Arthur felt the cool liquid pass his parched lips and slide down his throat like the ghost of a snake, before settling in his stomach heavily. The flavor of the Sapphire Wine tingled Arthur's lips and tongue like the best of peppermint, and yet was as creamy and sweet as the most expensive chocolate. Arthur set his sapphire studded goblet back down on the silver plate of the servant kneeling by his throne, before looking back up at the family that had been gathered before him. The servant scurried away across the marble floor of the throne to refill my goblet.
"Well, what is it? I haven't all the time in the world." Arthur said, boredly posing his arm out and allowing one of the servants to delicately slide the glove he had used to lift his goblet off the plate and replace it with another one. It would be unheard of for Arthur to have anything less than perfection. Nothing stained, nothing broken, everything perfect.
For Arthur was the Queen of Spades. A solitary queen that ruled a Kingdom that flourished under his sure guidance. However as effective a Queen as Arthur was, he was as cold as the winter and as cruel as the sword that rested next to his throne. It was rumored among the common folk that he green eyes, which were as unnerving as woods cast in darkness, could pierce through the soul of anyone who had approached him. Why, even Ivan, King of Clubs and possibly one of the most terrible and horrifying men in all of Cards would rather be in an alliance than meet Queen Arthur in battle.
People blamed the fact that their frightening Queen had never found his "pair", the King. In Cards, the one for which your clock ticked was your pair, and without them one could never know true happiness.
But today, whether Queen Arthur Kirkland knew it or not, that aspect of his life would be changed forever.
The man sitting in front of Queen Arthur was dressed in his best clothes, obviously for appearing in front of the Queen himself. He was bowing low, so low that tremors continued to pulsate up his legs.
"Your highness, I hail from the town of Solitarius in the Northern Portion of Spades, where Spades and Diamonds meet. Along our district a crop famine has broken out. My city, and our sister city Patienca are in a horrible state. Please, if it is in the Queen's good interest let something be done." The man said, his voice diluted with the accent of the north. To Arthur's observation even though he seemed to bow further, if he did anymore he would snap in half. However Arthur continued to inspect his glove, as if this conversation struck him with little interest.
"Northern Spades, bah. Frog blood leaks over our borders, polluting your accent. It's so disgusting it makes me want to gag." The Queen said sneering, "What are you to this town, Mr…."
"Let. Raul Let Jr. I am the town mayor's son. However, my father is old now and couldn't make the journey."
"Ah, I see Raul Let Sr. is your father. He is a good man who served under my army for the war against Hearts. I suppose I shall consider helping you, only if you give me something of equal importance to your precious town." The Queen said, looking at Raul, skewering him with his acid-like eyes. Raul looked up for a moment, before turning pale and turning his gaze back onto the floor.
"Yes! Anything you ask your Highness!" Raul said quickly.
Arthur beckoned to the servant with the silver plate and sapphire goblet, and retrieved his Sapphire Wine and sipped it as his thoughts twirled around in his skull. Arthur could always ask for Raul's wife, but then again having concubines was always a trouble as they ended up bludgeoning each other to death with perfectly good cooking tools. Gold and jewels were something he could gain of his own accord… he wanted something else. Something…bigger.
"My Queen, what is it your thinking about for compensation?" Arthur's loyal Jack, Yao said, leaning against Arthur's throne, his silk robes lightly tickling Arthur's skin. As Arthur's most trusted advisor, Arthur was certain he had many ideas, however with this sort of thing it was best for the Queen to decide on his own. Finally Arthur took a final mouthful of drink, and turned back to Raul.
"I shall consider an offer, and tonight you shall stay here in the palace. Please return to my throne room tomorrow two hours after dawn and we shall make arrangements." Arthur told Raul, who just bowed yet again with another thank you, before hurrying off after a servant. Arthur watched him leave before turning his gaze back to Yao, "What is next on my agenda for today?"
"Now you must meet with the Society of Merlin for some budget negotiations." Yao said, marking off something on a piece of parchment. Arthur just sighed and slumped slightly in his throne.
Today, to him, was just business as usual.
If there was something Arthur loved more than the stocks of Jewel wine in the cellar, or the thousands of sparkling jewels in his treasure room, or even the hallways decorated in his favorite tapestries that documented epic battles or gorgeous fables, it was his garden. The Queen's garden was one of the four wonders of Hoyle, an epic menagerie of all the flowers in Spades. And those flowers were painted to different colors of his liking by his many artists, all depending on his mood. This Eden was something that could be molded and sculpted to his vision, and was something he tried to perfect constantly.
At night, Arthur would often dawn a much more casual pair of trousers and tunic, and along with his robe (all made from the finest and softest of Spade silk and shot with silver mind you), and travel down the rows and mazes of flowers and simply admire them. Arthur was under the impression that no time was nicer to view his darling buds than when they were washed by the full moon. Sometimes he even indulged himself and took a spot of tea with him.
Today, his many servants had painted his roses blue and white. It was already getting on in fall, and even though the Queen had magicked his garden many hundreds of years ago against wilting, Arthur always did get a bit nervous when the time of season when beauty began to fade away arrived.
He gently grasped the flower of a white rose, running his fingers against the soft petals before gently lifting it to his nose to smell its lovely aroma. Arthur smiled to himself gently; this was heaven on Hoyle for an unnatural creature such as himself. The role-holders of Spades had been in charge ever since the peoples had organized into the kingdoms. They had probably all been humans at one point, as they could still have pairs and their clocks still ticked, but they all had unnaturally long lives.
But Arthur's pair had never come for him.
Pain immediately shot through his chest at the thought. As if to keep from hurting himself any longer on the inside, Arthur gently ghosted his fingers over the blue and white petals before he pressed a hand to his unmoving clock in his chest. However besides that sudden flare of pain the Queen's chest was numb, as the rest of his body, as it constructed an unfeeling prison around his clock.
Long ago, at the beginning of his reign, the Queen had desperately searched for his other half. Arthur had waited and waited and waited, but he or she never came for Arthur. And that was when Arthur had realized that it wasn't as if the King couldn't find Arthur, it was that no pair existed for Arthur. There was obviously something inherently wrong with him. No one would ever love him. No one would ever treasure his clock.
Arthur would be alone forever.
The finality of that realization had tore the Queen's mind apart. He had needed to fill the void in his soul desperately, so the Queen filled it with inanimate things such as the most delectable delicacies, drink, land, power, and jewels. He offered his clock and soul to his most precious treasures and his garden as they wouldn't torment him any longer as many humans did. Humans were unsafe. No one was safe.
So many years passed, and then the loneliness turned to happiness. It was good to be alone, Arthur had reassured himself; it was certainly a pain to deal with others. And if my pair exists, don't they deserve so much better? It's good if I no longer search. My love, my darling King, I would do anything to keep you from suffering. So don't find me. Stay away…please…stay away…
Besides, who would want a broken Queen?
Arthur continued to gaze upon his flowers with the same tenderness shared as when a mother looked at her child. The Queen skirted his fingers up the stems, before trailing them over their thorns. He didn't care how the prickers dug into his skin and caused his blood to spill over, coloring his own pale skin red. External pain didn't even bother the Queen any longer.
"Good morrow! I could understand why a heavenly creature would visit the royal gardens, however I am surprised to see one in the flesh!" A loud and merry voice startled the blessed quiet, as well as the Queen who visibly jumped clutched the flower harder in his hand, and tore it off the bush. Arthur wheeled around to see a tall, broad man-no teen. Arthur gritted his teeth in complete indignation as he dropped the bloodstained stem upon the lawn.
"I hope you know you're speaking to the Queen of Spades, commoner! You could be beheaded for such an offense on my person!" Arthur hissed, however the teen continued to laugh, his large smile catching the moonlight and flashing in the night. As he came more into view, though his face still cast in shadow Arthur caught a glimpse of blue eyes, the color of the most expensive sapphires in Spades, which sparkled with joy and laughter and were reminiscent of everything good in this world.
"Of course, your highness. You could do whatever you'd wish to me, for I am nothing but a simple gardener." The young man stated simply, as if he wasn't speaking of the oncoming death he might be receiving.
"And what makes you think I won't?" The Queen said, rather shaken. How was this teen not afraid of him? Arthur was certain he was acting downright terrifying, as he did to most commoners. What an infuriating person!
"Nothing in particular makes me think so, however someone who is so kind to flowers must be a kind and gentle person. Or at least, that is what my mother used to tell me." The gardener explained lightly as he bent down and began to water the roses. Arthur continued to quietly seethe for a few moments before turning on his heel.
"I am leaving." The Queen announced and began to walk away, as if trying to egg some sort of reaction. When it seemed like his attempts were useless he began to stomp away.
"Would you allow me to bind your fingers first?" The gardener called after Arthur, who immediately stopped and stared at his still bleeding fingers for a few moments before offering his hand out.
"If that is what you desire, commoner." Arthur snorted, still glaring at the teen before looking away. To his surprise, warm callused fingers gently washed his scraps before bandaging his wounds. But it wasn't really the warm, tanned fingers, or the large hands that held Arthur's attention. But rather, it was the expression in those eyes that shone in the moonlight, they were filled to the brim with the same sweetness of the sky in the summer. Under the gaze of those eyes, eyes that looked on him on the same level as any commoner, the Queen felt like he would melt.
As soon as the gardener was done, he gave a much more reserved smile.
"Be sure to visit a healer, your highness. You wouldn't wish for infection." He warned Arthur, like he was speaking to a child. Arthur jerked his hand away and began to stalk away, feeling as though steam was whistling from his ears. He didn't spare the gardener another look.
And Arthur was certain that would be the end of that.
Arthur really couldn't believe what he was doing.
He just needed to know the gardener's name, the Queen reassured himself, just his name so he could issue the proper punishment. And then he would never have to seek out the strange teen ever again.
When he arrived to the Royal Groundskeeper's headquarters' in the building at the furthest edge of the garden, of course he received the same treatment as he always did. All of the gardeners and outdoor workers immediately stopped what they were doing bowed to him, as well as asked him how he was doing, as well as wishing him a good day.
"My most gracious Queen, what is it that you have decided to grace us with today?" Dou Dizhu, the head Groundkeeper asked Arthur, bowing lowly. Dou was from the most eastern province of Spades, Chinos, and was a longtime friend of Arthur's Jack Yao.
"I came into contact with a rather rude gardener about midnight last night. I would like to know the name of said gardener and be sure that he receives the correct punishment." Arthur said calmly, though giving Dou an even stare that caused the Groundkeeper to desperately flip through his log.
"Midnight, midnight, midnight. Does anyone know who was working at midnight?" Dou asked panicked.
"I know." An old woman said, walking over with the help of her cane. Arthur turned his gaze to her.
"Who was it?"
"I am Maria Black, your highness. I am the oldest employee of the gardening staff, and I mostly help nowadays with the watering. One of the newest employees, a strong young man offered to take my place last night." Maria said, in the accent of someone from the Queen's home province, Albion. With that knowledge, the Queen's gaze softened by a large margin.
"I can understand all of that, but who was it?"
"I shall not give it away, your highness. You could ask anyone in the castle, my lord, but that young man is nothing but a warm and gentle soul. Please allow me to take his punishment in his stead." Maria said with a curtsy. Arthur heaved a quiet sigh.
"Fine, Dou. Reduce her pay. Nothing less than four golds." Arthur ordered before turning around, not bothering to look at either of them or anyone as he walked out of the building.
For the whole day the Queen thought nothing but of the gardener, and was amazed about just how much the simple fact that he didn't know who the gardener was bothering him. Maybe it was just the fact that he had looked at him levelly, without shunning him, or maybe that he had been so kind, too kind. Or maybe it was just because of those beautiful blue eyes, those summer gems, that he desperately craved to possess. In any case, it was driving him crazy.
"Arthur, I think we need to speak about something." Yao said, pulling Arthur aside and out of his thoughts, and into his study, after another one of their seemingly endless meetings.
"What is it, Yao?"
"I've been thinking that it would be best to enter an alliance with the Diamonds." Yao said seriously, however Arthur just tiredly waved him off.
"We're already in alliance with the frog, if you haven't forgotten."
"I'm not talking about just an alliance. The other advisors and myself have been thinking, and we believe that it would be in our best interest if you married King Francis of Diamonds. The commoners are nervous about the instability of a monarchy without a King. If you married Francis, just politically, then we can reassure the commonfolk of the power of Spades." Yao explained slowly, as if he was talking to a child. Arthur, in his surprise felt his jaw open, though when he had nothing to say he simply closed it once more.
There was nothing he could say to that. There was truly no reason why he couldn't be married to the King of Diamonds, no matter how disgusting and disease ridden Francis was. They had known each other since childhood, and he could deal with Arthur better than others.
There was nothing wrong with it. Absolutely nothing. Arthur knew that on an intellectual level, but just the thought made Arthur's chest constrict with pain. Everyone had finally given up hope for him, and everyone knew his deepest darkest secret. No King would ever come for Arthur. It was useless to hope, or to dream of the loving embrace of his pair.
It was useless, so Arthur needed to move on and choose what was best for his people. The knowledge that could crush a smaller man wouldn't crush Arthur. This was his fate, his destiny.
"I need to think on it for a bit." Arthur conceded quietly.
"Of course, I am not rushing you. This is a very important decision." Yao said backing off slightly, Arthur looked at him for another long moment.
"What did it feel like, when you found your pair?" The Queen asked, like he often asked Yao while making his way over to the closest window, looking out to his garden. But today, Yao decided to indulge him in an answer.
"I felt a warmth like no other, a completeness. Now I do not believe I could go on without Ivan." Yao said simply, talking about his pair, Ivan the King of Clubs.
"Am I without hope, Yao?" Arthur said him, as emotionlessly as always.
"I do not think that is the case, Arthur."
"Then what do you believe it is?"
"I believe that your pair simply died before they could meet you, that happens on occasion. However I'm certain that they would've wanted the best for you, and for Spades." Yao answered, levelly. For a moment Arthur stood still, staring out the window to his garden, though he couldn't see it. Everything had just gone completely black.
Yes, Arthur thought, that made perfect sense. His pair, his one true love, was simply dead. He was beyond his reach. And no matter how much Arthur longed for the sweet release of death to unite them, it would never happen.
"For Spades, I would do anything."
"I know Arthur." Yao said, gently clamping a hand on his shoulder.
"For Spades I would…oh, I would…" Arthur continued to say feeling his eyes stinging, and his throat clog up with his emotion. Yao knew of this distress, as Arthur would only show it in front of him and gently resumed his role of an elder brother and advisor.
"Shhh, my Queen. This is what the King what have wanted, he would've wanted to know that his kingdom was safe and thriving." Yao comforted Arthur, in the only way he knew would calm the young man down. Arthur however seemed too far away to hear him. For a moment Yao seemed to consider repeating his sentence before Arthur suddenly spoke again,
"What the King would've wanted…" He echoed emptily, "Yao, do you think the King would've loved me?"
"He most certainly would have, Arthur." Yao answered, rubbing his shoulder.
"I love him, Yao. I never even met him, but I love him so. I've been true to my King, Yao. I never looked at another, nor have I dreamed of being with another. Just my King, Yao, only him." Arthur admitted, feeling his tears finally spilling over his lids and onto his cheeks.
"I know you have, Arthur. But you must move on. There is nothing to gain from waiting for him any longer." Yao said calmly, allowing Arthur some room as he began to compose himself once more, reconstructing his icy façade as he wiped his tears away, leaving dullness in it's place.
"I know…I understand…just let me be for a while." Arthur whispered, leaving the study.
"Have a goodnight, milord." Yao called after him, not hiding his own flinch as the Queen slammed the door behind him close.
YAY! This happens to be my second two shot. The first one being "Arthur". Have I every let anyone know how much I love Cardtalia? No? Well I do with a burning passion. This is also my first serious attempt at writing in third person (first person is more of my forte but third defiantly has it's perks), and its defiantly good practice. Please give me advice and help me make it better!
I hope everyone enjoyed the first chapter! Oh and can anyone guess what I did to name all of the non-Hetalia characters? Guess and you get cookies! Please review/fav/alert/PM me to let me know you care!
Until next chapter! Green out! ~OMGitsgreen