For a competition somewhere or other... Zombies!!
Cybele stepped out from the palace and pulled her shawl over her head. It wouldn’t do to be seen tonight, but she couldn’t be late. His voice had been echoing in her head since that night, and she knew that she couldn’t avoid it forever. She had to go to when he called, no matter where he might be.
Eventually she came upon a row of dark doors, all shrouded in shadow. She hadn’t seen him since the night she’d died and he’d brought her back, but she’d knew she was being led by her Master, her feet moving not of her own will.
Her teeth chattering with fear, Cybele’s whole body shook as she knocked on the door. Why couldn’t she just walk away? She was royalty, a powerful woman, loved by her people; no man should be able to command her.
“Cybele,” the man whispered, having opened the door just a crack. “You look beautiful, even in death.” In his head, he urged her forward into the house and she stepped towards him without consciously intending to. It pained her to be so helpless, but try as she might, she couldn’t run.
He let her walk by him and closed the door gently. His hair was long and white, and his skin was pale as death, and as Cybele bowed to him, he laid his hand on her shoulder and smiled down at her. Cold spread out from where he touched her shoulder, and she shivered, aching to get away from him.
“Come, Cybele, I have a job for you.”
Having received her orders, Cybele headed back into the Palace. Grasping the wooden handle, she tucked the serrated blade into a fold of her gown and made her way to her father’s chambers. Her eyes were beginning to lose focus, and her skin felt painfully dry. Cracks had formed on her hands and feet, and it hurt to walk, but still she continued, outwardly showing no sign of discomfort. It had been getting worse ever since she’d lost her life, and she felt as though she was being pulled into a never ending death again, but doomed to remain conscious to witness every rotting little detail of it.
No longer could she hold hope to fight against his will, because she knew it simply wasn’t possible. He had stolen her mind, body and soul.
Twenty veteran guards stood around the door to the King’s room, each holding a long sword and wearing fine leather armour. They were alert, skilled, and completely useless against the weapon he had devised.
“May I enter?”
“Yes, Princess,” they bowed, and smiling, allowed her to weave through towards her prey.
The King answered her call and opened his door immediately. His face was old and weary, but still she remembered him the way he had been; a young, vibrant man, always doing the ‘right’ thing, trying to help people. But ultimately, that had led him to this day.
“Come in, my daughter.” He hugged her tightly around the shoulders, missing the knife hidden among the fabric. “How are you this evening?”
Cybele sat on his chaise longue, her back straight and tense with dread for what she was about to do.
“Lycus,” the voice came from Cybele, but it was not her words. It seemed, from the King’s expression, that he understood this immediately. “You have, through your actions, caused this country to fall into poverty, into shadow.” As hard as she tried, the words wouldn’t cease. With His hand controlling her, she brought the knife up and thrust it through her father’s throat.
Tears fell down her cheeks as she pulled the knife back, and swung it; cutting, slashing, stabbing, blood spraying all over her cold, stern face. But inside, she was screaming.
“I’m sorry to hear of your father’s passing.” He bowed, looking grand compared to how he’d seemed before, hiding in the shadows. Kneeling on one knee, he took her hand in his and smiled. “Will you grant me the honour of your hand in marriage, my Queen?”
Cybele’s heart was beating fast, her mind whirring. Had this been his plan the whole time?
She’d been drowning in the memories of what she’d done to her father, but through it all she’d almost forgiven her Master. Having walked through the market, she’d seen how much happier her people were; they’d never agreed with her father’s plans, as well meaning as his intentions were. Watching them eat heartily, their businesses flourishing, Cybele knew her country had begun to recover. Her Master’s men had been patrolling at night, and crime had all but disappeared.
If the people were happy, why shouldn’t she be?
He looked up at her, the warmth from his smile hardly spreading as far as his eyes. In her head, he commanded, and she obeyed.
“Yes!” She forced a grin and wrapped her arms were around him. The people surrounding them began to applaud, some cheering wildly, and to everyone they looked the perfect couple.
He was going to be King.
“What have you done to me?” She scowled, when they were alone. His palm was sweaty as he held her, the moisture stinging her raw, tender skin.
Cybele’s Master looked down at her hands, and turned them over, examining them. They had begun to crack, blood bubbling up between the patches of skin when she moved them. Greying skin covered her fingertips, becoming blacker with each passing hour.
“You’re dead, Cybele,” He shrugged, handing her a pair of white gloves. “You’re rotting.”
The hall was decorated beautifully, with banners, drapes and pure silver cutlery. Crowds of people, from nobles to peasants, all sat together to celebrate the coronation of their new King. Watching silently, they gawped at her dress, and studied her new husband.
The Archbishop had been talking for a while about the solemn promise her husband was to take. Eventually, he lifted the crown and ascended the steps towards the two thrones. She wore her elegant, jewelled band already, and her Master sounded majestic as he made his vows. She smiled, and gazed at her husband with a look of love and pride, but inside she was crying, trapped and alone. How could she live this way?
The numb feeling spreading through her fingertips told her that she couldn’t. People would notice her skin crack and peel, and then they would see her rot away. Then he would be King, and she would be dead.
As the crown was placed on his head, the doors into the hall flew open. Three heavily armoured figures strode in, one female and two male, and stopped before the line of guards. Cloaked in black; the guards faces, hands and bodies were all swathed in cloth. They didn’t seem to wear any armour, but Cybele had seen them fight, and they could throw a grown man without straining their muscles. They moved as a unit, and when the King stood, addressing the intruders, the guards raised their weapons.
“Who do you think you are,” He spat, “to force your way into my Palace?”
“We know of your foul deeds, Necromancer. And we’ve come to end your tyranny.” The smallest of the three figures leapt forward, supernaturally fast, and the guards were too slow to act. Before they could receive new orders from their King, she’d pinched the fabric of the nearest hood, and pulled it down.
The guard’s head was bare, now, and he was grotesque. His nose was almost gone, disintegrated, and his ears were similarly decomposed. One of his eyes was blank, and his skin was almost entirely grey, cracked and raw.
The noble guests nearest the front of the hall stood and ran, screams echoing loudly around them. In the ensuing commotion, two of the intruders held off the shambling guards as their leader stepped back and took aim. A spear flew over their heads, and stuck deep into the King’s chest, its crude blade shattering bone and polished wood, pinning his body to the throne. He coughed blood, and croaked orders to his guards, “Kill them.”
They advanced, slowly, but as the life drained from their Master’s eyes, they became distracted from their orders. Limp arms fell to their sides and the sound of weapons clattering to the marble floor filled the room. The brutes seemed dazed, aimlessly scattering as they tracked the guests. The crowd was still slowly filtering from the room, trying to evade the jagged, rotting fingernails. But the guards bit into their flesh, spraying blood onto the floor and delicate wall drapes in a wave of red.
Cybele was horrified when she found herself in control of her body again. The Archbishop had hidden behind her throne, and she joined him, crouching down on the fine red rug. The terrified old man was shaking, and he looked up at her with tears in his eyes as though pleading for her to save him. Cybele felt her eyes drawn to the throbbing veins crossing his temples, and running down over his neck. They looked oh-so tasty…