A Snippet!!

Instead of an independent story today, I thought I’d share a snippet from draft 2 of “A Debt to Pay” (the WIP that’s that far along).

Sit back, and prepare to be plunged into some court intrigue and a bit of chaos!

“Presenting,” called the herald, “Sir Jack Frost, and Her Most Royal Highness, the Princess Rapunzel!” The herald sounded as though he were about to burst a few buttons from pride: this was the moment every herald dreamed he’d be in, after all. There was a quick murmuring that rippled the room: Jack Frost had found her, then. Ling had almost forgotten about Jack Frost because he was away from court so often— it made sense that he’d be the one to find the missing princess. Of all those who’d searched, he would be the one to attain great favor from the royal couple. In truth, many other searchers had given up by now… but among those who still sought her, Jack was the one who had no ties to any clan. This could be interesting, indeed.

The door opened. The crowd leaned in ever so slightly, breath caught in their throats.

Nothing happened.

Glances were exchanged for a few long seconds— then movement came and all eyes were riveted to the door once more. Sir Jack Frost stepped in, and bowed to the sovereigns.

“Your majesties.”

The king nodded; the queen was immobile. 

 But why didn’t the princess enter? Was she injured?

Sir Frost turned towards the doorway behind him, and beckoned. The suspense stretched as a figure edged into view, then hesitated.

“They won’t bite,” he said, and a soft wheeze of barely-smothered laughter eased around the room and then stopped like a switch when she emerged into the light. 

She looked— timid. Overwhelmed. Her hair was ragged, as though she’d cut it herself without a mirror. She wasn’t too clean, either, as though she’d been living outside. She edged inside, darting glances at the assembled crowd like she’d never seen so many people before. Where on earth had Frost found her? 

Staying close to Jack’s side, Rapunzel’s eyes made a full sweep of the room and back, searching for something— then her gaze locked onto Ling’s. 

She knew.

An electric jolt shot down Ling’s spine, and she took an involuntary step forward in unison with the princess; then both broke into a run, a few members of court exclaiming in surprise.

Ling, for her part, could not fathom why she was doing this, then, as she gained purpose, she gained speed. If I can beg her forgiveness before they say anything, if I can plead my cause, then perhaps they’ll stop looking down on me. Stop hating me for the crime I never committed.

She and Rapunzel met in the middle of the room, and she fell to her knees before the royal heir, head bowed, eyes filling with hot tears.

“Please, Your Majesty. Please forgive me for what my parents did. I can’t express how ashamed I feel— I’m so sorry you were taken. I’m so sorry.”

If it had been silent enough to hear a pin drop earlier, it was now quiet enough to hear individual heartbeats. All Ling could hear, certainly, was the roar of her own heartbeat; she was almost deafened by it. Through her misty gaze she could see the princess’ foot edge back the slightest bit, and cursed herself inwardly.

She’s disgusted by me. Why couldn’t I have kept quiet? Why did I break the rules, now, of all times?

Then she was being pulled to her feet, gently and awkwardly, by the princess herself. “Get up, please! Oh, don’t cry— It’s alright, don’t cry!”

Ling’s tears ceased as the petite royal embraced her tightly as if to console her, and promptly burst into tears herself.

“Please, forgive Grand—” she stopped, swallowed, and corrected herself. “Gothel, for taking advantage of your parents. She was wrong. It’s not your fault. I’m so sorry you never got to know them.” She let go of Ling, and looked up at her tearfully. 

Ling was stunned by her beauty up-close; she was lovely even when she was crying! This paled, however, compared to the fact that the princess was not only not angry, but sorry? And to Ling, of all people? She barely managed a shocked nod as her reply, and the heir beamed, radiant in her joy.

“What’s your name, then?”

“My name is Changeling, Your Majesty.” she curtseyed, reverting to the safety and regularity of etiquette.

“Oh.” Rapunzel looked a little lost, and rather saddened, and for some inexplicable reason, Ling wanted to comfort her in return.

“My… My friends call me Ling.”

“Ling.” The princess murmured. “I like that. It’s very pretty. I’m Rapunzel.” Her smile dimmed a little, now bashful. “But after the herald’s announcement, I suppose you know that.”

“I don’t mind hearing it from you personally,” said Ling. “You can ignore the heralds for the most part unless something’s going on anyway. People come in and out of court all the time to mingle, and they don’t need to be acknowledged by you every time they come in.”

“Things are really different here,” the princess mused softly, then, seeming to remember where she was, she looked to the dais, standing straighter as she did so. Ling, too, remembered where they were, and backed away with her head lowered. “Forgive me, Princess.” 

Without warning, Rapunzel seized her hand and ran to the thrones, face still alight, though her eyes were damp. She halted so suddenly that Ling nearly collided with her, and she could feel the princess tremble as she stared at the sovereigns.

“Mother? Father?” she finally said, and then released Ling to throw her arms around the necks of her parents and weep joyfully. They returned her embrace, and the veil of silence shattered as the crowd about them erupted in cheers, hails, and ecstatic pandemonium. 

Ling watched them, feelings swirling inside. She was forgiven, and welcomed into this moment. That was something that was altogether better than she could ever have hoped for in this moment. But she’d never reunite with her own family. Even if she could, whether she would want to know them, knowing what they’d done, was beyond her.

Someone stepped up close behind her, and she turned to see Sir Frost looking at the same scene, something warring in his gaze as he watched. The king turned to the crowd at last, and, with one arm around his daughter, he spread the other wide. 

“My people, your princess. My daughter, your people.”

The cheers echoed louder, ringing and re-ringing against the walls. The king then turned to the knight, and, releasing Rapunzel to his wife’s embrace once again, said

“Ask, Sir Frost. Whatever you ask as your reward, you will have it— so I swear once, twice, three times, be it half my kingdom.”

The room grew silent again, a hush of anticipation hanging for some; for others, it was a hush of apprehension. Jack Frost had been a knight-errant who’d alighted at court one day and pledged his sword; as such, whatever he asked could impact years of work to gain favor. Or it could simply take power from any one of them.

When the king asked, Ling could see that Jack’s eyes went to Rapunzel, and he was on the brink of asking something of her— then the moment passed, and he looked away. He looked down, then up at his sovereign again.

“I offer my reward to the princess. The only thing I’d ask of you, my king, is something I dare not.”

Murmurs buzzed across the hall in a swarm, and Ling’s skin prickled at the malice in some of them. 

Outrageous!

Absurd!

Is he really so foolish as to give up anything for another chance to look noble?

The king, with a curious glance at Frost, acted as though he didn’t hear them and looked back to his daughter questioningly. Rapunzel looked uncertain— and then, upsetting the order of things once again, Fitz and Tristan stepped forward.

“If you would grant us a boon to speak, Princess,” Fitz said in his most humble and graceful manner, bowing low. Rapunzel nodded, and there was an irritated bristling among the crowd as Tristan took the lead.

“Your Highness,” he began, “The Ward, Lady Ling, is our friend, and we ask that there be a place for her at court, if it pleases you.”

The murmur increased to a buzz, and Ling’s tongue clung to the roof of her mouth, until Rapunzel raised a hand and waved the noise away like a bumbling bee, and all noise ceased. Closing her eyes, she nodded.

“A place at court…” her voice trailed off, then she looked to her father. “Is it possible?”

“I’m afraid not,” he said. 

“Why?”

“She has none of our blood— court rule dictates that to be a proper member of the court, she must be Fey, child,” he explained patiently. Rapunzel’s eyes shut again as the crowd began to buzz once more, and she tapped her chin with a finger thoughtfully. Bartholomew smirked, and a chill trickled down Ling’s spine.

“Jack, your sword, please,” Rapunzel’s voice rang out. The knight wordlessly offered her his sword, and with a quick motion, she cut her palm, and extended her hand. “Come, Ling.” 

She dare not disobey, now. She extended her hand, and the blade flickered across her palm so quickly that there was little pain, and a warm trickle of blood followed. Then, Rapunzel took Ling’s injured hand in her own.

“She does now,” Rapunzel said simply, and returned Frost’s sword to him. The knight nodded, the barest hint of a smile dancing about his eyes as he stepped back again. The king nodded, looking Ling up and down appraisingly. “Yes. That would fulfill the requirements. That is your wish, then, my child?”

She nodded.

FitzHugh opened his mouth, presumably to offer his healing gift, as he was almost compelled to do so when he saw injury, but he was interrupted by Bartholemew’s irate stamp. 

“Your majesty! You cannot—”

The air immediately dropped several degrees, and a frigid wind howled about the room as Jack Frost advanced a single step towards him.

“If that is what she truly wishes, who are you to contradict it?” he asked, hand still gripped around his sword. For once, Bartholomew paled, shut his mouth, and stepped back humbly, murmuring what might have been an apology. The wind slowly died, and Fitz took the opportunity to heal Ling and the princess without interruption. After their hands were mended, the king turned to Rapunzel.

“Since you have given the blood to make this possible, the deed will be stronger if you perform it. Follow my lead— once you begin, your tie to the land will do the rest.”

He extended his hands, palm out, to Ling; Rapunzel did the same, and the throne room trembled as a ripple of power coursed across the room. Ling’s braid trembled and fell down about her shoulders, and the hairs on the back of her neck rose.

“Will it, and it will be done,” said the king softly.

Rapunzel smiled at her, then her eyes grew glassy as a soft, musical hum permeated the air. Silvery mist gathered around the princess’ hands, swirling, and then swirled around Ling, lifting her off the floor. The mist swirled faster and faster, wind howling as the air itself joined the action, and yet Ling hung there steadily, as though she stood on the air itself. Rapunzel’s eyes glowed silver, now, her hair and dress whipping in the gale and yet looking every inch a queen. 

Ling,” her voice echoed within the cyclone, “I give you a fey gift, not only of blood, but of rights. Reach out your hand and seize it.

In the silvery wind, eyes streaming, Ling saw nothing, but reached out as she was bid. The wind roared— and she was no longer in the throne room, but running across an icy scape, the feel of the snow underfoot a thrill, her senses alive with color, scent, and sound. She was not alone, she was racing with another of her kind— a snow-white fox with black-edged tail and ears, and she heard a voice in her mind.

I grant you part of my own inheritance— the land that suits you best, and a form to traverse it. Rise, Lady Ling.

NaNoWriMo Progress Week 3: This week, I’m pleased to announce 3315 words worth of progress! No, it doesn’t sound like much, but my sister had to go to the hospital (she’s alright– passed out after donating blood) and I took an extra shift at work… so really, it’s quite successful! My monthly total is up to 14004 words!

Advertisement

5 thoughts on “A Snippet!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s