A Fall From Grace

(For the Red Queen Contest) King Philip rules the kingdom of Nordin with an iron grip. He's more of dictator than a king. The Black Ace is a rebel group trying to free the people. They have a plan to take Philip down. In the middle of all of this, is a girl named Solitaire. She is a member of The Black Ace, but her agenda is slightly different from theirs. Her father caused her family to fall from grace. He made being a Maddox a joke. Solitaire's only real mission is to bring glory back to the family name, but to do it, she may have to go against what her heart is telling her to do.

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1. Prologue: Free To Fall - EIGHT YEARS BEFORE

 

ASPEN MADDOX SAT AT THE desk in his room scribbling furiously in a leather bound journal. His quill flew across the page, covering the paper in his scratchy handwriting.

“Writing to the Magistrate eh, Governor Maddox? I wonder what for,” a voice said behind him.

Aspen’s mouth was set in a firm line. He calmly set his quill down on the desk. Without turning around, he asked in a cold voice, “What do you want, Philip?”

“You know,” Philip started to say, running his hand along his chin, “There are quite a few things I desire. The most pressing one, obviously, is why someone I trust is going behind my back and hiding something from me. It’s a very pressing matter indeed. What you think, Governor?”

“It sounds quite pressing,” Aspen agreed still not facing the man.

“Governor, you will respect my authority. Face me and do not forget the proper way to address a King,” Philip snapped.

“Yes, Your Majesty,” Aspen obeyed, first standing up and then turning to face the King of Nordin. King Philip was, as expected, dressed in all his finery with his blond curls pressed down by the heavy crown that sat atop his head. Royalties were such silly folk, always worried about their appearances and just how respected they were by the people. Aspen wanted nothing to do with them.

“Now, back to what I was saying. It’s a shame to think a friend would turn on me,” King Philip continued.

“Quite a shame, Sir.”

King Philip grinned at Aspen as if he enjoyed the game of the back and forth banter since he was the only one allowed to actually speak his mind. The King leaned in close and whispered in Aspen’s ear, “There’s more than your Grace at stake here, Governor.”

Aspen swallowed hard. “I know that, Sir,” he said, forcing the words out.

“Good, Governor. Your little girl Elizabeth would be a wonderful addition to my family. Then again, I wouldn’t let any of my sons marry a girl lower than a Secondary. Keep that in mind, Governor, before you do something rash.”

“I will, Sir.”

“Good boy. You don’t want to lose where you stand.”

With a swoop of his cloak, King Philip exited the room. Aspen sat back down at his desk and read over the letter he had started. Carefully, he tore it out of the journal, dropped the paper onto the floor, and lit it on fire with the candle sitting on his desk. He was as the fancy paper curled under the flames. Aspen took a clean sheet of paper out of his desk. On it, he wrote only two lines:

I am free to fall. Play the black card NOW.

Opening a second drawer on his desk, Aspen pulled out a knife. With shaking hands, he cut into the flesh of his left thumb. He set the knife down and pressed his thumb to the paper. When he took his hand away, a scarlet thumb print was left behind; a kind of signature.

Aspen wrapped his thumb in a white handkerchief, folded up the letter, and slid it into an unmarked envelope. He stamped on a wax seal and set the letter aside to dry. There were so many way he could go wrong, but Aspen knew one thing:

He had to save his daughter.

 
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