Saphrone’s flaming orange dress drooped past her ankles and dragged on the dolomite floor. Making her way to the stairs, she took in the beauty of the palace she inherited over 50 years ago. The agates glistened in the distance and the waterfall just beyond the palace entrance chattered as strong as ever. Some in her tribe said they could hear the stories of the water, while others just knew the leaves rustling told better tales. Saphrone loved nature, it wasn’t her primary concern; she had elders in the tribe for such matters. Her concern was keeping the tribe balanced, safe, and looking into the future.

As she dropped her foot on the first step, she let her mind wander back to her fifteenth birthday. While normally a cause for celebration, that particular birthday was a somber moment. That morning, she had learned of the passing of her parents overnight. Her assistance had hurriedly rushed in, woken Saphrone, and shared the news. Their illness had turned worse. Saphrone hardly had time to process, as she was whisked away and prepared to be sworn in as the new leader of the tribe. As she was bounced between wardrobe and makeup and speechwriters her mind was a blur. She wasn’t sad, nor was she happy. She existed in a state of melancholy for years afterward.

She descended the stairs and reached the freshly-cleaned landing. The doors to the entrance were open, and the roars of the crowd could now be heard, just faintly, over the waterfall. Saphrone sighed. Her elders and assistants would be eagerly waiting just past the entrance, ready for the centennial mystic celebration, but Saphrone was uneasy about what it may provide. The last reading was 100 years ago, and it had revealed a ruler change. Saphrone’s parents had immediately dismissed it, saying that would be impossible. They ramped up defenses and hardly left the castle. The mystics proved to be correct again, when Saphrone awoke that fateful morning as the new ruler. But that was over 50 years ago, and now the new mystics would have another story to tell, Saphrone was only hoping it wouldn’t be as disrupting as the prior vision.

As she approached the entrance, the sun lit up the face of the mystics, queued at the stairs, facing away from the crowd and toward Saphrone. Their faces were smiling, but weary. Their journey over the past 18 months had taken them to the ends of the earth, the edges of the ice caps to the isolated islands, and everything between. What they returned with was news for the tribe. News that would shape the next hundred years. Their visions were fueled by the journey, and as some rumors said, potent and magical fruits from a faraway land. Saphrone allowed no other man, woman, or child to venture so far, so the rumors remained just that.

Saphrone closed the distance between the stairs and the entrance, paused briefly for a deep breath, then picked up her pace and waltzed through the towering columns.

“All rise for our leader, Saphrone.” A booming voice shouted from above.

The crowd rose and cheered. The elders and mystics near the entrance bowed. All except one. The mystic standing right in the middle, Kalwani, did not bow. She stared straight at Saphrone, who was now waving and smiling back at the crowd. Kalwani was the most tenured mystic, now approaching 93, and was as skeptical as anyone. At times she would doubt Saphrone and the other elders, unlike most who nodded along. The entire tribe was out for the ceremony, and there was nothing Saphrone could do now, so she continued to wave and smile until the cheering died down.

“Thank you all for coming today,” she said, as the crowd sat, including Kalwani. The stares, however, did not stop. Saphrone did her best to ignore it and continued with the ceremony as planned. “Today is an extremely important day for our tribe. We will hear the new vision from the mystics, and I,” she panned around the front row, “And our elders, will use that vision to help guide the future.” She paused for effect and waited for the crowd noise to die down again. “At this time, I’d like to invite Kalwani to lead the mystics in their discovery and vision.”

Saphrone stepped to the side and clapped, as Kalwani took the stage first, followed by the other five mystics. As Kalwani took center stage, she held a death stare to Saphrone as long as she could, before breaking it and facing the crowd. She encouraged them to dismiss their cheers as she cleared her throat.

“Thank you, Saphrone,” she said, shooting another glance of death her way. “Normally, we would recap our adventurous journey to you and go on in great detail about what we saw along the way. However, today we will do no such thing. What we learned is so important that we cannot forego sharing it for pleasantries and tradition.”

Saphrone gulped. This was exactly what she was trying to avoid, and quite frankly, feared would happen.

“What we learned and saw on our journey was quite unexpected, as it’s never happened in the history of the mystic centennial visions. What we saw is unprecedented, because what we saw wasn’t in the future. What we saw was in the past.”

An audible gasp could be heard from the crowd, followed by silence except for the sounds of nature that continued, undisturbed. Everyone in the crowd leaned in, waiting for the news Kalwani was going to share. Saphrone felt slick sweat drip down her back and she suddenly got very light-headed. She bent her knees and stood firm, just as she was trained to do.

“Members of the tribe,” Kalwani continued. “Today I am here to tell you that Saphrone,” she pointed for exaggeration. Saphrone gulped. “Is a false leader.”

Whispers among the crowd. Kalwani silenced them again.

“I am here to tell you that she poisoned her parents to obtain the crown.”

Saphrone focused on the noise of the waterfall. Her vision began to fail her, as the crowd blurred.

“She used the potent plant from the mystics to slowly kill her parents. It was in conjunction with the mystics of old, who would do anything to ensure their vision came true.

Saphrone’s vision continued to go, and now, the noises were fading. She tried her best to keep smiling and focusing on the sounds of nature.

“We are here to depose Saphrone and install a true ruler, based on our recent centennial visions.”

The sky faded, and all Saphrone could see now was the waterfall in the distance. The gurgling had stopped for her, and she could barely make out the flowing water. She gave it one last look before everything went dark. As she fell, her mind wandered again. Even if her rein was over, she knew at least that nature would continue on as always.

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