Read part 1.
Much time had filtered by. Although quite weakened, the Queen of Hearts stayed alive (“For my people,” she sighed, “always for my people”), and with her presence still within the walls of the Land of Gold, not even the Queen of Clubs dared yet invade. She must wait with patience still, and she did so fairly well, for one so wicked as her (she sent Shadowlings out to wreak havoc elsewhere to tide her over), and patient she could be for she knew that a broken heart could only last so long. The Queen of Diamonds though, did not weather this time quite so well. She showed herself to be in such a panic; she claimed to all who would listen – and all did listen to her, for she was their trusted queen – that since the other Light Queen did not fall, it would be her the Dark Queens would come after next, and what could she, so meek and mild, do to defend herself against them?
And it would seem that she was right, for not long after she’d said this to all her subjects, who spread her worries fast across all the lands, an action of war did indeed get thrust upon her. The Queen of Diamonds, known as she was to spend most of her time in her Hall of Mirrors, was soon made victim of a great explosion there. Glass shattered, the whole place shook, and wild screams ensued as the Steklos saw their precious queen lying in tatters in that once so noble room, the blood reflected one thousand times over in the smashed remains of the mirrors, a gruesome scene to all. Their queen was hardly even their queen anymore, for her face was shredded beyond recognition, her body a mangled heap of bone and innards. Oh, how she would cry at seeing herself looking as this.
The Steklos begged the Babochkas to plead to the Queen of Hearts, to please, please come save their queen, for if anyone could heal wounds such as these, it was that kind and gracious queen. The broken hearted queen, blessed little thing, responded that she would come and do all that she could.
The Queen of Hearts did come, so slow-moving was she, so pale now, so scalded by her own tears that she was barely even recognizable anymore, that the Steklos tried to hide their glass bodies away so as not to frighten her with her own reflection. From a palace tower there came a loud cawing of a black raven. Its beady eyes watched the sickly queen’s procession. It flew to the window of the room the heart-broken queen was now entering. Dark shadows, too, were beginning to dot the outskirts of the glasslands.
The Queen of Hearts knelt at the bedside of the Diamond Queen. She placed her pale hands on the bloodied hands of her friend. She bid that they be left alone, so she could better concentrate on healing.
“You poor, poor thing,” wept the broken hearted queen. “Had I but died, this would never have had to happen.”
“No, it certainly would not have,” came a snarling voice from behind the frail queen. She turned around and gasped. There, standing before her, was that good and dainty Queen of Diamonds! Except, she did not look so good and dainty now. She smoothed her already smoothed hair, examining her perfect, undamaged face in the mirror that sat atop the bureau, then turned back and glared at the shocked Queen of Hearts. “If you had only died like you were supposed to, I wouldn’t have had to resort to this!” She swept out her hand, pointing to the bleeding torn up body lying on the bed.
“I don’t understand!” the heart-broken queen stammered. “What have you done?”
“You don’t deserve what you have! I should be the most beautiful, the most powerful, I should be the one with true love, me! I am the Diamond Queen, yet you have the Land of Gold! I am the shining queen, yet it is you who they call most beautiful! I couldn’t stand it anymore!”
The Queen of Hearts looked at her once-friend in horror. “But why? Why all this? You already had everything. What more could you want?”
“No, not everything,” the shining queen replied, her voice as dark as the night. She took a few paces across the room. When she next spoke, it was with a menacing quiet. “I, who have never known what it feels to be loved by another, knows not the pain of lost love. Tell me, does it hurt? I see from the tear burns running down your face that it must. Pitty. And you used to be so pretty.” She gazed at herself in the mirror. “Now it is I who shall be called the Beautiful One, the Glorious Queen.” She turned and smiled at the Queen of Hearts, who now lay hunched on the floor. The Diamond Queen began to laugh, turning once more to admire her glittering reflection.
Outside, the Shadowlings were gaining ground, and the raven ruffled its wings.
The heart-broken queen slowly raised her eyes. “It was you,” she said. “You turned my love to stone.”
The Diamond Queen looked at her rival in the glass. “Yes. Yet you still had not the common decency to die. Well, no matter anymore. Don’t worry,” she sneered, “the people shall always see you as good, for you shall die now having saved me.” She laughed, pointing at the bloodied dummy. “And all your lands shall be mine, and I shall become the Queen of Gold and Glass, the most beloved of them all.”
From the folds of her dress she pulled a dagger and she advanced towards the sickly queen. This sickly queen did try to flee, but her frail body could only pull her several paces along the ground.
Just as the death-stroke was about to be plunged down, a large winged being swooped in front of the Queen of Diamonds, its wings flaring out and protecting the Queen of Hearts from the fatal blow.
The Diamond Queen staggered back. Slowly turning towards her was the Illusionist Queen herself! The shining queen dropped the dagger and withdrew in fear. The Queen of Spades stood tall, her body draped all in black. She was in human form, but an elegant mask decorated with raven feathers hid the upper half of her face.
She spoke. Her voice was as smooth as liquid, seeming to come from every direction at once. “You have not the right to take another’s life. Go now, leave this place forever, or let it be known to all that you are a false queen.”
The Queen of Diamonds, a natural coward, shook and stammered, backing away and bowing with every step. “Yes, of course, whatever you say!” She huddled in a corner.
The Illusionist Queen turned back to the Queen of Hearts, and took her gently by the arm, pulling her carefully to her feet. “We shall reverse the spell on Christopher, and mend your broken heart. Your people need you back, safe and whole once more.” The Queen of Hearts could do nothing more than weep fresh tears, but these did not burn her face for they were tears of joy. She hugged the Queen of Spades, in her honest and loving way.
While all this was happening within the tower, without there was much trouble. The Queen of Clubs had seized her chance, and had sent her Shadowlings out to plunder for new souls. They gathered many. Screams filled the air.
The Shadow Queen herself, unbeknownst to all the rest, was hiding in a corner of the tower. Slippery as a snake, she slithered slowly, sneaking through the shadows towards the dropped dagger. Her cold hands grasped the smooth handle, and she crept noiselessly up to the two befriended queens. With speed that struck like lightning the Dark Queen did slash the dagger down, plunging it deep within the heart. The Queen of Hearts screamed and looked out in horror. The dagger had landed, not in its intended victim, but in the chest of that sweet Raven Queen, who had pushed the Queen of Hearts out of the way at the last second.
The Queen of Clubs cackled, thinking she had won either way. The Raven Queen, staggering to the window and clutching at its sill, looked out at the destruction rampaging across the lands. She knew that their world was doomed, and that good had been defeated at last, for undoubtedly the death of the Queen of Hearts would soon follow her own. There was but one thing left for her to do. With her remaining strength, she summoned up the last of her powers, and threw out her magic strands from the tips of her withering fingers. These magic strands danced out and caught around each of the four queens’ bodies. The strands vibrated, emanating a great heat and a blinding glow. Two bundles glowed black and two bundles glowed red, and within those glowing bundles, our queens were each transformed.
Today, when you play a game of cards, there are four cards that lay in rank between the jack and the king – the Queen of Hearts, the Queen of Diamonds, the Queen of Spades, and the Queen of Clubs. Now you know their stories, now you know how they came to be.