So. That happened. Winning starts in three days so I haven’t bothered validating yet.
The main story is finished now. I just have the epilogue left, which will likely be a beast in length since both protagonists have a section when they typically have entire chapters to themselves. We’ll see what happens. I’m not completely sold on the epilogue I have planned but hopefully writing it out will give me some idea of what to do with it in revisions.
Time for Twitter:
#WIPjoy Day 16:
Another option for music is obviously Disney songs, given this is a retelling, but they don’t actually fit the mood of the story all that much.
I was actually at 50.5k at this point but wanted to finish the chapter before updating my wordcount.
Scrivener’s being an asshole and not letting me copy-paste the whole section I wanted to validate, so I guess I’ll wait until I actually have to validate when winning starts in like three days.
The excerpt situation is still tricky because, again, everything is spoilers this far into the novel. In celebration for hitting 50k, though, I’m going to share the first scene from the first chapter, back when everyone was still relatively happy without any idea what horrors I was about to inflict upon them.
It’s interesting to read over it now, since I still had no idea about certain plot twists I was going to use. It’s almost like reading something written by a younger, more innocent version of me.
This scene is from Eira’s perspective. It’s long so I’m sticking it under a readmore cut:
I use the secret entrance built into a sheer cliff on the outskirts of the trade district to slip into the guild’s hideout. I slip my rucksack off my shoulder before I can bump it into anything while my eyes adjust to the darkness. After such an easy mission, the last thing I want is to destroy the loot in a fit of clumsiness.
The rest of the team arrives in the main chamber ahead of me. As the carrier of the most valuable items, including the one we were commissioned to steal, my route through the old royal escape tunnels is longer but safer. The less time spent out in the open with the goods, the better.
The rest of the team’s loot is already laid out on the massive wooden table in the centre of the room. The heavy metal door screams as I enter—Dad decided it was better not to oil the hinges so he could always hear someone coming—and that draws the attention of everyone in the room. Dad pauses in his counting of a pile of rubies and beams. I raise the rucksack like a flagon of mead, except the mead is the most expensive thing in the room and if I spill it there will be consequences for everyone involved.
I reach the table and Dad lifts the bag delicately from me, reaching in to pull out the padded wooden case we had commissioned just to carry its current contents. Dad places the case on the table and opens it, nodding at the delicate tiara inside. The whole reason for this heist in the first place. My stepmother, still wearing the delicate silks she had worn to distract the few guards the collector had hired, strokes the box with the hand not carrying her handheld mirror. She rarely goes anywhere without that thing, but she’s so good at her job that no one ever complains about that little idiosyncrasy. Her speciality is seduction and beguilement, which is more useful than one might expect. She rarely gets her hands dirty, but she allows us to do our jobs.
Dad places the rest of my loot on the table: some sapphires, a little drawstring bag of tiny diamonds, gold bullion, and some rare spices that are worth about as much as anything else we stole. The spices come from far across the sea and are expensive to obtain. They will probably sell the fastest when we bring them to the black market.
“Good haul,” Huntsman says, leaning against the wall where he has a good view of all entry points. He’s an enforcer, fond of his axes, so it’s second-nature to him to situate himself in the best defensive position no matter what room we are in.
Dad squeezes my shoulder. “Well done, Princess.”
That’s my codename, I swear. Dad is King and my stepmother is Queen, the second one after my mother died bringing me into the world.
Queen clears her throat pointedly, as she often does when I’m stealing all my father’s attention. She does a valuable job for us, but sometimes it’s nice to be the centre of Dad’s focus. He’s often busy with guild business so sometimes we go days without seeing each other. I see more of Huntsman than I do my own father. I like Huntsman and he’s something of a weird uncle to me, but he’s not my dad.
Dad laughs indulgently and places his other hand on her shoulder. “And you too, my dear.” He spoke to the group at large. “Well done, everyone. Don’t get too attached to the fruits of your labours. I’ll be taking them to the black market as soon as our client receives his prize.”
“Who knew the world of collecting could be so cutthroat?” Huntsman says, smirking. His beard makes him look scary to people who don’t know him, which is probably intentional, but I grew up watching him smile and teach street urchins to tie their shoelaces and help old women carry their goods from the market. I’ve also seen him chop a man’s head off, so I guess all people contain multitudes.
“I should rest,” Queen says. “Men are exhausting. I had to send one to sleep because he tried to follow me home.”
“A guard or just an admirer?” Dad teases.
“Is there a difference?”
Queen’s magic seems to affect men more strongly than women. Maybe because her natural self beguiles men as readily as her spells? Then again, I know a serving girl or two who would happily let Queen enchant them. They have to settle for me and my non-magical charm instead, which nets me my fair share of gossip about the traders on the boardwalk. The boardwalk taverns are my favourite, bursting with life and traders and travellers who never sleep in the same place twice. They are the best place to hear news from across the ocean, or to the north where the conquering empire, well, conquers. They don’t try to conquer us, though, but many traders from the region seem to think it’s only a matter of time.
I suppose it’s just as well our standing army consists mainly of mercenaries hired by merchant princes to protect their own interests. We are not really a threat to anyone but ourselves. Perhaps that keeps the empire from dropping the full force of their armies upon us.
Queen fixes Dad with a tired sort of look I often see women give their husbands, as if they are both frustrating and yet endearing. I’ve yet to meet a person of any gender that inspires that kind of feeling in me, though I’m definitely not bereft of people I find attractive.
Queen’s departure is taken as the cue for everyone else to get out, except for me, my father and Huntsman.
“Are you taking the tiara to the collector tonight?” Huntsman asks.
“Yes. Best to get it done before our mark notices it’s missing.” Dad closes the box and sends me off to fetch his coat, the one with all the hidden pockets inside. I want one just like it, but Dad thinks it’ll tempt me too much when I’m out and about and not on a job. I told him I don’t see the point in extracurricular stealing since we can afford to buy just about anything I want anyway, but he still won’t budge.
By the time I return, Dad has picked our disguises for the meeting. We never go as ourselves when we meet clients or traders. Dad always poses as an intermediary, even though he prefers a hands-on approach to business. The best of both worlds, I suppose.
Dad’s disguises are elaborate, featuring wigs and moustaches and occasionally a glamour spell from Queen that turns him into someone else entirely. I usually get by with a wig or, in some cases, a mask. Only members of our organisation and a handful of trusted traders even know my father has a kid. Apparently such a thing would diminish his mystique. It does give me more freedom to move in the city than I might have otherwise, so I can’t really complain.
“You better be taking guards,” Huntsman says, holding a tub of sticky resin as Dad uses it to affix his blonde handlebar mustache. His wig is already secured and he shrugs into his coat one arm at a time, with my assistance.
“They’re already waiting. Stop worrying.”
“You pay me to worry.”
“I pay you to threaten people. You worry for free.”
I divide my hair into tiny pincurls before putting on my own brown wig, letting them bicker. They act more married than Dad and Queen do most days. I would probably be happier to have Huntsman as a step-parent. At least he smiles at me occasionally.
“If you keep playing with your mustache, it will end up sideways.”
“Which of us is the master of disguise here?”
“Sometimes I wonder,” Huntsman mutters. “It looks fine. Get out of here. It’s nearly daylight.”
Dad slips the tiara case into one of his inner pockets. “Yes, mother.”