Winner Takes It All by Shanna
One minute they were enjoying the bright colors and air of celebration. The next minute they heard the sound and they were running for their lives.
Well maybe not running for our lives, but definitely running as if our lives depended on it, thought Serena. She looked over at the girls running next to her, their faces screwed up in desperation as they tried to outdistance each other. Serena could already see the girls that couldn’t keep up; those that had fallen behind could barely run, their chests heaving with sobs as they knew that they had no chance. Serena felt bad for those girls in the back, knowing that there was no hope for them, but those thoughts were fleeting as she reminded herself what was at stake. This was a race that no girl wanted to lose, because the winner of this race got to marry Prince Halliwell.
Serena had been anticipating this day since the announcement of the Royal Tournament. She knew that both her mother and her grandmothers had competed in the Tournament when they were younger. None of them had won, obviously, but Serena didn’t let that faze her. She knew that if anyone could win this race, it would be her.
Serena counted herself lucky that she just barely made the cut-off to enter the Tournament. Just a couple of months more and she would have been too old. Apparently Prince Halliwell doesn’t like girls over the age of 21, she thought sourly. But then again, he was the Prince, and could have almost anything he wanted. It was this sense of entitlement that was the origin of the Royal Tournament.
Serena could remember, from days of lazing around in hot classrooms and reading boring history books, the story behind the Royal Tournament. Hundreds of years ago, the people were ruled by a group of five families known as the Royals. These families were just, and the people flourished under them for many years. But then the Royals started to hoard their power. They wanted to keep the ruling power within their circle and so they made their children, the princes and princesses, only marry within the five families. This had a detrimental effect on the Royals, as soon they were all too closely related to marry. The people became angry at the families as they thought that their greed and thirst for power had caused them to neglect the people. They felt that the Royals didn’t care about the people anymore and so they revolted against the Royals. The people punished the families and created new laws, namely the Royal Tournament which stated that when a prince or princess turned eighteen, that a tournament would be held and the winner of such tournament would marry the prince or princess. Serena had only seen one other Tournament four years ago, when Prince Halliwell’s older sister had turned eighteen.
Serena also counted herself lucky that the event in this Tournament was a race. Serena loved to run. She found it exhilarating and freeing to feel the wind in her hair and feel her muscles work as they pushed and pulled her forward. She knew that most girls didn’t like to exert themselves physically. In fact, she could still see the faces of everyone when the Tournament was announced. Everyone had gathered in the square, their expectant faces turned towards the Royals’ representative. Whispers darted through the crowd as people speculated what the Tournament would entail. The history books had spoken of previous tournaments where the games consisted of archery or storytelling or knitting. Serena remembered reading about one tournament where the girls had to go duck hunting, with the winner killing the most ducks. No one was sure who exactly came up with each Tournament game but most people guessed that the game was somehow related to the Prince or Princess. Which was why this Tournament was such a shock.
When it was announced that the Tournament game was a race, Serena could hear the gasps from all around. She smugly laughed as she remembered how the faces around her froze in disbelief, especially how Kia’s face had paled at the proclamation. Kia was a young girl who had been dating the Prince for a while and everyone assumed that the Tournament game would be something that she could win. Serena smirked to herself as she recalled the month after the announcement, watching Kia struggle to run even for five minutes. The poor girl just wasn’t an athlete, something that many had commented on in the days leading up to the Tournament.
But Serena was an athlete, an athlete that was getting closer to winning the Tournament race. Serena felt that her entire life had been training for this game. In the months leading up to the race she had sometimes woken up in the dark of night, a dream of the future hovering on the edge of her mind. Sometimes, when her calves screamed and her toes bled, Serena imagined that the Prince had chosen this Tournament game because he was secretly in love with her and knew that she would win. Sometimes, it was only these thoughts that would get her through everything.
Serena had long since passed the other girls and now she had the finish line in her sights. She could see the stands where the Royals sat and could see the prince waiting for her, flowers in his arms. She gathered up her energy and with a burst of momentum shot forward, a smile on her face.