tagSci-Fi & FantasyThe Contest Ch. 15

The Contest Ch. 15

byDreamerByTheDiamonds©

Alone in her office, Rellenora stared at the clay cup on her desk with tear filled eyes.

Inside the cup, there was a liquid abortifacient, which Rellenora had personally cooked up on a brazier. Everyone around her had assumed that she was brewing a fertility potion.

She should have taken it by then. She had several minutes' worth of opportunities to swallow the bitter potion down.

But she hadn't.

The full cup was just ... sitting there, cooling off.

The banging, crashing noise of someone bursting into the office had Rellenora jumping in her seat. She put her fingers to her bosom and looked at a woman wearing simple yet authoritative clothing.

Oana Nidi, the Royal Physician.

She must have figured Rellenora's plan out! She must had told the guards there was a medical emergency of the highest degree. Being understanding people, the guards must have let her inside the palace.

Last chance! Before she rushes in and takes the cup away! Drink it! Hurry and take the abortifacient!

Her arm reached out.

But.

Her fingernails didn't even tap the clay cup.

Her arm hovered in the air.

Oana charged forward and knocked the cup over, spilling the contents all over the rosewood desk.

The physician was screaming. Rellenora slid down in her chair, feeling spikes of ice in her chest.

She couldn't think of anything to do but wait.

When Oana was finished with her hollering, she exited, leaving Rellenora alone.

It wouldn't take long now. The servants would have overheard. The gossip would spread. The physician would certainly tell the Emperor immediately. Soon everyone would know, everyone.

Her feet chilled.

Rellenora thought that she had just been caught trying to commit one of the worst crimes against the empire.

Either the Emperor would have her deposed and executed, or he'd have her deposed, wait for her to give birth, and then have her executed.

Her fingers spread over her eyes as she trembled and tried to think of a way out. Her tears collected in her hands.

She stayed there for a long time, waiting and waiting, dreading the eventual outcome. But eventually she was ripped out of her mind by a knock on the office door. She heard a maid speak. Rellenora waited a few moments for her brain to catch up.

"Your Majesty, your honorable brother is requesting an audience."

Fuck! He was the last person she wanted to see! He had once nearly killed her when she was maybe six years old, and again when she was nine! The sickening man!

Rellenora's hands curled on her lap as she looked up at the ceiling.

If Galton got angry enough, he might kill her.

Better than being executed. Depending on how offended the Emperor was, she could end up being chopped in half from the waist down, ensuring that she felt all of the pain as she slowly died.

And as long as Rellenora didn't physically provoke her brother, or even threaten him, then Galton might be accused of murder, which would be fitting because he certainly would have murdered her. It was like framing someone except they'd actually commit the crime so there would be no guilt on the one who arranged it all!

Rellenora wrote on her slate, "Please send my brother to this office of mine." Then she opened the door and showed the slate to the maid. After the maid bowed and left, Rellenora closed the office door and sat back down at her desk. Since there wasn't much else for her to do, Rellenora took a handkerchief from under her robes and dabbed at the liquid on the desk. There might be a stain. Well, she didn't care about that, but she thought she should at least make an attempt at cleaning up the mess.

Some minutes later, her office door opened and closed. She folded her handkerchief into a tidy square on the desk and watched her brother's long legs pound against the floor. He was yelling. His hands were unusually pink.

Oh yes. He was livid.

More yelling. He banged his fist against a wall. He pointed at her.

Instead of cowering, Rellenora did something she knew would entice his greatest fury.

She put on a wide, stupid grin, and she stood up. Then she forced herself to laugh as loudly as possible.

Mission accomplished.

Fingers outstretched, Galton lunged at her. Rellenora felt heat and alarming tightness at her throat.

She couldn't breathe.

Her eyes closed. Her hands instinctively went to the larger, rougher ones at her throat, even though she knew she couldn't fight him off, even though she knew this was what she had wanted him to do.

But, underneath Galton's angry tones and Rellenora's gasping, there was the sound of the door opening again.

Then Naeva's shrieking.

Oh no!

Naeva was behind Galton, pounding her little fists on his back. Galton released Rellenora, allowing sweet, nearly precious air to flow back and forth in her lungs. Her knees gave away. She went to the floor as she tried not to hyperventilate. Her neck had never hurt so much before. She had some difficulty swallowing her saliva.

A smack in the air. Naeva cried out again and was sent to a wall, knocking a vase over. The pretty thing broke in half. Did Galton just backhand her? That wasn't right! Naeva didn't do anything wrong!

Rellenora would have called the guards, but before she could a profusion of them stampeded inside. They were loud and unforgiving. They had probably heard the commotion, or someone who had heard the commotion called on them.

The blunt end of a weapon was jammed into Galton's abdomen, and then, as the prince coughed and collapsed over, he was struck on the side of his head. A few guards went to Rellenora's side. One of them pointed his gloved finger at her throat. Were there marks there? Damn it.

A few more guards went to help Naeva to her feet. The poor woman was rapidly putting all of her words onto the men, likely telling them that she witnessed Prince Galton choking the Empress of Zenthia, and then he hit her when she tried to stop him.

It seemed that nothing was meant to go according to plan.

Suddenly, Rellenora thought she was deaf. Her mind was murky. Her fingers felt as though they were being sliced open, even though they were perfectly fine, better than fine, mollycoddled and soft.

She took a stick of chalk from its pouch. It slipped out of her fingers and bounced on the floor. A guard picked it up. He bowed as he handed it to her.

The strokes on her slate were very light. "Excuse me. I need to be alone." As she left the room and quickly walked down a hallway, she held the slate up to anyone that might bother her. Thankfully, the strategy worked. Nobody approached her, not even a lady-in-waiting.

Her soft shoes were placed on the steps of every single staircase she could find that would lead her to the highest story of the palace. When she was at a balcony, her nose heated up. Her slate was dropped so it could hang from her clothing. She looked back at the exit door of the room that was connected to the balcony. She walked back to the door and pushed a little sliding lock over it.

As she went back to the balcony, she leaned against a white column and gazed at all the roofs of the lower buildings. There were dark and dry leaves scattered on their edges. The trees were nearly bare.

Should ... should she ...?

Maybe she should make sure none of the people walking about were looking at her? Rellenora didn't want to traumatize anyone.

Well ... it would be less traumatizing than witnessing an execution, wouldn't it?

How much would it hurt? Would it be quick, at least?

Rellenora parted her robes as much as she could, feeling the chilling air through her under-dress. The fence that protected people was a thick thing, made of brilliant stone.

One leg lifted up. A foot on top of the fence. Then that foot's sister.

Her arms around the column, Rellenora pushed herself up. The view was made even more frightening. She thought she might vomit.

No ...

She didn't want to die.

But this was the best thing, right?

But she didn't want to die, especially not as she was. Even if she didn't want the Emperor's child, that didn't mean she wanted to never ever have children. If she died now, she'd never know what it was like to give a piece of herself to the world.

Hm ... Rellenora had never had that sort of thought before. Why was she thinking that way now?

But it didn't matter, did it? She was going to die anyway.

People noticed her. Her courage nearly died. She pouted down at the crowds that were forming. Could she slink away and find a different balcony? Damn, broad daylight turned out to be the worst time to jump off of a building.

It was the most irritating, lagging feeling. She wouldn't jump but she wouldn't retreat. She was like an ice coated bush at the mercy of a wintry wind, suffering but unable to do anything.

Bam!

Rellenora blinked. Her fingernails screeched on the column.

The guards. They had learned that she was on the fence. They broke the door open, possibly destroying the lock. They were coming to rescue her.

Well, she thought, if it must be done, then do it now!

A foot rose.

Tears fell onto her robes.

A comb, coated in brilliant blue lacquer and gold paint, it fell from her hair and dropped down, down, all the way to the people that looked like insects.

Like a plank of the greatest wood, an arm was firm against her waist.

A guard had her.

***

"Her Imperial Majesty, Empress Dowager Herena Latrice Varesqu, arrives now!!"

With biting steps, the Empress Dowager hurried down the Throne Room, her robes trailing behind her. Only the most important members of the Royal Court were in this room. They all knelt and greeted her, their voices like trumpets. Herena impatiently told them all to rise. Then, as she stood and laced her fingers, she angrily stared at the empty throne.

"Where is my son?"

A servant hurried to her side and whispered to her, "His Majesty is in his palace. He's breaking the furniture ... and the vases ... and the statues too."

Of course.

Herena flipped one of her strings of gemstones out of her face. "As for Prince Yban?"

"Yes, well, I believe he's trying to calm His Majesty down."

That might be difficult. Herena imagined that her son wasn't just breaking things. He was probably also yelling and crying. Yban would have far too much to handle than normal.

"Where is the Empress?"

The servant said, "She's in her palace. The physician is examining her injuries."

"Prince Galton?"

"He's being held in one of the guest rooms for now."

Nodding, Herena said, "That's fine. Now all we can do is wait."

***

When the Emperor entered the Throne Room, he was wearing formal black robes and a taut grimace. A step or so behind him, the Royal Adviser walked with careful steps. His hands were in his loose sleeves. His eye was low and thoughtful. Of course, everyone except for the Emperor's mother knelt and gave the greeting, and they didn't rise until the Emperor told them to.

Beside the platform the throne was on, the Royal Adviser sat down on a small yet luxuriously carved chair. The Empress Dowager took a similar chair on the other side. On the platform, the Emperor lowered himself onto his intimidating throne. His shiny fingernails drummed on one of the armrests.

His voice was so loud and forceful that it likely cooked the stomachs of everyone in the Throne Room.

"The Empress, the Empress' companion, the Empress' brother, Prince Galton, the Royal Physician, and the guards involved in these incidents today, have they all been given a chance to write down their testimonies?"

Bowing, an attendant gave the answer. "Yes, Your Majesty."

First, a thick breath. Then, the Emperor rose his arm, his hand in a horizontal position, the fingers tight. As the arm slowly moved through the air, he gave the orders. "Give me their testimonies, and have all of these people placed before me."

It happened within a few minutes. Carried on a long tray, many paper scrolls were rolled and stored. The Empress' scroll was the largest. It was also inside a case of tortoiseshell. The tray was placed on a table near the throne so that the Emperor could pluck one up whenever he wanted. Meanwhile, so many people entered the Throne Room.

First, Prince Galton, who knelt before the Emperor and Empress Dowager and said, "Greetings to the Royal Family, may their lives be long!!" The reason for the different greeting was for convenience's sake. The Empress Dowager told him that he was allowed to stand on the green rug in the middle of the room.

Second, all the guards who acted in the incident arrived. They all did the same as the prince, and then they were all allowed to stand on the rug.

Third, the Royal Physician, Oana Nidi came, behaving in a way like the guards.

Fourth, a servant called out, "Her Imperial Majesty arrives now!!" The little Empress shyly shuffled into the Throne Room. All of her ladies-in-waiting and her companion followed up to a point. They remained on one side of the green rug while everyone except for the Emperor and Empress knelt down to greet her, since she had just entered the room.

Sluggish and wobbly, her hair unbalanced, her lip rouge smudged, Empress Rellenora flicked one hand up so that nobody would had to stay on their knees for too long. Clearly, she hadn't let anyone tend to her, and she still had bruises on her neck. She swayed on over to the green rug, keeping a certain distance from all the other people. Her head pointed down. Her hands layered at her belly.

One by one, the Emperor took each scroll written by a guard and he read them out loud. His voice was the only one there. Nobody dared to whisper.

Then, when he finished with all the guards' testimonies, he took the one written by Prince Galton. To everyone's quiet surprise, it was very, very short.

"My sister has always been a difficult child. She shoved me, and so, I lost my temper. All I can hope for is mercy so that I can return to my family."

Then the Emperor took Naeva Donner's testimony and read it aloud. She didn't seem to agree with the fact that her mistress had brewed an abortifacient, but she certainly hadn't meekly allowed the prince to abuse her mistress. As for the attempted suicide, Mrs. Donner didn't have an explanation. She was just as confused and sorrowful as anybody else.

He took the physician's testimony and read aloud. She was a sharp woman, no doubt. Perhaps she should be rewarded.

Finally, it was time for the Empress' scroll to be read.

***

I was born an idiot.

My first word was spoken when I was four years old, and I haven't improved much since then. I've always been an embarrassment to my family. As the years went on, they learned not to listen to me, because I never said anything considerable. I've been known to try everyone's patience, even to the point of earning violent wrath. So, I've been kept separated from most people.

When the Emperor requested that I be sent to his palace, my family was unable to refuse. I never expected to win the contest. I never tried to win. Despite those facts, I won, and I feel that two fine princesses were cheated out of an excellent opportunity.

I hate living in this place. I find the food to be disgusting, and so, I can barely eat without feeling ill. My new bed is uncomfortable, and so are the pillows. I'm surrounded by strangers. Everything looks, smells, and sounds odd.

I was content with my life in Henrill. I believed that if I could endure two years without becoming pregnant, then I would be divorced and sent home.

However, I suspect that I could be pregnant. I made an abortifacient, but I put the cup on my desk and I worried. This was a final, damaging decision, and it was rather repugnant. I don't have any hatred towards women who has ever had an abortion. However, I was considering taking this dangerous potion without the consent of the father, without even telling him that I was pregnant, or might be pregnant. I don't know for certain.

When the Royal Physician came, she spilled the potion. I knew the Emperor would be enraged, and if he didn't have be executed immediately, then he'd wait for me to give birth and after that I'd be put to death.

Prince Galton wanted to see me. He's always been the sort of man who couldn't control his temper well. During my childhood, he has given me more than one concussion. I decided that having him kill me would be a better end than to be executed. So, I let him into the White Jade Palace.

He was fiery and couldn't be calmed. I smiled and laughed at him because I knew he would believe I was being disrespectful. He put his hands on my throat to strangle me, but my companion came to my defense. Prince Galton slapped her, and then the guards came.

At that time, I believed that the only thing I could do was take my own life. That is why I was standing on a fence of a balcony. I admit that I hesitated. I didn't want the innocent people to see my death, and I must confess that I didn't truly want to die. Still, I didn't want to leave my position. If I hadn't been a stupid, slow thing, then I wouldn't have been saved.

Before I am killed, if I may, I would like to give the Emperor one request. Please have mercy on my brother. I allowed him into the palace, and I wanted him to kill me. I admit that I never asked him to kill me, but I did manipulate him.

Thank you for reading.

***

The scroll was pressed into its case. The noise was gritty and uncaring.

Yban rose from his seat. He asked for Antonai's attention. As Antonai leaned to one side, Yban pulled himself up on the platform's railing and quietly put words in his ear. It wasn't very dignified. He was supposed to kneel before the throne and request permission to approach.

"The Empress actually believed she'd be executed. As morbid as that is, her testimony lines up well with the rest, aside from her brother's. That prince claimed she assaulted him first. Yet the Empress claimed that all she did was laugh at him, knowing that he'd hurt her. I believe the prince is lying. He can't think of any other way to defend himself."

But ... those words hardly touched Antonai's mind.

His fingers were loose over the armrests. His eyes were at his knees. His vision was becoming more and more twisted. The colors in his clothing became misty. An odd cramp was in his throat. A chuff-like noise cracked out of him.

"Your Majesty? Do you need more time?"

Antonai put one hand over his eyes as his back curled over. Forcefully, he sniffed down a load of tears and mucus. Then he took in a breath so painful that it felt like the air had been poisoned. He coughed into his sleeve.

No. There was no time to be upset.

Everyone was waiting for him to give his orders.

His head tilted up only a little. He looked through his fingers and searched for the little blonde woman with layers of fine robes, the little Empress that had nearly destroyed herself.

Rellenora's face was downcast. She was rubbing at her eyes. Her form was shaking. Was she sobbing?

Instead of studying all those medical texts, that absurd little woman should have studied Zenthian law!!

Antonai's back straightened. His tail encircled his waist. His hand rose. Then, vertically, it slowly moved down as he said this, "There is no law against abortion. There are exceptions, of course." He put his hand back on an armrest and looked at a random point on a wall, trying not to make eye contact with anyone.

"For example, a woman cannot be legally forced to have an abortion unless she is below the age of consent and her parents demand it. In that situation, she isn't considered to even be a woman, and should never have been pregnant in the first place. As for another example, abortions performed during the third trimester are generally outlawed unless there is a medical reason to perform one."

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byDreamerByTheDiamonds© 2 comments/ 1770 views/ 5 favorites

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