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Sleeping Irene

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Once upon a time, there was a queen who had no daughters to carry on her royal line. She consulted every enchantress, witch, and sorceress in the land, but all of their spells, potions, and charms proved useless. By some cruel, ironic twist of fate, Queen Mummy remained childless. 

 

At last, in desperation, Queen Mummy sought the help of a mage from a neighboring kingdom. When she found that she was with child, the queen was delighted. Her joy, however, proved to be short-lived. 

 

The baby arrived. The baby was healthy. But the baby was a boy. Mycroft would be fit — like all those of his sex — for only a minor position in the government.

 

For many years, Queen Mummy tried in vain to conceive another child. When all hope seemed past, a traveling wizard appeared at the castle. He promised the queen that if she lay with him, she would finally have what her heart desired. 

 

Nine months later, the queen was delivered of a baby — but the wizard had not quite delivered on his promise. This child, too, was a boy. Though she gave him a girl’s name — Sherlock — Queen Mummy knew that he could never take her place as monarch.

 

No matter what extraordinary measures she took, Queen Mummy was unable to bear another child. As a decade passed, and then another, the queen’s health began to fail. With no daughter to whom she could pass the mantle of authority, and no living female relations, Queen Mummy knew she must find a woman powerful and wise enough to assume her throne.

 

Irene, though young, had risen swiftly through the ranks of the palace guard to become Mistress of the Dungeon. She was known throughout the land for her ability to make the most hardened criminals beg — twice. First, they would beg for mercy as she meted out their punishment. Then, they would beg to be allowed to lick her boots.

 

The mercy, Irene never granted. The boot-licking, however, she did permit. Unbeknownst to the prisoners, Irene’s boots were enchanted. Anyone whose tongue touched their leather would never again be able to commit a crime.

 

Thus, Irene earned her reputation for being both powerful and wise. She was powerful enough to bring the toughest villains to their knees, and wise enough to know whom it was safe to release without any chance of further misconduct. In her, Queen Mummy found a worthy successor.

 

Once her heir was named, Queen Mummy, who had been keeping herself alive through sheer force of will, allowed nature to take its course. She did not survive beyond another fortnight. The day of her funeral was also the day of a coronation. All hailed the new Queen Irene.

 

Thus began a period of peace and prosperity. As part of the coronation ceremony, all of the citizens of the land had knelt to lick their new queen’s boots, and so crime was eliminated. With the dungeon no longer needed for prisoners, Queen Irene was able to turn it into her personal playroom, to which she invited only the the most select of her friends.

 

One young woman who longed to be invited to play was Molly Hooper. Molly was a healer, whose task in the palace had been to minister to the newly released prisoners before they were sent home. She had long admired Irene’s handiwork — marveling over the beautifully intricate patterns of lashes she left behind, and appreciating the skill it took to inflict such punishment without leaving any damage but that which could be easily healed by the application of a soothing balm. Molly was particularly intrigued by the fact that every one of her patients expressed a desire to return soon to the dungeon, though none of them ever did.

 

But, much as she wished it were otherwise, Molly had never met Irene. The closest she had come was at the coronation, when she, along with an endless line of other citizens, had knelt to lick the new queen’s boots. Irene hadn’t so much as glanced at her then, and Molly had been too shy to raise her eyes to the queen’s face. Now, Molly watched Irene from afar, hoping against hope that the queen would one day notice her. 

 

In the meantime, Molly’s role in the palace had changed. With no more prisoners in the dungeon, she now spent her days treating minor illnesses and injuries, many of which were caused by Sherlock’s experiments gone wrong. Queen Mummy’s younger son had grown up to be a wizard like his father, and he kept Molly busy with the fallout from his increasingly more elaborate spells.

 

Molly was not the only person whose attention had been drawn by Sherlock. Queen Irene had early on recognized that Mycroft would be content to work for her behind the scenes, but Sherlock was harder for her to read. Unlike everyone else in the land, he had never licked her boots, and so there was nothing to prevent him from causing whatever manner of mischief he might choose. Though he had given her no reason to question his loyalty, Queen Irene could not quite trust him. 

 

Moriarty — a powerful wizard from a neighboring kingdom — had been observing these goings-on with interest. He viewed the brash young genius, Sherlock, as a potential rival, and assumed that Queen Irene must do so, as well. He decided to enlist her aid to rid himself of the threat posed by another wizard as skilled as himself.

 

Moriarty presented himself at the palace, and asked to be taken to Queen Irene. He was met by the captain of her royal guard, a bold young man named John. Captain John escorted Moriarty to the throne room, where the queen happened to be deep in conversation with Sherlock.

 

“Your Majesty,” Moriarty began, in an ingratiating manner, “I humbly beg your pardon for this intrusion, but I am here on a matter most urgent. As a wizard myself, it has come to my attention that there is one in this palace — nay, one in this very room — who is scheming against you. I fear you must have him executed for treason, or risk your own life at his hands.”

 

Captain John stiffened at these words, but Queen Irene appeared unconcerned. 

 

“What say you, Sherlock?” she asked. “Have you been plotting against me?”

 

“My only plan,” replied Sherlock, with a significant look at John, “is to win the heart of my true love.”

 

Irene laughed. “True love does not exist. There is only power, and those too weak to use it. Fortunately, I have never been weak.”

 

Turning to Captain John, she commanded, “Throw this man in the dungeon.”

 

Moriarty’s face took on a gleeful smirk, until he realized that Queen Irene was gesturing, not at Sherlock, but at him. With a cry of rage, he leveled his wand at John, a gleam of murder in his eyes.

 

Sherlock acted instantly, casting a killing curse at Moriarty. 

 

The wizard collapsed at the foot of the throne. He seized one of Queen Irene’s ankles. With his dying breath, Moriarty cast his final spell. Whispering, so that only the queen could hear him, he vowed, “You shall be as one asleep for all eternity, unless awakened by true love’s kiss.”