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The Soul of a Queen

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--“Falling again”, she had time to think. “Maybe it won’t be so boring this time.”

Above her, something was falling toward her. Below, someone was screaming. Was it her name? She wasn’t entirely sure it mattered.

“Kamila, forgive me,” she whispered. “I’m sure you can rescue your fathers, but I don’t think I’m up to the task without their help.”

She landed in black water with a splash. It hurt beyond her expectations, partially shocking her out of her malaise. Another splash quickly followed. Alma didn’t bother to look. She let herself float, musing on her failures. Now she had another one to add to her list.

With a roar, she was lifted from the water by a soaked and dripping Jowd, and tossed onto some soft substance. She laid there, numb, as two male heads hung above her, shouting. The masks were nowhere to be seen, just two furious men yelling over each other about her needless self-sacrifice and blah, blah, blah.

“Baby, what were you thinking?” “Alma, how could you even think—“

“Shut up.” She sat up, smiling crookedly beneath the wriggling mask. “You two idiots were sunk so deep into yourselves I knew it would take something drastic. I had to.” And if she truly felt what she had said on that cliff, it could stay in her heart, she thought.

“I knew Kamila would think to move us all so we were touching. You underestimate our daughter. I expect you to make it up to her later,” she told Jowd, who blinked.

“And you!” she turned to Cabanela. “Did you really think that I would ever say that you were a thing? The other one, that other you—I don’t know what that thing is, but it’s not you. It’s just not. And. I’m sorry I ever even came close to believing that you and it were the same.”

Cabanela was holding one hand, Jowd the other. “We’ve all made our share of foolish choices, wasted our time.” She brought both hands together so all four laid in her lap. “But the beauty of time is that we get more of it whether we want it or not. It never stops passing, and it’s our choice how we spend it in the future.”

The mask still on her face cracked and fell, the shards squirming and recoalescing into the forms of the three laughing children.

“Did you really think this would save you?”

“Did you really think we can’t send you straight back into despair if we choose?”

“Did you really think that we aren’t the gods of this world?”

Their forms writhed and drew together into one grotesque three-headed being. “Time, you say. You have no more time. We’re hungry. This game has come to an end!”

The three shot to their feet; the sweet moment was past. They stood in their old familiar battle stances, each instinctively covering the others’ weak points.

“Well, come on, then,” said Jowd. “Let us show you what garbage can do.”

The thing howled, a rip of sound that seemed to crack the not-air and ground around them. The blackness melted away—

and they were left in the dazzling, pearlescent white. Kamila stood, facing them, sword in one hand, automatic cross bow drawn and held cocked in the other. She held it steady, ready to shoot as soon as she could see an opening. The three of them were held immobile in front of the vast bulk of the thing that writhed and wriggled, muscles sliding obscenely beneath the surface.

“It’s time to see what you really face,” the thing between them yowled, voices overlapping and echoing through the empty expanse. “Everything here is mine; everything is under my control. You are all my puppets until I let you go—and I never will! I’ll drain you dry of every last hope and dream and worthless wish that things could be different. Regrets? They’re delicious; my favorite seasoning of all.”

Alma and Jowd struggled mutely against the magical bindings, but Cabanela was the one who managed to say what they were all thinking.

“I will be no one’s puppet ever again,” he said, the words somehow more portentous for the lack of his usual affected drawl. “Whatever I—we-- do from now on, it will be under our control and no one else’s. Baby.”

“Well said,” said Jowd, managing to overcome the bindings, struggling to get his hands free so he could reach his own weapons. “Kamila, sorry for ever doubting you.”

Kamila shrugged, eyes held on the monster, “Papa, I understand—it’s OK. Let’s finish this off and we can go home.” She raised the crossbow. “Just have to take care of this first.”

Alma’s eyes widened as Kamila squeezed the trigger and peppered all three of them with bolts.