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, followed by Part 2 by Phil Williams, Part 3 by Craig Schaefer and Part 4 by Justin Call unless you want to be spoiled below. I warned you.
Part 1: 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.
Part 2: Mosaic finds an abomination chained inside the wardrobe. It has several extra limbs sewed on its body, its head wrapped, out of view. Until Mosaic frees it and looks in the face of none other than Queen Endellion.
Part 3: Mosaic frees the creature dwelling in Queen Endellion’s wardrobe, but their flee is cut short when the guards show up. Mosaic stands her ground but the creature gets lost in the chaos and there are more guards surrounding her than it would be healthy.
Part 4: Mosaic faces down the guards using her magic abilities. She gets injured, but her only goal is to find the doppelganger and get out of the castle. She finally gets away from the guards, and follows her target right into the courtyard where Queen Endellion’s attention falls on them.
The story is To Be Continued by:
A child of two cultures, this hapa haole Hawaiian girl is currently landlocked in the Midwest. After exploring the world for a chunk of years, she hunkered down in Minnesota and now fills her days with family, fiction, and the occasional snowstorm. With a house full of lovable toddlers, a three-legged cat, and one handsome Dutchman, she prowls the keyboard late at night while the minions sleep. Coffee? Nah, she prefers tea with a generous spoonful of sarcasm.
The Butcher Queen – Part 5
The queen’s order rang across the courtyard of spectators, but no one moved to comply. When faced with an actual monster, rather than just monstrous acts, it seemed they were far more reluctant to join in. Some even murmured worries that this was perhaps some dark game of the queen’s and anyone who approached the creature was sure to die.
From her balcony, the queen’s gaze swept across her motionless people. A frighteningly cool reserve settled over her features.
“Chancellor,” she said.
“Y-yes, my queen?”
“I think I will join the spectators below.”
The Chancellor shoulders sagged. “Yes, my queen.”
She turned away, smiling over her shoulder as she added, “Block the courtyard exits.”
A collective gasp swept the crowd. They were right to fear. Someone was definitely going to die now. Maybe everyone here. It wouldn’t be her majesty’s first massacre.
Mosaic rushed to take advantage of everyone’s horrified stupor, elbowing her way through the press. If she could get to the queen’s doppelganger before the entire guard showed up, there was still a chance to fight her way out of this. She thought of the note in her pocket, the one that had brought her to the city and started her on the path of this whole debacle. The gold coin it had come with was spent, but she felt certain her anonymous sponsor would have more, enough to buy passage out of the kingdom. She felt certain she could find them. The quality of the ink and the remarkable penmanship alone gave her a few guesses where to look.
But by the time she broke free of the crowd into the empty sphere of space where the doppelganger stood, it was too late. The velvet cloak lay puddled around its feet, the queen’s face revealed atop the tortured, multi-limbed carcass.
A scream went up, but not from the crowd. Witnesses turned and parted to reveal Queen Endellion. She stood at the bottom of her balcony’s steps, her usually hard features flush with terror as she beheld her mutilated twin. The creature let out a horrendous screech and opened its arms to her, a welcoming gesture that unsettled even Mosaic.
Queen Endellion lifted a hand, fingers splayed, and pressed back against the balustrade.
“Keep it away from me!”
Three of her guard sprang forward, blades unsheathing with a harsh scrape.
“Do not kill it,” the queen shrieked. “Alive, you must take it alive!”
This was met with some confusion and they glanced at each other, steps slowing. Doubtless they’d never heard an order like that before. Mosaic hesitated herself, eyes darting to the courtyard exits where more guards took up position per the queen’s earlier order. Escape was looking far less likely with the creature in tow. It would be easy enough for her to scale those walls alone and disappear in the city, however.
Unlock the queen’s secret, the note had said. Safeguard what you find and you can name your reward.
It had seemed a job too good to be true. She should’ve known it was, but she’d imagined riches hidden away. Easy pickings to make off with. How was she to know what she’d find would be a living…thing? She’d abandoned jobs before that turned out to be more trouble than they were worth. Mosaic considered that option now.
And dismissed it. This was different. Something important was about to happen. Even a mercenary soul like herself sensed that.
In the end, the doppelganger made the decision for her when it lurched into a lumbered sprint toward the queen. The three guards formed a wall to block its advance, using their swords to herd it away from its course. It stumbled back from them and let out a terrible, mournful howl that had everyone without blades in their hands covering their ears. Mosaic merely swore voraciously, ducking around the doppelganger. The guards, fixated on the monstrosity aiming for their sovereign, scarcely saw her as she dropped to her knees beneath their upheld blades.
Once, twice, thrice, her rapier jabbed between the vulnerable joints along the sides of their armor, and they toppled like trees. Queen Endellion’s face went as pale as milk when the creature straggled past their bodies, moving faster now that it saw its desire within reach. The queen tried to scramble back up the narrow stairway, but the Chancellor stood on the second step, clogging her path to escape.
“Get out of my way!”
Mosaic grimaced, fearing she’d have to cut the Chancellor down as well if he decided to obey. The thought annoyed her. She had done a great many egregious things in her life, but she didn’t need to add to her conscience the killing an old man with atrociously misplaced loyalty.
But the Chancellor didn’t move to let his queen pass. Nor did he recoil in horror at the offending tower of flesh that approached. In fact, upon sighting it, his wizened face lit with incandescent joy.
Mosaic didn’t have time to contemplate the oddity. The queen snarled at her chancellor when he didn’t move. A dagger appeared in her hand and she lifted it to stab. Mosaic had no knives of her own left. She threw the only weapon available, but a rapier wasn’t meant to be slung like a knife. The wind caught the guard, throwing its flight off course and it merely clanged against the steps. The sound startled Queen Endellion and she jerked sideways.
The movement roused the chancellor from his daze. With a clumsy swing, he managed to slap the knife from the queen’s hand before her focus returned to him. The blade clattered out of reach and the look she turned on him could’ve frozen the earth.
“I will see you die for that,” she said.
“And I will see you live.”
He grasped her shoulders and turned her around. In her distraction, she must not have realized the doppelganger was nearly upon her. She let out an incoherent sound of terror and reared back, struggling wildly against the Chancellor’s grip, but the old man held her firm. The creature crooned, hands extended, reaching for her like a treasure once lost and finally found.
Queen Endellion screamed. “No!”
“I will see you live,” the Chancellor said again. There were tears in his eyes as he pushed her into the doppelganger. “I will see you whole again.”
The creature embraced her like a sister, its many grotesque arms folding around her to hold her close. Light erupted around them, a glittering white sun so bright that Mosaic stumbled and shielded her eyes. Queen Endellion’s shrieks melded with the doppelganger’s triumphant cry until they became one voice. As the light faded, Mosaic’s gasp of surprise echoed those of the surrounding crowd.
Where two had stood, one remained. The woman they saw now was at once the same and utterly different than the queen the realm had known for countless years. The same face, the same harsh beauty, but the cruel mien behind her eyes was gone. She seemed no weaker for it. She stood tall and met the many eyes staring at her in shock with the implacable iron will they knew so well. Where the blood lust had once been, Mosaic saw only a hint of sadness.
“I have returned,” her majesty said.
It wasn’t until she spoke that Mosaic realized the depth of what had just occurred.
The Butcher Queen was gone. In her place, Queen Endellion stood.
The truth of what happened emerged as truth often does—in rumor and speculation, mingled with the occasional fact. Mosaic was fortunate enough to hear unfiltered version from someone who had been there all along.
Everyone knew the tale of how Queen Endellion’s family died when she was a child. Many suspected she’d murdered them herself, no matter that she’d been twelve years old at the time. In reality, a neighboring kingdom—one the Butcher Queen had smashed years past—had sent the assassins. Young Endellion had fallen asleep in the stables beside a new litter of kittens and escaped the bloodshed. In the morning, she’d awoken to death, grief, and a new crown.
“Some say it was the king’s council who allied with our enemies to engineer the killing,” the Chancellor mused where he stood beside Mosaic behind the curtain of the queen’s balcony. Outside, the queen addressed her people for the first time since her infamous birthday celebration three days ago. Mosaic already knew the contents of the speech, but she still listened with half an ear. Changes were coming, good changes. Wrongs set right and despicable laws abolished with fair ones put in their stead. It was enough to make Mosaic smile behind her mask. She wasn’t used to smiling, but she’d didn’t mind learning the habit.
“Do you think it was the council?” she asked.
“I never found any clear evidence, but they were a clever group. If they weren’t behind it, they certainly were quick to take advantage of the chaos and a young queen’s inexperience.”
Mosaic didn’t doubt the Chancellor’s description of the events that followed. Queen Endellion had been young and kind and trusting when her family died. Faced with a council who would rule through her, who owned most of the castle guard and confined her to her bedchambers, sometimes without company or food for days when she refused to cooperate with their plans, she came to understand the meaning of powerlessness.
“That was when she remembered the books entrusted to her family,” the Chancellor said. “The old magics outlawed ages ago, locked away in the hidden library—the ones that grant incredible power and exact an equally incredible price.”
Mosaic clasped her hands behind her back to keep from touching her mask. Yes, she was aware of those books. She wondered if the Chancellor knew that one or two were missing from that collection.
“How did she use their magic?” she asked.
“She asked to be stronger. Harder. As smart and as vicious as those who had done this to her.” He shook his head. “It split her apart and made two queens out of her soul. One held all her patience, all her kindness and generosity and mercy. The other, well.” He gestured as if to encompass everything the kingdom had endured at the hands of the queen’s darker side. “But the Butcher Queen could not kill the other part of her without destroying herself, so she locked her away.”
Mosaic arched a brow. “That grotesque thing embodied all of Queen Endellion’s goodness?”
“When we commit evil, we mutilate the better side of ourselves, and Her Majesty’s was very nearly rotted through. Because of you, because of what you did to safeguard her, she was rescued in time.”
Unlock the queen’s secret. Safeguard what you find…
“The note,” Mosaic said, astonished. “The one that alerted me to the queen’s cabinet. That came from you?”
“Passed through a few secondary hands to avoid the butcher queen’s attention, but yes. It originated with me.”
Mosaic glared. “Are you also the one responsible for my capture when I entered the city? For my imprisonment and my…” Her fingers hovered over the mask and the red burns streaked across her face, “my experience there?”
The Chancellor winced. “That was an unfortunate miscommunication. I got you out as quickly as I could. I regret deeply that I could not enable your escape before you suffered what you did.”
“Those notes were from you as well?”
Mosaic regarded the elder man with new eyes. “You are far more sly than I gave you credit for.”
“One does not live to serve the Butcher Queen as long as I have without a healthy amount of guile in his soul.” His slight smile was rueful. “Now, then,” he stepped forward, startling Mosaic as he set his hands on her shoulders, a look of almost fatherly pride on his wrinkled features. “You’ll recall the note also said if you succeed you can name your reward?”
She smirked. “I haven’t forgotten.”
“Yet, three days have passed and you haven’t said a word.”
“A world-changing event has come about. I didn’t want to be crass.”
He chuckled. “On behalf of Her Majesty, nothing would please me more than to grant your request. What does Mosaic Boucher Deschamps Legrand, otherwise known as the Magpie, the Harp, the Reckoner and the Lonely Blade, desire?”
His recitation surprised her.
“You know all my names?” she asked.
“Of course. Only someone with a sense of adventure and determination could have earned so many titles. It’s how I knew you were the one who could do the job our kingdom needed most.”
Mosaic considered. She might have earned those names, but few knew them beyond the borders of where those adventures transpired. She thought of the guards she’d fought in the halls of this very castle. She’d thrown out every name she was known by and they hadn’t recognized a single one. Until now, she’d never realized what she longed for most was a legacy. She had plenty of riches, even a parcel of land that she rarely visited, but neither had ever garnered her any true respect. Such was the path of the greedy, she supposed. They were soon forgotten.
Mosaic looked into the Chancellor’s earnest face. Then she smiled. Oh, he was going to be surprised indeed by her reply.
“You know,” she said. “You missed one of my names on that list.”
“Did I really? Which one?”
“It’s very new,” she said and couldn’t hold the smile from her voice. “In Old Aroth where the Butcher Queen once ruled, I’ll soon be known as Mosaic the Noble.”
If you’d like to get in contact with Anela Deen, you can find her on social media:
Grab a copy of her SPFBO5 semi-finalist novel Beneath Cruel Fathoms, the first book of The Bitter Sea trilogy, or her current SPFBO entrant novel, Night Latch, the first book of The Locksmith Duology by clicking on the buttons:
For more To Be Continued stories, check out my page!