“The Assassination of the Prince”
by Paige Doland
They say blood is thicker than water. What they neglect to realize, is that blood is also more abundant. The blood pumped by a single human heart could fill an entire lake. Think of what all creatures combined would fill. No wonder blood is so rich…the price of it could be your undoing.
Elspeth struggled. Her legs flailed, she kicked and stomped, trying to wring her arm free of the firm grasp of a stoic, armored guard. It was the best defense her seven year old body had. She fought, screaming for her father.
Her father did not fight. He instead kneeled—a knight’s boot crushing down on the middle of his back.
Her Papa’s face was slammed on the center block; a basket lay in front of him, waiting for his head. He tried to ignore the cries of his daughter.
“He did nothing! Let my Papa go!” Elspeth pleaded, clawing and writhing harder against the guard holding her. She freed a single arm and flung it backward, thudding it against a dull, silver breast plate. The knight’s gauntlet swiftly clipped her on the chin. Her face stung brutally as it began to redden. Elspeth cried out once, but then fell silent.
A red-cloaked and fat man with a roll of parchment stepped forward, facing the crowd of peasants that had gathered around the chopping block. The spectacles that took place here were always a pleasant break from blacksmithing, carpentry, baking or the like. The townspeople had become accustomed to this every few days. A man or woman’s fevered hollering would call them from their toiling to come and witness. The fat man cleared his throat harshly and let the scroll unfurl over his large belly.
“William Collins, you shall be punished by an executioner’s blade, for thievery and attempted murder of King Donivan III of Shalgome.” His voice was stern and loud, yet he sounded almost bored from the frequency of repeating the executioner’s speech.
“Do you, William Collins, accept these terms?”
He didn’t do it! Elspeth screamed to herself.
With the knight’s boot still unforgiving on the middle of his back, Elspeth’s father looked up, his face bruised and smeared in sweat.
“Yes to thievery, but not to attempted murder, my lord.”
Elspeth’s mouth dropped. Had he actually made it into the castle? The corners of her lips curved up in a smirk, impressed that he had even tried, and proud that he had made it. To be found merely standing by the castle without reason was immediate death.
“Yes, very well,” the fat man sighed, rolling up the scroll.
“His royal heir, the prince of Shalgome, shall decide this petty thief’s fate.” He huffed off his podium and pompously surveyed the crowd, impressed by the amount that gathered already. A small and sandy-haired boy took the announcer’s, a crown of gold atop his head. The Prince. He could hardly be much older than Elspeth herself. The crown, made to fit the head of a man, sat just across the Prince’s eyebrows. Diamonds studded its lustrous surface, mesmerizing Elspeth. It was so…beautiful. If she could only touch it, stroke its cold surface, run her fingers upon the shimmering diamonds. She shook the thought away as the Prince spoke.
“I, prince Donivan the IV of Shalgome, order my executioner to behead the vile filth before me.” The Prince shouted with the same air of boredom or monotonous fatigue as the fat man before him.
“No!” Elspeth screamed as the Knight’s axe sliced through her father’s neck with one, heavy thud.
The men in the crowd cheered, the women fell silent. A few stayed to get a good look at the beheaded, but most everyone dispersed, returning to their homes and storefronts.
Her father’s head lay in the neatly woven basket, now stained with his blood, bright as the red of the Lord‘s robes. The Knight took his foot off the back of her father and kicked his body to the side. He yanked the axe from the chopping block without remorse, as if he had only felled a tree. Blood oozed from the open neck of her father’s limp and toppled body. Elspeth dry heaved, falling into the dirt below her. The Knight and executioner stood in a massive puddle of crimson, axe over his shoulder, waiting for further instruction.
“Next!” called the executioner. Elspeth’s eyes were rimmed red and puffy. Her heart felt a hundred pounds of lead. Her father, predecessor and only friend, gone in mere seconds.
She was alone.
Well, alone if you did not count her stepmother and her two wicked daughters.
Alone, she decided.