A lovely woman, don’t you think? And these cat-like pupils…this will be the continuation of Grarron’s story, which I started with this flash.
It seemed that everything was going precisely according to Grarron’s plans. First he played a grief-stricken brother and nephew as he was recalling that fateful evening. He claimed that his uncle, the late king, seeing him victorious again, went berserk and had to be killed. Unfortunately he used lady Lorena as a living shield . A dangerous situation, standing right in front of a maniacal psychopath, even if he is sitting on the throne. The archer did what he could but still Lorena died. What a loss. Nobody objected to this version of events, anyway there were no unbiased witnesses left so why not to believe this sad, handsome prince? Lorena was his sister and very fond of him.
Grarron was crowned right after a week of compulsory mourning. The festivities, commemorating his coronation lasted three weeks to balance the things nicely. During that period the new king was constantly charming and mollifying his subjects with gold, flashy tournaments, food, and songs. If anybody had still doubts, they were very soon drowned in bottles of wine, beer and tons of roasted cows, pigs and chickens. Soon enough whenever Grarron went people shouted his name and clapped, throwing flowers at his horse and drinking his health. Mothers brought their infants so he could bless them. Fair maidens blushed, provocatively wiggling their hips and sending him air kisses. The young king was the most eligible bachelor in the whole kingdom after all. The army profited as well- its ranks swelled by one third. Every young man was keen to serve such a fine commander who had an opinion of a fierce warrior, was generous with wine and paid wages without any delay.
All under control, as he liked it. Grarron smirked nastily listening to the reports of his spies concerning the mood of his subjects. Stupid, gluttonous pigs. Let’s keep them sated with food and entertainment for a while. Soon they will feel the grip of his iron fist. Then bad luck made itself felt. It was started by a simple announcement made by a very surprised herald:
“My lord, somebody is here to challenge you to a duel.”
Grarron thought it was a joke. He had ordered to allow his subjects a free entrance before the throne for the whole period of coronation festivities. One hour a day he held a public audience – if anyone wanted to beg him for a favour or just to see his face from a closer distance and express gratitude in a form of a gift he could do it without any official arrangements. A challenge was a bit over the top, though. Who dared even to think about it and for what reason? Unless it was a joke…
“Let him come in,” Grarron ordered, more curious than angry. He liked surprises and the sheepish adoration of his subjects became nauseatingly boring lately.
“It’s not him, my lord. It’s her.”
A tall, slender woman entered the royal hall. She moved graciously like a cat. A warrior’s helmet with a visor covered her head and most of her face but still you could tell she was uncommonly pretty. Her figure made Grarron sallivating. Her sword, however, looked deadly enough to make him a tad apprehensive all the same. If she could be persuaded to get rid of it…
“Who are you, my lady, and what’s your request?” asked the herald.
“My name is not to be revealed before the duel. I am challenging king Grarron to a single combat,” she answered in a husky voice.
“Why do you think, my lady, I would feel inclined to accept your challenge?” asked Grarron with a smile.
“Because if you don’t accept it I will reveal how your uncle and your sister were killed.”
Grarron felt uneasiness creeping through his body but he was a trained actor for a reason. He feigned a very persuasive, relaxed smirk.
“Old news my lady. Everybody knows how they died. It was almost a month ago.”
People started to laugh around the throne as if on cue but the woman looked unfazed and focused.
“Nobody knows the truth, just you and me, my lord. If you want me to stay silent you must kill me in a honourable duel. Otherwise I will speak up.”
“There are more than one way to silence such a beautiful lady. Killing is sometimes not necessary,” quipped Grarron.
More sniggers ensued but the woman wasn’t either amused or irritated. She stood and waited, gripping her sword in both hands. Finally Grarron decided to treat her more seriously.
“Why should I believe you? I don’t even know your name. Give me a proof that your story is worth dueling for.”
Her eyes flashed and Grarron felt a shiver running down his spine.
“Look at my hands more closely, my lord. They are still smeared with blood. Patch. It was the name of your archer-guard who had assisted you that evening. I killed him today but before that he had told me the whole story.Do you believe me now?”
Grarron blanched. The strange woman’s hands were indeed a bit bloody and his most trusted archer-guard was indeed called Patch. He decided enough was enough.
“Guards!! Defend your king!! Take her to dungeons, preferably alive! I want to interrogate her just in case she is telling the truth about poor Patch!! Guards!! Guards!!!”
His voice boomed in the hall but nobody moved, just the woman. She came closer to him as deftly as any feline predator. Her words made him frozen with fear.
“Do you think I came here to waste time squabbling with your henchmen?” she hissed quietly. “Nobody will move until it is over. Stand and fight or die like a coward – the choice is yours!”
As the woman approached sweaty, panicking Grarron, the king was able to notice one more alarming detail. Her pupils were not circular, like those of a human, but vertical, like those of a cat.
She was a mutant.