Writings: The Lost Last Princess of Ravelin (Part 1)

Previously posted on my Patreon.

It started with an Amazon Prime movie.

Mythica was a fantasy movie with a disabled girl wizard as a protagonist. It wasn't good--the effects were cheesy, the characters were stock, and the writing wasn't always stellar--but it was the closest thing to representation I've ever seen in a fantasy setting. I became obsessed with the damn movie, and its sequels. (#2 is good. #3 is adequate. #4 and #5 made me want to burn my television in the fireplace.)

I began drabbling with my best friend in the whole world, wanting a disabled wizard of my own. Maybe an enby who didn't know yet she was an enby. Polyamorous without shame. ("Well, maybe some initial shame she could work through," I thought, writing myself deeper onto the page.) Maybe an orphan who deals with my own feelings of abandonment after being disowned and homeless at various points in my life. Maybe exactly like me in way too many ways for anyone else to enjoy.

Fun drabbles happened and she met a nice man who was an earl and a bard. He asked about her disability and she lied happily, feeling in a jokey mood. And then it struck me: what if he wrote a song about her but got the details wrong? What if he thrust her onto the public stage in a way she had to straddle, exploiting the attention in order to make enough money to survive but quietly ambivalent about being pushed into a celebrity role?

Maybe, too, I'd done a lot of thinking about Twitter and how high follower counts come with harassment but are necessary if we want to sell our words to a large enough audience to survive. Anyway. This is the story that came out of all those feelings. It's a three-part story that I'd like to someday expand into a full book, but we'll see.

Thank you.




He would never have met her if he hadn't been born an earl.

Ceridan liked being an earl; the sweet spot of nobility was, in his opinion, being the youngest son of the king's younger brother. Important enough to be allowed to represent the royal family and its interests, but unimportant enough that he was allowed to do actual fun jobs like mingle with the people and hear their concerns. He didn't have to be sheltered from crowds for his own safety, nor were strict measures taken to protect him; he was simply too far removed from the throne for anyone to bother trying to harm him.

Since a catastrophe would have to happen before he would ever sit on a throne, his schooling had focused on manners and decorum over governance. When the magic testers found he bore only the tiniest hint of magical ability, he was allowed to forgo the study of wizardry (which his two older brothers had to slog through, despite neither being more talented than he) and instead train under an old and respected bard. Sure, he didn't get to sling fireballs around, but he actually preferred the subtle playful magics coaxed from his viol and dulcimer, the way healing and support wrapped around the notes in perfect harmony.

Perhaps it was no mistake then, when music brought the magical girl into his life.

The night had begun like any other in his privileged life. In his capacity as royal representative, he'd made an appearance at a celebration of local artists, held at the art gallery owned by Lord Odieth. The strange girl arrived on the arm of Lord Odieth's sullen son, a boy more interested in hobnobbing with other students at his wizard school than he was in wooing ladies appropriate to his station. Her hand lingered on his arm as she gazed with open wonder at the paintings displayed about the room. She was the only one present who seemed to care about the art; the nobles had already seen these paintings dozens of times before, and even Ceridan had been more interested in the food than in the limitless bounds of imagination on display.

At first he'd only noticed her because she was so out of place, a jarring note disrupting the harmony of the evening. She was older than her date, a stranger to the room, and visibly a commoner. Her dress was a store-bought swirl of midnight-blue and silver which complimented her wild hair and dark eyes, yet marked her as provincial bordering on impoverished. Even Ceridan could see the dress cost was measured in mere silver and not the vast gold a noble woman might be expected to spend on her appearance for the gala.

He'd thought perhaps the girl was a social climber, or even a star-crossed lover to the young man who had escorted her into this den of noble wolves. Ceridan even fancied penning a tragic song in dedication to the pretty commoner whose name he didn't know. The ballad would be a tearjerker replete with heartbreak and disappointment, for Lord Odieth would never allow his only son to stoop so low in marriage. Yet as the evening unfolded and Ceridan cast the occasional curious glance back in her direction, he was forced to reevaluate his assessment. The girl clung to her date throughout the evening, happily dragging him down the line of paintings in admiration of the art (and avoiding the guests who would have scorned her), but though the mismatched pair seemed friendly, Ceridan discerned no hint of love, star-crossed or otherwise.

Then he heard the music. Not the expensive band listlessly playing unobtrusive melodies in the background, but vibrant living music which seemed to come from nowhere and everywhere at once. It surrounded the girl as she studied each painting, eyes wide with unabashed wonder at the colors and techniques on display. Bright, happy music for an abstract splash of orange sunset; the sort of melody to which he could dance a jig. A slow, mournful dirge for a rendering of a wedding which seemed to trouble her somehow; Ceridan realized as he peered at the object of art (which he'd passed dozens of times before!) that the bride did not look particularly happy to be at her own celebration. How had he missed that? He had little time to wonder, for already she was moving on to stand before a representation of his uncle's castle, captured in paint just at the moment when the dawn's first rays touched the highest parapet. Ceridan found himself holding his breath in anticipation, wondering what music would come from her next.

It was a magic charm, he knew. Being able to produce strains of sound and melody was one of the first spells taught to any magic user, the spell known by each lowly bard and every lofty wizard. But few utilized the spell in this way, publicly and unashamedly trilling off delighted artistic accompaniments in response to the masterpieces on display before her. He found himself wishing the girl would come over to talk to him. When she glanced back and met his eyes he realized with a sudden lurch in his heart that she wanted the same thing. To talk to him, to catch his attention. It was why she was willing to embarrass herself tonight before all these nobles, baring her enthusiasm in the face of their scorn: so he might notice her.

Now he had.


"What do you think of this one?"

The painting closest to them was of a shadowy figure at night, all blues and grays and blacks mixed in thick swirling brushes. It made him think, appropriately enough, of her midnight-blue dress and black hair. She studied the canvas with a tiny smile in the corner of her mouth, silent as music swirled around them. The notes began as a cheery march that set an orderly rhythm and would be perfect for a parade, then expanded to a jaunty dance which would be playful were it not for the faltering note of discord under it.

Determination, tempered with joy and threatened by danger.

"She's on her first adventure," the girl beside him confided, nodding at the indistinct figure in the painting. "She thinks she's ready for anything and in control of her own destiny, but what she doesn't know is that the night holds dangers she's never imagined. Just over that hill there, the one with a thousand shades of blue, she'll run into a whole army of angry goblins on the prowl. They'll take her captive, you know."

Dancing blue eyes looked up at him, dark as a lake on a moonless night. She paused in her tale as any good storyteller would and his heart thrilled. His old bardic teacher would have loved this girl. "An eye for beauty, and a knack for storytelling," he praised, his smile warm. "Such a specific impression you receive from the artist's hand! But what will happen to the girl?"

She gave an airy wave of her hand, grinning as she turned back to the painting. "Well, obviously they take her captive," she explained lightly, her smile never faltering. "But thanks to her wits and a little magic, she makes friends with the goblins and they keep her as a welcome guest instead of a prisoner. They feed her and teach her their language, and she learns the world is bigger and more beautiful than she'd dreamed. Oh!" She tilted her head at him and her messy curls shifted with the movement. "I'm Meirin, by the way."

He took her offered hand with a smile and bowed over it as a gentleman ought, lips brushing the air over her skin. "A pleasure to meet you, Meirin. I'm Ceridan, Earl of Blissfell. But you knew that, didn't you?"

"I might have." Her smile turned a delightful mix of wry amusement and sheepish embarrassment, suddenly shy at being caught looking his way earlier. "Is it true you're the king's nephew?"

There it was. It didn't hurt his feelings. His title had been his from birth; every person he'd ever interacted with had known his station. His job was to be available to the people, and now he would be available for an enjoyable moment in time to this pleasant stranger. He gave her his warmest smile. "I am, yes."

He did not expect the wistful sigh that followed his answer. "I was afraid of that. I do have business with the king's nephew, but I was rather hoping you were a charming look-alike. Maybe a common-born decoy hired so that the real earl can get a good night's sleep instead of attending yet another party?"

Ceridan could only laugh, touched by her evident disappointment. "I'm afraid I am the king's nephew, madam," he confessed with a grin. "But if I were a charming look-alike, I'd hardly be likely to admit it."

Her eyes glittered up at him with mischief. "Well. Please, do tell me if you change your mind."

"I will," he promised, feeling warmth from the wine and perhaps from the offer glimpsed in the depths of those eyes. It was the first time someone had solicited him on condition that he wasn't as rich and powerful as he seemed. "In the meantime, won't you tell me the business you have with the king's nephew?"


She was in his bed by morning, though not by any route he would have imagined.

He'd believed her story at the gala, farfetched though it seemed. The girl in the painting (for so Meirin continued her tale in the light, easy tones of a natural-born storyteller) had been hired by Ceridan's third cousin once removed, a petty baron who lorded over his northern lands as though he were a king himself. He had contracted the girl to steal a trinket from the goblins: a thing of sentimental value for a local widow, he had assured her. Only after a series of mishaps, including being captured by those same goblins, did she realize the 'trinket' was a piece of the crown jewels which the baron had sworn to keep and protect. For him to have lost the jewel, and to a band of goblins no less, was both a disgrace and an ill omen.

The girl, bless her soul, was neither particularly patriotic nor political. She'd been hired for a job and still planned to fulfill her obligation to the baron. So what if he'd misplaced a priceless emblem of the crown? Everyone made mistakes, she reasoned. But when the baron sent an assassin after her to retrieve the jewel and kill the only witness to his failure, that was a step too far. The girl fled to the goblins for aid and worked out a deal: they would let her return the jewel to the crown if she would bring their case before the king and ask him to replace the treacherous baron with someone less wont to set his hunting dogs on them. She had readily agreed and traveled to the capital in search of someone who could arrange a royal audience.

Her story was amazing, almost fantastical, yet Ceridan found he believed her. Baron Galder did have such a jewel in his possession; Ceridan's uncle, the king, had given it over to the man to protect and keep secret. Few commoners such as this girl would even know about the crown jewel, let alone describe it with perfect accuracy. Then, too, Ceridan had never liked Galder; the man was a self-righteous prig, always lording over his vaunted willingness to stay with his estates in the north, despite the existence of far more qualified people willing to manage those estates for a noble patron. Ceridan was not surprised in the least that the man was merely making up excuses to stay in a small pond where he could be the biggest fish.

He wanted very badly to take the girl before his uncle right away, but that would be a mistake. Without proof, or at least strong evidence to back her story, Galder would have the stronger claim in court. His word as a peer of the realm was, however unfairly, worth more than the word of a nobody. Worse, he could claim that Meirin was the one who stole the jewel out from under him, painting her as a revolutionary out to smear his good name. She'd been sanguine when Ceridan explained all this to her, admitting she'd feared as much. Then she'd asked something which astounded him: what if she had a goblin with her willing to back up her side of the story with testimony of his own?

Ceridan wanted to meet him. He said so, tamping down the wild excitement that seized his heart. A goblin! Here in the capital city! He'd only heard about them in bedtime stories and the occasional report from the northern border guards; they were as real to him as fairies dancing on the eyelashes of sleeping babies. He made a date to meet them both the next day at a club where no one would ask questions, and she left the gala with bright eyes which made him feel guilty for not doing more. Gods help him, he liked this girl.

He looked forward to seeing her again, though not in the manner in which he did: unconscious and bloodied, with a crossbow bolt in her stomach as a frantic cleric hovered nearby trying to stop the internal hemorrhaging. Witnesses had been unclear, but everyone agreed that a man dressed in black had attacked the girl on her route from the gala to her inn. Ceridan felt sick; rather than provide her material aid--or at least an armed escort--he'd sent her away with instructions to bring him proof and she'd nearly died. Only her quick thinking--a magical illusion of fire and a shout for help--had brought witnesses running and sent the assassin into the shadows. She'd given Ceridan's name to the first soul to reach her, then passed out from the pain.

Or the poison, he reminded himself as he watched her stir in his bed. The cleric had found it in her system, insidious and deep. She'd only thought to check for it because she was from the northern border herself, where the stuff grew after rains; children sometimes put the brightly-colored leaves in their mouths and had to be healed. When she overheard Ceridan tell the captain of the guard that the assassin was likely from the north, she'd done another pass over the unconscious girl and found the taint in her blood. Another few hours without treatment and she'd have died in her sleep.

"Mmmph?" The words in Meirin's mouth were a confused mumble. He was at her side in a moment, leaning over her to check her pulse and temperature, relieved to find the beat of her heart steady and the touch of her skin just the right amount of warm. She tried again and his name was a soft whisper on her breath. "Ceridan? They got me to you?"

His heart beat a staccato of relief. "They did. You were smart to give my name. You're safe here."

She murmured something unintelligible and he leaned closer to hear, but found instead soft lips pressed against his as her hand slipped behind his head to steady him in place. Her kiss was warm and deep and sent a trill of music rushing through his blood; only after several long heartbeats did he pull guiltily back.

"Oh, hey. Hey. You don't... you don't have to do that," he told her, giving her a gentle smile and wishing his voice wasn't suddenly so hoarse. He'd been so worried for her, and now to have her awake and kissing him was more than he should want. She was--or had been--wounded. She needed rest. He ought to leave.

"But I want to." Dark eyes glittered in the late morning light. "I know: you're still an earl and I'm still a nobody and this isn't heading towards picking out drapes. I have other lovers, too, if that matters to you. But I nearly died and I like you as much now as I did last night. So. May I kiss you again, Ceridan?"


"What happens next?" Her fingers were soft on his arm, her smile sleepy and satisfied. He heaped a thousand curses on his younger self for not sticking with the sketching classes his father had suggested he take. He would like very much to capture her face on parchment, or even canvas.

"The city guard will hunt the assassin while you stay safe here with me," he assured her, laying another soft kiss on her forehead. "I hope you don't mind."

"I do, very much so," she teased, stretching like a cat. "Sleeping on fine linen after days traveling the wild is just torture. And my friends?" Bright eyes looked up at him, hopeful and sure.

"They'll come stay here too," he promised. "Your goblin friend and whoever else you have with you. There's plenty of room and lots of guards. I don't want you to worry."

"I'm not worried." She shook her head, looking up at the ceiling with interest; she traced the patterns painted there with a contented gaze. "For the first time in a long time, I feel like everything will work out. Thank you," she added, turning her brilliant smile on him. "I like you. Best earl I've ever met, hands-down."

"Aren't I the only earl you ever met?" he teased back. Gods, was his grin as giddy as he felt? He couldn't remember the last time he felt so at ease. "You're beautiful, did you know that?"

His praise earned him a shy smile. "Some people tell me so. I'm still having a hard time believing it? My whole childhood I was 'ugly' because my leg made me a bad worker. Now that I'm a wizard, people notice my face more. It's a strange feeling. But it means I get to kiss a beautiful earl, so I can't complain."

He'd noticed her leg when they brought her in; the assassin's sword had torn a gash through her dress. A contraption of metal and leather had been bound to her leg--some sort of brace, he'd hazarded. The cleric had taken it off to check her for wounds, but what had seemed like blood on her skin had turned out to be some sort of extensive bruising or strange skin condition. The cleric hadn't seen anything like it before, but as it seemed to be something the girl was familiar with already, would not attempt to heal it without her consent. "Call me back when she wakes up and I'll talk to her about it," the woman had ordered.

Now Ceridan studied her with affection. She'd brought the subject up herself, but would it hurt if he asked questions? "May I ask about your leg? It's not my business, but I'm shamefully nosy about my friends."

"I don't mind. It's why I can't marry you, I'm afraid," she declared in her light storytelling tone. Her eyes were serious, but something in the tiny curve at the edge of her mouth was unrepentant and playful. "I'm the last princess of Ravelin. When I was born, the royal priests swore my leg was a bad omen, you see. My parents couldn't bear to kill me so I was left at the orphanage just over the border. They planned to bring me back someday, but that was before the military coup. One day I'll return in triumph, though. I'll cast down the usurpers, and take my rightful place on the throne."

Meirin sighed then, a touch dramatically. "I'll probably have to make a political marriage at that point. You know how it is, your lordship." Her warm eyes studied him, watching to see if he would fall for any of this.

Ceridan's lips twitched. "Someone should write your story; it's very dramatic. Remember the little people like me when you're rich and powerful, won't you, your highness?"

"I will try," she promised in a lofty tone, stretching lazily again. Then her smile softened and she dissolved into giggles. "You're too sweet to lie to! It's so unfair. Do you realize how unfair it is? I am an orphan, for the record, but if I'm a lost princess I guess they forgot to include a note. Still, I like that version better than the other options. Anyway! I took up adventuring and wizard apprenticeship to pay off a debt for a childhood healing on my leg which didn't work--we're still not sure why--and then... all this happened."

"Baron Galder and the crown jewel and goblins?"

She shrugged, her eyes bright at his summary. "And you telling me I'm pretty in spite of my leg. Which, yes, I'm sure you already saw," she pointed out, blushing and looking away for a moment. "I used to hate the way it looks--and having to brace it if I want to walk isn't much fun, not to mention the reduced run speed from things like assassins and goblin armies--but... I'm pretty sure Baron Galder picked me for this job because no one fusses too much when cripples go missing. So if you think about it, it's the reason I got to go on the run in the first place. Which has been pretty fun if you don't count bandits and the occasional crossbow bolt to the stomach!" She grinned, faintly defensive at the dawning realization that he might not share her definition of 'fun'. "Really. It's much more interesting than tending bar."

Helplessly, he wondered if a man could fall in love in a single day. He'd always thought that was a fiction of bardic romances, yet he felt physical pain in his chest as he faced that too-bright, too-brittle smile of hers. How brave was she, to have come this far? How strong, to have survived what would have crushed most men he knew? His smile softened. "At least you're getting lots of experience finding silver linings."

"Of course," she agreed brightly, snuggling into his chest and closing her eyes to rest. "Orphans love silver."


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