Chapter no 7

Red Queen (Red Queen, 1)

I RETURNED TO THE maids’ PLATFORM, with a feeling of emptiness in my stomach. Whatever happiness I had felt before had disappeared completely. I couldn’t bear to look back, to see him standing there in luxurious clothes, covered in ribbons, medals, and the aristocratic air that I hated. Just like Walsh, he wears a fire crown badge, but his badge is made of jet black cut stones, diamonds, and rubies. The badge flashed on his pitch black uniform. Gone were the simple clothes he wore last night, worn to mingle with commoners like me. Now every inch of his figure looked like a future king, Silver down to his bones. I might as well believe it.

The other servants opened the way, allowing me to move to the back of the line, while my head spun. He gave me this job, he saved me , saved my family—and he was one of them. Worse than them. Prince. The king’s direct successor. A figure that everyone present wants to see on this giant spiral stone.

“You have all come to honor my son and the kingdom. Therefore, I salute you all,” the King of Tiberias’ voice boomed, breaking through my thoughts as if

they are made from shards of glass. He raised both hands, pointing at the boxes that held many people. Even though I tried my best to focus my gaze on the king, I couldn’t help but glance at Cal. He smiled, but the smile didn’t reach his eyes.

“I respect your right to lead. The king’s successor, my son’s son, will have your silver bloodline, as well as mine. Who will claim their rights?”

The silver-haired patriarch responded with a screech. “I claim the Queen’s Election!”

Throughout the spiral, the leaders of the various clans shouted in unison. “I claim the Queen’s Election!” they echo, upholding traditions I don’t understand.

Tiberias smiled and nodded. “Then, this event begins. Mr. Provost, I invite you.”

The king spun on the spot, looking towards what I assumed was the Provost Clan. The rest of the spiral followed the king’s gaze, their eyes landing on a family in gold clothes with black stripes. An elderly man, with gray hair streaked with white, stepped forward. In his strange clothes, he looked like a wasp ready to sting. When he moved his hand, I didn’t know what to expect.

Suddenly, the platform swayed, moving sideways. I couldn’t help but jump, almost crashing into the waiter next to me, as we slid along the invisible track. My heart leapt into my throat as I watched the rest of the Spiral Garden spin. The Lord Provos is a telky , moving building structures

it was along the paths that had been prepared by relying solely on the power of his mind.

The entire frame rotated under his command, until the garden floor expanded into a large circle. The lower terraces pull back, aligning themselves with the upper floors, and the spiral becomes a giant cylinder opening towards the sky. As the terraces moved, the floor lowered downwards, until it came to rest nearly twenty feet below the lowest box. The fountain turns into a waterfall, spilling from the top of the cylinder to the base, where it fills narrow, deep pools. Our platform slid upwards before coming to rest above the king’s box, giving us a perfect view of everything, including the floor far below. All of this happens in less than a minute, as the Lord Provos transforms Spiral Gardens into something far more menacing.

However, when the Provost took his seat again, the changes were not over. The buzz of electricity rose until it crackled all around, making the fine hairs on my hands stand up. White-purple light flashed near the garden floor, sparking with energy from tiny, invisible dots on the rocks. There was no Silver human standing to command it, like the Provos had done with the arena previously. I realized the reason behind it. This is not the work of Silver human hands, but a technological miracle, of electricity. A lightning strike without a storm. The beams of light criss-crossed and intersected, weaving themselves into a dazzlingly brilliant web. Just looking at it makes my eyes hurt, it prickles my head sharply. I have absolutely no idea how the others can stand it.

The Silvers looked impressed, intrigued by something they couldn’t control. Meanwhile, we Reds stared in amazement.

The web crystallized as the electricity spread and intertwined. Then, as suddenly as it had appeared, the noise stopped. The glow of the lights stopped, solidifying in the air, creating a clear purple shield between the floor and us. Between us and whatever might appear down there.

My mind wandered, wondering what the use of a shield made of lightning would be. Certainly not for a bear or a pack of wolves or other rare wild creatures in the forest. Even mythical creatures, big cats or sharks or dragons, would not harm most Silver humans above. And how could there be a wild creature at the Queen Selection event? This should be a ceremony for selecting a queen, not fighting monsters.

As if answering me, the floor with the circle of statues, which had now become a small center in the middle of the cylindrical floor, opened wide. Without thinking, I leaned forward, hoping to get a clearer view with my own eyes. The rest of the servants huddled together, trying to see what horrors could be presented in this room.

The smallest girl I’ve ever seen emerged from the darkness.

Cheers rang out as the clan in brown silk and red jewels applauded their daughter’s presence.

“Rohr, Rhambos Clan,” the family cheered, announcing its presence to the world.

The girl, no more than fourteen years old, smiled at her family. His body was tiny compared to the existing statues but his hands were, strangely, very large. The rest of his body looks fragile and is vulnerable to being blown away by strong winds. He did one lap around the circle of statues, always smiling upwards. Her gaze landed on Cal—I mean, the prince—trying to charm him with her doe eyes or the occasional brush of her honey-blond hair. In short, he looked stupid. Until he approached a statue made of solid stone and slashed its head off with one blow.

The Rhambos clan spoke again. “Mighty Arm.”

Below us, the petite girl Rohr destroyed the floor in a whirlwind, turning the statues into piles of powdered dust while she cracked the floor beneath her feet. He was like an earthquake in tiny human form, destroying anything and everything in his path.

So, it’s a contest.

A violent pageant, meant to show off a girl’s beauty, splendor—and strength. The most talented daughter . This was a show of power, to match the crown prince with the strongest girl, so that their children might one day become the strongest of all. And this event has been going on for hundreds of years.

My body shuddered at the thought of the power stored in Cal’s little finger.

He clapped politely as the Rhambos girl ended her show of organized destruction and stepped back

towards the descending platform. The Rhambos clan cheered at his appearance while he disappeared.

Next came Heron of Clan Welle, my own governor’s daughter. He was tall, with a face like the bird his name meant. The shattered ground shifted around him as he pieced the floor back together. “Greenwarden,” his family called him. A greenie. With his command, the trees grew tall in the blink of an eye, their tops scraping against the lightning shield. The shield that touched the branch splashed sparks, burning the new leaves. The next girl, a nymph from the Osanos Clan, showed off. Using a waterfall pool, he extinguished a small forest fire in a whirlwind of water, leaving only charred trees and scorched earth.

This continued for what seemed like hours. Each girl comes out to show her worth, and each finds another part of the arena to destroy, but they’re trained to overcome anything. Their ages and physical appearances vary, but they are all stunning. A girl, maybe only twelve, blows up everything she touches like some kind of walking bomb. “Destroyer,” his family screamed, explaining his power. As he destroyed the last of the white statues, the lightning shield remained standing firm. It hissed against the fire, and the noise hurt my ears.

Electricity, Silvers, and the screams blurred into my mind as I watched nymphs, greenies, speedmen, mighty arms, telkies, and what seemed like hundreds of other types of Silvermen flaunt themselves under the shield. Things

things I never imagined were happening before my eyes, as girls turned their skin to stone or screamed and broke glass walls. The Silvers are greater and more powerful than I ever feared, with power I never knew existed. How could these people be real?

I had come this far and suddenly I was thrown back into the arena, watching the Silvers show off everything we could never have.

I would like to watch in amazement as an animal-controlling animosus summons a thousand doves from the sky. As the birds dived headfirst into the lightning shield, exploding in tiny clouds of blood, feathers, and deadly electricity, my admiration turned to disgust. The shield once again emitted a burst of electricity, burning away what was left of the birds until it shined like new. I almost vomited when I heard the loud applause when the cold-blooded animos figure disappeared into the floor.

Another girl, hopefully the last one, rose to enter the arena which was now a pile of dust.

“Evangeline, Samos Clan,” shouted the patriarch of the silver-haired family. He spoke to himself, and his voice echoed throughout Spiral Gardens.

From my perspective, I saw the king and queen straighten up in their seats. Evangeline has captured their attention. In stark contrast, Cal instead looked down at his hands.

While the other girls wore silk dresses and some wore strange gilded armor, Evangeline appeared in a black leather uniform. Jacket, pants, boots, all plated in solid silver. No, not silver. Iron. Silver is not as dull or harsh. His clan cheered him on, they all stood up. He was with Ptolemus and the head of the family, but the others were cheering too, the other families. They want her to be queen. He is the favorite candidate . He saluted, two fingers to his forehead, first to his family and then to the king’s box. They returned the honor, openly supporting Evangeline.

Perhaps this was more like a Celebration than I realized.

Only, instead of showing the Reds our position, at this celebration the king showed his people, however powerful they were, their position . A hierarchy within a hierarchy.

I was so caught up in the election that I barely noticed when it was my turn to serve again. Before someone could elbow me in the right direction, I rushed straight to the right box, barely hearing the head of the Samos family speak. “Magnetron,” I thought he said, but I had no idea what it meant.

I walked down the narrow alleys that were previously open paths, towards the Silver humans who needed services. The boxes were at the bottom, but I was nimble and didn’t need much time to get down to them. I found a clan of fat bodies dressed in shiny yellow silk

with dorky feathers, all enjoying a big slice of cake. Empty plates and glasses were scattered around the box, and I immediately cleaned them up, my hands nimble and practiced. A video screen lights up in the box, showing Evangeline, who appears to be standing frozen on the floor.

“What a play,” one of the fat yellow birds grumbled as he stuffed his face with pieces of cake. “This Samos girl has won.”

Strange. He looks the weakest of all the contestants.

I stacked the plates, but kept my eyes glued to the screen, watching him wander across the destroyed floor. There didn’t seem to be much left in the arena that he could use to demonstrate his abilities, but he didn’t seem to care. His grin was terrifying, as if he was so sure of his own greatness. He doesn’t look that great to me .

Then the iron beads on his jacket moved. They floated in the air, each a round, hard bullet of metal. Then, as if shot from a rifle, the bullets shot away from Evangeline, embedding themselves into the ground, into the walls, and even into the lightning shield.

He can control metal.

Some of the box clapped for him, but he wasn’t done yet. Groans and clangs echoed towards us from somewhere deep within the Spiral Garden framework. In fact, the fat family stopped chewing to look around, shocked. They were both confused and curious, but I could feel the vibrations deep beneath my feet. I know I should be afraid.

With an earth-shaking noise, metal pipes crashed onto the arena floor, sticking out from the bottom. They burst through the walls, surrounding Evangeline in a maelstrom of crowns made of silver and gray metal. He appeared to be laughing, but the deafening sound of metallic crunching drowned out his voice. Sparks fell from the lightning shield, and he protected himself with a piece of cloth, without shedding a single drop of sweat. Finally he let the metal fall with a terrible crash. He turned his eyes to the sky, to the boxes above him. Its mouth gaped wide, showing small, pointed teeth. He looked hungry.

Slowly at first, with few internal changes

balance, until the entire box staggers. Broken plates clattered to the floor and glasses slid forward, tumbling through the bars until they shattered against the lightning shield. Evangeline takes out our crib, tilts it forward, rolls us over. The Silvers around me grumbled and flailed at the handles, their applause turning to panic. They’re not alone—every box in our row moves with us. Far below, Evangeline directed with her hands, her brow furrowed in focus. Like the Silver fighters in the ring, he wanted to show his abilities to the world.

That was the thought in my mind as the ball of yellow leather and furry clothing hit me, throwing my body through the bars along with the rest of the eating utensils.

All I saw was purple as it fell, a lightning shield approaching to greet me. It hissed with electricity, scorching the air. I don’t have time to

understand it, but I know those purple glass strands will roast me alive, electrocute me in my red uniform. I’m sure the Silvers’ worries were just waiting for someone to come clean up my remains.

My head hit the shield, and I saw stars. No, not the stars. Sparks . The shield did its job, energizing me with electricity. My uniform was on fire, charred and smoking, and I expected my skin to do the same. My body will smell amazing . But somehow, I didn’t feel anything. I must have felt such intense pain that I couldn’t even feel it.

However—I can feel it. I felt the heat of the sparks, running through my body, burning every nerve there was. Surprisingly, the taste wasn’t bad. Instead I feel, well, alive . It was as if I had lived my whole life blind and now I was opening my eyes. Something moved under my skin but it wasn’t the spark. I looked at my hands, my arms, admiring the lightning as it swept across my body. My clothes were on fire, scorched by the heat of the fire, but my skin remained unchanged. The shield kept trying to kill me but it didn’t work.

Everything is wrong.

I’m still alive .

The shield emitted black smoke, starting to crack and break. The sparks burned brighter, angrier, but weakened. I tried to push myself up, to stand up, but the shield broke beneath me and I fell again, my body slipping.

Somehow, I managed to land in a mound of dust that wasn’t covered by sharp jagged metal. My muscles are clear

wounded and weak, but still whole. My uniform wasn’t so lucky, it was charred and barely holding on.

I struggled to my feet, feeling more and more of my uniform come off. Above us, murmurs and gasps echoed throughout Spiral Gardens. I could feel all eyes on me, the burning Red girl. Human lightning rod.

Evangeline looked at me, her eyes wide. He looked angry, confused—and afraid.

Will myself . For some reason, he was afraid of me. “Hi,” I said stupidly.

Evangeline responded with a torrent of iron shards, all sharp and deadly, aiming for my heart as they tore through the air.

Without thinking, I raised both my hands, hoping to save myself from the worst situation. Instead of catching a dozen jagged blades in the palm of my hand, I felt something quite different. Just like the spark before, my nerves sing, alive with the fire inside me. The fire moved within me, behind my eyes, under my skin, until I felt myself so full. Then, fire exploded from within me, a pure force and energy.

A burst of light—no, lightning —burst from both my hands, blazing through the iron. The fragments screeched and smoked, exploding in hot flames. Fragments fell to the ground as lightning exploded the wall on the other side. The explosion left a smoking hole one meter wide, almost hitting Evangeline.

His mouth dropped open in shock. I’m sure I looked equally shocked as I stared at my hands, wondering what had just happened to me. High above, a hundred of the most powerful Silver humans were wondering the same thing. When I looked up, I found them all watching me.

Even the king leaned forward on the edge of his box, his fiery crown visible in the sky. Cal was right by his side, staring me down with wide eyes.


The king’s voice was as sharp as a razor, full of menace. Suddenly, red-and-orange Sentinel uniforms flashed from almost every box. The elite guards waited for another word, another order.

I’m a clever thief because I know when to run.

Now is the time.

Before the king could speak, I fled, pushing past a startled Evangeline, then slid feet first into the still open window on the floor.

“Catch him!” echoed behind me as I fell into the dimly lit room below. Evangeline’s previous flying irons left puncture holes in the ceiling, and I could still peer upwards into the Spiral Garden. Alarmed, I saw that the frame of the building seemed to be bleeding, as uniformed Sentinels jumped down from their boxes. Everyone rushed to hunt me.

Without any time to think, all I could do was run.

The anteroom beneath the arena connects to a dark and empty hallway. The black box cameras watched me as I ran at full speed, turning down one corridor after another. I could feel them, hunting me as if not so far behind me. Run , repeated in my head. Run, run, run.

I had to find a door, a window, something to help me get my bearings. If I could get out, enter the market, perhaps I might still have a chance. Possible.

The first set of stairs I came across led upwards, into a long hallway with lots of mirrors. However, the cameras were there too, perched in the corners of the ceiling like huge black insects.

The sound of gunfire erupted above my head, forcing me to fall to the floor. Two Sentinels, their uniforms the color of flames, pierced through the shattered mirror and lunged at me. They’re exactly security officers, I thought. Only bumbling officers don’t know you. They don’t know your abilities.

I don’t know my abilities.

They expected me to run, so I did the opposite, lunging at both of them. Their weapons were big and powerful, but too big. Before they could raise it to aim, stab, or both, I knelt on the smooth marble floor, sliding between the two giants. One of them shouted behind me, his voice exploding another mirror in a storm of glass. As soon as they were able to turn around, I was already running and running away again.

When I finally found a window, it was both a blessing and a curse. I braked my slide until I stopped in front of a giant diamond glass panel, looking out at the vast expanse of forest. The forest was there, right on the other side, right behind the impenetrable wall.

Well, my hands, now might be a good time to show off your skills . Nothing happened, of course. Nothing happened when I needed it.

The hot flames startled me. As I turned around, I saw the red and orange walls closing in and it dawned on me—the Sentinels had found me. But the walls were hot, flickering, almost solid. Fire . And lunged straight at me.

My voice was soft, small, defeated, as I laughed at my bad luck. “Oh, great.”

I turned to run away, but ended up crashing into a wall of black cloth. Strong arms wrapped around me, holding me in place as I tried to squirm to get free. Electrocute him, burn him, I screamed in my head. However, nothing happened. That miracle won’t save me anymore.

The heat intensified, threatening to rip the air from my lungs. I survived lightning today; I don’t want to try my luck with fire.

But it’s the smoke that will kill me. Thick, black, and too strong, choking me. My vision spun, and my eyelids grew heavy. I heard footsteps, screams, the roar of flames as the world went dark.

“I’m sorry,” Cal’s voice came. I think I’m dreaming.[]

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