❝My mother’s study was full of porcelain hearts, thousands of them, crafted in stunning anatomical detail.❞
I used to study them all, as a child, in their careful placements on little velvet cushions on the shelves, shining sleekly in the sunlight that poured through the tall windows. They were so beautiful, all unique somehow, and all looking so real. I was entranced by them, by their delicacy as much as by their forbidden nature. I was never allowed to touch any of them.
“Once broken, they can’t be mended,” my mother would say. “No matter how skilled the craftsman, how cleverly sealed or joined or glued the fragments, there would always be a fault in them.”
“Even with magic?” I’d ask.
“Magic can’t fix a broken heart. It can only unmake it, or change it, but then it wouldn’t be the same heart, you understand? And it would always have once been broken.”
It was years before I realized she wasn’t coaching her words in metaphor, that there were layers of truth to what she’d told me. I was a man near grown before I discovered that my mother being called the Queen of Hearts was not simply a fanciful, sycophantic title bestowed on her by her fawning subjects. That she had very few fawning subjects, because the vast majority of the court and the country feared her.
My mother plucked the hearts of her enemies and her opposition from their chests like one might pick a rose from a bush, and with her terrible magic transformed the organs from flesh and blood into hollow sculptures to sit pretty on her shelves, a testament to her power and her ruthlessness.
Her victims didn’t die—not unless the hearts were broken, but they only ever broke when she would fly into one of her terrible rages and shatter them herself, for no one else was allowed to touch them, and only I was allowed to get even near enough to be tempted to.
The people whose hearts she stole became empty shells, capable of doing nothing but her bidding, acting as playing cards in a great game of her making…
Fictober is a challenge where writers respond to a prompt a day for the whole of October.
This year's prompts are from Deep Water Prompts on tumblr.
This prompt fill is also a glimpse into the backstory of one of my characters in Oracle.
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