The Queen & the Axe
The axe maiden chopped cleanly through each log, pausing only long enough to add its successor. When the tell-tale royal perfume began to dance in the air, she raised her weapon high and cast it through the last log— and the chopping block— in a single, mighty blow. Turning around, the maiden bowed her head in respect.
The queen’s attendants giggled in appreciation of the show of strength. The queen, though equally impressed, maintained her carefully neutral expression. The mantle of royalty demands composure and privacy.
“Your presence was missed at our court in preparation for the tournament.”
“Ah, so you missed me then?” the axe maiden crashed, loudly and with a villainous grin. The royal nostrils flared at the impudent suggestion and the attending courtiers gasped. The warrior knew she had gone too far. Dropping to one knee and lowering her head in supplication, she apologized. “Forgive me, Sunshine of the Realm. The day’s work weakens my brain as it strengthens my muscles.” Scandalously, given her tongue slip, the axe maiden flexed. The courtiers were a raft of giggles and at this and even the queen could not deny herself a rare public smile. The sovereign offered her left hand. Forgiveness. The mighty warrior took the hand and kissed it gently, once, twice, three times.
“You desire me to come?” the warrior whispered, low enough that only the queen would hear.
“I do,” the queen replied with a voice as soft as a flower. She caressed the maiden’s lips as they again kissed the royal left hand, a finger’s movement, just enough to signal, not enough to be seen by the retinue.
The day of the tournament saw the axe maiden clad in an armor so ferociously designed that her first opponent half-jokingly requested to be shuffled to the back of the queue. He was defeated quickly and sent to the healer’s tent, as was the next and the next, all the way through the line.
“My queen!” exclaimed one of the royal attendants observing the monarch’s left hand, wrapped in silks and trembling slightly, “Your left hand! Is it wounded? Shall I fetch a healer?”
In the arena, the axe maiden raised her weapon over her head, cocked her head back, and bellowed a challenge so loud and fierce that the demons of the underworld began digging deeper holes lest they encounter such an ungodly monster.
The sovereign’s gaze did not leave her champion, powerful but a commoner, as she prowled the arena. “It is a spirit wound,” the queen’s words were thick with the pleasures of memory and anticipation, drawn out slowly and guarded. “It will heal upon its own time.”
The axe maiden won the tournament in single rounds, ending a day’s sport much too quickly for the crowd’s taste. To appease, pairs and then increasingly larger groups of fallen competitors teamed up to test their combined strength against the unmatched fighter.