Issue 400: A Confession - Part Four
Also by sariphe
One second I was sitting on the lawn, prim and proper against a sea of royals, and the next I was shoving through that sea, knocking over queens, elbowing prime ministers, causing chaos in general. At first, the mass of guards seemed perplexed, as if they didn't know what to do. Yes, I was running, but as far as they knew, I was a royal. And they couldn't chase after a royal, could they? That'd be illegal, practically immoral. But then again, I was running, yes? So that meant I'd done something wrong. And weren't they obligated to--
Finally, as if to put to rest their deliberations, Lady Zylaa shouted to them, "She's an impostor!"
And that was all she needed to say; the guards took after me like a Puppyblew leaping for a biscuit, pumping their fists, breathing heavily. From their makeshift stage, Wrigilet and Patcheye stopped in mid-skip, distracted by the spectacle. This led to the chagrin of King Bragalot, who shouted at them, and then noticed the brouhaha himself and became otherwise occupied. All the while, I was sprinting, my lungs burning unsung, the costume jewelry I'd so carefully pieced together weighing me down. Cripes, why was running so hard?
As the guards gained ground on me, I forced myself to lope faster, but I soon realised that I was losing this race. I had to try something else, or I'd be tackled down soon. Breathing hard, I rounded a corner and then blindly flung myself through a pair of swing doors that led into the palace, figuring it might throw my pursuers off. It didn't, and I heard them stomp in after me. I was running out of time, and fast...
I darted around a corner, sprinted the length of a corridor, and turned into another, hoping to lead the guards on a wild goose chase. I darted and dashed, trying to get them confused, but no matter what I did, they remained a few paces behind me, gaining ground. I'd tried to be the fastest, and then I'd tried to be the most agile, and both of those methods had failed me so far. Now, I only saw one option left. So with a deep breath, I rounded one last corner and turned just in time to see the guards speeding around behind me. They stopped when they saw me standing there, and I took my chance while I had it. I raised my arm dramatically and pointed an accusing finger at them, looking as affronted as I knew how.
The guards just stared at me, looking unsure of what they should do, and my mind raced as I tried to formulate a proper plan. Tilting my head up in a snobby fashion, I gave a dramatic sigh.
"How dare you," I said quietly. When the guards began to look alarmed, I knew I'd hit the jackpot. "How dare you!" I boomed at them, and now they began to look frightened. "You dare chase a queen when she desires only to have business of her own? How dare you!" The statement had become an accusation, and I continued to point at them. I could see them physically quaking as I tormented them, the whole affair becoming rather amusing.
Another plan occurred to me then, one that was far more exciting than simply attending the Crown Ball. I should have never listened to impulse, I should have quit then and there, but the idea was just too tempting, and the guards would provide the perfect means to achieve my end. I lowered my arm, still staring at the guards with contempt.
"We have business that we would prefer to keep to ourselves. You have given us offense, and we now require your service as compensation for your disgraceful treatment of our royal person." I was using the royal 'we' in hopes that it would better convey my authority to them. I had proclaimed myself a queen and so a queen I had to remain. The Guard Captain stepped forward, presented me with a bow, and then raised himself up again.
"What does Your Highness wish of us?" he asked. It was obvious from his eloquence, that unlike the other guards, he was used to dealing with royalty. I was positive that he was not from Krawk Island.
"Follow us and do as we tell you," I said slowly, "and obey no other order but our own."
Then I led them back through the corridors, into the reception hall, and back out onto the lawn. The entertainment had been forgotten, and Patcheye and Wrigilet had obviously made their escape. Bragalot stood, trying to regain control of the situation while the royals spread gossip amongst themselves. The first ones to notice me at the head of the guards fell silent, and as they did so, the next row followed suit until a wave of silence had passed over the whole crowd, and everyone, even Bragalot, was facing me.
I cleared my throat, having doubts about my plan. It did not help that Zylaa was staring at me openly, probably wondering about the stupidity of the guards.
"Esteemed Lords and Ladies, I am Queen Elizabeth Branson of Krawk Island." I nodded at the guards, who promptly walked over to Bragalot, took his crown from his head, and brought it back to me, kneeling to present it. Bragalot forgot his dignity and roared in rage. He pushed several nobles out of the way to get to me, but my new guards closed rank around me. It was odd how they were so willing to defy one royal in order to serve another. I'd had misgivings about whether they actually would or not, but here, now, was solid proof that I had frightened them enough to make them loyal, at least for the moment.
I lifted the crown to my head and instructed that Bragalot should be banished from the event. My new followers quickly obliged. They took hold of the fuming king and hauled him off the lawn, ignoring his frenzied pleas and curses. Soon, the third renegade leader of the ball was out of sight, and at this point, the crowd of royals began chatting heatedly, confused beyond reason. After all, while the monarchy had shifted hands thrice already in the past day, all of the past kings had come from the outside. On the other hand, I'd been floating amongst them since the beginning of the gala, and I'd also just taken off running a few minutes ago, with several guards in hot pursuit, trying furiously to escape. How could I be the queen? Even those guests who had reluctantly accepted the curious flip-flops before were now suddenly aghast. This was all too much. I was too much.
"This is preposterous," said King Cyrus of Terror Mountain, shaking his head in contempt. "You were a fugitive a few moments ago. How in Neopia can you been queen now?"
"Fast turnover rate?" I replied, hoping a joke would take the edge off, but no one in the audience laughed.
"You weren't supposed to be here in the first place," Lady Zylaa said from her seat. "It's one thing for some crazy pirate to stage a coup mid-ball and take over the crown. But this..." She seemed at a loss for words. I would have felt bad for her if I wasn't freaking out internally, panicking despite my cool demeanour on the outside. Yeah, the idea was going swimmingly so far, but I knew that it wouldn't last long. And now my secret was out. Once I lost the crown, I'd be in for. The new king would have me apprehended, thrown into some remote dungeon somewhere, never to be heard from again.
Which meant only one thing: I had to keep the crown for the remainder of the ball, and then sneak out with the rest of the guests. Of course, I knew that, technically, I could just leave now and quit while I was ahead, but - and I know this sounds stupid - I simply couldn't stomach the idea of leaving so late in the game. After all, the Crown Ball only had about 24 hours left until its end. I was halfway done already. I couldn't take the coward's way out and back down now.
So with a deep breath, I looked out into the crowd of uncomfortable royals and confidently declared, "Now, ladies and gentleman, I hope you enjoyed the morning entertainment. If you'll please follow me back inside now, we'll be..." I paused, racking my mind for an activity, and then finally said, "Charades. If you'll please follow me back inside, we'll be playing a delightful game of charades."
The nobles seemed appalled by the idea of theater games, but after grumbling for a bit, they all bit the bullet and followed me back into the palace. I led them through a series of corridors and into a large, musty room with lacquered maple floors and bluish walls that were buckling in. Queen Fyora muttered disgustedly about the building code violations, but I waved her off and simply seated everyone in a semi-circle in the center of the room. The more high-strung of the lot seemed mortified with having to sit on the ground, but I pretended not hear their complaints.
And thus began the heart of my short and curious reign.
To be continued...