Word Count: 1569
Constructive criticism is always welcomed!
Raveek tried not to show his impatience as his younger sister, Lareen, looked at herself in the mirror. She brushed her hair yet again and pursed her lips.
“You look fine,” he told her.
“Today is a big deal. I want to look better than fine,” she countered. She put on more makeup and then appeared to take it off with a small rag.
He sighed and sat down on her bed. Today may have taken him an extra five minutes to get ready. Maybe. “We’re going to be late at this rate. You look beautiful without the makeup. If you look any more beautiful, people will think you’re a goddess.”
She smiled at him in the mirror. “Won’t you make your future wife happy?”
“Yes, yes, now can we go?”
“Help me put my necklace on first.”
He stood up and went to her. She lifted her hair up as he put the necklace on from behind. He was surprised to see that the top of her head was now at his chin. “When did you get so tall?”
Laughing, she turned to face him. “This country is doomed if you are to ever rule it. You’re so oblivious.”
“I’m not oblivious, I-”
She raised her hands in defeat and motioned to her new shoes.
“Ah. See. I noticed things were a bit off.”
“The people shall thank you.” She laughed and made her way to the door. “Are you coming? You’re going to make us late just standing there.”
He hated how she always made it his fault somehow. He escorted her down the stairs and to the main hall. Passing the windows, they could hear the cheering outside from those who could not make it inside.
“How many people do you think are out there?” Lareen asked.
“Sounds like a lot. I didn’t think there were this many people this far north. Maybe they haven’t let anyone in yet.”
“There you two are!” their mother said. “I was starting to think you were going to miss the announcement!” She swooped in on them and began messing with their clothes and hair.
“We look fine,” Raveek muttered before catching his sister’s glance. “I mean, better than fine.”
“Yes, we do. I’m just … it’s all so exciting, isn’t it?” Her cheeks were flushed.
Raveek glanced at his father. Was he sweating? It wasn’t that hot. Autumn was here, and there was a definite chill in the air from the wind blowing through the open windows. “Are you nervous?” he asked his father.
“Well, son, I have to say, it’s not every day this happens to me. I guess maybe. Err, I’m fine.” He cleared his throat. “Are we ready?”
Raveek nodded, and since everyone was in agreement, his father gave notice that they were ready. His father took his mother’s arm to escort her. Raveek turned to his sister to do the same only to find her chewing on her lip. It was a nervous habit of hers. “My lipstick!” she realized before searching her pockets.
“You look beautiful,” he reassured her. “It’s not smudged.”
“Are you sure?”
The crowd in the next room began to cheer as the door opened. His parents exited the hall, leaving the two siblings alone.
“Okay,” Lareen said. “We can’t keep them waiting.”
Taking her by the arm, Raveek escorted her into the next room. All around them were various neighbors and people who had come to see the ceremony. Today was a significant day, one that he knew would be written in the history books. His father had just become the first elected official in his country. The people were no longer stuck with dictating families ruling for centuries; finally they had a say in it all.
Raveek and his sister took their place beside their parents as his father addressed the people.
“Today is a glorious day. We, the ordinary people, have decided who rules this country, and we have decided that it is a joint effort. We will no longer have to bow down to the elite aristocracy that once tried to destroy us. Instead, we will move forward, together, into a new age of peace.
“Make no mistake: this day did not come easily. We all know many suffered to get us here today. We lost many wonderful individuals in our fight for freedom. To those who knew them personally, I apologize for your loss. I wish you peace in knowing their lives were not sacrificed blindly. I fought alongside some of them and knew a few personally. It’s in their memory that I am here today to oversee this country in a way that keeps us all united as one. I learned from the mistakes of those who came before me, and I will continue to learn from all of you standing with me. Let’s take a moment to remember those who now watch over us.”
Raveek bowed his head. He remembered the nights that his mother and sister cried after his father went to war. He had consoled both of them until his father returned. While Raveek did not complain about being the man of the house in his father’s stead, he was relieved when his father returned to take the position. It had been far more strenuous than he had ever imagined, and it gave Raveek a new appreciation for him.
“Thank you,” his father said to the crowd. “Today is a celebration for our country and our people, both living and dead. To freedom and the brighter days ahead!” He raised a glass to the crowd. They had glasses too, though Raveek hadn’t noticed any of that when walking into the room. Someone handed him a glass, which he raised before taking a drink.
The crowd began to cheer again; it didn’t seem real. Raveek had never imagined a fate such as this for his family, especially once his father went to war. But here they were.
His parents were dancing, people were celebrating, and Lareen was talking to her friends. Raveek noticed a pretty girl staring at him. Was that a blush? Perhaps he should go see for himself. He made his way to her with a large smile on his face. She was smiling too. She opened her mouth to say something.
“Are you okay?” he asked. Was he that repulsive?
She screamed again and ran.
Suddenly everyone seemed to be screaming at once. People were running away. He turned around. His father was lying on the ground in a puddle of blood. His mother was at his side screaming and trying to hold him.
The man behind her stabbed her with a sword before Raveek could say anything else. The surviving bodyguards were in the middle of a sword fight with individuals that looked as though they could have been friends in different circumstances. Why were they fighting?
He searched the area where he had last seen her. There was no body. That has to be a good sign, right? He rushed outside where more bodies laid on the ground. “Lareen!” he shouted. “Lareen! Where are you?”
His mind began to conjure images of her sprawled out on the ground covered in blood like his father or stabbed in front of him like his mother. He heard metal against metal somewhere behind him. His mind started picturing a sword plunging through his chest or severing his head.
Stop, stop. This isn’t helping. Pull yourself together! Dad would expect better of you!
He rubbed his face. Were those tears? Snap out of it, Raveek! He tried to tell himself that in his father’s voice, but it only sounded like a scared little boy. He wished he had a weapon.
She’d go home. She’d know to meet me there. Right? Unless she-
No. Don’t go there. She’s alive.
He didn’t remember walking, but somehow he had covered some distance from the newly reclaimed castle where his parents had … had what?
What if they weren’t dead? The thought sickened him. What if I just abandoned them to die? Do I go back? What if Lareen is still in the castle too?
He turned towards the castle. “No, no, no!” He watched helplessly as the lower level of the castle began to burn. The flames claimed the wood just as they would claim his parents and his sister if they were still alive inside.
Now what? He forced himself to clean off his face with a handful of leaves. People still shouted and screamed in the distance. Somewhere someone was defending themselves with a sword. He wanted to shout Lareen’s name again, but he realized now that it was too dangerous.
The fire at the castle had swallowed up the darkness around it. Without it, it would be difficult to see. He looked up at the empty sky. Had the moon turned on them too? Fireworks began to explode in the sky above the castle. The fire had found them too.
He had no clue what those responsible would do next. If they found his sister… He stopped the thought before it could completely form. He watched the fire burn higher for a moment before slipping into the darkened safety of the forest. If Lareen had headed home, it was only a matter of time before someone found her.
He only hoped he could reach her first.