FIRST PLACE WINNER 9th-10th
by Brishti Chakraborty
Margeret Bane had been called many things in her past life: thief, liar, outcast. Now, however, she would be called queen.
“All hail Queen Margeret.” She gave a thin-lipped smile to the crowd assembled before her in the large throne room. These people are now my subjects. How very fitting, she mused as she adjusted her gilded crown and sat down on the throne. She had once viewed all this as beneath her — she hated the pompous and unnecessary — but here she was. “Dearest subjects, I thank you profusely for coming to my coronation. It is my honor to be your queen. It is a heavy responsibility that I have to bear, but I assure you that I will not fail you. I am here to serve.” She raised her golden scepter high as if making a toast. “To a new era!”
“To a new era!” the crowd chorused, raising their fists in reply. The festivities began, and everyone paired up to dance. Margeret, watching the merriment from her place on the throne, fiddled with the copper ring that she always wore on her right hand. She admired the design: an ornately-carved dragon with a serpentine body that wrapped around her finger. It was the only remnant of her past besides her name, and she treasured it dearly.
Suddenly, as if to make a dramatic of an entrance as possible, a man loudly burst through the heavy double doors. It was a spectacle: this slender, well-dressed man racing across the throne room. The music screeched to a halt. “Liar!” he shouted as he ran towards her. “Liar!” He appeared to be a handsome man in his thirties, but as he came closer, it became apparent that he had seen and done things beyond his youthful age. His auburn hair, which must have once been lustrous and neatly-combed, now was matted and grizzled with gray. A permanent frown furrowed his sharp features. His somehow familiar icy blue eyes shone with a hint of madness. A copper ring similar to her own gleamed on his finger. Confusion turned into recognition, and shock came over her. She almost immediately chastised herself for losing her cool. The crowd was deathly quiet as it waited for her reaction to the intruder.
“You will come with me to the dungeon.” she suddenly said decisively, regaining her composure. Her butler, the old Mr. Howas, moved as if to join them, but she shook her head.
“It will just be the two of us, I’m afraid. Mr. Howas, show these wonderful subjects out, will you?” The crowd murmured, confused, as they trickled out the double doors. When the room was empty, she turned to the intruder. “Shall we?” As they walked out of the throne room, a mousy maid with limp, dirty-blonde hair handed her a bronze hurricane lamp. The man looked surprised, but she smiled coldly. “They always know when I need one.”
None of them spoke as they made the lengthy trip to the dungeon. Margeret led the way, her dark hair and silk train flowing behind her. The throne hall had been three floors above the main entrance hall, meaning that they would have to climb down many floors. As they descended, the corridors began to look darker and more dreary. She lit the candle in the lamp when they were four or so floors below the entrance hall. Finally, they came to a narrow hall that seemed to be crudely carved from the earth. Their footsteps echoed loudly off the walls. She gripped his arm tightly to ensure that he would not wander off. At the end of the hall was a heavy stone door. Bars had been fitted on the top half. Margeret took out a ring of keys and, selecting one, inserted it into the keyhole. She twisted the doorknob and the door creaked open.
The dungeon was empty, save for a single, filthy lightbulb hanging from the ceiling. Margaret let the candle out so that the lightbulb’s weak light was the only source of light in the entire hall. Shadows danced across the walls. Looking around, the man seemed satisfied and his lips curled mirthlessly. “Never one to resist having a horrible dungeon, were you, Maggie, or should I say, Queen Margeret?” He examined one of the walls. “You don’t plan on keeping me here, do you?” the man asked as coolly as one would ask about the weather. “It took me a while to find you. I never expected you to survive, after all. I sent at least ten assassins after you.”
Margeret sneered. “They are undoubtedly terrible at what they do, my dearest brother. For someone so close to me, you know so little about me.”
“That won’t matter. You know I will eventually kill you. I swear that I will.”
“Ah, but that is a rather far-fetched promise.” “Why didn’t you even use an alias? Anyone could find out your past. No, better question, how on earth did you manage to become queen?”
Her grip on the scepter tightened. “That is not of your concern. Know that it is impossible for anyone to know about what I once was. You know that I don’t want to deal with my past, that I want to change. It will not be pretty if you bring it up.”
“Who is to say that the truth will not accidentally slip from my mouth?” His haughty expression was met with a cold, calculating one.
“That will not be a problem, Renard.” She played with the scepter. “Send my regards to our late mother, will you?”
Renard was suddenly horror struck. “Poison, but how?” he muttered. He suddenly collapsed. Unsurprised, she bent over him. He was breathing heavily and eyed her suspiciously.
“Ring. Gives you a good ten minutes to live. For an intelligent assassin, you are very slow. I never wanted to kill again, but you got in the way.” she replied, as he breathed his last. When she was sure he was dead, she locked the dungeon room and headed upstairs. Something didn’t seem right — killing him had seemed almost too easy — but she decided to worry about it later. For now, she had business to attend to. Dinner was about to be served, and she had more than her brother to worry about.