A few years back a wrote what I had hoped would be an update of the old Ruritanian romances about odd European kingdoms and power struggles. It would also be funny and over the top and involve cults and a famous actor marrying the prince of a small nation. The first chapter takes place towards the end of the book, and then we go back to the beginning to figure out how the heck we got here. I continue to like the opening chapter.
The guards had chased us to the third floor of the castle where none of the doors had locks because under normal circumstances, the only people allowed were supposed to be there. We rushed through rooms filled with priceless antiquities that I didn’t know existed outside of museums, sliding across the polished marble floors. As part of a hastily constructed Plan B that had occurred to me while running, I was looking out windows for ivy to climb down or an awning to jump onto. Mark wasn’t.
“Are you going to help me figure out a way out of here or are you hoping to be executed so you can say I told you so?” The room was covered with mirrors, with white walls and gold trim and I was forced to scan the room twice before I was finally sure where Mark was standing.
“Escaping isn’t part of the plan,” he said, not nearly as out of breath as he should have been. He was moving items on the elaborately arranged mantlepiece. All the items fit in with the white, gold and mirrored theme of the room and likely each cost more than every building I’d ever lived in, but this was excessively detail-oriented even for him.
“The plan went to hell and Larissa is,” I struggled to think of something clever, pondering whether it would be possible to jump part way, “somewhere.”
“Plan B doesn’t involve retreat, Rose,” he said standing on a chair as if he was Henry V and this was Agincourt. Hell, maybe we were near Agincourt. My geography always sucked.
“No one told me there was a plan B.”
Mark ripped a pair of dull swords off a wall display and jumped off the chair with a flourish that impressed even me, and startled the hell out of the soldier at our heels. The Imperial Guard, which is to say the military, which is to say the police, who would find themselves outnumbered and outgunned guarding a Canadian mall, had replaced their usual outfits for formal garb and ceremonial swords for the wedding.
This kept us from being shot and when Mark attacked, it became clear that the guards had not been trained to fend off an invasion at sword point. Mark parried and thrust with the soldier at our heels, who even an ignoramus like myself could tell was embarrassingly outmatched as a swordsman. The soldier’s only advantage was that the white cult robes we’d worn in subterfuge were hell to run or fight in, not that the tunics and tights they wore were much better.
Mark drove the soldier to the wall, forced the sword from his hand and knocked the poor bastard to the floor with a hard punch to the face before stealing his sword, barely flinching. I could tell by the way he held his arm that it hurt, and made me a little sorry for the way I berated him as limp-dicked pussy who could only fight on stage that time we were mugged at the poisonous, spiky tailed end of our relationship.
Not that I’d tell him that. He dumped me.
“That was plan B,” he said holding out one of the blunt swords.
I gave him a look. I’m many things and I’m not ashamed to run away, but I was pretty certain that running with a sword would end badly.
He rolled his eyes and dropped it to the floor. “Just remember,” Mark said, “this invasion was all your idea.”
Two more Imperial Guards, or whatever the hell the purple and gold clad poofs were called, did a double take as they rushed past the room. Their clothing appeared out of place the first time I saw it and continued to make them look like refugees from a bad movie. They held their swords as if their knowledge of them didn’t extend much past which end to grab hold of, which didn’t help.
I grabbed a nearby vase and pitched it at one of them, knocking him to the ground as it shattered on his melon. It made a satisfying sound, and he almost comically felt to the ground without making a noise, causing the rest of us to pause.
“That’s probably a priceless antique and the prince is going to dock his family’s salary for generations to pay for it,” Mark said.
I shoved him towards the remaining guard. Mark recovered quickly. A sword in each hand, he screamed something in a language I didn’t know, using the sharp-edged sword to parry with the soldier while using the dull one as a baton to attack the knees and kidneys.
As he rushed around the room like some mad whirling dervish, the white robe flew up and offered me a glimpse of something fairly insignificant I hadn’t seen in years.
“Are you going commando?” I shouted over the fray.
“It’s. A. Surprisingly. Breathable. Fabric,” he grunted before finishing off the guy with a headbutt. “For a synthetic fiber, that is.”
I kicked the one I beaned in the midsection. He hadn’t moved. It just made me feel better. I was back to being embarrassed I ever dated Mark.