As creatives, I think we all know that when we set out to do something the first things we produce are not the best. They need refining and tweaking but ultimately, it’s a thrill to begin something new. I have always felt this way when an idea strikes and I write the first words on a page. It is the endless possibilities and for a while that feeling keeps me going, but once it subsides, then comes the hard slog of trying to finish.
Some ideas fizzle out and some are persistent, but nothing I have found, is a waste.
This is the beginning of a sort of series. I am just going to be posting up the first chapters of my stories, old and new, for your reading pleasure. Some are finished and some are a work in progress, do let me know what you think. I am leaving them unedited so…yeah. You’re just going to have to put up with the all the worst things about first drafts for some of them.
“I WILL NOT MARRY HIM FATHER!” Princess Marissa roared.
The King remained unmoved by his daughters rage, “My decision is final.”
“Why should I sacrifice my future to compensate for you mistakes?” Princess Marissa lifted her chin in defiance. She loved her father dearly but he had crossed the line in agreeing to marriage that he didn’t even consult her first. If he had maybe she wouldn’t have felt so betrayed. Her father narrowed his eyes and pointed a ruby studied finger at her, “Watch your tone. I am king and what I decree is law.”
“Pah!” she flapped her arms in an unladylike fashion, causing some the stitching of her fine dress to tear. “If you didn’t spend all your time war mongering, we would not be in this position.” He felt the echo of a similar argument long ago with her mother.
“I AM KING! You do not second guess me!” He roared at his daughter, but she remained defiant.
“I am more than a bargaining chip!” she countered.
“You are what I say you are and I say you will be married! The people depend on it!”
“The people depend on you. You’re the one who failed them. If you had stopped making wars you could not afford like I had advised and used that money to feed your people, we would not be here. You’re a desperate king and nothing more.” She turned her back on her father.
The condemnation in his daughters eyes and watching her walk away from him, made his anger flare again, “DON’T TURN YOU BACK ON ME!” She turned to face him again. “I ONLY WANT WHAT IS BEST FOR YOU AND THIS DAMN COUNTRY! WHY CAN’T YOU SEE THAT?!” He implored.
Princess Marissa stopped by the door, “No, it’s the last resort. You are losing grip on your kingdom and you are trading the one thing you have to keep your throne.”
The king shook his head, his emotions now getting the better of him, “You are just like your mother, mad. Madness is a curse on you women.”
Marissa curtseyed and left the king alone.
The king sank into his favourite chair, with velvet lining and a little foot stool right next to the fire, utterly defeated. His anger could only explained by the fact his daughter was telling the truth, that the shame he felt was nothing but his own making. His kingdom was crumbling about his ears and he was the reason, just like his late wife and daughter have made abundantly clear. He stared absently at the gold rings on his fingers. Each intricately laid with precious stones, found from the furthest corners of his kingdom, yet he found no comfort in them. He could feel his own light fading, seeing nothing but his own despair the King lamented his life.
Marissa, cloaked herself and entered the stable, she took her favourite chest nut brown mare called Ava and escaped into the night.
Chapter one: The great forest/Lost princess
The forest crossed borders and invaded the four kingdoms that surrounded it. It was a kingdom of its own and feared as such as it was larger than the four kingdoms put together, anyone entering into could be lost for days, or for years. The great lake was at its centre, rivers and streams flowed out from it and out in to the kingdoms.
The king did not sleep that night. He sat by the fire watching it burn until there was only ashen logs in the fireplace. When that was gone, he stood at his window looking out over his kingdom and watched the sun rise over the great forest that dominated the horizon. All he could feel was regret. He did not mean to be so heavy handed, he would apologise but he was also resolute, Marissa would marry for the sake of the kingdom.
He left his study in search of his daughter. He went to her room, he knocked gently at first, but when that brought no answer he knocked more forcefully. He realised that it was a little too quiet and he opened the door to find her bed unslept in. He closed the door thinking that the servants had already made her bed and he went to look for her in the rose garden, on a beautiful morning like this she was often reading outside, but there was no trace of her. Maybe she is with her archery tutor, he thought to himself. When he approached the stern looking older man on the other side of the palace gardens, he bowed low. “Have you seen Princess Marissa?” He asked.
“No your highness, I am just setting up for this morning’s lesson.”
“Carry on.” He smiled and he turned away but something began to irk the King, a feeling that he had pushed things too far this time.
He looked in the library, he searched for her in the fencing hall, he even looked for her in the kitchen with everyone telling him that they had not seen the princess.
Finally, he went to the stables searching for the answer he dreaded. With Ava’s stall empty he knew that she was gone. His heart sank, knowing his daughter she had probably left as soon she left his study and that gave her a whole night’s start. Panic began to set in and he found General Hadwin, head of the guards of the palace inspecting his men
“General Hadwin.” The general and his men stood to attention.
“The princess has gone missing. You must find her.”
The general did not give away any surprise but turned to his men and ordered them to get battle ready. He turned to the King, “I will leave a small contingent behind…”
“No.” the king interrupted, “take all you men, the princess must be found as soon as possible.”
“We cannot leave you unprotected.” General Hadwin countered.
“That is an order, search the whole kingdom. Inform me when you are about to leave.”
The king turned his back on the General and headed back to his study, he sank bank in to his seat and placed his head in hands.
. . .
Marissa rode for the entire night until she came to her own country’s border to the forest. She stopped momentarily to look up at the foreboding ancient trees, Marissa looked back from where she came but decided to go a little further. She dug her heels in and rode on, around the edge of the forest.
The night began to fade as wells as Marissa’s rage. She pulled on Ava’s reigns and jumped down near a stream. Ava began to drink and Marissa sat down on a log. She contemplated her actions. Running away was not the best idea she had of late but she wanted to punish her father. She Sighed deeply, Marissa didn’t want to punish him, not really. But what else could she do? She wished that her father had just talked to her first, she knew the reality in which inhabited, and her place. Marissa stood up and stroked Ava, she knew she had to go home. Her people needed her and if she went home now, no harm would be done, even if the thought of just riding away was for more tempting.
She hesitated, watching Ava rest and drink her fill. His last words, “mad like your mother,” had hit a nerve, a nerve so deep it took all her strength not to cry. Marissa knew that if her mother were here, she would be in front of her saying the same thing.
It had been a full year since her passing and she remembered how one of the courtiers whispered, “the mad queen is dead” and sniggered, Marissa knew then that she had to be like steel, never letting them near her. Her mother was the wisest woman she knew and yet all that anyone remembered was her supposed madness. Marissa remembered the last piece of advice she had given to her, “Don’t let them rob you of who you are.” It had an echo of her own pain, that word haunted and chipped away at her. Marissa knew her mother died a broken hearted woman who only did her best for her country men but they all sneered and called her mad even at her own funeral. Marissa turned her mind to happy times of when her mother smiled and chased her around the rose garden, of the books they read together and the weapons lessons they shared. Her mother was faithful and beautiful and she would try to be the like her.
“It’s not safe for you here.” A voice called out from behind.
“I can handle myself, thank you for your concern.” She eyed the stranger warily.
“There is no need to be afraid of me.”
Marissa turned to look at him properly, he was tall and broad. He was handsome, his dark skin striking and his wide grin mesmerising so she concluded that he was in fact dangerous.
“I’d rather take my chances.” Princess Marissa mounted her horse. The stranger shrugged his shoulders and watched the princess ride away.
He decided to contact the palace and let them know where they can find her or at least her last known location. He sighed, “so much for retirement.” But he was glad he did not get rid of his communication device, it was golden disk with a red button on it and grey mesh in the centre. He pushed the button and waited for his old friend to answer. The crackling lasted a while but finally someone answered, “General?” woman’s voice answered.
“Where is General Hadwin?”
“Alicia is that you?”
“Yes Tobias it is,” he could sense her smile, “Aren’t you supposed to be retired?”
“Yes well…I have encountered someone that I think Hadwin should know about.”
“Yes, last seen on the southern end of the great forest.”
“Ah so that’s where you are.”
“Leave it Alicia, tell him.
“The king has sent him out to search for her, I will tell as soon as I am able… I will have to tell the king about you.”
Tobias sighed, “It can’t be helped. Good to hear your voice Alicia.”
“Good to know you are still alive…you may be summoned.”
“I won’t come.”
Alicia laughed then and hung up. Tobias thought about her and the days when they were shoulder to shoulder in war, he was there when she lost her right eye but she just became more deadly after that. She was his sister and he missed her dearly.
. . .
As the sun climbed higher in the sky, its warmth made everything better. She could forgive her father and herself for running away. She could forgive her future and the reality of the life that lay ahead of her, of ceremony and pomp. She would endeavour to find meaning in it and love her people with all her strength. Her resolve grew as Ava galloped, the feeling of her strong movements and her beautiful country illuminated by the sun breathed new life into her.
Ava slowed, becoming nervous, “What is it?” Marissa asked, but Ava grew tense. She began to move backwards and Marissa saw something small scuttle quickly across the grass in front of Ava and she reared up, throwing Marissa to the ground.
A sharp pain came up her right arm and she watched Ava gallop away. “No, Ava!” she called out but it was useless, her pain came into sharp focus. She touched her arm and up and down and to her relief it wasn’t broken, she could move all her fingers.
Marissa snapped to attention at the sound of woman’s laughter. She stepped out from behind the remaining shadows, she was tall and willowy but strong with multiple weapons at her hips, a gun and two swords. She wore a pirate’s hat, long black coat and boots, her bodice though was a thing of beauty, intricately covered with metal that swirled and glinted in the dawn’s sunlight.
“I heard a rumour this morning, that the princess had run away from her ivory tower.”
Marissa noticed that crowd gathering, cackling. A mixture of men and women looking down at her.
“And as luck would have it, you fell right into my grasp.” She smiled then at Marissa, her amber eyes had a glint of malice in them but her smile was pretty.
Marissa go to her feet, “If you know who I am then you know there is a reward for you if you take me home.”
Her captor chuckled, “There is nothing for us there. The way things are going your father is more likely to execute us than reward us. No.” Marissa watched the woman begin to pace obviously thinking about her next move.
“How about her fiancée?” One of her men offered, “We are not far from the border and he would pay a pretty penny for her to be handed over in one piece.”
“That’s good, but not good enough, that still most likely with us being executed. She is the biggest pay load of our lives.” Marissa saw it, the flash of inspiration. “The great market,” she looked at the princess, “there are many who would pay for the luxury of foreign princess.”
A cold stab of fear ran through Marissa, it only meant one thing, to be bundled onto a ship and taken to the only place where humans were sold as little as the cost a pigeon, but her captor was right about everything concerning her worth.
“Boys go to the coast and ready our ship.” A troupe of men left.
Marissa lifted her chin and walked up to the woman till they were face to face, “What is your name?”
“I will remember it.” Marissa swiftly moved her head and it connected to her nose. Stunned Tatiana stumbled and Marissa seized her gun and one of her swords. With her right hand she pointed the sword at Tatiana and with her left she began to fire at the men and women coming toward her. When a clear path was made she ran toward the only horse she could see. She dumped the weapons down and jumped on, she dug in her heels and sharply rode away.
Tatiana got to her feet to see her band pointing their guns at her back, “NO!” she roared. “If you kill her we will be dead! Go after her!” she ordered.
Marissa could hear their thundering hooves behind her, she had never experienced such fear but her mind was clear. She knew where she was going, she had to reach the border and find a patrol they would protect her and take her to her intended fiancée.
A small silver ball flew past her head, it was an orb and it lit up like the sun blinding her and startling the horse to rear up like Ava.
Everything was dark and new pain ran through her. Once the darkness began to fade she saw that she was surrounded again, this time with them on horses. Tatiana’s nose was bloody but she looked triumphant. “Come now princess you have no place to go.”
“Take me home and I will see to it that you are rewarded.” She offered again.
“Your father is bankrupt and he has made robbers of us all- he can’ t give us anything,” she replied with disdain. A squat man came towards her with shackles.
Marissa shakily backed away and she bumped into the tree. The forest was right behind her. Before Marissa there were only two choices before her The Great Market or The Forest. Marissa smiled, curtseyed deeply and ran into the forest.
“Stop her!” Tatiana shouted at her henchman.
He turned to her and replied, “I am not going in there.”
She turned to the men and women at either side if her, “After her!” But she was met with only silence, she had to admit even to herself that The Forest was too menacing even for her.
“YOU ARE GOING TO DIE IN THERE.” Tatiana shouted after echoing through the forest after Marissa.
I’d rather take my chances. Marissa thought.