The Price of a Tin | Teen Ink

The Price of a Tin

July 17, 2021
By Bella_Queen DIAMOND, Plymouth, Ohio
Bella_Queen DIAMOND, Plymouth, Ohio
81 articles 25 photos 79 comments

Favorite Quote:
Keep your face always toward the sunshine and shadows will fall behind you.
-Walt Whitman

Shackled to the green and white floor in a pool of my own blood was the most degrading thing I had ever experienced.

How was I ever supposed to live this down? My sister already thought I was a screwup. And I had just proven her right. Not only had she fought tooth and nail to get me a job in the palace, but she had also paid for my safe passage.

I ground my teeth together and fisted my hands, feeling my blood squish between my fingers.

She was right; I was a screwup.

I jerked my head upwards when the door to my cell heaved open with a loud scraping sound. A guard in gold and red stood in the doorway. “The queen would like to see you.”

I frowned, feeling the gash in my cheek widen with the movement. “Why?” I rasped.

He was silent, and I forced myself to stand so he could unshackle me. “Keep your head down, son,” he advised as he clapped shackles not chained to the ground onto my chafed wrists. “Don’t insult her. No matter what she’s done.”

I nearly spat in his eye. It wasn’t really his fault that my anger was burning; the queen was what made my blood boil.

The guard pulled me out of my cell and we passed hungry prisoners trapped behind bars, hands pawing at our shoes and the guard’s arms. I felt sick at the sight although I knew I was just as hungry and ill; no longer was I the strong farm boy with sharp and daunting features. I was an inmate. A thief. An outcast.

He led me to a circular room made from wall to ceiling of gray tiles. I was stripped, all dignity I had retained being ripped from me by male servants. After I was naked, they doused me in ice water and scrubbed the grime from my body.

What would my sister think when she heard the news? What was she thinking now? That I was safe? That when I returned, I would do so with full pockets and newfound responsibility? Well, whatever she was thinking would be laid to rest in at least three days.

The servants finished their washing, and I was dressed in a new tunic and creamy trousers. Why I was being taken care of like this after weeks of punishment made little sense.

But I digress.

The guard tested my shackles before chaining me to his belt. “Come on.” He urged, tugging the chain connecting us, “don’t cause trouble; you’re in enough already.”

I pursed my lips and limped after him. My leg had been broken, fixed by a magical healer, and then re-broken five times over. The bones would most likely never be in the right shape after that many breakings. They hadn’t even bothered to fix my one broken rib and nose.

I doubted they ever would.

I was led down exquisite halls and round rooms in between, but didn’t bother to gawk. What was the point?

“The prisoner!” A butler announced as we entered the queen’s chambers.

The prisoner. I wasn’t even worth being named.

I looked up briefly to see a woman in her mid-twenties with blonde curls to her chin and delicate brown eyes. I hated her upon sight. She barely glanced at us, too busy watering a vase of Begonias next to her throne. She had at least fifty vases overflowing with plants and flowers in the throne room, and she couldn’t even bother to feed her prisoners?

“Thank you, Captain,” she crooned, caressing a blooming bud, “that will be all.”

He bowed stiffly after chaining me to a hook in the ground and left without another word. I gritted my teeth and ignored my throbbing nose to stare at her.

As if sensing my eyes on her back, she turned. “Ah. Matthew Prince.” She passed her watering can off to a servant and stepped towards me. “How ironic. Considering the position you’re in.” She chuckled at her own joke, smoothing her velvet skirt.

I was silent.

“Well, Prince? Recite your crimes.”

I wanted to slap that innocent look off her face. But what good would that do? “I stole, Majesty.”

“Stole what?” She asked, circling me slowly.

“A silver tin, Majesty.”

She clicked her tongue, “A silver tin. All of this for a tin.”

It was meant as a jab at me, but I liked to think her words were only incriminating her cruelty even further. Yes. All this for a tin. A dented tin, nonetheless. It’s not like I stole the crown jewels!

“Tell me, Prince,” I hated her little nickname, “was it worth it?” She stopped in front of me, her silver shoes brushing my knees. “Look at me.” When I didn’t, she grasped my chin and jerked my face up to meet her eyes. “All of this… Was it worth it?”

I fought not to spit in her eyes, “No, Majesty, I’m afraid not.”

She grinned all cat-like, her other hand coming to press lightly on the gash in my cheek. I winced. “Well, Prince, let me tell you that this is your lucky day.” She dropped my chin and turned to walk a few steps away from me. “I’m not going to kill you.”

I felt my muscles relax. I couldn’t wait to be rid of the castle, to go home to Nelly and tell her it was a misunderstanding. Maybe I could convince her that I was responsible. Help her once again with the farm.

I couldn’t help the relieved sigh that escaped my parted lips.

“But that doesn’t mean you’re free to go.”

I stilled, head slowly rising upwards. “What?” I didn’t bother to call her Majesty. Again, what was the point?

She giggled, so unbecoming of a queen no matter how young, and tilted her head back to look at me, “I’m much too fascinated by you.”

I furrowed my brow. “Fascinated?”
“Why, of course!” She clapped her hands, and the servants jumped at the sound. “Who would be stupid enough to steal a tin? Someone with gall, of course, and unnatural bravery.”

I shook my head in confusion, “I don’t understand.”

“Neither do I,” she agreed. “Tell me, Prince, why did you steal it? How would it have benefited you?”

How did it benefit me? It didn’t. That was the truth. I had done it out of sheer want to. Because I could, that’s why.

But I didn’t know if that answer would suit her. But neither would lies. I decided to give her the truth. “I stole it because I could.”

She grinned, “Ah, yes. Because you could.” She strode to her throne and stared at it for a few seconds. “Do you know why my mother killed my father?” She asked.

Of course I did. Everyone did. 

“Because she wanted the throne.”

“No,” she turned back to me, smile now wicked, “she did it because she could. Humanity thrives on freedom to make choices. Am I right? We chose every day, whether it be to kill a king or steal a tin. Tell me, did you have any inclination not to steal?”

I bowed my head, feeling acid in my throat, “No.” How ashamed Nelly would be. How ashamed I was.

“Right. No. You chose long ago that you would steal the tin. There were no second guesses. No voice in your head prompting you not to. Because you’re used to stealing. You like it.”

Why was she digging so deep into the meaning of why I stole it? I didn’t understand.

But she must have had a point because she continued on, brown eyes piercing my skull, “My mother liked power. So she killed the king. What does this reveal about humans? Hm, Prince?”

“That we’re greedy,” I answered, “that we want what we want.”

“Right again!” She stroked a palm leaf dipping down near the throne. “How smart you are! Do you know what I want?”

I shook my head. My throat was too raw to say anything more.

“I’ll tell you; I want more. When my mother got what she wanted, she stopped searching for more. But I don’t just want some dingy kingdom to bow at my feet. I want the world to bow at my feet.” My eyes widened as her voice pitched higher, making the servants scatter in fear. What had she done to them to make them so afraid? She hardly seemed to notice the fear she wielded as she made her way back towards me. “And that brings me to you. The common thief who stole a tin.”

I winced and looked up at her.

She smiled kindly. “What do you think I want from you, Prince?”

I shook my head, “I can’t say, Majesty.”

“Exactly. You can’t say. Who would ever hire a tin thief?” She scoffed, like it was the most ridiculous thing she had ever heard. “Let me tell you who, Prince; I would. Why, you ask? Because no one would expect you; a common beggar with sticky fingers.”

“To do what?” I asked quietly, dread swirling about my stomach.

She grinned slowly. “To kill my future husband, of course. And what will happen when he dies, you ask? I think you already know.”

I did. And the very thought made me sick. If she killed her future husband, the last remaining child from the Sloreign family, she wouldn’t only wield his country. She would also have the three others he conquered in his lifetime. 

She would have the world. And I hated the thought.

But what could a common thief do?

“What do you say, Prince? If you aid me, there will be a tidy sum and a name on my court. You could have more than just a tin. But it is your choice.” She kneeled before me, her dress fanning out around her. “So? What will it be?”

I looked up, thoughts of what the world would become vanishing. In place, thoughts of such a tantalizing future. Nelly would be furious at how I got it, but she would later forgive me after I brought her to the castle.


“I’m waiting.”

I slowly nodded, my heart pumping against my chest. “Of course, Your Majesty. I would do anything you ask.”

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