Blood Crown
By Violet Day
Date: November 30, 2020
Ch. 99

Dinnertime came and the two hundred girls or so who were unable to complete all the activities with the children were escorted from the great hall.

Senna ate dinner in the great hall just as her two previous meals. She was able to find Lowelle and Pippia and they shared their experiences with the trial. Pippia had been one of the first to finish, and Lowelle had been extremely lucky because one third grade boy had simply attached himself to her and refused to leave after every activity.

The queen returned to her throne once the girls finished eating.

“You are the final one hundred girls,” she stated, her strong voice piercing the hall. “And each one of you has proved yourself a special, remarkable young woman. However, only one of you can be queen.”

Senna felt her breath catch in her throat. One hundred girls out of fifteen hundred… and she was still there. It almost seemed like a mistake. She actually had a one in a hundred chance of becoming queen. Ruling Dornesse. Her voice being heard across the kingdom, her choices having meaning and leading to better lives for those who were now being pushed aside.

Her heart swelled. She had to do this. She had to win.

But that meant passing the next trial. And the two after that.

“The fourth trial is an artistic one. A queen must have all of the qualities you have been tested on now, but it is also important that queen be artistically inclined. Having one or two well-developed artistic talents makes for a well-rounded queen, one whose mind is not trapped in the harsh, physical nature of the rational world. I myself, as you may know, craft jewelry in my limited spare time. Now you will have the chance to show me and a panel of judges, composed of some of the castles most developed entertainers, your talent and passion. Tomorrow will consist of a talent show of sorts, though not all talents have to be of an entertainment sort. You may simply display a work or works of art during your turn. If your talent requires an instrument or other materials, simply ask a page and you will be given materials within reason. You will show your talent in order of your original assigned number. Until tomorrow evening,” the queen said. She smiled a tight smile and strode through the door behind the platform that led to the wing of the palace that included the royal chambers.

The girls turned to each other and talked in low voices as they began to get up from the table and go back to the university dorms.

Pippia seemed excited. “I’ve been dancing since I was three years old,” she said, moving her head so emphatically that her plaits bounced around. “I can do every style. Modern, classical, those dances from over the Western Seas… I think I’ll do something very classical and controlled for this contest, though. Something queenly. Oh, I really should ask for some shoes padded in the toe if I’m going to do the dance I’m thinking of…”

“Can you just be quiet?”

Pippia and Senna looked at Lowelle.

The dark haired girl looked… angry. Upset. “Your incessant talking is really unnecessary, Pippia. Go find someone who wants to listen.”

“Lowelle!” Senna said, shocked.

Pippia stopped walking. They were only a turn away from the hallway where their rooms were, but they let the other girls pass by.

“Okay,” Pippia said, wiping a tear from her eye. “I don’t understand why you seem to dislike me so much. But. Um. Okay, I’ll go.” Turning her face away from the other girls so they couldn’t see her tears, Pippia walked swiftly to her own room.

Senna just stared at Lowelle. “What was that?”

Lowelle shrugged. “She was distracting. I can’t think about what other people are going to do in this competition. What? Why are you looking at me like that? Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you to get lost. You’re not going to win this competition, you’re basically the opposite of a queen. Poor, unschooled, no experience with fashion or publicity. There’s no way you’ll win, so I’m fine with you hanging around.”

Senna blinked, feeling her throat tighten. Lowelle wasn’t joking around. Her words were biting and rang with truth. Senna never cried, but she felt her eyes getting hot.

Without saying a word in response, Senna opened the door to their room, went into the bathroom, and began to get ready for bed.

She had failed to remember that this was a competition full of rich, stuck up girls who had been trained their whole lives to emulate the royalty. She had no chance. And yet she was here.

She wouldn’t give up, but she would also remember to keep an emotional distance from the other girls and to play this like the competition it was.

That meant passing the trial of the next day.

She was too tired to paint something then, but she would in the morning. The idea excited her. She had been painting since she was little, inspired by the bright colors of dye that got on her clothes when she worked in the factory, but recently had made a hobby out of it when she had time that wasn’t taken up by work, school, or taking care of her little sister. She was lucky she already had an artistic talent.

Thought the other girls probably did as well, forced to practice knitting or singing or playing piano or sketching with an expensive tutor from the time they could walk and talk.

I’ll be fine, she told herself. Because what I lack in professional training, I make up for in inspiration and a unique view.

She went to sleep –not even looking at Lowelle –imagining bright, glowing images of what she might paint for tomorrow’s trial.

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