Scott Hunter sent in this entry for the contest.
“The king is dead.”
The court fell silent at those words, and for Princess Cunegonde – sitting, as she was, at her usual place of reverence within the long dining hall – this silence was unbearable. She had dreaded hearing those four cursed words for months now, ever since her royal father had lifted the handkerchief from his mouth to reveal those spots of blood on the stark white fabric.
She felt a tap on her shoulder, then, and Cunegonde was snapped out of her trance – she had not noticed, it seemed, that the hall had long broke out into whispers and movement, so many people scurrying about on new-found business.
“Your grace, let me offer my sincere condolences,” He was the first of many, Cunegonde knew, and that was not a pleasant thought at the moment; and there were those words.
“My good lord,” Cunegonde replied, taking very special care to make sure all the words came out well and fully formed, to not let her grief show, “Your condolences are appreciated,” She paused, then, and deliberated her next sentence, what she wanted to say versus what she should do. 'I will run away this one last time', she told herself, 'I must be alone right now, and tomorrow I can sit on that throne for all time.' So, she continued, “But I fear I will retire to my chambers now, this news has shaken me somewhat.”
“Why, your grace, of course,” How she would like to have hit him then, “Let me escort you out.”
“No,” she interrupted him, her voice a command, “I shall see myself there,” and with that she was gone, knowing that this was the last time she would leave this hall. The guards on the doors did not help her make a subtle exit, but that did not matter once she was outside, away from them all.
Cunegonde felt bad later, she really did, and sat in her chambers for hours, stewing over it. She should not have left, she knew – it was not the action of a woman of her position and, yet, part of her was glad she had done it, 'It was my father who died,' she said to herself, 'Why should I have to remain there for their sake? Now, I am in a position to do as I...' But no, she could not finish that sentence, for she knew it was not true. She was not at all in a position to do what she wanted, only to do what had to be done; and there were things that needed to be done, before the night was through.
It was approaching midnight, after all, 'The end of my last day,' She thought to herself, with some measure of resentment, and then she felt terrible for resenting her own father's death, 'I cannot look back,' she decided, 'There are things that must be done and I must do them – I am not who they think I am, I have made sure of that, and now it is time to become my true self, the person who I was always to be.' So she took some paper and ink, and wrote down two simple words, 'Your grace.'
“Take these to my captain,” she told a the guard outside her door, “And hurry.” Then her guard was gone, and Cunegonde could only hope that her carefully laid plans would come to fruition.
She had not stopped watching that light for hours, the one she could see from her window, emanating from a nearby tower. Granted, there were many such lights, but Cunegonde knew the one she wanted, and had dared not take her eyes off of it, for fear that she might not find it again – no, not for that, for fear that she might miss the moment when that light went out, and all the terror that was wrenching her gut would stay there forever, unable to be moved by anything but the end of that light.
Then, all at once, it was extinguished. Cunegonde exhaled, then, in all manner of relief. It had been done.
She did not have long to enjoy the moment, though, as her attention was directed to a more pressing matter. There were footsteps in the corridor outside, and as Cunegonde hid in the blackness of her chambers, her door opened. Strangely, she was very glad she had not misjudged her uncle, in all his scheming ways; this man entering her chambers now confirmed it all, that all of her actions had been entirely justified.
Things passed very quickly, after that – she saw a figure approach her bed, and heard the rip of metal through fabric as the man stabbed into the sheets; and then she was on him, her own dagger piercing his flesh. She held it firm as the man went limp.
“Your employer is dead,” she whispered in his ear.
“The king,” the man replied weakly.
“My uncle was never the king,” was her reply, “And he never will be.” She had made sure of that this very night.
The man was dead, then, and Cunegonde went about calling for some guards, 'My father is dead,' she thought, 'And so is the Princess. Long live Queen Cunegonde.'