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Chapter One: A Dance Most Unruly

Beauty, grace, and elegance. The world expects these traits of a woman, and all those who do not follow the everchanging societal guidelines are doomed to a life of degraded loneliness. Queen Robin Lacromoss was no exception to this standing. Today she would turn the dreaded fifty, a year where all her spoils would be assumed sour, and she was determined not to fit the part. Tonight, she wore her finest black ball gown, laced shoulder to toe with elegant red silk web patterns, under which she adorned her smallest ashy white girdle. Across the back of her dress, crossing red ribbons allowed her to tighten the deathtrap even further if she so desired. Across her chest and fingers, her brightest jewels shone under candlelight.

Robin’s shallow red hair was pulled up and arranged in such a complicated pattern that spiders considered it too extravagant to replicate. A thick white cream was slathered over all exposed skin in attempt to fool the common folk into thinking she was just born, never feeling the warmth of the sun. Atop this cloak, one might think Robin borrowed the makeup of the resident jester, for bright red circles laid atop her cheeks, very exaggerated arches connected the middle of her forehead to her eye sockets with blue and black makeup, and her lips such a bright red a passerby may think she is bleeding. All in all, one might say she looked beautiful, but Robin felt miserable and breathless. She took a moment to examine her handmaid’s labor. Everything was perfectly ridiculous. Her hair aligned perfectly, her eyebrows matched impeccably, lips glistened in the candle light, left bosom hanging slightly lower than right. Damn.

“CAAAAAAAAANDICE!”, Robin’s words sheered the end of the name sharply as she called her handmaid over. “Ah, there you are my dear, fix my left breast. They must be plump, robust, and EVEN!” Robin extended her arms backwards as the handmaid got to work. With some effort, she pulled back the front of the Queen’s dress, shoving a thick piece of cloth under the breast in an effort to raise it up to attention. Once done, the queen exhaled loudly and examined the work. “Yes, yes Candice dear, that will do nicely. Now all that is left is to allow all of this to dry, and put on my mask for tonight’s gala. Please, bring me my hanger.”

“Yes ma’am” Candice said lightly while bowing. She ran behind a wall, shortly returning with a petite chair, from which two bent pieces of metal extended, wrapping upwards around shoulder height, and then arching downwards in a loose fashion. The royal hanger indeed held the title of the most uncomfortable chair in the kingdom. “Here you are ma’am, allow me to help you ma’am”. As Robin contorted herself to fit the seat, she extended her arms so the cloth of her dress could rest on the cups of the hanger, while her painted forearms hung outstretched loosely.

“How long until this mud dries do you think?” Robin asked Candice

“I’d say about an hour ma’am. Please do not move, or else we will have to begin again, like last year” Candice nervously replied.

“Ah yes. One would not forget last year.” Robin stated with disgust. “I do believe I would rather have bore and lost my child again before I went through that hell again.”

“You shouldn’t say such things ma’am. Loosing young Henry was a tragedy for the entire kingdom” Candice looked down the entire time she spoke.

Robin leaned forward on the hanger slightly, “Do you not think it was a tragedy for me? This is not the court my dear, this is my private parlor, and I will say whatever I damn well wish.” Candice straightened up, still looking straight down as if looking at the Queen would have a medusa effect if she met her gaze.

“I am sorry ma’-” she tried to yell, but was cut short by Robin.

“Stop, begging looks ugly on you.” Robin paused for a minute to clear her mind. “Perhaps it is best you go until the process is complete. You know I get especially testy when undergoing this cursed ritual. Come for me when the clock ticks eleven, and come dressed for the party. You shall accompany me this evening.” Candice began to back away.

“Yes ma’am, sorry ma’am, I’ll return at eleven ma’am”. With one final bow, she tucked herself behind the wall and was gone. The queen was left alone in the parlor, lit by candlelight. In a little over an hour, her masquerade party would begin, and she would have to play the part of the queen everyone expected. Dainty and strong. Silent and outspoken. Dead and alive. She sighed as she felt the paint on her arms and face tighten.

******************************************************************************************

“Attention all! Presenting the crown jewel of Tuncistans, the lord of all realms soaked in the sunlight, the goddess of all which goes bump in the night, your highness and mine, Queen Robin Lacromoss!”

Trumpets blared painfully as Queen Robin walked elegantly into the ballroom, greeted by waves of cheers. While her chin pointed up and forward, her eyes shifted from side to side under her mask through the slits in the painted eyeliner to see exactly what she had expected. Through the boisterous applause, her people whispered back and forth, surely commenting on her age, or perhaps judging the elegance of her gown, or maybe her lack of heir. To put yourself at the people’s judgement is to put yourself in a precarious situation indeed. She marched slowly across the red carpets toward her throne, followed close behind by her meek handmaid Candice, wearing a simple dress of red and black to complement her mistress. Robin turned abruptly to face her crowd as she neared her throne, and all applause faded to nothing.

“My good people” Robin said, opening her arms to the crowd, “I thank you for joining me on this, my fiftieth birthday!” The large grandfather clock in the corner of the room showed the time to be eleven-thirty.

“You don’t look a day over twenty-five m’lady!” her court jester always stationed to the right of her throne called out.

“That’s because you cannot see under my mask Hensworth” Robin retorted, arousing a few scarce chuckles from the crowd. The jester sloppily walked over to the queen and bent down as if to look under the chin of her mask. Hensworth contorted an exaggerated face of disgust.

“My apologies Queen Lacromoss, I of course meant you do not look a day over SEVENTY-five!” To this, the crowd exploded in a choir of laughter. Robin pushed the jester to the side, lifting her hands to bring the room back to attention.

“Thank you Hensworth, I do believe that will be quite enough of your tomfoolery for now.” Hensworth cringed backwards, then stood back to attention facing the Queen. The crowd chuckled at this. “As you all know, tonight is a momentous occasion, for not only does it mark the birth of the most wonderful monarch you have ever met, myself” a sudden applause took the room. Once it silenced, Robin continued, “Thank you all. Tonight, marks the one-hundred-year anniversary of the ban of magic in the kingdom!” There was mild clapping in the throne room, but overall the crowd remained silent. “I know this is a tender subject to some, for many of us have magic in our bloodlines, and for those of you who do, be proud of it! In our court, we had some of the most wonderful witches and wizards who severed our lands well. Sir Orick, the man who shifted a mountain to buy our cavalry some time to get to safety, and Madam Rochinstein, famed for curing the ailments of the dark sickness. However, among these few heroes, there were many corrupted demons” The crowd stood silent, listening intently to the queen’s words.

“When my grandmother, Queen Amelia Robin Lacromoss, elected to end magic in our realm, she freed us mere mortals from its terrifying grip. The fears of being cursed, poisoned, or controlled by those who wished us ill will hung over all our heads like an anvil on a thread. The known witch clans of that time were allowed to leave peacefully to a land outside our borders, while all others who were caught performing acts of magic were punished harshly. Today, I am proud to say we have not had one case of nefarious magic confirmed in eighty-three years.” The crowd broke out into a cheer at this. “Now everyone, enjoy the party tonight! Dismissed!” Robin waved her hands and the band began to play, chatter soon overtook the silence in the room, and she was finally able to sit on her throne, exhausted.

As a rather young party attendant handed Robin a drink from his tray, she recollected on the speech she had rehearsed so many times. She hated it. Her speech about magic and witchcraft had to be given several times a year, to remind the commoners why magic was banned in an attempt to prevent any form of an uprising. The truth was, however, that Queen Robin herself did not agree with the banishment of witchcraft. She remembered her grandmother’s strong warnings of the evils of witches and other magic users in the world, but Robin was never able to derive an exact cause for her grandmother’s fear. The subject of magic was too dangerous to bring to a court meeting however, lest she be beheaded as a witch herself! Robin rose her mask above her head and sat it on her lap, then, she began to indulge herself in sweet mango drink that was brought to her. She snapped her fingers at the page handing out the refreshments “You, boy! Bring me another one of these!”

As Robin finished her third mango beverage, she finally allowed herself to relax. She caressed her mask laying atop her lap. Her fingers traced the golden swirls that danced from the cheek, past the eye, and ended at the base of the jeweled centerpiece. The jeweled focal point of the mask was a brilliant ruby large enough, she thought, to fund a small war. Atop the jewel the mask arched upwards, forming a large star about half a hand’s width. Her mask was especially hard, for it was meant to last through generations. In fact, Robin had remembered seeing her grandmother adorning the mask at a similar gala years before. Robin looked over at the grandfather clock. Eleven fifty-five, soon at the stroke of midnight, it would be her duty to dance with the crowd. Everything up to this point had gone well, Robin thought, so she was hopefully optimistic that the dance would as well. After the dance, she had no other obligations and could sit at her throne for the remainder of the evening, drinking herself into bliss with that delightful mango juice.

With grace, Robin stood from her seat, adorned her mask once more and began to make her way toward the center of the ballroom. Candice followed close at her heels. Eleven-fifty-eight. All the men gathered in a line, masks of different shapes and colors facing toward her highness, arms outstretched in the hopes of being chosen to share the dance. Robin walked down the line of men, hands brushing with that of her potential suitors until she found the man she would choose. As was customary, her handmaid Candice picked the man to the left of the queen’s suitor. It all seemed so impulsive and random of a decision. The truth was that this, as with all things associated with royalty, was preordained. Robin knew her dance partner well, and although he was a bit short and a bit fat for her liking, he knew the waltz well and would not try and upstage her majesty on the dance floor. After the choice was made, all leftover attendants to the party rushed to find their partners and rejoin the dance floor. On the twelfth stroke of midnight, the band played, and the waltz began.

From an outside perspective, the coordination of the event was a wonderful sight to behold. The instrument stringing and gown spinning moved together in poetic tantum. Robin’s body swayed side to side as her partner led her throughout the dance floor. Left, left, right, twirl. Left, left, right, twirl. The dance was simple, yet elegant when preformed in a large gathering of participants. During a particularly slow spin, Robin caught a glimpse of Candice in her flowy red dress tucking herself a bit closer to her partner than the dance intended. She couldn’t help but let loose a low laugh. Left, left, right, twirl. With one last spin, the instruments faded away, and the participants all took slow, low bows to each other. This is it, Robin thought to herself, her social obligations to the kingdom were through for the evening! All went better than she could have expected. As they all rose back to attention, several screams echoed in throughout the dance floor. Ten guests hit the floor hard, throats slashed.

Robin felt a hard push on her back. She spun as she was hitting the floor to see a grizzly sight. Candice, her trusted handmaid and companion lay slumped over in front of her, a black dagger embedded in her back that was clearly meant for the queen herself! “Candice!” She cried with true grief. As she looked up, the queen saw many of the masquerade guests beginning to strip themselves of their party attire. Tossing their masks to the floor, Robin saw the red scriptures carved into their faces that confirmed more than what she feared. Magic users! Worse still, the red markings indicated that these men and woman aligned themselves with a once notorious necromancer cult! Robin abruptly stood up, abandoning her heels on the dance floor, since at this point they may get her killed.

“Guards! Guards!” Robin cried, although knights were already flooding the room. Robin ran toward the room behind her throne. She knew she had to escape. She turned back to see her guards attempting to fight off the necromancer invasion, however to her dismay, she watched as the fallen party guests rose up and, grabbing the daggers embedded in their own bodies, began slashing at her knights from all directions. Worse still, as her knights were falling in the chaotic scene of blood and magic, they were being resurrected back, fighting their still living comrades. They were not trained to handle this sort of guerilla warfare, and Queen Lacromoss feared the worst for her soldiers.

Robin tucked behind her altar, bare feet pounding as she strode down the shallow staircase which opened into a private library. She looked around the room, there were several bookcases lined up against the far wall, all around six feet tall with books wrapped in red, brown, and green bindings. On the floor stood the royal mural of a great dragon wrapped in its own wings, snout arched at a thirty-degree angle, as the focal point of the room. To Robin’s temporary relief, she saw her jester, Hensworth, had taken shelter in the library as well, his mask and hat tossed to the side.

“Hensworth! I’m glad to see you are ok!” Robin ran to the jester, giving him a shallow embrace.

“Your Highness! Oh, thank the stars and the creators you have not been harmed.” Hensworth breathed heavily as they clasped the each other’s forearms in an attempt to give the other some slight comfort.

“Had it not been for Candice,” Robin paused for a moment, stifling a lump growing in the back of her throat, “I would not have made it this far. She took the bastards blade which was aimed for my heart.”

“I am sorry m’lady, but it was a sacrifice any of us would have made in a heartbeat.” Robin, mask in hand, gave a small guilty smile. She hated that anyone would have to die for her sake, and she was determined not to let that sacrifice go in vain. Hensworth and Robin heard screams of pain and confusion from the throne room. Hensworth’s back straightened as he took a deep breath. “Now it is my turn my Queen. We cannot terry in this place long.” Hensworth lead Robin toward the second bookcase from the right of the wall, the one at which the dragon mural seemed to be staring. “It’s safe to presume, I think, that those magic wielding assholes did not see you run into this room, lest they already be in here,” Hensworth pulled back the bookcase, revealing the royal secret passage, “however, it will not be long before they search for you. Leave now, and I shall act as if I were cowering here alone.”

“Please Hensworth, I implore you, come with me! I do not wish you to die for my sake!” Robin tugged at the jester’s jacket, attempting to coarse him inside the narrow hallway.

“Is that an order ma’am?” Hensworth asked with a smirk across his face.

Robin paused for a moment. “No, I will allow you to hold your life in your own hands my friend.”

“Then please your highness, get away from here as fast as you can!” A large crash was heard from the throne room, perhaps a table being shattered by a falling warrior. Hensworth handed Robin a candle sitting on a nearby table. “Here, and please, for all of Tuncistans be safe!”

Robin lifted herself to reach the jester’s cheek, where she planted a very quick, but sincere, kiss. “Thank you for your service to the crown, and to me my friend. Survive this fray, and that IS an order.” Robin took a step back onto the hidden staircase.

Hensworth quickly returned the bookcase to its original position before lightly whispering, “Yes ma’am.” Robin leaned her head against the back of the case, distraught at the thought of yet another of her friends laying down their life for her. With a deep breath she turned to the dark, winding staircase. All in all, the enclosure was no more than three feet wide, with stairs that averaged about a foot in depth. A precarious voyage down indeed for anyone not familiar with its footing, however with the walls on both sides for support, a relatively simple climb down. Robin lifted her dress with the hand that held her mask, and quickly began her long descent.

As she made her way down, she heard the faded muffles of the fray above. Steel against steel. Wood shattering in the distance. Agonizing screams from her men as they were being overtaken by their fallen comrades. Robin’s heart longed to join the fray, in the hopes of leading her men to victory over the necromancer tyranny that was running rampant throughout her castle, but she knew her duty. She must survive, for the fate of her entire kingdom may well depend on it. She was about sixty steps down when she heard it, a large bang that echoed loudly down the corridor. The bookcase! Robin wondered how they could have discovered the secret passage so quickly. Did Hensworth betray her, attempting to spare his own life? No, surely not. Regardless, it was a matter to be dealt with later. Robin doubled her pace on her downward decent, now knowing she had pursuers on her trail.

Suddenly, the narrow corridor opened on the left side to reveal a large, open room with a sharp drop from the top of the staircase. Robin guessed that from the top of the opening to the crags below must have been a near two-hundred-foot drop. She hugged the right wall as she paused to catch her breath. At this rate, in this dress, she knew her pursuers would no doubt catch her. Robin felt around her person. She had no weapons on her, only her candle, and her starred masquerade mask. She racked her mind to think of a way to shake her followers, when she smirked. A very ungraceful plan formed inside her mind, one unpredictable enough to just work.

Quickly, Robin walked three steps down the spiraling staircase. Against the wall she set her candle and mask down, and walked back up to where the left wall disappeared. Robin, using both hands, began hiking her dress higher and higher, first above her exposed feet, then her ankles, then her knees, until she had a bundle of lace and fabric positioned about half way up her thigh. She then squatted down over the slick limestone flooring, back pressed against the wall, and left hand on the step above for support. Robin wished she had time to remove her undergarments, but time was the exact thing she was fighting. She heard the footsteps of her pursuers closely closing in on her, so with a shallow breath, Robin began to relax her body. “Come on Robin, make Mary Margaret proud.” She whispered to herself, and in a very un-queen like fashion, her plan began to unfold.

Robin felt warm liquid begin to flow into her undergarments, before trickling over the sides, flowing down her inner legs, and pooling onto the floor below. She was lucky she indulged in so many mango drinks earlier, lest her urine would have produced a strong scent, potentially warning her pursuers of her trap. She quickly clenched, forcing any remaining urine out of her body, before carefully stepping over the two stairs that were now coated in a pale, improvised, slick trap. Robin quickly dried her feet on the lower portion of her dress, for she did not want to fall victim to her own cleverness, grasped her mask with both hands, and positioned herself directly below the puddle of urine.

In the scarcely lit candlelight, the ruby of her mask sparkled duly as Robin waited for the necromancers, knees bent and start pointed upwards. Their footsteps echoed loudly as they neared the end of the covered staircase. This was it. The first necromancer, a rather pale man, rounded the last curve that lead to the Queen. His facial expression shifted quickly from exhaustion to excitement as he made eye contact with Robin, and then even quicker to fear as he lost his footing. Her trap had worked! The necromancer reached quickly for the left wall, in hopes of regaining his balance, but to his dismay, the wall was gone! All that awaited him was the two-hundred-foot fall to a hard, rocky surface below. The first necromancer was still screaming on his plummet down when the second warily rounded the turn. He slipped as well, although more caution than his companion, he spread his arms and managed to regain enough composure not to fall.

Although this was not what Robin had hoped for, it was what she was prepared for. Before the necromancer regained his footing, Robin stepped forward and, with a glint of the ruby in the candlelight, shoved the hard star at the necromancer’s neck. The star managed to embed itself about half an inch into his pale neck, far enough for blood to started seeping from the wound. As Robin pushed the man’s balance over the ledge, she noticed the details of his face. His eyes were a hazy blue, hair raven black. His skin that she had mistaken for pale, was actually painted in a very similar manner to hers. All in all, he would likely be considered handsome in her kingdom, were it not for the large matching red scars that fell down either side of his face like tears. To Robin, they seemed to resemble some sort of ancient glyph, however the encounter was too quick for her to be sure. The necromancer fell, meeting the fate of his comrade, with the starred mask still imbedded in his flesh.

Robin took a moment to regain her composure, adrenaline pumping in her veins. She was glad to have survived the encounter, but she knew it was only a matter of time before more followed her into the pit. She would have to keep moving. She peered over the ledge one last time. It was too dark to see the bodies of her enemies. She regretted briefly having to sacrifice her heirloom, but shook her head, grabbed her candle from the stone floor, and continued her decent into the darkness.

Chapter Two: A Rude Sunrise

As Robin turned the last curve of the staircase, a large oak door stood in front of her. She twisted the iron knob, which after some force, gave way and unlatched. The deep scratching of metal on metal echoed its way upwards through the staircase. Robin pushed the door open, lighting the large candelabra to her right which illuminated the dark and damp room. She quickly pushed the door closed, securing the large lock on the inside. Robin wasted no time in stripping off her elegant, if not soiled, evening gown. She walked over to a shallow, sharp hook she had installed in the room on her eighteenth birthday. She turned her back toward it, positioned the lowest of her girdle ties on it, and gradually allowed gravity to pull down on her body, allowing the sharpened hook to rip open the iron maiden that she had bene enduring all evening. Robin breathed deeply, glad to be free of its embrace. She looked at her white painted hands, trying to will them to stop shaking.

“Come now Robin, you prepared for a day like this. Stop cowering like some newborn babe and stand back up!” she told herself. Robin took another breath as she managed to stand again in the small room. She walked her way across the room to the shallow wash basin that stood with a small mirror reflecting the light from the candelabra. The brown wood wrapped around the clay bowl looked dingy, but otherwise sturdy. She felt the water, it was warm and stale. But much to the queen’s relief, being locked away in the darkness had prevented any noticeable growth in the water. She grabbed the cloth which was hanging over the right side of the basin and dipped it in the water. She began abrasively using it to scrub away the plaster from her face and arms. At a time like this, the best thing she could do was to not look like the famous Painted Queen.

Robin ran a pitcher of water over her elaborately displayed hair, pulling out all the threads and pins that held it in place. She scrubbed at her face until the flesh seemed raw and the water looked a rippled pink. She stood back to examine her handiwork in the large mirror to her right. In a matter of minutes, all the hours of beautification work from earlier had been washed away, and in its wake stood an exposed, old woman. She looked at her face, deep gouges formed around her eyes and lips. A sign that perhaps she had been happy a few to many times in her life. She looked up and down her exposed arms. The skin seemed thinner than it used to, as she could now see several blue veins clearly that were scarcely visible before, although her arms still felt smooth to the touch. Her hair stood in multiple directions a tattered and wet mess. Robin chuckled slightly to herself. Taking it all in, she actually preferred this version of herself rather than her painted form, for at least this version was true.

Satisfied with her makeup removal, Robin walked across to the chest that laid on the floor. She opened it to reveal dull fabrics of reds, browns, and whites, of varying sizes. She grabbed two of the gowns and walked quickly over to the mirror, sizing them up across her chest to see which would best fit her in her current state. As a young woman, Robin had elected to add many different sizes of dresses to her escape room, ranging from as small as a lamppost, up to as large as a busty, burly barkeep. She figured that, since she did not know how her body would look later in life, it was best to cover all possibilities. Looking in the mirror, Robin picked the looser of the two dresses and quickly rushed to put it on. She then took a handful of loose dirt on the floor, with which she began to cover her hair, face, and arms. Using the damp cloth from the basin, she pushed away most of the dirt, leaving behind the illusion of one who has not bathed in quite some time. She looked herself up and down one last time. She could hardly believe the dirty peasant standing before her could be royalty. Everything was perfect.

With one last look around the room, Robin grabbed a coin purse filled with silver and gold pieces, took one of the candles from the candelabra, and made her way out through the far door. She knew this pathway all too well, for it was as cold and damp as she had remembered. Robin’s mother, Queen Victoria Barabous Lacromoss, had forced her to walk the trail many times before, often alone. The reason for this was simple. The broken lattice-like cave system underneath the castle was designed to easily trap those who did not know the secret of the pathway. Many of its jagged paths would twist and bend back into the original, while some just abruptly ended. The cave system was meant as a last line of defense for any royal family members seeking emergency refuge outside the castle walls.

The trick to navigating the cave system was quite simple, as long one simply paid attention. The pattern to escape was ingenious in its own right, so much so that nearly everyone in the kingdom knew it by heart. However, it was likely no one would ever make the connection. The correct path would go left, left, right, twirl. Left, left, right, twirl. Left, left, right, twirl. The steps to the country’s famed waltz held the key to Robin’s escape. The twirl, in this case, was a series of rocks along the path that, when all turned to completion, unlocked the final door at the end of the maze. Robin, with light flickering from her candle, began her snug decent.

A few hours of walking in the darkness left the queen tired and sore, but the door to her freedom stood at her feet. Throughout the pathway, candles were left to help keep the royal family’s path illuminated because while possible, it would be very difficult to traverse the underground tunnels through touch alone when the first candle extinguished. Robin gingerly pushed on the cold, heavy wooden door. It gave way with little effort, and, pushing a dusty piece of drapery out of her way, Robin found herself in a cellar filled with boxes of various sizes. Spiderwebs draped over much of the room, so Robin grasped a nearby broom and with artistic brushes and swept away a path to the staircase.

The home was one of the best kept secrets of the royal family. From the outside, it looked like a mere stockroom for the guards. No one in the surrounding village was permitted to know of the secrets below, and trespassing on royal grounds was a crime punishable by death.

As Robin made her way out of the side door, hair a jumbled mess, tattered clothes billowing in the crisp morning breeze, she forwent all her regal training in posture and etiquette, replacing it instead with a slouched stance and hobbled walk. It was imperative that she not arouse suspicion. The sun was still below the horizon, but the town was slowly becoming visible in the faint light. Now would be the time the shop keeps and farmers would begin bustling about their day to day business, so Robin believed she would be safe for the time being.

“You there! Halt!”

Robin froze in place. Had her plan been folly from the beginning? She hesitantly looked and, with a faked cracking voice, replied a humble, “Yes sir?” Without hesitation, the approaching guard struck her hard across the face. She fell into the dirty in front of the house, with confusion and panic bolting through her heart. She did not cry out as her reddening face began to throb, merely she looked up and addressed the guard again. “Sir” Robin allowed her anger to subside, “Please, you must be mistaken, I have done nothing wrong!”.

“Noth’n wrong? NOTH’N WRONG?” The guard angrily screamed at her. Drops of spit fell from his mouth and struck Robin on her brow as he screamed. “Do you know what this place is? Tis the Queens private storage, and you,” He took a moment to spit at her feet, “were just caught by the future head of the royal guards trespassing!” The man began to unsheathe his sword.

Robin’s panic rose sharply. Of course she couldn’t be caught in the royal yards! By all accounts she was not a royal!

“Please sir,” Robin begged, “have mercy on this poor old woman. I got lost on my way back home I did, it’s too dark and I lost my way, I swear it!”

Robin hated herself for having to resort to this form of begging to such a lowly and scrawny man. She, in fact, knew the real captain of the guards of course, and was confident that he would not tolerate the actions of the man in front of her. All he consisted of was a little power and mead, a dangerous combination indeed. Robin took solace in the thought that, when she regained her throne, this man would surely be stripped of his title and flogged.

“Then you are but a fool dying a fool’s death.” The guard looked down on her before pulling out his blade to near totality, however stopped in his tracks when they both heard the booming of the large bell at the center of the city. It was a call to all soldiers, guards, and knights to rush to the castle immediately. It concerned Robin that the call for aid had taken this long, however in this moment on her knees in the dirt, she was glad for the failure.

“Crickets, what’s all this?” The guard sheathed his blade, ready to head toward the castle before he turned back to Robin. “It looks like today is your lucky day wench…”

He quickly and fiercely grabbed the disguised queen’s loose and ragged hair, and roughly began dragging her to the edge of the property. Robin couldn’t help but cry out in pain and hatred as he feet gave out below her, her only relieve being the weight she could take off her head by clawing and supporting herself on the man’s arm. With a lunge, he threw her onto the dirt road, dust flying in all directions. “And don’t let me catch you around here again!” and with that, the man ran off to join the other military men at the town’s center. Although the hour was young, Robin’s struggle had amassed a small crowd, many whispering amongst themselves, others laughing at her misery.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Hello, my name is Austin. This will be my first ever attempt at publishing a literary novel. A little bit about me, I am 23, I have a biology degree from Florida State University, and I run a small branch of a family business in Panama City Beach Fl. Other than that, I love swimming, casinos, and my cats, which pretty much sums up my life. I am also a bit of an anime nerd, with favorites like Naruto, Tokyo Ghoul, and the Seven Deadly Sins. Thank you for checking me out!

Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
A.
My mother is my greatest inspiration for this story. I am used to seeing strong women in my life, so whenever a challenge would appear for my main character, I often rationalized it with, "How would my mother get out of this?"
Q. What did you learn while writing this book?
A.
I learned that some characters find you, not the other way around. Lenore Haggsoff (introduced later in the book)is a perfect example of this. I did not know she existed until the moment that my main character walked through the door and met her.
Q. What was the hardest part of writing this book?
A.
The hardest part of any writing is the middle. There were many times where I had no clue how to progress my story line, or finish a scene, or introduce a character. I found that venting my frustrations out loud, or writing gibberish for a while really helped me find the proper direction.

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