“Ohhh, Goddess!” breathed Alex anxiously as he finished reading the message. This was something new and unexpected – his beloved Queen Risque coming to visit the little town of Vermillion, where he proudly served the Scarlet Throne as captain of the local guards. As he gripped the letter tightly in both hands and pressed it close to his chest, Alex thanked the messenger and assured him that the instructions had been understood. “It will be such an honour for us to receive an official visit from Her Majesty! We have been planning for this moment and we want to make a good impression. Thank you for giving us such clear instructions!”

“Not at all sir,” replied the messenger, “Her Majesty’s security department are very methodical, to make sure of Her safety and comfort at all times… Although I’m sure you would manage the visit efficiently in any case” he smirked, surveying the heaps of documents strewn around Alex’s office.

“Oh, absolutely, sergeant, we may be a little behind on some of the paperwork but we operate pretty tight security measures in Vermillion, you know. Her Majesty has nothing to fear here.”

Dismissing the messenger, Alex sat in silence for a few moments, considering his next move. At first he thought about visiting the temple to pray for inspiration; that was what he would usually do in a complicated situation like this. But realising that the Queen’s arrival was 36 hours away, he decided there were more urgent things to be done. He’d just have to pray privately at home to one of his icons of the Goddess Risque tonight. He wouldn’t even need the icons in a couple of days, he realised as the reality of the situation sank into his mind.

The news that the Dark Queen Risque would be paying a brief official visit had initially come as a thrill – a sleepy backwater like Vermillion, far from the Scarlet Palace, had little to attract a royal visit. He could only assume that she must be en route to the border, planning another invasion of one of the neighbouring kingdoms to add yet more minions to her vast collection. But when he realised what short notice had been given, his excitement turned to panic as he thought of the practical requirements of hosting the royal visit.

Although he performed his practical day-to-day duties loyally and diligently (which mostly consisted of maintaining basic law and order in Vermillion; and ensuring that the townspeople attended the temple regularly and  made adequate sacrifices to the continuing glory of the Scarlet Throne) he wasn’t remotely prepared for such a momentous event as this. His  guards weren’t used to ceremonial drill, his black and red uniform was crumpled and he had allowed his hair to grow well past the regulation length. Worst of all, the old mansion on the town square where he assumed the Dark Queen would be spending the night was really not worthy of such a distinguished visitor.

Hurrying back to his home to prepare and plan as well as he could, Alex was making a mental list of preparations – “Barber… laundry… find my book of drill routines… ughh we’ll never be ready in time, this is going to be such an embarrassment!” Then, just after striding past the entrance of Vermillion’s Scarlet Temple, he caught sight of a clear violation of the law and, under the circumstances, felt he had to intervene despite his hurry to get home. A woman in a white dress, with long, black hair, sneaking along a side street.

“What on Earth are you doing dressed like that?” Alex called to the figure. She stopped and turned towards him, startled, but said nothing. “Don’t you know that all white clothing is banned, you silly girl?! Even on a normal day that would be a punishable offence, but with the Queen’s visit-“he stopped himself “eh… the Queen’s vision to remove white from all the Kingdom…”

“I’m very sorry for my mistake,” replied the woman, as Alex approached in his black and red uniform “I have only just arrived here.” Alex felt inclined to believe her – surely nobody around here could be unaware of that particular royal command. And her accent certainly didn’t sound local, he thought to himself… although it had a certain familiar quality.

“Well you know, I’m not keen on dishing out punishments so I’ll let you off just this once, but you really will have to go straight back to your lodgings and change into something more suitable, Miss. Particularly being this close to the Temple, it’s … well, it’s disrespectful of Her Majesty’s … err.. majesty! And where have you been that you hadn’t heard about Proclamation number 133, anyway?”

“Proclamation number…?” repeated the pretty girl, confused.

“One-three-three, white clothing is not to be used in public places without a permit from the royal offices,” clarified the guard captain, shaking his head in annoyance and, moving closer to the girl.

“Oh, I … I have been on a long journey” answered the girl, unsure of herself “and got lost in the caverns… I haven’t been into a town for a long time. Umm… what town is this?”

“Definitely something familiar about that voice…” thought Alex; “and rather an attractive young lady. In fact I’d even say she’s beautiful”. Getting closer to the stranger, he realised that not only was she beautiful, but she bore a strong resemblance to the Dark Queen herself. No – more than a strong resemblance, she looked almost identical – just like the statue in the temple! “Could this be a test… no, surely Her Majesty wouldn’t undertake such security inspections Herself…. But it could be a … Oh Goddess, what should I do now?!”

 

Minion Alex