The Empress of Marshmallow

The Empress of Marshmallow surveyed her lakeside protectorate, maintained eye contact with the Thing in the Lake, and slowly, purposefully, shit on the beach.

She could see the Thing. A shimmering mirage. A daub of darkness against the sky. Its smell stretched, seemingly infinitely, from horizon to water’s edge. The giant serpent, a carlength in diameter, trembled with anticipation at the packed beach. Its wedge-shaped, frilled maw hung over the sands, but it never broke the threshold of the lapping waves, as if a powerful barrier kept it at bay. This same barrier kept her human subjects from panicking like rabbits. The Empress chuffed a soft bark, and kicked up sand behind her.

The Boy Who Mattered, who most of her subjects called “Will,” finally noticed The Empress’ dominance. “Aw, Marshmallow, not on the beach!”

Ignoring the boy’s cries, and his disrespectful public omission of her title, the Empress maintained her locked gaze with the Thing. The Boy’s lot was to clean up after her. It was hers to keep him safe. She would watch the Thing in the Lake until it slithered back beyond the horizon. She growled again, curled tail straightening, and cream-coloured fur stiffening.

The Girl Who Almost Belonged, “Tilda,” stiffened too, and not at the Empress’ growls. The Girl didn’t fear the Empress—which the Empress did not care for—but usually respected her place in court (unlike the Boy’s mother). The Empress chanced looking away from the Thing to glance at The Girl. She, too, stared at the lake, and the Thing within.

It hadn’t moved. It was still contained by her domain’s magical protections.

Straight vertical and horizontal scratches in reality ringed the harbour like a fence. The scratches smelled of lightning, blood, and the salt of hard labour on a hot day. They glowed to the Empress, bright enough it amazed her none of the humans noticed. They were heedless to scents and many other treasures
and dangers, so she wasn’t surprised.

The work itself, intricate slices of power, were almost a language she could hear in her mind, as if their secrets were constantly being whispered. A warning so comprehensive, no monster would dare intrude. Warnings alone were nothing without the power to back them up, and the Empress knew that power was within her. It had to be, for was she not the ruler here? The Thing dared not face her in her domain. She barked again, growling at the tide.

The Thing in the Lake gradually submerged, its stink mostly hidden by water and fish, and its body by the foaming waves.

Still got it.

Read more of “The Empress of Marshmallow” in Pirating Pups: Salty Sea-Dogs and Barking Buccaneers, edited by Rhonda Parrish