Picture Challenge #35: Ceremony


Anxious Tomato Will Bite You!
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INFO: They say that a picture can tell a thousand words. How many can you find?

Each week a new image will be posted, and your challenge will be to write whatever the image inspires you to write. It can be anything as long as it relates to the picture. A plot, a scene, a short story, a poem, a character, etc. You can write as much or as little as you wish. It's not the length that matters, it's what you put into it. There is no time limit to these challenges, so feel free to jump in at any time.

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Link Loftin

Cathy breathed slowly, the cheering of the crowd almost too overwhelming. She gathered the train of the dress in her arm, although it was a more ceremonious gesture than a practical one, since almost half the train was dragging along on the ground. And yet, Ashley was still able to look graceful and composed. Perhaps that was why it was Ashley that walked ahead of her now, newly crowned Queen and Cathy here following behind her. Cathy didn't mind, she knew that her best friend, her confidant, her Queen would not fail her or her people. How funny was it, she woke up a Princess this morning and tonight, will fall asleep a Queen. Cathy felt something tug at her arm, the train! She quickly trailed along, making sure to keep in time.

"LONG LIVE THE QUEEN! LONG LIVE THE QUEEN! LONG LIVE THE QUEEN!" The people chanted, over and over again. From old men to small young babes, all of Irelia were here to witness their new Queen. Banners were everywhere, coloured Red for the national colour of their country. Red was the colour of the petals thrown, Red was the colour of blood, Red, was the colour of victory. Dances and songs were heard all through out the streets, although mostly over powered by the mass chanting. The alcohol flowed freely, meed for all! Even the local drunks were too happy to start any drunken brawls, well not just yet anyway. Yes, it was such a joyous occasion. Yet it was all tainted. The lavish balls, the expensive banquets. Everything was but a sad cover up, all the events were mere shadows of what Irelia used to offer. The real reason people laughed without fear, was because for once in the last seven years, they had an excuse. An excuse to forget about the war. Sappohnia had been slowly making its way through, Irelia was almost half it's original size. It hung over the people like a dark, thunderous cloud. One prepared to strike at any moment. And so they partied. The Coronation was the excuse they so sorely needed to blow the rest of their gold and pretend that they were once more the wealthy, thriving country of the victorious.

With all the celebrating and cheering, one could even forget the 'reason' they were all there. Queen Ashely Catherine Nuzum. Cathy couldn't pry her eyes away from her. The people were so happy, but the same could not be said for their Queen. Something on the her expression was not right. The way she carried herself, it was almost as if an invisible burden had been heaved onto her shoulders. Her eyes were neither here nor there, but they were searching. For what, Cathy could not tell. It was almost if the person Cathy knew, had served upon for as long as she could remember, had disappeared. As if in those last few hours, she had changed beyond compare. Her eyes were sad, Cathy did not think to question why Ashely did not interact with the people, but she should of. Soon the ceremony was over, soon the dancers danced no more. Ball gowns were put away, the sweet notes of the bards last song soon forgotten. Now everyone remembered why they were here, why they needed such a young Queen in the first place. The war would not be over soon, and try they might, no dancing or singing would ever change that fact.


Accidental Pyromaniac
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Primarily Prefer Female
Mideval Fantasy (LOW fantasy), SciFi, Modern/Superhero, Dystopian
Raven stared straight ahead, trying to control her breathing in the tight corset her handmaids had forced her to wear. Purple hair cascaded over her shoulders in a curled and crimped hairstyle that took far too much effort for the amount of time she'd be appearing in public. A golden band kept the hair from falling into her face, long purple feathers adorning each side of it. There was no need for such things- why have a ceremony when the war was raging?

It was just a wedding- and she just a token to make peace with this country in a loveless marriage.

The shouting of the people around her faded into a dull roar as her dark eyes caught on a flash of movement from a darkened alley. Rose petals fell around her as the people showered her with their compliments, but she gave them no heed.

Something was going wrong.

Very wrong.

Out of the corner of her eye, she noted how her guards were shifting their hands on their spears, almost as if readying themselves to attack.

And attack they did- their spears lowered and one stabbed at her. A setup, a power play, but by which enemy she couldn't tell. She couldn't see their faces. Screams erupted and the people scattered, but Raven had been training for things like this since she was a mere babe. She twisted out of the way, tearing the long, delicate train of her dress. The handmaid stared at the expensive material in shock as it was left in her hand, the future queen freed from the tangle hazard.

Her wrist flicked, and the handle of her sword slid out of her sleeve into her hand. Another flick and the long, deadly weapon was unfolded. The infiltrators were circling her. By now, the streets had been deserted and she could hear the marching of her betrothed's guards approaching.

She charged forward at the same time they tried to sandwich her, and they caught their spears on each other. Her body slammed into the armored chest of the one on her left, and the force of both collisions sent him down, dragged to the ground by his heavy armor. As he flailed like a tipped turtle, she turned to face the other one. He'd regained his footing and was stomping forward again, but it was too late for him. Her sword met his spearhead and snapped it clean off- leaving him clutching a splintered staff instead of a spear.

This man, however, was much more adaptable compared to his partner and utilized the staff by blocking every attempt of hers to attack. But the thin wood was no match for her sharp blade, and it began to crack after only two swipes. So he went on the offensive, moving forward steadily and swinging a fist in her direction.

She crouched, sending his hand sailing over her head instead of it connecting with her chest. Her free hand scooped up some of the rose petals and she tossed them in his face when she popped back up to her feet. It was enough of a distraction for her to stab her sword forward and into his helmet.

The man howled in pain and stumbled back, but Raven planted her feet and pried up as he did so. His helmet came off on her sword and revealed his features- pale skin, bright blue eyes, black hair, and a gash that would leave a scar running from his chin, across his nose, and up to his scalp.

Just as she thought- the barbarians were trying to stop the alliance.

The guards came rushing up behind her and arrested both of the men before a squadron of ten escorted her back to the palace. There would be no more celebrating, which was fine with her. It was time to get this war over with.
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Romance, Fantasy, Tudor, Historical, Magical
Deanna walked through the streets of Moldav in a somber, slow parade while the people cheered and reveled. Two spires bore red banners before her and her faithful handmaiden Joy carried her train behind her. She did not make eye contact with anyone, but merely did her duty and showed herself to all the people in the ceremonial attire of the chosen.

Joy walked behind wanting to curse the people for the cheering, and happiness. Did they not realize what was happening? Did they not care? No, it would seem their cared only for their own safety and the peace the chosen one would bring.

Deanna finished the long march and climbed the stairs that lead to the stone of offering. She counted them as she climbed, ten...twenty...thirty...and finally she was there the fiftieth step and the large platform that held only the large stone slab. Joy had forsaken her but had followed and now stood with her long time friend. Deanna glanced over at her, "Thank you for your steadfast friendship, Joy. I could not have asked for a better handmaiden."

Joy frowned, "Nor I a kinder mistress." She clung to her arm then though, "Please...run. Do not do this. They do not deserve to be so easily freed. Please I beg you...run."

Deanna shook her head, "I cannot. You know I cannot. It is my duty and I was chosen. It is an honor."

Joy trembled as she listened, "Then I will stay with you."

Deanna shook her head again, "You cannot stay. He will not come if I am not alone." She took both Joy's hands in hers, "Go and live free. Marry and have many children and remember me. Promise me Joy. Promise me."

Joy squeezed her hands as tears streamed down her cheeks and she turned and ran down the stairs.

Deanna watched her for a moment and then turned and climbed up stand upon the stone and lifted up her arms to the sky. She began to sing an ancient melody in a long forgotten tongue. Soon a fire danced around her but did not touch her and a monstrous demon appeared next to her. "Your song is heard and your sacrifice acceptable. Your people will have plenty and peace for another year."

Deanna looked into his eyes and nodded as the fire consumed her to nothing but ashes.

The people below continued to revel and make merry seeing the flame ignite on the stone knowing they were safe for another year.

Doctor Jax

Lord of the Mice
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Don't trip, don't trip, don't trip, the young queen thought, her head held high as her inner monologue ran about her skull like frightened mice in a barrel. She cast a casual glance behind her, ignoring the crowds about her, the knights that flanked her, the sun that threatened to blind her. Her lady-in-waiting, Stella, smiled at her with a thinly veiled grimace, and Marina turned her face forward.

Calm it down, Rina. You just have to make it to the fountain. You ran that distance as a child in less than five minutes. This will be over before you know it, she coached herself, raising her chin ever so slightly and standing a mite bit taller. As if to throw a spanner into the smooth machine that was her stately stride, a humble pebble caught under her sole, and she very nearly stumbled. A small noise escaped her throat, but it was largely engulfed by the cheering crowd.

Ahead, the fountain rose before her, a majestic sweeping edifice of marble. The ambassadors from Czechyar stood before her, their faces as typically stoic as ever. Her advisor had told her numerous times that they were both amazing poker players as well as beastly good statesmen, and that if she wanted to live up to her father's legacy, she would have to commit to their game.

Oh, I'll play their game.

She arrived to the table set up before the two men, the accord set before them. Their own guards - dressed in boiled leathers covered in modest metal pyramidal spikes - were just as stony-faced while her knights in plate shifted uneasily. One of the two ambassadors, the younger son if she remembered right, seemed to stare at her overlong, but when she made eye contact, he immediately lowered his gaze as he realized he'd been caught. Do they feel shame? she wondered to herself.

"The Queen Regent Marina of Andelluse is presented before her people along with Declans Wjoniec and Ladislav," an announcer heralded after a short fanfare, "to sign an accord between the people of Andelluse and her neighboring sovereigns."

The people stared on as the queen kept a careful eye on the two. She walked towards the table, glancing at the accord. Here and there, she recognized snippets, that such and such amount of land was to be ceded to such and such Declans of Czechyar after next winter. She was lucky her father had laid so much of the groundwork for her already. The bad blood was finally beginning to dry, but she knew they'd never be able to give her the confirmation that her country's borders were safe, her state secure in their interests. At the least, not overtly, not out loud.

Her blood pounded at the back of her eyes as she leaned over the table to begin to sign her name before the many witnesses - and a bang went off above their heads in one of the tall buildings along the main thoroughfare. The people immediately shouted in panic as the queen ducked, and her eyes were firmly set on the ambassadors and their guards. Without hesitation, the younger of the two threw himself forward as the other knights closed in, shielding the queen regent, his father hanging back a moment as he looked about and commanded his own men to scatter and look for the cause of the disturbance.

Interesting, Rina thought, abruptly piqued by their reaction. She had expected something a little bit more tepid, perhaps even self-serving. But it solidified what she had hoped. She was an asset.

"Queen Regent, are you fine?" asked the younger one - Ladislav - as his thick brow furrowed in concern, his thin lips pressed tight with what she could only consider as real worry.

"Yes," she answered quickly as her own guard surrounded her to help her off the cobbles. "I'm fine."