Thank you for taking the time to read my NaNoWriMo 2017 novel. It's rough, certainly needs a lot of details filled in and can certainly be expanded on. But I'm pretty happy about it. I don't think I have any major plot holes. Happy reading.
Part 1: The Fall
Meara scampered through the castle, avoiding the throngs of servants rushing about their duties. Tonight was a big banquet with the most prominent nobles, merchants, and influential people from Baku. Dignitaries from surrounding countries were also in attendance. Her father was working overtime for security and had told her to stay out of the way. He would’ve preferred she had stayed in their quarters in the barracks, but that would have been boring. Instead, she made her way to an upper floor. There were still servants rushing about, but it was considerably quieter in this corridor. She paused by a giant tapestry that hung upon the wall. She placed her back against the stone wall and watched the traffic. No one paid her any heed, as focused on their tasks, but she still waited until no one could observe her slip behind the tapestry and disappear.
The small passageway she entered led to a tiny chamber that overlooked the grand ballroom. Prince Leonid, King Alford’s oldest son, had shown it to her on one of their excursions a few years ago. It was the perfect spot to spy on the festivities below. Even if anyone looked up, as long as she didn’t light a candle, no one would know she was there. She opened the small bundle she carried and proceeded to nibble on the food she had brought. It wasn’t anything fancy, just bread, cheese, and fruit. Nothing like what was being served beneath her. A creamy soup, meats, imported seafood, and more delicacies filled the table and plates of the lucky people below. She caught sight of her father walking the perimeter of the room. Meara wondered if he knew about this alcove she sat in. Leonid never did tell her how he knew about this place. She settled in and watched, various snippets of conversation making her way to her ears. The acoustics were odd in this room. One would assume it to be a cacophony of noise and voices speaking over each other as everything floated upwards. But by changing her position slightly, she was able to accurately hear various conversations of the people below as if she was standing next to them. She was able to do that anyway as most people failed to observe her presence. She couldn’t help it if she was unremarkable. The company she found herself in didn’t help either. Her father’s placement in the royal guard allowed her to access to the royal family, Leonid especially as they were close in age. She missed her friend. They hadn’t been able to see each other in a while due to all his new duties and learning as the crown prince of Baku. The room quieted as King Alford stood. He looked to be in a good mood.
“Honored guests. Thank you for accepting my invitation to join me this evening. Tonight we honor-“ The king didn’t finish his sentence as a loud clatter sounded nearby. A servant had tripped and dropped the dirty dishes he was carrying. “You useless peasant!” Meara’s attention shifted back to the king who was turning red to the point she could tell even from her current height. “How dare you. Guards, arrest him, throw him in the dungeon and have him flogged for insolence.” The guards slowly moved in on the unfortunate servant who was still on the ground and trying to plead with the king. Prince Leonid stood up.
“Father, please. Is that really necessary?” King Alford turned his irate glare on his son.
“He interrupted me.”
“It was an accident. Everyone makes them. No one was hurt.” The king grew even redder and started to shake.
“Are you daring to contradict my decision?” Leonid stood taller against the venomous words.
“Yes. Everyone deserves a fair chance and in this case, the punishment does not fit the incident. I don’t dare use the word crime as it’s not illegal to drop dishes.” King Alford stepped closer to his son.
“You dare contradict me. Again. And this time in front of all these people?” His voice was quiet, but dripping with menace. Meara shuddered, able to hear every word clearly. She wanted to run, afraid of what was going to happen. But she found she couldn’t move.
“Yes, Father. I do.” Meara held her breath as the King paused, eying his son.
“Bah! Insolent whelp. Then you are hereby banished from the Kingdom of Baku!” Everyone gasped. “You are stripped of your title and any claim you may have on the throne.”
“Alford you can’t be serious.” Queen Valarie spoke up. The King’s gaze turned to her and she shrank back.
“He is undermining my authority and will ruin the future of this kingdom with his ideals. Get out of my sight Leonid. If you are still here tomorrow morning, I will throw you in the dungeon as well. Bertrand, you are now crown prince.” Bertrand, the younger brother, gaped like a fish. Leonid still stood there. “Did you not hear me boy? Get yourself out of my sight.” Leonid backed down and strode purposefully out of the ballroom. Meara watched as the king’s features reset into a placid smile. “Now where were we.” Meara left her alcove and practically sprinted to Leonid’s room.
Leonid was already tearing his room apart when Meara arrived.
“Leonid, are you really leaving?” He paused momentarily to look at her.
“You were up in the alcove weren’t you.” He sighed and went back to gathering up clothing. “I don’t really have a choice Meara. My father doesn’t go back on his word lately. Even if it was said in anger. Your father knows that.”
“Yes Meara. He’s been toeing the line when it comes to meeting out my father’s increasingly harsh sentences for the smallest of incidents. Unfortunately, standing up to him has only gotten me banished from the kingdom.”
“Where will you go? How will you survive?” A guard dropped off a empty rucksack and coin purse. “I don’t know where I’ll go. But despite my father, we still have allies in the neighboring countries. They’ll likely house me for a while.” He started to shove his clothes into the sack. He didn’t have time to pack more than that.
“I’ll miss you.” He ruffled her hair.
“Same here Meara. Hopefully I’ll be able to send word back and at least stay in communication with everyone. Stay safe Meara. Easiest way to do that is to stay out of trouble and away from my father.” He picked up his stuff and left the room. Meara just stood there, tears threatening to fall. The castle already felt empty and he hadn’t left yet. She walked slowly to the front of the castle. She walked out the servant’s door to the courtyard in time to see Leonid ride through the castle gates. The tears started falling as she ran for her room.
Meara’s father knocked softly on the door before entering her room. He found her sitting on her bed, knees drawn up to her chest with her eyes red and puffy.
“Hey. I guess you heard.” She glanced at him and gave a small nod. He came in and sat down on the bed. “I know you consider him a friend, but he was the crown prince. I don’t know how close you could’ve been. Or if anything would’ve come from the relationship as much as your mother would have loved to see that happen.”
“He sees me as a sibling. He ruffled my hair before he left.”
“Yeah. Not exactly a reaction from a romantic interest. Not that I think you’re old enough to be dating. 14 is still a bit young in my opinion.”
“I know father.”
“I’m not letting your brother date until he’s 20.”
“And immature.” He paused. “Aaron’s not seeing anyone is he?”
“I can hear you.” A voice called from the other room.
“I’m aware Aaron. Come in here.” There was shuffling and Aaron appeared in Meara’s doorway.
“What do you want?”
“Just a warning to both of you. There is unrest in the kingdom. I’m not entirely sure what is going to happen in the next few years, but change is inevitable, especially once the population hears what happened to Prince Leonid.”
“Yeah. Whatever.” Aaron went back to his room. Their father sighed and turned his attention back to Meara.
“I’m going to teach you to defend yourself. I know I’ve given basics, but I’d rather you really know what you were doing. No hesitation. I want it to be second nature to you.” She nodded.
“Yes, Father.” He stood and kissed her forehead before leaving her room. He closed the door softly behind him. Meara sighed. Nothing would be the same. And she was afraid it was only going to get worse from here on out.
Four years later…
Meara strode through the marketplace. The weather was a perfect spring day. She was happy to shed her heavy coat after the brutal winter they had endured. She passed by the main square on her way to her brother’s shop. A crowd had gathered around a man who stood on a raised platform. She recognized Thomas Drump, a wealthy merchant who had started to talk about overthrowing the king publicly. She stopped and sneered.
“People of Baku, your king is going mad. How many times have you been punished for something you didn’t commit? Something that wasn’t a crime? Something he just randomly took offense to? New laws are being put into action every day that oppress you. That take away your rights.” The crowd murmured positively. Meara hung back at the fringes, frowning. “As a people we have a right to rise up. Not to accept the status quo. Not to accept foreigners stealing our jobs. We are the best country in the world, and the world should acknowledge us!” The crowd roared and started chanting his name. Meara moved on, she was going to be late to meet with her brother.
She entered the large shop with a smile on her face. Her brother had built up his small business quickly in the past few years. She was proud of him. The associate in the store turned to her with a bit of skepticism. She didn’t look like she belonged or could afford the merchandise.
“May I help you?”
“I’m here to see Aaron.” An eyebrow was raised in suspicion. “I’m his sister Meara.” She held out her hand. “It’s nice to meet you…”
“Marvin.” He shook it with a limp grip. “He’s in the back.” She nodded and headed to the employee only door, feeling Marvin’s eyes on her as she made her way through the shop. Meara noticed that there were several wealthy clients milling about the store. She looked shabby in comparison despite her clothes being clean and well fitting.
“Aaron?” she called out as the door closed behind her.
“Over here.” She followed her ears through the stock to a small office in the back. Her brother was pouring over a ledger, his dark brown hair slicked back. He wore an expensive suit, his jacket hung on the back of his chair.
“You’re going to go blind staring at those numbers.” Aaron glanced up at her.
“Am not.” He closed the ledger and locked it in a drawer. “Now. I believe we had lunch plans.” He strode out of the office and locked the door behind him. Aaron walked out of his shop via the front door, greeting customer as he passed them. Meara followed behind him easily. She wasn’t that much shorter than him and he wasn’t all that tall. When out on the street, Meara walked beside him, now that there was room. He led her through the town until they came to a small café tucked away in a more affluent part of the city. They took a small table outside, the furniture made of wrought iron with cute little green cushions. A waitress brought them menus.
“Can I get you anything to drink?”
“A glass of your Nadour red for me and water for my sister.” The waitress bobbed her head and left. Meara pursed her lips.
“Why did you do that?”
“Order for me? What if I wanted something other than water?”
“I know you Meara, you don’t dare drink underage and you’ll have a hard time finding anything nonalcoholic to your liking on the menu.”
“Are you going to order my food for me too?”
“You’ll decide on the roast lamb.” She scanned the menu until she found the item in question. It did sound good. Drat her brother.
“Perhaps. But I would like you to refrain from just assuming things. I am a woman, we change our minds.”
“Yes, silly creatures that you are.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“It means, I know how to deal with women whether to make them buy something they weren’t planning, or to choose an option better suited to my terms.”
“That sounds downright devious Aaron.”
“Just good business sense.” The waitress brought their drinks and Aaron ordered their lunch. Meara narrowed her eyes at him. When did he get so haughty in his opinion of himself. Several people walked by the table, talking about the speech Drump had given earlier. “Such as Drump.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Drump, you have heard of him haven’t you?”
“Yes, he’s the one who owns multiple businesses throughout the kingdom. He’s also the one preaching to overthrown the king.”
“Preaching sound like too harsh a word. Advocating, suggesting?”
“I heard his speech earlier. Part of it anyway.”
“Doesn’t it just pump you up? Make you wnt to take matters into your own hands?”
“No. He’s a slick con man, always saying what we want to hear.”
“Come now. You just don’t know him.”
“And you do?”
“He’s been a mentor to me. I’ve read all his books, been to his speeches.”
“Really? You’re buying into him?”
“Yes Meara. Can’t you just see the Baku he wants to help usher in? A more prosperous nation.”
“Who would rule if he gets the revolt he wants? I can already see the powder keg that’s brewing. It won’t be long before it blows.”
“Nonsense, it will be a diplomatic take over.”
“You’re way too optimistic.”
“And you are cynical. Still pining over your exiled prince? He’s not coming back.” It was a good thing the food came, because Meara felt like punching him in the face. Instead she attacked her lamb with her knife and pretended it was all the hateful things her brother had spewed these last moments. If he insisted on splitting this meal she was going to hit him. She couldn’t afford these prices, not on her salary. There was a reason she still lived with their father in the barracks.
She passed her father in the barracks lobby as she went back to her room. She kissed him on the cheek.
“How was lunch with Aaron. Sorry I couldn’t join the two of you, the king has been keeping me on my toes.”
“It was probably better you didn’t come. He’s turned into an arrogant prick who supports Drump.”
“Yes, I don’t know exactly what happened to my brother, possibly Drump’s manifest has gone to his head.”
“We almost had to shut down his speech.”
“Too rowdy? He did seem to be inciting a crowd.”
“You were there?”
“Briefly. I couldn’t stand the man.”
“That’s my girl. Just be careful. He has more people buying into his rhetoric everyday. I want you to stay safe Meara.” She nodded.
“I will. I need to get ready for work.”
“And I need to attend to another fire. I will see you tomorrow.” He kissed her cheek and left. Meara scurried up to her room to change.
Meara put on her apron and picked up a order pad. Waitressing at the Boar and Thistle wasn’t the most glamourous job in the kingdom, but it allowed her to make some money. She switched off with Jane and got to work. It seemed like a regular night. Unless she directly spoke to her customers, they tended to ignore her. But there was a subtle tension that caused Meara to be on alert. Something was going to happen and she wanted to make sure she stayed out of the way.
“Drump is our savior. He will fix the kingdom.” Meara froze with a tray of dishes and quickly looked around. A man at the bar was drunk and yelling at a fellow patron.
“Drump is nothing but a trumped-up street merchant.” The other man replied. Meara scurried back to the kitchen before the entire tavern erupted. She just made it. As the kitchen door swung closed behind her the fight broke out between the two sides. She put her tray down next to the dishwashing station.
“What’s going on out there Meara?” Devin asked her.
“The powder keg is starting to erupt. Stay in here Devin. I am.” She gave the small boy a tiny smile and went back to the door to look through the window in the door. The bar was in full brawl. Everyone was punching everyone else. The waitresses that were still out there were cowering against the walls and hiding under tables.
“Meara?” Devin called out again. She went back to him just as a mug crashed against the kitchen door. She didn’t want to bar the door in case someone really needed to get back in here, but she was afraid the brawl might make its way in here.
“What is it Devin?”
“Are they going to overthrow the king?”
“Not tonight Devin. Tonight it’s just a barroom brawl.” Take the time to catch up on dishes. I’ll give you a hand.” She stayed between the small boy and the door, ready to shoo him farther into the kitchen if needed.