Hello everyone. This month I would like to introduce you to my female protagonist, Princess Winnowna Illusia, who I’ve recently discovered whilst doing research for my post on plot points is actually my MC. Originally I had written her as a supporting sub-MC to Patrick Hood, but what do you know? Characters do what they want.
“What is this?” Matilda said severely. “The princess will be announced at any moment.”
Princess Winnowna winced at yet another tug on her hair, trying to catch a glimpse of Matilda through the swarm of maids hovering around her like bees tending to their queen. “It is the collar. Ouch. It keeps catching my curls.”
The maids worked quickly, disentangling the raven locks dangling from Winnowna’s intricate hairstyle, all the while leaning over the voluminous skirt of her dress to avoid marring the jewel-studded silk.
The magnificent costume was her duty to wear, but Winnowna feared she would never be equal to it. The gown seemed to swallow her whole, while the collar snatched at her hair like a pack of malicious pixies.
Winnowna forced a smile when the last curl was free of the ornate metal collar rising up from the shoulders of her gown. “There. Is my tiara straight?”
Matilda tilted her head, studying the ornament. “Yes, Your Highness.”
The trumpets blasted outside, and the herald’s voice echoed in the courtyard. “Her Royal Highness, Princess Winnowna Illusia of the Kingdom of North Caladavan.”
The princess stiffened, but raised her chin and prepared to walk out onto the balcony. Soon the memorial ceremony would be over, and she could again try to pretend the sacrifices never happened.
Matilda hurried behind Winnowna and took up her train. Winnowna walked through the gauzy curtains onto the balcony, followed by Matilda and the rest of her courtiers. The crowd in the courtyard below shouted and cheered.
Winnowna smiled and waved to her people. Matilda settled the train on the smooth marble balcony and took her place at Winnowna’s side.
“Goodness,” said Winnowna. “One would almost think they were pleased to see me.”
“Your people love you, Highness,” said Matilda.
Winnowna looked up at the adjacent balcony, where her father and mother stood in attire yet more regal and extravagant than her own. A rare sight, to see them together. In all her life the king and queen had not spent more than a few days per year in each other’s company.
A somber hush fell over the crowd as the dracona majora, chief sorcerer of the Inner Circle, ascended to the top of the podium in the courtyard below, flanked by two acolytes.
Winnowna’s fingernails dug into her palms. The dark-clad figures of the Inner Circle haunted her gilded youth and childhood, an ever-present reminder of the sacrifices plaguing her land, and of the possibility that her turn might one day come.
Sometimes she dreamed of banishing them all when she became queen, but she knew better. The Inner Circle held great power, given to them by the Great Dragon and its servants. No one dared cross them in all of Caladavan’s history, nor was such a thing likely ever to happen. Winnowna did not pray to the Great Dragon as some did, but she knew its power was inexorable.
“People of Caladavan,” the dracona majora’s voice echoed in the crisp autumn air. “Today we gather to remember our lost royalty. The blood-children, sent by the will of the Great Dragon into the terrible waters of the gulf, and there murdered by the monstrous strangeling Captain Harbinger.”
Strangelings, part human and part faerie, were another of Caladavan’s plagues. Fortunately there were but few of them on the mainland now, though there were monsters and full-blooded faeries enough to make up for it.
The dracona majora continued, “On this day, as we remember the blood-children, it is perhaps fitting that I announce one more to be added to their number.”
An uneasy murmur arose from the crowd.
Winnowna let out a slow breath through her teeth. The last two blood-children had been from North Caladavan. Surely it must be time for someone from South Caladavan to be chosen.
“I announce with deep regret, Princess Winnowna Illusia shall have the honour of serving the Great Dragon as the blood-child.”
She grasped the balcony rail. Her blood seemed to evaporate from her body, leaving her cold and hollow. She did not know whether the shriek rending the air came from her own throat or her mother’s.
The crowd’s murmur grew into a roar of anger. The palace guards rushed in to beat back the angry people and usher the dracona majora and his acolytes to safety.
None of this was real, it couldn’t be. She was going to vomit.
Winnowna pressed cold lips together and swallowed hard. She turned and ran back inside, shrieking, “Libby! Get me out of this. Matilda, help me get this thing off.” Winnowna began pulling at her elaborate hairpiece. “Libby, where are you?”
Libby scuttled forth out of the lounge adjoining Winnowna’s dressing parlour. The lady dressed identically to Winnowna. She served as an emergency stand-in for events in which Winnowna was not expected to interact closely with the crowd. In this case, Winnowna had a different purpose in mind for Libby.
The maids worked in a frenzy. Off came the velvet sash, the cape, the jeweled netting from her skirt, the heavy metal collar. Doubtless they did not understand why Winnowna demanded they undress her, but they soon would.
“Libby, once I am gone I want you to run about the palace screaming. The rest of you must pretend to protect her. The guard shall realize their mistake as soon as they catch you, but keep away from them for as long as you can,” said Winnowna. “Matilda, if you would give me the loan of your plainest dress and a cloak.”
“But Your Highness.”
“We discussed this.”
“It was a game. This was never supposed to happen.”
“It is not a game now.”