Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: GREEN (01/19/17)
TITLE: A Decree is a Decree
By Jan Ackerson
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In the second form of the condition, the greenness came on gradually, over a period of days or weeks. But once it became apparent that the person was greening, nothing could reverse the process.
Queen Beitris found this situation intolerable. Green, in her opinion, was the worst of colors. “I deplore all things green!” she said. “Let them immediately be removed from my sight!”
The royal cook, about to announce the queen’s lunch, hurriedly scraped the salad from her plate and replaced it with slivers of cheese and red apple.
The royal clothiers removed all green fabrics from their storerooms.
The royal decorators searched the rooms of the palace for green vases and draperies, green statues, green tiles in the royal mosaics. All were stored or destroyed.
These measures pleased Queen Beitris, but she was dismayed by the sight of her green subjects, viewed from the carriage window as she toured her lands. “How many are there?” she asked her chamberlain.
“Less than one percent of the population,” he said. “Some villages and towns have been spared entirely, but in some, nearly all are affected. In most of your queendom, it’s just a few people here and there.”
“I want them out of my sight,” said the queen. “Shift everyone around. You figure it out. All of the green people should live in one village. Make it happen.”
“But your majesty, the families…”
She waved an imperious hand. “I am not without mercy. Give them everything they need. Far away from me.”
Thus it was that the town of Jade was founded, and a sad town it was. Virtually everyone there had been taken from loved ones; in a few cases, mothers were even separated from their newborn babes. The queen was true to her word, and the people of Jade lacked for nothing—except their homes, except their families. They welcomed the newly-green who were exiled there, and in the months that followed, they formed a community known for quiet grace and kindness. It was their only path to healing.
Well, of course you know what happened next.
As her handmaiden was styling Queen Beitris’s hair one morning, the queen commanded her to let more sunlight into the room. “It’s too dark in here,” she said, examining her looking glass. “My color is quite horrible.” In fact, she was a soft tea green, and over the following days, her shade became permanent somewhere between laurel and fern.
A decree is a decree, and when it could no longer be denied or covered up, the chamberlain escorted Queen Beitris to the village of Jade, under cloak of darkness.
She took up residence in the largest cottage, and the chamberlain arranged for a young girl to attend her. Catriona approached the queen, trembling a little, and attempted an awkward curtsy. “Your majesty…” she began, but Beitris stopped her with a bitter snort.
“I am no longer your majesty,” she said. “My sister reigns now.”
Catriona stepped forward and took Beitris’s hand. “You are dusty from travel,” she said, and she took a cloth from a nearby bowl of scented water and washed the woman’s hands and feet.
There are several pretty ways to end this story. Perhaps the green citizens wake one morning, first restored to their previous color and then restored to their families. Perhaps the new queen makes another decree out of pity for her sister. Perhaps a nearby land suffering a plague of purpleness joins forces with Jade to overrun the castle and put Beitris back on the throne.
In actuality, none of those things happen. Beitris and Catriona become quite close, though. Beitris, moved by the young girl’s kindness, learns to find beauty in things she previously disdained. One morning as she sits at the window of her cottage, she sees a wee green caterpillar comically inching its way toward her. She allows it to find its way onto her finger, and as she holds the tiny creature to the sunlight, she thinks it is perhaps the loveliest thing she has ever seen.
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