To read part one click here.
In short, I had everything I had ever wanted, but for one thing, one thing in which I couldn’t seem to get my way. I couldn’t get the image of Lord Vertigo out of my mind, and I desired no other man, no matter how many eligible suitors I had. Many nights I implored for his company; I sent him letters by dove, but to none of these did he reply.
So, one day, I left my palace and made my way to the Council building in my horse-drawn chariot…
Once there, I enquired at the door where I might find Lord Vertigo.
“He’s out, Your Highness.”
“Where did he go to?”
“On official business.”
I began to suspect that the doorman was keeping something from me. At first, I grew impetuous: “Do you know who I am?”, and then I grew angry. I pushed the doorman to one side, threatening to set my dogs upon him if he dared to follow me, and then I searched the Council building. I looked high and low, but Lord Vertigo was nowhere to be found. Neither did I find any other Council members.
Finally, there was just one place left to look: a stairway in the basement that led underground.
I began to descend the uneven stone steps, my dogs still close by. My only source of light was a small lantern I had found.
As I descended further and further down the subterranean stairway, the air began to grow cold and dank and foul-smelling. The walls were covered with a slimy moss I could hardly bear to touch. Still I pushed on, holding my nose.
I reached the bottom of the stairway after what felt like years, and was faced with a heavy black door that looked cold and clammy. I gripped the icy handle and turned it, slowly. I could hear my trembling breath in the dead, flat silence.
The door opened with a heavy creaking sound, and a foul stench from the room beyond hit me like a breath exhaled from a gruesome beast. My dogs howled and whimpered and ran back up the stairway, their tails between their legs, so that I was left alone in the dark with only the guttering light of my lantern for company.
I was afraid, but I also felt curiosity, and the curiosity won. I had come this far, after all, so what was the point in going back? With this in mind I entered the room behind the door.
What a sight did I behold in that room!
Such a gruesome sight I had never seen! Such a pitiful, frightful, disgusting sight.
A vast cage, filled with beings that were once human, crawling like dogs. Some were naked; others swaddled in filthy rags. Their pale skin appeared to glow faintly in the dark like spectres, or the strange, tragic-looking fish that exist at the very bottom of the ocean. Skeletal and wasted, they clawed at each other in the throes of madness. Their eyes were huge, glassy and glazed, like miserable moons.
I knew at once what they were: they were The Damned, the rotten foundation upon which this seemingly flawless city was built. They reached out to me between the bars of their cage, moaning.
I turned and ran, all the way back up the stairs, out into the basement, up into the hall and out of the Council building, never looking back. I dived into my golden chariot and raced homewards.
On the way back, it seemed that the city had changed. Things were not as they had first seemed: I could see the fakery; I could see the corruption. Omalas was crumbling around me, quite literally breaking into pieces.
Faces leered at me from windows, laughing at my horror and confusion. The marble drive that led to my palace was now crisscrossed with cracks: it seemed as though it might crumble apart at any moment. And my palace no longer shone like a pearl: it was the white of old bones in the wan sunlight.
But inside, nothing seemed to have changed. Was it possible I had been imagining things? Perhaps nothing I had just seen had been real. I surrounded myself with my courtiers, to bring myself out of my dark mood, which was the result, I decided, of a strange delirium brought on by the onset of a fever, and nothing more. A bit of company was what I needed.
But I found my courtiers irksome now. Their mindless, empty laughter grated on me like a violin played out of tune. When I peered into my looking-glass, a huge crack shot up the centre, splitting my reflected visage into two; I screamed, dropping it to the floor, where it shattered into a million tiny pieces.
I screamed again, in rage and confusion, and my courtiers screamed too, as if mocking me, and when they did so their faces began to melt like plastic, so their expressions became huge gaping yawns of misery. As one, we all screamed, and the sound rang through the palace like a death-knell.
I knew then that their beauty had been nothing but masks to hide the truth: that they were The Damned, just as surely as those creatures beneath the city were, and just as surely as I now was, for the Council had surrounded me, and my dogs were not there to defend me. They had come to take me away, for they knew that I knew the truth.
Out of my senses, I fell to the floor at Lord Vertigo’s feet, clutching desperately at the folds of his robe, and implored him not to take me to The Damned, but to come to my bedchamber instead. He did not respond to my request, but his face was grim.
I was forcefully removed from my palace, and transported back to the Council building in a cage on wheels drawn by four huge tigers. I was jeered at by the citizens of Omalas and some threw eggs at me. I wept and implored Lord Vertigo to let me go.
I was taken down to the dungeon where The Damned are kept and here I now lie as I tell you this story, one of many. I am weak, hungry and miserable, but I still have some resolve. I believe that Lord Vertigo loves me, and is secretly on my side, but keeps up a pretence of devotion to the Council through fear for his life. However, I am sure he is harbouring a plan to rescue me.
He will rescue me, and then I will become the Queen of Omalas once more, and he shall be my King. The Damned shall be executed, and so shall the rest of the Council, and I will have absolute power and the freedom to exercise my will however I choose. This is my belief, and it keeps me going through the long hours of eternity amongst The Damned.