Blood Crown
By Violet Day
Date: October 5, 2020
Ch. 11

Senna was surrounded by girls her age. She had never seen so many people in one place; and so rich! Most of the girls seemed to have come from the eastern side of the city. They were talking and laughing with each other, reapplying their makeup. Some just looked around nervously, standing near the tables laden with rich food and snacking, shimmering in their best party dresses and professionally done makeup.

Senna had never seen food made to look so pretty. There were leaves rolled into balls and stuffed with something that tasted like rice but softer, huge elaborate piles of expertly cut fruit in the shape of the palace, and glittering jugs of fruit juices and clear sweet water.

Everything looked like a decoration; a sign of abundant wealth.

She didn’t belong there. She could feel it on one level –the fact that she hated what this gathering stood for –but also on a deeper level. She never had and never would fit in with these girls that had grown up never wanting anything.

They did have one thing in common, though, and it came up again and again as a topic of the conversations Senna could hear nearby her. None of the girls had magical ability.

The royal family had strictly married within the group of elite Elevated families for the entire history of Dornesse. And now… the queen had decided she would hold some type of contest to choose a (literally) powerless bride for her son.

When Senna had heard the king had died, she had been in the textile factory dying fabrics, a place she had worked since she was nine years old. Her first thought had been far from “oh, I wonder if there’s a chance I could marry the prince.” It was more like “this won’t change anything. The queen always ruled while the king was in power and she will do so even when he son is made king.”

She had always hated the royal family and the other Elevated that lived within the walls of the Silver Palace. She imagined them as stupid people, taking immense pride in trivial magical powers that really couldn’t do anything much more than put out a flame or fold clothes.

And now she was here.

She took a deep breath. She had to remind herself of her reasoning for taking part in this mysterious contest.

She imagined herself on the throne that stood empty at the front of the hall. She didn’t focus on her imagined jewels or the dress embroidered with rich threads, or the ring of silver and gold resting on her gold hair, but on that feeling. The feeling of power that would come with being queen is what Senna wanted most.

As queen, she could change conditions for the poorest of Dornesse. Her little sister, nine years old herself and just starting work weaving in the textile factory, would be a princess. She imagined just how happy her sister would be if she could wear clean silk dresses and play in the castle gardens all day.

Seeing her sister nearly falling asleep at the loom, her fingers blistered after only a day of work, had inspired her to leave for the castle that very moment.

“Juna,” she had whispered to her sister as she slept that night. “I love you. Watch over daddy for me while I’m gone.” She had kissed her sister’s forehead and then wrote a note for her father and left it on the kitchen counter.

She used her savings to convince a farmer getting into the capital late that day to take her up to the castle with him. When he dropped her off near the kitchens, she had to wander through the squash and beans until she found herself in the flower garden, which then gave her a clear view of the sprawling green grass of the perfectly manicured front lawn.

When she told the man at the front doors that she was there for the queen’s contest, he had looked disapprovingly at her shabby jeans and t-shirt but let her in and gave her a golden card with the number 1,542 on it in black spindly letters. “Any luggage?”

“Um, no,” she had said, realizing how stupid she had been to forget to bring anything like luggage.

“You’ll be late if you don’t run, girl,” he had said, rolling his eyes.

Senna looked down at that card now. 1,542? That was… a lot of girls. Surely she had no chance of becoming queen among all these richer girls with better upbringings.

A knot tightened in her stomach, one she had been ignoring.

She thought of her friends back home in the industrial district: a group of skinny teenagers that were already weary with life but valued their friendships more than anything. Coming tonight… if she really got any farther than the first elimination… it would change her life. It would distance her from the people she had known and loved for her whole life. And she hadn’t even told them she was leaving.

Or the factory. If she did get eliminated and had to return, she wouldn’t have a job anymore.

She started to feel afraid and alone, and like she had made the worst impulse decision of her entire life. She took a cookie off one of the tables and nibbled on it. It was delicious, but she still felt like she wanted to puke.

Everything here felt perfect except herself.

She heard gasps and giggles come across the group of girls like a wave. Looking around, she noticed a television camera swinging on a long metal arm over the group.

Really? This was going to be televised? She tried to hide behind a pile of pineapples cut to look like crowns but wasn’t sure how successful she was.

“That makes this whole thing make more sense, huh?”

Senna looked around. Was that directed at her? The warm voice had come from right nearby.

A tall girl was standing on the other side of the pineapples, nibbling on one. Senna came out from behind the pile. “Sorry, did you say something?”

“Yeah. The fact that it’s televised really says a lot, right?”

Senna nodded. The girl was right. “It really seems to be something of a publicity stunt…”

“A publicity stunt seeking good publicity. I can’t think of any other reason why the queen would let so many of us magical-less folk into the palace.”

It was true. The Elevated had been losing support among the general population in the past few years. People had started to question –quietly, but noticeably –what gave the Elevated the right to be in power. Maybe this contest, taking a magic-less girl from the general populous and giving her a token position in the palace, was just meant to give the Elevated and the royal family a better reputation.

Font size
Font color
Line spacing
Background color