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Title: THE ENTHRONEMENT
(The Enthronement Series #1)
Author: Charity Mae
Pub. Date: July 31, 2022
Publisher: Knighted Phoenix Publishing
Formats: Paperback, eBook, Audiobook
Five-hundred years bloody of civil war ends in massacre or redemption based on the heart of one actress who never wanted this power.
Kascia is shattered when they ask her to join the Enthronement. She wanted nothing more than her planned out life performing at the theater and marrying the man she’d been betrothed to since she was a young girl. But she’s left broken and unsure of her existence when the men in her life, who should have loved her, pressure her to join the Enthronement – a contest to prove one girl a true princess and marry the crown prince – so she can let her father’s rebels in to assassinate the royal family.
But Kascia loses all confidence in the truths she once held dear as she enters the palace and find the royal family are not the greedy slobs she’d believed whose ancestors had started a 500-year long civil war by raising the taxes to insane rates all at once. Taxes that are still in place. She doesn’t just find the prince innocent and endearing, but the king is more a lovable slightly inappropriate grandfather than a hard-fisted tyrant. The queen isn’t a cold overload but an elegant though overbearing mother anxious to protect her family and her people.
Can Kascia let her father assassinate the royal family when they aren’t what the people believe? If the royal family aren’t encouraging the bloodshed, who is? Or is there a reason this spark between them is forbidden?
Kascia must find the answers in time. But can she before the time runs out? Or will the blood be on her hands when the war kills every last man, woman, and child left in Purerah?
The Enthronement is a young adult fantasy romance with dystopian and dark fantasy elements is sure to delight fans of The Hunger Games, The Enthronement, and Matched. Don’t miss this best-selling fairytale retelling of The Princess and the Pea.
Enter a world of glittering gowns, treacherous contestants, and royal secrets by clicking the Buy Now button above and find the truth of 500 years of civil war.
I never wanted to be a princess, my Father destined me to be a queen. But today I am a dancer, and that’s all I ever wanted to be.
Not that I don’t understand why he wants me to be queen. It’s nearly impossible for anyone to walk these streets and not understand. The evidence lies bare no matter where you look. Not a soul, no matter how hardened, can miss the battle and poverty scarred souls who live here or how every building and structure in the city cries for relief. With the right queen, relief could be given, and if you ask my Dad, that queen had to be me.
Not even the heavy mist that looms in the early morning air can hide the slowly decaying city from view. Rather, the mist toys with it like sadistic fingers stroking the fur of some dement ed pet. The mist swirls across the stone street, dipping into the countless potholes, cracks, crevices, and shattered stone gaps it can find. It snakes between the buildings, dipping into and back out of the dozens of cracks and dents inside the stone walls, teasing the broken, splintered, and missing roof shingles. It skips up the slanted roofs and basic coastal stones, adding a shiver to the air that makes me hug my shawl tighter around me, thinking perhaps I should have brought my cloak.
The mist gives the illusion of being alone, but there are plenty of people out and about, even this early in the morning. With the day, most of them are desperate merchants or performers who want to be ready for the activity of the festival, scraping as much of a living out of it as possible.
The mist hides them from view, but each whispering voice makes the chill worse. A small part of my mind debates if it’s an innocent merchant, shopper, guard, or a desperate soul ready to do whatever it takes to get by. The mist dims the eyes but enlarges the ears.
“Have you heard?”
“The Enthronement, yes.”
“Could such a contest be real?”
Ah yes, of course. I’m already sick of the word, and the rumors had only been circulating for a day or two. No one seems quite sure what it is, but if it’s some grand contest to find a princess for the prince — as rumor had it — then it’s a waste of everyone’s time. Why worry about such a silly game when more real games are tearing our city apart? Tearing our nation apart.
I stop my ears and push through the mist like heavy curtains as I struggle to ensure the sounds roll off my shoulders like rain off a seagull. I’m not successful.
“Have you heard?”
“Yes, a chance to be princess? Every woman in Roseple, oh, for Merlin’s sake, all of Purerah will wish they were eligible.” “Just an excuse to waste more money.”
There’s someone speaking sense. The tax is high enough without them spending money on such a frivolous affair. Can’t the prince find a girl on his own? Maybe he’s hideous. That’s why no one has seen him in public.
But there are safety reasons too, I can’t deny. He is the sole heir to the throne in a kingdom whose people have been in revolt for five generations. Five generations of over-taxation that’s all but pushed us to the breaking point. It will either crush us, or things have to change. The relief my Dad sought to bring, which he believes I could bring.
I finally reach the cobbler shop and open the door, making the little bell sing into the crisp morning air. The mist vanishes in an instant as I step into the friendly warmth of the store.
The familiar stinging scent of the glue, the rough smell of the fabric, and the coarse scent of leather envelopes me in a familiar sensation and warmth that relaxes me.
I close my eyes to enjoy the feeling as I stand with my back pressed to the door, enjoying this moment of warmth and relief when two women whispering in a corner catch my ear.
“They’re calling it the Enthronement,” one is saying excitedly.
“That’s a strange name for such a contest,” the other woman frowns.
I sigh frustratedly. Not this again. Why is everyone so excited?
A man is already speaking with Jashon, so I wait patiently, holding the strap of my dance bag in both hands, wandering the shop, allowing my eyes to skim over the rows and rows of box es that contain for the most part, example shoes and some sizing shoes. They line one wall, the one where the women are talking. On the other side is a bench, reusable foot tights, socks, and mirrors so patrons can look at how different styles of shoes fit them.
“What do you think the girls will have to do to win?” the ladies jabber on. Curse my dancer’s ears! I can’t help but listen to the cadence of their conversation with nothing else to keep me busy.
“No idea, but the rumor is we’ll find out today. They’ll announce it on town square Imaginal.”
“Think we’ll get to see him?”
“Kascia!” Jashon calls out to me, making me turn to look and smile at him over my shoulder. “I wondered when you’d turn up. I thought your old ones would have worn a while ago.”
My smile grows as I walk over to him, and the last customer leaves, making the bell above the door tinkle once again. “You’re getting good on timing,” I compliment him. “But it’s also be cause I’m going to be ruining a pair today.”
Jashon clicks his tongue, “I should have guessed. What was your last role? Did you even need them? They last longer when you don’t use them all day.”
“The Witches does not require pointe,” I smile. “Not that they weren’t getting used.” I at least did some training in my pointes every day if I could help it.
“Well, you’re my best customer because of it. So, thank you.” Jashon smiles. “I have your pair right here.” He bends down below the counter and pulls out the small delicate box he always puts the shoes in. I love how small and narrow it is.
I take the box with a nod of thanks and open it. I beam to see the soft pink pointes shining in the light. They are really shiny and smell of wood, satin, and slightly of the glue that holds them together.
“Beautiful as always,” I tell Jashon. “What would I do without you?” I look up at him in delight.
“Dance demi-pointe,” he teases. I laugh. What a shame that would be. “Your Dad already paid for them, so no note this time. I’ll see you in a month or two.”
I chuckle and roll my eyes as I close the box and put it into my bag. I adjust the strap and look up to thank Jashon, but he cuts me off.
“Have you heard about it?” He nods at the two women in the back.
I roll my eyes with a heavy sigh. “Yes, I can’t stop hearing,” I say dryly.
“You should try it,” he says.
I blink and give Jashon a disbelieving look, “What?” He can’t be serious.
“You play such a good princess on stage. Who else would be better to prove herself a true princess?” he grins at me, leaning over the counter. “A contest to win the prince’s hand. Sounds right up your alley, Lady Kascia.” He mock-bows his head to me.
Perhaps I do play a good princess, but I’m already taken. Not that he can know that. No one can know that. Sure, my friends know I have a serious boyfriend, but they don’t know how serious.
“Thank you, but—”
“Seriously though.” Jashon’s face falls from its joking expression into a softer one. His eyes seem to glow against his dark skin as he looks up at me, “you should.”
“Honestly, you should. I don’t know many girls who’d be bet ter. You actually care about people. If you won’t try it, I hope at least someone with a good heart like you wins that game.”
“My heart isn’t up for toying with,” I tell Jashon. I’d heard enough to know I didn’t want it, even if I wasn’t fully sure what “it” was.
“Even for your people?”
He cuts me to the quick, but what he doesn’t know is I have other work to do for my people. “My people don’t want me,” I state.
“Hm, maybe they do. I’ll ask around,” Jashon teases me as he pushes himself off the counter. “I’ll see you soon, Kascia.” “Until then, Jashon.”
I ensure my shawl is still safely around my head as I turn away and back out the door.
The mist is starting to lift as I walk along the street. More people are awake now, most of the shops up and running, many already have their merchants calling out into the street. I ignore them as I pass, keeping my shawl close.
It’s not too long before I step into Governance Square, the largest open area in the city. Anyone who knows what they’re doing will try to set up their stalls or performances here. But as the royal theater, we have enough experience to know how to get the best spot.
Sure enough, my fellow troupe members are setting up the tents in one of the lesser-used alleyways and have taken over the area near the fountain. Mom is supervising the stage boys in cleaning up as much as possible.
Normally, this square was teeming with people waiting to meet with the mayor or applying for a slot to have the court see their case. It was rare anyone got either, but some foolishly still have hope their sovereigns care about them.
Some had tried today too, even though no government work is done on the holidays. Many likely have nothing else to do. The city guard forces them out of the way of the incoming merchants and performers. They aren’t gentle. I glare at a pair who are shoving a woman with two small children out of the way using the flat side of their spears to push them off the perimeter.
“Kascia, you’re going to behave, aren’t you?” Mom smiles at me, brushing a loose strand of her blonde hair from her face. Her hazel eyes sparkle in amusement.
“Can’t cause trouble when they’re just doing their jobs,” I re ply irritated. Their bosses could tell them to be gentler though. “Don’t focus on that. Today is a happy day: the day we celebrate the independence from the darkness and how our nation, or any for that matter, could be their own,” Mom tries to remind me. “It’s been exactly two thousand years.”
“Hm, lots of that to celebrate around here,” I say dryly as I pick up one of the changing tent bundles.
“Let the boys handle that,” Mom waves at me to give it to one of the stagehands. “We want to work on the stage.” She gives the stagehands a nervous glance. I think she also wants to make sure they’re not doing other things instead.
The mid-morning sun has cleared out the mist by the time we have the curtains and tents ready to go.
“We have a long day ahead,” Mom calls out to us. “We are doing pieces every half an hour, but that leaves you time to enjoy the festival too. But please stay close and don’t be late when one of your pieces is up. We’ll start at ten with the rest of the main activities.”
“What in creation would we go do?” Max, our premier actor, complains.
“It’s a city-wide party. It’s a part of the national, honestly worldwide, party going on right now. You’ll find something,” she smiles, “or you can keep singing for your bread here.”
I giggle as Max sighs in annoyance and walks off. Most of the stagehands do too. Mom frowns as they go, obviously worried about what they’ll get up to.
“Mom, there are guards everywhere. What are they going to do?” I ask her.
“Cause havoc, I hope.” Dad’s voice joins us.
I chuckle as Mom stands upright putting her hands on her hips as she faces my Dad. “And ruin my shows? Don’t you dare!” She kisses his cheek. “You weren’t around to help with any of the setup,” she complains.
“I had to get my mask,” Dad nods at the bag on his back. “Which mask?” Mom asks tentatively.
“For our preview,” he assures her. “Am I not doing that piece with her today?”
“You are, but with your rabble boys, how do I ever know?” Mom replies.
“I also had to get nice for your shows. You don’t like it when my beard is unkempt.” Dad points out, stroking his goatee which does look nice, dark and thick and perfectly trimmed, his dark brown hair helping shape his handsome face. They contrast his pale blue eyes nicely, though admittedly their pale color makes it hard for them to pop on stage.
“Well, you do look nice,” Mom agrees.
“You aren’t dressed up yet,” Dad notes Mom’s hair is still in its high braided bun, and her hazel eyes are not highlighted by the normal makeup she’d use for a day like today. “Where is your makeup?”
“I have time before I get onto the stage,” Mom points out. “How about my cygnet?” Dad turns to me with a huge grin. I smile back. “How many of today’s performances are yours?” “Um… a lot.” I am the prima actress, after all.
“The preview for Hunchback?”
“Then our piece.”
Dad nods. “When is your first?”
“Want to see the sights before then? I doubt you can wander far once that hour hits,” Dad suggests. “We’ll be back by ten,” Dad promises my mother.
Mom sighs but allows it. Dad offers his arm, and we walk around the square. We see several other performing troupes set ting up. A group of acrobats has just come in from the train and is hurrying to find a spot. The merchants are already calling out to us with goods: food, jewelry, art, and even pets.
“Odd to see the city so alive without the normal snapping,” Dad comments as I admire a stunning array of island roses. My stomach drops at the thought. “I don’t mind it.” “Who would?” Dad chuckles.
We talk about the upcoming show, what I’ve been up to, just enjoying the time walking in the spring sunlight as we admire the traditional red, orange, gold, green, and black decorations pop ping up around the square: red and gold phoenixes, banners, the musicians warming up or starting to play for coins, the general excitement of a holiday.
Raised voices draw our attention as we reach Governance Hall. A group of people has started a shouting match with the guards keeping people out of the building.
“Potentate rebels,” Dad mutters disapprovingly as the group screams insults at the guards. “So uncivilized.”
The group of about twenty or so people scream at the guards. A few throw rotten food at them. The guards remain patient only until they can’t drop their shields for the yelling. They are given the order to disperse the angry crowd.
“It’s too early for this,” I sigh.
“Let the people come!” a girl shrieks at the guards as they try to intimidate them, drawing weapons and charging them, but not going into their midst yet.
“You don’t need to push them around,” a boy about fifteen says as he throws a rotten tomato at the lead guard, striking him in the head and making him stagger back now he can’t see.
“You would rather people starve than let us in to see our own leaders!”
“That’s enough. Go home!” the second guard orders, which only makes the crowd shout and throw more rotten food. One guard loses her cool and dives at the crowd. They scatter like flies. The guard manages to grab one of the younger boys in the group, perhaps about ten years old. I tense as she violently yanks him back.
“Let go-” The boy calls the guard a nasty name.
“Learn some respect, boy.” The guard backhands him. I move to jump in the way, but Dad holds my arm to keep me back. I frown and look at him. I trust him. He knows better but…
“They’re hurting him,” I say quietly, studying Dad’s face carefully for my orders.
Dad looks into my eyes a moment before he smiles a little. “I trust you.” He lets go of my arm.
I look back at the boy, who spits at the guard. She moves to strike him again, but this time nothing holds me back, and I grab her wrist.
“He’s just a boy,” I object. “You don’t need to smack him around.”
“That boy needs to learn manners.”
“And that’s not up to you to teach him,” I say calmly. “Are you charging him with anything?”
The guard doesn’t answer right away so I go on, “I presume not. It’s not your place to teach him manners. Wouldn’t that be his parents’ job?”
“Because of those monsters, I lost them!” the boy yells at the guard.
“That had nothing to do with us!” The guard screams back at him.
“You made us all broke!”
“I’ll take him if you aren’t going to charge him,” I cut them both off. “Thank you for your service.” I give the guard a small curtsy before I take the boy and pull him aside.
“I’d not speak to them like that if I were you,” I warn him. “That gives them an excuse to arrest you or worse.” “If that gives them what for then that’s fine by me.” The boy folds his arms. “That’s what they deserve for taking it all.” “I know, but don’t make it worse for yourself to make a point they won’t even see.”
“There are better ways,” Dad joins us. I give him a small smile. Dad will know what to do. “Did I hear you’re on your own?”
“Aren’t most of us?” The boy glares at Dad as if it’s his fault. Dad doesn’t bat an eye. “I know that feeling. You know, I think I have some friends you might like.”
Dad glances at me to get my permission, and I nod. Dad smiles thanks, puts a hand on the boy’s back and walks off with him, talking in a low voice. I’m sure Dad will make sure he’s safe with the others. Just another one to protect with what little we can collect.
It’s almost time for me to get ready, so I head back to the changing tent to get into my costume. I slip into the red dress that flares when I spin — which I adore — and put on my pointe shoes then start on my hair and make-up, making sure my make up works for all my shows.
When I’m done, I turn my head side to side, admiring how the golden red/brown tones make my sea blue eyes pop, almost hiding the hazel ring in the middle I inherited from my mother. The same tones highlight my warm olive-toned skin for a smooth look.
The trickiest part is my hair. I got a mix of my parent’s hair colors, my mother’s blonde and my Dad’s dark brown, giving me a dark golden-brown shade that gives off glints of red in the right lighting. But it’s my curls that make my hair difficult to manage. I may not have the royal coils that are the envy of so many, but my thick curly hair came with its own unique set of problems.
But for my first show, I just pull it back with a headband to let it flow full, thick, and wild and set a tiara into the headband. I am stunning as Esmeralda. I’d become her and charm every already uncharmed boy within earshot. I pick up the tambourine and do a few warmups with it before I’m called out to sing and dance the preview piece for the show we’ll be putting on in a few weeks, just enough time for the tourists to help increase the revenue. Creator knows we need every gem we can get. The piece is a hit, drawing more crowds than any of the other stalls so far, and I’m showered with whistles and applause as I bow to them at the end.
I have a half an hour break before we’re doing our next performance which is just a group dance number from another show we’re planning this season. I enjoy the smell of the dumpling and sea weed wrap stalls, admire the seashell jewelry and stone work trinkets.
Right before we go on, someone takes my shoulders. I look at him and chuckle to see Jake, my long-standing boyfriend, looking around frantically.
“Hide me,” he says, his dark eyes darting about the square. “What are you in trouble for now?” I ask teasingly. “Nothing, the guards are after me,” Jake says innocently. I frown. “Jake, what were you doing?”
“Nothing! You know how it is. Say a word against the royal family, and they’ll call you a rebel and lock you up for being unhappy we’re drowning in debt.” Jake insists.
I raise a brow, highly doubting that is true. He likely got into a fight with a guard that would make that little boy Dad spoke to blush.
The call for my cue to join the group of dancers comes. The guards in question come into the square from an alley behind Jake. I grab Jake’s wrist and pull him, so he’s behind me as we start to dance.
I carefully keep an eye on the guards and use the dance to keep Jake out of view. Though Jake is quite a bit taller than me, and I’m not large enough to block him completely, my dancing and flashing skirt certainly could keep them well distracted. It works, and the guards move on by the time the dance ends.
“Thanks,” Jake smirks as we dash behind the curtain we’re using as a backstage.
Jake leans down and kisses me deeply. I can’t resist the little smile that climbs my cheeks as I run a hand along his rough cheek. The foolish boy never shaved enough, yet he never quite grew a beard, looking cutely stubbly all the time. I wrap my arms around his neck, the lighter tone of my skin contrasting his deeply tanned neck. Even this stolen moment makes my heart sing. I adore this man, the one I’d been secretly betrothed to since I was twelve years old.
“Jacek!” Mom snaps at him.
Our lips part, and I giggle. He’s always getting in trouble with Mom.
“Jack,” Jake insists.
“Your given name is Jacek, and that’s what I’ll use,” Mom says, folding her arms and raising a brow at Jake. “What have I told you about being backstage?”
“Never, ever again. Stop scuffing up my floors,” Jake recites. “Maybe then I’ll call you Jake.” Mom smiles at his correct answer.
THE ENTHRONEMENT 15
Jake frowns. “Jack.” I’m the only one who gets away with calling him Jake. He was called Jake when he was little, but he hates it as an adult.
“Maybe when you stop causing my rehearsals such trouble then we’ll get to calling you that.” Mom gives me a smile. “You have time before your next piece,” Mom says to me. “But be back.”
“Am I ever not?” I tease as Mom leaves us alone.
Jake takes my hand, and we head into the main square. “But honestly, what were you doing?” I ask as we join the crowds enjoying the other performances and shopping. I wonder how long they saved to have that luxury. Or maybe they were smart and knew there would be discounts so they used today to do their normal shopping.
“Just talking with some other guys about how we could do something about how much they take. It was nothing.” “And what were the ‘guys’ doing?” I ask. Jake’s group of friends aren’t exactly the best examples. Honestly, I dislike all of them.
“Making fun of the guards for guarding the intake booth at the governance building when everyone knows nothing is going on there.”
“And they attacked you for that?” I frown, annoyed. “Well, the guys may have gotten too close to it for their orders to allow,” Jake hedges.
I roll my eyes, hugging Jake’s arm. I love him, even though he really is an idiot sometimes. “And we all know crossing the line is all it takes. Pretending to sign up for the waitlist, I assume.” “Stuff like that,” Jake agrees.
I sigh. It was silly, but a reason to arrest them all? The royals have gone too far once again.
“On the bright side, they didn’t fine or tax us,” Jake jokes to cheer me up. He does win a giggle.
Jake and I enjoy the sights and smells, talking casually. I no tice a few of the beggars have tried to creep into the square to beg for coins. I watch a group of them, using a young boy as a lookout to warn them when a guard is coming so they can scatter away from their view. In our circles of the square, I see it several times. They just want help to get by.
The large clock strikes eleven, cueing me to lure Jake back to our area, so we can watch one of the most impressive showpieces we’ll have today where our two best men are performing a piece done at a bar, using the bar, drinks, glasses, and stools as props to perform an impressing singing and dancing number.
I know Jake finds it boring, but I love to watch. Partway through, he spots some of his friends and asks if he can go. I don’t mind. It’s the one thing I wish I could change about Jake, his lack of interest in the theatre world I live for. The poor man can hardly dance with me.
When the piece is over, I clap with the rest as our stagehands try to hand out flyers announcing this season’s shows and that if they bring the flyers when they get tickets, they’ll get a discount. When the discount is mentioned, many take them, but many al so ignore it or toss them into nearby bins, or just let them flutter to the cracked, decaying street. So few can afford it.
A group of street musicians clear the area around the fountain and invite anyone who wishes to come dance to their music. I smile and can’t resist joining in. I may be performing most of the day, but I love to dance, and a good folk dance is irresistible.
I weave in and out with the others who joined in the dance, moving from free partner to free partner as I am one of those who is unattached. These dances are impressive, designed to be danced with a single partner or several.
“May I cut in?” Dad joins me for a circuit. “Or are you trying to meet new people?”
I laugh as we clap and spin around each other. “You know me, if I get to dance, I’ll dance. I am alone.” I assure him as we do a small jump that makes us face one another and do a slight bow, waving our arms down as if in welcome to each other.
“Then I’ll be taking your slot,” Dad teases as the dance pulls into a basic hold, and we start to step and turn around the line of dance around the fountain.
Though Jake can’t really dance with me when he tries, Dad makes up for where he lacks. I’m sure his skill is part of what helped him win Mom. I feel pretty and playful as we dance, laughing and clapping with the proper beats.
When the song ends and everyone applauds the players, Dad hugs me with a smile. “Can’t believe it’s so soon that this will be over.”
“You arranged it,” I remind him, smiling at where his mind went.
“Still, in so many ways, I’ll miss these days,” Dad offers me his arm. “We should make sure you’re ready for your eleven-thirty.” “Our eleven-thirty,” I remind him.
“Yes, then we’ll break for the retelling at noon,” Dad recites how the festivals always go.
“Think they’ll do more as it is the big two-thousandth anniversary?”
“Of course not,” Dad’s face darkens. “It would be money spent on us.”
He has a point. The royals are as thrifty as could be when it came to spending money on their people, as liberal as possible in collecting taxes, and as wasteful as possible when spending it on themselves.
I change into the white dress that is the signature of this song as Dad changes into his suit and puts on his phantom mask. Mom starts our introduction. “Now a special treat, performing the star piece from The Phantom Kascia Thorapple and Peodrick Thorapple!”
The opening notes of the song play as we get on stage, and the crowd gathers around. I’d done this on tour with my Dad a few years before, and it was a huge hit. It’s the role I’m most famous for. And it always draws a crowd. That’s why I’ll be doing it twice today.
The crowd cheers madly for us when it’s over, and Dad takes off his mask as we go backstage. “Beautiful as always, Cygnet,” he says.
“Creepy as ever,” I tease Dad back.
We stay near our area, looking around for an idea for what to do to kill the next half an hour when there’s yelling from the north side of the square.
Dad frowns and gets onto the stage for a better look over the heads of the crowds. I follow his lead.
A man dressed in the attire of the palace staff – a long Purerahian blue side button-up jacket with Purerahian yellow collar, trousers, and dark brown boots, topped with a Breton hat with a yellow band – strides into the square with a rather haughty ex pression. He’s making his way to the raised platform in front of the governance building, likely to make an announcement.
The guards are calling the people to make way. When they don’t, the guards act quickly. When anyone moves closer to them or refuses to move, the guards bark the command to back away and if the person — no matter the age — does not, they push them back, many so forcefully they fall to the ground. One guard shoves an older man so hard, he not only falls onto the stone stairs but almost knocks over several behind them. I know the man isn’t armed. There was no need to be so harsh. I look at the palace official to see what he’ll do. He does nothing, that cold haughty expression still on his face. How could he stand by and let the guards treat us like this? The royal family truly doesn’t give a guppy’s fin about their people. Dad takes my arm and squeezes it assuringly, telling me there’s nothing we can do to stop it. “Not yet,” he reminds me as he has done a million times. This is why I can’t carry gems any more in town. I’m free with giving them out to those who beg and am known to be a bit mouthy with the guards like I had done to protect the boy. But I’ve never been in any danger of being arrested, at least not yet.
It takes a long time for the official to reach the steps as the guards forcibility shove everyone and anyone out of the way. When he finally gets there, he stands still, watching with those expressionless eyes as the guards form a double ring around him as protection. His blue cloak catches the spring breeze revealing its yellow interior as it waves in the wind.
The guards force more people away from the perimeter around the circle. I spot a few of Jake’s friends among those being forced back, throwing insults at the guards.
“They could at least send a member of the court, or as we are in the capitol, a member of the royal family could show their face,” Alsmeria, my best friend and fellow soloist in the theatre, grumbles as she comes onto the stage for a good look.
I smile at her and take her hand. I can’t help but think the same. We’d never even seen the prince. And the king and queen rarely came out of the castle. We got to see them in reports on the Governance Square Imaginal now and then, but that was the best we could hope for.
Once the guards have their perimeter, the official calls out for our attention.
“Go back to your safety net, royalist!” Someone screams at the official though he is yelling so harshly it is hard for the whole square to hear.
“Where are the royals now!?” A female voice shierks. “We’ll never get to the retelling at this rate,” Alsmeria com plains.
Dad gives us both a look but doesn’t speak. He just keeps his hand on my shoulder protectively.
“Thank you all for your attention,” the official calls. He has an impressive voice that carries easily across the large square. That must be how he got the job. He doesn’t even have an amplifier. “Before we start the traditional retelling of what happened in the Great War two-thousand years ago today, the royal family has an announcement they will give over the public imaginal systems that will begin in about ten minutes.”
“Too afraid to face us?” One of Jake’s friends whose name I didn’t bother to remember challenges the official. Impressively, the official ignores these jibs. “The royal family thanks you for your time and attention and wishes you a Happy Restoration Day.”
He gets a lot of boos for his trouble, and he goes to sit in an outdoor waiting area in front of the governance building, the guards tightening their position around him. The lead guard goes to sit beside him, and I see them talking, but that’s all I see before Alsmeria pulls on my hand.
“We have about ten minutes. I’ve been busy looking around, but did you want to do something?”
“I could use a break,” I smile.
“Just be back here for the announcement and retelling,” Dad orders me. He doesn’t use that tone often. He must be worried about what they’re about to announce.
“Glad he didn’t ask to come,” Alsmeria says, brushing her stunning coiled braid out of her face.
“Why?” I smile. I have a feeling Alsmeria wants to ask about her latest hunt.
“Do you know Blake?”
“That tall dark guy with the blue eyes that hangs out with your boyfriend all the time,” Alsmeria complains. “I don’t like Jake’s friends. I don’t talk to them or get to know their names.”
“Oh,” Alsmeria’s face falls. “He’s kind of cute, and I think he was hitting on me during the dancing. I was thinking maybe…” “You just broke up with Derek two weeks ago. Are you sure you’re ready so soon?” I frown. Alsmeria moves from boyfriend to boyfriend every few months, but each failed attempt takes longer for her to get over. Two weeks is a record for her. “I know, I know, but it’s nice having a guy show interest first, that’s all.”
“If you stop chasing them so hard and give them time, they’d go for you first.”
“Don’t want to wait,” Alsmeria confesses. “I want to be courted. Is that so bad?”
“So you think I should flirt back, see if it’s worth trying?” I sigh. “I don’t know. As I said, I don’t like many, well any, of Jake’s friends. They like to cause trouble and are normally rather rude to those they don’t like. I may only be judging by how he is around those friends. I mean, I don’t like them, but I love Jake. So maybe he is better on his own.”
“Maybe.” I see the disappointment in Alsmeria’s eyes. “Hey, something will turn up, always does.” I hug her arm in mine.
“Yeah,” she says half-heartedly.
“You’re hardly better than a royalist!” a voice hisses dangerously to our left.
We both jump and turn to see two groups of people glaring down at one another. There are three men and a woman on one side and three men and three women on the opposite side, clear ly opposing rebellions.
There are three rebellions in Purerah, the nation I live in. There are the Loyalists, who want to overthrow the royal family and crown a common man to the throne. The Potentates want to overthrow the royal family and put a natural Potentate on the throne. Then the Custod rebellion wants a Custod to change their authority status from a defender to ruler. The first two were constantly at each other’s throats.”
“Because we respect what the Merlin gave us, that’s worked for other nations for two-thousand years?” The lead girl of the second group spits at the first. “Potentates are given authority, skills, and power to rule. It has not failed other nations. One bad line doesn’t ruin the whole. We throw it all out, the Merlin will surely reign his retribution as he did to Spearim and Englaria when they refused Potentate rule.”
“It’s their elitism that has made this nation fall into near ruin. Look around! The city is hardly livable. It’s so rotten, walls fall on a daily basis. It’s time a man of the people who knows them and their struggles takes the throne. Who needs ancient ways when they failed us?”
“Custods overthrow those rulers all the time. They will bring more war.” The Potentate sympathizer argues.
“What will you do about it? Protest? Throw things at the walls?” Mocks the Loyalist.
“You attack guards, doing nothing but destabilizing the little security these cities have. What happens when your warring lands stop trying to take over cities up north and come here with how you ruin our defenses? More of the common people will be hurt, and your droves still can’t get into the palace to hurt so much as a serving maid.”
“Like you Potentate rebels haven’t broken things that caused harm to the people.” Sneers the Loyalist.
“You are worse than the royals!”
In the blink of an eye, the two groups rush each other and start fighting. I grab Alsmeria and pull her back as one punch from the lead Potentate girl sends one of the Loyalist boys flying towards us.
We quickly retreat to our area while the guards come in and break up the fighting, though I’m pretty sure it’s the guard who breaks the Loyalist boy’s arm, not the Potentate sympathizers.
“Isn’t it bad enough, the royals cause such harm? These rebel lions will cause even more harm,” Alsmeria complains. “But if everyone does nothing, how will anything be fixed?” Dad asks her.
Alsmeria shrugs. “I don’t know. But fighting each other doesn’t help.”
“No, it doesn’t.” Dad sighs, folding his arms and giving me a meaningful look.
“You want to get chairs out for us to sit on for the retelling? Mom is bringing us lunch.” I suggest to Alsmeria. She happily takes the excuse and leaves Dad and me alone. “You didn’t jump in, did you?” Dad checks.
“Of course not. It was just the Loyalist and Potentate group. You know me better than that.” I assure Dad.
“Merlin, if the Custod council heard we got involved in that type of fighting,” Dad shakes his head. “We’d be in for an earful.” “Some contact would be nice,” I mutter.
Dad gives me a sad smile. “I know. But if the royals found out the Custods sent us to help overthrow and replace them, it would be a political nightmare the world over.”
“Shh,” I look around.
“I’m careful.” Dad kisses my head.
A loud shout makes us jump. Dad and I turn to the center of the square where the sound had come from.
A man had climbed onto the top of the fountain. An impressive feat. The fountain is nothing too special apart from the top where the Purerahian emblem is sharped into a globe. The man is holding onto it like the top of a cane as he stands in the top tier, which is pretty small. It’s a large fountain, but it’s four tiers tall.
“Now is the time to act!” the man yells across the square. “How can we stand here as if we have something to celebrate?” I frown and look at Dad. “Is this one of yours?” I ask quietly, so no one else can hear.
Dad shakes his head. “I’m thinking this is a Loyalist attempt or perhaps a Potentate.”
“Two-thousand years ago, the Merlin rose from the grave to overthrow an oppressive king and his court. Today, we celebrate all that was made possible. How do we celebrate when we’re in a situation almost as dire? How can you pretend all is well when each of us struggles to get by for how heavily we’re taxed just to survive in this land? How do you celebrate when deep down, your heart is tired of it, tired and angry, ready to take back what is rightfully yours?”
The crowd is muttering, a few nodding assents, others looking frightened and slowly backing out of the square while others whisper to their neighbors. I grip Dad’s arm tightly. They’re not going to do something foolish, are they?
“Get down from there!” the lead guard stands from sitting with the palace official and barks at the man. “In the name of the king, I order you to stand down.”
“A king who’s done nothing for his people! A queen who has not tried to look after the domestic interests as is her duty,” the man yells at the guard. “I will not submit to the authority that has not been earned.”
“Desist this treasonous talk and get down before we are forced to remove you under arrest,” the guard growls. “When the king and queen have earned it!” the man screams back and turns his attention back to the crowd. “Do we let them take all we earn again? Are we going to let them squeeze us dry until we have nothing left? Rise, people! Rise up and show the royals how we feel about their announcements. Just wait. This announcement will mean no good for our people, mark my words. Whatever it is, they will make us pay for it with our coin and with our blood.”
“Down with tyrants!” the man yells back.
The head guard snaps and orders five or so guards to try to re move the rebel from the fountain, but it’s so tall, none can reach him. A few try to climb, but it’s so wet, it’s hard to get a grip. How had that man gotten up there?
“Should we do something?” I frown at Dad.
Dad shakes his head. “Too public, and any fighting here would end badly for the people and do no good for the overall effort. We act, it’s over.”
I hate to let the guards take out their frustrations on this man who just wants to help his people as we do, but I watch as the man keeps calling for the crowd to rise and show the royals how we feel about them by removing their representative and pre venting the casting on the Imaginal.
The guards try to use the blunt end of their spears to knock the man down, but they hardly reach, and the man either impressively avoids them or can stay up even when poked harshly. A few try the pointed ends, and others throw the spears as if to strike him.
The crowd backs away. A few yell in protest; some even throw things, tossing stones, food, or whatever else they have on hand at the guards to stop them. The lead guard is barking orders to take the rebel down as the rebel keeps screaming. “Don’t let them silence us! Let them know how we feel! Rise and get jus tice!”
The crowd has risen to feverish screams, and the guards are having to keep the crowd back by force, using their spears as staves to keep distance between them and the people as they push them away from the fountain.
“Someone has to stop this,” I say, but Dad takes my arm to stop me.
“He chose this. He knew what could happen,” Dad warns me.
“But he’s right.”
“His methods are foolish.”
I look back at the man as the guards jump up as if to knock him down, jumping, trying to climb, bat him down, whatever they could do.
A powerful twang cuts the air, and a scream runs through the square as an arrow strikes the man through the back of the right shoulder. I cover my mouth in horror as the falling body plunges the square into silence.
About Charity Mae:
Charity Mae lives near Mt. Shasta in Northing California and loves the nature there (though she’d like some more snow and rain). She wrote her first 700+ book when she was
eleven-year-old and published her first book when she was twenty-one.
When she’s not reading and writing, she enjoys making and watching YouTube videos, gaming (mostly Legend of Zelda and Pokemon), Shark Week, hiking, swimming, and sitting outside while working on projects.
Her works are calculated to be lifting. Works that bring inspiration, escape, and hope. A story can be dark and painful but there is always hope in the end. That’s what we all need to believe to find happiness in the storm. It’s why dancing in puddles is so fun! We take a moment to stop and smell the roses we’ll all be happier. We all need an escape now and then.
1 winner will receive a exact replica of the dagger that’s on the book cover. Comes with the same kind of scabbard that’s mentioned for it in the book, US Only.
Ends January 17th, midnight EST.
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