by Vincent Kale
The haggard king slumped in his throne of skulls. A beggar, rogue and thief kneeled before him. Each presented a gem to the Lord of Fire and Death.
Coal, his servant, collected the stones and deposited them onto a bed of kindling in a marble basin. The king waved his hand lazily. The dried twigs ignited.
The three peasants watched the flames lick the surface of the jewels. The ruby caught fire, its false exterior burning away.
“Imposter.” The king snapped his fingers, incinerating the beggar. Coal swept up the resultant pile of ash.
The emerald glowed forest green. Vapor drifted out of the stone, taking the shape of a slender woman. The king leaned forward in his throne. The woman solidified into a being of green bark and vines.
“A common Dryad,” said the King. He snapped his fingers again. The wood nymph screamed as flames consumed her, leaving a burned, twisted stump behind. Coal dropped a copper coin into the rogue’s hand.
The diamond began to smoke. Fog poured from the basin, extinguishing the flames. The king leaped to his feet as the basin became encased in frost. A figure crystallized, a beautiful woman carved of living ice.
“After all these years,” said the king. “My Queen.”
He kneeled before her. A throne of snow and ice formed on the dais.
Coal dropped a pouch overflowing with gold coins at the thief’s feet. Ash drifted from his mouth as he whispered to him.
“You have doomed us all.”