This Is Jezebel
by Daegaer

The old queen sat herself down finally in the light of the window, and called her maidservants to her. They had closed and barred the door to her chamber, but could still hear the commotion from outside. The younger of the two girls was shaking with fear.

"Quiet," the queen said sternly, "attend to me, girl. We have little time."

"The soldiers, madam," the girl whispered.

"What have you to fear?" the older maid asked harshly, her Tyrian accent still evident after all these years. "You aren't a foreigner."

"They won't stop to ask anyone's origins," the queen said. "Now. No more talk. Get to work."

They stroked her face with creams, cleaning off every last trace of the cosmetics, and holding up the fine silver mirror so that she could see her own face for the last time. She looked without comment at the pale olive skin, kept fine and pallid with creams and the indoor life she had kept to her whole life. She looked at the dark, clever eyes, noting that her eyelashes were no longer as long and thick as when she had been a girl. She touched the line of a wrinkle by her mouth and gave a deliberate wide smile. She had almost all her teeth, still strong and white. Other women her age were toothless, burnt dark by the sun, and had faces like apples left too long. She was still imposing, if not beautiful. Well. Beauty was for unmarried girls looking in surprise at the faces of princes from distant lands. Power was for women and queens.

"Good," she said. "Now, array me as a queen."

They worked quickly and surely, lining her eyes with antimony and brushing powdered malachite on her lids. They rubbed a dusting of finest chalk on her cheeks and forehead, making her glow pale like the moon, and brought a youthful flush to her cheeks with rouge. Her lips were dyed the brightest of reds, as if her beloved had left her just a moment before. She held out her hands and feet, to have the henna washed off, leaving them patterned like a bride's.

"What robe shall we bring, madam?" the elder of the maids asked.

"My wedding dress," the queen said.

She smiled dreamily. Five children and an indolent life and she could still wear a gown made for her as a virgin girl. Ah, her children, she thought. The little babies that drew breath and died, and then her clever, clever daughter, her beautiful dead son and her loving, trusting son who was so recently murdered along with her grandson, her daughter's son.

"It's down to you, Daughter," she murmured. "Take vengeance."


"Nothing. The gown."

They wrapped her in the heavy robe of scarlet and gold thread with its buttons of ivory inlaid with gold, and brought her the necklace she had not worn since her husband died, with its fine network of apples and pomegranates promising fertility, all worked in the finest gold of Ophir. She inclined her head, inhaling the heavy scent of the sandalwood that had preserved her dress all these years and feeling not the skilled hands of the maids but the large, clumsy man's hands catching the clasp in her hair. She had laughed and he had looked at her, tongue-tied and shy for all that he was a famous warrior. Her father had rebuked her, but Ahab had smiled and taken her hand in his, promising she would be the mother of kings. It had been too long since she had seen him.

"Sing for me," she said.

The elder of the maids sang quietly as the younger arranged her hair pleasingly.

"The princess is decked in her chamber with gold-woven robes; In many coloured robes she is led to the king, With her virgin companions, her escort in her train. With joy and gladness they are led along As they enter the palace of the king."

They put a veil of the finest Egyptian linen over her hair and bound it down with threads of gold, and carefully put a queenly crown over it. She looked at her reflection in the polished silver. She looked like a girl, ready to step out and meet her destiny. She paused.

"Where are the earrings the king my husband gave me? The ones that he gave me with the necklace?"

They looked at each other, stricken, and rummaged in the boxes of her jewels. She sat still, and sighed that there should be such a minor trouble at this time.

"It is no matter," she said finally. "I will wear others."

"No, madam, no! Here, they are here," the younger maid cried triumphantly, as if there was still time to worry about winning her mistress's favour. She held up the earrings and the queen nodded.

"Quickly, now," she said.

They hung the little golden pomegranates in her ears and slid the rings on her fingers. She looked at her reflection one last time. Perfect, it was perfect. Even if she had been afraid, no one would be able to tell. She looked exactly as she wanted, exactly as they would expect the proud, evil queen to look. Women like her would go to their deaths looking as beautiful as they possibly could, it was only to be expected that they would spend their final moments primping and preening. She smiled a cold, satisfied smile, and took the letters from her table. They would see the spectacle that they expected. They would forget that the queen could read and the queen could write, for who expected that a woman could do such a thing?

"Hide the pens and ink," she said, and the young maid buried them under the clothes in the furthest of the chests.

She held out the letters. There were four of them, and they all carried the same message, warning her kin of Israel's treachery and the murders committed this day, demanding vengeance. Two were written on fine paper, the very type of letter that would go between courts, the very type of letter that could be easily burned or torn if pursuit drew near. The other two were written on shards of pottery, easily hidden, easily overlooked.

"Get to my daughter in Judah or my brother in Tyre," she said. "Either will do, either will make the other do what I ask. I lay this on you. Do not fail me."

"No, madam," the elder maid said, angrily. "We will be the instruments of your vengeance."

They heard a chariot clatter in to the courtyard, and the horses blowing hard. The men outside were now hammering on her door. All through the palace there were screams. The queen touched her maids' cheeks gently, as a mother touches her children.

"Let them in," she said. "I will distract them. Run, and do not look back."

She faced the window, listening as the bolts slid back and feet rushed in and stopped in confusion. The Dowager Queen of Israel turned and glared at the royal eunuchs who lowered their eyes in automatic submission. From the courtyard she could hear the murderer calling for the death of the harlot. Let him wait. She stared at the eunuchs until they knelt. The maids were gone. She walked lightly to the window and looked out at the death of her family.

"You won't last a week, you renegade slave," she called proudly. "You are like Zimri, a nothing."

Jehu, the general of the chariot forces looked at her in astonishment, as if he had forgotten what royalty could look like, as if no woman in his life had ever raised her voice to him. She noted with distant interest that he had gone purple with rage. Appropriate, she thought, for one who wants the throne. She laughed loudly and scornfully, drawing the eyes of every soldier in the courtyard.

"Who up there wants to live out this day?" Jehu screamed. "Throw that bitch down!"

She heard the stealthy movements behind her. She felt the eunuchs' soft hands on her back, nerving themselves to push. She saw the maidservants slip hand-in-hand out the gate and run, run, never looking back.

She laughed all the way down.

2 Kings 9:30-37
30 When Jehu came to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it; she painted her eyes, and adorned her head, and looked out of the window.
31 As Jehu entered the gate, she said, "Is it peace, Zimri, murderer of your master?"
32 He looked up to the window and said, "Who is on my side? Who?" Two or three eunuchs looked out at him.
33 He said, "Throw her down." So they threw her down; some of her blood spattered on the wall and on the horses, which trampled on her.
34 Then he went in and ate and drank; he said, "See to that cursed woman and bury her; for she is a king's daughter."
35 But when they went to bury her, they found no more of her than the skull and the feet and the palms of her hands.
36 When they came back and told him, he said, "This is the word of the LORD, which he spoke by his servant Elijah the Tishbite, `In the territory of Jezreel the dogs shall eat the flesh of Jezebel;
37 the corpse of Jezebel shall be like dung on the field in the territory of Jezreel, so that no one can say, This is Jezebel.' "


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