10 weeks, 5 authors, 1 story. In To Be Continued… I asked 5 authors (self-published and traditionally published alike) to write a story together based on my prompts, without knowing about each other. They each had 2 weeks to write their part before I forwarded it to the next person to continue. Each part is somewhere between 500 – 1000 words long. So, are you ready to continue the story?
If you didn’t read yet, I recommend starting your journey with the butcher queen by reading Part 1 by Cameron Johnston!
Queen Endellion, also known as the butcher queen celebrates her fortieth birthday starting with a mass execution. Meanwhile the mysterious Mosaic sneaks into her quarters to find out her secret. She opens the huge steel wardrobe standing in the room.
The story is To Be Continued by:
Phil Williams was born in the commuter-belt of Hertfordshire, where he learnt to escape a comfortable life through sinister fantasy fiction. His erratic career has variously involved the study of language and relationships – and took him to such locations as Prague, Moscow and Abu Dhabi. He finally settled on the quiet Sussex seaside, where he lives in Worthing with his wife and his fluffy dog, Herbert. He divides his time between writing educational books that help people better understand English and fantasy books that help people better escape reality.
So he tells himself.
Phil’s novel series include:
Ordshaw: a collection of urban fantasy thrillers set in and around the UK city of Ordshaw – a place where dark secrets threaten the modern world. The Sunken City trilogy follows card sharp Pax Kuranes’ introduction to a labyrinthine conspiracy, starting with Under Ordshaw. Expect monsters, diminutive fairies and a mystery that’ll take a lot of late nights to unravel.
Estalia: starting with Phil’s debut novel, Wixon’s Day, in 2012, this post-apocalyptic series explores a dystopia powered by steam. With reconstructed steampunk machines and an anarchist government, Estalia is a deadly place that gets more tense and chaotic with each instalment in the series.
His work also includes stories set in the post-World War 3 dystopia of Faergrowe (including A Most Apocalyptic Christmas and an upcoming five-book action-thriller arc starting with The Worst Survive), as well as various standalone stories and screenplays.
The Butcher Queen – Part 2
It was said that the Moaning Sea Caves south of Jartlet groaned with the accumulated suffering of those who broke against their rocks. The swallowed corpses fed fetid air across Hopeless Bay, luring others to the same fate.
When Arch Scribe Lille tried to frighten the court with this tale, Queen Endellion deemed it a delicious cycle, in her self-satisfied way. Lille then tried to adapt to her attitude, presenting numbers dead with pride rather than fear, and the queen dismissed him for pandering. He was dead within three days.
A year ago to the day, Lille had been one of many trying to impress Her Royal Majesty. One of many who died for trying – a risk another large host of entertainers were running this day. Yet Lille especially sprung to Mosaic’s mind, for his account of noxious seaweed odors and deep, sorrowful groans perfectly matched what came out of the queen’s enigmatic cupboard.
Mosaic stepped quickly away, dislodging her mask with a stab of pain as she clamped a forearm over her nose and mouth, not to gag on the smell. Impossible – she retched.
When she was done spluttering, biting down pain that seared her disturbed facial wounds, she beheld the cupboard’s contents. The door, bulky with metal struts and cogs, blessedly hid at least part of it.
Human, in size and stature. Standing upright. Hard to see where its bindings ended and its flesh began. Wide straps of tough leather encircled the torso and legs, studded with crude metal hoops. Thick chains ran loose and taut from the hoops to the cupboard’s recesses – a drunk spider’s web of rusted threads. The skin between the leathers was putrid where not hard with deep scarring and dirty stitches. Unnatural growths squeezed through gaps – a loose flap of flesh here, a crusty wart there.
A longer protrusion near the neck.
Mosaic stepped closer, to better see.
A tiny hand at the end of a withered arm, stitched into the neck.
It flexed, fingers reaching, and she leapt back – holding down a cry of surprise. Her sharp movement excited the captive, which rattled against its chains with a noise rising from its center, muffled at the wrapped head. Mosaic glanced to the chamber door; no disturbance in the hall. Yet.
Beyond the room’s immense lattice window, a boisterous entertainer yelled, “Who stole the pig noses?”
Praise the serpent – the traditional call for the peasants’ scramble to pluck a silver trophy from a messy chaos of severed snouts. The spectacle typically pleased Queen Endellion enough to permit the crowd to cheer – they would be noisily distracted for a short while.
Mosaic pushed the cupboard door back, to shed more light on the queen’s sordid secret. It took her best effort to keep the rest of her lunch down. The little neck arm had companions: one, bigger, by the waist, another, smaller, poking out of a thigh. Every exposed scrap of wretched skin housed some blemish or another – how much worse was hidden from view?
The thing rattled its chains again.
A living torture doll? An experimental monster?
Why would either be kept hidden in the queen’s very chamber? Just last week she had ordered a child thief trampled by rabid goats – not for shame would she conceal this.
In the secret lay power.
Mosaic raised a hand to the poor captive’s head, a calming palm upon its leather-clad cheek. It tensed, expecting pain. Mosaic gently kept the hand there as she scanned the cupboard interior – an expertly forged prison, impenetrable and soundproof, no doubt. The chains had to have a quick release, for the queen to use her plaything in any practical way. She hadn’t the patience to cut her own fruit, after all.
On the chamber’s rear wall, past the tortured beast’s right shoulder, five chains met beneath a keyhole panel. A master lock.
But Mosaic had only two keys, both of which had been used. The harrowed maids never mentioned another. It had to be close by. She leaned in again, holding her breath. Damp heat emanated from the beast as it wheezed leather-smothered fear.
Mosaic eyed the head restraints. Buckled at the back – separate to the rest of the contrived chain network. An opportunity, perhaps. She wrenched the buckle open and pulled at the head wrappings. They sucked to the captive’s skin, before coming free with a sharp squelch that made her stumble.
The sight beneath fixed Mosaic with a new kind of horror.
Skin marred as bad as the rest of the body, flesh pinched by stitching and patterned with little growths, but unmistakably familiar. Beneath the green veneer and red-veined eyes, under acid-eaten wisps of hair, was the face of Queen Endellion herself.
And she inhaled, deeply, to scream.
To Be Continued…
If you’d like to get in contact with Phil Williams, you can find him on social media: