Yesterday, I said I’d make something everyday. Today, I made a tiny book and did some writing. (It’s impossible for me to share everyday, but I’ll post when I can.)
I worked on my story The Princess Detective. Here is a scene an early chapter of the manuscript.
The Princess opened the door. “Jaffine!”
Indeed, Jaffine stood on her front step, looking bright as a morning bloom. “There she is, the little principessa who abandons her date without a word. I might’ve thought someone had carried you off if I’d forgotten whose house I was in. Far more likely she had locked you up in a secret room if I know her. But of course, I don’t really know Cordelia because she likes her secrets. However, I do happen to know that house, and I know there are no secret rooms. Not yet. I don’t doubt Cordelia will put some in when she has a moment. So, imagine my feelings at being left behind at such a party by my plus one.”
The Princess, who still wore her sleeping robes and hadn’t finished her tea, stared.
“I’ll tell you what I figured. I figured someone finally said something that pushed you out the door. You’re far too polite to leave without explanation unless you had good reason. I knew no violence or nonsense had occurred. I know high-born ladies when they’ve had a bit too much of the bottle. It helped that I was wondering around looking for you when who should come staggering up to me but the winsome Lady Veroncia, and she said she’d found you surprisingly pleasant to talk to, and that’s when I knew she must’ve said something unforgivable. It is after all what she does best.”
The Princess pressed her fingertips to her temple. She wasn’t ready to think about Veroncia.
“If you can’t tell me if I’m right, at least invite me in.”
The Princess moved out of the way. Jaffine took in the living room and its casual furniture and simple air. “I can see why castle life didn’t suit you.”
“Thanks. I think. I was in the kitchen.”
The table wasn’t big, but she did have another chair on the other side of it. Jaffine sat down, helped herself to some tea, and grinned. “I thought you’d be more of a morning person.”
“I thought of you more as a visit at a proper hour sort of person.”
Jaffine chuckled. “That’s fair. Usually I am. People are surprised to learn I like the mornings. I’m up early and ready to go before most high-born ladies have finished dreaming. Mind you. It’s only high-born ladies who think everyone gets up at high noon and yet still expect their breakfast to be served hot.”
“I was up but I take the morning slow is all. It’s lovely here, don’t you think?” The Princess gestured at the window and its view of the woods and shimmering sunlight.
“I see what I’m missing. My house faces north. Well, principessa. I thought we should exchange notes right away. I don’t want to forget, and I don’t want to write anything down. Notes on murder seem like a bad idea, don’t you agree?”
“That’s right. Exactly. So last night I paid attention to corners of gossip I usually walk pass. There’s gossip at these parties and there’s gossip, and I have my standards. I really do. But I thought it might be time to listen to the more sordid bits. You know. A murder has happened, and people are talking.”
The Princess nodded for her to continue.
“The hot news had to do with blood magic and prophecies. These people usually stay away from truly dangerous topics. We all know how the King and Queen feel about these things. The high-borns like their trouble but only the kind of trouble that ends in blushing and hiding at home for a while. Not in being arrested. But people just seemed out of control last night, I must say. You were smart to leave.”
“Was I?” Her thoughts were clicking into place, but she wasn’t used to thinking so fast so early.
“But let’s stick to what’s relevant. It seems there is this notion that with the right magic, one can talk to the dead. Personally, I don’t know what anyone would have to say to a corpse that’s been in a box under the earth for however long, but some folks argue the dead know all things. They know the fates. The future. All of it.”
The Princess held her teacup. “Why would they think such a thing?”
“They read it in a book. I’ve never seen such a book. My bookshelf holds a few scandalous reads, I suppose, but I don’t break the law.”
“The law is absurd. The King has just made these ideas more appealing.”
Jaffine helped herself to some blueberries. “We aren’t going to get anywhere debating the validity of the book bans, principessa. We need to talk about the book. What if the person who has the book is the killer? They could be. If the book has a spell about blood magic and that magic requires the blood of royalty and the Prince had his throat slit…. See?”
Then the Princess remembered. She’d been so troubled by the party and so distracted by so many things, she’d forgotten about the book she’d taken from the Prince’s room. She looked at Jaffine’s silly grin. She wondered if Jaffine had forgotten that the dead Prince wasn’t a stranger to either of them. She also wondered how Jaffine would react to being in the same room with a banned book.
“I have something to show you, but you have to promise me that you’ll tell no one.”
The two women stared at one another. One skeptical the other could keep secrets. The other wondering the same.
The Princess rose form the table and went to her bedroom. She returned with the bag. With more confidence than she felt, she pulled out the book and set it on the table. Telling the Future with Illustrious Ladies.
“I found it in the Prince’s room yesterday. I haven’t even had time to look at it.”
Jaffine didn’t move.
“I took it mostly out of curiosity, but also to protect the Prince. He’s been murdered. He doesn’t need to be tied to one of these books.”
Jaffine set down her teacup.
“Jaffine? Are you okay? Do you want me to put this away?”
Jaffine appeared to snap out of whatever trance she’d fallen into. “Yes. I mean, no. I mean yes, I’m okay and no, don’t put it away. You’re the Princess. If anyone is safe from arrest, it’s you.”
The Princess wasn’t at all sure that was true. The King’s fear of these books ran deep, and the death of the Prince had put both he and the Queen in a dark mental state. But he had no reason to suspect her of anything. Indeed, he was hoping she’d find the killer of his son. “I’ll make more tea. We have some reading to do. Is that all right, Jaffine?”
“Call me Jaff,” she replied and picked up the book.
At some point, I’ll serialize this manuscript on Patreon. (Currently I’m serializing another novel there, Drowning Karma.)
Current work for sale is on ETSY.