By Lauren Rabalais
Web Content Contributor
Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful.—Mary Shelley
Alphonse sat at his study desk, paper and writing utensil at the ready, while Ashtad sat with his legs crossed on top of his dresser, looming over him in a very cat-like manner. He found the demon’s sitting habits quite unsettling.
“There are other chairs in here, if you weren’t already aware,” Alphonse said.
“I have no need for such things,” Ashtad said simply. Alphonse rolled his eyes and turned back to his workspace.
“I require a method of obtaining information,” Alphonse said, as he tapped his fountain pen onto the vat of ink sitting on his desk. “Even in my position, I do not know of anything other than high-caliber felonies.”
“Perhaps your sister would be more acquainted with such a topic?”
“Yes, perhaps. You may be right,” Alphonse said. “Surely she must be well-informed of Apatéa’s criminal activity. The rub here is just how much she knows.”
“Aye,” Ashtad said in response. Alphonse turned back to the list of high-brow crimes he’d listed out. He worked for some time before Ashtad spoke up again.
“I believe you told me you executed the King because he was an, as you said, ‘abhorrent man,’ correct?” Ashtad asked with a lilt in his voice. “But I wonder, is that really true?”
Alphonse could sense something terrible in his smile, but he was unsure of what it was. “W-what do you mean? Must I further explain myself?”
“I wish to know the real reason you killed your father, Alphonse Harrison Edward. Did you want to be king that badly?” Ashtad said with a haughty smirk.
“No!” Alphonse yelled. He really wasn’t used to using his voice like that—his throat burned with strain. “That’s—that is certainly not the reason.”
Alphonse put his pen down and took a deep breath. “He left me trapped here in this very room. If I ever exited my bedchambers without permission, he would—” Alphonse paused for a moment. He’d never told anyone this before; the words felt strange in his mouth. “He would take me into the dungeon and fasten me to this horrible device. And then—and then he would strike me. Over and over.”
Alphonse noticed that, for the first time since he’d known him, Ashtad looked dumbstruck. “For years, I was punished for wanting to see what existed beyond even my own room. I wasn’t allowed to interact with other children, not even my own sister.”
“Wouldn’t you like to be king?”
“You could still be king,” Ashtad said. “You could eliminate your sister. You aren’t well acquainted with her, anyhow. You could then lawfully strike down your enemies without interference.”
Alphonse felt his blood spike.
“How dare you?!” He yelled again, spit flying from his mouth. “Am I of the caliber to murder my own sister?!”
Ashtad grinned. “Yes. Yes you are.”
Alphonse stomped his foot. “I’m not a— I meant because she is innocent! I could never take the life of a law-abiding person who didn’t deserve punishment. Killing Violet is preposterous and out of the question.”
“Even if that means you’ll never be king?”
“I don’t care about being king,” Alphonse said, and he knew he meant it, despite what Ashtad thought. “The only thing I desired in my lifetime was freedom, but, once I obtained it, I was without purpose.” He stood up, fingers twitching slightly at his sides. “But now, thanks to you, I know my path— so many people like me are beyond these castle walls, and I wish to rescue them.”
Ashtad chuckled, and Alphonse found himself irked by it.
“I will be by your side through it all, Your Highness.”
After a week of enjoying tea with Violet and conversing with Adelia, he was equipped with answers. His list was filled out with names of various crooks, starting with criminals within the castle. At the top of the list was a footman by the name of John Bennett, who was awaiting trial before Queen Violet for sexually abusing a parlour maid. Violet herself told him about that case. The man was most likely going to be sentenced, she’d said, which made him a perfect first target. For now, the man waited in the dungeon.
Alphonse didn’t even need to call for Ashtad. Once Alphonse completed his notes on the footman, Ashtad appeared unprompted. Alphonse requested for the death of John Bennett and handed the list to the demon, who nodded in understanding.
“Can you reach that distance on your own?”
“I scouted the castle to the best of my abilities quite some time ago,” Ashtad said. “I believe the dungeon lies two floors beneath your bed chambers, in this wing. I should be able to reach that distance alone.”
“Alright,” Alphonse said, and his insides twisted up into a warm, fluttery knot. He feels it deep beneath his skin, something within his heart had shifted, grown more powerful. His justice was fast approaching, and his gavel, sharp and ferocious and dressed to the nines, was ready to strike. “See that it gets done.”
Ashtad bowed and disappeared.
Alphonse flopped onto his bed with a giggle, kicking off his shoes.
Let us see whose way of judgment wins out, Violet, he thought as he smushed his face into a pillow. Yours or mine.
Featured image by Johnnie Losoya.