A Golden Trophy by Joelsweet
(Hope you like this! Forgive any spelling errors, haha. Feel free to make requests or ask questions, and please check out my other works.)
Eledian breathed in the fresh morning air as sunlight filtered through the mist shrouding the landscape. Today was the day that he would compete for Prince Araquil’s hand. Edelian stretched his arms and then his legs, savoring the feeling of the muscles being loosened. Edelian was definitely what one would call an “early bird,” especially on this particular dawn. He had gotten up at five in the morning, washed himself clean, got dressed, and eaten breakfast, and then set out on a walk to clear his head. He needed to be prepared. There was no way in hell Edelian was going to lose Araquil, his love, to some strange man. You see, Edelian and Araquil had known each other since they were children, and had loved each other just as long. Edelian’s father had served in the royal court, and so his son had spent many a day with the prince. They had confessed their love for each other the previous year; but according to their country’s customs, the prince’s possible suitors had to compete and win to marry him. The prince had absolutely no say in who he would be engaged to, besides the fact that he could choose which gender/ genders the competitors for his hand were. Araquil had picked male, of course, so that Edelian could compete and hopefully win.
Edelian heard a loud horn blow, and realized with a jolt that it signified fifteen minutes until the competitions. He quickly dashed down the path and out of the woods down to the field where the events were being held; where many striped tents and stands were arranged. Smells of scrumptious food filled the air, and people jostled him on their way to the stands surrounding the tournament arena. Most of the men who wanted to marry Araquil were already there, waiting in three lines of about ten people each. Edelian quietly slipped into one of the shorter lines.
Seeing some of the people Edelian was going to be up against, he was beginning to feel nervous. Most of his fellow competitors were very tall, foreign, and heavily muscled. It was a large contrast to Edelian’s lithe and smaller form. Comparing himself to these exotic men, Edelian began to wonder if he was good enough for Prince Araquil. They appeared much more stereotypically “masculine” and deserving of a beautiful prince at their side; with their huge muscles and formidable armor. Looking at his own classic length, golden locks that were tied in a ponytail and his simple attire, Edelian felt unworthy.
They were all facing a large stand, where the king, queen, and Prince Araquil were seated. Edelian caught Araquil’ hazel eyes, causing Araquil’ face to brighten as he smiled a bit. They broke eye contact to turn their attention to the king as he began to give a speech. The king explained the basic rules of the tournament as well as what the prize was for the winner. (As if everyone didn't know already.) There was to be three events: a benevolence test (in which magic would determine whether the competitor had a good heart or not), a strength test (which is kind of self explanatory), and a logic test (which would find out the competitor’s intelligence). Whichever two tests that the person did the best on would be added together. The person with the highest score won. Edelian was semi-confident that he could get a high score on at least two of the tests. But would it be high enough? That was the question.
In their lines, all of the men were handed an orb ten inches in diameter by a man with a cart full of them. Edelian held it carefully, not wanting to drop and shatter it. The globe was made of glass and transparent. He closed his eyes and cleared his mind, silently wishing for a good result. If the ball detected you were an extremely good person, it turned purple. It then descended through the rainbow until it reached red, which was the worst level of virtue there was. Edelian opened his eyes and saw, with a sinking heart, that his orb was blue. One step down from purple, the best. Edelian worried that it wasn't good enough. That is, he felt bad until he looked around at the other people’s globes. Most of them were orange or yellow, with a few greens and even reds scattered amongst them. He was mortified. He couldn't let Araquil end up with any of these men! People had begun to stare at Edelian’s ball in surprise, and some with frustration. One man in particular glared at Eledian with glowering anger. He was incredibly tall, with an intimidating air and a shaved head. The man smirked at Eledian, passed his red-orange globe to one hand, and subtly lifted aside his cloak to display an array of long ponytails in various hues hanging from his belt. Eledian gasped in fear and shivered, quickly looking away. He knew that that hair must belong to all of the people that the man had defeated before. And that the man was looking to add some wavy golden-honey colored locks to that collection.
A woman with black hair holding a small notebook passed by and asked for the competitors’ names so she could record the color that they got. The short, middle aged man who has passed out the globes was behind her was pushing his large cart, into which the orbs were placed. Once the orbs were returned to the cart, they turned colorless again. It took quite a while to collect all of the globes, but Eledian was patient. Silently, he wondered why people had come to watch this tournament. It certainly wasn’t very exciting, especially from far away.
The next challenge: strength. This was the one that Eledian was worried about. He was not very strong, because he spent his days as a scribe; not as a warrior like most of the other men there. Servants carried out weights of many different sizes and laid them on the grass in order of biggest to smallest. There were about ten of each weight. The object of this was to pick up the heaviest one you could possible carry and bring it to the other side of the field. The same woman who handled the benevolence test shouted “start!,” and all of the competitors rushed over to the weights. Eledian started out with an average sized weight, hefting it to try and see if he would be able to carry it to the other side of the arena. He gradually moved up in size until he got to two bigger than the average sized weight. It was heavy, but not unbearable. Straining, Eledian began to carry it across the field.
The gentle morning sun had become a fiery death ball hanging in the sky. It became much more difficult to keep a grip on the bar of the weight as his hands became sweaty and slick. Eledian felt a tug on his rippling, silky hair. He tensed up, and looked behind him to see the man who had the ponytails on his belt. The man winked at him and smirked, before passing Eledian; holding the largest weight in one hand with ease. Eledian felt sick to his stomach. He couldn't let this guy end up with his beloved Araquil. Eledian’s body screamed at him to drop the weight and flop down onto the grass, but he kept going. He wasn't going to give up. The end was in sight! Eledian pushed himself, inch by inch across the field. Ten feet to go! Six feet! Three feet! He let out a heavy sigh as he reached the end and the weight slid out of his hands. He looked around him and saw, with a bad feeling in stomach, that almost all of the other men had carried heavier weights than him. But it was okay. He just had to do well on the final challenge.
For the logic test, each competitor was assigned a riddler. (A riddler was a person who made their livelihood telling riddles at parties for the wealthy.) The riddler would take the man a ways away from his competitors and tell him three riddles. The faster and more accurate the man was at answering the riddles, the more points he received.
The men were lined up in three rows again. The riddlers had begun to arrive, wearing white masks that covered their eyes, as well as long, dusty-gray colored cloaks. The three lines of competitors dissolved as each man was paired up with a riddler and began to spread out around the arena. Eledian was assigned a rather tall riddler, who promptly guided him to a far corner of the arena, where a large fir tree shaded them from the hot sun. Eledian sat down, while the riddler remained standing.
“Hi! I'm Eledian! What's your name?” Eledian exclaimed. The riddler remained silent and didn't even acknowledge Eledian’s attempt at friendliness.
“How are you today?” Eledian asked, trying again. Maybe the riddler hadn't heard him?
“There will be three riddles. I will repeat each riddle three times. No more, no less. You will only find out if you were correct at the tallying of points.”
“Oh! Okay,” Eledian felt prepared for this test, since he had read many a riddle in his scribe work.
“We will begin now.
Fill my bucket, spill my bucket,
over a plane of snow.
Black the track as I look back,
my footsteps talk but make no sound.
What am I?” The riddler delivered this in a monotonous voice. Eledian knew the answer before the riddler repeated the puzzle twice more, but he waited until the riddler had finished. This one was too easy.
“It's a pen!” Eledian blurted out after the riddle had been stated all three times. “You fill it with ink, but sometimes the ink spills. The plane of snow is paper, and the ink blackens it. It talks because it writes words!”
Without respite, the riddler said the next one.
“I fly, yet I have no wings.
I cry, yet I have no eyes.
Darkness follows me;
lower light I never see.”
This one was a bit harder. Eledian had to think about this riddle throughout the second and third read throughs. But finally, he figured out the answer.
“It's a cloud!” Eledian didn't explain why this time; it was useless since the riddler would just ignore him anyway.
The riddler jumped into the next puzzle.
"Like a maiden's head so deathly still,
Cold and quiet, yet not ill.
Her long tresses, skyward lie,
Hair that burns when it is dry.
Food to man and creature's lair,
Name both her and her hair."
Eledian was really stumped on this one. It didn't help that he kept thinking about the competitor that wished to separate Eledian’s hair from the rest of him. He felt the anxiety swell inside of him as the riddler repeated the riddle twice more; while Eledian’s head was still going in a circular othought pattern.
(Riddle. What is it? What could the hair be? Hair. That man will cut off my hair if I lose! Focus, focus! Riddle.) This process continued, until suddenly the answer popped into Eledian’s head out of the blue.
“A rock! Underwater! That's the maiden. And then her hair is seaweed!” Relief flooded over Eledian. Hopefully he'd done well enough in the first and third challenges to be allowed to marry Araquil.
“Now you must wait until the others are complete.”
“...Oh. Okay. What should I do?” Eledian asked. The riddler didn’t respond. Eledian sighed and seated himself under the giant fir tree’s shade. He absentmindedly untied the ribbon from his ochroid tresses. Eledian let his hair spill around him, enjoying the feeling. He worried about what he would do if Araquil had to marry somebody that was completely horrible. There would be nothing he could do except plead with the winner.
Suddenly, a horn bellowed, signifying that the test was complete. Eledian stood up and noticed that the riddler had mysteriously vanished. A bit confused, Eledian headed over to in front of the king’s podium; where the other competitors had begun to accumulate. The men filed into 3 rows again, and awaited the results. With a jolt of fear, Eledian realized that he hadn’t retied his hair. Warily, he looked over his shoulder and saw the man who wanted his hair had been staring at him. The man made the motion of scissors snipping with his index finger and middle finger, sending a wave of apprehension over Eledian. He promptly tied his hair into a messy bun, removed his long blue scarf from around his neck, and tied the scarf around his head.
Eledian heard low, guttural laughing from behind him and knew that the man found this amusing. A deep, sickly feeling settled in Eledian’s stomach.
“Gentlemen!” The king announced, and all fell quiet. “The points have been tallied, and we have our results!” Eledian felt his heart beat faster, in a flurry of thuds.
(Oh God. What if I don’t win?) Eledian met eyes with Araquil, who gave him a hopeful smile.
“And the winner is… Naeryndam Ianvaris!” Eledian blinked away tears as desperation took over him. A tall, slender elf with red pageboy hair stepped forwards. The king continued. “You have gotten high marks in the strength and intelligence tests. Congratulations! You have won the hand of Prince Araquis!” People began to cheer and clap loudly.
“Next, in second place, we have Crud’ghadh Rhajaias.” The king struggled a bit at pronouncing this name. Eledian saw the man with the ponytail trophies pass by him and go to stand next to the elf who had won first place. “You also got high marks in the strength and intelligence tests. Your reward is 50,000 remliels.” There was less clapping and cheering for this man.
“And in third place, Eledian Chaepyria!” Familiarity and a bit of sadness glimmered in the king’s eyes. Eledian quickly walked up next to the ginger-haired elf. “You received high marks in the benevolence and intelligence tests. Your prize is a kiss from Prince Araquil.” Eledian was surprised to hear an overwhelmingly positive response from the audience. “Eledian,” the king continued, “you may go and receive your reward right now.” Eledian felt like he was in physical pain. He drudgingly walked up the podium steps and towards Araquil, who had unshed tears in his lovely eyes. Eledian gently stroked Araquis’ cheek and then leaned in to kiss him. The kiss was sweet, tender, and innocent. Eledian tried to imprint the memory of the taste and feel of Araquil’s lips into his mind. This was to be the last time that they would kiss. They both began sobbing uncontrollably, as they embraced each other close.
“I l-love y-you,” Araquil stuttered out through choking breaths.
“I love you t-too,” Eledian responded miserably. “I… I hope you have a happy life.” Suddenly, Araquil shook his head violently and stood up.
“I l-love this man!!” He shouted desperately. “I have for many years!! And I sure as hell am not marrying a stranger! I'd sooner give up my crown than submit to that!!” Silence swept over the crowd as Araquil stood there with one arm around Eledian, rage burning in his eyes. The red haired elf who had one looked up at them with startled eyes, before resolving his face into a peaceful expression.
“I see that you really love each other. I will happily give the hand of the prince to you without any reservations.” Eledian felt elation rise in his heart like a weather balloon. Cheering began from the audience.
“NOT SO FAST!!” A yell sliced through the noise. Eledian looked down and saw the man who had won second place (Crud’ ghadh) fuming and glaring at him. “Don't I need to give my permission for you to marry him as well?” Eledian looked to the king, who nodded solemnly. “This is true.”
Triumph reigned over the second place winner’s face, and the awful feeling in Eledian’s stomach returned. “Well, how about we strike a deal?! You give me those flaxen, excessive locks of yours, and I'll let you marry the Prince!” Boos were shouted from the audience, as well as some obscenities. Fear gripped Eledian’s heart. But he gulped, and said, “Very well. That is fair.” He detached himself from Araquis and stepped down from the podium, then attempted to stride confidently over to Crud’ ghadh. Eledian tore the blue scarf from his head and undid his bun, letting his hair float around him and gently brush against the bottom of his ass. Crud’ ghadh grinned maliciously.
“Such beautiful hair…” Eledian shivered as the man ran his hand through his long, golden tresses. “I've been eyeing this silky mass all day… Nobody needs this much hair.” Eledian saw a flash of silver as Crud’ ghadh procured sheep shears from a pouch around his waist, next to the ponytails. He also brought out a black ribbon, which he tied halfway down Eledian’s hair length. “Kneel, boy!” Eledian complied. “I'm going to enjoy this…” Eledian closed his eyes as he heard and felt the shears snip his hair right against the scalp on his front of the top of his head. Crud’ ghadh chopped more locks jaggedly and close to the skin on the top of Eledian’s head. Eledian felt a tear streak down his cheek. He didn't want to lose his hair whatsoever. It was such a large part of his identity, and then to be shorn like a sheep… But Araquil was worth it. Crud’ ghadh shoved Eledian’s head into a bowed position and began to hack away at the soft, thick hair at Eledian’s nape. He felt the severed locks tickle his neck as they fell. Crud’ ghadh worked his way up to the crown, violently opening and closing the sharp shears. Uneven, shortly cropped, truncated hair remained in the hungry blades’ wake. Next, the shears snipped loudly around Eledian’s ears, making him grimace. The cold shears felt like ice against his skin. Crud’ ghadh chopped against the sides of Eledian’s head until there was only one lock left on the left side of his head that was still connected to his scalp. Crud’ ghadh lopped this off with a flourish and no mercy. Eledian began sobbing very hard as his heavy ponytail fell away. His head felt so light, so wrong. He had been stripped of his pride and joy for love. Like some kind of animal. Eledian rubbed his head, feeling the soft, bristly, randomly cut pelt covering his scalp that had once been 2 ½ foot long, gorgeous, golden hair. All that remained were uneven, roughly shorn strips of hair that were shorter than Eledian had ever had his hair in his life. And he hated it. He took in a shaky breath, opened his eyes, and beamed at a horrified Araquil. His love. Araquil quickly gave a half-hearted smile in return.
Araquil and Eledian were married the next week, and Eledian’s hair slowly grew back.