Empyreome
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Famished

The King found the Queen in the Royal Garden supervising the uprooting of roses and lilacs in favor of turnips and carrots. He brushed the dust from the hunt off his trousers by slapping them with his gloves.

"Any luck, my dear?" asked the Queen. She brushed the snow white hair from in front of her eyes with the back of a hand that was black as pitch from contact with the night soil she was using to plant vegetables.

"Not a hind nor hare in sight. And the dogs would not have been able to give chase if there was one, they are so poor." The King sat down on a garden bench. A servant handed him a slightly dirty, wet rag to wash his face and hands. "I gave orders for the dogs to be portioned out, except for our breeders. It pained me so."

The Queen waved her hand at the handiwork of the gardeners, "Any more than this does to me? I think not. We are all making our sacrifices."

The King nodded his head. His face was haggard; the weight of concern for his people had etched itself in wrinkles along his brow and under his bloodshot eyes. He looked up at the sky, hoping for just a hint of a cloud, but there was no sign for rain, nor had there been any for nearly three fortnights. The garden had once been the home of his wife's beautiful red roses; now, the shriveled bushes filled the wooden cart and in their place were measly rows of root vegetables that could grow in the blistering heat.

"Speaking of sacrifices," he said, handing the rag to a passing servant, "has our daughter consigned herself to the fate of her pet."

"Not yet." The Queen washed her filthy hands off in a nearby bucket, then poured that water around the newly planted garden. Afterwards, she knelt before her husband and took his hands in hers. "I hope we have done the right thing, dear. I fear we may have done something that will affect her for the rest of her life. To betray a trust such as this . . . ."

The King interrupted, "We did it so she could have a life. It had to be done."

The Queen nodded in agreement. "I know, I know. But to a twelve-year-old girl..."

"I'll make it up to her, I swear. As soon as this famine is over, the first order of business will be the finest Royal Hunt our kingdom has ever known to replace it." The King kissed the Queen's brow. "Stand up. It's time to prepare for dinner."

The Queen sighed. She stood up and clapped her hands. A servant appeared. "Tell Cook that we will have dinner in one hour," she ordered. "And send to milady Princess that dinner will be served then, and her company is required." The servant bowed, and ran off to execute his charge.

After dinner, the King had the cook flogged for his excruciatingly bad taste as to serve the beast with an apple skewered on its one horn.

About the Author
Glen Engel-Cox grew up in Texas and left it as quickly as he could. Since then, he's lived in California, Malaysia, Ohio, Saudi Arabia, and Washington (both state and District of Columbia). He currently lives in Colorado and writes full-time for an international development non-profit. His stories have appeared in Alternate Presidents (edited by Mike Resnick), New Pathways, and Just Because. "Going Mobile" was published as a chapbook from Roadkill Press and his novel, Darwin's Daughter, is available from Blue Agama Books on Amazon. Find him online at firstimpressions.pressbooks.com.