Qualified Entry: Fiction Category
By: Daniela Ginta
The neighbors have known each other for a long time. The first row of houses belonged to a group of low-income people, peasants, some called them. They didn’t care though; they knew of their condition and did not expect more from it. But they prized themselves for being good-hearted and ready to stand up for each other. A very nice community indeed. Behind their houses lived the rich people. Whether they inherited fortunes or held high-paid jobs in the castle’s hierarchy, they were all highly regarded by the so-called peasants. But the highest in rank were the nobility. Yes, there were a couple of blue-blooded ones too. A king with his queen, some would say, although few have seen them. It was more like a legend really. Others said that he cannot possibly be a king as they heard stories of him barely moving and barely able to defend himself should disaster strike. His queen, they said, was more bold and stronger than her king. How is that a reason to brag when you’re king? That’s why the king had knights, the knights were said to defend him.
But then again, that’s why the peasants were there. Some worked as squires, some were simply peasants, and some had the toughest job of all, standing on duty, ready to sacrifice their lives in the event of an invasion. They were that good-hearted, ready to give it all up if anything threatened their little community. And who was threatening them? Well, they heard stories of other communities who were running out of peasants and squires, and wanted to conquer others and take them prisoners to work their lands and protect their noble ones. They heard stories of wild horses led by ruthless knights attacking peaceful peasants in the field. They even heard of a fearless queen who led her people in a fight that was to subdue all the kings and their kingdoms.
Just stories… Not quite… The squires, especially the older ones, had seen plenty of blood-curdling things in their lives, but being so good-hearted they chose not to share them with the young ones. Sparing them bad thoughts and fears was for the best, so they’ll be brave and ready to fight, they thought.
One morning the clouds were hanging heavy and wet all over the fort. They were as close to dripping endless rain as never before. The people in the field, the queen and king, the knights and their horses, they all saw the lightning flashes and heard terrible thunder. But where to go, this was their land, after all. They were born and raised here and did not know of any other land. Water gurgled around the peasants’ houses, but none of them ran away. And then it happened: black horses like they’ve never seen before attacked them and were fighting their way towards the castle. The squires knew they cannot let it happen. They warned the towers. A rain of arrows poured onto the horses and their equally heartless knights. Some squires fell and they were quickly taken prisoners by giant ghosts circling the air above.
And then it happened.
– Horse down, one horse down! a breathless squire announced.
– If one is down, we can still do it, let’s get the other one! the other squires said.
But the one horse they wanted moved fast. His fury was shaking the ground up. Water dripping from above made him shine like a dark and beautiful jewel. The horse opened the way for his knight. And before the squires knew what was happening, the knight took the queen from her chambers and flew her away in a tower of darkness.
Weeping and wailing throughout the kingdom was heard for what it seemed like ages. Until one peasant went to the castle.
– I wish to speak to the king, he said boldly yet humble at the same time.
The king is in distress, the queen was taken this morning, the peasant was told.
Thunder crashed near the castle, and a strong swirl of dust and giant leaves almost knocked down one of the towers.
– I can bring the queen back, the peasant said in a determined voice.
The king, who has never been seen before appeared and spoke in a low and shaken voice. He was old, probably that’s why he couldn’t move much anymore, the peasant thought.
– Your good heart may be an ally when you fight in the fields, but the other lands are wild and full of dangers. Bringing the queen back, hardly possible… the old king warned.
– I can and I will, the peasant insisted.
– What’s your magic? the king insisted. “Magic is what one needs to fight the darkness that is falling over our land,” he thought.
– I can think, your Majesty, the peasant replied proudly.
The old king dragged his feet to his sad chambers, he thought the mission was foolish, yet his old self, a fearless and faithful knight, could not but give a much-needed blessing to the peasant. “He is just a peasant, though,” thought the king, “how can he…”
Giant drops of rain and strong winds hurled small pebbles and branches and leaves all over the land. The squires, few of them left, fought with dedication. Knights were taken prisoners, and their horses put to work for strange people. Towers were blasted with catapults and fell.
The bold and brave peasant thought and fought. Every step of the way was preceded by thoughts. Mysterious and strategic as the great generals’ war plans, his thoughts cut deep into the enemy’s defense lines. He vowed to never look back until the queen was safe. The dark towers did nothing to belittle his courage. He fought until his last drop of sweat was dry and then he freed the queen. She took his horse and he took her place, holding her precious medallion to his chest. “A medal,” he thought, “the most precious medal, for a simple peasant like me, from the queen herself”. Smiling, he put the medallion around his neck, knowing that he may have saved the kingdom. It was up to her now.
Flying back to her castle and her beloved king, the queen remembered the long days in the dark tower. The chilling wind did not let her sleep, and the darkness did not let her settle. She lay awake, thinking of her kingdom, how it cannot be conquered by anyone, let alone some dark and twisted knights. “Did they have a king,” she asked herself. If they did, he should have fought, instead of hiding away. “I’ll challenge him,” the queen said to herself. “He’ll be working our lands instead of plotting to conquer peaceful people and their land,” she continued. Her kingdom did not believe in dungeons and never let prisoners rot in deserted towers.
As she was approaching the castle, the sight hurt her like a dagger. The king was wandering away from his chambers to one of the towers and his guarding squadron was but a single peasant, tired and exhausted. The enemy was close, so close they were almost stepping on the king’s tailcoat. The queen charged, she attacked, and then rested to think about it. She won battle after battle, slashing the air in front of her strong enemy in a thousand pieces.
The king was saved. So was the kingdom.
– “Check mate, buddy!” the woman announced cheerfully.
– “You got me, just like that. Brilliant or sheer luck?” he asked with a wink.
– “I told you, I love the rain, it sharpens my thoughts,” laughed the woman.
– “It dampens mine, it seems. Hmmm, rematch?”
– “Sure, but you’ll play the dark ones again,” she boldly proposed.
– “Can do…”