It's about time I did another Shining Force CD fanfic, since I haven't published one in over a year. Somewhat fitting, I suppose, that the novelette I'm working on now takes places roughly half a year after my previous SF CD fic. This novelette gets the ball rolling on a few plot threads from my previous works, as well as introducing a few new characters to help fill in the whole sociopolitical layout of Castle Cypress. Took me a while to take all the stuff I knew was going to happen at Castle Cypress and piece it together into something you might call a story, but I think it's working out well.
Also. I'm looking to work in appearances by some of the underutilized characters in my SF CD fics, both original and canon characters. So if anyone has favorites that they want to see, feel free to shout 'em out. I'm already working on chapter 4 of this fic, but there's plenty of room for me to rework subplots and add scenes.
Anyway, here's a sample chapter, so please read, critique, and offer suggestions if you can! I'm using chapter 2 as my sample here, firstly because chapter 2 is where things start actually happening, and secondly because chapter 1 has M-rated content and I would rather not offend anyone who might be offended. Here goes:
Her eyes immediately went to the youngest guest at the table. "I didn't know you had been invited, Varmo."
"We're hosting a diplomatic banquet in a little over a week," Nick explained. "I wanted to discuss the arrangements with our Minister of Decorum."
"I've finished compiling the list of guests who have promised to attend," Varmo pronounced, a self-assured smile on his face. "One name on the list is of particular interest -"
"I doubt any of the guest list would be of particular interest to my queen," Nicholas cut him off, and then, turning to her, said, "Please, sit down. The food is still warm."
She did so, and began serving herself. Richard said, "As I was saying, we've hit an impasse of sorts in our dealings with Emild. King Kay has turned down both of my recent requests for a meeting with him. We have little specific business to discuss with him at this point, but it is highly desirable for His Majesty to tell us his vision for Emild's future."
"And you're afraid he may be following his older brother's footsteps," the king deduced. "An understandable concern, but I can say with confidence that Kay is simply uncertain of himself in his role as ruler. After all, the boy has not even come of age quite yet. He can hardly be expected to have become adept at his duty so quickly." He bit into his piece of bread.
Mayfair frowned at that. Nick was almost certainly right in his assessment, but it was unlike him to dismiss doubts. He always said that nothing is ever certain. Did his certainty stem from his empathy with Kay and his siblings?
"Your Majesty, if I may," Duke Herrig spoke up. "There is a matter which, if somewhat beneath your notice, nonetheless requires your direct attention. Lord Annroy has been infringing upon my lands." The duke stopped there, but Nicholas was still in the middle of chewing, so he added, "Specifically, the several hundred acres between the Cypress River and the forest to the east of his estate."
Mayfair looked sharply at Nick. To think that a mere lord would so blatantly violate the laws of the kingdom at a time like this, when Cypress and her king were both fully secure in their power, was almost beyond belief. It was possible that Lord Annroy had first occupied those lands during the wars, but if that were the case, why hadn't Duke Herrig spoken up when Annroy came to Castle Cypress to swear loyalty to the king?
"Have you... discussed this matter with Lord Annroy directly?" She hadn't noticed it until he spoke, but Mayfair now recognized a subtle tension in Nick's jaw, a quiet anger burning in his eyes.
"Of course! Of course! Yet he insists that the lands are his by right, and is as immovable on the matter as if that were indeed the case. He will relent at no word less than your own, though I am sure that that will be sufficient."
King Nicholas nodded. "I can imagine," he said, no trace of sympathy in his voice. "I will give this conflict due consideration, then."
"What needs consideration? Simply put your seal to an order for Annroy to surrender those lands, and the problem should be solved!"
"Duke Herrig!" Richard snapped. "You presume to instruct your king?"
The duke flushed. "I-I'm sorry, Your Majesty. I did not mean... I let my excitement take control of me. I meant only to suggest..."
"You needn't have done so," Nicholas said. "I am well aware of the most obvious way of solving the problem, and I will take it into consideration." He pronounced the word "obvious" with a certain amount of disdain, but Mayfair could not fathom why. "Such matters are not to be dealt with in an offhand manner. Now, Varmo, I was speaking to you of the preparations for the banquet."
"Ah, yes," Varmo answered. "I've started work on a seating plan, and it occurs to me to ask if there are any two nations which should not be seated at the same table."
"I wouldn't worry about that, no. None of Iom or Emild's more controversial figures will be in attendance, so there is no reason to expect discord."
"Very good. Now, you said this was a fairly informal event, so I've arranged for only a portion of our regular entertainers, plus a small town performing troupe, to keep things lively for our guests' arrival. Similarly, the cooks will be preparing a steady stream of small dishes for the most part, with only one universal course. The ballroom is being decorated for the event, and the court musicians are rehearsing the most lively songs in their books. ...I beg Your Majesty's pardon if I am... rambling into unimportant details."
The king shook his head. "No, continue. I wish to know everything."
Varmo seemed very sure of himself in light of how new he was to the position of Minister of Decorum. He doesn't even have Halron at his side, yet he speaks as though he knows exactly what he's doing. I only wish I could be certain that that's a good thing. Varmo has good, strong ambitions, but he lets them roll over his ethical compunctions.
"Well then, as to nighttime accommodations..."
"Excuse me, Queen Mayfair," Duke Herrig said, drawing her away from what Varmo was saying. "My daughter, Peppe, has been inquiring about you."
"That is very kind of her," she answered. Mayfair did not know Peppe well, but she seemed a good young lady. Despite her position, she fraternized freely with the other girls of the castle. "You may tell her I am quite well."
"This is, of course, your first time with child, so needless though it may be, she was concerned on that account."
"It is my first time, but it has been very... natural for me."
"Good, good. Though not entirely surprising to those who know you at all." He smiled with tightly sealed lips, like a starving man trying to keep as much cheer into the conversation as possible. "You sympathize with my plight, don't you, my queen?"
She wasn't sure what to say to that. First of all because, while she of course sympathized with any victim of unprovoked aggression, her family had never owned land and she thus found it hard to imagine what it was like to own any. And secondly, because out of the corner of her eye she could see Gyan giving her a look which plainly said Don't say anything. Knowing that she had to say something, this made her distinctly uncomfortable.
After a hesitation that she realized was far too long to be polite, she managed, "I confess that I don't quite understand the situation. How is Lord Annroy infringing upon your lands, exactly?"
"Ah, well... He's been exacting tribute from the people working those lands, gathering crops from them... That sort of thing."
"While it is you who have been leading and guiding those people?" she suggested.
"Well, I would be, were Annroy not compelling them to follow his commands. You understand my problem, yes?"
It bothered Mayfair that Herrig would mention the fact that his people were being harassed last, but she knew better than to assume that meant anything. She opened her mouth to reply, but was startled by the sound of Gyan loudly clearing his throat. Irritated, she whirled on him and demanded, "Gyan, do you have something to add to Duke Herrig's account?"
"Me?" He blinked his good eye. "Oh no, I just had some food caught in my throat. You know me... I haven't a clue about any of this stuff, just what His Majesty thinks of it."
She continued to glare at him. What is he saying? That Nick doesn't want me talking to Duke Herrig about this? I can't imagine anything else that makes sense, but maybe I'm reading his words too deeply... or not deeply enough.
There were few things Mayfair hated more than when Nick was unclear about what he wanted from her, and one of them was when his unclear intentions were voiced through Gyan.
She turned back to Herrig. "I am inclined to sympathize with you, Your Grace, but I would like to know all the details of the situation before anything else, and I have not time to do that at this moment. Might we discuss this over dinner?"
The duke's face brightened with hope. "Of course! Of course! Indeed, I would be honored if you would join my wife and I in our quarters at that time, and allow me to be your host."
Gyan cleared his throat. "Mayfair, you already have dinner plans with King Nicholas."
Those words sent tension across her ribs, her legs, like iron manacles. And her heart burned with indignant anger in response. "Those plans were no more than tentative." She nodded her head. "I would certainly be pleased to join you this evening, Your Grace."
Gyan's lips pulled back in a gape of astonishment. "Mayfair, think for a moment."
"I am still my own person, Gyan," she returned, keeping her voice low enough that Duke Herrig was unlikely to hear, though it wouldn't overly bother her if he did. "Just because I am carrying his child doesn't mean I belong to King Nicholas. I will serve Cypress as I choose."
"All right..." Gyan said, casting her a "can't say I didn't warn you" look.
She realized that what she was doing was senseless, but she didn't care, because it was virtually harmless as well. And she was tired of Nick's orders, his indirectness, and most of all, his coldness. Just this once, she was going to deny him.
Lieutenant Jengh had been in a conversation with one of his favorite sergeants when a guard informed him that the prisoner(when asked which one, the guard had said in a lowered voice "The prisoner") had been clamoring to speak with Lady Natasha or Sir Deanna for the past two hours. The interruption did not please him, and he was sorely tempted to disregard Lady Natasha's orders about the prisoner. After all, he didn't put any faith in his prophecy about Deanna and Natasha's child, even if a few of his other visions had proven true.
He could hear the prisoner's ranting as he entered the dungeon - something about a warning, and numerous repetitions of Deanna and Natasha's names. He didn't bother listening closely enough to sort it all out. His feet stomped down the stone steps, his nostrils sealing shut against the stench.
"What?" he demanded as soon as he stood before the bars holding Brehen in his private cell. "What is it?"
The prisoner started at Jengh's sudden appearance, then managed, "I need to speak to Deanna and Natasha."
"They are not in this city, haven't been for over a month, and have not informed us of any plans to return here soon. If you have had a vision, tell it to me. Or to Sir Edwin, if you prefer."
Brehen gnawed at one of his fingers, and Jengh realized that he was shaking uncontrollably. It might have been fear of Jengh himself, but the lizardman lieutenant doubted that. He was too familiar with Jengh to fear him.
"I will speak to you if Deanna and Natasha are not available, but it is very important that they be informed as soon as possible," he said at last. "Is it at all possible to have them sent for?"
Jengh folded his arms. "We've received word that they plan to attend the upcoming diplomatic party in Cypress. By now they must be on their way there. Now, are you planning to tell me of this vision you saw, or -"
"D-d-did you say, a d-d-diplomatic party? In Cypress?"
"Good; you can hear."
"Oh, g-g-gods, no!" His now shuddering hands grasped the bars. "T-t-that's where it begins! You have to stop them! I-I-I just saw it in my vision! A diplomatic party in Cypress... t-t-that's where it all begins!"
"What are you talking about!?" Jengh snarled.
"You have to stop them! Send a messenger, bring them back to the capital -"
"It's too late for that! Now tell me what you are talking about!" He reached out to seize Brehen, but he collapsed to the floor of his cell, shivering. "Tell me! 'Where it all begins'... Where what begins!?"
"The Cloud of Iom..." the prophet mumbled.
"Yes, your supposed son of Deanna and Natasha who's going to kill us all. What about him?"
"His fate... the course of his life... it's determined there..."
"Oh, of coursssse. A diplomatic party is going to determine the entire life of someone who isn't even born yet." He let out an aggrieved sigh as he turned away and headed back up the stairs. "Yes, I'll be sure to inform Deanna and Natasha of that."