the Royal Family. All of a sudden, they realise the Wolf is not all it seems. Nothing will ever be the same again. Not once the truth is revealed, once and for all...

It's just a draft, so any tips or critisicm would be appreciated. Also, thanks to the Fuzz for making the amazing cover.

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12. Queen of Hearts

 

“You have failed me, Huntsman.”

The words were icily cold and invited no protestation. It was not needed, not if she knew it to be true. The pinched face of the Queen of the Fifth Kingdom looked down upon the man with contempt, the man who had cost her vital time and resources. Time and resources she did not have to spare. The huntsman did not meet her gaze- he too knew that he had botched the mission he had been sent on by the Queen and that she was not best pleased about it. That, in fact, was an understatement. She was livid. But she concealed her true emotions beneath the well-worn mask she had perfected over the years. She smiled- an expression that did not meet her eyes and looked forced. It was forced. The huntsman had not done what she’d asked of him. So he would have to suffer.

   She had wanted the boy’s heart. She had wanted it badly. Although on the outside she appeared rather attractive, within the grasp of winter had enveloped around her black heart, leaving it frozen and devoid of any kind of warmth. Death surrounded her wherever she went and considering that she had witnessed so much sin and had often been the perpetrator of it, her heart was so filled with wickedness that it no longer found it so easy to pump the blood around her bitter body. Effectively, she was dead but she sought life and youth so vehemently that she would go to any costs to achieve them. That included some things that were thought of as being ‘immoral’ or ‘corrupt’. She thought of them as being necessary to attain what she wanted. And she would always get what she wanted. No matter how much blood would be spilt, how many lives would be lost, how many wars would have to be fought… in the end, the Queen of the Fifth Kingdom always got what she wanted. No matter what it cost.  

   “Close the doors,” she called to the guards who stood on both sides. They marched obediently towards the end of the throne room and shut the door with a groan and then a large bang. The Queen smiled. “Good,” she remarked. “Now we have some privacy.” As if sensing what was about to happen, the huntsman leapt to his feet and ran towards the door, only for the tinder soldiers to grab him and drag him back to the Queen’s feet. Tears streamed down his face and he begged, with his hands clasped together on his knees, to be freed. He said that he’d do better next time. That he’d go and find the boy again and bring back his heart, no matter what. The Queen didn’t listen. She would’ve told him that it would be painless, but decided against it. She saw no point in lying to a man whom she was about to kill.

   She bent down, and in his ear she whispered “Goodbye”. Then she thrust her hand through his chest and pulled out his heart with her talon-like fingers. She admired it, turning it over in her hands. Like hers, it had been blackened by the corruption it had caused and she realised that it would make a poor substitute. She contemplated giving it back, but what type of punishment would that have been? Instead, she brought it to her lips and bit into it. Black sludge oozed over her fingers as she devoured his heart, each bite seeming to send a surge of pain through the huntsman until she had finished and he could, at last, die. Her teeth had been stained by his dirty blood and it had run all over her fingers, but she was satisfied. She ordered her soldiers to remove the dead man from her sight and as she wiped away the mess, she could hear the misery of her incarcerated subject’s and she fed off it. It gave her new strength. The moans and cries of terror and pain coursed through her veins and sent pleasurable chills down her back. She knew that keeping the people locked up was only to motivate Pip and Little Red Riding Hood, but she liked to hear them suffer. Their torment was her lifeblood, like perverted music to her ears. She enjoyed their pain.

   The Queen reclined on her throne, letting the screams of the fallen fill her mind. They brought back memories of years ago, the Dark Days that she had been responsible for. Even then she was able to recall the faces of the people whom her men had murdered, the fire that had engulfed almost every corner of Grimm- but not the Imperial Palace. It had stood solidly, removed from the horror that was occurring, as if watching everything that went down. That was exactly what the Queen had done. Watching from the comfort and safety of her home, she had seen all that had happened and, fleetingly, she had felt feelings she had never before or since experienced. Guilt. Pity. Remorse. Thankfully, she had been able to push down these pernicious emotions before they could affect any other aspect of her life. But in those few moments, she knew what she had done and she was sorry for them. This did not last long at all. Out of the wreckage and ruin, a new Grimm had risen. A better, stronger Grimm. And if the effect of Red Riding Hood and Pip’s campaign to kill the Wolf proved to be as destructive, another ‘attack’ could be arranged. Everything would burn to the ground and be rebuilt and the harmful thoughts that the people had concerning an uprising would be gone as well. It would be a good idea, if the huntsman had been successful. But he hadn’t, and somehow the Queen sensed that the pair she had sent on the task was returning. They knew what she had done. And they didn’t like it one bit. Although she deigned not to acknowledge it, she knew that they were stronger than she was. She was tempted to give in, before realising once again that she was the Queen. She had everything at her disposal. What did they have? A pitiful supply of weapons and a vendetta against her. But who didn’t? Let them come, she thought. She was ready for them.

   The Queen was aware of the people who conspired against her. To murder her. To overthrow her government. They all came as part of the job and usually she would respond to these threats with sentencing the accused to the gallows. She had sent Red Riding Hood to the gallows also, but had changed her mind at the last minute in return for a favour. How much easier it would have been to have had her killed and be done with it. None of this hassle. None of the mindless, meaningless bloodshed. But the Queen of the Fifth Kingdom revelled in bloodshed. She seemed to live off it as her life source and she savoured it as it followed her wherever she went. However, she was not so keen on the bloodshed of those who helped her. It wasn’t as if she cared whether the brainless servants who trolled day in day out through the Imperial Palace lived or died, but she minded whenever the strands of a plan wouldn’t come together because of death. The Child-Eating Witch had been an ally, as had the huntsman, in a way… Red Riding Hood, or the results of her actions, had killed them both. It was rather strange, considering that death followed her like a shadow wherever she went, but the Queen had no patience towards it. She surrounded herself in it as if tricking the Grim Reaper, when in actuality it was one of the things she truly feared. Another was growing old and weak. The biggest was what could come if Red and Pip’s campaign proved successful…

   The Queen’s thoughts were silenced by the arrival of her daughter. Princess Adelaide wafted through the throne room towards where her mother sat with grace and elegance, the veil still hanging over her face but a pair of beguiling orange eyes peeking through. Before the Queen she knelt, a sign of respect and with great impatience her mother told her to stand. The Queen had never had a soft spot for any of the customs of Grimm; she didn’t kneel as a mark of respect (it was she, she thought, who ought to be knelt before), she didn’t fear the forest (not when she knew that it was she who was the Wolf they so feared) and she did not bury the dead. Instead, she preferred to have their bodies put on poles in her private garden, so that she could look upon their pathetic corpses every single day. As she gazed down, she saw her men hoisting the huntsman up on one of them. Beside him were two smaller poles, reserved for Red and Pip. She hoped she would get good use of them soon enough.

   “How are you, mother?” Adelaide asked with a tentativeness the Queen associated her with. The Queen was tempted to snap at her to go away, but considering that it was to be her wedding day in the morning, she thought it best not to upset her. Soon, the Princess would no longer be on her hands and she would be free to fulfil the plans she’d been concocting for years. That was, if Adelaide didn’t get in the way. Her daughter had always been an interfering presence and finally she would be able to get rid of her so that the prince would have to put up with her whingeing. And her problem. That reminded the Queen- the moon outside the window was getting ominously large. Before long, her daughter would no longer be her daughter and the Queen preferred it, when the time came around every month that she went outside to change. That way there was none of the mess the next morning. It was crucial that everything went well the next day. No matter what.

 She remembered all too well the first time it had happened- the panic, the denial, and the desperate pleas to the Fairy Godmother to save her child. It must have been ten years ago. How the time had flown. She still recalled that the Fairy Godmother had done nothing to stop the changing and her punishment. How the fairy had to go through the prisons, listen to the crying of the prisoners sentenced to death, the distressed psalms and screams to be released, to be forgiven. She also remembered how it was the Fairy Godmother who had recruited Red Riding Hood. And how the fairy’s face had looked when she died. Her body still hung in the garden, her wings twitching and her cellulite ridden bottom hanging close to the ground forlornly. All for the sake of her daughter.

   That was when it hit her. If things did not go according to her plans then she would need a way out, to gain public sympathy, to prevent the unpreventable. Someone to blame everything on, or to absolve her of blame. A scapegoat, of sorts. As Princess Adelaide floated away, she realised who it would be. Who it was always going to be. The wedding plans would have to be cancelled. She’d realised a greater purpose for her daughter, once and for all. It wasn’t to be married. It was to be a martyr for a cause she wasn’t even aware of. Princess Adelaide went to bathe in the lake every time the moon was full and the change occurred. Tonight was no exception. Except, possibly, that the Queen’s men would be waiting for her when she got down there.

   Years of preparation, all leading to that night. The Queen felt strange as the evil seeped through her bones, although she’d grown accustomed to it over the years. This was different. It was personal. Her daughter would be the one suffering, not just some nameless, faceless enemy. But she was willing to overlook the blood ties. They were irrelevant when it came to the true cause. The Queen reclined in her throne and ignored the feelings that stirred within her. She let her mind be drowned by the cries and suffering of her people and awaited the arrival of Red and Pip. Then, the real games would begin. But she had to be patient.

   Soon, she thought. Soon.     

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