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Working Title: The Princess and the Sneakthief (Original fantasy)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by WhiteKnightLeo, Oct 20, 2022.

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  1. Threadmarks: Chapter 1 - Draft 2
    WhiteKnightLeo

    WhiteKnightLeo Not too sore, are you?

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    Chapter 1

    "Unhand me, you lout! Unhand me I say - you are manhandling a princess! Release me at once!"

    What had been a relatively silent and dim dungeon cell was suddenly intruded upon by a high-pitched shrieking of outrage in the distance. The shrieking was cut off briefly by a sudden sound of flesh striking flesh, and the same high-pitched voice emitted a cry of pain.

    "How... how dare you! You dare strike me!"

    A much lower voice rumbled in reply, "Shut that mouth of yours er I'll do it agin."

    Thankfully for the cell's sole inhabitant, the shrieking did not resume. A few moments later, a clacking sound of metal on metal could be heard - easily recognizable as the latch being opened on the heavy wooden door leading to the dungeon. A heartbeat later, the door opened. A man stood in the door - tall and broad, with dark eyes and an unkempt beard that concealed most of his face features - carrying a much smaller bundle under one big left arm. His long-sleeved shirt was made of rough, undyed wool and badly in need of a wash; much the same could be said of his trousers, which were dyed a dark color that was difficult to identify amidst the many stains soiling it. The only thing about him that could be said to be well-kept was the big knife he wore in a sheath on his belt.

    As he approached the heavy iron cell door, it became clear that the bundle under his arm was wearing a dress. Said dress was also quickly becoming soiled - possibly by contact with the man's clothing - but it was clearly made of a much finer sort of linen that had been dyed a pale yellow. The contrast between the relative finery of the dress and the clothing of the man carrying it had initially made it easy to miss the small, boot-shod feet sticking out of the dress.

    Reaching the door, the man withdrew a heavy iron key and unlocked the cell, before opening it and none-too-gently dropping the dressed bundle on the wooden floor inside. The bundle let out another cry, this time more of shock than pain, and a small figure shot out of the bundle to its feet just as the man relocked the cell.

    The figure was revealed to be a small girl, perhaps 10 or 11 years old, who was indeed rather finely dressed. Dusky of skin and with long, straight dark hair reaching partway down her back, she was shaking with anger as she resumed shrieking at the man, stretching up to her full (and rather diminutive) height as she clenched her small fists at her sides. "You... you utter brute! Never have I been treated so abominably in all my life! I'll have you flayed alive for this outrage!"

    Try as she might to appear intimidating, the sight was so comical the tall man barked out a laugh in response. "Yeah? You an' what army then?" Without waiting for the girl to respond, he turned and left the dungeon, chuckling to himself as he latched the outer door behind himself.

    The girl drew in a deep breath - presumably intending to continue shrieking after the departing man - only to release it in a small gasp as another voice suddenly began speaking from within her cell. "Keep it down, will you?"

    She spun around, searching for the voice, her face turning fearful as she did. Finally, she spotted another small figure stretched out on the wooden beam floor, covered in a thin blanket. The dungeon was too dim to make out the person's face, but there was enough light to see that her cellmate was only slightly larger than herself. Putting her small hands on her hips, she addressed the reclining figure - fortunately, she chose not to shriek this time. "And who might you be, then?"

    In the light from the high window, it was clear that the girl was in fact on the younger side of 10 - perhaps younger still. It was clear that her dress had only been stained recently, though it was a bit too small even on her slight frame, and the contrast with her dark skin made it appear even paler than it really was. She had almost none of the expected baby fat on her face for a girl her age - indeed, she was bony enough that an unkind person might have called her gaunt, and her high cheekbones did nothing to help this impression. On an older girl, one who had come of age, her face would have been called beautiful; on what was clearly a child, it seemed merely out-of-place. And if her unnatural looks did not complete the picture, the slight glow in her bright red irises and the angular shape of her now-visible earlobes made it clear that this was no normal girl.

    "I'm Hamish," said the voice of what was clearly a boy, "But in here they call me sneak-thief. What'd a half-breed like you do to get tossed in the dungeon?"

    At this, the girl gasped again, and returned to her previous shrieking. "Half-breed?! What awful rudeness - were you raised in a barn? I will have you know that I am a child of the Dunalf! You shall address me as-!"

    "You're a half-elf, that's what you are. I've seen real elves - they have pointier ears," replied Hamish sutbbornly. "And stop your yowling - this cell ain't that big."

    The girl sputtered at this, her face reddening slightly. "I-" she started to shriek again, only to visibly calm herself before continuing. "If you must know, *all* children of the Dunalf are called such, even the fruits of mixed unions such as myself," she insisted, irritation barely concealed, not bothering to deny his assumptions about her heritage. "You say they call you sneak-thief? I do hope they also call you lout. Show your face then."

    Finally giving up hope of a swift return to sleep, Hamish sat up, looking square at the delusional elvish waif. Brown-eyed, brown-haired and pale of skin, he couldn't have appeared more ordinary-looking. He was certainly a year or two older than she, and taller, but not much more so. The stained, undyed woolen shirt he wore wasn't in much better condition than the thin blanket covering his legs, and he had barely more fat on him than the she did.

    She studied him carefully. "Hamish is your name? An ordinary name and an ordinary face, both fit for a criminal. Know that you are in the presence of Princess Katyandra Goldenmoon, heiress to the throne of Detroit. You would do well to show more respect!"

    Hamish grinned. "Hah! A half-breed - the princess of a kingdom! Might want a cleaner dress if'n you expect people to buy that tale, yer highnessness," he replied, not bothering to conceal his mirth at the idea.

    At that, her face puffed up, her fists balled up, and just as Hamish was preparing to cover his ears in anticipation of another round of shrieking... her eyes began to visibly well up with tears. After a moment, she began to sniffle; and after another moment, she sank to her knees, put her face into her hands and began to sob.

    To his surprise, Hamish felt a bit guilty. He'd seen this sort of sobbing fit before - he'd done it himself, years past. He supposed every orphan did it, the moment they accepted they were alone in the world. Looking her over, he couldn't exactly say whether he believed her story about being a princess or not. Her hands had no visible calluses, and if her dress wasn't of a particularly ornate style it was still made of high-quality linen, and professionally dyed. Even her boots looked expensive. She certainly talked like a rich girl, that was for sure; she could have stolen the clothes, but she spoke more like the count than like any of the street urchins he knew. Still, she might just be a jumped-up merchant's daughter, putting on airs.

    By this point she'd sat back against the wall of the cell and pulled her knees up to her face. She was still sobbing, but not as hard as she had been before. When she finally quieted down, the two of them sat in silence for a time, but eventually Hamish broke it first. "So... what got you thrown in here?"

    She was still for a moment, but eventually raised her head to look at him. Her eyes were even redder than before, and there wear tear streaks running down her cheeks. Finally she responded with, "Some brutes seized me as I was making my way to the docks. I resisted as best I could, but they used some filthy cloth to gag me, and shoved me into a sack. I tried to shout for aid, when a blow struck me senseless. It was some time before I was properly aware again, and by that point the savages had brought me here. I caught only a glimpse before our jailer got hold of my person - may I assume this dungeon is located in the castle belonging to Count Garlit?"

    Hamish nodded. "S'right. Why were you headed to the docks? Lots of rough sorts, there."

    Katyandra sighed. "I was returning to the vessel on which I arrived, but this city is unfamiliar to me and I became lost."

    Hamish was skeptical. "A princess, wandering about alonesome, near the docks of *this* city? Even merchants' daughters have guards here."

    She opened her mouth, paused, and then looked away. "I..." she began, clearly hesitant, "I... did not arrive in an official sort of way."

    Hamish raised an eyebrow. "How's that? Got spirited away by mermaids or summat?

    Katyandra drew herself up slightly at this, facing him again. "If you must know," she began, proud and haughty, "I arrived aboard the Invictus, the finest ship ever constructed by Man or Elf, the crown jewel of the Kingdom of Detroit, and the personal property of my father-"

    Hamish interjected, "-aboard... in the cargo hold, I wager."

    At this, Katyandra let out a small gasp, and then buried her face into her hands, clearly not wanting to admit that she'd stowed away on the ship. Hamish was starting to believe her story, but this part was a bit odd. "Surely a high-and-mighty princess had enough spare coin to not have to sail with the rats?"

    Face still in her hands, she muttered something unintelligible. "Whazzat?" Hamish prodded her.

    Finally she sat back, leaning her head against the bars of her cell. "It is a fitting punishment, I suppose, for my shame to be revealed to a commoner criminal." She let out a deep sigh before continuing. "Father promised me on my nameday in the spring that I could accompany him on his next voyage. By the eve of summer, I... had become convinced by circumstance that the promise had slipped his mind, despite the protests of my attendants. Thus when the Invictus was preparing to depart, I stole away from my attendants and aboard the vessel.”

    She looked down at this. “I... had intended to reveal myself far away from port, with Father's forgotten promise to be my shield from a scolding - I discovered with horror that Father was not, however, aboard: in his place was Captain Everrad, whom I knew would not hesitate to turn the vessel about to return me home. Thus continuing to hide amongst the cargo was the sole path open to me."

    She paused, shifting uncomfortably. After a few moments, she continued, "The view from the captain's seat of the Invictus is grand indeed, and the stateroom suitable for a lady of my standing - the cargo hold, however, has only cold metal and resin-soaked wood to look at, and sacks of grain to sleep upon. It is well that such a magnificent vessel can easily outrace even the swiftest seabeast; I might have perished had I been forced to bear the cold air of the hold for another day.”

    Her expression darkened noticeably. “Mayhap I should have revealed myself as we reached port - I would not have escaped punishment, but neither would I be here, in this cell," the pitch of her voice was rising fast, "Manhandled by brutes, my favorite dress ruined, cold and hungry," it was just short of shrieking now, "speaking of the most shameful act of my life to a sneakthief-!"

    She bit off the last word as though she were trying to stop it escaping her mouth before falling silent. Hamish wasn't exactly offended - he'd been called worse, and recently - but he also couldn't let her get away with insulting him either. "You call me sneakthief like it's a slur, but I only stole 'cause I was hungry. I didn't get someone else punished just 'cause I was a spoiled brat."

    Her red eyes snapped open at this, and she glared at him. "You...! And whom did I cause to be punished?"

    He met her glare with a smirk that seemed to make her angrier. "You think a king is going to be happy his precious daughter up and vanished? Count Garlit'd have his daughter's guardsmen drawn and quartered for that."

    Katyandra barked out a laugh. "Ha! Surely Father would not..." she trailed off, her face growing impressively pale considering her dusky skin, as she processed what he'd said. "Surely not... No, Father would not...!" At this, she started to tear up again, looking down at her hands as she did. "Oh gods, what have I done? Father will be furious..."

    Hamish settled back against the wall of the cell, the smirk still on his face, savoring the spiteful victory he'd won - at least, until he noticed Katyandra shaking her head as if to clear it. When she stopped finally, her expression was no longer quite so fearful. "Father... You speak truly, Hamish: Father will surely be furious that my attendants failed to mind me properly - he will not, however, slay them out of hand, and certainly not in so gruesome a fashion as that. Their lives shall be spared until I am discovered."

    Hamish raised an eyebrow. "You sure?"

    She nodded curtly. "Quite. Father is not so given to rage as your Count Garlit - so long as he does not suspect that they were the cause of my disappearance, their punishment should be delayed. My attendants have long served me with aplomb - he will not simply cast them aside. Upon my return, I shall plead their case to Father with all my might."

    "And if'n he does think someone paid them to snatch you?"

    She looked away at this. "I... shall face that horror should it come, but in the meanwhile I prefer not to consider it." She seemed to freeze for a moment. "Ah... that's right! If I mean to spare them Father's wrath, I must return to the Invictus without delay." She stood up suddenly, schooling her features into an imperious mask, marched over to the cell door, and shouted, "Guard! Attend me! Your prisoner has an urgent message for Count Garlit!"

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

    Author's note: For the curious, the "quasi-Isekai" tag in the title refers to a literary concept I've not actually seen anyone attempt before, thus I don't know what it's called - it's an isekai story told from the perspective of someone other than the dimensional traveler. So what the readers get is meant to be what the people of that world see as the effects of the Traveler rather than said person's own adventures. The closest I've seen to this is the occasional side chapter in a light novel series like 'Ascendance of a Bookworm'.

    Exactly whom the Traveler is in this story isn't a secret: it's Katyandra's father, the king of Detroit. That name is vaguely related to the narrative, but I myself am not from Detroit - not even from Michigan - and I don't know anyone who is, so there's no self-insert meaning to it.

    I've had trouble in the past with actually finishing stories - this time I've actually got a basic outline of the plot to work from, so I'll probably finish this one.
     
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