Love and Loss
by: Ken Williams
Rose was lying on her bed, filled to the brim with emptiness. Chrysanthemum Squall was gone, all because of her. In the time they had been together, Rose trusted Chrysie more than she trusted Ivy. Ivy was a great friend, but she was still Hydrops’ cousin. Anything that she knew, he would learn. With Chrysie, Rose didn’t need to be skilled with a spear or sword. Conversation with some physicality was enough for the two. Now she was gone. Hydrops the Second put a sword through her head, no doubt on the order of his father. Now more than ever, she wanted her vengeance on King Hydrops, but as time went on, his supporters became more open and actively defended him.
“How could you,” Rose said aloud, possibly thinking Hydrops could hear her. Part of her wanted to leave him. The end of the engagement would be a gigantic scandal, though, especially if Chrysie’s death was linked to it. On record so far, all that Chrysie had done was try to befriend her to steal secrets for the Selcrou Independence Movement. It didn’t make sense to anyone who knew about the Selcrou, as the movement was extremely popular and was only denied because Governor Semir Ashe of Selcreun forbade his country from having an independence vote.
As she looked around her room, Rose realized most of her room was decorated by Selcrou paintings and tapestries. A tapestry called “The Last Queen” hung in front of her. It was woven in 2064 AHR, five years after Hydros took over Selcreun. King Derian Watr had killed Queen Doquil Ines in a duel. The tapestry showed Doquil crying tears of blood as Derian Watr pierced her heart. Venus Flowrs had the tapestry moved to her bedroom to remind her that she would marry a conqueror and she needed to be a proper queen for a conqueror.
A knock then sounded on her door. Aphid Flowrs opened the door and walked in. “Still in bed, Lokel?” she laughed, “Wake up, you have a date tonight, don’t you? Oh, wait…” she grinned evilly, betraying knowledge of Chrysie’s real relationship to Rose.
Rose jumped out of bed, flaring in anger, “How dare you! Is life so worthless to you that you would joke about a good woman’s death?”
“A Hydrian’s life is worthless to me. Hydrians like you or Chrysanthemum Squall or Hydrops the Second have no place in our world.”
The word “Hydrian” made Rose sick. It was a word that too many people used in the present to describe both women of alternate interests in being, whether race or gender, and for lying tyrants. Rose grabbed Aphid by the throat. “How dare you say that to me! How would you even think for a second that I’m ‘Hydrian’?”
Aphid laughed. “Come now, Rosi, who else do you think found out your little secret and spilled? Mother was so delighted to hear that one of Hydrops’ plants in her garden was a dirty whore and could be plucked. She told the King and had her pretty little head snipped. Don’t lie; you knew it was going to happen one day. And your beloved Hydrops did the job himself. Nothing could be sweeter than that.”
Rose was breathless. “You… told… and had Chrysie Squall killed?”
Aphid smiled. “And I would again! I wish I could kill you! A Hydrian like you doesn’t deserve to be queen. I should be queen. I’m the eldest, yet you’re a princess and I’m the heir to one keep! It’s unfair!”
Rose wanted to kill Aphid right there and then, but she couldn’t. She let go of her sister and stared her in the eyes, finally letting her hate for her sister out. “Get out of my room, and never try to enter my life again. When Hydrops ascends to the throne, I will be empress, and I will have the power to have you killed with no questions asked. You and mother had best be careful. Flowrs could replace Hydros and the Watr family’s greatest enemy.”
Aphid backed out of the room, obviously scared. Rose was euphoric. All her emotion felt released and so much weight was lifted from her shoulders. She was so excited that she wanted to go to the Sea Citadel to confront Hydrops about Chrysie. She left her keep and went into the Sea Citadel, being let through the large metal doors without question from the guards.
She had a feeling that Hydrops was in his meditation room, so that’s the way she went. On her way, a framed picture caught her eye. A Hydrosian wearing a black, faceless mask was in the center, and on one side was an Atular with black, spiky hair and his hand rose in the air. On the other side was a tall, thin Kakurl with very little muscle. The three of them were well known in Hydrosian history. The Hydrosian was Oldrui Watr. The Atular was Lord Darstromath, at the time was called “the Black- hearted”, shortened to “the Black” later on. The Kakurl was Irox, an exile whom became a great friend of Darstromath and Oldrui. The three of them led the Hydrosian Revolution, the fight that deposed the Hydros family and killed the Empress at the time, Hydria Hydros. She was a tyrant who killed her father to become queen. She forced Oldrui Watr to marry her sister so that she could take control of Watr holdings. Oldrui started his revolution by accidentally killing his wife with a psychic blast, as psychic abilities are powerful but tragically unstable, and declaring South Hydros independent. With Irox and Darstromath by his side, he took down Hydria and became King of Hydros.
The revolution wasn’t without casualties, though. In the assault on Hydros Citadel in 1 BHR, or “Before the Hydrosian Revolution”, Irox was attacked by one of Hydria’s guards. He was cut from forehead to foot, the cut destroying his eye and a number of nerves, leaving him crippled. He was then taken as a hostage and held in the Sea Citadel and tortured by Hydria and her henchmen. His ears and nose were cut off. His teeth were pulled out one by one and replaced with rusty screws. Various parts of his body were dipped in hot metal. Irox went insane in there, and turned into a wicked, evil spirit. She made him one of her greatest lieutenants and endowed him with demonic power. He gained a new name which most Hydrosians did not dare speak. Dobahadra.
Rose continued to the meditation room where Moss was standing guard at the door. She quickly saw Rose and raised her spear.
“Moss, stand aside. I must speak with Hydrops.”
“No, you mustn’t,” Moss replied dutifully, “the High Landsponge demands not to be disturbed as he meditates. Go back to your home, weakling.”
That incited a fire within Rose. Rose had always been an outsider in Hydrops’ circle. She was the only one who wasn’t from a background of fighting and warcraft. Hyarn was his second-in-command, Moss was one of the greatest spearfighters who ever lived, Hyr was an Admiral, Ivy was taught how to use a sword by Hydrops himself, and Nightshade had been an expert on poisons.
“Listen up, loudmouth, I’m going in there right this minute to talk to the man who killed my lover, and if you get in my way I will fight you and you will have to kill me, which I think Hydrops would disapprove of more than me disturbing his meditation.”
Moss pulled back, “I’m going in too, and you will not be armed when you see him.”
Moss patted Rose down then they both went into the meditation room. It was a large, black, empty room. A faceless blob was sitting on the floor. Rose called out to it. “Hydrops?” The blob stood up and its face showed. Hydrops looked at Rose, and then Moss. “Rose, sit down. Moss, leave us.”
Moss’s voice rose in protest. “I am sworn to guard you! You would let this dangerous woman be alone with you?”
“We will only talk, Moss. I do not fear Rose. Go now.”
Moss sulked and returned to the door, defeated. Hydrops sat down.
“Chrysanthemum Squall,” Hydrops started, “was a good woman. An innocent woman. What happened to her should not have. Had I not underestimated my father’s ability to gather information, she would still be alive.”
“But you still swung the sword,” Rose said on instinct.
“Yes, I did. I had a choice. I could kill my fiancée’s lover or I could kill my father. If you told me you would not make the same choice, I’d call you a liar.”
“I loved her, and you killed her! You’re a monster!”
Hydrops laughed at that. “This is a world of monsters. Guilon is a monster. My father is a monster. Glarigas is a monster. Daemon Scareye is a monster. Moss is a monster. And I am a monster. We are all breeds of monster, even you. At least I weigh out my options before I act. If we are to survive the coming war, we must know who we kill and why. When we lose the questions of morality; that is when we truly become monsters. History is coming full circle once again. Scareye has returned and Lord Darstromath will likely be here soon. The world will be looking for a new Oldrui, and they already believe they’ve found him.”
Rose hated listening to Hydrops’ speeches. The way he talked, she knew it would always justify anything he did.
“Rose, it is not too late to call off our betrothal if that is what you want.”
That was his game. Hydrops did it to hurt her so she would end their engagement. Part of her was all for it, but there was a side to him that would never let himself do those horrible things. She had to stay for that side.
“No, Hydrops, I don’t want to. I did love Chrysie. I wish she wasn’t gone. But I also love you.”
Hydrops didn’t change his expression. He was completely calm. It slightly disturbed Rose.
“Very well. Our wedding is in two months. Should you find another lover before then, she may be invited, but I expect nothing public to attract attention. Our people are becoming divided, and we must reunite them. Before we can, though, we must bring down the old way. We shall show them no weakness.”
Moss bolted into the room.
“High Landsponge! War Minister Dacer Melon just attacked Minister of Justice Kanel Flowrs! Melon is dead and Flowrs is dying!”
Moss looked at Rose. Kanel Flowrs was her father. She gaped as she heard the news. She then looked at Hydrops. He had a smile, as if this was a result of his plot.
“Keep me updated on Lord Flowrs’s condition.”