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Sad Contemporary Fiction

A gunshot went off in the distance. 

“Your Majesty—”

“I know,” I said. 

I walked down to the basement of the castle, where I could pull the book that moved the bookshelves. Then, when I was in the corridor behind the shelves, I would tip the vase that opened the trapdoor beneath me. And after landing on the plush mattress, I lifted the large tapestry on the wall and stepped into another corridor, which led to the safe room. I was alone in the room, because this one was reserved for the royal family. I was the entirety of the royal family, the Queen. 

I had grown used to the loneliness of this room over the past few months. I made the trip to this very room pretty much every week. The rebels had become both more violent and more frequent, no matter what I did in an attempt to settle them. I knew what they wanted- a revolution. And I couldn’t deny that our kingdom needed changes. Specifically in the ruler department. I didn’t think I was a bad ruler. But I did know about my family’s history, of course. 

My great grandmother came to power by blood. She wasn’t a direct descendant of the king and queen, but after they and all their children were poisoned and died, she took the throne as their cousin.  No one was able to manage to prove that it was my great grandmother who poisoned the family, but everyone suspected it. Then my grandfather. He didn’t kill anyone, but everyone still hated him. He was always drunk because of the constant parties he insisted on throwing and the bottle of whiskey he always carried around. And he didn’t care. About anything. The kingdom dissolved into ruin under his rule, the only thing that prevented an all-out civil war was hope for his son. My father. He was 16 when he killed his brothers and sisters. 17 when he killed his mother. Nearly 18 when he killed his father. He was crowned on his 18th birthday. Legally, anyone could kill the royal family. If a commoner kills the Queen, then the next person in line for the throne will take over. If a commoner killed the Queen and the entire royal line, then that very commoner would take the throne. This is exactly what my father did, besides the fact that he was a third born prince, not a commoner. The people didn’t hate my father as they did my grandfather and great grandmother, but they did distrust him. My father was a usually fair leader, but he had no mercy for enemies. All of his supporters were rewarded, but rebels… they didn’t last long. Unless they were being tortured for information. Although he had support from the majority of the kingdom, people were still uneasy about him. 

And then there was me. I knew that I had supporters. I knew that I was more beloved than any monarch in the last couple generations. And yet— the rebels. More rebels. That’s what was happening then. They were trying to break in. Probably to kill or threaten me. 

The people wanted a democracy. The members of the royal family had been getting careless. They took their power for granted, assuming they all could do anything. So the number of rebels has grown. They all wanted edme dead. I was the last living member of the royal family in Merakani. If I died, no more. The rebels would win. But the thought continued to nag at me; would that be a bad thing? This kingdom needed to be fixed. We neededed a better system, where power would never fall in the hands of the unworthy. 

I came out of my thoughts long enough to listen to the sounds around me. Nothing. No footsteps in the corridors, no bombs, no screams. The silence calmed me enough to let myself drift off to sleep. 

I woke to the sound of quick footsteps in a nearby corridor. There was a strong chance that it was merely a guard arriving to tell me it’s safe, but the slightest hint of worry compelled led me to retrieve the gun stashed inside a drawer. 

I didn't even check for bullets in the chamber. I only held the gun towards the entrance and tried to look intimidating. 

Soon enough a woman burst through the tapestry. I recognized her immediately as captain of the royal guard and my friend since childhood, Eileen. 

“Arabella! Are you alright?” She asked me. 

Your Majesty,” I corrected. 

She giggled. It was a joke we’d had since childhood, when we first met. 

I followed her up to the main floor. She walked me all the way to my rooms, giving me updates on the most recent attack. 

“It was the longest lasting attack since two months ago. Plenty of damage, and losses…” she trailed off, looking pained. I hated to ask, but I had to know. 

“How many did we lose?” I ventured nervously. 

“A quarter of our troops. Most survivors have wounds, but only a few are hospitalized.”

I sighed. We’d been drafting new men regularly, and set up a volunteer system, but it wasn’t enough. There were always more rebels. 

***

I motioned with my hand for the cameras to stop rolling. After finishing the mandatory televised update after the attack, I was feeling more hopeless than ever. If only the rebels could come in peace, work with me, maybe we could have come to an agreement that would benefit everyone. That didn’t seem to be possible then. 

I said goodbye to Eileen and opened the door to my rooms. The first room, a little sitting room to have quick conversations in, was torn apart. Blood stains all over the white carpet, paintings torn and on the floor, and vases shattered. The room was bustling with maids removing stains and replacing decorations. 

I passed the chaos into my office area and then into my bed chambers. The office and desk have suffered slightly less destruction, only some paperwork ripped from the drawers and pens scattered on the floor. And my bedroom was pretty much untouched. From what I could tell just by looking around, rebels broke into my rooms, tore up the first room, and made it as far as my desk before they got shot. 

I sat on my bed, thinking deeply. How could I ever settle the rebels? It just didn’t seem possible to accomplish this late. I knew, of course, that it wasn’t my fault for being late to the game. I could only do so much when I came to power, the last rulers had destroyed any order or peace in the kingdom. But I couldn’t help but think that some of this was my fault. And the thought kept nagging me… but I couldn’t. 

Quickly, I straightened my gown as I heard footsteps coming closer. My chief advisor and best friend, Quinn, entered. 

“Arabella, thank goodness you’re here. We have called an emergency meeting for all the advisors. You’d best come,” he told me. He started walking out the door, assuming I’d follow him. I sighed and got up, knowing what was coming. 

***

“Your Majesty, we’ve discussed this. It is the only way to settle the people,” Lord Zeph told me. 

“I know we’ve discussed this, but I refuse to be married. And I don’t believe that our people are so shallow to be content with a wedding and a child,” I replied. For months the majority of the court had been convinced that if the people were happy or excited — perhaps with a new marriage and pregnancy — the rebels would settle. “Have the rebels issued any demands?” I questioned, hoping for a solution. 

“Only one,” Quinn said. “They want an end to the monarchy. Too many bad people inherit power with this system, they say, and we all know that it’s true.” Sighs came from all around the room. 

I pondered the possibilities. “Maybe we could establish a training program? Where the past leader could mentor the new one?” 

“A good idea,” replied Lady Delaney. “But imagine if your father has mentored you. Would you be as strong and level-headed as you are now?” she’d pointed out. 

“Perhaps not.”

“Could we place elements of democracy in some of the major decision making?” suggested Sir Walter. “Just enough to make the people believe that their opinions are being taken into account.”

I took a moment to consider. “That could work…” I paused. “I trust you’ll organize it, Sir Walter?” 

“Of course. I’d be delighted to.” he replied. 

“Thank you. Feel free to ask me for help if the need should arise. We’ll see how this plan goes.”

Lord Zeph cleared his throat. “Your majesty, if I may speak freely—”

“It’s all you ever seem to do,” I interjected. I did know that my manners were slipping away, but I was losing patience with Lord Zeph and his persistence on the matter of my marriage. 

He looked down at his feet for a moment, seemingly debating whether to continue talking. “I believe that the only way to settle this is to excite the people. Excitement spreads.”

“Excitement is temporary.”

“Are you saying that this new… system you plan to put out is not temporary?”

“That’s exactly what I’m saying. Thank you for understanding. Good day to all of you.”

I stood, and everyone else followed my lead. “Lord Zeph, please stay to speak with me.” 

He stayed in his place as everyone else exited the room. “Lord Zeph, I think that we both know why you’re here. What you ask of me will not be done. If I will be wed, it’ll be on my own terms, and I’d appreciate it if you could accept that.”

He opened and closed his mouth a few times, seemingly at a loss for words. I only watched him. 

“This is not something that I can accept. You are required by law to produce an heir,” he spoke finally. 

I considered it for a moment. “As I said, I will do it on my own terms.”

I knew he tried to hide it, but I did notice his right hand ball into a fist. I glanced up at the guard, and she had already advanced one step and placed her hand on her gun. 

“Of course.” He started to turn around, but I stopped him. 

“Of course, Your Majesty,” I corrected firmly. 

He glared at me and clenched his jaw. I stared back calmly. “Your Majesty,” he repeated after a moment of angry silence. Satisfied, I passed him and walked out the room, nodding subtly to the guard as I went. Officer Makir. I’d have to remember that name. 

***

Back in my room, I saw that the maids had cleared up the seating area. They took out the blood stains in my office, but left the papers and pens untouched. They always seemed incredibly careful to respect my privacy, which is why I kept them. After spending about ten minutes putting everything back in its place, I pulled out some of the most recent rebel reports and got to reading. The only thing that the rebels wanted was to end the monarchy and have a say in who governs them. And I knew that most of the kingdom wanted the same but didn't want to be as violent or bold as the rebels were. 

A headache came on eventually and I had to stop. I decided to have a nap until dinner because I didn’t get any sleep last night. I thought that it was a pretty fair reason. 

I woke up again when my head maid, Vera, entered to prepare me for dinner. “Miss Arabella,” she started, “may I pull out a gown for supper?” I told her yes and she chose a beautiful deep emerald dress. After a few simple touch-ups to my makeup and hair, I made my way to the dining hall. 

As I entered the dining hall, everyone inside stood and bowed. I smiled and motioned for them to sit. It seemed I was a little late to dinner, mostly everyone was there already. I tried to hide my grin when I realised that Lord Zeph had decided against coming. Seconds after I’d sat, dinner was served. 

***

The next morning I woke up and took in my surroundings. I’d fallen asleep at my desk, reading Sir Walter’s plan for democracy. Parents could elect school boards, and anyone over 20 could vote on minor decisions. 

I stamped the ‘approved’ symbol over it before I overthought too much. Anything to stop the rebels. 

***

It didn’t work. 

Why did nothing work?

More meetings. More plans. More approvals. More rebels. The people want more. 

How could I have given them more? I pondered as I walked to the latest emergency meeting that my advisors had called. 

“We had a thought,” Lord Zeph said, waking me from my thoughts. “We think that the only way to settle the rebels is to make them happy. And,” I held my breath. “You can do it your way, or you can do it ours. And I’m sure you know that the rebels won’t accept only a little bit. You tried giving them a hint of what they want, but they’re not satisfied. They want it all.”

Just then, the alarm sounded. We all quickly stood up and filed out the doors. I grabbed Quinn’s wrist and fled to the royal safe room. Everyone around threw me questioning looks, but I knew that none would dare tell me to stop. Once we were hidden in the room safely, Quinn spoke. 

“What’s this about?” he asked. I frowned, wondering how to word this. Rip off the band-aid. 

“I need you to kill me,” I spoke calmly. 

His eyes widened as he processed the request. “Why?” he asked in disbelief. I couldn’t blame him— I was a little in shock myself. But I had to follow through. I had thought and planned for this. It was as Lord Zeph had said, I needed to make the rebels happy. Their way. “If someone royal kills me, they legally have to take the throne. If someone who isn’t royal kills me, well, the rules are fuzzy, but you’d technically be in power. 

Because you aren’t royal, you could never be king. But you would still have power, and that’s what matters. So, I want you to kill me and then call an election. Any citizen of over twenty years may vote.”

“So, I have to kill you right now?” he asked, looking nervous. “Like, here?”

“Come with me,” I said, leading him through the narrow pathway which goes directly to the first advisor's safe room. All the safe rooms were connected, but only the royal family knows. When we reached the next room, I saw Sir Walter among the herd of men and women. Grabbing his wrist and making Quinn follow me, I started towards the guard’s room. Upon arriving I immediately spotted Officer Makir and led her back to the royal room. As we walked, Quinn caught them up on what was going on. I snatched a quill and parchment to write on. As I wrote, I spoke, letting everyone know the plan. 

“I, Queen Arabella of Merakani, hereby declare that I have passed my leadership to Lord Quinn Smith. He has, with permission, killed me and assumed my title. This agreement will stay intact so long as he abdicates his title and power in favour of calling an election for government. Signed, Arabella Of Merakani, Witnesses signed Officer Elizabeth Makir and Sir Cameron Walter.” They signed the document. “It’s settled, then,”

Anything for my people. 

March 19, 2022 04:18

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3 comments

Anusha Vyas
20:09 May 21, 2022

I love this! I love how you one, have a strong, independent female lead who doesn't want to go the conventional way of marriage and an heir to settle her problems, and two, set up a moral dilemma within the protagonist. Even though she was not directly contributing to the tyranny, it was the principle of the matter and I really like how you portrayed that. The very last line gave me chills. I'd love to read more of your work!!

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20:32 Mar 19, 2022

Very creative! Good storytelling.

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Mae Stroshane
16:12 Mar 19, 2022

Wow, this is powerful! Well done tribute to a hero queen of integrity.

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