Blood Crown
By Violet Day
Date: January 4, 2021
Ch. 1414

“If you are unsure of what you will find when you enter this maze, all will become clear soon. Frane, please unhook the rope and let the girls through.” The guard did so. As the group took their first halting steps forward, the queen smiled. Senna thought she saw a bit of something evil in that smile, and it surprised her. Not only that, but it made her feel infinitely more afraid. “Best of luck, girls. I will see you on the other side.”

The first part of the maze was simply a dimly lit hall in one direction. There were no doors and no feeling of enchantment. The girls walked together, their breathing audible.

They came to a fork in the hallway.

For some reason, they felt compelled to consult each other. “I feel like half of us should go one way, and half should go the other,” one of the girls said.

“Me too,” another agreed.

Without much more conversation, five girls went to the right, and Pippia, Lowelle, Senna, Javiana, and the short blonde girl –had her name been Honey? –went to the left.

“I wonder what makes an enchanted maze different from a normal maze,” Pippia said. She still looked bright and peppy but something in her eyes told Senna that she was a little scared.

“The queen said something about us facing our fears, so those will probably show up eventually,” Javiana said softly.

A few moments later, Lowelle spoke after having been silent the entire time since they entered the maze. “Where’s Lunny?”

That was her name! Senna looked around. The hallway was empty except for the group of (now) four girls.

“Did any of you see a doorway? Or another hallway?”

The girls all shook their heads.

“This is so strange,” Pippia said. “I don’t understand why we need to do this in order to show that we should be queen. We’ve already done so much. Couldn’t Prince Yoren simply choose between a group of the ten of us? I really don’t like the feeling of this…” Almost cutting herself off mid sentence, Pippia screamed.

“What?” Javiana put a hand on Pippia’s shoulder. The redhead seemed to be staring at something none of them could see. Her face was twisted and terrified, the innocence and warmth in her expression completely gone.

Senna swallowed. She willed herself not to become afraid.

“She’s not responding to me,” Javiana said. The tall girl turned back to Lowelle and Senna. “You two go on without me. I’ll wait here until she’s okay.”

“We’re not supposed to be working together, anyhow,” Lowelle muttered. She strode forward, her figure quickly fading away into the darkness of the hallway before them.

Senna followed her. She didn’t really want to be alone with Lowelle, but she didn’t have much choice. They were in a hallway with no doors or archways. Senna could either go back toward the entrance or farther into the maze. It wasn’t a choice at all.

She tried to catch up with Lowelle. It took her a long time; longer than it should have. Every time she took a step Lowelle seemed to stay just as far away. Eventually she caught up with her.

“Hey, Lowelle,” she said. “Slow down. I can barely keep up with you.”

Lowelle didn’t respond, or slow down, or even look at her.


Lowelle looked around, but the action didn’t seem connected to Senna’s words. Lowelle stopped walking. Senna came to a stop as well.

“Lowelle? Can you hear me?”

The dark haired girl took a deep breath. Her skin looked paler than ever. “Senna?” She said, her voice almost shaking.

“I’m right here,” Senna said. She stood right in front of Lowelle. The girl looked right through her.

“Senna!” Lowelle cried. “I don’t want to do this alone! I’m really… afraid.”

“Lowelle, I’m right here. I’m right here.” Senna’s heart beat faster.

“I’m sorry for how I treated you. I knew you were my biggest competition from the moment I saw you; you’re so beautiful and you just… just… emanate strength. Like a queen should. I know I can’t even compare myself to you, so I took it out on you. Senna, I’m so sorry. Please come back. This trial feels so wrong to me. If you were here I would feel so much stronger…”

Lowelle sat down on the stone floor of the hallway, leaning against the wall. She pulled her knees to her chest. “I’m such an idiot,” she muttered. “Of course she would rather try to go through the maze on her own than be stuck with me.”

Senna knelt in front of Lowelle. She felt tears building up behind her eyes. “I don’t know why you can’t see me, or if this is one of your fears,” Senna said softly, knowing Lowelle couldn’t hear her, “but I want you to know that I think you are a better person than you think you are.”

Senna touched Lowelle’s cheek, wiping a tear away. The dark haired girl made no indication that she had heard Senna.

She stood up and continued down the hallway, her heart beating fast and her palms cold.

This wasn’t a light hearted “so you want to be queen?” type challenge. This felt like dark magic.

And why wasn’t it being filmed? What Pippia had said before she saw whatever she saw had been very astute. This seemed different from the rest of the competition. Like it had a double purpose.

Senna tripped over something. She fell hard onto the stone floor. She pushed herself up, her palms and knees stinging. She could barely see in the essentially nonexistent light of the hallway, but she could feel that her palms were bleeding or at scraped badly.

What had she tripped over?

She crawled down the hallway a few feet to where she had tripped. A shadowy shape, about the size of a curled up dog, was visible just outside her reach. She pushed herself into a sitting position and put a hand onto the figure.

She felt soft, cool skin.

She blinked, waited until her eyes became used to the low light.

And then she screamed. “Juna!” She collapsed over the figure of her little sister. But this wasn’t the sweet, lively little girl she knew and loved. This was a cold, still corpse of her tiny sister, her eyes open and looking into the nothingness of the hallway ceiling.

“Juna,” she choked, covering the girl’s body with her own. “I’m so sorry I left you at home without me,” she cried. “I knew it. I knew this would be in the maze. It’s not real,” she told herself. “You’re not dead. You’re playing in the living room with your dolls, hoping your sister becomes queen so you can be a princess. I promise I’ll make you a princess, sweetheart.”

Senna let herself cry for a few more minutes, her body shaking. Her sister felt cool beneath her. “This isn’t real,” she said, kissing her sister on the forehead.

Trembling, she managed to stand. As soon as she did, her surroundings changed.

She was falling, but not through nothingness. She couldn’t breathe. Oh –water. She was drowning.

She held her breath, trying not to panic. It wasn’t rule. She floated onto her back, looking up through the crushing weight of the water above her. Light shone through the water, revealing the colors of what was killing her.

The water was swimming with red and gold dyes.

As Senna tried to take a breath against her better judgment, she realized what this was. She was in the waters of the dye vats that she worked in at the textile factory. She choked on the bitter tasting water. She felt the effects of the oxygen deprivation. It felt so real… but it wasn’t, right?

The queen didn’t want anyone to die in this maze, did she?

Her consciousness began to slip away and she felt herself marveling in the beauty of the golden water that was taking away her air.

As her eyes began to close, slowly –she was so tired –she thought she saw a face through the water. A warm, golden face. Warmer than the water around her.

Was that her? No… because she was down here.

A hand reached through the water toward her. The hand and arm were made of a glittering golden light that pierced through the somewhat duller colors of the dye.

Should she reach for it? Would the hand and face save her?

Her eyes shut completely. She was too weak to reach for the hand. She would sleep instead.

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