46. The Higher the Pedestal, The Greater the Fall

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"Let us not burden our remembrances with a heaviness that's gone."—William Shakespeare, The Tempest

"All that glitters is not gold."—William Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice

"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players,"—William Shakespeare, As You Like It

William Shakespeare, who was living not far from the Interkingdom Games at the time of the events chronicled in these pages, wrote the lines mentioned above after hearing about the Games from a very handsome itinerant minstrel, Ravendra.

Ravendra had arrived at the marquee early in the day to guarantee a good viewing spot,* at the right side of the tent near the front. He stood on an apple crate with his quill, ink, and parchment and recorded all the best lines so he could sell them to Shakespeare for a hefty sum.**

Now that you know I am one of the few living authors who influenced Shakespeare's work, I shall give you a moment to be impressed.









All righty then.

Princess Ashley, still in her disguise, sat upon a golden throne*** beside Prince Charming, hands clasped in her lap, a rose-scented fog swirling inside her head. Behind Ashley and the prince loomed the Seneschal, Borin, and the enormous trophy carved in Charming's image. One of them smelled like a chamberpot, probably the Seneschal. Oddly, it was the trophy's gaze she felt upon her neck. She knew this because when she turned to look, its metallic eyes seemed to avert from hers.

Prince Charming, a benevolent smile pasted upon his face, leaned over the arm of his much larger throne and observed: "See how many people have come to rejoice in my ascendancy as ruler of the Seven Kingdoms and accept the trophy confirming me as the greatest athlete ever to breathe? I'd say this is the largest crowd size in all of history. Never before has any ruler been as beloved as I." He opened his arms wide as if embracing the masses. "Behold!"

Ashley beheld. The audience, a medley of humankind, from the lowliest serfs dressed in filthy rags to the wealthiest aristocrats in velvets and silks, were crammed together arm to arm, shoulder to shoulder. As news of the execution spread amongst the Games' attendees, the crowd inside the tent swelled, coalescing into more of a multi-limbed beast than an assembly of individuals. The rhythm of the shouts, cries, and laughter rose and fell as if uttered by a single entity. Eventually, the hoard spilled out of the tent.

Nothing drew people together like the promise of blood.

Guards dressed in uniforms from all the kingdoms pushed through the throng to the stage, forming a blockade of muscle and flesh.

All the while, Ashley's spirit floated above the fray, like a puffy white cloud on a perfect summer's day where children and fairies come out to play.

Yes, she was so content, even a lousy rhyme like that couldn't bring her down.

Deep in her subconscious, a voice tried to burble to the surface, blathering on about friendship and trust and true love, but at this moment of peace and bliss, Ashley fought back. "I will not burden my remembrances with a heaviness that's gone," she cried.

"What was that?" Charming said.

"Just musing," Ashley said. "Perhaps someday it will be used as a line in a play."****

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