Mina was a vision in gold and lace, in satin and pearls. Her body seemed to glow in the candlelight, and as she turned before her silver mirror, she thought that almost anyone would fall in love simply by looking at her. She had achieved what every girl would dream of, and that was why she had to leave.
She had meant to leave months ago, to slip out the window and vanish into the night when no one would notice. She would disguise herself as a man and become some renowned hero, or perhaps a thief known for slinking through the shadows. The only reason she had allowed herself to linger in her father’s palace as time went on was Prince Tristan.
Prince Tristan of some northern kingdom so small her father would never have allowed him to woo her if he hadn’t been desperate. Prince Tristan of the crooked smile and the red hair and the freckled nose that burned too easily in their hot sun. Prince Tristan who was so small and slight the ladies at court all assumed he had been sickly as a child, or that he was half-shadow and didn’t belong in their mortal world. Mina hadn’t thought he was anything special, but something about him had tempted her to stay, first another few days, then another few weeks, and then before she knew it the wedding had been planned and there was no chance for her to escape, not without practice slipping through shadows.
She had already sent her maids away, so there was no one to see her sink onto her bed and bury her face in her hands. She couldn’t marry Tristan. He was gentle, and sweet, and the sort of good that made her almost wish the stolen kisses she’d had with other men could make her feel anything. He didn’t deserve to be trapped in a marriage with her, and she certainly didn’t deserve to be trapped in a marriage with anyone she didn’t love.
The door to her room opened, and she sprang to her feet, ready to berate whoever was interrupting her, but it was only Tristan, slipping in with that nervous, crooked smile on his face.
“You shouldn’t be up here,” she said, looking away. “It’s bad luck to see me before the wedding.”
“There’s something I have to tell you,” he said, and his voice was so serious that Mina couldn’t help turning to look into his eyes. “I hope you won’t think too differently of me – but I’d understand if you did – and I want you to know that I love you, truly, but I can’t marry you.”
He spoke so quickly and anxiously, so unlike his normal unflappable calm, that Mina didn’t have a chance to open her mouth and reply.
“When I came here, I planned on marrying you, but only for your money. After all, who hasn’t heard of Princess Mina and her vast store of wealth? I wanted to inherit all of it and live a life of luxury while you ruled. You’re clever enough to, and I would just have to look official. I thought it would be fair for both of us. I didn’t realize I would fall in love with you, and now I can’t lie to you any longer.
“Because I have lied to you. I’m from the north, but I’m no prince. I’m a thief. A rather renowned thief, actually, and this would have been the perfect crime. I never would have had to steal again, except for the fun of it.”
Mina felt her cheeks growing hot with anger, and when Tristan paused for breath, she decided she couldn’t stay silent any longer. “How dare you?” she whispered, and Tristan flinched as though she had struck him. “Did you really think you would be able to get away with this? Don’t bother answering; you obviously did. Why shouldn’t I have you thrown in prison right now?”
Tristan swallowed nervously and undid the first button on his shirt. “Because there’s one other lie I told you.”
He unbuttoned his shirt, and as Mina’s eyes followed his fingers, her cheeks grew warmer, but for a very different reason. When the shirt was completely undone and Tristan’s chest was bared, Mina returned her gaze to the thief’s eyes.
“I understand if you think of me differently,” Tristan said, the crooked smile returning to her face, “but I hope you know that my love for you was as pure and true as any man’s could have been.”
Still blushing, Mina asked, “What will you do now?”
“I suppose I’ll leave,” Tristan said, buttoning her shirt again. “I know the guards’ rotations, so I can slip out to the docks, and there’s a barge carrying spices that’s due to leave. I can smuggle myself in and be safely away by dawn.” She sighed and looked over Mina slowly, as though trying to hold on to every detail. “I hope you have better luck than I have.”
Just as Tristan was starting to leave, Mina ran to her side, grabbed her hand, and kissed her. “Take me with you,” she said as Tristan stared in wonder. “Disguise me as a boy and let me travel with you.”
“It will be dangerous,” Tristan said. “The life of a rogue isn’t always easy.”
“I don’t care,” Mina insisted. “As long as I’m with you, I’ll face whatever dangers I must.” She was exaggerating, but at that moment, she truly meant it, with the sort of heartfelt passion she had always dreamed of knowing.
Tristan laughed aloud then and kissed the corner of her mouth. “It seems I’m a more successful thief than I thought,” she said. “I came for the princess’s wealth, but I was able to steal her heart.”
hehe now you can see my experience of animals i.e. zero. or David Attenborough documentaries growing up - I thought animals just stood there and went after you. Not really hiding properly because they're so much bigger and faster anyway.
Except spiders, cockroaches and lizards. They hide in your house and scare the living hell out of you when they're found!
Haha I love David Attenborough documentaries, we have pretty much all of them on DVD!
They can actually be almost impossible to see until the moment they spring - they're far far more stealthy than humans because they're actually physically adapted for stealth. We're awkward, slow, and weak in comparison.
Most of the big cats are perfect examples, their coats are camouflaged so they're nearly impossible to see when they're in their natural habitat. They prowl along, crouching close to the ground to make themself smaller, stopping whenever they sense you're looking in their direction until they're close enough that you cannot escape, and only then will they pounce. A lot of the time, if you spot them and stare at them before they're within range they'll just stand up and stop hunting you - for now!
Having grown up near the Rocky Mountains (near enough that I could see them every day when I went to school, though we'd have to plan out a whole day for a hiking trip because of driving there and back), I can say that Raptori is absolutely right. Mountain lions are terrifying because they can be a few feet away from you and you won't even know; I've even seen pictures people have taken on daytrips in the mountains where the foreground is their wife and kid and in the background, if you look very carefully, you can see a mountain lion lurking, watching...
On the topic of the world-building scenario presented earlier, both of these (fear of animals -- I'll stick with big cats for now, since they're the most familiar to me -- and fear of men) could be presented as a combination of psychological and physical fear. Obviously, both could kill, but the trick is finding out what can kill you. Outside the Walls, people might be looking at every shadow, suspecting there's a mountain lion (or whatever happens to live there) but unable to tell if there really is one. Inside the Walls, you can see the men (for the most part) but you might not always be able to tell who you can trust.
April 04, 2015, 05:36:57 AM
I trust you guys all realize that we Homo sapiens spent our first ~190,000 years of existence as a distinct species as hunter-gatherers with barely any metallurgy, don't you? Granted, in that time there still would have been cultural adaptations reflecting environmental changes, but that only goes to show you that necessity has always been the mother of human invention. You need a reason for people to break out of their cultural "stasis" and innovate. I don't think we can extrapolate our own experience of constantly changing technology as affluent First World citizens in the 21st century onto earlier time periods.
This is a good point; it's only very recently that technological changes have become very rapid and the rate at which the world changes has sped up. Still, when it comes to the fantasy novels I've read that don't seem to have any sort of changes, the technology level is rather above hunter-gatherers. Generally, it's at a roughly medieval level, and while people might live the same sort of day-to-day life through various generations, when the society as a whole doesn't change at all (no shifting political alliances, no wars that even slightly alter boundaries between countries, no natural disasters that cause mass migrations) that things start to get a little unconvincing.
April 05, 2015, 06:29:52 AM
Re: [Apr 2015] - Plot Twist! Werewolf, Vampire, Goat - Submission Thread
This story kind of comes from the Camp NaNoWriMo novel I've been working on, Cloverdrift, because it's been eating up enough of my time that I don't have the energy to make a new setting for this contest. This particular story doesn't appear in the novel, though; it's more a taste of what the world feels like, and the twist is tied to what I've been trying to play with.
Anyway, here at 947 words is "Drifter".
Spoiler for Hiden:
The plains of the Dakotas were just about the most desolate things Clover had ever seen, even if she couldn’t see much of them. Everything around her was grass, stretching out to where the horizon blurred the line between land and sky. She suspected that horizon was much closer for her that it would have been for a good many other people, but that wasn’t all bad. She didn’t have to feel the crushing weight of all that space around her.
She had her great-grandmother to thank for that, or to blame, as her father said. Whenever he talked about her, he described her as nothing more than a sinner, someone who had sold her body to the stage and to a man, and so God had struck her half-blind. Whenever Clover had gone to her grandmother, she heard a different story, that of an artist who had done what she had to in order to stay alive and feed her daughter. The important part of the story, her grandmother always said, was that she had been half-blind long before she sold her body to anyone. It was a family trait, dating from even further back in their history.
Clover had once cared very deeply about whether her great-grandmother had been a sinner or a saint, but now that she was alone with only a covered wagon and her mare for company, she found that dwelling on the past didn’t much matter, especially when that past was generations old. The best thing to do now was to make sure she stayed alive long enough to reach her destination, wherever that might be.
Dinner that night was prairie dog, roasted and sprinkled with a little bit of thyme. She’d traded a silk ribbon for a small collection of herbs about a week ago, and it was the best trade she’d ever made, better even than when she had given a dollar for a pouch full of bullets. She didn’t need her pistol to hunt, and if something was far enough away that she couldn’t get it without her pistol, it was either too small for her to hit accurately or too large to be brought down with a little handgun. Herbs, though, kept her from getting bored with her food, even though most of the time she was hungry enough that she didn’t have to worry about that.
No one had ever told her that traveling was such hungry work, but then, no one would have expected her to travel. If she had been born a boy, then her parents might have had to worry about having a runaway child, for there wasn’t much to do for the fourth-born of six (everyone said five, since Dandelion had died when she wasn’t even a year old, but Clover still counted her younger sister), but girls weren’t supposed to run away. They were supposed to be sweet and dutiful, and marry a good man who would take care of them and give them children to bear.
They certainly weren’t supposed to kiss boys behind the church at their older brother’s wedding.
She smiled at the memory, but her cheer vanished quickly, along with her appetite. She didn’t often think of Ned, and when she did, it wasn’t often fondly. It wasn’t anything that she held against him; he had always been kind, and if she had gone through with their marriage instead of running off the night before, she had no doubt he would have made an excellent husband. The trouble was that thinking of him always reminded her of Imogen and Eve.
Imogen was the girl everyone had expected her to be. She was sweet and dutiful, and no doubt she had already borne Isaac a son. Clover’s parents had no doubt been thrilled to have her as part of the family, and even more so when they found out what their own daughter had done.
Clover supposed she ought to still be mourning her older sister. Hanna was no doubt still mourning her twin, and she suspected her parents were still heartbroken from losing a second daughter (and now they’ve lost a third said a sharp voice in the back of her mind), but Clover only felt bitter. It wasn’t her fault Eve had been fooling around with her sweetheart and gotten pregnant, but it was her fault Eve had died. She had been the one to find the medicine for her to drink, and she had been the one to measure it out instead of getting a doctor to handle it.
Was it any wonder she hadn’t wanted to face the chance of getting pregnant herself?
She’d had plenty of time to think about it, enough to know that she wouldn’t necessarily face the same dangers her sister had. She wouldn’t need to abort the child to avoid the social shame, and there was even a good chance she wouldn’t die giving birth. Medicine wasn’t nearly as good as it had been before the Burning Times, when they’d had ways to see inside the mother’s body and spot troubles with an unborn child, but it was getting better by the year, and maybe someday there would come a time when no one in Portland died of childbirth.
That time would be long in coming, and by then Clover had plans to be far away. There was another city that she’d heard of, one where they’d managed to hold on to old technology, and as she lay down for the night and looked up at the stars, she smiled again, dreaming of a place that somehow held both the past and the future.
She was going to Chicago.
April 14, 2015, 05:00:52 AM
Re: What are you currently reading?
I just finished a rather mediocre alternate history book (which I'm supposed to review for another site, so I won't say the title here) about using time travel to change the course of the Civil War. The plot was interesting, but the characters were rather flat, so I'm glad I got that over with. Now I get to stop procrastinating with reading the Silmarillion, which has a fascinating plot and... slightly flat characters.
April 28, 2015, 03:20:58 AM
Re: Worst horror book you've read?
I tend to get spooked pretty easily so this might be kind of laughable, but the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series still gets me. I'm not sure what it is about those books, but every time I read one I have to leave the room where I read it (leaving the book behind, of course).
May 09, 2015, 09:33:14 PM
Re: How much did you write today?
I think I got about a thousand words down on my novel. (If we're allowed to include role-playing sites, that adds a few thousand more, though I didn't bother keeping track exactly.)
July 28, 2015, 03:04:21 AM
Re: Violence in fantasy
I'm okay with violence in fantasy as long as I don't feel like it's overdone. If I think it has a purpose, then I'm all right with it, but if it's just there because the author really wanted an epic fight scene, then the author might want to rethink it. Even constant violence in a story can work out well, as long as it feels like it suits the book; if it's just there because the author really wants to drive home the point that violence is a thing that happens (or just wants to write fight scenes all the time), then it starts to wear on me.
Also, going off the Greek thing, the Iliad actually had some overdone violence, at least in my opinion. I read it for a class recently (well, parts of it), and was amazed by how gory it is, and gleefully so. The part where Patroclus ran his spear through a man's chest, then pulled it out and brought the man's lungs out with it felt almost like it would be a parody of something today.
July 28, 2015, 03:20:47 AM