Peer Review by The Dreamer (South Africa)()

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Up in Flames

By: nevaredhp


    "Queen Elaina?"
    Elaina turned her attention away from the smoke in the distance. "Yes, Amy?"
    "A man from the Outskirts has come to see you. He claims that he can save your life."
    Elaina eyed Amy with caution. "There's nothing to save me from. That fire will be contained before it can reach us."
    "I assured him of that, my Queen, but he refused to leave."    
    This peaked Elaina's interest. "Where is he now?"
    "He didn't have a weapon, so they took him to the annex."
    She linked arms with the younger girl, her long blonde hair swishing behind her. "Let's go see what he wants then."
    Walking so casually with Amy reminded Elaina of the times they would run around the palace playing games of tag or hide-and-seek.
    Times had changed. 
    Elaina and Amy entered the underground annex. The heat from inside the rarely-used room threatened to scorch her skin, but she closed the door and approached her guards with confidence, squinting to see in the darkness lit by a sole lantern. "Thank you, gentlemen, for taking care of my guest." She fixed her eyes on the man seated at the table, his back turned to her. "Sir, you may stand and reveal yourself now."
    The figure slowly pushed himself up and turned around. He was thinner and wore torn, bloody clothes, but there was no mistaking him.
    "It's good to see you again, Elaina."
    She stepped back in disbelief. "How... how did you end up in the Outskirts?"
    "Treason is loosely defined in your country."
    The guards seized his arms. "Let him go," Elaina ordered. "Tell me why you're here, Lester."
    "I know a pathway from here that leads directly to Nevaeh. The king is merciful and will take anyone in that's trying to flee the fire."
    A million thoughts flooded Elaina's mind, but she couldn't bring herself to speak any of them aloud besides one. "If this fire was such a problem, why have I not been informed of it?"
    "Perhaps your aides don't see you as a leader, considering you're only 17."
    "You always said I would be a terrific and noble queen someday."
    "I didn't expect someday to come so soon."
    Elaina bowed her head in memory of her parents, masking the tears that were bursting to the surface of her brown eyes. She jerked at the sound of a thud, followed by little sizzles. "Amy, take the guards with you to the dining room and offer them some tea. I'd like to be alone with Lester."
    "But my Queen - "
    "Exactly. I'm your Queen. So you do as I say."
    Amy didn't say a word as she walked up the stairs. The guards followed. One stopped and leaned down to whisper in Elaina's ear. "Do you have a weapon on you, my Queen?"
    "Thank you for your concern, sir, but this man isn't dangerous." He left with no further question. Despite her certainty about Lester, she kept her distance. "You always were a good teacher, Lester. I know that's a far cry from a royal adviser, especially when you've apparently committed treason... but you're still the closest thing I have to a parent and I need your help."
    He stood in silence, waiting for her to gather her words.
    "What noble thing can I do to survive?"
    Lester placed a hand on Elaina's back and guided her towards the stairs as he spoke. "Why ask me about noble things? From what I've heard, you're a very good queen."
    "How so?" She could smell the smoke as soon as they reached the main floor.
    "You give criminals a second chance by sending them to defend you in the Outskirts rather than killing them. You are loyal to your citizens and don't rob them or lie to them. You honor the legacy of your parents and give respect to everyone."
    They made their way through the kitchen. All of the workers were gone, but Elaina didn't notice. "So I'm a good person," she cried. "What's left then?"
    He threw open the doors to the dining room. Amy and the guards rose from their seats instantly. "Give it up, Elaina," Lester said in a calming manner. "Leave this city and the castle to the poor, and you'll have new riches in Nevaeh. Come with me."
    Never had Elaina been so annoyed with Lester. "I can't leave."
    Lester opened the curtains that hid her expansive glass window. Flames billowed not far from her home, tainting the smoky sky with the color of blood. "Please," Lester begged.
    Tears streamed down her face. "I... I can't leave all I have. I want to join you and get out of here... but I can't."
    Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.

Message to Readers

This was originally for Paperbird's contest, but I misread the deadline. It's my first attempt at an allegory-type story, so I'd still love to hear what you all think of it!

Peer Review

I liked the fact that in such little time and with so little words you grabbed my attantion and suddenly I was invested in the story and very interested to see what would happen to the young queen.

I was a bit confused with the way you ended it. Are you trying to say that this queen is one of those rich people? Because if so it doesnt make much sense that this queen who is so good to her people and doesnt steal from them would be worried about her possesions. I got the impression that she was worried about her people and she didnt want to leave them. Especially in a time of crisis she still wanted to know what she could do to help, not flee, and honestly I find that very brave.

Reviewer Comments

I like the way you bundled it all up. It was just enough information to keep you slightly in the dark and excited to keep reading. But also it was enough that it can stand alone. (I really struggle with the length of my stories!) Well done!