Amira was growing weary. She sat high above everyone else on the pedestal of her blush-colored throne. She rested her feet on a footstool made of glass and embroidered in gold. In her hand, she held a flute filled with the bubbliest sparkling water in the land of Bale. But on her lips was a frown. “Queen Amira?” A baron, one whom she could not quite recall the name of, looked upon her. “Your Majesty,” He spoke, his voice edging over a whisper. Her hazel eyes flickered. “What?” She responded, touching her forehead gently. She was feeling very, very tired. “Your Majesty, the plans for the town, your Majesty,” he stammered. “Yes, what about them?” The fool-Cecil, that was his name, Cecil could hardly seem to keep his voice from quivering. “Well, your Majesty, the people are rioting over them.” “Rioting?” “Yes, your Majesty, they are rather angry.” Amira sighed. She felt she could barely muster the strength to keep her eyes open, let alone deal with rampaging commoners. “Send me Marius.” The Queen demanded. The baron nodded and teetered off. Marius was a scamp and an infidel, but being the Archduke, he was the best she could do. The King of Bale had passed away several years ago, due to alcoholism.
As time went on, the aching from the death of Amira’s husband did not ease, but worsened. The people became more irritable, the servants were not easily replaced, and with the passing of the Queen’s sister, the nobility was becoming sparse. So paint the town pink, she thought. Make the kingdom a little cheerier and livable. Her plan was what the townspeople were so upset over. What was so wrong with painting their houses, the streets, and all the buildings in Bale, pink? What would they prefer instead, higher taxes? Amira shook her head. Then Marius approached, whistling down the palace corridor. “My Majesty,” he proclaimed, his voice carrying an air of arrogance. “I have been informed about our current, unfortunate situation,” his demeanor became excessively serious. “I believe the best solution to our problem would be to cancel the redevelopment plans.” “No!” The Queen shouted, abruptly. Marius looked at her crossly. An awkward silence ensued. The Archduke cleared his throat, and feeling increasingly uncomfortable, Amira mumbled, “you just don’t understand.” She stood from her pedestal. “Marius, I am leaving the situation to your discretion. Marius, Cecil, guards, gentlemen, I wish you all a good and safe night.” As the Queen exited the throne room, she couldn’t help but overhear the gossip stirring.
The rumors would be started by Marius, obviously. He would suggest to overthrow her and to appoint himself to the lead positon of power, and plead insanity to lock Amira away forever. The Queen walked to her room in the quiet and dark of the lonely castle. Amira thought about all the terrible things that could be when she woke up the next morning. Though none of them caused her a great deal of alarm.
As she entered her washroom, Amira nearly called upon a maid to fill her bath with water. But since no one was around to tell her no, she found it an ideal opportunity to fill the tub herself. On little mouse feet, the Queen retreated into the cellar to fetch a bucket. Above her, she could identify the voices of Marius and Cecil speaking. “But her Majesty?” Cecil’s timid voice questioned. “What about Amira? She’s really gone off the deep end this time. Painting all of Bale pink? Heavens to Betsey, she’s gone mad!” Cecil did not interject. “Don’t you think it would be best to put her away?” Marius was serious and one of the most convincing people Amira had ever met. Cecil was one of the most gullible people she ever met. Becoming increasingly upset, the Queen took her bucket and left.
After her bath, Amira began wrapping herself in a towel. She approached the mirror and gazed upon her reflection. She was growing in age; it was plain for anyone to see. But she wasn’t crazy. If someone thought bringing a little joy to her dreary kingdom was crazy, then maybe that person should just leave. Drying her hair, Amira conjured a plan.
The next morning, Amira followed her usual routine. Her servants brought her breakfast in bed. They dressed her and brushed her hair one thousand strokes with a gold-encrusted brush. They tied a pale pink ribbon around her neck and told her she looked pretty. The queen went downstairs, sat on her throne, and called upon Marius for a visit. “Yes, my Majesty?” He knelled before her and kissed her hand. “What would you like to discuss with me?” “Marius, refresh me, what is the punishment for conspiracy against the queen?” The Archduke looked stricken. “Banishment, my Majesty.” His eyes darted around the room. Amira could see him searching for the right words. “My Majesty, whatever you have heard, Cecil started it.” Standing before the Queen, the Archduke looked like a young boy caught stealing a lollipop. “Is that all you have to say?” Amira felt a sly sense of empowerment sneaking in. Marius nodded. The Queen called for her guards to seize him and to make sure the traitor never showed his face in the kingdom of Bale again.
After the banishment of Marius, the Queen appointed Cecil to be her new Archduke. She spoke before her people and explained to them that their taxes would not be raised and their benefits would not be cut with the painting of the town. At that statement, the crowd cheered. Then, with the enthusiastic help of the townspeople, Amira painted her kingdom pink.
For first time in a long time, the Queen of Bale smiled.