Writings: The Lost Last Princess of Ravelin (Part 3)

Previously posted on my Patreon.

I had planned this story out in 3 parts of 5 segments each. The number and structure is important to me, as it is in all my books and most of my short stories. October was going to be when Part 3 went up, with all 5 sections. Instead, between divorce and depression, I was able to write the first section and nothing more, and I'm sorry. I hope to have the rest of the story up next month, and thank you for your patience with me.

As you may remember from Part 1 when I opened the fic with a long introduction, this is a fantasy story that explores the tension around being "disabled in public" especially when one's disability is tied to how they make a living, such as disability activism. Meirin has experimented with trying to hide her disability in order to dodge discriminatory hiring practices vs. trying to turn her disability into a selling asset, by making the epic (and false) poem about her being a lost princess work to her advantage.




"New rule: We don't take any more jobs involving sea caves. I'll be finding kelp in my hair for the next week." Meirin threw herself onto the barstool with tired abandon, rubbing at her eyes as she did so; three baths later and she still couldn't shake the feeling she had salty grit in every orifice.

"I don't think that was kelp, strictly speaking," Kyne countered with a smirk. "Sea flora is varied and complex--"

"--and doesn't belong in my hair regardless of classification," Meirin finished with an edge to her voice. She felt guilty for taking that tone with them but by the gods she was tired. She needed a long rest, and she knew they weren't going to get one. Not only had their last job been harder than usual, it had been negotiated for lower pay as well. Instead of taking a rest break between jobs as they usually did, they now needed to locate and snag a new contract as soon as possible. The pressure gnawed at her.

"Meirin? Are you all right?" Ereth studied her with worried eyes, concerned by her tone.

"I'm fine." She ran a hand through her tangled curls and grimaced as she found another pustule of kelp. Taking a deep breath, she signaled for another beer from the bartender and crushed the little tag-along weed under her good foot. "I'm sorry. I don't mean to be sharp with either of you. But our purses are almost empty. We've got to find work fast. Something that pays well and isn't as dangerous as that last job." She avoided Ereth's eyes as the words spilled out. "I think it's time to fall back on the princess thing."

Kyne took their drinks from the bartender with a smile and handed over a single thin coin. When they turned back to Meirin and Ereth, their expression was thoughtful and she knew they were considering her suggestion. Their seriousness made her feel less ashamed; if her idea was bad, they would have said so. Tactfully, yes, but they didn't hold back their opinion when she asked for it.

The frown in Ereth's voice, on the other hand, was impossible to mistake. "But... we agreed we wouldn't do that anymore," he objected. "You don't like the way they treat you when you talk about your leg and being abandoned as a baby and- and stuff."

Meirin kept her eyes on the beer in her hands. "No, you don't like the way they treat me when I talk about my leg, Ereth." She kept her voice soft and low, not wanting to put him on the defensive. "I'd rather whine about my leg to them than have to hide it so they don't under-pay us on account of having a cripple on the team." The hateful word felt ugly in her mouth but if she had to hear it, then Ereth did too.

He flinched and looked away from her, turning to study the weathered boards on the tavern wall. Meirin followed his gaze and wondered what he saw. He was from a tiny community of elvish separatists, living in the mountains apart from society; she supposed he saw only rotting wood in need of replacement. Meirin was a city girl who had worked in taverns for years before striking out in search of adventure, so she saw the nuances he didn't see: the discolorations where drinks had spilled, the chipped paint where the owner tried to cover up the damage, the line where he gave up--or ran out of money and paint--and stopped.

What a difference experience makes to one's point of view, she thought. She felt a pang of sadness and hated that she couldn't discern an immediate reason. Maybe she hurt because Ereth still didn't understand. Or perhaps her sorrow came from the fact that she didn't want to make him understand, to open his eyes to the world she lived in. It was painful to put herself on display again and again, telling the story about her broken body and letting others gawk at her. Being a 'learning experience', being a living example for clients to run their eyes over, felt dehumanizing and profoundly uncomfortable. The fact that she felt forced by circumstance and need into the role in order to earn enough to survive only made her discomfort worse.

Kyne broke into her thoughts, their voice gentle and probing. "Maybe we could approach this from another direction," they offered. "You're supposed to be a princess; it wouldn't be strange if you were too 'delicate' to talk about some of this stuff directly with clients. Perhaps I could talk to them first on your behalf as a trusted associate and field the first rush of invasive curiosity."

She shook her head, wishing she didn't feel so frustrated with them; they were only trying to help and it wasn't their fault that people could be awful. "Kyne, they don't want to hear about it second-hand. If they did, they'd just hum that damn song everyone's practically memorized. They want to hear it from me. They want to look and see and poke and handle and hear and coax out some new detail or trauma no one else has gotten to before them. I don't like it, but that's just the way it is. The sooner we can accept it--"

The tavern door burst open, causing several heads to turn toward the noise. Meirin watched with widening eyes as soldiers strode into the crowded room. They were dressed in uniforms she didn't recognize--nothing like the ones Ceridan's personal guard wore--and their equipment looked faintly shabby and frayed at the edges. Their march was impressive by the sheer weight of their numbers invading the small tavern, but it lacked the precise discipline of the parades she'd watched in the city.

She wondered, for just a moment, if they were here to drink. Maybe some local lord kept a private militia group and they all went off-duty at the same time. This was the trio's first night in the little town--stopping over on their way from nowhere to anywhere else--so it wasn't like they knew everyone's drinking schedule. Maybe the soldiers would be merry and willing to buy everyone a round after a hard day's labor of standing around doing nothing. But their shoulders didn't relax as they filed into the room, and their hands didn't move away from the hilts of their swords.

A man wearing armor which was in much better condition than the others' entered on the heels of the soldiers. He seemed to be their leader by the way the others arranged themselves around him. His eyes found Meirin in the darkness of the bar and he approached her. She had to fight the urge to shrink back into the hard wood of the bar, and Kyne let their hand drop casually to the mace which always hung at their belt. Ereth, never one to be subtle, simply reached behind him and gripped the shaft of his battle axe.

The man seemed unperturbed by these preparations for battle, though Meirin was certain he had noticed every movement. His eyes were sharp and bright, a deep brown contrast to his graying hair. He reached the tiny knot of open space in front of the adventuring trio and--to Meirin's utter astonishment--dropped to one armored knee. "What are you doing?" she demanded, fear making her voice hoarse in her throat.

"Princess Merinn, I am Wyrus. We--myself, and these men and women with me--are here to see you restored to your rightful place on the Ravelin throne."


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