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Prose: A Thousand Fortnights

Photo by: Charley Hrobsky

"A Thousand Fortnights" by Emilee Wise takes a twist on a classic folktale.

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Across the parched deserts of Gastar, over many high, hidden mountains, and past a luminous river wrapped in gleaming teal rested an immense palace of milky marble, cool and crisp against its neighboring ocean of golden sand.  Deep within its luscious depths abided a massive lion, lounging on velvet rugs and silk pillows, its alabaster fur striking against the rich colors around it.  Leaning against him was a girl, with skin the hue of honey and hair color of bronze.  In her hand floated an orb of glowing light, reflecting off her strange violet eyes.

“What do you think, Zawbae?” she asked the albino lion, who licked her ear in response.  Lenora squeezed the orb of silver light, which released metallic images of every mistake she had ever made.  Silently, she watched the scenes play out in front of her, absorbing every trying moment that made her into who she was from the day she was born.  When the orb stopped at her most recent mishap, Lenora set it down and picked up its golden twin that sat next to her.  Squeezing it, she surveyed the images in front of her, all her greatest accomplishments, but now magnified and glossed over by the golden orb’s magic.  Zawbae made a low sound of disapproval. 

As she slipped both silver and gold orbs back into the embroidered cinch sack at her waist, Lenora glanced out the diamond paned window across the open chamber at wisps of sand that the wind sent dancing into the brilliant sky, thinking, as she often did.  “Today marks the thousandth fortnight of my father’s reign as the Sultan of Radia, Zawbae,” she murmured to her pet.  “Today is the day the law states that he must choose an heir.”

Lenora had never met her father, the Sultan.  The law forbade it, for at the end of his thousandth fortnight of reign, he was to be unbiased in his choice for an heir.  Nerves clamoring against her ribs, Lenora ran her fingers through Zawbae’s mane, thinking of all the ways her arrogant older brothers could win the crown over her.

The quiet shuffling of silk slippers on the smooth marble pulled her out of her trance.  Rolling to her knees and peeking over Zawbae’s muscular body, she saw her attendant moving towards her with a swift pace.

“Lenora,” the thin framed woman panted, “Your father has called for you and your brothers to come to his throne room at once!  For when the shadows are stiff and straight behind, he will choose an heir!”

Lenora’s thick black brows stitched themselves together over her majestic eyes. “But it is no more than an hourglass till when the Sun is at it’s highest in the sky, and my father’s throne is on the other side of the palace.”

Her attendant made fluttering motions with her hands as she flusteredly spoke. “Then you must be as swift as a leopard, my child, for the almighty Sultan does not tolerate tardiness.”  

Bolting upright, Lenora rushed past her attendant, the amber rings adorning the toes of her bare feet clinking against the stone floor as she sprinted to see the Sultan, Zawbae trotting at her heels.  

I must be on time, Lenora thought to herself as she pushed to pump her legs faster, My father will not choose me to be his heir if I am late!  Her thoughts consumed her so much so that Lenora didn’t notice the servant girl in front of her until it was too late.  The two collided with a smack, the tray the servant had been bearing flew out of her hands and the  engraved platinum teapot and matching cups clanged as they hit the floor, sending the dark herbal drink seeping out onto the pale marble.

“My apologies!” Lenora gasped once she had collected herself enough to realize what she had done.  Sinking to her knees, she helped the servant collect the cups to balance back on the tray as Zawbae lapped up the spilled puddle of tea.  Then, noticing the poor servant had tea splattered all over her face, Lenora stripped her royal sash and offered it to the girl to dry her cheeks.

“I hope I didn’t cause you too much trouble,” She murmured to the wide eyed girl as she handed her back the tray.

“Lenora,” she whispered, “Don’t worry about me, you need to hurry!  Your brothers were already at the throne room’s door when I left with the Sultan’s morning tea.”

Hopping up to her feet, Lenora ran faster than she had before, throwing her thanks to the servant girl over her shoulder as she left.

Racing time itself, Lenora ran until her lungs felt as though they were inhaling fire, but she knew that it was all for naught.  The Sun had reached it’s peak in the heaven’s, burning all that abided under its presence.

When she reached the throne room, it’s mahogany doors were already wide open, her two older brothers kneeling at the feet of their father.  Zawbae gently nudged her forward, reminding her legs that they could walk.  Blush exploding across her cheeks, Lenora scrambled to her brothers’ sides, feeling the weight of her father’s wise eyes on her bowed head while her brothers snickered under their breaths.

“My children,” the Sultan began, “My heart weeps for joy to finally be allowed to behold your faces.  Everyday, I have prayed to the Sun above that one of you may grow to be worthy of all of Radia.  Today, I shall see if the Sun has granted me my only wish.  Torrin,” he motioned to his eldest son, “Please, show me one, and only one, of your orbs.”

Torin retrieved his golden orb from the pocket of his tunic without a thought,  squeezing it to show the Sultan all the mighty acts he had done.  The golden images portrayed Torrin as a strong, brave fellow who was powerful amongst his friends.  Lenora knew Torrin to be brave and strong, but she also knew the golden orb’s magic had twisted his bossy tendencies into something to be held in revery.  Disgust rolled in her stomach.

“Torrin, my son,” the Sultan said once the images subsided, “You truly must be a strapping young man, but strength is not all there is to leadership. Onyx?”  he looked at his middle child, “Show me one of your orbs.”

Onyx smirked and pulled his golden orb from a pouch at his belt.  Compressing it with his long fingers, it began to show their father all of the feats he had accomplished.  Even though Lenora knew Onyx to be book smart but arrogant, the orb’s abilities made him seem intelligent, dignified, and respected.  She choked back a laugh; it was well known throughout the palace how much everyone loathed Onyx and his haughty ways.

When Onyx’s golden orb stopped, the Sultan merely shook his head. “You may be smart, Onyx, but you are prideful.  Radia does not appreciate those who brag,”  the Sultan’s eyes, violet like her’s, shifted to Lenora, “My daughter, you were late, but I shall give you another chance.  Please, present to me one of your orbs.”

With shaking hands, Lenora slipped her fingers into the cinch sack at her side, pulling out both of her orbs.  Showing her father the golden orb’s twisted truths would make her just terrible as her brothers, but showing him her silver orb wouldn’t do any good either. Her heart beat wildly as her mind spun, trying to decide between what was right and what would bring her victory.  But, as her mouth went as dry as the desert of Gastar, she tucked the golden orb back into her pouch, squeezing her silver one. 

Metallic images of all her failures flashed before their eyes, showing all of them her impatient moments and jealous thoughts.  When the orb finally stopped at her running into the servant, Lenora looked up at her father’s face, ready for his disappointment.  Instead, a smile as bright as the Sun itself lit up his face as he fell to his knees in front of his youngest child. 

“Lenora,” he said, his voice swelling, “The Sun has granted my prayers, for it has blessed me with a kind, compassionate child to be my heir.”

Lenora shook her head, confused.  “How do you know?  I showed you my silver orb, my failures.”

The Sultan stroked her cheek. “The silver orb only shows the wrongs you have righted, my child.  I sent a servant to run into you and your brothers, yet you were the only one to help them.  I asked for you to show me your orbs, and you were the only one who showed me the truth.  Lenora, my radiance, you are to be my heir for you delight in what is right, no matter the cost.” 

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Prose: A Thousand Fortnights