The Queen’s Question

“This is grossly unfair.”

It is probably not possible for a magical mirror to sulk. The mirror achieved an impressive sulk with vocal tones alone.

“Nevertheless, Boris.”

“Once. I told you my name once and you never let it go!”

“I rescued you from the garbage bin my mother threw you in.”

“And you’ve used me ever since to spy on anyone who enters your rooms and through other mirrors for you.”

“I have. But magic has a price, and mirrors seven years of one. I am not a fool, Boris.”

“I never said you were, O Queen.”

I let that slide. Magic mirrors were old, some said they were older than mirrors. I had never asked what Boris had been before becoming a mirror. The chances were I’d never want to know. “Very well. Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?” I demanded.

“Gregor, the baker’s apprentice on Drury Lane.”

“The one who makes the famous muffins?”

“The same my lady.”

I walked out of my quarters. My mother had been directed to a girl who had never harmed anyone as being more fair than her. She’d had the girl killed, and died in the resulting revolution. There had been other reasons, and my mother had not been a good person. There are dwarves still in the prison – two left, I’ve been told – who had their tongues, eyes and teeth removed when Mother became queen.

I am the queen, of course, but the council has all the power. It will not last, this brief fancy. In time I will truly be Queen, or my daughter, or her daughter. One is not a monarch if one cannot see far. If my mother taught me anything, it is that power is the exercise of restraint. What the week do, the powerful do not. No one can hurt the queen with words, for a Queen is above such things. Not that those who slight me escape, but the principle is important.

Words are. To rule is to understand the power of words.

I walk the gardens. A few people bow. Many nod respectfully. It is not illegal to bow. I am just a voice on the Council, no more than any other. But everyone remembers that I am the Queen even if they say queen. Power is only a smart part of the crown. but many who held it did not understand that.

I laugh softly, and return to my quarters. “Mirror. Pray tell me: what did you mean by fairest?”

The mirror flashed white. For a moment I did not see my face at all in it. Then it spoke: “He is the fairest in the land at portioning out flour. He cheats no one.”

“And the girl my mother killed?”

“She was kind. The fairest and gentlest person in the kingdom.”

“How many queens have you killed, with these different definitions of fairest?”

“Several,” the mirror admitted.

I did not ask why. It was not important, the why of being a murderer, a monster. All that mattered was what one was, not what led to it. “Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest mirror in all the land?”

“Boris,” Boris said, and cracks spider-webbed along the mirror. He screamed them, called me names no one had dared. Some in languages I’d never heard of. I watched the mirror break apart, wondering how many years of bad luck Boris had now.

Afterwards, I swept the pieces up and burned them in the forge in the dungeons.  
One of the dwarves watched me, despite having no eyes. I had no idea if he was happy or not.

I did not ask.