Shimmering ribbons of color and light danced in the twilight sky as the drums and pipes of Arashel sang out a welcome to all the people pouring into the amphitheater. Silver orbs upon their golden pillars lit the pathways and rows upon rows of stone seats. A breeze swept through the crowd, bringing with it the chill of autumn and the promise of winter. Jathil was thankful the Silmaril Award ceremony wasn’t any later in the year or Arashel would have never been able to host them.
Jathil had spent most of the year preparing for the event, coordinating with the awards committee, collecting nominations, and making arrangements for the special guests. She was most excited to meet one in particular. The White Lady of Rohan who would be presenting the award to the Most Epic Heroine in all the realms of fantastical stories.
Visitors had been descending on Arashel for the past two months, and now the special day was upon them. The excitement sizzled in the air and in the giddy chatter below as the people took their seats, and those who could not filled the edges and walkways, peering down at the darkened stage below.
Then the silver orbs darkened, and the drums and pipes ceased their song as if the whole world held its breath. Jathil counted the seconds and just as she had planned, with a little help from the guardians, the small silvery orbs along the pathway to the stage lit like stars in the black expanse above, guiding adventurers on their quest for glory and treasure.
A woman dressed in a silvery white dress that shone like the moon glided between them, her back straight and her shoulders squared like a warrior bride. As her foot touched the stage, the orbs lining it flared to life. Her golden tresses glimmered beneath their glow. She turned her pale face to the people and smiled, her grey eyes shimmering like jewels in a crown.
“Dear, good people of worlds renown, welcome to the Silmaril Award Ceremony, where this evening, I have the great honor to present the Most Epic Heroine Silmaril to one young woman who has shown strength of heart and character and done considerable deeds to be counted worthy of such an award.” She paused as she surveyed the crowd. “Five young women have you esteemed worthy, and so they are. When I have thus spoken her name, she will join me. “
Lady Eowyn lifted the scroll in her hand and unrolled it. “Lady Cordelia Beaumont of The Beast of Talesend.”
A smattering of applause and a couple of shouts rose from the crowd as a woman stepped into the glow of orbs. She tugged on her black, glittering jacket over a her green gown. Her golden curls had been lobbed just above her shoulders. She nodded at the crowd and swept over to her spot as she had rehearsed the night before.
Eowyn continued. “Eiloney of Prydain Chronicles.”
Polite applause filled the amphitheater as a young woman nearly skipped on to the stage. Her white robe billowed about her ankles, revealing her bare feet. A few whispers shot through the crowd, but she only smiled and waved, her bright blue eyes sparkling. The glow of the spheres glinted off the crescent moon pendent she wore around her neck as the breeze tugged at her long red-gold hair, which hung loose down her back. With a nod at Lady Cordelia, she stepped next to her and faced the crowd.
“Our next nominee transverses distance and time to join us today, Cinder of The Lundar Chronicles.”
Silence settled over the onlookers as a young woman with her light brown hair pulled back into a messy bun stepped carefully on the stage. Some stood to see her better, others craned their neck. For they had never seen such a being as she. Metal and wires and flesh melded together and other magical properties that she claimed were merely science. A cyborg. She stood there for a moment, scanning the crowds, one of her eyes slightly different than the other. She wore a dark pant suit and matching gloves. She strode unevenly as if her mechanical foot was giving her trouble again and stopped next to the red head. Her movement broke the spell and the crowd clapped and shouted their approval.
“Next we have Sophie Hatter from Howl’s Moving Castle.”
Applause filled the evening again as a woman entered the ring of orbs and curtsied before the crowd. She wore a delicate hat with a ribbon around it, matching her blue dress. Her red-gold hair hung in a braid down her back. She smiled, her blue-green eyes twinkling. She took her place next to the cyborg.
“Our final nominee comes to us from afar, Sairu from Golden Daughter.”
The crowds exploded in applause as a slender woman glided across the stage toward the others. She wore a red silk-wrap dress, her hands tucked within its wide sleeves. Her black hair flowed down her back, her dark eyes, sharp and vigilant, her movements graceful. She paused, dipped her head at the crowd before her, and took her place next to Sophie.
Lady Eowyn waited for the people to settle, a soft smile playing at her lips. Admiration for each of the nominees evident in her gaze. Once the amphitheater grew quiet once more, she slid out the sealed parchment and broke its seal.
“The winner of the Most Epic Heroine Award goes to . . .” The White Lady of Rohan unfolded the parchment. “Cinder, of the Lunar Chronicles.”
The crowds sprang to their feet, screaming and clapping. Although, a few nearest to Jathil shook their heads.
“Sairu should have won!” One of them yelled.
“No, no, Lady Cordelia!” Another yelled.
Unease flickered in Jathil’s stomach. She hadn’t thought about the need for crowd control for a ceremony such as this. Perhaps she had been wrong. A few shouts of other names rose up, but their words were drowned out by the applause. For the people had spoken, and Cinder was chosen. Although, the votes had been very close.
Lady Eowyn slipped the medallion of brilliant fuchsia over Cinder’s neck, the bright jewel glittering and sparkling like a star. After a few private words were exchanged, Eowyn faced the crowds and raised her hand.
“Good people. I thank you for coming and celebrating the heroines among the fantastical realms. Do not fear the loss. Each woman here represents strength and integrity worthy of such an award. May you consider them next year. But for now, I bid you all good evening. Our time here is finished, but let not that trouble you, my dear people. For the award ceremony does not end here, nor did it begin here. We shall feast and celebrate the Silmaril Awards for the coming two weeks. Go, then, and journey to the Shire of the blessed Hobbits. For there, you will discover the winner of the Wisest Counselor Award. And tomorrow, the winner of The Most Magnificent Dragon Silmaril Award will be revealed. I would think you would not want to miss that one. Thank you and good evening.”
Applause thundered in the amphitheater louder than ever as the White Lady of Rohan slipped through the starlit pathways and disappeared into the night. Jathil watched her go before retiring to her own quarters. The challenge of coordinating and hosting such an event took its toll on her. Almost more than her recent quest to save her friends from the sorceress’s curse, but not quite. At least, no one had been in danger of dying from a wolf-man or the curse bound. Although, the same might not be said of the dragon ceremony tomorrow, or worse, the Nefarious Villain Award. For that, she was thankful. She yawned. The ceremony had been a success, and now she was exhausted. The crowds could celebrate all the want, but her part in the matter was complete. She’d turn in for the night and worry about tomorrow when tomorrow arrived.
Thank you, dear readers!
The poll results . . .
Cinder from The Lunar Chronicles
Sophie from Howl’s Moving Castle
Lady Cordelia Beaumont from The Beast of Talesend
Sairu Golden Daughter from Tales of Goldstone Wood
Eilonwy from The Prydain Chronicles