There have always been tales of kings and queens, but perhaps the most harrowing is that of Queen Avarice, who ruled the kingdom of Dyre. Avarice was always an extravagant woman, and possessed a lavish taste in fashion, parties, and decor. Her dresses could only be woven with the finest silks, which nearly depleted the silkworm population. The furniture in the palace had to be produced with an unreasonable amount of cotton, whose crops made the fields of the kingdom infertile. Her hair was always embedded with the most coruscated crystals, forcing many of the already-lowly peasants to become miners. And the parties- oh, the parties! Despite their flamboyance, the parties of Queen Avarice were staggeringly alluring. The chandeliers were adorned with clear, voluminous diamonds, the curtains were weaved with linen, and only nobility from other kingdoms could attend.
The sumptuosity of the queen, however, did come at great expense of the people. The residents of Dyre were impoverished. The fields were barren, so many of the people were starving. Resources were very scarce, and consequently, many of the smaller animals had vanished. Yet, even in spite of her ignorance, Queen Avarice remained in power. Who could ever dare to defy the queen?
Perhaps even more interesting than Avarice’s overindulgent preferences was her rise into power. Avarice’s sister, Elara, was the original queen of Dyre. Elara and Avarice were daughters of wealthy nobles, until Elara wed the prince of Dyre, Aegeus, bringing her family into the monarchy. King Aegeus and Queen Elara were well-liked by the kingdom. Under their reign, Dyre had flourished. When it was announced that Elara was carrying a child, the kingdom was delighted. Alas, Elara died in childbirth. She had, however, given birth to a boy- Lupus.
Because of Elara’s passing, Avarice ascended throne. She was wed to Aegeus in place of her sister, though they would not have any children. She also became a stepmother to Prince Lupus, who would not become king until both Avarice and Aegeus reached their deaths.
Avarice’s rise into power had resulted in her preoccupation with luxury and elegance. She had also adopted a sense of entitlement. From this entitlement grew a compulsion to stay in power. Queen Avarice became increasingly paranoid that her stepson, Lupus, would overthrow her. She did not want her reign to end prematurely.
Maybe if I rid myself of the child before he becomes clever enough, Avarice thought, than maybe I can rid myself of this uncertainty as well.
One night, after Aegeus had fallen asleep, Avarice snuck into a dimly lit hallway near the throne room. One of her most trusted guards was already waiting for her. Although the hallway was dark, light from the full moon illuminated the silhouettes of Queen Avarice and her guard.
¨I need a favor,¨ she said urgently, ¨My stepson, Lupus. He is… a liability. I need to get rid of him, but I need your help. Take him to the Dyre Forest. Do whatever you must. Feed him to the wolves, for all I care.¨
¨Of course, your majesty,¨ The guard replied without question.
Avarice sauntered away, her eyes gleaming with satisfaction, and her hair with crystals.
Years after Lupus´s death, Avarice decided she was going to throw a banquet. This banquet wasn't going to be anything like her previous banquets, however. This celebration was going to be in honor of herself, so it was going to be the most grandiose that her guests had ever seen. At the center of attention was going to be her.
In preparation for this event, she decided that she needed a crown. Not just any crown, though. This crown was to be made from the antlers of the largest stag in the kingdom. An announcement was posted throughout the kingdom that whomever could catch the largest stag would receive entry to the Queen’s banquet. Every village in Dyre became a frenzy. People were racing for any weapon or hunting tool that they could find. Entry to the Queen’s banquet meant food, something that was now scarce among Dyre’s residents.
The hysteria over the stags had proven successful, at least for the queen. Thousands of hunters with their fresh kills eagerly stood outside of the palace, only days after the notice had been placed, waiting for Avarice’s verdict.
Later that morning, Queen Avarice selected the largest stag, and awarded its hunter with an invitation to the banquet. She ordered that the rest of the deer be skinned- their fur used for palace blankets- while the meat was disposed of. A massive uproar struck the crowd. “Why is this food to be wasted?” The crowd yelled. “We’re starving, and can’t even eat the food that we worked for?” They shouted even louder.
She was about to return to the confines of the palace, when the shouting intensified. Avarice had to think quickly. What could she do to calm the crowd?
“Silence!” She shouted. “You rule under my kingdom. Now, when was the last time most of you paid your taxes? Are these deer not adequate payment for all of your debts?” The people in the crowd exchanged worried glances with each other. “Precisely,” Avarice continued, “I do recognize that you hunters have worked dutifully to kill these stags. So, I offer you a bargain. I need a centerpiece for my banquet, something big. Bring me the most vicious, malevolent, and ruthless creature in all of the kingdom, and leave it at the foot of my throne. There, I promise you will receive the greatest feast you could ever imagine, an even better feast than a simple deer.”
The crowd feverishly dispersed, each of the individual hunters to prepare yet again for another aimless pursuit. After everyone left, Avarice ordered for the deer meat to be disposed of in the palace dungeons.
A hulking gray wolf lingered at the edge of the Dyre Forest. It longed for the bitter taste of stag. Unfortunately, the stags of the forest had been hunted to near extinction. This provided no alleviation for the sharp pangs of hunger the large animal felt- it needed to eat.
Faintly, its nose picked up a pungent smell in the distance. The wolf lifted its massive head, and began to rush towards the source of the odor. As it moved closer and closer, the wolf grew more hungry. Finally, it had reached its destination. The wolf stood outside of a large, stone structure. In there, the wolf knew it would find its prey.
The gates of the palace had been left open due to the day’s previous events. The wolf ambled inside, following the acrid scent trail. Its nose took it through a narrow hallway, and then into a large, circular room. It was here that the odor was strongest.
Much to the wolf’s surprise, however, there was a strange stag sitting in the center of the circular room. It was female, yet it had large antlers. Strangest of all, it only had two legs instead of four.
The wolf was about to turn around, when its stomach twisted violently in hunger. Pained, the great beast let out a snarl. The strange stag-woman turned her head towards the animal, and her eyes filled with terror. In that instant, hunger possessed the wolf, and it lunged forward. The stag-woman didn’t even have time to scream.
When the wolf was finished with its feast, it stalked back towards the gates- snout stained and maw dripping. Left in its wake, lying dead at the foot of her own throne, was the most vicious, malevolent, and ruthless creature in all of the kingdom.