Chapter 12: His Dark Queen
The disclaimer, notes and timeline can be found in the prologue chapter.
His Dark Queen
The castle, even days after her arrival, remained as cold and drafty as the day it had been built. Which, judging by the architecture and the wear, was probably thousands of years before her arrival. The rooms were large and served little purpose other than to hold a statue or a sconce or a weird tomb-shaped thing filled with scented oil. It was truly that dull.
Buffy moved down the long corridors, her eyes carefully sweeping right and left. Large rooms remained behind closed doors. It was actually like living in a stone city, cooped up here. Except that most people didn’t normally occupy a city alone.
Sauron had long since gone off to his tower. She could swear she heard him cackle as he left her behind from one city to another. With nothing but the view of the mountains to the north and a cheerfully active volcano to the south, this was becoming downright dismal.
There was nothing else for it. She was just going to have to do things her way.
Down went the horrid gargoyle-like statues. Gone went the ashy soil, dead, rotted trees and twisted vine-like plants. Gone went those horrible wall sconces that were little more than torched wood. Gone went the thatched rugs that had absolutely no appeal at all. Gone went everything that just screamed ‘dark Lord’ about the place.
And, in its place, went nothing. Buffy stared at the blank walls, wishing for once that she had put more into artistic talent than by training to be a slayer. Or to find some paint or something to make the place brighter. She’d already done her share in smashing up the ceilings to give it at least something for a nice, skylight look.
“Maybe I could coerce someone to invent electricity so I can have a stereo,” she murmured one night, sitting in front of an enormous fireplace that covered the entire width of the wall in her bedroom suite. Next to her was the last bottle of wine bestowed upon her by the people of Núrn. She picked up her goblet and sipped at it, the burning taste slipping down her throat as she stared into the bright flames.
“I can do this,” she said, rocking herself as she stared around her. The only other furniture inside this room was the bed. It was a large, stone frame with a mattress and a few pillows and a few blankets. It was nothing more than that. Nothing befitting of a dark queen, which is what Sauron had been after in the first place. “I can do this… I can do this…”
When she woke up to a dark room and dead silence, she fell back onto her mattress, shivering in the cold room and despising the fact that none of her sunshine had made its way into her skylight system.
It wasn’t until she heard a bang downstairs did she bolt upright, pulling on a thick robe and jamming her feet into boots, stumbling towards the door. Her hand grasped the first weapon it could find, which was an Elvish knife. The moment she saw the shadow approaching, she leapt out, knocking the figure back and pressing her knife against the intruder’s throat.
“Who do you think you are sneaking around like that? I could have killed you!” Buffy gasped, pulling her knife away and letting the soldier retreat with some dignity.
The man replied to her in broken English mixed with only a few words that her memory could pick up. Obviously she had frightening him enough to for him to blabber away like that, but she let him rant for awhile before she stomped back to her room and took the sconce from the wall to light her fire.
“Is there a reason you’re here?”
“I was bid to bring you this.”
She slowly turned and saw a large black thing wrapped in his arms. As she rose to her feet, he offered it to her. She took the parcel in her arms, slowly pushing away folds of heavy black fabric. As the fabric fell away, she pulled out a long, crimson gown. “Oh,” she murmured, holding it out and staring at it.
“It was created for you, for you to wear on your—“ his words trailed off as she glared at him, shaking her head slightly. He just stood there, watching as she held the dress at the very tips of her fingers, as though it were a diseased object hoping to contaminate her.
“It’s lovely,” she said coldly, not wanting him to know just how not lovely it was. “Thank you for bringing it. Now get the hell out of my house.”
But the soldier didn’t budge. “There are arrangements to be made, my Lady.”
“Great. Then have King Coward over there come on over and make them. Or is he too afraid to be around little ol’ me?”
“He has no reason to tend to this errand at all,” the soldier replied quietly. He watched as her face went from pale to red and suddenly felt quite sorry for choosing to deliver her gown.
“He has no reason to show his face after everything—“ No, she wouldn’t complain. Complaining never did her any good here. Whether she liked it or not, her fate was sealed no matter how much she tried to cheat her way around it. All that she could do was try it by force and, as she was an army of one, she had no force. Yet.
She briefly closed her eyes, a shudder of pain passing through her features. No matter how miserable she was here, she was determined to stick it out. To die would only bring her under his control and she would have none of that. Especially since he was asking her to give up her independence. Especially since he was fully intent on making her his Dark Queen.
“What arrangements?” she asked, her voice quiet and full of false cheer. The soldier, realizing that he would be able to keep his head, quickly settled down and began to speak.
She knew it was morning by the feeling in her stomach, a slow, churning boil that nearly had her curling up and wishing that her life was over. Back when she was young and juvenile, back when things were so simple could she afford that luxury. It was not the case this morning.
She heard their metallic footsteps before she had a chance to dress. As they stormed into her room, she pulled her blankets to cover what little she did wear and glared at them as they made their way into the room.
“We bring supplies,” the first spoke, setting a basket down on the small table separating them. Her cold eyes never left his face as he hastened back into line. Her curiosity instead rested on the basket and she moved forward, taking the handle and dragging it back to her bed.
“Not that I’m not happy to have an entire harem in my room, but what the heck are you doing here?” she demanded.
“We have come to escort you to the…” the soldier’s words trailed off feebly as she turned her attention to the basket and pulled out a few small flask-like bottles and a rolled up bit of bread.
“That’s all you had to say, you know,” she snapped, pushing aside the basket as she got to her feet, pulling on a cloak to ward off a chill that had nothing to do with the temperature of this room. “Now get out before I get cranky.”
They didn’t need to be told twice.
With a sigh, she turned and dressed, taking as much time as she could. There was little the soldiers could do other than sit and stare at the walls since she hadn’t decorated yet. She broke off pieces of the bread, wondering who in Sauron’s tower had the ability to cook and then, after realizing that it was actually edible, she decided she didn’t want to know.
At last, she was ready to go. She hadn’t done much with her hair or clothes, figuring that they would be done at the tower. The corridors were warm as she passed through them, every sconce aglow. When she finally reached the courtyard, they took her up in another cart and set off down the large, stone ramp.
As they moved slowly along, she glanced over her shoulder, staring at the castle. With the glance was a firm promise that she would live there, no matter how Sauron attempted to convince her otherwise. In the few weeks since she’d been dumped there, it was slowly becoming a haven of sorts.
Turning back, the sight brought tears to her eyes. To the right was a massive volcano spitting out rolling clouds of smoke and ash. Beyond that was more darkness. The sky above her was streaked with obsidian clouds. The only sign of life came from the tower to her left. It rose above with a three-tiered tower, sharp iron points standing majestically over the dim, lifeless landscape. The ground was little more than volcanic rock, dried from years of exposure from the mountain. Thousands upon thousands of lights lit the tower as they drew near. The entire valley was filled with the most disgusting creatures Buffy had ever seen.
There were Orc, but she had come to expect those. When she got too close, she had to back away or risk throwing up from the scent of them. Their cold, beady eyes followed her, as did their rotted teeth grin as the cart drove past. There were men, several holding horns and banners, all staring at her before they slowly inclined their heads, as though accepting her fate as much as they had accepted theirs.
The lizards were back; large black things with blood-red eyes that gazed unblinkingly at her, their bloody tongues flicking at rubbery lips.
There were half-trolls, or the best thing that could describe them. They were large and rather impish, standing there with muscles like rippled potatoes and dull, lifeless eyes that just stared blankly at the horizon, not really taking in anything.
There were smaller beings, too. They looked like skinless chickens holding machetes, something that instantly brought a chill to her spine as she stared into their clear, brown eyes and saw their lack of fear. Their three-pronged feet were held in a perfect line, their knives clasped over their right shoulder. They had a plume of sorts, a red tuft of hair or feathers that stuck up from the back of their skull. As she passed they, too, bowed their heads.
There were also stooped figures encased in black cloaks. But as they lifted their faces, they were nothing more than skeletons gazing back at her, reflected by the bloody aura of their cloaks. Buffy hid a gasp at these as they gazed at her, their bony fingers clutching walking sticks lit by tiny red jewels on top.
And so the ascent began. Buffy held her tongue at the number of beings lining both sides of the road. Above, at the gates, were four skulls held together by strands of bloody sinew. She winced as they passed beneath these. Large stone gargoyle-like things stood their glory over the front door. Atop them were two large creatures, their dragon-like wings folded back against their bodies. On either side, behind an iron pen, were the largest black horses she had ever seen. They looked almost demonic in their armor, yet they bowed their heads as she passed into the tower.
Again, more beings were crowded inside. Most were the captains and lieutenants that faced her with stony looks. In all, there were thousands of them. Way too many to take on by herself. Way too many that had been swayed to follow the one madman who had taken their lives into his own hands.
Speaking of which… he stood at the top of the wide, sweeping steps, bearing his dark armor and glowering at the scene before him like the Dark Lord that he was. Buffy slowly walked towards the steps, sweeping along as the others crowded around her. She moved along, her eyes taking in the large, twisted sconces that looked more like dead branches that lined the curving stair. Each step she took, a drumbeat sounded. As she approached the top, those following her fell back. The drumbeats grew louder, along with some high-pitched chanting from the crones carrying their red-stoned sticks.
As she reached the top step, all fell into silence.
His eyes curiously roamed over her, from her golden hair to the green eyes, from the slender gold chain fastened to a shell to the long, gold-and-red ensemble he’d had the south make for her.
Her eyes held a challenge, silently relaying that if he wanted her power, he was going to have to give her something for it. His eyes were hidden behind his helm, his metallic gloved hand reaching out to take hers and to draw her closer to him.
Two feminine figures appeared out of the darkness. One stood on either side of her. The first quickly draped another red cloak over her shoulders, a long gold chain was clasped at her throat. The other stood with a box, which she handed over to a soldier before ducking away.
Again, the drumbeat sounded. The creatures who had hoofs stomped them, their hair rippling. The crones pounded their walking sticks. The banner carriers were punching out the same beat with the flag poles. The orc were knocking the bottom of their spears on the marble. There was a high-pitched whinny from the other black lizards, which had reared onto their legs and bellowed at the top of their lungs. The sound of it all shook the massive iron walls that surrounded her.
Sauron held up a hand, the metal tinkling as he raised it. The sound ceased immediately, thousands of eyes upon them as his hand moved forward to touch her face. She flinched as the cold metal contacted her skin, but she did not move away. Instead, her eyes held his even as his opposite hand reached for the box.
It opened to reveal two crowns inside.
The silence held as Sauron stripped himself of his gloves, his gauntlets and his helm. He was stunning in his armor, his fair eyes held a captive audience. His long hair seemed to shine beneath the darkness with a grace that few but the Elves possessed. Buffy eyed him uncertainly as he reached for the box, but his lieutenant stepped forward.
“I will do so myself,” Sauron hissed, a manic gleam streaking through his otherwise innocent eyes, his hand brushing his lieutenant aside. His fingers grasped a black crown, adorned with black jewels. He turned and held it up to his followers. Slowly, they chanting and beat on their drums, the sound nearly overwhelming the slayer. After holding it out for a moment, he set it upon his own head. It looked far out of place with his silvery hair and his kind eyes, but the smile that graced his face was anything but kind and enchanting.
Buffy was nudged forward by one of the lieutenants and stared out over the others, a hand taking hers and pulling her close.
This was not how she ever wanted to get married. She wanted a church, a white dress, the most stunning pair of silver shoes she could find and not to mention normalcy. She wanted a handsome young man to stand across from her, to offer her love for eternity, passion without question. She wanted a gold ring on her finger, a kiss on her lips and the promise of a life together. She wanted harps and pianos and singing children and stained glass windows and a veil. She wanted to be in love, to feel alive, to feel a great and wonderful freedom. All of her hopes and dreams were shattering in this very instant that Sauron turned to her and stepped back, allowing his lieutenant to come forward with the other crown.
He turned the crown to her and she saw it for the first time. It was dark silver with odd spines, each tip adorned with a separate green jewel. The lieutenant handed the crown to Sauron and bowed his back backwards, out of sight, into the shadows.
Sauron took the crown and held at her eye level. “You are precious to me,” he murmured, watching various emotions cross her face, from exhaustion to resignation to frustration and, lastly, to a calm acceptance as her eyes lifted to meet his. “For this, you are rewarded.”
He set the crown on her head. The moment it made contact with her skin, she gasped. The slayer roared inside of her, pleading to be let out, but Buffy quashed it down. Now was not the time to play insurrection slayer. That time was coming, she promised her inner demon. It was coming and there was nothing the dark could do to hold it back.
Instead, she calmly met Sauron’s eyes and dipped her head slightly, knowing that if she didn’t, someone else would force her neck down.
“I was a dark Lieutenant, unseated when Morgoth was stripped of his throne. I have wandered the lands, weary and empty…”
Buffy tuned out the speech, instead focusing on the thought that Sauron would be neither weary nor empty. Instead, he stood there, a formidable threat and enemy to the Elves. She started when he suddenly grasped her hand.
“I will say that my power has become our power…”Now where have I heard that before?
Buffy mused, her body tensing at the familiar words, words that she herself had spoken before Sunnydale’s collapse. She blinked down, her eyes fixing on the ring he wore on his hand.
“Behold, your Black Lady, my Dark Queen and my wife. On this morn, we are wed.”
He opened his closed hand to reveal a ring, much like the one he wore, and carefully slipped it over her finger. As the ring settled there, she saw a sudden shadow as though the ring came alive. There was an engraving on the ring, highlighted by fire.
As the noise levels rose again, Buffy stared beyond the thousands of minions to the darkening horizon, even as she felt his hand on her arm, drawing her closer.
Even though this would normally be the happiest day of a woman’s life, she had never felt so empty. So cold. So… not alive. Blinking back tears, she allowed herself to be pulled away.
“I wouldn’t gloat so much if I were you,” she muttered as they continued their ascent towards the tower. “You haven’t won anything today.”
“You are no clear victor, either,” he replied, releasing her arm once they were out of sight of the others.
“I won’t love you. You can’t expect me to. You don’t have that kind of power.”
“I expect nothing from you,” he continued, “least of all love.”
“No,” Buffy continued as they moved into a corridor. “You want my power. You’re not the only one to want a slayer’s power. But if it’s a demon you wanted, it’s a demon you married.”
She suddenly gasped as he spun around, taking her by the arms. “I care neither for the demon nor the woman. This,” he touched her crown, his eyes gleaming, “is meant by name alone.”
“So that’s all I am to you, just to make it clear,” Buffy replied, backing away from him and brushing his arms aside.
“Your oath was a troth… you shall not dishonor me.”
Buffy scoffed and turned away. “That’s the least of your worries.”
“This world is meant for you. With my strength and your power, we will rule the world.”
Buffy moved closer until she could reach up and touch his face, giving him one look at the humanity he was losing out on. “I won’t be like you. You just gave me the world. You can’t make me be evil like you.”
“What will you protect? Those humans that grovel at your feet, begging for mercy? Will you protect the Elves, slain by my hand? Or perhaps the Dwarves… not even our might could sway them. Nay, nay…” his hands moved along her neck, to her face, his thumbs pressing along her forehead. “Only the slayer can save you now.”
As he moved away, Buffy stared after him, the flat, golden coins on her bodice tinkling faintly, the only sound aside from the low rumble of Sauron’s laughter.
It hadn’t been more than two days when another gaggle of soldiers arrived, all of them looking dour. Since her wedding night, she had locked herself in her suite, refusing to come out. She just sat against the wall, her mind plotting, carefully working out all of the details, any way to escape this madness.
“My Lady, we come bearing gifts, from our Dark Lord to his lady.”
Buffy miserably shifted her weight and got to her feet. The men blinked as she came out of the shadows. Her face was pale, her eyes red-rimmed with dark circled beneath them. Her lips quivered slightly as she sat. The men were each holding what looked like a large, covered tray.
“All right, do your worst. Cheer me up.”
“We know that our lady prefers the more fashionable things, for we have had these made for you.”
Two dresses, both in shades of green and yellow, were brought out and displayed to her. She blinked at them for a moment, the corner of her mouth lifting into something that one might consider a smirk. “Not really my style, but thanks.”
“Our lady also has a fond taste for all that glitters.” A soldier came forward, pulling the cover from his tray as he went, lifting the tray up to show her a number of golden necklaces and bracelets, all interlaid with jewels. Her eyes widened at a matching tiara, which was nothing more than two or three intertwined golden bands.
“Ooh, pretty,” she said with mock enthusiasm. Her gaze was driven to her opposite side where a third soldier uncovered his tray with an identical set, but in silver.
As they continued, one after another, giving her jewels, clothing, boots, armor and the like, she couldn’t help but pity them. They were really doing all they could to make her bad situation better and she was touched by that.
“We have also made you these,” the last man said, coming forward and slowly removing the cover from his tray.
“Oh,” she said, surprised as she gazed at the large assortment of miniature swords and knives. But what caught her eye was the crossbow. She hadn’t seen one of those since her time in Eriador. “They’re beautiful.”
“I knew the weapons would be the key,” one soldier smirked to another.
“Thank you,” she said, glancing at a floor now littered with pretties. “Really. Thank you.” The men bowed and ducked out, leaving her with treasures of her own.
Humming slightly under her breath, she brought the jewels up to her mirrored glass, holding up various necklaces to see how they would look on her. After a moment, her eyes fell onto the ring she wore and she set aside a silver necklace and carefully removed the ring. As a flash of golden light and red shadow followed, she saw familiar symbols surround the outside of the ring.
“One way or another, I will get my life back. And you will pay for bringing this onto me. I may not have the strength now, but I promise you that one day I will.”
She slid the ring back onto her finger, grimacing as the golden letters faded away.
Apologies for the lateness of this chapter... we've been reorganizing our outline and have been doing a bit of writing ahead, but eventually went back to do this chapter. Feel free to read, review, whatever... it is nice to know that our little story is still being read.