Petrichor- Ingage's Haircut by Joelsweet
Ingage clenched his fists angrily. He had already come this far, and yet standing between him and his love was the Blue Queen herself. First she had stolen Rynceres, and then made Ingage complete a series of challenges before she would set him free. And now, after all she had put Ingage through, she was insisting on a final test. Just one more trial before he could get Rynceres back.
“So, what do you say, Ingage? Will you accept my final challenge?” The Blue Queen said, parting her delicate lips.
“Tell me what it is first.” Ingage growled angrily. The Blue Queen laughed and shook her head.
“If you’re really brave, then you’ll accept before I tell you what the challenge is.” she said. Ingage looked at his feet, contemplating. The trial might be something unbearably terrible. Did he really want to go through whatever she had planned for him? Then, Ingage remembered Rynceres’ smiling face and how much he loved him. Ingage raised his head, decided. He had to do this to save Rynceres, no matter what the trial was.
“I accept. Now tell me what the challenge in.” He said, voice steady. The Blue Queen rested her chin on her sky-satin gloved hand.
“Alright. I want that.” She pointed to Ingage with the hand her chin wasn’t resting on. Ingage felt confused. He had no idea what the Blue Queen was pointing to.
“What do you want?” He asked carefully. He had nothing of real value on his person.
“I want your hair.” She said, a devilish grin on her pale face. Ingage felt a lump almost immediately in his throat and his heart leap.
“M- my hair?” Rynceres loved Inagage’s reddish brown hair. Also, Ingage worked as his town’s healer, and if he cut his hair short, he would be considered impure and wouldn’t be allowed to continue working as a healer. But if he didn’t complete the challenge, then Rynceres would stay in jail. “Well, get on with it then.” Ingage gulped and slowly unbraided his longer than knee length hair. “Do your worst.”
The Blue Queen laughed again, and called to one of her servants. Head bowed, the servant gracefully walked from beside the Queen's throne to in front of her. She seemed to be a couple years younger than Ingage.
"Yes, my Queen?" She said softly.
“First of all, you have permission to meet my eyes.” The servant, with skin the color of snow, raised her head to look the Queen in the face. “Your task is to cut this man’s hair off. Don’t do it neatly, though; I want it cut haphazardly and uneven.” said the Blue Queen, sounding amused. The servant nodded.
“Is that all?” She asked.
“Yes; now get to it.” The Blue Queen said. “Go and fetch some scissors, a comb, and a stool; you’ll need them.” The servant curtsied and left the room. Ingage was left there, slightly trembling. He was very scared of the Blue Queen and realized, with a jolt, that this wasn’t the worst thing that she could have planned for him. The servant returned several minutes later holding the stool and with a bulging pocket; which Ingage guessed contained the other two items. She had a white bandana tied around her shoulder-length silver hair to keep it back. She set the stool on the ground; it was a little bit shorter than half of the height of Ingage. Ingage limped over, sat down on the stool, and took off his two gold earrings carefully. He placed them in his pocket for safekeeping. The servant ran her hands down Ingage’s hair almost reverently; feeling the softness beneath her calloused fingers.
“Your hair is beautiful.” She whispered this softly, just loud enough so that Ingage could hear her, but the Blue Queen couldn’t. Ingage thought that saying that was very kind of her, but he still was rigid and stiff; sitting straight upright with squared shoulders. His hands were curled into fists, and he was biting his lip nervously. He heard a click as she pulled something out of her pocket and froze, thinking it was the scissors, but slowly relaxed as the servant gently began running the comb through his hair. She held his hair in one hand and was combing his hair with the other. Their wasn’t many tangles; Ingage had just recently brushed and braided his hair after completing the last challenge. Ingage felt himself relax against her light work. The servant combed the underside of his hair, his bangs; whatever piece of hair that she could. She found herself revelling in touching those gorgeous, deep brown locks. Behind Ingage, the onlooking Queen piped up.
“I think his hair is smooth enough, right? Why don’t you get started?” And then Ingage tensed up again.
He felt the gentle tugging of the comb against his hair cease and heard another click as the servant switched from one tool to the other, switching from the comb to scissors. Ingage's jaw was clenched, and it seemed like every muscle in his body was taut. He didn't want his hair to be chopped off, but he would let the servant do it if it meant he could rescue Rynceres. He looked over his shoulder apprehensively, to see the servant gather up his silken tresses in her left hand. She held the thick, burnt umber colored hair only a third of the way up from the ends of his hair. With her right hand holding the scissors, she marked a spot in Ingage's hair. Still looking over his shoulder, Ingage was slightly relieved to see that the spot that her blue handled scissors were poised over was about waist length.
Even if his hair was cut to that length, he would still be allowed to work as a healer. If it was cut any shorter than mid back length, however, he would be permitted from continuing to heal people in his clan. He didn't want any of his hair cut off, but waist length hair was a better option than jaw length hair to him. The servant waited for her Queen to give her to go ahead to begin cutting.
"Wait, stop, what are you doing?!" came the Blue Queen's commanding voice. A little flicker of hope rose in Ingage's chest. Maybe she would call the whole thing off? "That's way too long! You have to cut it shorter than that!" said the Blue Queen.
Ingage felt his heart sink. The servant sighed and her hands shifted. Ingage nervously looked over his shoulder to see that the scissors were being held over his hair around the middle of his back. By this point, Ingage's heart was racing and pounding loudly in his ears. He was shivering slightly in fear; his dark gray-blue eyes wide. The Blue Queen flicked her hand dismissively. "Shorter." she said. The servant sighed again and once more adjusted the scissors' position so that they marked Ingage's hair at shoulder length.
"Is this good?" The servant asked, careful not to show her annoyance.
"No, if you cut there it would still be too long." Exasperated, the servant held the scissors by the nape of Ingage's neck.
"Now?" She asked.
"Yes, but remember to cut it choppily and unevenly. Grab each section and leave it two inches long at most."
Ingage almost let out a moan of despair. There was to be no mercy from the Blue Queen. The servant opened the scissors, which made a horrible metallic sound. Ingage's felt his eyes begin to tear up against his will. He felt the servant adjust her grip on his incredibly long hair, and then slide the scissors into the locks right next to his ear; not yet closing them though. Quietly, she whispered into Ingage’s ear, “I’m so sorry.” Ingage squeezed his eyes shut, terrified, as the silver blades began to close around his hair.
The dreadful sound of those cold blades slicing through his hair roughly filled his ears. Ingage took in a shuddering breath and braced himself for the next cut. Ingage felt the severed lock of hair begin to slide slowly down his shoulder. The servant adjusted her grip on the scissors and continued cutting, about halfway up his head in a straight line.
All for Rynceres.
All for Rynceres. Ingage told himself desperately. And so he didn’t say anything, didn’t fight back, didn’t even move a single tense muscle. Ingage felt a small tear trail down his cheek.
The servant finished cutting through the strands she had been holding, and so Ingage’s hair fell away.
“What should I do with this?” She asked the Blue Queen, holding the The Queen was silent for a second, as if she was thinking about it.
“Just lay his hair down next to the stool as you go.” she finally said. The servant carefully laid the mahogany colored, five feet of hair onto the polished marble floor. She straightened up again and grabbed another fistful of hair, pulling it towards her. Ingage was now full-on crying, just letting it happen. If he tried to resist the tears, then he would just end up making noise. Since he was facing away from the Blue Queen, the only thing to suggest to her that he was crying was his shaking shoulders and slightly erratic breathing.
He was sure he looked very unflattering at the moment, since he wasn’t exactly a pretty crier. His face was probably flushed red. Again, Ingage heard the noise of those scissors ripping through his hair and grimaced. Ingage was digging his fingernails into his hands so hard that he was sure he had drawn blood. His knuckles were white and taut, shaking slightly.
He told himself this, but he wasn’t sure that he himself believed it. He hated himself for being so frightened, but he would just have to wait it out.
The section that the servant had been chopping away at fell away from Ingage’s head, and she carefully set the silky hair onto the growing pile on the floor. Now, half of Ingage’s hair was cropped close to his head in uneven chunks.
“Is he crying?” the Blue Queen said, delight echoing in her tone. “Oh my goddess, he is! Turn around, Ingage!” Reluctantly, Ingage complied, turning to face the entertained Blue Queen. His face burned red as she laughed mockingly at him. Ingage felt hatred for her consume every fiber of his being. He slowly opened his eyes and glared at her. “Servant, you should get rid of those bangs next, hmm?” The Queen said, directing her command to the girl holding the scissors behind Ingage. There was regret shining in her deep blue eyes.
The servant pulled Ingage’s long bangs forward and slid the scissors under them. The dark, sleek strands rested in the fingers of her left hand. The blades snapped together, hacking off the locks efficiently. She moved on to the next section of his bangs, cutting away until his bangs were very short.
Ingage eyes were still shut tightly as he felt his severed bangs begin to slide down his face, catching on his eyelashes. Humiliated from the Blue Queen's mocking laughs, Ingage turned around once more. He felt a gentle tugging on the back of his head as the servant took another handful of his silky, thick locks. Again, Ingage heard the sound of opening scissors fill his ears, and he braced himself for the next chop.
The aggressive, cold, metal blades clicked shut, causing Ingage’s hair to fall away, lock by lock; making a violent clacking sound as it left the chocolate hair short and the locks asymmetrical to each other. After each time the servant cut of a good section, she set the hair on the floor and combed through the cascade of hair to separate it. With each snap of the scissors, Ingage felt as if he was being physically injured; that part of his very being was being torn away. He reminded himself again and again in his head how much he loved Rynceres and needed to save him. Blood from his fingernails digging into his palms began slowly dripping through his fingers and onto the floor, joining tears and Ingage’s fallen hair. Ingage had given up on being quiet, and his weeping echoed throughout the regal throne room. All that he could hear was the shears violently attacking his hair, his own painful sobs, the Blue Queen’s laughing, and his racing heart pulsing.
The servant finished with that lock, and then tossed it onto the pile of dark hair that had accumulated.
"Pull his hair hard! Make it hurt!~" The Blue Queen purred with a devious grin. Before Ingage had processed the Queen's words, his hair was yanked back sharply. By that point, he only had long hair on the left side of his head,and so when he was pulled back, only the left side of his head jerked back, twisting his neck painfully. Ingage's scalp throbbed with agony, as if his hair had been tugged out violently from the roots. Ingage let out a cry of pain involuntarily; not having braced himself for his locks being wrenched so forcefully backwards. He was paralyzed again as he felt the freezing scissors rest, facing upwards and open, on the back of his nape. Slowly at first, and then gaining momentum, the shears began viciously sawing through all that exquisite hair.
"Stop!" yelled the Blue Queen. "I have changed my mind. Leave one lock long, so he'll have to cut it himself later." The servant sighed at this new order. She stopped cutting bottom to top and cut a couple of locks in downward strokes, leaving a single, thick lock of Ingage's once magnificent tresses behind. She threw the last severed bits, and they slowly fluttered to the floor, catching the sun from the skylight above.
The servant then stepped back, put the scissors and comb in her pocket with a clack, quietly apologized to Ingage, bowed to the Blue Queen, and walked over to beside the Queen's throne, head down. The Blue Queen daintily crossed her legs, causing her massive silk skirts to rustle and shift around her.
"Ingaaagee~" she called in a sing-song voice. Ingage slowly lifted a hand to touch the back of his head. He stroked the unbearably short hair, feeling the stiff ends. And then there was that one lock. A reminder of what used to be; of what Ingage just recently lost. No matter how hard he tried, Ingage couldn't stop crying. His sobs tore in and out of his lungs in crescendos and diminuendos, like waves breaking on the shore. Ingage's body was shaking as he cried; salty tears dripping down flushed cheeks.
"Turn around and face me, Ingage~." He obliged, gradually shifting to face the Queen again. She laughed yet again. "That's a good look for you, Ingage. Nice and short. I'm sure Rynceres will LOOVE it." Blatant sarcasm positively rained from her voice. She hopped down from the throne, her dress trailing after her as she walked down the four steps to where Ingage was. The Blue Queen reached out her gloved hand and felt Ingage's hair. "It's alright, dear. I'm sure they can find some use for you now that you can't be a healer." She ruffled his hair and giggled. Hatred for the Queen swelled up inside of Ingage. Hatred, anger, and despair. His head felt so light; so wrong- he despised the feeling. He shook his head back and forth, and the locks barely brushing his neck only made him weep harder. He tugged at the ends of it; barely anything left to even grasp. The Blue Queen, still standing in front of him, found this hilarious. "Look at all of this hair, Ingage!" He squeezed his eyes shut so he wouldn't have to see what he had lost. "Look." She said more firmly. Ingage shook his head. He felt soft hair being held up to his cheek, but still refused to raise his eyelids. The Blue Queen finally pried one of his eyes open to show him the hair. She held a fistful of it in her grip. The four feet of hair she was holding gleamed in the light softly, gorgeous severed beauty.
Ingage swallowed slowly, still not completely comprehending what had just taken place, and still not uttering a word. Subconsciously, he was still praying that this was just a bad dream. That none of this had ever happened; Rynceres being imprisoned, Ingage doing the challenges, and then this terrible event. He was hoping that he’d wake up in Rynceres’ arms like always, and he would smile, hug Ingage tight, and say good morning.
But this wasn’t a dream. This was real; and there was nothing that could be done about Ingage’s hair now; it was too late.
“Let me see Rynceres.” Ingage growled through gritted teeth. Despite his normally gentle and motherly nature, Ingage suddenly had a strong desire to cause the Blue Queen bodily harm. The Blue Queen pretended to mull this over, pursing her cyan lips.
“Hmm, how about you clean up the mess you made first?” She gestured with her head to the locks grasped in her hand. She promptly dropped the hair onto the floor again and then kicked the sheared chocolate cinnamon tresses around with her heeled foot; effectively spreading them about. The Queen then unwound a navy colored string from around her wrist and tossed it to Ingage, who caught it.
“Tie this together, Ingage. All of this troublesome hair covering my tile.” An enraged and still tearful Ingage glared at the Blue Queen. “Hurry up, dear. Each minute that passes is more time that I could decide to order to have your boyfriend be tortured.” She then gave Ingage a devious grin, spun on her heel, and left the room. Ingage stood on shaky legs and then collapsed on his knees to the ground. He picked up some of the hair and held it, sobbing.