Queen Mary's Return

Prince Philip started this morning with a smile. Yesterday he had ascended to the throne of The Royal Family crew through right of assassination. He stabbed Queen Mary in the back and watched her bleed out as he placed the crown on his own head. Little tragedies like this happen every day in the alleys far from the ghost-lit affluence of respectable society.

True, Mary had been fair and generous during her reign, but lately she kept half of the crew in the dark, Philip among them. Rumor had it she was planning a few high-risk jobs to thin the ranks of the Family. Philip would be damned if he’d play the fall guy for someone else's unchecked ambition.

Besides, Mary’s fake brogue annoyed the hell out of him.

So the sun rose, and Philip turned his mind to thoughts of funerals and coronation ceremonies. But now the hideout feels tense, and he checks the shared stash to make sure nobody made off with the Family’s wealth, or worse yet, thinks that the Regency should change hands again so soon.

He locks the safe and turns to head back to the hideout’s conference room. A muscular blonde woman clad with scraps of armour and festooned with sheathed blades blocks the door to the conference room. Philip puts on his winning smile.

“Constance!” he beams. “I wanted to talk to you. Thank you for saving me a trip.” Constance could win any contest of strength in The Royal Family hands down, and she was no slouch with a blade either. Philip assumes she would be on his side, as she was cut out of Mary’s inner circle.

Constance nods, and gestures at the desk behind Philip. He turns to take the comfy chair behind the desk, but before he can take a step a stabbing pain between his shoulder blades lifts him like a sadistic lesson in posture.

“Hullo, luv. T’think ‘twas only yesterday we met the same way with roles reversed, neh?”

Philip blanches. “Mary? How the hell – Ah!” The blade in his back twists and lifts him off the floor.

“Now, now, hush yerself, luv. We need a chat, you ‘n me.”

“You’re dead!” Philip manages to sound outraged through the pain.

“’Twas a bit of a setback, ‘tis true. But there’s so much more at stake here, luv.”

Philip cranes his neck and catches a glimpse of blonde hair close behind him. He and Constance are alone in the office. He manages a cynical chuckle. “Heh. So skinwalkers actually exist.”

“O’course we do, luv. Now mind yer tongue while we decide what’s to be done wit ye.” Constance’s right hand cups her chin in a characteristically Mary way. “I s’pose I could let ye live if ye swear fealty to us?”

Philip nods, “I swear it, Mary.”

“Then again, y’did swear to me before ye stabbed me inna back. So that’s oot.” Mary/Constance strokes her chin in thought while holding Philip off the floor with the blade in her left hand. “Anythin' to say on yer behalf, luv?”

“You cut me out, Mary. All we want is a seat at the table.” He spits blood.

“Ye coulda come to me, luv! Am I nae beneficent?”

“Could’ve fooled me.”

She raises the dagger a hair. “Mind yer tongue afore m’temper runs too hot, boy.” Philip grimaces in pain. “We needed t’plan the big score, luv.”

“Big score? What’s that, diamonds?”

“Oh no, luv, you’ve gone wrongheaded. Spirits, luv. People wit money are mad for spirits, and a bold crew can have spirits t'sell. Now tell me ye wouldn’a laughed my face off had I tol’ ye.”

Philip laughs, “You’re serious?”

“Yer talkin’ to a spirit now, mind.”

“We would’ve laughed you out of the Family.”

“Tch. I know, luv.” Mary/Constance straightens up and sighs. “Yer a good lad, ‘til the end. I’ll miss ye, luv.” She wrenches the dagger up and left. Philip gives a startled grunt and then slumps. Constance drops the body to the floor, removes the blade, and automatically sets to cleaning it in her own style. Mary’s control seems to slacken a bit.

“Now, dear Constance. How’d ye like to keep sharin’ yerself so we can both be Queen, luv?”

Constance’s gravelly alto uses the same voicebox, “Or we could find you another body, Mary.” She points her blade to Philip’s crumpled form. “His might be easier.”

“Fer serious? Disgustin’! I’d sooner wear a dress o’ feral rats, luv! I may be dead, but I still have m’taste.”

“Just a thought, mum.” Constance flips the cleaned dagger and returns it to its sheath in a single smooth motion.

“Th'idea has merit, I’ll give ye that, luv. Let’s get the Seer in here after ye claim th’ crown. An’ he said ‘we’, so we’ve got some housecleanin’ t’do.”

“Right.” Constance smells the all-too-familiar metallic tang of blood and turns away from the body, pausing at the door. “It’s a pleasure to partner with you, mum.”

“Likewise, luv. The Royal Family welcomes Queen Constance! Long may she reign!”

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