This story is by Mackenzie Houston and was part of our 2021 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“No, Sedan!” I shout angrily as we pass through the garden of the beautiful Cadencia Palace. Normally, if I were calm and happy, the bluebells would comfort me, but not while Sedan and I are fighting.
He runs a hand through his dark brown hair. “I don’t understand why not! You’re royalty, don’t you get to choose?”
“Just because I’m royalty, doesn’t mean I get to choose everything for myself.” I rub my forehead. I’m just about done with this argument. We’ve been disagreeing about this topic for the past two days. My head is throbbing, and I want this to be over. “I wish that was how it works, but it’s actually the exact opposite.”
“Leah, please talk to him. He’s your father. I’m sure he’ll understand.”
I snort. “Are we talking about my father? The king being understanding?”
He sighs. “Please just try. You don’t know how much I want this to work out. Don’t you?”
I continue to massage my forehead as I respond. “Of course I do, but it’s not easy. My father isn’t a very considerate person. His heart is hard as stone. He has no room for love in his life.”
Suddenly, a booming voice comes from behind me. “Daughter, may I speak to you?”
I turn around to see a tall figure. I don’t really want to talk to him, but I don’t have a choice. “Yes, Father.”
We walk inside the stone walls of the palace. It gets annoying to just see gray every time we’re in here. But, in the 1800s, it’s safest for us to have the palace built out of a material that is solid. I look backwards, and Sedan is following us. It’s fine with me. Whatever my father has to say, Sedan can hear it. We have no secrets between the two of us.
“I have found a suitable match for you.”
My eyes widen. “What? Already? Who is it?”
“The prince of Arden has asked for your hand in marriage. Will you accept?”
I sigh. “No, Father! Don’t you ever see Sedan and I together? I’m already occupied.” I have made it clear that I’m marrying for love, not because my father wants to arrange a marriage for me.
His light blue eyes darken to a night sky blue. “Careful, Daughter. Your soldier may need saving.”
I turn around, and my gaze flies from the red and white (Cadencia’s colors) flag that Sedan was hiding behind, to a stone bench. Sedan wasn’t near either of the places. “He heard this conversation, didn’t he?”
“Yes. I was afraid you wouldn’t have any motivation, but now that you do, you will certainly have to say accept. And if you don’t, I will not allow you to go after your…friend.”
I suddenly become defensive. “And what if I leave without your consent?”
He grins, and it’s an evil one, fit for a horrible king. “Then I will surely have to kill him. And we wouldn’t want that, now would we?”
Is there any way to get out of this without Sedan getting hurt? I could…no that wouldn’t work. I have no choice. “Fine.”
He smiles. “Now that’s a good girl. You may go now.”
I pick up my dark gray skirts, as I would surely not be able to run with them in the way. I would just trip and fall, because I am very clumsy. I run out to the stables and grab my white steed, Snowy. I quickly mount her, as I have no time to spare. She rushes out in the direction of the humid forest, and it’s almost as if she can read my thoughts. I must be putting off my emotions. She must know.
I steer her to where I want to go. We follow the length of the rushing river until it flows into a lake. Knowing this is Sedan’s favorite spot, I have a feeling that this is where he will be. There he is, kneeling on the sand by the water, so I race over to him, and drop down.
“Sedan, I can explain-“I start to say.
But then he interrupts me. “No, you don’t need to explain it to me. I was rushing you too fast in our relationship, and you were offered a better opportunity for your kingdom. Of course I’m disappointed, but I understand.”
I smile, and it’s a genuine one. “No you’re right, I don’t have to explain to you. But I want to. And if you would listen, you’ll understand. Sedan, I did accept, but only because my father forced me. He said he would kill you if I didn’t say yes. I had no choice. I still love you.”
I bring his tan face to mine, and kiss him. It’s a soft kiss that makes my heart melt. “I have a plan to escape this marriage. Let’s run away. We can get away from all of this.”
He smiles lopsidedly. “Leah, I would love to.”
My heart leaps. I’ve wanted to run away for the longest time, but I’ve never had the courage to do it on my own. Now that Sedan will go with me, I have the opportunity to get away with the person I love. “Okay, so here’s the plan-“
“I would love to, but it’s too late.”
“What do you mean ‘it’s too late’?”
He signals to a small bottle that is lying in the sand. A green drop of liquid has fallen out of the glass, and it has burned a small dip on the ground. I suddenly realize what it is, and my heart stops. I can’t breathe.
“Sedan, you didn’t.”
He nods. “I’m sorry. I love you, Leah.”
As I knew he would, he suddenly falls backwards onto the ground. I check for any kind of pulse, any sign of hope, but I knew there would be none. As the life leaves him, his eyes turn glossy. His skin turns a sickening gray. I shiver.
My heart throbs. Tears run down my face.
As soon as I’m done crying, or, when I have any other thoughts besides Sedan dying I think to myself, why would he do this to us? Suddenly an awful thought hits me, and my tears return with renewed vigor.
He thought that I’d wanted to accept. Because he thought that I had found a prince. He thought that I had thought that the prince would have been better for the kingdom than him. But how could anyone be better for me than him?
Sedan had been my best friend since he joined the royal guard when he was a kid. His father was the captain at the time. Sedan was so proud to join with his father, and I respected that. I wanted to become part of it for forever, but my father would never let a princess join. Sedan was teaching me all of the defense tactics, and he even let me use his sword once in a while. He said that I was good, so we started secretly coming up with strategies to get me in the guard.
Now, all I longed for was one minute to spend time with him, tell him I loved him, and speak with him. That’s all.
But, the next day, when the sun rises, I grab his freezing body. I stretch my hand muscles, as I will be using them, and I bury him in the humid forest.
I say a few words to remember him by, “Sedan, I’m so sorry. What could I have done to make you feel more special? You were more important to me than any foreign prince my father could have ever set me up with. I wish you would’ve known that. But now it’s my fault that you’re dead, and there is nothing that I can do about it. Please forgive me. I’m so sorry.”
Numbly, I fall to the ground.
After a while, I walk back to the lake, ready to ride back to the castle. There’s no life for me there, but I have nowhere else to go.
I look over the beautiful scenery once more, because after I’m married, I will have enough to take care of that I won’t be able to come back here.
But my eyes catch on something small. The poison bottle. I consider the possibilities of what would happen if I took some of the poison. There’s nothing for me here…I’ll have to get married to someone I don’t know. If I took the poison, I would be with Sedan, and no one could get to me. I’ve made my decision.
I grab the small object and the deadly liquid it contains. I down the small portion in one gulp. Everything goes black.
I wake up to see the king standing above me. “Nice try, Daughter, but that’s a special poison. It only works on commoners.” He cruelly laughs. “But, now that you are here, it’s time to get married.”