Here's the 11th video blog update where I talk about how playtesting went (it went really well to paraphrase) as well as a special treat for my blog followers.
As you may already know, I've posted the first chapter to the Masquerade story before. Here's something completely different though, the first draft of my first chapter before I rewrote the thing! Compared to the new first chapter, this is kind of short but it really speaks volumes as to how much I have improved in writing over the months.
Here we actually see Newgate interact with King Alric, but that was one of the reasons why this chapter was cut. I wanted Alric to be a constant figure described differently by different people in the story so that the audience wouldn't know what to think about him. Mary has less of a role in the story like this as well, despite being there the whole time. That was mended in my most recent chapters where she has a presence in the crowd even though she's a mute.
Check it out!
“Lucky bastard gets this fine young lass to bring him his evening brew every night. Ain’t fair, it is. I’d want some lovely wench to pour my drink in the eve too.” Spoke Sir Arthur Stout.
His companion, Sir Alan Mourne, sighed like an annoyed parent. “Mind your tongue, you old fool. You’ll be lucky if you don’t end up imprisoned. She can hear you, you know.”
Mary continued to quietly walk ahead of her two armed escorts, pretending to be focusing on balancing the flagon of ale on the plate in her hand. She couldn’t say a word to let them know she was listening even if she wanted to.
“Bah! You worry too much. She’s certainly quite a looker though; he has good tastes despite her age and all. You know what the boys in the armory say about him?”
“I hesitate to wonder…”
“Likes the finest young veal, he does, takes them into his quarters alone. Young meat is more firm than old wrinkly meat. Certainly smells hell of a lot better, I can tell you that much.”
“What his majesty does with any young ladies in his private quarters is of no business to me.”
“Aye, says the virgin.”
“If you keep at this old lecher, I’ll see to it that you never fornicate again.”
Mary’s hands trembled slightly at the thought of what would happen if she did end up face down on a bed when she entered King Alric’s private chambers. She wondered that every night when she went to deliver the King’s brew. It was always her and only her, not any of the other twenty one barmaids. The only thing that made her special was her age. Despite the overwhelming fear of being done away with and not even twelve yet, she could not scream for help from anyone.
“Aw come on now, we both know you enjoy my company. What’s eating her anyway, despite being sent to the love nest and all?”
Sir Alan was annoyed but eager for the chance to change the subject. “She’s a mute, or so the rumor goes. She can hear and see just fine, but when it comes to talking she can’t say a word.”
“Truly? I suppose that makes it easier on old King Alric. A little less talking and a little more action is always what I enjoy in my beddings.” Sir Arthur laughed hoarsely.
Mary could tell that Sir Alan was having just about enough of Sir Arthur’s crude behavior by the way he said. “Will you please keep silent, Stout? She’s going to hear you…”
“What do you care if she hears us? Did you not just say she’s a mute? What could she possibly do to reprimand us? Make crude gestures?”
“It’s not her who frightens me, only her guardian.”
“At last, some sense creeps into that hollow chasm you call a head. You know full well he is her attendant, Stout. The Captain is not someone I wish to tread against, especially by harassing his charge.”
Sir Arthur paused for a moment. “Why would the Captain watch over some wench commoner?”
“Honestly, is all that fills that minuscule brain of yours sex and food? Why would a man whom is fundamentally a noble keep a young girl as his child when he himself doesn’t even have a wife?”
“Ohhh, he did the naughty with some strumpet then?”
“To put it bluntly, yes. It’s miracle that his status wasn’t revoked by the King for such debauchery. Captains are never allowed wives, let alone whores.”
Mary closed her eyes and sighed, she was growing tired of hearing this conversation for it hadn’t been the first time she had listened to it. Growing up, she had never been told who her mother was, which made her a bastard child. Captain of the King’s Guard, Gunter Newgate, had taken the role of her father figure, even though he himself had claimed time and time again that he bore no relation to Mary.
“Don’t you know?” said Sir Arthur. “He and King Alric were companions, childhood friends in the time before the alliance.”
For once, Sir Alan was interested in Stout’s gossiping. “Impossible. The Captain was a commoner at birth. How does a peasant befriend royalty?”
“You have me on that, but there it is. The Captain isn’t the right hand of the old King for nothing. They’re like brothers, they are.”
“I think you’re making this up.”
A new voice broke up the impending argument in an instant. “Are you soldiers, or gossiping housewives?”
Both Sir Arthur and Sir Alan practically jumped out of their chainmail at the commanding call that echoed the very halls of the western wing. Only Mary seemed to act with relative calmness at the figure standing in front of the group.
He was an imposing man with a long jagged scar that ran across his nose touching the tips of his trimmed black beard. Though he looked ragged and weathered, the man still had an air of nobility and properness about him unfitting to the appearance of an old soldier. But judging how precisely he moved Mary had the impression that he could cleave her in two with one swing of his sword if he wanted to.
“C-Captain Newgate.” Stuttered Sir Alan.
The Captain stepped forward, stopping just short of both guardsmen. His tone suggested impatience, but Mary knew better than that. This was his standard manner of punishment, no beatings, no scolding. He just simply used fear to do all the work. Mary had long since built up immunity to it.
“The three of you are late. I expected a simple drink would not take so much time to conjure up.”
Neither of Mary’s two escorts seemed brave enough to talk back to their commanding officer. Newgate seemed to notice the sullen glares from Mary and return them with a commanding stare.
“Come, you have kept him waiting long enough.”
He stepped to the side and motioned for Mary to pass him and continue up the stairs at the far end of the hall. She silently obeyed, dreading to be placed alone in the company of the King.
She bravely continued her march up with Newgate close behind. At the top of the stairway, away from the din of the castle courtyard below, was the King’s private quarters. Inside his lordship was there sitting at his desk writing. Newgate did a slight bow.
“Ah, good, you’re here at last! Writing all these letters has made me parched. Come in, come in!”
The King’s face lit up from the candlelight. He had one of the biggest beards Mary had ever seen, white and wooly as a sheep. Underneath his facial hair were bright red cheeks, big and plump matching the King’s protruding gut. He wasn’t dressed in the fanciest of clothing or wearing his crown, but the rich gold velvet robe signified his status as a powerful noble.
“My dear, you look as beautiful as ever. So innocent, so pure…” the King gently patted Mary’s face before grabbing his drink.
“My lord, if I may?” Newgate interrupted.
“There’s no need to be so formal, Gunter.”
Newgate hesitated. “My lord, I have been having concerns lately about some rumors.”
“Pertaining to what?”
“The so-called celebration tomorrow.”
The King looked at Newgate with a peculiar expression before taking a long sip of his beverage. “I understand your concerns, but it should be a standard affair.”
“A standard affair or a pit of vipers, your majesty?”
“Our disagreements with our neighbors are a thing of the past. That was the whole reason for the party, Gunter. It’s to be a formal arrangement to welcome in the coming years of peace.”
“That much I can understand, the problem lies with you going and the dark tidings I’ve heard.”
The King laughed, it was hearty yet hollow. Mary hated that laugh. “You make it sound like I’m in danger, Gunter.”
Newgate didn’t respond. He looked at the King with a cold serious stare. Mary couldn’t tell if the King was frowning or smiling due to his beard, he took another long sip and finished his beverage before setting it back down on her tray.
“And? When is a king not in danger?” King Alric continued. “But do you expect the Emperor of Berma to lash at me with a dagger in my own court?”
“No, I suspected that particular dagger from his daughter after the both of you were married.”
The King gave another hollow laugh. “At least your sense of humor hasn’t dwindled, old friend.”
“And what if I said that wasn’t a joke?”
“Then you’d be lucky she isn’t with us, else she’d have you hauled off to the prison.”
“You’d let her depose of your captain of the guard?”
“Well, no. But giving her the thought that she has the power to do so makes life a lot easier for me. Not many trust Bermans in our kingdom, even if a Berman is their queen.”
“In all seriousness your majesty, it’s my personal opinion as your captain…And your friend that you keep your wits about you tomorrow. Even though you are the Emperor’s son-in-law, you are also the son of his enemy.”
“You needn’t remind me, Gunter. The last time we dined together the old tyrant wanted to stab me with his fork.”
“I’m not just worried about the Emperor either…”
Newgate paced around the room a few times as Mary retreated into a dark corner eager to stay out of this conversation. The Captain stopped at the giant map located at the center table. Many of Avalot’s once stalwart enemies had been either swept away or joined in an alliance with the kingdom ever since it and the Berman Empire had joined forces. There were few lands on the map that hadn’t joined the alliance or been conquered.
“I can’t help but feel concerned about our other neighbors.”
“He who trusts no one has no one to trust him in return.”
“They’ve all wanted to destroy the kingdom at one point.”
“Only because they were concerned about the safety of their nations, just as we were about ours.”
“Regardless, it’s hard to see who’s a friend here. These nobles are two faced in my opinion; they’re just as likely to stab you in the back as they are to be your ally. Their trust is only as deep as their pockets or their interests.”
“We’ve both played the game of politics before old friend, there’s nothing new here.”
“Just a bad feeling is all. This masquerade party is going to be the largest gathering of foreign leaders in the history of any country.”
“All the more reason to be open with them. To set an example for the rest of them, we must be a good host.”
Newgate grunted, “You’re going to get yourself killed, Al.”
“You’re worrying far too much. This will be a simple affair, you’ll see.”
“I hope you’re right, your majesty.” He did a slight bow before turning to leave. “Good night.”
The room was quiet then as King Alric sat in his chair contemplating the events that had unfolded. At first Mary had hoped that the King had forgotten about her, silently waiting in the shadows attempting not to be seen. There was no such luck to be had, he looked straight at her.
“Come here, my dear…”