Jay B. R. Wokky Ch. 13.2 Janine Makes a Discovery

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Ch. 13.2
Unfortunately, Janine did not have a good sense of direction. She tried to keep up with the cat, but he had an annoying habit of disappearing for stretches of time. All she could do was hope they were headed out of Saltonia.
All that day and far into the evening, she crept through the trees. Freddie followed at her heels. His tail drooped, and he kept sniffing the air and looking around them. “I don’t like this place.”
“I don’t either, Freddie dear. Stay close.”
Darkness descended upon the forest, and she took out the ball. “Light,” she told it. The ball began to glow softly.
“Keep up,” said the cat.
Even with the ball, the way was hard. After several more hours of tripping on vines and struggling through thick branches, Janine came out of the trees and saw a tall stone wall.
Freddie growled. The hair on his back stood up. “Bad. Very bad.”
The cat sat down and began to wash himself.
The moonlight illuminated the white walls with an eerie glow. Along the top of the wall hung a gleaming string of silver bells. A faint scent of lilies drifted to her.
At that moment Janine realized that somehow she’d traveled almost in a circle and ended up behind Zelda’s private garden.
Janine glared at the cat. “You were supposed to get me out of Saltonia.”
“The poet Daballi once said, ‘Learning something today may keep you alive tomorrow.’”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Freddie growled low. “Shh. Listen.”
From inside the garden came the sound of some kind of animal crunching on bones. All the hair on her arms stood up. As Janine tiptoed along beside the stone wall, the bells began to ring. The crunching stopped. Janine shivered and held still. The bells stopped ringing, and the crunching resumed.
What was it about this garden? Janine had peeked in through the front gate once. The garden was a place of beauty, but something about it was very disturbing. Zelda never let any of the servants inside to tend her strange plants and flowers. She spent long hours working in there, and she lined the beds and walkways with round stones and sea shells from the beach. Animals wouldn’t go inside — not a mouse, not even a beetle. Janine had never seen even a bird fly over the garden.
The cat said, “Zelda Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow? With silver bells and sea shells, and pretty maids all in a row.”
“What does that mean?” Janine whispered.
Felix faded out. A few seconds later, he reappeared. “There are ten graves in a row. The farthest one is ten years old, the next nine years old, the next eight, and so on. Beside the grave from last year is a freshly dug hole. I won’t describe the corpse except to say it’s human.”
Janine was filled with horror. She turned and fled back into the forest, with Freddie beside her and the cat bounding ahead. The chiming of the silver bells seemed to follow behind. It wasn’t until she came out onto the main road that she realized that there had been no wind that night.

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Jay B. R. Wokky Ch. 13 Meanwhile, Back at the Castle

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Ch. 13.1 — Ezra looked down from his window and watched his brothers sword fighting in the practice yard. He sighed. His brothers were all strong, brave, and valiant — experts with the sword and all other weapons of war. He, on the other hand, was not even allowed near a butter knife. It was so unfair!
“Come away from that window, Sire,” said his bodyguard. Franklin’s black suit was impeccable. His crisp white shirt had been properly starched. Not a hair on his balding head was out of place.
“Bother. Do you really think I’m going to jump to my death or something? Come on, Franklin. I’m bored. I’m never allowed to do anything fun.”
“You’re ten years old now, Sire. Attempts on your life might begin to increase this year. We must be extra vigilant.”
Ezra rolled his eyes. “Oh, please.”
“There have been rumors of a mad ax-man running around in the Tulgey woods. You wouldn’t want to meet him, would you?”
“Better than dying of boredom.”
Ezra faced his bodyguard. “Father is going overboard. How will an assassin even get into the castle, let alone the kingdom? Meanwhile, what am I supposed to do?”
He began to pace back and forth.
Ezra’s siblings were all busy. Matthew worked daily with Father, preparing to be the next king. He had married a girl whose foot had fit into a glass slipper – the lovely Ella (who had turned out to have royal blood on her mother’s side). Mark had heard of a beautiful princess with long golden hair who was being held captive in a witch’s tower. He suspected that it was his own betrothed, who had been stolen away as a baby. Mark was now preparing for a journey to Lake Land in order to rescue her. Ezra’s sister, Esther, was sewing her own dress for her upcoming wedding to Prince Jeremiah, one of the Elf King’s sons. Eli was…
Ezra paused. He would miss Eli most of all. Eli was his best friend, his comrade in all kinds of mischief and trouble. Eli was now sixteen, and he was preparing for a journey to Saltonia to meet his betrothed, the Princess Zelda Mary. She was reported to be as beautiful as the sun and moon.
Ezra thought it strange that she’d never come to Nelsonia before. Matthew’s betrothed had visited them quite often from her kingdom in the north. That was before she’d been eaten by a bear.
Ezra wondered if he could hire someone to eat his betrothed. He’d heard that the Princess Janine was extremely ugly. On second thought, his mother would be very unhappy with him if he actually tried something like that. Oh, well. It would have made life interesting — for a while.
Anyway, After Eli met Princess Zelda, he would spend all his free time with her. Ezra hated her just for taking Eli away from him.
Ezra stopped pacing and yelled at Franklin. “And what do I get to do? I’m told to stay out of trouble, that’s what. I never get to do anything with my brothers.”
“You see them at mealtimes.”
Ezra snorted. “They’re all so busy filling their faces that they don’t talk to me.”
“Princess Esther would be glad of your company.”
Ezra grimaced. His sister was kind, but from the time she’d been a small girl, she had been forcing him to play dolls with her, or paint, or sew, or read her stories. He was sick of it.
“I’m ten years old now. I want to do something manly.”
Just then the gong went off.
Ezra leaped to his feet. “Dinner!” He raced past Franklin and down the long hallway.
“Wait! Your Highness, wait for me.”
Ezra ignored him.

Jay B.R. Wokky Ch. 12.4 Janine’s Name Day Gifts

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Ch 12.4
Janine opened the old leather-bound book. It held the family records: births, marriages, deaths, and most importantly, the pronouncement of gifts given by their magical allies. She ran a finger down the lists of names.
Old Bob looked over her shoulder. “You know, these gifts always seem like such a wonderful thing on the name day, but later they usually go wrong. Your brother, for example. Derrick was promised that he would marry a woman with a beautiful singing voice. No one could have foreseen that Ariel would turn out to be a mermaid or that the evil sea witch would attempt to take over the kingdom.”
“Well, they’re happily married now.”
Janine found her name and read her list of gifts aloud. “From Queen Timora of the Fey — the gift of Beauty.” Janine rolled her eyes. She had been a beautiful baby. For a few months.
“From Perrin of the centaurs – She will be fast.”
Janine and Old Bob looked at each other. She had been able to outrun Paul tonight. Just barely.
“From Marin of the elves — wisdom.” The elves liked to give wisdom. It kept the surrounding kingdoms from doing stupid things like attacking them.
“From Winky, king of the gnomes — Intelligence.” Janine felt an unexpected warmth toward the gnomes. She had begun to read at age three and hadn’t stopped learning since.
“From MaQuire of the Werewolves — She will be Kind.” Princesses weren’t often given kindness. It made them too soft-hearted when it came to ruling. But she didn’t have to worry about that happening.
“Hmm,” said Old Bob. “That’s an unusual gift for a werewolf to give.”
“From Brimhold the dwarf – She will be strong and hard working. Hmmph.” The dwarves expected their wives to be strong and helpful.
“From the mermaid queen – she will have a happy marriage to one who will love her. Ha! Like that will ever happen.”
Next was a gift from the giants. “She will judge fairly. Well, that will come in handy if I ever become a judge.”
Janine shook her head. “From Bernice of the witch guild – the ability to communicate with animals.”
Old Bob nodded his approval. “She outdid herself there.”
Janine agreed. She loved being able to talk to the animals. The only bad thing was that it forced her to become a vegetarian – after all, she couldn’t eat someone she could talk to. Just another thing for her family to make fun of her about.
The list ended there. There should have been at least one more gift. Janine was, of course, familiar with the oft-repeated story of what had happened when Wizard Colin had sneezed on her.
Janine sat for a moment thinking, her fingers ruffling the dog’s ears. She closed the book and set it on the table.
Felix laid his ears back again. “I suppose you want me to take it back tonight?”
“No,” said Old Bob. “I think I’ll do a little browsing first. I want you to accompany Janine until she is safely beyond the borders of this land.”
Felix sighed. “Oh, very well. If you insist.” He jumped off the table and sauntered to the door.
Janine wrapped the coat around her, buttoned it, and then shouldered the knapsack. Freddie stood and stretched, and then went to stand beside Felix. He looked back at her and wagged his tail.
Janine felt lonely and scared. After all, she was a little girl, and it was the middle of the night. Not to mention the fact that a man with an ax was still out there hunting her. She took a deep breath and went to the door. “Which way to the Tulgey Woods?”
Old Bob knelt and gave her a hug. “You are the bravest lass I’ve ever known. I never got to give my gift to you on your name day.” He kissed her forehead. “May all magical folk protect you and help you wherever you go on your journeys.”
Janine hadn’t realized that Old Bob was anything but a man who cared for and trained the dogs. Now she noticed that he had pointed ears. With tears in her eyes, she hugged him back. “You’ve always been a true friend.”

Jay B.R. Wokky Ch. 12.3 Felix Helps Out

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Ch. 12.3 —
Janine looked up at Old Bob’s kind face. “I need a few things from the castle. Will you keep Freddie here until I come for him?”
“You can’t go back up there. It’s too dangerous.”
Janine shook her head. “No one will see me. I’ll take the servants’ staircases. Everyone is at the ball.”
“She’ll have ordered the guards and servants to capture you if they see you. And don’t forget Paul, who is hunting you.”
Janine bit her lip. How was she going to run away without supplies — clothing and food? And what about her books?
Old Bob opened a cupboard, took out a knapsack, and began to fill it with bread, cheese, apples, and a leather bag full of water. He slid out a drawer and then handed her a pair of trousers, a boy’s shirt, and a gray hat. “Step into the bedroom and change. Put your hair up under the hat.”
Janine took the clothing and went into the small bedroom. An enormous black and brown tabby cat sat on the bed. He began to purr.
“How interesting,” said the cat. “A princess. The youngest one, I’d say.”
Janine ignored the cat and began to peel out of her torn, dirty dress.
“Are you running away?”
“Yes.”
The cat licked a paw. “You should go to the Tulgey Woods.”
“Will I be safe there?”
The cat laughed. “No one is safe in the Tulgey Woods. But you’ll be safer there than here.”
Janine groaned. “You’re probably right.”
“If you decide to go on o Wonderland, I have a cousin there who will help you. Ask for Chessy.”
Janine changed into the boy’s clothing and re-braided her hair, then tucked it under the hat. When she looked back at the cat, he had faded away. Only his smile remained.
Janine went back out to the main room of the cottage. Old Bob gave her an old buttoned coat and sturdy boots. He stuffed a toothbrush into the knapsack.
“Will you go with me?” Janine asked. Old Bob had always treated her with kindness. He had been her friend since the first time she had toddled into the stable yard.
“I cannot.” His eyes told her he wished he could. She didn’t ask why. He tucked a small glowing ball into the front pocket of the knapsack. “This will help you see the way. Just tell it what to do, and it will obey.” He studied her for a moment. “Is there anything specific you wanted from the castle?”
Janine bit her lip and shook her head. She thought sadly of the castle library, with its book-lined walls, old comfortable chairs, and thick, soft rugs that always seemed to be sprinkled with dog hair. The books within had been her friends. If there was a way to bring them all with her, she would. She would also miss the kennels, the stables, and the barns with their four-footed inhabitants. She would even miss her family, in spite of how horrid they’d been to her.
Old Bob studied her. “Before you go, you need to know what your name day gifts were.”
“The family record book is locked in a special drawer in the library, and only Father has the key.”
Old Bob smiled. “That won’t be a problem.” He snapped his fingers. “Felix.”
The tabby cat appeared on the big oak table. Curled with one leg stretched out, he seemed to be in the middle of his bath. He yawned widely. “You rang?”
“Get the book of records from the castle and bring it back here.”
The cat put his ears back and lashed his tail. “I seem to recall dogs with big teeth, guards with knives and swords at every corner, and an irate cook with a rolling pin.”
Old Bob looked sorrowful. “Too true. And the book is locked in the Royal Library. Scads of people are up there at the castle, all dancing and partying and carrying on. The kitchen’s frantic with preparing all that delicious food. No place for a cat who has lost his nerve.”
“Lost his –?” Felix hissed. “Ha.”
The cat vanished.
Old Bob winked.
Janine looked at Old Bob with interest. “I didn’t know you could talk to animals the same way I can.”
“It’s best to keep some of the stranger gifts to yourself, if you know what I mean.”
Felix reappeared with a large book in his mouth, which he spat out onto the table. “There. Nasty taste. Probably hasn’t been dusted in the last ten years.”
Old Bob scratched behind Felix’s ears. “You wonderful, smart, brave cat. How did I get so lucky to have your friendship?”
Felix sniffed. “Ha.”
“Thank you, Felix,” said Janine. The cat began to purr.

NaNoWriMo is Here!

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It’s November, and you know what that means.  It’s NaNoWriMo!  National Novel Writing Month is the time when people abandon sane schedules, spouses, entertainment, sleep, and sometimes even food in favor of writing like crazy for an entire month.  And the reward is… the satisfaction of having reached your goal of 50,000 words (and a cool t-shirt). The typical type A personality cannot understand why anyone would do something like this. You mean, they say, there’s no money prize at the end? No fame and fortune? No! Just a lot of zany people all over the country typing like mad. NaNoWriMo is a chance to immerse yourself completely in the book you’ve always dreamed of writing. Don’t stop and go back. Don’t stew over whether this or that word is exactly right. There will be time for that later. Hang a sign on your door that says ‘Back In December’ and just write, write, write.  Above all, have fun!
If you are writing, Good Luck. Let me know how you are doing. We can even be writing buddies (look for cnicolas). I’ll be posting my word count. I can hardly wait to get started.
To sign up on the official site, go to this link: https://nanowrimo.org/

 

Jay B.R. Wokky Ch. 12.2 Old Bob

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Ch. 12.2 Old Bob —
Someone hauled her to her feet. Janine looked up into the face of Old Bob.
Janine began to pound him with her fists. “I hate you. I hate you.” Tears ran from her eyes.
Old Bob grabbed her wrists. “Hold on there, Missy. You’re like a treed cat tonight. Stop screeching and scratching, and listen to me for just a minute.”
Janine kept struggling.
“I didn’t kill your dog.”
Janine stopped fighting and stared at him.
“Your little Freddie’s fine, but you’re in danger.”
Janine looked behind her. She gasped. The crashing was getting louder, coming closer and closer. Paul was almost there.
Old Bob put a finger to his lips and then drew her behind a tree. He made a gesture with his hand. They stood as still as posts as Paul ran by with his axe.
“He’s under a spell,” whispered Old Bob. “He can’t help what he’s doing. Come on, I’ll help you get away.”
“Freddie’s really alive?” She felt weak with relief.
“Yes. Now, be as quiet as you can.” Old Bob took her hand in his large, gnarled one and hurried her through the trees towards his home. When they got to the little cottage, they went inside. Old Bob bolted the sturdy wooden door and muttered a few words.
There by the fire on an old blanket, was Freddie. He looked up at Janine with a forlorn expression. “Zelda said you didn’t want me anymore. She said you ordered Paul to kill me.”
Janine rushed to him, fell to her knees, and hugged the little hound. “She lied. I would never hurt you, Freddie dear.”
The dog licked her face and began to wag his tail.
“Will Paul find us here?” Janine asked.
Old Bob shook his head. “I’ve placed runes of protection around my home. He won’t even see it.”
The fire snapped and crackled as it spread a warm, golden glow throughout the little room. Old Bob set out the teapot and two mugs. He poured her a cup and added a little honey and cream. Janine drank gratefully. She took the bread and bowl of vegetable stew he offered. Freddie gobbled down his bowl of food as if he hadn’t been fed for days.
Old Bob sat down across from her. “I overheard Zelda talking to Paul earlier. She said, “You’ll tell everyone she came here in search of her dog and got in the way of Old Bob’s axe. Such a tragedy. You’re heartbroken. Old Bob will be executed, of course.” And then Paul said, “Yes, your Highness.”
Old Bob shook his head. “What a shame. Such a good man, with a gift for training dogs. And your sister… she’s changed. Not too many years ago, she wouldn’t have harmed any living creature. Now she’s enchanting the dogs’ water and ordering your death. Your parents have become vain and proud. After Prince Derrick married Ariel, I thought things would settle down, but it’s only grown worse. The whole kingdom’s gone mad.”
Janine agreed. Zelda Mary had been a sweet, loving girl up until four years ago. They used to play together all the time. Zelda had defended Janine from the other’s children’s teasing. She had never seemed to mind her sister’s warty face. Then overnight, Zelda had changed.
Janine set her spoon down. Sadness filled her. “Why does she want me dead? I’m no threat to her.”
The food began to take effect, and Janine’s mind stopped whirling. “I’m going to have to run away, aren’t I?”

Jay B.R. Wokky Ch 12.1 – At the Kennels –

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Janine gathered up her long skirts and raced through the stable yard to the kennels where the dogs were kept. She ran down the rows of pens, searching each one for Freddie. The dogs stared at her but didn’t say anything.
“Where is he?” she asked them.
The dogs only whined. Their tails were tucked between their legs, and their ears drooped.
Janine came to the cage at the end of the row where they kept the quarantined animals. It was empty.
Her dog was gone.
Something smelled strange. Janine sniffed. She reached into the cage, took out the bowl of water, and sniffed again. The water smelled weird. Janine sneezed.
Paul, the Kennel Master, came towards her. He walked stiffly, as if he waded through a stream. His gray hair stood on end. He carried an axe.
“Where is Freddie?” she asked. “What did you do with him?”
Paul opened his mouth and panted. There was something wrong with his expression. He spoke in short, terse bursts. “King’s orders. Put the dog down. Gone mad. Foaming at the mouth.”
“Freddie isn’t mad. He’s a good, kind, little dog who was just trying to protect me. Now where is he?”
“No choice.” Paul labored to breathe, sucking air in and out. “Sorry. Must obey.”
Janine swallowed hard. “You mean… you already kill him?”
Paul clutched the axe. Drops of sweat beaded his forehead. His hands shook, and his face was red, as if he strained to carry a huge bale of straw. “No. Old Bob did it. Took dog out back. I was. Too busy here. Dogs howling.”
Janine looked down the corridor. The kennel was silent. Not a single dog was saying a thing.
She frowned at Paul. He had the axe in front of him now. Sweat poured off him. His eyes were wide and staring.
Janine’s heart began to pound. “Paul? What’s wrong? You’re scaring me.”
Gasping for air, Paul’s eyes fixed on her. He slowly raised the axe.
Janine backed up, terrified. “Paul? What’s the matter? What are you doing?”
Paul ground his words out from between clenched teeth. “No choice. Must obey.” He raised the axe high above his head.
He was going to kill her.
Janine ducked under Paul’s upstretched arms and raced out of the kennels and around the back.
Paul howled in fury. Then he came after her with a pounding of heavy footsteps.
Janine ran for her life. The fields were quiet, smooth silver in the moonlight. No one was in sight. There was no one she could call for help.
She dashed across the fields and into the woods. The trees reached long, bony fingers out to grab at her dress. Yellow eyes stared at her from the shadows. In the distance, a wolf howled of his hunger. Bats fluttered around her. Worst of all, Paul was behind her, crashing through the underbrush, getting closer and closer.
She stumbled on the hem of her dress, tripped and fell.
Before she could get up, a hand seized her shoulder.
Janine screamed.

Jay B.R. Wokky Ch 11.6 A Banquet and a Ball

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Ch. 11.6 A Banquet and a Ball
Janine’s maid, Helga, scolded her as she shoved her into a plain, floor length gray silk dress and then braided her hair into two stiff plaits, with no ribbons or bows. Helga didn’t bother putting any soothing creams on the scratches and bruises on Janine’s face and arms.
Janine didn’t resist. All she could think about was poor Freddie.
When Janine was ready, the maid marched her downstairs and deposited her beside her brother, Derrick, who stood with the rest of the royal family.
Zelda now wore a frothy blue ball gown that glittered with jewels, and the slight bruise on her cheek had disappeared. Her hair was perfectly coiffed. Lily perfume floated around her. Janine tried hard not to gag.
“Finally.” Queen Persimmon glared at Janine and turned back to her husband. “We’re all here now. Shall we?”
“Happy faces, everyone,” said King Henry.
The page announced the royal family as they entered the ballroom. Trumpets blew. The guests cheered and clapped. Janine curtsied when introduced and tried to pretend she didn’t see the revulsion on their faces.
Then it was time to sit at the lavish banquet table. First came a soup with large chunks of beef. She ignored it. The next course came. She eyed the food on her plate — dainty meat-filled swans made of pastry, which swam in a pond of blueberry sauce surrounded by green fronds. Her fork stayed on the table.
One of the servants set a plate of roasted chicken before her.
She looked up at him. “Please,” she whispered. “May I have some bread?” The cook and her staff knew Janine didn’t eat meat.
“Sorry, Highness,” the servant whispered back. “His Majesty’s orders.”
Her stomach clenched.
“You’re not eating, Janine. Is something wrong?” Zelda smirked and then took a large bite from her chicken leg.
“I’m not hungry.” Janine looked away and folded her hands in her lap. She refused to cry.
When her oldest sister’s wedding date was announced, Janine clapped politely. Karen looked radiant, and Prince Oswald beamed at his bride-to-be as he took her hand and kissed it.
Janine hoped that Karen would truly be happy. And why not? Soon they would escape this castle. Janine thought of the years she would need to endure until Zelda got married.  How was she going to survive until then?
Later, Janine sat stiffly in a shadowed corner and watched as the royal musicians played a waltz and the couples twirled about the ballroom. Karen and Oswald danced by. They only had eyes for each other. Everyone was having a good time. Everyone but her. Janine’s stomach grumbled.
Janine knew that soon her maid would come and take her upstairs to bed. She was, after all, only ten years old. The maid would be under orders to lock Janine’s bedroom door. Freddie would spend the night alone in a cage in the kennels, and in the morning he would die.
When she thought no one was looking, Janine escaped.

Jay B.R. Wokky Ch. 11.5 Punishment

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Ch. 11.5 — Punishment
The guards appeared at the top of the stairs and marched towards them. Zelda’s maids rushed to her, fanning her and crying in their distress. One of them wrapped a second lace-edged handkerchief around the wound. Janine’s parents, brother and sisters, as well as the servants, maids and valets, all rushed into the hallway.
Janine’s father was furious. “What is going on here?”
Big, fat tears welled up in Zelda’s eyes as she clutched her arm, wrapped with the blood soaked handkerchiefs. “Oh, Daddy, her dog bit me, and Janine punched me. I think I’m going to have a black eye.” She began to sob pitifully.
King Henry turned to Janine, his expression thunderous. “Shame on you, Janine.”
“But…”
“Silence! The guests will arrive in one hour. One hour, people. I can’t stress how important this ball is. Our treaty with the Lazy River Kingdom depends upon it, not to mention your sister’s future happiness. Guards, take this dog to the stable and cage it. We’ll deal with it later.”
“No!” Janine cried. “He was only protecting me. Zelda was trying to hurt me.”
“What? I would never hurt my dear little sister.”
One of the guards picked up the struggling hound. Poor Freddie howled in dismay as the guard wrapped a leather belt around his muzzle. “No! Let me go. Janine, help me. Mmmf, mmf.”
Janine swallowed down her sobs. Somehow she would find a way to rescue her dog.
“Mother, see what she did to me?” said Zelda. “She ruined my hairdo — and just look at my dress. It’s torn and dirty and covered in dog hair.”
Queen Persimmon towered over Janine. “How could you? Zelda’s gown cost a fortune. Now she’s going to have to change and have her hair done again. Betty, find some cream for her poor face. That bruise looks awful.”
Janine stomped her foot. “What about my dress and hair? What about my bruises?”
The queen scowled at Janine. “You did this on purpose to get out of going to the ball, didn’t you?”
Karen’s eyes widened. She gasped and put her hands over her mouth. “Oh, Janine.” Then she burst into tears and fled towards her room.
King Henry called out, “Now, Karen, dear, please don’t cry. Everything will be all right.” He gestured, and Karen’s maids hurried after her.
The queen continued to glare at Janine. “It’s not going to work. You will go to the ball. You will be kind, gracious, and polite — as all princesses should be.”
Janine glanced over at Zelda, who was smirking at her. Then Zelda abruptly held out her bandaged arm and began to wail. “How can I dance with such a grievous wound? Why, I might die from some foul disease. I demand that savage dog be put to death.”
Feeling faint, Janine dropped to her knees. “No, Father. Please don’t. I’ll do anything. I’ll clean the whole castle. I’ll clean the dungeon.”
The queen’s face went red. “You will not. You’re not a child anymore, Janine. I expect you to behave yourself.”
Janine jumped to her feet and clenched her fists. “I’m only ten years old,” she shouted.
Everyone began to talk at once.
King Henry roared above the melee. “Enough.”
Everyone quieted.
“Girls, go to your rooms. Your maids will repair the damage, and both of you will attend the ball. And Janine? You will behave yourself, or you will be cleaning the dungeon. I want this evening to be perfect. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes, Father,” Janine lowered her tear-filled eyes.
“You’ll be so proud of me, Daddy,” Zelda said. She curtsied and then flounced away, accompanied by her flock of clucking maids.

 

Jay B. R. Wokky CH. 11.4 The Fight

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CH 11.4 The Fight —

Janine’s sister stood in the doorway. Princess Zelda Mary was stunningly beautiful. Her long, golden hair curled in perfect ringlets, and rosebuds twined in a circlet around her head. Zelda had smooth skin, blue eyes and full red lips, and her long canary-yellow gown shimmered and rustled when she moved.
“Seven years of bad luck on top of everything,” said Zelda. “You really must learn to control that temper of yours.”
“Like my luck has been so great thus far,” Janine muttered. She looked up at her sister. “Why on earth do you want me at the ball? I’ll just be a distraction.”
Zelda’s trilling, silvery laugh made Janine’s stomach tighten. “How better to compare my beauty than to have Warty Wanda sitting near me?”
Janine’s fists clenched. She was so tired of the taunts, the cruel jabs from the royal cousins, and jokes that she was sure Zelda had instigated. “You take that back.”
Zelda laughed again. “Oh, Janine, don’t be so serious all the time. I was just teasing.”
“Sure you were.”
“What did you say?” Zelda eyes narrowed. Her hand twitched back, as if she meant strike her.
For a few seconds, Janine couldn’t move as Zelda’s hatred poured over her like tar. The air in her lungs froze, and her heart hammered.
At that moment, the hound leaped in front of Janine and curled his lips so his long incisors were showing. His hackles were raised, and he let out a low growl. “Don’t you dare hurt my girl, or I’ll bite you.”
Janine took a deep breath and shook her head, the moment of fear gone.
Zelda stepped back. “Get that horrid dog away from me.”
Freddie began to bark. “Get out! Get out now! Never come back!” He was a brave hound in spite of his small size. He snarled and took a stiff legged step towards Zelda.
Zelda gasped and backed through the open doorway. She opened her mouth to scream.
Janine knew that if the grown-ups got involved, she would lose. “Oh, no you don’t.” She leaped forward and grabbed Zelda by the arm, intending to yank her back into the room and close the door.
Zelda began to scream, kick, punch, and claw at Janine, who hung on with one hand, and fended off blows with the other, all the while trying to kick the door closed. Although Zelda was bigger and heavier than her, Janine was wiry, fast, and strong. Her fist connected with Zelda’s cheek, and her sister yowled. The dog danced around them, barking furiously. In the tussle that followed, somehow Zelda was actually bitten.
Zelda cried out and stood still. Janine let go of her and stepped back, panting, horrified as blood ran down her sister’s arm.
Freddie gagged. “Yuck. Her blood tastes awful.”
Zelda pressed a handkerchief to the wound. Her smile made Janine shiver. “You’ll pay for this,” she said in a low voice.
Then she ran out into the hallway. “My arm!” Zelda screamed. “Guards! I’ve been bitten by a mad dog.” Then she slid to the floor in a faint.
Boots thundered on the stairs.