My Facebook timeline these days has been dominated by three topics: politics, the Miss Universe Philippines pageant, and memes of the Korean Netflix series Squid Game.
Guess it’s a sign that I should get back to one of my WIPs! The Queens of Apodeia tells the story of Ilda, a teenage girl from the remote fishing village of Mellifera, and the events surrounding the Emergence, Apodeia’s unique process of royal succession. Apodeia’s queens are not born into royalty; rather, they are selected through a special ceremony of which all girls in the kingdom aged 13 to 19 are eligible. Chosen via lottery, a dozen lucky girls are taken to the Citadel, a castle out on the sea from which the Queen rules, where they will compete for the crown.
Curious? Here’s a sneak peek! 👑
Ilda remembered her first Pilgrimage as though it were only yesterday.
It was just the three of them, her and Ivarr and their friend Mitxel. Mitxel was an orphan, while their parents never made the trip to the Capital. For a variety of reasons — the Capital was too far, they didn’t have the resources to spare, someone needed to watch over their little sister. Ilda had gladly volunteered to represent the family that year, and their parents had miraculously consented, on the condition that she be accompanied by the two boys.
She would never forget the awe and wonder she felt when they arrived at the Capital. Throngs of people surrounded the Lake on all sides, all devotees hoping for at the very least a glimpse of the Queen and at most her blessing. The three of them had squeezed through the crowd, trying to get as close to the edge as possible, pushing and slipping through the cracks.
And then the Frenzy started. Someone had shouted that the Queen’s ship was in sight, and everyone in the area just started pushing. Men, women, children, young people, old people; in a snap there was nothing but bodies slamming into each other, shoving each other, grabbing each other, all to get ahead and in front of the crowd. There had been screaming, yelling, shouting, crying. Ilda, barely four feet tall then, had been flung around like a rag doll, and when she’d tripped and fallen to the ground she nearly got trampled by the advancing crowd.
She’d never been so terrified in her life. But what terrified her wasn’t the violence; it was the people’s apathy to it. Nobody batted an eyelash when the person next to them got slammed to the ground. They simply pressed forward, chanting prayers and holding their arms out towards the water. They cried out for the Queen with little or no regard for others, begged for mercy and aid without even considering the circumstances of those around them. And when it was all over, when the Queen had sailed around the coast in her grand ship, barely able to be seen by her loyal subjects and the whole procession lasting for less than ten minutes, the people sat among the rocks, dazed and delirious, tending to their wounds like they’re gifts from the Mother Goddess.
Even Ivarr and Mitxel had been in a state of euphoria, which she did not understand. But she kept her thoughts to herself. Even on the voyage home, as she sat in the back of the cart bandaging her knees, she kept her silence. It was only when she returned to Mellifera that she dared to speak, but she’d barely started when her mother had shushed her, warning her to be mindful.
“Speak no evil, child,” Brynja had warned. She remembered that as if it were yesterday, too.
She tried again in the following year. And in the next. And in the year after that.
But she could never bring herself to believe.
How about you? Tell me about your WIP! 💖
(Photo by Birch Landing Home on Stocksnap.)