Gifted (Non-Transgender Novelette)

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Gifted is set in a fictional world of Wekesa. It is a very short story about a young girl with a unique power. Gifted is NOT a transgender story. It is a tale I wrote a long time ago but I never posted it anywhere. This would be the first time anyone other than myself is reading it so I would love to hear what you thought about it. I hope you enjoy reading.

▼・ᴥ・▼ Page 1.

The night I came into this world, every soul wept. I was a sickly child born to a family that had suffered enough. I scarcely breathed and I never cried. The midwife proclaimed I would not survive the night. But I did. Day after day, I remained in the same state of uncertainty. But I remained, alive. Barely.
In desperation, my mother called upon all the gods she knew. None answered. Just as the midwife had said on that first day, I eventually took my dying breath. But it wasn’t to be my last.

▼・ᴥ・▼ 2

While my mother wailed and my father cursed, I coughed in my cot. Skin so hot and so cold in the same moment, every person present could do nothing but watch in awe as my skin glowed, and what little hair I had on my head twisted into knots.
I didn’t stop crying for days.
People always said I was special. It wasn’t because I was always a picture of health. It wasn’t even because of my knotted hair that would never stay apart. “The girl touched by the gods”. I wouldn’t come to know just how special I was until I turned fourteen.
I remember that day like it was yesterday. The sun was high in the sky like it had been most afternoons that summer. The heat so intense it was as if the river itself called to us. A mile away from the village, I had to ask permission of my mother to make the journey.
“Ma!” I had called out as I made my way into the large kitchen.
“Zoya” she’d replied with a smile. I never knew her to not smile. “What is it, girl?”
“I am going to the river”
I knew what was coming and waited patiently for it.
“Okay, but take Ajani with you” I smile “And be careful”.
Ajani didn’t need any convincing. Before long, we were running through the plains like two drunken chickens. We played and we fought like we always did. I would tease him and he would chase me. On that day, my joy would turn to ash in my mouth.
I do not remember what I had said to him but without skipping a beat, he was on my tail. I laughed and ran before making my way up the first tree in my path. Ajani went to follow, my heart stopped as I watched him claw at the air after a weak branch had failed to hold his weight. I saw him hit the ground, the horrible sight accompanied by the heart wrenching sound of bone to earth.
“Ajani!” I screamed, my voice cracking in the realization that he’d not even screamed. He’d barely moved.
I jumped from the tree crawling to his side immediately my leg touched the ground. He wasn’t breathing. I screamed his name again hoping that he’d hear me and answer but he didn’t. He was stubborn that way.
I shook him violently pleading for him to answer me. I saw my tear drops on his face before I realized I’d been crying.

▼・ᴥ・▼ 3

I thought to run for help but I couldn’t move. I was rooted to the ground. The only motion my body would allow was to hug his lifeless form and so I did. I held him there for a while before I felt it. My muscles contracted and all air seemed to leave my lungs. The locks on my head threaten to pull from their roots. I had no time to react to this new state because Ajani rushed to sit upright with a panicked look in his eyes. His fingers clawing at me, warm breath on my face.
He hadn’t calmed down. As sudden as the strange feeling had come, it had disappeared.
I smiled through my tears. He hugged m Hu e tightly, pulling me so close I wondered whether he’d ever let me go.
We never made it to the river.
The Village
Present Day
The sun is high in the sky as it often is this time of year. I am lying in the soft grass taking in the sky’s warmth. The sun has never hurt my eyes and I challenge it daily by staring right at it. When I was younger, I would challenge the other kids to see who could stare at the sun the longest. I would always win but I would also lose. I would only reinforce what I know everyone thought about me. The Strange Girl.
The familiar footsteps closing in make me blink. I’d have to set a new record tomorrow.
“Hello, Ajani” I say without turning.
I am still looking to the sky but I know that he smiles. So I do too.
“How could you possibly know that was me?”
“I can hear you coming a mile away” I reply chuckling.
“No, you can’t” He is standing right beside me before I turn to him.
He is much taller than I am and even a bit darker. His hair is short like every Wekesi boy – man. We are Wekesa. A small but proud kingdom, the darkest of all people. Although there are other people with skin like ours, we are the closest to the earth.
Our traditions allow for variety in our hairstyles as women, mine has never been touched.
“The goddess Eif wove the girl’s hair with her own hands when she gave the girl life. It is sacred.” Old Tabitha had said.

▼・ᴥ・▼ 4

The rest of me is not nearly as impressive. I am not tall and I wouldn’t consider my face remarkable. I remain bony no matter how much I eat and my head looks tiny under all this hair.
“Your mother says you need to fetch the bitter leaf” Ajani says.
I nod. “Anything else?”
“I am to accompany you” He adds.
I smile “Race you!” I scream, already a few yards away.
Ajani and I are apart picking bitter leaf. I wonder what’s bothering him. Something is. I know him.
I stash what I have gathered in my bag. I have made up my mind to ask him about it but I am dragging my feet. I spot him on his knees dutifully picking the leaves. You would think it was his chore. I steel myself and take a deep breath.
“I am almost finished”
I rush to meet him and grab his arm. “It is enough”.
He frowns before handing me what he has.
“What is bothering you?” I hurriedly stash the leaves in my satchel.
He turns and walks. I know to follow.
“I leave for the mountain in two days” He says simply.
My heart stops in my chest. He doesn’t say any more. He doesn’t need to.
The mountain is a rite of passage for Wekesi boys. When they turn 18, they are sent to the mountain. The journey up the unforgiving rock is hard enough but when-- if they do get up there, they go through the harshest training imaginable. Or so I hear. There is no victory. If they do prove themselves on the mountain, they are sent to join the Wekesi army for two years. If they fail, they are sent back down to their former lives in shame. A fate worse than death. Failures are shunned by the community and treated as black sheep.
“Ajani” My voice breaks.
I don’t know how he manages to smile but he does. “Let us enjoy today”.

▼・ᴥ・▼ 5

“But you are an apprentice” I yell, perhaps louder than I should have. “The boot maker—“
“—is getting called up to the capital” He cuts me off. It’s easy to see he doesn’t want to speak about this but I press anyway.
“They can’t do this!”
“But they did” He replies flatly. I go to speak but he walks away “Your mother must be waiting”.
Ajani found a teacher to learn a trade last year. Many boys had lusted after that position but he found favor. He wouldn’t have to go to the mountain. We would live a quiet life together. Ajani had it all figured out. The rules are simple. If you are an apprentice when you turn 18, you may skip the mountain. It is a lifeline in a hopeless situation. It was.
That night I tell my mother and father about it and their expressions are the same. Despair. My father had not gone to the mountain because there had been a war and he had gone straight there but he had heard the stories. War is easier.
“If anyone can survive the mountain, Ajani can” My father says before returning to his dinner.
“He is strong, Zoya” my mother reaches across the table and wraps my fingers with hers. She lets out a reassuring smile. I make up my mind to practice that smile. I will need it.
We spent all morning together doing all his favorite things. I even let him win a few times.
It is another hot day. The sky is blue and the grass is green which betrays the dark mood deep in our hearts.
We walk the Old Road. A worn path made by feet, horses and carriages. Following this path away from the village will eventually lead to a larger one that goes on for miles. It is said following that road would eventually take you to the capital or as far as Noia – The Land of the Fair in the other direction but I wouldn’t know. This is as far as I’ve ever gone.
“I will miss you” I say looking at my feet. It is the first word on the matter I have said all day.
He doesn’t reply. He turns and takes my hand in his. He is looking down at me with those big, pleading eyes. His hands are warm but I don’t mind. I want to immortalize this moment.
“Promise me that you will wait for me”
My heart skips a beat and my eyes water.

▼・ᴥ・▼ 6

“Promise me that when I return—and I will—that you will have me” His eyes search mine for an answer. His voice so sincere, his heart beats so loud I can almost hear it.
It takes me a while to recover but when I do, I smile. Before I can reply, we are interrupted.
“Help!” A voice cuts through the air. “Somebody help me!” it goes again.
Without so much as a second thought, Ajani is chasing the voice.
Its source is a man trapped under piles of crates and chests. His carriage must have tipped as one wheel is in a hole.
“Help me lift these crates” Ajani shouts as he rushes to the man’s side.
I rush to his aid. I glance at the man’s distraught face. My mother has treated many people in his condition. He won’t be awake much longer.
As soon as the first crate is off him, I place both hands on his face. He mumbles incoherently.
“Ajani” I turn to tell him of the man’s condition but he is lifting the next box on his own and tossing it as far as he can.
“Help me pull him away” Ajani pleads.
By the time we lay him in the grass, he is not moving.
“Is he dead?” Ajani asks panicked.
“No” I say before I listen for his heart. I do the best I can checking him for injuries but it’s not much. Some broken bones I can immediately tell but I know there’s more.
“We have to get help” Ajani says halfway turning.
“No” Ajani turns. I continue “I can help him”
I can see the confliction written on his face. “You can’t. We talked about this”
“We can’t just let him die!”
“You have no idea what could happen if people find out what you can do. Let us go get help”
I can never argue with him but I have to steel myself.
“We cannot just leave him here” I place a hand on his arm “It’s the right thing to do. And it’s just you and I here. And he is unconscious”

▼・ᴥ・▼ 7

Ajani goes to say something but he doesn’t. He can be stubborn but I know he doesn’t want to leave the man here either.
I don’t wait for a reply. I kneel before the unconscious stranger and place a hand on either side of his head.
I take a deep breath.
I wonder whether I’ll ever get used to this feeling. My hair burns on my neck. My muscles contract as I feel his pain rush through me. His body is broken and I have to fight the urge to scream. I feel myself slipping.
I can hear voices but I don’t know where they’re coming from.
“Thank you! Thank her!”
“You will not tell a soul about this”
It is Ajani.
I groan as my vision returns.
“Thank her! Thank the gods”.
I am lying in the grass when I wake up. The cool evening breeze blows softly on my face. Sitting up in the dirt, I shuffle myself close to him so we’re side by side.
“Thank you” I say resting my head on his shoulder.
It takes a second for him to reply. For once, I don’t know what’s going on inside his head.
“I’m not the only one with a dangerous road ahead” He turns to me “So many people would kill for that power”
“I know, I—“
“You shouldn’t use it anymore”
My head leaves its resting place. I stare at him.
“I won’t be here next time”
I don’t say anything. What can I?
“I should spend the night with my family”

▼・ᴥ・▼ 8

I nod.
I am woken by boots marching in unison in the dirt. Our little village is usually left alone but we know that soldiers almost always means trouble. I rush out of bed to find my mother. She is in the same state looking for me. She hugs me and we turn our attention to the commotion outside.
First thing I notice after exiting the house is these aren’t normal soldiers. They wear the red and gold colors of the royal guard. Their individual horses are well groomed, the twenty something soldiers wear the shiniest armor. In their midst, a boy. An older boy but still one nonetheless. Unlike most Wekesi boys, a short afro sits atop his head. His head hangs high, proud. His garb is fancy and richly ornamented but I can tell he has some armor underneath.
I drop to one knee when I notice everyone else has. My face falls to the floor as quickly as my knees do. We were taught this at a young age but our small village has never had to use this knowledge. I wait for the procession to march past me so I can breathe again but it doesn’t. It stops. When sets of boots hit the ground right in front of me, my heart starts beating faster.
“Stand” I hear the single command but I don’t react.
“The crown prince commands—” A deep, certain voice begins but is silenced.
I feel multiple eyes on me and pray for it to end.
Fingers lightly tap my shoulder and I shudder.
“Stand, girl” The same calm, even voice.
I know its source but I raise my head to look anyway. I slowly rise to my feet before making a single bow.
“His Royal Highness—” the other voice bellows. I look to its source, a graying man that had clearly done some fighting. But he is unimpressive compared to the person that stands before me “Crown Prince Taran Borja”.
It takes a while for him to speak again but when he does, it is in the same calm voice.
“The way your hair knots together. It is peculiar”.
I don’t reply. I unconsciously run my fingers through it and mentally slap myself.
“Tell me; is it one of a kind?”
I don’t say a word. Maybe I can’t.

▼・ᴥ・▼ 9

“His Highness asked you a question” The other man states.
Taran scans the village. I do the same. Everyone is still on their knees with the faces to the earth.
“Is there anyone else in this village with such hair as this girl?”
Old man Gino feebly rises to his feet. “No, Your Highness” He replies simply before returning to his knees. The awkwardness of the action is painful to watch.
Taran turns to the other man. “Take her”
Murmurs spread throughout the village.
My father rushes to his feet. A dozen blades are unsheathed. The metal sound sends ripples of fear through my body.
“No” Taran says raising a hand above his head. “Let him speak”.
My father falls back to one knee. “Please Your Highness, what crime has my daughter committed”.
Taran walks up to my father and my heart leaps into my throat.
“You have nothing to fear. You will see your daughter again”
This does little to assuage my father’s fears because he goes to speak again but Taran turns away “Take her” he repeats.
I turn to my father, my expression pleading. Pleading for him to do something. Pleading for him not to do anything stupid.
The other man closes his distance and grabs me by the arm leading me to a carriage I hadn’t noticed before.
“You there” Taran says “You leave for the mountain?” He asks, his voice rich with admiration and respect.
My heart breaks again. Ajani. I turn to view the exchange.
“Yes, Your Highness” my friend replies. Strong and certain.
Taran drops a strong palm on Ajani's shoulder and you would think they had been long time friends.
“Do your people proud”

▼・ᴥ・▼ 10

“Of course, Your Highness”.
The exchange ends quickly but my eyes remain on Ajani who is wearing a black garb with the paint markings of a warrior. His eyes eventually meet mine and they are no longer strong.
I drink him in and wonder if I’ll ever see him again.
“Make way for the capital” Taran says as he mounts his horse.
Our eyes remain locked even as I’m forced into a carriage. There is so much I want to tell him and I am sure it is the same for him.
“We will meet again” I say under my breath.
The Capital
The Next Day
The castle comes into view as soon as we exit the King’s Forest. A giant stone structure, bigger than anything I’d ever seen. The capital’s walls are thick, several meters high. Upon all the uncertainty that lies within those walls, I am just glad the day’s journey has come to an end.
The graying soldier, a surprisingly kind man named Jabari had assured me that I was not a prisoner but his words contrasted his actions when he locked the carriage.
I get a better view of the capital when the path turns to the stone bridge that leads to the city gates. I am awestruck by the amount of people I can already see within its walls.
The men at the gates bow before stepping aside. As the carriage passes the gates, a guard’s gaze lingers but it is withdrawn soon after.
So this is a city. I am dwarfed by the sheer size of everything. Structures that must have taken centuries to build. I would often listen to stories from traveling merchants about the great cities but it could have never prepared me for this.
My eyes wonder from sight to sight until I spot a person I have only ever heard about. Skin as white as sand and hair as red as the blood that flows within us. I had never imagined a person like that.
When the strange woman looks to me and smile, I duck in the carriage.
The procession makes a direct line for the palace that sits above all else. I hear the horses neigh as they struggle on the upwards path.
The metal gates give way and I once again wonder about my fate.

▼・ᴥ・▼ 11

The castle is the most impressive thing I have ever seen. Stone pieces lay together so intricately, it seems to have been built by the gods themselves. The evening sun hits it so perfectly, I wonder if I am dreaming.
“Out, girl” Jabari commands as he unlocks the carriage.
I let out a sigh of relief as my feet touch the earth after so long.
Waiting by the entrance is a woman who Taran greets, dressed in the most elaborate gown I have ever seen. It makes my knee-length garb feel like rags. A larger than life headpiece rests on her head.
“So this is the girl?” The woman asks while closing the distance between us.
“Yes, step-mother” Taran follows right behind her.
She stops only when she’s standing at arm’s length.
“I am Nala, Queen of Wekesa” she pauses, clearly waiting for a reply.
I bow slightly before speaking, just loud enough for her to hear, “Your Highness”.
She scoffs, and then turns to her son “I would have thought the witch more interesting. Although the way her hair is intertwined is mildly intriguing”
“Witch?” I think to myself. I want to say something but I know better.
“I must take her to my father” Taran proceeds.
“So soon? Surely it can wait”
“It can’t” Taran utters before turning. “Bring her”.
Jabari makes his way to me but this time he doesn’t touch me. He just gestures for me to follow.
Again, I know better than to argue.
The castle is harder to navigate than any forest I’ve ever been in. I am sure if I had been alone, I would have been lost. There is an endless amount of doors and windows. Most of the walls have been painted a red and gold color and there are more intricate ornaments than I have ever imagined.
Eventually, the party stops walking past doors and enters one. It is a large but mostly empty room except for a large bed and a few candles lining the walls.

▼・ᴥ・▼ 12

In the bed is a person that needs no introduction and thankfully doesn’t get one.
The doors are closed as soon as the group enters the room and I can instantly feel the reason I was brought here. He is dying. I walk for the bed and hope I am not stopped because I cannot fight the urge to stop his pain.
I close the distance between myself and the most powerful man I will ever meet. But he isn’t so powerful now. He is in pain. I can feel his insides begging for relief and the feeling only gets stronger the closer I get.
I am standing beside him now. I am afraid. I have only used this power a handful of times but I know that I cannot create life. I can only transfer it. And the man before me barely has any left.
“Can you help him?” Taran’s voice echoes in the quiet room.
I don’t feel I have a choice.
I place a hand on either side of his head and breathe. It begins much more sudden and much more intense than I am used to. My bones ache and I lose my ability to breathe. I am only conscious of my hair, pulling at its root, blowing in a room with no air.
I don’t know when my feet fail but the next thing; I am picking myself off the floor. I only manage to sit upright after which I notice Taran is by His Majesty’s side.
From my position on the floor, I see the man pull his son’s head closer to his lips.
The voice is weak and feeble but I can just make out the three words spoken:
“It was poison”.
I wake up in a room not unlike the last one but not nearly as empty. The canopy bed is soft and more comfortable than anything I’ve ever slept in but I manage to pull myself away from it. Standing, I survey the rest of the room. It is well furnished with wooden chairs and tables. There is a large trunk in the corner but also a large dresser. A picture of the royal family hangs menacingly on the far wall.
I go to check the single door entrance and to my relief, it is unlocked. Noticing 'my' room is not far from the king's resting place; I proceed to check on him.
The room however isn’t empty. A distraught prince sits at his side. When he notices me, I bow.
He stands and walks towards me and I wonder if I am in trouble. Upon reaching me, he walks past and out the door before telling me to follow him.

▼・ᴥ・▼ 13

“You are my guest here. You have nothing to fear” he says as I catch up to him.
“Your Highness, I—”
“You may call me Taran when we are alone” he interrupts.
“Yes, Your Highness”.
He smiles and it might be the first time I’ve seen it. I had often heard some of the older girls talk about the handsome prince. They weren’t wrong.
“The physician says my father’s condition has drastically improved”. It is my turn to smile. “But he is still dying”.
“May I speak freely?” I ask still very unsure of myself.
He nods.
“Whatever was done to the king is causing a lot of harm. And he is in so much pain.” I study him closely. “This is no ordinary sickness”.
“Poison” He says simply, his eyes fixed forward.
I don’t reply. I can feel his rage. And his pain. I know I can trust him.
“Who would do this?” I ask.
We reach the end of the hallway that opens up to a balcony overlooking the entire city. The busy streets of the capital seem so peaceful from here. The birds fly at eye level and the horizon is vaster than I ever imagined. I drink it in.
“I don’t know” he finally replies “But I am going to find out”.
His pain is so overwhelming, against my better judgment, I bring my hand to his arm.
“Your father will live”.
I am alone the next time I attempt to give the king life. For some reason, I trust the prince and it seems he has begun to trust me. I suspect it’s because I am the only person he has ruled out as the perpetrator.
I study the king. He looks older than I expect of a man only just approaching 50 years on this earth. I wonder if it is the poison or the troubles of ruling. A man fabled for being the fiercest warrior in all the land lies clinging to life before me. Although I never thought I’d ever meet him, I have heard of his kindness and love for his people. I steel myself to save him.

▼・ᴥ・▼ 14

That Night
It is already dark when I come to. Rain falls heavily but I can still hear some commotion going on downstairs. The room is illuminated by a single lantern in the corner.
A girl sleeps on the floor.
She looks around my age, maybe younger. The voluminous afro on her head is well kept- a common style among girls in Wekesa.
I clear my throat as I sit upright to get her attention. She rushes to her feet.
“Who are you?” I ask.
“I am your maid, my—” she pauses as if thinking about something “I am sorry, I don’t know what to call you”
“My name is Zoya”
“As you wish. I am Ida”
The voices from below grow louder accompanied by a scream.
“What is going on?” I ask Ida.
“One of the kitchen staff was discovered with a poison. Widow’s Tears”
I shift my weight subconsciously.
“What is going to happen to her?”
Ida looks intently at me but doesn’t reply to the question. “She swears by the gods the poison doesn’t belong to her but they will find out the truth”.
My mind begins to wonder. If the king really was poisoned then I am not safe here. If someone wants him dead, then what will they do to the girl keeping him alive.
“We must prepare you. The queen has requested your presence as soon as you are able”. She turns to leave “I will prepare your bath”
Ida wastes no time before she's through the far door I assume leads to a bathroom.
The screams echo through the walls again and I begin to wonder whether they mean for everyone to hear.

▼・ᴥ・▼ 15

I am dressed in the most beautiful silk dress. The craftsmanship is beyond anything I’ve ever worn. Ida spent the last hour making sure I look presentable. She said the queen is usually hard to navigate but she owes me a great debt so I should be fine.
I am lead out of the palace into the garden where I am told the queen spends her evenings. Today is no different. At close intervals, the floor of the garden is lined with lanterns. The soft breeze blowing in the night sky mixed with everything else makes me wonder whether I’ve stepped into a long dream. The last few days have felt like that. A dream.
I spot Queen Nala sitting at a table with one empty seat and I study her for a bit. Gone is her elaborate headpiece and in its place a small head wrap. Her gown is replaced by a short dress and a single necklace.
She spots me and gestures for me to approach.
“Sit with me” she says with a smile when I am close enough. To the closest servant, she says to bring more wine.
I don’t say anything. I just sit there waiting to be addressed. I swallow hard when she looks to me.
“Your maids did a wonderful job on you. You almost look like you belong here. You must thank them” she says to me.
I nod and thank her.
She lets out a loose smile. “Good. A girl must be reserved”.
I don’t reply. Mostly because I don’t know what she means.
“Now tell me, have you been promised to anyone?”
I am taken aback by this question but I reply anyway. “No, Your Highness”.
“Is there someone?”
My mind drifts and lands on Ajani. He would have reached the mountain by now. I wonder what he is doing. I wonder who has the more dangerous task and I laugh to myself.
I shake my head.
“Have you been with a man?”
“No, Your Highness”

▼・ᴥ・▼ 16

She studies me but she doesn’t say anything else.
The servant girl emerges with a pitcher in hand. Unsteady fingers awkwardly set the wine on the table.
“Pour” The queen says sharply with a slight annoyance in her voice.
The girl picks up the pitcher and pours wine as carefully as she can into two cups. She sets the pitcher again on the table and waits for a sign that frees her.
The queen flicks her wrist and the girl disappears out of sight.
“How is it that you can do what you do?”
She’s sitting in a way that indicates that for the first time since we met, she’s actually interested in what I have to say.
I don’t know how exactly I can do what I do so I tell her what I’ve been told. I tell her the story of my birth. I tell her about the first time I used this power to save Ajani. Her expression is unchanging and she doesn’t blink which makes me uneasy but I continue anyway. I tell her how the wise women say that my hair is my connection to the goddess Eif and that my hair is a channel to that power.
“Can you save him?”
I nod, perhaps more sure of myself than I should be. “The poison is still in his system. But eventually it’ll run out. I can keep him alive until when I can truly heal him. He will live.”
She sits back in her chair and I wonder what she’s thinking about. She is one of the few people I can’t place.
She talks for a while and I do nothing but listen. Eventually she opens up about herself, showing a side I never thought I’d see.
“I was like you once. A common girl. You probably find that hard to believe.”
I do.
“Actually I was lower than that. Mine is a story that proves what a woman can achieve when she puts her mind to it”.
“You’ve certainly achieved everything” I say choosing my words carefully.
She smiles “Not everything”.

▼・ᴥ・▼ 17

Taran asked me to join him for breakfast the following morning. And once again, Ida fussed over me for hours on end removing endless amounts of dresses from the wardrobe. I have grown to like her in the short time we’ve known each other.
Her mother and sister live in the capital. Her father died a while ago so now she earns for her family. As she searches for the perfect dress, she tells me about her plans to travel the world. She tells me about the many different people in this world. I sit in awe and drink it all in in-between being squeezed into one dress or the other.
When she holds out a long dress, her eyes beaming with excitement, I have to frown.
The dress is a purple full length strapless gown with gold and blue sequins lining the waist line. It’s the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.
“I can’t wear this”.
“Why not?” She laughs holding the dress to my frame.
“Well, look at it”
She chuckles then gestures for me to sit. She carefully lays the dress on the bed before taking a place beside me.
“Most girls will never get the chance to wear something so exquisite, you know? Don’t you want to know what that feels like?” She doesn’t wait for an answer “Besides, you’re dining with the prince. You have to look your best”
“Now, go shower. I’ll ready your things”.
Taran is on the other side of this door. It is the private hall where the royal family have their meals. There are two guards at the door whose eyes linger longer than they should. Ida had succeeded in putting me in the dress, pairing it with leather sandals and it feels like I am clothed in clouds.
“His royal highness, the prince awaits inside, Lady Zoya” one of the guards proclaim.
They both shift their weight and force the heavy set of doors open. The light that exits the hall is blinding, I begin walking before I can clearly see what’s ahead. Wouldn’t want to keep the prince waiting.
He is already seated at the large, empty table. Two cups and a pitcher of wine set before him. I smile when I notice his expression change from one of indifference to shock.

▼・ᴥ・▼ 18

He stands awkwardly, scraping his chair on the wooden floor as he does so. He may be the prince but he’s still just a teenager with the accompanying boyish charms.
I slowly make my way to him careful not to trip on the fabric that sweeps the floor.
He clears his throat before speaking. “Thank you for coming”
I wonder whether I had a choice.
“Of course, Your Highness”
“Taran” he says simply.
I smile. “Taran”
He fumbles out of his chair and hurries around the table to pull out the seat opposite his. The other one closest to the head of the table where he’d been sitting.
“Please sit” he says.
I bow. Then slide into the seat.
The journey back to his seat is more graceful this time. Upon sitting, he calls for food to be brought. I blush when he pours wine into my cup himself. It is unusual for him to serve anyone let alone someone like me.
“Thank you, Taran” It comes out more natural than I expect. Like his name has a place in my mouth.
“You look beautiful” he says calmly but I can still hear the uncertainty in his voice.
“You look handsome as well”
“I wanted to thank you. The physician says my father should have been dead by now” He is staring straight at me and I am afraid to blink. “I thank you for keeping him alive the way you have”.
“You don’t have to thank me” I mean it. I have always wanted to use this power. It gives me great joy that I don’t have to hide it anymore. “I am happy to help your family”.
The food arrives and although it is more expensive food than I am used to, I have already begun missing my mother’s cooking in the short time I have been her. I don’t know how but he notices;
“What’s the matter, Zoya?”

▼・ᴥ・▼ 19

I shake my head to bury the thought but it comes out anyway, “I have never been away from home for this long”
He frowns. Before he says anything, I continue, “I don’t want to leave. I like it here. I just miss them”
“Would you like me to bring them here?”
I shake my head, “No, their place is there”.
He doesn’t say anything. Eventually, our attention is sucked back into the meal. It is exquisite. The meat is soft and tender and seems to melt in my mouth but it is hard to focus on that. I can’t get it out of my mind.
“There is someone” I say. He doesn’t say anything but I know I have his attention. “Ajani. A boy I grew up with. He left for the mountain the day you came for me. I know it’s selfish but I fear he may not survive. And I cannot lose him”
Taran looks like he wants to say something but he doesn’t. Instead he nods, “Okay” he says simply.
I know better than to continue that conversation so I say nothing else. Instead I focus on the rest of the meal before me. And for a time, so does Taran.
Our attention shifts when we hear shouting coming from outside the gate. A crowd. I hear a guard try and fail to speak above the noise.
“Guard!” Taran’s voice echoes through the hall catching me by surprise.
The guard with the wandering gaze rushes through the doors. “Yes, Your Highness” He utters as hastily as he can.
“What is going on out there?” Taran questions. There is a mild irritation in his voice.
“I… I’ll find out, Your Highness” He rushes out as quickly as he’d come.
I study him while we wait for the guard to return. I have never met anyone so guarded. He hardly ever shows any emotion and the unyielding façade of strength is always present. It’s hard to feel sorry for someone who has everything. But I do. I want to help him unwind but I don’t want to get too involved. He notices my stare and his eyes seek an explanation.
“Will you take me to see the capital sometime?” I blurt out. It catches him by surprise as much as it does me.

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He smiles. “Of course”
The guard returns shortly after. His uneven breath enough evidence that he’d been running.
“It’s a crowd out there, Your Highness. They’ve come seeking the Lady, Zoya”.
I don’t know what I had been expecting but it wasn’t that. My confused expression mimics Taran’s.
“What for?” He asks the guard.
The guard clears his throat. “It would seem word has spread around the capital of the girl that can cure all afflictions. They have brought their sick and damaged”.
“Send them away” the prince commands.
“No!” Once again, my lips move before I think. I steel myself “I can help”.
Taran’s eyes darts to the guards then back to me, “I have seen what using your power does to you”.
I quickly brush that away, “what plagues the king is different. If it is just the common sickness, it should not be a problem”. I am unsure of myself but I don’t let him know that.
He looks at me intently as if searching for a break in my will. “Very well. Bring one to the throne room”.
I stand ready at the base of the stairs that leads up to the king’s throne. The most lavish room in all the palace does not disappoint. The walls are lined with gold and polished metals. The curtains that hang by the windows are made of unknown materials, soft and light as feather. The red carpets that span the room begs for contact with my bare feet. The throne is without equal.
The massive doors creak open and reveal a man led by the hand by a young girl. I turn to look at Taran who returns the look. I smile reassuringly.
The girl’s gaze is firmly planted on me. The man’s is totally absent. His strangely colored eyes are the final confirmation that he is blind.
“Your Highness” The man says followed by an awkward bow. The young girl repeats the action much more properly.
The prince grunts audibly.

▼・ᴥ・▼ 21

“Hello” I say as charming as I can.
“Hello, my Lady” the girl replies.
“What is your name?” I ask her.
“I am Zoya. Don’t worry, I will help your father”
She lets out a childish grin that can melt your heart.
I walk up to the man. I am nervous but I am drawn to him. I place both hands on either side of his head and breathe before telling him to do the same. I close my eyes.
It is quicker than I am used to. I feel the locks on my head blow in the windless room. Before I realize what is going on, I can’t see. I can hear everything going on around me from the screams of the little girl to the hysterical laughter of the man. My world is dark but not for long. My eyes adjust to the light and I’m greeted by the joy of the two strangers. The man is dancing and I can’t help but smile. My throat is dry and my head hurts but in this moment, I am truly happy.
As the pair is ushered out of the throne room, Taran rushes to my side. They may not have noticed my discomfort but he does.
“Are you alright?” He asks. His voice full of concern.
“I’m fine. Bring in the next”.
He hesitates but eventually he draws a deep breath. “Next!” he commands.
The next few days go in a predictable fashion where I am either healing the king or I am healing his subjects. The physician drew the king’s blood judging that the poison is almost out of his system. He’s even managed conversations, one of which was a grateful man thanking me for my service. I have come to see this family as my own. The queen and I have managed a few more awkward conversations. And if Taran isn’t by the king’s side, he is by mine.
A break in the monotony came this morning when, after waiting for my response, Taran came into my room. He’d planned a whole day where he’d show me the capital as promised. As surprising as that had been, the crowd that waited and cheered upon our exit of the castle was mind numbing.
Thousands of men, women and children full of smiles roared at the carriage. The few accompanying guards do little to stop the mob that surrounds the carriage.

▼・ᴥ・▼ 22

“Your Highness!”
“Lady Zoya!”
I do the only thing I can. I smile and wave. I turn to the person with whom I share this moment but he isn’t looking out the carriage. He’s looking at me. I blush. His gaze falls away. Soon after, he leaves me to wave to his adoring fans. It is my turn to stare at him. Any girl would be lucky to have him.
The mob eventually fades leaving only a few stragglers. When we come to a complete stop, Taran tells me we’re at a shrine to Eif, the mother of the gods. I tell him I know but not how. It is not because of my mother’s stories as a child or because of the old merchant’s tall tales. It is because this feels like home. Just as much as the little house I called home for all those years. Just as much as my room in the palace. I belong here. The women that tend to the shrine are also my family.
A number of worshippers are praying to Eif inside the shrine. A strong scent of incense is in the air. There are baskets at the other end of the entrance, placed before the feet of a massive statue. The first thing I notice is sculpted hair on the statue’s head. There is little difference between the depiction and the locks on my head. Eif is depicted as a dark woman whose sole covering rests on her waist. Her face is on the younger side and her stone eyes seem to follow your gaze.
A woman – wearing the yellow robe of a priestess of Eif walks up to me, encasing my hands in hers. She greets me with a toothy smile. She doesn’t speak. She is gone.
Not long after, another priestess walks up to me. This one means business. She hugs before planting a kiss on my cheek. Like the other one, she is gone immediately after.
One after another, a priestess walks up to me. We have some form of encounter before she leaves.
All the while, Taran is by my side.
When I am sure I have been through all the awkward encounters, I take one last look at the statue before I head out the door.
We visit a number of other sites. A museum and even a ‘War Games’ arena before we reach a place I hope is our final stop. We had to leave the carriage as the roads up the ridge are impassable by anything other by foot. Taran insists we go alone.
The very top is a sight that doesn’t dare exist. The ridge overlooks the city but in the opposite direction, the entire kingdom of Wekesa opens up. The setting sun leaves a blanket of

▼・ᴥ・▼ 23

incandescent light on everything it touches. A small lake shimmers in the sunlight and the grasses and trees sway in the gentle evening breeze.
“It’s beautiful” I say.
“Yes, it is” he replies simply.
I lie in the grass like I’ve always done. The peach dress I have on has no place on the floor but I cannot resist. Eventually Taran joins me. For the first time today, we are alone.
“The people love you” He says simply.
I smile. “It is a great honor to be loved by so many” I tell him.
“So, do I” He adds catching me by surprise.
“What are you—“
“When all this is over, I want you to marry me” He says as if forcing it out while he has the resolve.
“I—“ My world falls flat on its face. I struggle to form words in my head. So many thoughts rush through my head, in the end I do nothing but stare.
He takes my hands in his, “Why do you hesitate? I sense you feel the same for me”.
I shake my head sharply, “There is another”.
He nods, “The boy. Ajani”
“I like you, Taran but…”
Before I know what’s happening, he is on his feet “—it is getting late”
“Taran, I—“
He shakes his head, “There’s no need”.
The sunset is still beautiful when we turn our backs to it but now it hangs in the sky as a reminder; that nothing good ever lasts. That the sun must set and night must fall.
That Night
I still have tears in my eyes when I wake up to the storm raging outside. The room is dark as my lanterns have since burned out. Illuminated only by the moon, there is an eerie presence in the room. One I only truly see when lightning flashes revealing I am not alone.

▼・ᴥ・▼ 24

The hooded man is standing just outside the light’s reach. I go to scream but he reaches across the room, fast and nimble as a cat and presses a gloved hand to my mouth. His other hand goes to my neck, pushing me back down onto the large bed. I hear the blade unsheathe before I see it. I twist and turn trying to get free but he only presses down harder. I struggle to breathe.
“Settle down, little Lady. I won’t hurt you” He says in a sly tone.
I claw at him, my fate uncertain. When the hand at my neck gives way, I take a deep breath and scream. The hand however is on a journey. It bypasses my face and continues on to my hair. It grabs a large chunk and pulls. In one swift motion, the other hand runs the knife through my locks. The room is illuminated with light from a brief flash of lightning and I see his eyes. Bloodshot, staring back at me.
It takes me a while to process what has just happened. He brings a large mass of hair to my face. My heart stops. Gone are his quick, agile movements as he slowly backs away. There’s nothing holding me back but I can’t move. The world feels dead. A storm still rages on outside but the world is quiet.
My eyes stay focused on the assailant as he climbs out the open window and into the night. I hear the heavy footsteps approaching but I am rooted. Still replaying the events in my head.
I run a hand through my hair and feel it for the first time. The forest of hair is gone. In its place, a shattered mess of twists and curls. I have never felt so empty.
Some Days Later
This room has become my self-made prison. Since the last time I had to stare helplessly at the king, powerless to help him, I haven’t left the room. His condition has taken a turn for the worse. The residual poison doing as much harm as it can. I had waited patiently for the day his majesty would rise from the bed that had become his cage. He would look to me and the goddess, Eif with gratitude. Now his screams keep me up at night.
I bring a hand to the short, loosened hair that sits atop my head. I involuntarily break down. I have lost part of myself and I don’t know how to get it back.
My head is buried in a small pillow when I hear his familiar voice.
The tears seem to freeze on my face as I try to process how the voice’s presence is possible. One glance at him and I am running straight at him. He engulfs me in a hug and for the first time in days, I feel safe again. Ajani smells of the world. Dirt and grass, but also flowers and spice. I breathe him in, clutching onto him jealously. He doesn’t let go until I do.

▼・ᴥ・▼ 25

“I heard but… oh Zoya I am so sorry”.
I loosen my grip and we each take a step back. I don’t reply because I am still wondering how he’s here. In the capital. In this room.
“How--” My voice cracks “How are you here?”
He shakes his head softly, “Some messenger brought news. I was reassigned to the castle. When I heard you were here, I assumed you had something to do with it”.
“Maybe I did” I withdraw to sit on the bed. He follows.
We sit quietly for a while. There is so much to talk about that we say nothing at all.
“So can you still…”
I shake my head slowly. His face falls but he doesn’t reply.
For the first time since we were children, we are drowning in uncertainty. I reach across the bed and take his hand in mine. At least we are together.
I look deep into his brown eyes and he does the same. There’s always been an unspoken agreement that we belong to each other. ‘Unspoken’ is no longer good enough.
“I waited for you” I tell him.
I shush him. There’s no need for him to speak. I just need him to be there.
I go to kiss him like we have almost done so many times but the first one is still elusive. In a motion that slices my heart in two, he stands abruptly.
His eyes remain locked on mine as if pleading for understanding.
“I am a soldier now. And you are a guest of His Majesty” He turns to leave.
“Wait” I half yell. “What now?” I ask simply.
He never turns to face me. One step after another, he continues his journey out the door. And because this room is now my prison, I don’t follow.
The city was quiet on that day. It was as though the birds knew of the great tragedy, they refused to sing. I marched behind the two remaining members of the royal family and the city

▼・ᴥ・▼ 26

trailed us on our way to bury the great leader. His body had given up the day before after fighting tirelessly to survive the poison. It failed. I failed.
The city was dotted with weeping faces that only weeks ago had smiled endlessly at me. Facing them after all that time was difficult. But it is over. I am home.
The Village
A Week Later
The breeze is gentle as it always is on this field. The big lake is a few hundred yards away. The village is less than a mile away. My mother is making her famous porridge that we will eat for dinner. Everything is the way it was. Except I am alone now. And I am still empty inside.
I greet my parents that evening and notice that their concerned looks remain. I am not the same person I was when I left. This person has no purpose.
“Help me with the plates” my mother says. My father already sits at the table. He is famished. A long day, as they all are now, will do that to you.
It is not long before we are sitting at the table having a quiet dinner. The uncomfortable silence is deafening, I wonder if anyone is breathing.
My father just focuses on his meal. He is not a man that says much but he has spent his life working. For us. He prefers to let his actions speak. Today he doesn’t do anything.
My mother however slams her spoon on the table when she’s had enough. Her eyes burning with emotion. Gone is the calm, calculating woman. In her place, a stranger.
“This power you had, it was a gift from the goddess” Her voice is shaky and unsteady. I can hear the force by which she speaks every word. “But it is not who you are. You may not remember this but when you were five, you were playing with the baker’s boy. He’d cut his leg on a sharp rock. Know what you did?”
I did remember. But I just stare at the woman looking intensely into my eyes.
“You ran in the house and took the first cloth you found. Your only good dress. You wrapped it around his wound and came looking for me. When you were twelve, you--”
“—took care of that baby bird that broke its wing” I finish.

▼・ᴥ・▼ 27

Mum smiles, her eyes filling up with tears. “You care for people, and everything around you. That is who you are”. She reaches across the table and covers my hand in hers. “You help people.”
I feel dad’s hand cover my other hand. “From what you’ve told us, that boy needs your help. You should go to him”.
Mum agrees. “You have always been destined for great things. Don’t waste your potential here”
Sometime during all this, I’d begun crying. Mum doesn’t wait for an invitation, she walks around the table and engulfs me in a hug. Soon after, dad wraps us both and eventually we’re all laughing through the tears.
The Capital
Although I knew it was going to happen, it still takes me by surprise when I hear the chants.
“Long live King Borja”.
The kind, earnest boy that I knew is now the king of Wekesa. I am thankful that the carriage moves so slowly because I still don’t know what I will say to him when I meet him.
I had intended to make the journey here on horseback but the stable master wouldn’t hear it and brought me all the way.
The warm reception I receive in the capital is enough to bring tears to my eyes but I try to keep it together. I want to be strong for Taran. I know what his father meant to him. And I left in his most vulnerable moment. Not again.
When the castle comes into view, I am relieved to finally get out of the sun. I am greeted at the castle gates and then let in. I don’t know what I expected but nothing has changed. The guards still man their posts and the queen mother’s garden still stands proud and lush in the corner. I let myself into the palace and go to look for the king.
Just as I go to knock on his old door, I stop in my tracks as I listen to the voices from within. I kick myself mentally for snooping before I put my weight on half of the double doors as quietly as I can.
The voices grow stronger as I walk closer but I take even more steps. I am not the curious type but something propels me forward.
“—this is insane even for you, step-mother” The voice belongs to Taran.

▼・ᴥ・▼ 28

Nala replies almost immediately, “It is the smart thing to do. A war with the other kingdoms is inevitable so why wait? We should attack while we have the military advantage”
He scoffs, “I am not going to attack the other kingdoms unprovoked”.
I take a few more steps until they are in view. The two stand on the balcony with heated expressions on their face.
“Listen boy” Nala replies venomously “I have lived among them. They are evil. They would attack us if they could”
“Everyone in the palace knows of your disdain towards anyone that is different” He retorts. “That doesn’t make them evil. This conversation is over” He turns to leave.
He pauses when he sees me and lets out a loose smile. I return it.
Behind him, Nala isn’t finished. I watch her remove a small dagger from within her robe. The steel blade glints in the sunlight.
“Taran!” I scream “Behind you!”
I watch the blade carve a hole in his back. His smile turns into horror but his eyes never leave mine. He coughs and blood forcibly exits his lips. The knife exits his back and finds a new home in his neck. Taran’s knees give way as his body drops to the floor.
My body moves to rush to his side but is held back by a stronger force. My view of the world shifts as I am thrown to the floor. The perpetrator is the graying soldier Jabari. His face shows signs of reluctance and regret but it doesn’t last. The handle of his blade connects with my head and my world turns to darkness.
When I awake, I am sitting in a chair in a cold, dark room. The only light source is a small window close to the ceiling. Nala stands before me and Jabari stands in the corner, his hand on his blade.
“I should thank you” Nala begins “I was beginning to wonder how I would explain the young king’s death and then you come along and it is all so clear. The girl they’ve all come to love was turned by one of the other kingdoms and she was sent back to murder the king. They’ll be so angry, war will be inevitable”. She laughs.
“You are a bitter woman” I say “How could you?” Tears stream down my face. “He loved you!”
I swallow to get rid of the lump in my throat. I have never felt this way before. The urge to hurt someone.

▼・ᴥ・▼ 29

“He was a fool. Like his father”.
I ask a question whose answer is obvious. “You poisoned the king?”
There is no remorse in her expression although she doesn’t answer.
“You cut my hair. To make sure the king died.” My head drops. “Why?”
“This kingdom is mighty and if it wants to remain that way, it needs a strong ruler. Someone who isn’t afraid to make hard decisions. Someone who knows that the best time to attack is when you know you will win” She turns to leave. “And I have won. Now, I must go let the people know of their king’s demise”.
Everything seems hopeless. The soldier’s orders are to keep me here and he seems determined to follow through. So I wait. Wait to be dragged to prison. Or worse. As far as they know, I just ended the Borja line.
“Why?” I ask Jabari “I wasn’t here long but I know Taran cared for you”.
Jabari grips his sword harder. I can tell he is struggling. “He was a good lad. But he was weak. What I do, I do for the good of Wekesa”.
“War? How many Wekesi will die? How is that good?”
His head turns away from me. “You are a child. Just like the boy Taran was. I will not explain myself”.
The room grows quiet as neither of us says another word. The first disturbance comes moments later when we both hear a voice echo. At first it is impossible to place but as it gets closer, it gets clearer. I recognize the voice even through the walls.
“Ajani! I’m here!” I scream as loud as I can.
Jabari moves to cover my mouth, I bite as hard as I can. “I’m in here!”
Footsteps echo with the pace of a running man. Jabari retaliates with a hit across my face but I don’t care. I won’t be deterred. “Ajani!”
The wooden door shakes with a loud thud. A moment later, it gives way to the force of an armored soldier’s boot. As soon as Ajani enters the room, Jabari swings his sword wildly at him narrowly missing. Ajani readies his own blade in the standard fighting stance.

▼・ᴥ・▼ 30

“Come, boy!” Jabari yells as he lunges at my only friend. The whole time their blades clash and a few times Ajani narrowly dodges Jabari’s wild swings, my heart is in my throat. I tug at the binds that hold me firmly in place but they won’t budge. I just watch as Ajani fights for his life. And mine.
Ajani is trying his best to keep up but he is too inexperienced with a sword. I wonder if anyone can hear the clash of metal but I don’t hold my breath for any incoming help. Ajani is losing, evidenced by the repeated cuts he has taken to his limbs.
When Ajani takes a heavy cut behind his knee, he screams and drops to the floor. Jabari steps on the hand still holding the sword and the young boy’s scream once again cuts through the air. He stares down the old soldier, still defiant even in his current state.
I beg in all the ways I know how.
“What I do, I do for the good of Wekesa” Jabari’s says.
“Please do not hurt him” I beg. My eyes fill with tears. My heart threatens to beat out of my chest. “Please!”
He raises his blade into the air. He has made his decision. Somehow I know he’s told himself this is the right thing to do. He is about to take Ajani away from me. I want him dead.
I feel the air singe around me but at the same time, I am cold. My fingers turn to black and the ropes that bind my wrist fall off and turn to dust as they hit the floor. Before Jabari gets the chance to move, I am out of the crumbling chair and pushing him to the ground with all my weight. I scream in his face letting my rage run wild. Tears still fall from my eyes but I have only one goal. My charcoal colored fingers claw at his face. He screams. I scream louder.
Through my tears, I watch as his skin ages. With each passing second, years go by. Eventually, his voice runs out. He has turned into the oldest person I’ve ever seen. But I don’t stop. He decays until there is nothing but dust.
I fall on the floor and let my tears flow. Ajani wraps me and once again I feel safe. I bury my head in his chest until I am out of tears.
“Your leg..” I study the deep gash.
“I’ll be fine” He smiles. “Thanks to you, Zoya”
I expect him to ask what just happened but he doesn’t so I don’t bring it up.
“Where is the queen?” I ask him.

▼・ᴥ・▼ 31

“She called an impromptu meeting with all the nobles in the great hall. What is going on?”
“Stay here” I tell him. Nala has caused enough harm to this kingdom.
I hear the murmurs as I approach the great hall. There must be hundreds of people in there. I have no plan. I am fueled only by anger. She killed Taran. Stabbed him in the back. Oh sweet, kind Taran. My eyes begin to water again but I don’t let them. Now is not the time to cry.
“My fellow Wekesi” Nala begins her speech and again I am overcome with anger. No one else will listen to her lies.
As I pass the giant doors, I shout, “Nala!” I watch as her face turns grey. The room is filled with the most powerful people in the land but I pay them no mind. My eyes are trained on the woman who would watch our world burn.
“Confess!” I command. Each step I take towards her, I get angrier. “Confess” I say again. The air burns around me. My nails turn black as if dipped in soot.
“Seize her!” Nobody moves.
“Confess!” I am an arm’s length away from her when I say it again. I grab her by her hair and pull before placing both hands on her head. She screams. “Tell them what you did”.
I watch as her beautiful face slowly but surely begins to change. “I will turn you to dust. Confess!”
“Wait, wait” she pleads but I will hear none of it.
“Now” My arms grow tired and my resolve weakens as I watch her get older and older. Her hair turns white and marks appear on her face.
“I killed my husband!” She screams. The crowd gasps, half of them on their feet. “I poisoned him. And I killed his son”. The noise grows louder. I let her go and she falls to the floor. She looks like she has spent 70 years in this world. She doesn’t stop. “I hired the assassin that attacked this witch. To make sure his majesty would perish from the poison”.
Gone is the proud queen I first met all those weeks ago. In her place is a broken, defeated woman.
“Take her away” I say quietly. The guards hoist her off the floor and soon she is out of the room. I turn and look at the scores of faces staring back at me. They seem to wait for something. Anything.

▼・ᴥ・▼ 32

“The king is dead” I say “Killed in cold blood. Killed because he wouldn’t plunge our great kingdom into darkness like the traitor Nala had wanted.” Tears roll down my face and this time I let them. “My beloved Taran, may he rest in peace” I say finally.
When I notice what is happening, dozens of people are already on one knee. More people join them by the second. The guards in the corners soon join the crowd. When everyone is on one knee, I struggle to speak. My voice vanishes in my throat. Instead I brace myself and take a deep breath.
“Long live the Queen!” A lone voice echoes through the room. A second later, the room erupts.
“Long live the Queen!”
Seven Months Later
The large bed houses only my tiny frame. It is so big and soft that every morning, I have to pull myself out of it. Reluctantly, I drag myself to my feet. I have a long day ahead. My coronation. It still baffles me to think about it.
The large doors open to reveal Ida walking into the room with what I assume to be my coronation dress on her arm.
“Oh good, Ida. Tell Captain Ajani to join me for breakfast this morning” I tell her.
She bows then replies, “Of course, Your Majesty”.
“Is that the dress?”
She smiles giddily and it makes me smile like it always does, “Oh yes, it is beautiful. I can’t wait till you try it on”
I laugh, “I’m sure it is”.
“Where is my mother?” I ask as I make my way into the bathroom.
“In the kitchen, making sure the cooks get everything right”
“That sounds exactly—“ I stop in my tracks as I catch a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror. My hair that has grown just below my neck is moving subtly on their own. Each piece, forming groups and interlocking with one another. I run a quick hand through the hair and they move again, repeating the process.
“Is everything alright Your Majesty?” Ida asks from the bedroom.
I smile. “Oh yes, everything is perfect”.

The End.

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Interesting premise- and different

I like this story. I'd almost forgotten that those who've written this site's usual type of tale can write non-tg stories too. Well worth the time to read.

This ended far too soon.

I loved this story, though at first I felt I wouldn't. You have just lots of talent and I do hope that you make more use of it here.

Thank you.


Oh my gosh thank you so much

Emma's picture

Oh my gosh thank you so much for your kind words. I'm so glad you enjoyed it.