By Lauren Rabalais
Web Content Contributor
Violet wanted to rip her hair out.
In just a few weeks after her father was killed, five more people were killed in the same way, probably by the same person. Worst of all, she and her team still had no idea of who the murderer was. She wasn’t ready to get over her father’s death, she wasn’t ready to become the queen, and she certainly wasn’t ready to solve a murder case. She didn’t know if she could handle it.
She looked at her reflection in the vanity and frowned. There was a wrinkle in her forehead that wasn’t there before. Her eyes were heavy and glazed over— probably from a lack of sleep, she figured.
As she put on her corset, followed by one of her day dresses, she realized that her outfit was a bit looser than before. She pinched the sides of her dress and, sure enough, it seemed a little big. Her appetite had been rather small as of late, so that wasn’t really too much of a surprise.
Nonetheless, she left her bedchambers and headed for the Cabinet.
As she entered, she saw Governess Adelia and Viscount Devitt, her new advisor, and the team of doctors already sitting at the conference table. The governess smiled warmly at her as she walked in.
“Good day, Your Highness,” she said. “You are less prompt than usual. I see you had a poor slumber; your complexion is rather off this morning.”
“Oh,” Violet said, unsurprised by the governess’s observance. “I am quite alright. I found myself lost in thought last night, that’s all. Thank you for your concern, Governess.”
“Is it true that you are inviting the prince to join our discussion today?” Viscount Devitt asked, his voice gruff. He was just as unfriendly as ever.
“It is,” Violet said. “It felt wrong of me to continue excluding him from our meetings. He insisted on assisting us, and I do believe he is capable enough to participate.”
“Your father would’ve never agreed to this, Your Highness.”
Violet made eye contact with her advisor. “Perhaps you are right about that,” she said. “But I am of my own person, not a husk of my father’s legacies. Alphonse has attained age of majority, and, as such, we cannot treat him like a child, regardless of his delicacy.”
Viscount Devitt sighed. “Very well. I cannot stop you, anyhow.”
Before Violet could respond, the door creaked open and Alphonse entered. He seemed to be deeply focused on something, she thought.
“Good morning, Alphonse. Shall we begin?” she said.
“Good day, Violet,” he said. “I’d be happy to.”
Alphonse had been acting strange ever since their father died, so inviting him to the team was a good way for her to keep an eye on him. Of course, her brother was locked away in his bed chambers for years, so it could just be that he didn’t know how to socialize, but something seemed suspicious. She wasn’t sure of what, though.
“What have you discovered about the cause of death?”
The head doctor, a bespectacled man sitting on the opposite side of the table, spoke up. “Our findings with the corpses are consistent: their windpipes were crushed in some fashion, but each victim adorned two large holes that withstood the damage, as if they were the cause of it. We still cannot figure out the origin of those holes.”
Violet sighed. Yesterday’s answer was almost exactly the same. “Very well. Continue with your research.” She looked at Governess Adelia and Viscount Devitt. “We must further strengthen our defenses; this is no longer an issue that can be overlooked. I am unsure of how the murderer has been getting past the cell doors, but we will add even more guards. We will also implement nightly surveillance. We will have guards watching the prisoners around the clock.”
The rest of the meeting continued in the same way as usual— there were no new observations or any bits of information to speak of. Discouraged, Violet made her way back to her chambers, her head hung low and her gait sluggish.
As she opened the door, Violet noticed something strange.
There was nothing on her study table this morning. But now there, where nothing but air and dried-up tears existed not long ago, was a blue book. It was strange, no doubt; there was no text on the cover, and it looked as if it had seen decades upon decades of noble faces. Who would have put this here?
Feeling something akin to nervousness—though she wasn’t sure, herself— Violet turned the cover. A blank page. She turned again. Another blank page. After turning multiple crinkly pages, she found her cause.
Pages filled with dark spells and diagrams stared up at her, tauntingly, daring her to read further into something that was most certainly forbidden. As if someone had performed a spell to stop time in its tracks, she felt her heart seize up. What if this book meant something?
She thought back to the victims: necks, broken and shattered, two large holes, red with anger. Violet, with newfound anticipation, flipped through the pages at a feverous speed, accidentally ripping one page in the process. Finally, after looking for several minutes, in the middle of the book, she found what she was looking for.
She looked at the diagram. The image displayed a close-up illustration of a human throat, or, rather, a crushed throat, adorned with the two bloody holes. She glanced at the top of the page.
“Demonology: An Anatomical Study,” she said to herself, her voice low and crackly as if she had just arisen from the dead.