Blood Crown
By Violet Day
Date: November 23, 2020
Ch. 88

The girls lined up. No one looked very excited. Senna imagined that finding out you were infertile this way would not be pleasant; especially because it was being recorded on cameras hanging from the ceiling for everyone at home to see.

The line moved quickly and the vast majority of girls were waved back into the hall. Until the end of the line, where Senna stood, she actually only saw maybe between five and ten girls be eliminated.

She breathed a sigh of relief when the midwife, a stout woman with grey hair in braids, pressed her fingers to her stomach and then waved her back into the hall.

She found Lowelle again, whom Pippia seemed to have decided she was going to stick to. Kind of like me, Senna thought, a bit guiltily. Lowelle wasn’t especially outgoing or positive or friendly, even, but somehow she seemed to attract those who needed a friend.

As Senna had been at the end of the line, the room now only held those girls who were fertile and had passed the first two trials. It seemed like that group was still near the three hundred who had been there earlier, probably around two hundred and eighty.

The same strong, muscled assistants came into the great hall and removed the dining table. Then more assistants came out and began to set up tables along the walls of the now furniture-less hall (except for the thrones at the end of the hall, of course). Then even more came out with boxes and baskets of things and began setting up what Senna could only describe as "stations" at points around the room.

"Girls," the queen addressed them. "Your aim is to go around to each station and complete the activity there with a child. Once you are done with the station, the child will stamp your arm."

Okay, Senna thought. That seemed simple enough.

"There is a twist, and a rather brutal one, girls." There were some groans and looks from the crowd. "There will only be one hundred children. And any contestant who cannot complete each of the twenty activities with a child before dinnertime will be disqualified."

That meant that anyone who couldn't find a kid to do every activity with them, every time, would be eliminated. You really had to be good with kids -and interesting kids -to pass this trial.

Senna had a little sister, so she knew a little about how to get a kid's attention and how to talk to them. She felt comfortable around kids, but... that didn't mean she felt comfortable in this trial.

The main doors of the great hall swung open and a group of children, seeming to be between kindergarten and third grade ages, ran into the hall. The cameras above them swooped down over the crowd of children.

"Best of luck, my girls. I leave you now under the capable eye of my assistants, who will make sure you are on your best behavior and do not cheat a child out of their stamp. The assistants will tally your stamps before dinner. I will address the final hundred contestants after you eat. Again -good luck."

All the girls, even those who had been giggling and laughing when they heard what the trial was, looked a little intimidated. Then they seemed to have realized that the trial had started and the group of girls rushed toward the kids.

Senna heard cries of "come with me!" and "come over here, do this activity with me!"

The desperateness in those girls' voices put even her a little on edge. The kids wouldn't be really excited to work with someone that stressed out. Senna approached a cluster of little girls, probably some of the youngest there, who looked very shy. She didn't notice what Pippia and Lowelle were doing -this was her time to focus on the challenge and herself.

“Hi girls,” she said softly. “What are your names?”

The girl in the front of the group looked up at her. “Lil,” she said, smiling just a tad. The other girls muttered their names.

Senna smiled. “I’m Senna. I know this is probably all a bit overwhelming –scary. I think so too, but I also think it would be fun to do some of the activities they have set up. I saw a coloring one, and one that looks like a puppet show. Do any of you want to go check them out?”

She seemed to have convinced most of them. Lil nodded. “Can I go first?”

“Of course!” Senna said. “Did you have a station in mind?”

Lil looked around the room. “That one!” she nearly shrieked, pointing to a station where some puppies rolled around inside a puppy pen, watched by a handler.

Laughing, Senna brought her over to the station. They played with the puppies, and when they were done, Lil stamped her arm with a stamp that the handler of the puppies handed her, shaped like a puppy’s face.

“Do you want to do another one with me?” Senna asked. She saw some other girls who couldn’t find child eyeing her and Lil as they stepped out of the puppy pen.

“Yes! Yes!” Lil insisted.

Senna breathed a sigh of relief. Lil probably wouldn’t want to stay with her for the whole trial, but she was a huge step ahead around two hundred of the other girls.

The day went by quickly. Senna had been right; Lil ran off to another contestant after three or four trials, but a shy girl in braids that Senna recognized from the group she had originally approached asked her if they could do the musical instrument activity, and then eat lunch together –which actually ended up being one of the activities –and Senna ended up finishing the rest of the activities with her.

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