Fiction Drama Sad

The cart rattled over the cobblestone path, the sounds echoing through the empty street. Pavel sat in the back with his cloak wrapped around him to keep away the morning chill. He faced away from the destination, not wanting to watch as the imposing fortress loomed closer and closer on the horizon with every step the horse took. The driver whistled a cheery tune that grated on Pavel’s nerves, and he knocked on the side of the cart to get the driver to stop. The man shot him a glare, but remained quiet. Without the added distraction, Pavel allowed his mind to wander for the first time in weeks.

She won’t be very happy with me. Of course, I’m not very happy with her so we’re even. I’ll have to explain myself to her, but I’m sure she’ll understand when I explain the situation in the Lower Ring.

The conversation played out in his head. She’d be sitting on her throne, face covered by silks and precious stones. Her voice would command the attention of everyone in the room as she asked, “Do you understand the crimes you’ve committed?”

Pavel wouldn’t let her continue from there.

“The crime that has been committed is the redistribution of wealth from those who have no need to those who are dying in the streets of your empire. Tell me, what is wrong with that sentence? You know me, and you know I would never resort to thievery unless the cause was just. Your court sits in their lavish houses in the Upper Ring while citizens of the Lower Ring hold vigils every night for the victims of starvation and disease. Both those things would be easily preventable with economic aid from the empire, but economic aid never comes.” 

He would pause at this point, teasing her with a chance to speak. She would remain silent, so he would continue.

“Years ago you told me that each Ring was a part of the city, so each Ring should receive fair treatment. How ironic that is now, when your rule has led to the prosperity of the Upper Ring alone.”

“There is only so much I can do.” She would say, watching as all the eyes in the throne room turned to her.

“You have yet to do all you can.” He would argue. There would be no comeback for that. Pavel chuckled to himself.

Well, there would be no comeback that she could say in front of her court.

He would then give her an ultimatum.

“You may throw me in jail, or hang me publicly, but your neglect has led to anger, and the next time a commoner stands before you, it will be a much different situation.” 

She would stand up and walk down before him, and in her typical aloof fashion she would ask what he expected of her.

“I expect you to be the leader you promised to be, back before the nobles in court held their weapons to your back and told you to become one of them. You have the power in this situation, and I know you can use it well.”

He would be sent to the dungeons for a day to show the people of the Rings that stealing was wrong. Then she’d release him, and she would start to make things right. Pavel knew that Empress Elmara was far removed from the suffering of her people, but when it came down to it, she would do the right thing. When they had been children, she was haughty and loud but underneath the cloak of pride, she was kind to her people. As the cart passed through the gates and the soldiers dragged Pavel out the back, he smiled to himself.

She knows I’m in the right. She’ll do what’s best.

Empress Elmara leaned forward in her seat when Pavel was shoved before her. The guards kept him on his knees. 

“Do you understand the crimes you’ve committed?” She drawled lazily as she examined Pavel behind her veil.


The words stuck in Pavel’s throat. 

“A simple yes or no will suffice.” Elmara crossed her legs, “Or are you finding it difficult to confess your guilt?”

“G-guilt?” Pavel managed to sputter, “Am I guilty of standing up for the people who have nothing?” 

He thought he was getting back on course and opened his mouth to speak again when Elmara snapped her fingers impatiently.

“A yes or no will suffice.” 

“Elmara, please-” 

One of the guards pushed Pavel closer to the ground as Elmara growled, “That is Empress Elmara to you. I condemn you as guilty of thievery, assaulting soldiers of the empire, and failing to properly address your leader. You will be hanged at dawn.” She gestured at the soldiers holding Pavel down.

“Take him away.”

Pavel was hauled to his feet and dragged out of the throne room. At the door he managed to find his voice.

“Your people are suffering, Empress. They will not put up with this for much longer!”

“Why do you care?” Elmara straightened her veils, “You’ll be dead by morning.”

It was after midnight when Elmara came down to the dungeons. She dragged the guard’s chair over and sat down in front of the bars. Pavel didn’t greet her.

“I take it you had more you wanted to say?” Elmara asked, “Would you like to share?”

He looked past her, “You’ve changed.”

“And you’ve stayed the same. Still can’t hold a conversation if it takes place outside your imagination.” 

Pavel watched Elmara cross her legs and get comfortable on the splintering chair.

“If you won’t talk, I will. You imply that there’s revolution coming, so where is it?” She glanced around, “Where is the unrest?”

Far from you, Pavel tried to say. The words caught in his throat, like uncooked dough. He was choking on all the things he wanted to say yet couldn’t under Elmara’s watchful gaze. 

“When my parents died and I took the throne, I learned something about my people. If there is the hope that they’ll advance their status, they won’t dare upset the balance. Feed them lies, turn them against each other, and they’ll never think to hold a revolution. I go out there and I say I’m on their side, and the people living in their own filth believe me. I point them in the direction of a group I dislike and I say, that’s the reason you are poor, and they turn on that group.” 

“What are you saying?”

“If you hold the promise of wealth over the heads of those in poverty,” Elmara leaned forward, “They’ll support you until the end of time.”

“Things change.” Pavel spat out.

“No, they don’t.” Elmara reached out and cupped his face in her hand, “Nothing changes. Everything you fight against has been going on for years. You’re not the first to fight back, and you won’t be the last, but people like you who go around attempting to start something? You’ll never succeed. Not while there are people who can keep control of the situation.” 

She stood up, “Goodnight, old friend. I’m sorry it had to come to this.” 

Pavel watched her go in silence. His death was equally as quiet, no words in existence that could save him.

Elmara was wrong. 

He raised his head high as the noose slipped around his neck.

Change is coming, and the people won’t stop until her legacy of hatred and lies is torn to pieces.

The trapdoor swung open, and Pavel thought no more.

January 15, 2021 18:31

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