Chapter V: New Management
A group of Athenian citizens ran through the alleys between the buildings as quick as they could. Two men, three women, and a boy moved hastily, hiding behind anything that would conceal them. "Stay close, ladies." Said one of the men; a hulky, grizzly fighter. He led the group from the Gooblins that now inhabited the kingdom. They moved again.
"Are the Gooblins gone?" asked the small boy, holding tight to the youngest of the women. She rubbed his head. "Don't worry," she said. "Those pea-size brained outcasts are far away from us." The boy felt a little better. They fell a tad behind the moving group but managed to keep up.
"No time for jibber jabber," said the leader. "The less we talk, the less chance we'll be found." The group fell silent and stayed close to the heavy leader. He led them around a corner. "Look, the gate!" he pointed. "We'll get out of this hole!" the faces of the runners gleamed with joy. Then, things are too good to be true most of the time.
Carefully the group made their way toward the gate, stepping very lightly. Before they could leave the alleyway, they were surprised by a Gooblin wielding a spiked hammer. Its short obese appearance made the women sick. "Where do you think you're off to?" he asked with a lisp. The Gooblin walked to the group, cradling his hammer.
The hulking man charged at the Gooblin. With all his might, he kicked the short menace. Like a ball, the Gooblin flew up into the air, making a perfect arch before he plummeted to the ground. "We need to move!" he shouted. When he ran out in the open, he was ambushed by a horde of Gooblins. Everyone knew that Gooblins were pathetic by themselves but were strong in the numbers that never ended.
Lexicon's fighting force took the leader of the group and dragged him away. Not far behind, another horde of Gooblins trapped the group of runners. With no way to escape, the group surrendered, throwing their hands up. "What are they gonna do to us?" the boy asked the women he was holding on to. The woman simply said nothing, saving him from a harsh reality soon to befall them.
The castle staff had always felt slightly annoyed when Minerva was giving orders around. Now they were utterly miserable. Lexicon, the newly appointed queen, had made them her personal slaves. The staff ran around the castle fulfilling any of Lexicon's demands for the fear of her dark magic. Basically, it wasn't much difference from Minerva's way of life to Lexicon's.
The servants, when they were alone with each other, moaned about Lexicon's demands and how demeaning it was to them. The only one who was tolerant to the new queen's rule was Juno. She was as calm as she was serving Minerva.
The aged woman with the grey stripe running along her hair walked down the corridor that led to the throne room. She saw groups of Gooblins running amuck around the corridor wrecking the vases and fine ornament and defacing oil paintings of Pallas and Minerva. They clawed at the paintings and even took their weapons to the portraits. The most prized portrait in the castle was the first picture of the previous King and Queen. Oddly enough, it was devoid of the Gooblins' presence.
Juno was appalled and angry. Her face didn't show from the wrinkles, but her eyes radiated the anger. As she walked down the corridor, the Gooblins didn't bother her. It was wise not to.
Two Gooblins holding serrated spears opened the double doors to the throne room. Juno remembered the room as much more settling. Lexicon had completely altered the throne room with her own style. The windows were draped over with black curtains and the Athenian crest blacked out by black drapes. Juno spotted Lexicon sitting on the throne which had changed from Lexicon's magic. Its smooth surface became rugged with a dark bronze color and spiked at the top, almost looking like antlers. Suiting for Lexicon's malevolent nature.
"Ah, the calm servant." Lexicon greeted Juno as she walked in. Her thorn crown still mounted around her head. She still had her staff in her hands; it seemed like it never left her. Walking from the throne, Lexicon made her way towards Juno, the clanking of her heels echoing in the room. "I hear that you fancy disobeying the change of rules around here." She said, waving her staff through Juno's hair.
"I fancy obeying the queen." Juno responded.
"I am your queen. Do you not see the crown on my head?"
Juno was calm and collective. That was the key to putting up with difficult people; even if it was a tyrant ruler who changed a kingdom overnight. "I see a canard before me… your highness."
A frown came to Lexicon and she squinted. But she smiled with a slight chuckle. "I thought with age came wisdom." She stated. "You're not being very wise." Her staff started to glow red. She noticed that Juno didn't flinch—not even an inch. "Your resilience is as admirable as it is annoying." she swiped away her staff.
"Is there something that you called me in for?" Juno asked staring from Lexicon.
Lexicon smiled. "In fact, there is—I couldn't help but notice that you are the only one in the castle who has yet to bow to me." Standing in front of Juno, Lexicon continued, "As your queen, it is your duty as my many subjects to show respect." She gestured her, expecting her to grovel at her steel plated feet.
However, old Juno didn't move. "I respectfully decline." She answered. "My queen, the true queen, is locked away. I bow only to her." Pallas had treated Juno with the utmost care for her since she began working in the castle. She wasn't going to abandon her in favor of a jealous sister using her magic to cripple Athenians with fear.
She didn't expect any rebelliousness from her subjects. Lexicon gritted her teeth behind her closed mouth. "In that case." The doors opened up and a couple of Gooblins entered. "Take dear old and brittle Juno to the courtyard. She'll be added to the collective." The grotesque creatures bowed and took Juno by the hands and one pushed her along. Juno had a good idea on where she was going.
Lexicon sighed and adjusted her hair slightly. Then she coughed. That—that was odd. She thought. She looked over to the draped window, the sunlight trying to creep in. "Slave!" a Gooblin rushed over to her side. "Go fetch my sister. I believe it's time for some quality time."
The dungeons had been musty and damp from the lack of prisoners. It had been decommissioned by the old King after several years during his reign, saying that it was inhumane. It had become barren and the only spec of life to be found were feral rats searching for food. The dungeons now are being reopened for business. Its first occupant: Pallas.
Chained by her wrists, Pallas sat on the cool ground in a puddle of brown water. Her hair covered her face shielding her broken expression. After all these years, her sister, her best friend, had returned. She envisioned something far different from the reality that is now. The sound of clanking keys and footsteps caught her attention. She turned to the bared doors to her side and saw the Gooblins opening the door.
"Let's go!" one said in a gargled tone. The others unchained her wrists but put her in metal cuffs. They dragged her from her cell down the dark hole. No wonder her father abolished this place; if the world up was cheery and pleasant, then why have such a dark place like the dungeons in secret?
The Gooblins carried Pallas up winding stairs that led into the main hallways of the castle. Her heart broke to see the alluring décor ruined. Pictures meant everything to her; the memories of the past that Pallas desired to keep now clawed and smashed. This was no longer her world.
Before them were the doors to the throne room. Pallas was full of dread as the Gooblins opened the door. Inside she saw Lexicon pulling away the drapes covering the window. Once Lexicon saw Pallas she ordered the Gooblins to disperse. They did so. Now there were only the two sisters left.
"Pallas, don't be a stranger," Lexicon finally rested her staff near her throne. She pointed to a padded bench near the window. "Come and sit next to me." Still shackled in chains around her wrists, Pallas sadly walked over to the bench and sat. She was looking out on her kingdom.
"Do you remember the game we used to play, Lexicon?" Pallas finally said. Lexicon looked out on the buildings and people. "Oh—I remember."
A knock came to the door. It opened slightly, a little girl with browning, golden hair peeking her eyes in. "Lexicon?" said the girl. "Are you sleeping?" another girl sat on a bench, a blanket wrapped around her, looking out on Athenia. When she heard her name, she turned to face the girl. "Pallas," she sniffed. "Come in."
The young Pallas walked into Lexicon's room, piles of paper and quills with colored tips in her hands. She sat next to her sister and laid the papers out; they were blank ready to be drawn with imagination. She had hoped that Lexicon would join her in the fun activity; however Lexicon continued to stare out on the kingdom below. Lexicon was sick; you can see it in her face on how pale it was and the raspy voice that she made. Unlike Pallas, Lexicon was confined to her room with nothing to do but look out the window.
It pained Pallas to see her older twin like this. Though she was sick it didn't mean she had to be lonely and bored. Pallas nudged up to Lexicon and looked out the window. "What are you looking at?" she asked, trying to spot what Lexicon was looking at. After a cough from deep within her chest, Lexicon replied, "Nothing." Well, maybe Pallas can change that. She scanned the markets below.
"Look!" Lexicon, with her red eyes, saw a man carrying boxes atop of boxes. "Ah, look at me; I'm the strongest man alive! I can carry a lot of boxes." Pallas squinted her face and dropped her voice to resemble a man's. Finally, a smile came to Lexicon. Pallas looked for someone else to give a funny personation. "Oh, dearie me," she found an old lady fighting a black cat. "Black cats are bad luck for me and my brittle bones."
Now it was a game that Lexicon could play. She looked at every building, every street, and every alley just for a person of interest for their game. Then came a couple; the woman was pregnant. A frown returned to her face.
"Do mother and father hate me?" she asked.
What a silly question to ask thought Pallas. "Of course not. Momma and Pappa love you very much." Lexicon found that hard to believe. She rarely saw her parents most of the days; only when they visited her in her room is when they would spend time together. "Will they visit me today?"
Before her sister could answer, a knock came to the door. It opened to reveal a tall, stern man carrying an askew cane out of what looked like tree bark walking in. "Lexicon." He said. It was the healer of her sickness, the nefarious wizard Grimbark. Due to a debt to the King, he is bound to help Lexicon at all costs. "I am here for you regular checkup."
That was Pallas's queue to leave. She gathered her papers and quills and left the room. The last thing she heard was Grimbark saying, "What I have in my hand is a Bezoar stone."
Lexicon remembered those days. "I despised those days." She said looking out on her kingdom. Pallas frowned and dropped her head. Nothing of her sister remained when they were little. "Look there." Lexicon said. Pallas reluctantly looked to where Lexicon was pointing. It was the courtyard at the bottom of the castle. It was full of rebellious citizens planning to flee Athenia but was captured by the Gooblins.
"Why are all of them down there?" Pallas poked her head out the window. Lexicon answered, "Planning to leave the city without permission; I don't think so. They must be taught what happens if they disobey my rule."
"What are you going to do to them?"
A sinister smile appeared. "Fear." She replied.
A Gooblin busted through the doors. He landed on his big gut and chin. "My queen," he gargled. "It's the princess—Minerva." Lexicon smiled and rose from the bench, grabbing her staff. "You found her then. Bring her to me." She ordered. The Gooblin tensed up, biting his lip. "She—uh, she got away." The news didn't set well with the malevolent queen.
With her clawed hand, she grabbed the Gooblin by his neck fat, squeezing tightly. "You let her escape?!" she yelled. Gasping for air, the Gooblin tried to explain, "She tricked us. She got away through the tunnels…" Father never closed those things off. "Find her and bring her to me; alive! So help me if you don't, you'll be in her place." She threw the Gooblin out of the room.
Lexicon felt the saddened touch of her sister. She saw Pallas with trails of water streaming down her cheeks. "Please. Minerva has no part in this feud between you and me. Please—leave her out of this."
Unfazed, Lexicon pulled her arm away. "I have to punish my un-loyal subjects." She simply said. Two snaps of her fingers summoned two Gooblins. "Take my sister back to the dungeons." She ordered. Lexicon walked up to the window, standing on the pane. The bottom half of her black dress opened up to form wings. She jumped and flew down towards the courtyard.
The shackles were placed back on Pallas's wrists. The dungeons were the least of her worries now. It was the worries of a mother that gripped her.
A horde of people who had tried to escape piled into the courtyard. Juno kept her cool as she was forced into the crowd by the Gooblins. She saw worried faces of once proud citizens. The atmosphere was full of anxiety as more people became uneasy and scared.
Soon Juno saw a man make towards the exit. The Gooblins made an attempt to prevent him from escaping. The man, bound by shackles, however kicked the stubby creatures and even took one of their hammers. He swung it by every Gooblin that came in his path. A clear path was in his sights. Dropping the hammer, the man hurried away. He was stopped.
Lexicon flew down and landed right in front of the man. "Where do you think you're going, my pretentious little slave?" she grinned slightly, poking her staff at the man. He immediately backed away with a fearful drop in his face. The Gooblins that he fought took hold of him.
"Hello, my not-so-faithful subjects." Lexicon walked along the outer limits of the crowd; the people drew away from her. "I understand that you are finding it difficult to adjust to the new rules around here." Her staff glowed. "You do not appreciate my presence as the new ruler." Lexicon could clearly see that all the citizens agreed. "I would like to clarify that I do not care for your acceptance or your love."
Juno was the only one not scared by her. "There is no room in my heart for love. I only care for my power." Lexicon exclaimed. She paused for a moment then continued, "I have waited too long for this and I will not let you ingrates squander it." Lexicon took to the steps and stood before them. "Bow before me." She demanded. "Any further resistance will be punished by extreme measures."
The threat in her voice shook the people before her. They felt the fear that only a tyrant could bring. Lexicon had absolute power and left the people powerless. Silent cries were able to pierce the silence. Finally, they began to bow. One by one, row by row. Lexicon had broken them; everything falling into place like she always dreamed it would. However, there was one person standing above the crouched citizens; Juno.
"Juno, you truly are an irking pain that would even bring a troll to their knees." Lexicon rubbed her forehead. "This is the path you desire?" she asked, lifting her brow and leaning towards her.
The aged woman stood firm. "I serve the true queen. She is not only the queen; she is a friend to the people. Something that you will never be." She also knew that Pallas, if Lexicon demoted her current position, would spare Lexicon. She was kind. "I will never bow."
Lexicon smiled, chuckled, and shook her head. "My subjects," she announced. "Let this be an example if you ever defy me." Her staff rose, pointed directly at Juno. Juno didn't cower nor move. A scarlet glow radiated from the jewel of the staff. One minute Juno was there, then in a flash of reddish light, she was gone, vanishing into ash in front of the captive citizens.