The Brief Marriage of Vivian Stack
“Are you sure this is a wise decision, dear?,” Nevell asked her daughter, fluffing out the white and flowing gown at the end of the ceremonial wedding rehearsal. How proud she was of Vivian, standing here inside the countryside’s most eloquent ballroom, The Chapel of Lilith, equipped with the most proud and enduring servant’s money could buy swivelling past them, half-naked and at everyone’s beck and call. This was a place where red wine flowed most graciously and fragrant, blossoming Carnations and Geraniums lined the side walks leading up to the towering, ferocious castle.
The Queen’s tower, Satanis Castle.
The red headed daughter had gone into business with the Queen herself, and it was this deal the two had made that her mother was profoundly disturbed by. Vivian was to marry a most handsome middle aged man, Ricket Forrester, whose father had worked for Her Majesty for the last twenty five years, doing all of the massive and most costly landscaping projects and, of course, the shrub artistry. He had arranged a meeting between Vivian and Faruka, without Nevell’s knowledge, which took place in the Queen’s library and was quite brief and pleasant.
Vivian begged the Queen for use of the East Lawn, and all its magnificence, for a proper and most elegant wedding. There was more than enough room on the sprawling, lush lawn for all the guests and servants, and they would like to speak their vows inside the gazebo at the end of the dock, looking out on the emerald blue waters of Lake Hunnet. They would pay, she had pleaded, whatever the cost requested, for it was worth it, every cent. It was, in reality, Ricket’s father who would be doting out the finances for this most extravagant ceremony. These personal requests were few and far between to the Queen, but others had made use of the East Lawn in years past, and she did appreciate and value the work her gardener’s did for her. In no way did she feel obligated, but did enjoy doting out, in small doses, tokens of appreciation to her workers that she sometimes even considered a confidant or friend. Faruka had agreed to allow Vivian use of the lawn and the young lady could barely contain the sense of enthralment and wonder that overtook her in, of all places, the Queen’s Library. How awfully delightful yet apprehensible and embarrassing to turn four shades of red in front of Her Majesty!
There was, however, a catch. Call it what you will; a deal, a bargain, a swap…the bottom line was that the Queen had made it crystal clear that she would require no up front monetary payment from the girl for use of her property. She would, instead, require from Vivian a favor to be repaid back at whatever moment the Queen chose, either now or in the future. This was a debt that must be satisfied.
Do you understand me girl, she had asked, and Vivian responded with resounding agreement. There had been no hesitation, no worry or doubt, and never had she thought to entertain details. Vivian had been dreaming of this wedding all her life, and to be having it on the Queen’s East Lawn was beyond any desire or fantasy she had so far felt in her seventeen years of existence inside the confines of Snarefell Hills.
“Mother,” Vivian responded, “would you look around us, please? This castle is breathtaking beyond my ability to express! I would be a fool to pass up an offer such as this! Do you not agree? What do you see in this agreement that causes you to question my wedding day?”
“It’s just,” Nevell said softly, still messing with the bulky gown Vivian was to be married in, “ you’ve heard, I’m quite sure, how the Queen can be at times. A bit… feisty? Overzealous and cruel?” She was whispering now, peering around to ensure the servants weren’t listening.
“She isn’t of the such! She’s a very nice woman! I spent half the day with her personally! And yes, I have heard the rumors. I give no attention to any. They’re silly.”
“Yes, some may be, but not all, Vivian. Do not misunderstand my words, dear. I have so much happiness and love for you in this moment. I am so proud of you!” She was holding her daughter’s face now, eye to eye. “And to be married inside the gates of Satanis Castle, well…what more could be said about that?! How exquisite! I’ve never wanted anything other than the best for you, Vivian, so this does make me very happy. But I must worry about you, darling, because you are my daughter and it is my job to protect you. I fear the type of favor Faruka will come up with. I have known of her longer than you, so trust me when I say she can be quite dark at times. All my life I have had contacts from inside these castle walls. As you know, your father’s brother works in the kitchen. She will appear to the villagers as one thing and once back home be completely the contrary. It can be quite frightening, the change.”
Vivian rolled her eyes, walked to the tall golden mirror at the other end of the room, and sat down in a pale pink chair shaped with the curves of a woman’s body and stitched with green jewels. A young servant boy of no more than twelve years of age appeared at her side dressed in cloths like Jesus, with lashing scars on his back to match, and asked to be of assistance. She shooed him away and, for the first time, pondered upon the favor that she was now eternally bound to. As she powdered her already pale face and played with the iguana at her feet, she wondered what Faruka would possibly need from a seventeen-year-old girl, how on earth she could be of help to the wealthiest woman in all the land. When she looked at it from that perspective she could see where her mother was coming from, as the possibilities were endless and she had heard gruesome rumors of screams coming from the dungeon of the castle late at night. She quickly brushed the thoughts off and whistled for two servant boys to come and help remove the heavy and humid gown, as the ties in back were extensive and impressive in their zigzag, floral pattern. The boys seemed to not mind this task at all, and Nevell bit her lip watching, knowing with nervous energy what those boys had on their minds.
That night in bed Vivian shared her mother’s worries with Ricket, their bodies naked and intertwined in the candlelight of his prestigious bedroom inside his father’s home on the outer edges of Snarefell Hills. The man, his chest hairy and eyes dark and deep, found good humor in her mother’s words.
“Vivian, those are the scares of a small child! There is no place for paranoia on our most wonderful of days. I won’t have it! We have waited far too long and counted many a countless hour to wed, and to be doing it on The East Lawn! Do you have any idea what this will do for both our names?! We may even be invited inside the Queen’s inner circle! Is that something you wish to waste away on petty fears and foolish garbage created by the minds of peasants and travellers?”
She offered him a kiss on the forehead to ease his passion. It had not been easy convincing his father to approach the Queen with this scenario. He had been met with laughter at first, his father considering it an unfathomable, unbelievable request. Yes, there had been others, but those had been mainly relatives in the Queen’s royal bloodline, or at least close offshoots. There was no royal blood in the Forrester lineage, only many years trimming and decorating her lawn and taking care of her elaborate gardens. But in the end it had paid off and she had taken his request into consideration with humility and compassion.
“You’re right,” Vivian agreed, kissing his neck and holding his face against her glowing, pink bosom. “Not another word about it, I cross my heart.”
They fell asleep naked but still pure, and Vivian dreamt she was walking up the winding, stone staircase in the castle. She walked for what seemed many ages, her head light and dizzy as she looked down at the spiral she had just walked up. Sweat glistened off her forehead and her white, transparent nightgown was sticking to her body as she walked up, and up, and up. Finally she could hear a voice and she knew it was The Queen. At the top of the staircase was a red door standing eight feet tall with a black knob barely visible in the darkened shadows of the hall. The Queen was laughing in hysterics on the other side of the door, but Vivian could hear no one else in the room as she put her ear against its cold surface. It felt good on her heated face.
Come in, girl! the Queen shouted from inside. Vivian jumped back in surprise and tried to compose herself, her hair, her nightgown, to be as presentable as possible. She turned the knob and walked inside. The Queen sat in a high-backed black and red chair in the center of the room, a servant on each side and two more at her feet. Vivian noticed it was considerably cooler in this room, which was a relief. The servants stared at her with rough and untrusting eyes.
What took you so long, girl? You’ve kept me waiting. Vivian knelt before her and asked for forgiveness, her nightgown hiking up above her thighs, not going unnoticed by the servants. One was forced to look away for fear of arousal at the Queen’s side without her stimulation. Have you any idea what I do to little girls who keep me waiting? But I shall spare you because I need a favor, and it just so happens I know a little girl who owes me one! She cackled, looking to her servants to ensure they were in good humor, as well. One at her feet was not laughing so she kicked the cheek of his face with the naked heel of her foot. He quickly composed himself and regained his original position scrubbing the scales off her heels.
Anything you wish, my Majesty. She stepped closer to the Queen, admiring her patterned black dress but taken aback by her frazzled black hair, the thick curls un-kept and wild. There was also a distinct odor as she got closer, a smell that reminded her of…dead roses. It’s really very simply, dear. It won’t take much of your time, and I should think you should find it pleasing enough, given the…tension between Ricket’s father and yourself lately.
They had been on eggshells together since the announcement of the wedding. Issues of money soiled their once near perfect relationship, as Henrick felt the budget was being stretched due to Vivian’s opulent and spoiled tastes. He made a decent wage himself working for the Queen, of that there was no doubt, but had taught his son well in matters of financial responsibility for the welfare of your own being and family, not in luxuriant expenditures of material possession as Nevell had taught Vivian. It put a bitter taste in his mouth and he began harboring a quiet resentment.
Vivian had heard though Ricket of his feelings and became awkward around him, avoiding his presence like a man with chickenpox. Then, one evening as Henrick was adding up the lists of expenses – roses (so many roses), statues imported from neighboring lands, musicians from Tinfolk, a horse ride three days away – his fury over the indulgences erupted and he had warned his son that his harlot of a wife had better mind the expenses or he would refuse to pay any part of it, that the wedding would be off!
Things had gotten worse from that point forward and Nevell intervened, agreeing to assist her daughter in trimming the costs to a more agreeable figure, for the better of everyone and the wedding. She had wanted, inside her soul, to slap Mr. Forrester for his remarks regarding her daughter being a harlot, but in the dignity of being a woman she had not. For the peace of the moment she had remained silent.
I want you to murder Henrick Forrester for me, Vivvy. I want you to bash his skull with a stone until his brains fly against the wall, girl! YOU WILL DO IT! Or it will be YOU who pays with your life.
The Queen laughed at the girl, her laughter queerly transitioning into harsh screaming as she rose from the chair in fury. She had a snake in her hand now, a thick yellow snake, and was coming towards Vivian. The serpent’s arrow shaped head and hissing, forked tongue was getting closer, too. And then she felt the serpent on her neck and it was starting to squeeze, and she was starting to have a harder time breathing. After it had her in its grasps, the snake pulled its neck and head back slowly and she knew it was about to strike, to bite at her neck. She screamed and woke herself up.
The preparations for the wedding took precisely two weeks. The lawn, exposed to full sun midday, was lined with white chairs that were sprinkled with gold and silver glitter which shimmered in the sunlight. Beginning in the middle of the chairs was a red runway leading to the dock and then out to the open gazebo where they would be wed. Statues of beautiful women cradling babies and of couples kissing stood valiantly outside the circle of chairs, while dozens of red roses were sprinkled at the base of each stone man or woman. White and red flowers were wrapped around the gazebo, giving it a floral camouflage of brilliant and simple beauty, and the day of the wedding hundreds of rose petals would be thrown into the lake around them.
Candles would be alight and silver chalices would be passed around and filled with sweet wine. Servants would be offering a hearty course of duck, chicken, fresh ears of corn, and plenty of homegrown potatoes. They would also be available to rent out for use inside the three guest homes. For a price, naturally. Vivian thought not even fabulous an adequate word for the ceremony or the after-party. Words such as she was thinking do not exist in the English language, sadly enough, as they are felt rather than spoken.
Nevell looked upon the preparations with immense happiness for her daughter, but also with formidable worry. She was convinced Vivian had made the wrong decision, to be in such debt to the Queen, but no longer spoke of the issue. She allowed her daughter a pure and enlightened experience without motherly ramble or duress. Henrick was pleased with the price the festivities had been agreed upon and was doing his best to mend things, offering the girl a gold chained necklace with a purple stone pendant hanging down in an oval. Vivian was in such a state of ecstasy, from not only the engagement, but now from this gorgeous piece of jewellery that it would have been very trying to keep the spitefulness up, so instead she forgave him of all wrongs and offered him her hand to kiss. He obliged, his knee-high leather boots paining his ankles as he knelt to kiss the small, innocent hand.
The Queen watched all of the action down below with intrigue and excitement from the top story castle window out looking the gazebo and the lake. She was alone now in her bedroom, cavernous and dark with candles burning in gothic, wrought iron sconces on the stone walls and a luxurious bed taking up a good portion of space in the middle of the room. There was a large, open bathroom off to the right with a deep clawfoot tub visible. She twisted the many rings on her fingers in anticipation, smiling on the workers below, knowing that word of this kind deed would travel quick and far through Snarefell Hills.
She called for Alexander, her loyal servant of more than twenty years, and picked up one of her pet iguanas and fingered its colorful, spiky mane, keeping an eye on the work below.
“How many know of this wedding, Alexander, do you imagine? How many will arrive?”
He replied that word had spread through Tinfolk and would be hitting Cyprus any day now, as he had personally sent a message boy out with a weeks worth of food and water two days ago.
“Very good, Alexander. I’m very pleased.” She turned around to look at him now, still petting the lizard. “Hopefully this will serve to dispel some of the ridiculous rumors flying around.”
They looked at each other and devilish smiles formed on both their faces as they burst out in fanatic laughter, like children telling naughty jokes about the village whore.
“Indeed,” Alexander said, “let us hope so, Your Majesty.”
On the day of the wedding Nevell cried at the sight of her only lovely daughter, so stunning and radiant on this, the most memorable day she would ever live. The gown flowed gently behind Vivian as she walked arm in arm with Ricket up the red aisle and towards the gazebo. Two hundred guests had arrived for the special event, coming in from as far as Jaden, a weeks travel time away. Some of them had connections with the family in one way or another, and others did not. The ones who did not came for the glamour of it all, and because they had been invited. The Queen had stressed to everyone the more, the merrier! Come one, come all!
Dusk was calm and serene as the couple entered the Gazebo. Ricket had to arch down in order to avoid the flowers and vines criss-crossing the ceiling and walls, and a light giggle escaped Vivian at the sight. The crowd was once again seated and silent, their hearts heavy with feelings of youthful love and new beginnings. Tears were wept and hugs given to Nevell in condolence and congratulation as she tried her best to hold it together. Two servants were on their hands and knees on either side of the entrance to the gazebo, a gold plate on their backs filled with rose petals and white feathers, a sign of love and good luck.
White feathers and red roses were frequently used in ceremony by local witches and were easy to come by.
The priest bowed and knelt once in front of the couple, then picked up and opened his thick religious book and began to read. “We, villagers of Snarefell Hills and neighboring lands, have come joyously together in kinship to greet and witness the wedding of Vivian Stack and Ricket Forrester.” A servant rang a bell nine times, in hopes of clearing the air of all impurities, and lit incense and candles behind them. More servants began tossing hundreds of rose petals into the lake around the general vicinity.
“Blessed be to the happy couple!”
A gong was hit, startling many of the audience members looking upon.
“Now let us begin!”
Vivian’s hands were warm and moist as she squeezed Ricket’s, who she felt were also moist with nervous energy and excitement. I’m about to be wed, she thought to herself, tingling with thrill. I am about to be Mrs. Vivian Forrester! Even saying that name in her head felt odd and unnatural. She looked into Ricket’s eyes and it was then that she heard the Queen shout from atop the castle down at her, her voice loud and powerful, even from such a great distance.
“VIVIAN! VIVIAN STACK! THIS IS THE QUEEN!”
The wedding guests looked up with shock and fright, knowing that this was an unintended interruption in the proceedings. The Queen had never revealed herself at any other prior public events held on the estate, and not only was Faruka shouting at the bride, she also sounded very angry and quite crazed. Vivian and Ricket had a similar reaction while Nevell sunk in her seat, becoming ill and fevered, knowing. She knew with her gut what this spectacle was all about and thought, I should have tried harder to talk her out of this. She stared up to see the Queen but Faruka was so high that she was but a speck of a shadow flailing her arms out of an opening in the castle above.
“IF YOU RECALL, MY GOOD DEAR, YOU OWE ME A FAVOR!”
Vivian’s heart sunk as she turned to Ricket, hoping for him to give her an explanation for what was occurring, a compassionate look, anything to help her from feeling as vulnerable and scared as she was now. He could offer nothing but a curious glance of suppressed fear masked with a firm embrace of masculine love. Vivian then looked towards her mother and saw that she was sobbing in her seat, quietly and with grace, but it made her feel horrible and even more afraid.
“I’M SENDING ALEXANDER DOWN TO GET YOU NOW.”
She retreated back into the window and slammed the wooden shutters closed. The guests were alive with whispers and gasps, looking around at each other in dismay and disbelief at what had just happened. Many of them had heard the rumors of this place, but never in their years did they believe they would witness the Queen behave in such an unusual and jaded manner. And what business did she have with this young girl here? And could it not wait until after the ceremony, perhaps tomorrow sometime? Some guests got up to leave; others didn’t know what to do.
Moments later Alexander and three other servants came down and grabbed hold of Vivian, threatening Ricket with a knife to silence and calm him. Two more servants held back Henrick and Nevell each, keeping them from following Vivian into the castle. They drug the new bride through the East Lawn and into the castle, taking her all the way to the top, many levels higher than the library had been. She felt something amiss, something wrong with this, and screamed for the servants to release her, but to no avail. They knocked on the Queen’s bedroom door and entered to see Faruka pacing and biting at her long and yellow nails. She stopped at the sight of the girl and demanded Alexander to release her upon the floor. He pushed Vivian forward and she landed at Faruka’s feet.
“I don’t understand, my Queen,” she said, looking up with fearful eyes and quivering, pink lips. Faruka grabbed Vivian by the thick curls of her red hair and brought her to eye level. “When you agree to owe The Queen a favor, my dear Vivian, you had best be apt to attend to that favor whenever she calls on you for it. And I am calling on you now.”
“What is it?” she asked, grimacing in tight pain on top her head and loosing her calm demeanor. She was truly afraid now, and knew for certain that something was, indeed, incredibly off here. She was in quite a bit of trouble, she believed, yet didn’t know why, or what she would be made to do. Visions of that horrible dream swam back into her mind now as the yellow snake curled itself around her neck and then into her mouth and down her throat, getting cozy inside her intestinal track.
“You are the favor, my dear,” the Queen whispered to Vivian, smiling gently now.
The two servants were still standing at the entrance to the bedroom and Faruka ordered Alexander to stay and the other to keep guard at the door.
“What do you mean, I am the favor?” Vivian asked, confused, “what shall you have me do?!”
The Queen laughed and pushed her back onto the floor and Vivian landed on her back, hitting her head on the stone. “You are the favor,” she repeated.
Vivian went pale then as her head felt as if it were daydreaming, and she screamed for her mother but the Queen only laughed. She had already sent an army of servants to surround the guests and the perimeter of the castle. No one would be leaving just yet, that was for certain.
She took hold of Vivian’s hair again and dragged her into the open bathroom, her white gown now tainted with dirt and tearing against jagged pebbles on the rough floor. She was crying as the Queen picked her up and bent her over the large white tub. Vivian screamed at what she saw.
The tub was nearing half full of cold, maroon blood and she could almost see her reflection as she screamed for release. Faruka ordered Alexander to hold the crying child in position as she turned around and picked up a dagger off the elegant, mirrored dresser. She took two steps back to the girl and, without hesitation or thought, stabbed the blade of the knife forcefully into Vivian’s throat, tearing a long and wide hole that blood immediately began gushing out of. Vivian’s eyes were huge with shock as her whole body convulsed in drowning, liquid gasps of air, like a dying animal. The stream of blood poured out into the tub and some splashed back up into Vivian’s face as it mixed with the rest. Faruka bent over to look Vivian in the eyes.
“I needed one last child to fill my tub, and you’re it.”
Her laughter echoed through the cold room, as did Vivian’s moaning. And then, eventually, Vivian stopped moaning and her eyes closed. Her head relaxed, drooped, and then fell into the filling tub. Alexander went into the bathroom closet and pulled out a large, upright, wooden contraption in which he then tied Vivian upside down to by her ankles. The Queen tore the dagger into Vivian’s stomach and ripped down the length of her entire body, as if she were gutting a pig or dressing a deer. Intestines and other organs plopped into the now lukewarm bath water as it filled to the brim while the Queen got undressed.
When the tub had reached capacity, Vivian’s feet were untied and she fell onto the bathroom floor. Faruka again picked her up with relative ease and took her lifeless body to the window.
“PEASANTS, HEAR ME NOW! EVERYTHING YOU HAVE HEARD IS TRUE! AND HERE IS YOUR PROOF!” She showed them the body, cradled in her arms, and many guests screamed at the sight of the dead bride. Nevell dropped to her knees and began sobbing uncontrollably while Ricket fell beside her and yelled, screaming threats of death up to the Queen. She laughed back at him.
“HERE, HAVE YOUR WHORE WIFE, FORRESTER!” she shouted, and then threw Vivian’s body from the top of the castle to the East Lawn below. She landed on her back, her arms and legs twisted, throat cut, and stomach hanging open. Panic ensued as the guests scattered to pick up their children and other belongings in an attempt to escape. Muscled servants met them at all exit routes. They would never again leave the property of Satanis Castle.
The Queen, naked and brimming with pleasure, stuck one leg in the tub and moaned in ecstasy. The red overtook her pale legs as she slipped further in, her lower half now submerged, then her breasts, and then up to her neck. She quivered with intense pleasure, very much on the path to orgasm as she rubbed her breasts and then moved her hand downward in the blood. She closed her eyes and moaned, thinking back on all the deaths leading up to this moment, all the virgins it had taken to make this happen.
This was her moment, and it would be everlasting in its glory.
She submerged completely now, laughing as she went under.
From below came the wails of a grieving mother and widowed husband as they knelt next to the mutilated body of their once beautiful Vivian, now cut like a cow in a slaughterhouse, her eyes staring at them, blank and wild.
Nevell reached down and gently closed them.
“I love you my child,” she said, sobbing.
“I love you…”
“Cody Phillips is an eBook author, freelance writer, and poet. He grew up in the farmlands of central Illinois but has lived in Chattanooga, TN for many years. You may follow him on twitter using @CodyEPhillips”