It’s a bleak time for the people of Mackabine. A false Regent holds rule over the capital, while in the county of Geid, a corrupt Baron confiscates grain while his subjects starve. The only opposition comes from a group of outlaws known as Queensmen.
Senna is no Queensmen, no hero of legend, but she devises her own scheme to undermine the Baron by becoming his housekeeper. Can she learn enough to turn the Baron’s secrets against him? And perhaps catch the eye of the handsome leader of the Queensmen?
Targeted Age Group:: 12 and up
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
Queensmen coalesced from a conglomeration of daydreams that began in 6th grade and grew increasingly complex thereafter. I think the original premise arose from my love of the Disney movie Robin Hood. You know, that 70's cartoon with the fox.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
No one in Queensmen is without flaws. Indeed, if I could meet my characters in real life, I would have some bracing advice for every one of them! I started each character with a loose personality framework. Then I put them interesting situations and asked them what they would do. Sometimes they surprised me.
When the kitchen was cleaned, Senna made her last trip out to the pit. The Guards cleared out of the castle by sundown, but the courtyard was fair territory. She passed a pair of them tossing coins near the kitchen entrance. Senna paid no attention. She was developing a decent working relationship with most of the Guards. She ignored them and they ignored her.
Senna held her breath as she waded towards the pit. It reeked with the stench of trash and human waste. She threw her load of peelings in, and came back as quickly as possible. The Guards had ceased their idle gambling and were watching her. Senna returned their gaze for a moment, but the moon was new and gave little light to help her distinguish their faces. She quickened her pace. The two forms moved as well, and Senna saw that they meant to intercept her. She tensed. It was a good place for an ambush. Between the wall and the castle there was nowhere to run except into the Guards or back towards the pit. Before she could weigh the appeal of that second option, they had her cornered.
“Hold there, woman. How about a little company?”
Senna was close enough to both to see and smell them now, and her heart sank as she identified the speaker. It was Guardsman Skole. Up to now, Senna had carefully tried to avoid the beast who’d attacked her uncle. Skole was the most widely disliked of the Guard. He abused his authority by demanding services from the townsfolk, and threatened to arrest anyone who disagreed with him.
The other Guard she recognized by face only. His cheeks were fat and red from too much beer. Emboldened by Skole’s remark, he reached out a hand to touch Senna’s hair.
She smacked the fingers before they got close. “Keep your ugly hands away. Does Lodin know you’ve been drinking on duty?”
Skole laughed. “We’re not on duty—are we, friend?”
The nameless Guard shook his head. Senna doubted whether Skole knew his friend’s name either. Skole loomed nearer, putting his nose in her face and sniffing. He licked his lips as though contemplating a dessert.
Senna was equal parts fear and ferocity. Her heart beat rapidly as she reached into her apron pocket and found her vegetable knife. She kept it there under the excellent pretense of using it for vegetables. Senna didn’t know what the penalty was for attacking a Guard, but at this point she didn’t care. She was not going to be raped without a damned glorious fight.
Her fingers gripped the handle without revealing the weapon. Surprise was her only ally against a man trained in arms. She clenched her teeth in the hope that bravado could still save her from the situation. “If you value your manhood, Skole, you will keep it in your pants where it belongs.”
The nameless Guard was impressed by her savagery. He backed away with a frown. Skole did not intimidate as easily. He put a hand on her shoulder and clenched it tightly enough to hurt. Senna was ready to thrust the knife into his gut when a loud voice stopped them both.
“Skole! What are you doing?”
Skole jumped nearly half a foot. He let go of Senna’s shoulder and whirled around to face Lord Fenwith, who was standing behind them with his arms crossed. Senna could not think how the Baron had gotten there. He was like an apparition, appearing here or there at will.
“Nothing, Lord,” Skole stammered.
“Nothing? Who is that?” Fenwith pointed vigorously at Senna.
Skole looked as confused as Senna felt. Surely the Baron hadn’t forgotten what she looked like?
“It’s your housekeeper, Lord.”
“Exactly,” he snarled. “My housekeeper. Mine. And you don’t touch anything that’s mine, do you?”
Skole shook his head. “No, Lord.”
The Guards ran off together, leaving Senna plastered to the wall. Fenwith appraised her coldly. Senna shuddered. Fenwith’s claim of possession frightened her more than Skole’s lecherous leer. But she needn’t have worried. Fenwith wasn’t interested. He looked as if she were no more valuable than a goat in his livestock pen. He walked away without a word to her.
Ugh, disgusting man, thought Senna. It took a few moments before she could collect herself enough to move. Then she carefully dragged herself back to the kitchen. Grateful though she was for his interference, she wished it was possible to never see Fenwith or his wretched castle ever again. I could manage it, she told herself. I’ll go live in one of the northern counties. I’ll hitchhike out of town tonight!
She wouldn’t. But it was fun to think about. Senna finished rolling the flour before she finally snuffed out the candles and sealed the kitchen for the night.
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