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This work was created for a flash fiction challenge with the following requirements: 
Genre: Fantasy
Object: Chain Link Fence
Location: Hospital

The Strength of a Queen

            “Milady, the dark fairies - they have breached the castle. I’m afraid… I’m afraid we don’t have much time left before they reach the inner sanctum,” her ever faithful advisor informed her as he joined her at the table. She gazed over at her mother’s and father’s thrones. Side by side they sat vacant for months now. The carriage accident had taken them from her, but it seemed that fate wished to reunite them soon.

            “Have the families evacuated safely?” She had ordered the evacuation of all women and children along with the men who did not wish to stay and fight. The cause was lost long ago and all in the realm knew it. She stayed because she had to. She needed to. Mostly though, she wanted to. Since her parents passing, this castle had become her home. It may not be as grand as their main seat, but this smaller one was where she had been when her parents had met their fate as they traveled along the rain-soaked roads to reach her.

            “All have evacuated who chose to do so. The rest of us shall stay with you to the end,” a tear gleamed in his eye, but he dared not let it fall. He was her rock as always; he had given her the strength to fight the past few months when she felt most like giving up. Her kingdom was finally crumbling. She had lost this war, but she found herself unaffected by the loss. She would dearly miss her advisor, but she did long to see her parents again.

            She reached out a small hand. Her ten years on this planet had taught her more than many learned in a lifetime about kindness, loyalty, and love.

            “Fear not. They come for me, and me alone. Your knowledge of this castle and its kingdom shall hold value to them. Denounce me before them and they shall spare you my fate.”

            He looked at her with the weight of a thousand years’ worth of grief. She felt it in her very soul. He loved her just as her parents had. She grieved anew for the loss of his company when all was said and done, “I shall never denounce you. Doing so to spare my life would leave me with no life at all. My loyalties are with you, milady, and shall be ever more.”

            She was moved by his speech, though she was determined to see him spared, “Come. Let us play a game of chess whilst we await our fate. Perhaps I shall even let you win this time,” her jest was weak as fear settled in, but she dared not show it. She would remain brave in the face of this. She would not let that which was inevitable shake her. They sat at the board she had learned on so long ago. Her father had taught her the day her first tutor had come. He had wanted her to have something to do since playing with the peasant children outside wasn’t allowed, “Princess,” he had said, “this is a game of life. It will teach you about strategy and fighting the battle ahead of us,” he had gifted it to her the day they moved her here.

            “Do you know my favorite piece?” she asked him as she set up the board. Knowing he did not, she obliged him with the answer, “It’s the queen. She can go anywhere. She fights to protect the King. She is proof that we girls are not as weak as we are seen to be. We are strong. We will always fight to protect those we value.”

            The door was thrown open and she looked the enemy in the face and said with calm serenity, “And here my fate finally appears," turningto her advisor she said "your betrayal in holding me captive for their arrival is complete,” she did her best impression of a sneer as she turned back to the newly arrived troops, “I hope your reward to him is worthy of his treachery. He thinks me but a pawn in his game,” she turned back and, unseen to the enemy, gave him a look filled with all her hope for him to live a happy life after hers was extinguished by these villains and she said her final words to him, “but I am a queen.”

            He watched her fragile hand slip from the chess piece just two moves from checkmate, and heard the alarms begin. He took that hand and held it gently; each machine in turn signaling yet another fatal error in functioning. The final high-pitched, constant note signaled that her tiny body had finally lost its battle. It was more than he could handle. He took a quick look at his watch; the last act of the professional side of his brain. Then, he stood and swept the chess board from the table that swung over the bed. It careened into the empty chairs she insisted never be taken out even though her parents had died three months ago in a car accident, right in the middle of her treatment, and she had no other family to visit her.

            Nurses rushed in. He grabbed one of the chairs and threw it into the wall as he yelled. It shattered just as he did inside. He ran. He found the exit and he kept running. He reached the chain link fence surrounding the facility. He knew when he got the job offer from The Sigmund Pediatric Cancer Center that this would be hard, but this was more than that. This was excruciating. He hit his knees with the weight of it all bearing him downward. His fingers interlaced in the fence as he held his upper body aloft and he sobbed. He finally gave in to the tears that he would not let fall before. She may have made him her advisor in her fantasy land, but she taught him the meaning of strength in these past months.

            A nurse touched his shoulder and he shrugged it off violently not wanting comfort. He knew what she needed and he stood, “Time of death, 6:22 pm.”

Copyright Bridget McCullough, 2019

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