rae    Tracing a long, red-tipped fingernail along the rim of her champagne glass, Victoria observed the room like a cat watching a field full of sparrows. The lights were low and round tables clothed in white were decked out with sparkling silverware. Men in three piece suits wooed women in slinky evening gowns. A stage at the front of the room held a four-man band and a tall ruler-thin woman singing sultry love songs and trying to pretend she had curves. The glamour in the room was overwhelming but Lady Victoria knew she was outshining them all. She had killed three men to design this new body she was showcasing.

“You look ravishing.” Her second in command whispered to her from across the table. Today he was sporting the disguise of a college professor. Red hair poked out in all directions from his head and his glasses lay crooked on his nose. Despite the disheveled appearance his brown suit was tailored and his purple tie was clipped together with a gold pin designed to look like a feather. Propped up against the table his wizard staff was disguised as a walking cane.

“You’re sexy yourself, doll. You should look like this all time.” She winked at him as she played with her curly black tresses.

“I’m too young for you.” He grinned boyishly.

“Not today, Jayne.” Her eyes narrowed.

“The only thing I have going for me is my age. Don’t discount that I’m only 345 years old while you’re nearing…”

She put a finger to her crimson lips to hush him. They were only going to be in WWII era England for 10 more minutes. Their window for action was limited. The crooning singer held out the final note to “I Won’t Be Your Side Lady No More” and the crowd clapped enthusiastically. She ducked down slightly and waved. Her lip poked out in a pout as she blew kisses to her adoring fans and left the stage.

Victoria eyed the man near the front of the stage. His belly was large and his cufflinks were made with 14 karat gold and rubies. She had an eye for pretty things and these pretty things happened to be exactly what she needed. The man stood to walk to the bar and she signaled Jayne to begin his part of the plan.

“Could I have everybody’s attention?” Jayne climbed up onto the stage and leaned into the microphone. “I am a mere college professor at Cambridge but I have always wanted to be a singer…”

With that, Victoria stood from her seat and swept over to the bar. “Mr. Burkhardt?”

The man looked up from his Brandy and said, “I am he.”

“I was told I should talk to you about jobs in the area.”

“What’s a pretty woman like you needing a job? Finding a desperate man would be far easier.” He laughed a loud belly laugh that almost could be heard over Jayne’s horrible singing. No matter his wizard magic he never seemed to make time to fix his singing.

“You didn’t let me finish, sweetie.” She touched his sleeve and briefly ran a finger over the cufflink. “My brother is looking for work.”

“I see.” He chuckled and took another sip of Brandy. “Would you be gracious enough to hang on my arm for a dinner or two? I have some business to conduct and I need a…sophisticated woman like yourself to convince my buyers that I am a real gentleman with honest business aspirations.”

“So, you’re not an honest man?”

“That’s what my wife says.”

Time was running out and Victoria could see that this conversation wasn’t going anywhere fast. She spoke a few choice words under her breath and waved her hand over the man’s heart. A look of shock crossed his face and all the blood drained from his skin. The Brandy glass dropped from his hand and he began convulsing. She took the cufflinks from his sleeves and slipped them down the front of her dress. She gave Jayne a knowing look and slipped out the front door.

Jayne could be heard awkwardly finishing his song. When he was done the crowd applauded politely as he hobbled off the stage with his cane. He met up with his master outside and they joined hands. The pair were swept up in a whirl of color and returned to the year 3072 on the planet Arlister. They were now in her castle in the same spot that they had left.

Victoria stood in front of her full length mirror and ran her hands along her new curves. “I love me. I think I’ll stay like this for another century.”

“I’m going back to being myself, my lady.” Jayne’s cane grew into a 6 foot tall gnarled staff, his suit lengthened to a long brown robe, and his hair disappeared entirely leaving behind a perfectly round bald head, sharp nose, and sky blue eyes. He still remained tall and lanky but much older looking.

“Awww…” She crooned. “Homely again.”

“Thanks.” He said, saracstically.

“I must go see.” She said abruptly. By “see” she meant look into the future. She was born with the gift of sight but it had to be assisted by use of a crystal ball. She made her way down to her private chambers and out into her enclosed sun room. Outside the room were beds of roses and high stone walls.

She put her hands on the smooth glass of the smoky orb. She never would admit it to a soul but fear gathered in her heart whenever she had an opportunity to see. As she looked, familiar images flashed through her mind. She saw a tall, imposing building with bars on every window. The thorns on roses. A man she wanted to forget. A girl with golden hair dying.

Victoria let go of the orb shrieking. Things still weren’t changed.

“Jayne!!” Her wrath fueled her steps as she marched back into the castle where Jayne was settled in a chair reading old wizard scrolls. With a strength that wasn’t her own she grabbed him by the neck and flung him on the floor. “You snake! Things haven’t changed.”

“We haven’t built anything yet, your majesty.” He stammered. “Until it’s built the future won’t be accurate.”

“How can I know that for sure?”

“Trust me!” Jayne said desperately.

“Why can’t we build it now?”

“The moon must be full.”

“Mother, what’s wrong?” In the doorway stood the girl with golden hair. Her eyes were bright unlike in the vision. Even so she still was very thin.

“Dearest.” Victoria left her second command lying on the floor to cup her daughter’s face in her new hands.

“Is this a new look?” Her daughter asked cheerfully. “You’re beautiful”

“I’m trying out something new.” She said forcing a smile. Her daughter looked exactly like she had in earlier years. That was some 600 years ago.

“Nice. Is Jayne okay?” She asked looking at the disgruntled wizard.

“He’s fine. We’re just talking.”

“Oh, good. Well, I’ll go back downstairs. I still have lessons but I heard your voice and wanted to see you.” She hugged her mother and then skipped downstairs.

Queen Victoria turned on Jayne and snapped, “How can we keep her contained that night?”

“We have the cage.”

“Jayne, this better work.” She wasn’t worried about others getting hurt but if anybody hurt her Rae they would be killed.

***

The next day she spent most of her time lounging on her throne, demanding that Jayne entertain her, sharing meals with her daughter, and pranking the tutor. The mother daughter pair hid behind the library door poised and ready with a bucket of water balloons. For a time Victoria felt young and innocent again. Nothing could compare to the feeling of being a woman with no baggage or no concern for maintaining her powerful image. For a time she was simply a mother having fun with her daughter.

“He’s coming.” Rae giggled.

As the tutor rounded the corner the two sprung into action and assaulted him with water balloons.

“This is why you’re failing math.” The tutor said dryly as his removed his glasses for cleaning.

“This is why you’re failing fun!” Rae shot back. Suddenly, the girl’s face shifted from jovial to afraid. Her eyes swam with the beginning of tears.

“You feel sorry now don’t you?” The tutor said smugly.

“Leave, Gus.” The Queen commanded.

“Of course, your majesty.”

When Gus was out of sight, she demanded, “What is it?”

“I thought of something. It was like a dream or a nightmare.”

Victoria felt her heart fall. “What was it?”

“I saw daddy.” She whispered. “Then I saw you…but a wolf had killed you.” A sob escaped her throat and she collapsed into her mother’s arms. “Why did I think that?”

Victoria didn’t speak at first. She was almost sure her daughter had inherited the sight and it made her wonder if time travelling would be possible too. It was obvious she was more like her father but this new development made things a whole lot more complicated.

“Shh…” She held her daughter close. “I’m not going anywhere.” Rae cried for awhile as her mother rocked her back and forth. When she had cried her heart out she allowed her mother to lead her to her room to rest. Victoria handed her daughter a bright red pill. “This will calm you down, sweetie.”

The girl took the pill obediently and lay in bed. She closed her eyes and very soon she was asleep. It would be nighttime soon and she would have to be contained. When Victoria was sure Rae was asleep, the Queen lifted her out of the bed and carried her downstairs where the cage was located. Inside the cage was an old ragged mattress and nothing else. The girl was placed delicately on it like it was made of silk and locked in.

“You ready, Your Majesty?” Jayne asked somberly.

“You start. I have to attend to something.” Her eyes grew dark and she was gone in whirlwind.

She appeared in front of a tall, imposing building with bars on every window. The sun was setting. She would have to act quickly. Her steps were slow and deliberate with her gaze trained on the door. The guards asked no questions as she entered the prison. They were familiar with Her Majesty.

She knew the prison cell as well as she knew her own bedroom. The man inside it was curled on a mattress in the corner. His hair unkempt and lying in black tangled mess down his back. His face was just as scraggly, facial hair nearly concealing sea blue eyes. He was very thin but had surprisingly muscular arms. His clothes were in strips barely hanging on his body but when he saw the Queen he straightened up and attempted to make himself presentable.

“Vickie, sweetheart.” He said in a husky whisper. “Is that you? You look beautiful.”

“Cut the crap. I will murder you.”

“Better make it quick. My time is coming.”

“I’m not afraid of you, Gray.”

“Of course not, Ms. Queen of this world.”

“You will treat me with respect.” She hissed.

“I can be a ruddy beast. I’m sorry.” He scratched his head.

“That’s an understatement with all the people you’ve killed.”

“I’m sure you’ve killed more.”

She smiled mischievously. “I killed three men to look like this.”

“Oh, of course. I admire you for your lack of remorse, love.” He winked at her.

“You know how to make a woman feel sexy.” She twirled her hair.

“Is that why you’re here? You’ve killed all your admirers and now you don’t have enough compliments to sustain you?” Gray prowled around the back of the cell as if protecting his small patch of territory.

“No, it’s your daughter.”

Gray’s eyes narrowed and he crossed his arms. “My daughter is it now? Your daughter you mean. You won’t let me see her.”

“You know why. You’re dangerous.”

“So, is she.” He grinned revealing his pearly white teeth. His canines were and entire quarter of an inch longer than any of his other teeth and it made him look menacing. “And you, m’dear.”

“She has the sight.”

“Well, congratulations!”

“She had a vision with you in it. You murdered me.” Queen Victoria moved in close and peered into her ex-husband’s face. More lines had formed at the corner of his eyes since the last time she had really looked at him. His expression was unfathomable. “I won’t let you. I lived for centuries perfectly happy until meeting you. I will outlive you.”

“You love me.” He stared at her lips for a second and then looked into her eyes.

“No kisses, you hobo.”

“Our little Rae of sunshine wouldn’t have been born without me.”

“That’s the only thing you’ve been good for.” She snapped.

The light had gone now leaving only the lantern near the prison cell door. Outside the moon rose bright and full in the night sky.

“You waited too long.” He growled. A shudder rippled through his whole body and he bent down on all fours. The transformation began at his feet as they ripped out of his threadbare shoes. The hair on his head seemed to extend down the length of his body and his clothes fell to the floor in a heap. Gray’s body stretched and widened until the wolf inside manifested itself on the outside. The only thing that remained was his eyes which looked at Queen Victoria hungrily.

“You look better as a wolf.” Victoria muttered.

She backed away from the dangerous creature and pulled a revolver from a holster around her thigh. She had one silver bullets inside. The werewolf continued to growl and never took its eyes off her. It paced back and forth, his huge claws clicking on the concrete.

It leapt at her and the shot rang out. Before it could reach her the bullet penetrated the creature’s heart and it lay on the floor motionless. Victoria never gave him a second look as she left in the whirlwind. She was back in the room with the cage. It was much darker now. The cage was empty and Jayne was gone.

“Where is sheeeeee?!” The Queen screamed.

Her cries were answered with howling. She followed the sounds to the upstairs entrance hall. Guards lay strewn about on the floor bleeding out. This didn’t concern her though. She had to find her daughter. Jayne would regret letting Rae escape.

“Your majesty.” Jayne appeared. “Rae is outside roaming the village.”

“She’s not safe, you idiot!” She smacked him and it echoed around the hall like a gun shot. “You were supposed to be making the devince to cure her. We don’t have much longer!”

The wizard rubbed his face in disbelief and stood. He pulled from his pocket what looked like a pistol with a pencil thin barrel. Surrounding the barrel were the cufflinks melted down into gem studded rings. Circling the handle was a clear empty tube.

“I just have to fill this with mercury.” Jayne said as he rushed down the stairs.

Victoria followed. As much as she trusted him this was her daughter and alchemy was her specialty. She zeroed in on him in the laboratory and ripped the device from his hands. He looked aghast but she didn’t care. When the tube was filled with mercury she waved her hands over the device.

“Magic within, Tame the wolf. Magic within, Stay the beast. When the moon is full, Keep the peace. Put it to rest, For all eternity. Magic, Make the curse cease.” The pistol glowed and warmed briefly then cooled.

The Queen gathered her courage and strode up the stairs, through the entrance hall, and outside as Jayne followed behind. Screams rang out in the village below and she could hear the familiar howls of her daughter. The moon looked close enough to touch as it lit up the night sky. She used to love the moon and all its majesty but that was before it became the cause of all her pain.

In the middle of the village square, in the softly splashing fountain, was a thin gray wolf. Her jowls dripped with innocent blood and her eyes flashed red. A growl started deep in her belly as she eyed the queen like a stranger. Victoria raised the pistol with a steady right hand and aimed for the wolf’s heart. The shot sounded like the wind whistling through a cavern as it soared towards her daughter. It hit its mark and the wolf figure collapsed into the water.

The Queen and Jayne approached the fountain. The hair shrunk until it disappeared entirely. The claws receded and the snout faded into the familiar button nose. Besides this quality, the rest of her daughter was noticeably changed. In front of the queen was an aging woman in tattered clothes. It was still her Rae but without the immortal werewolf inside, her true age showed itself on the outside.

Victoria picked her up and said to Jayne, “I’m thinking we should go back and kill King Henry VIII. We need to get my daughter a new body.”

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