Prologue: Drunk Mote

Maxwell enjoyed getting drunk and watching girls. He wasn't even human, in fact he was a fluffball of light with tiny batty wings. He liked the castle anyway, with its barrels of unguarded rum in the cellar and all the girls running about.

One girl in particular caught his eye every morning. She had some long name but everyone called her Rat.

"Rat!" the Master of the Servants would call.

"Yes Sir?" she answered.

The Master of the Servants was named Oligaden. He was an oaklike man in some respects, willowy in others. He would unfurl a parchment and announce Rat's duties for the day, then move on to the next servant.

It was hard for a Mote like Maxwell not to feel sorry for the women in this palace. Especially Rat--she was nearing the age where she would be married off to the highest bidder.

"She has such pretty hair, all cute and pretty-pretty," Max said, "Blonde with black underneath. Very strange! Do you like pretty-pretty hair? Why yes I do like pretty-pretty hair!"

Usually, when he was drunk, he forgot his wings. This may be why he fell off the battlements with a splash. He'd landed in a bucket of soap water, Rat's bucket surprisingly enough!

She immediately stopped, reached in, and pulled out one soggy Mote.

"Hi."

"Hi! I like your hair, it's all cute. I'm Maxwell. Eehehehehe."

With another sploosh Rat hid her find from the passing Oligaden, who had eyes like whiplash. The Mote struggled in the girl's fingers until she let him up for another breath of air.

"Noooo, not a hangoooverrrrhhh....ugh," were his last words before he passed out.

Rat hurried along to the laundry room. Max was clutched to her chest. Luckily she did not run into Oligaden on the way. Rat recieved a few strange looks from the other servants, but they had been trained from birth not to ask questions so Rat was relatively unbothered.

There was a secret place behind a rose bush in the courtyard past the laundry room. Women were beating royal rugs here. Everywhere there was activity, because this castle was recieving a couple of important ambassadors or something from some country. Rat never really knew.

Anyway, she crouched down next to the white roses and placed Max on a leaf, so his wings wouldn't get dirty. She poked him, and even though he glowed, he didn't wake up.

Rat heard a high-pitched whistle. She sprang to her feet, dusted off her knees and ran to answer Oligaden's piercing call. In hindsight Rat wished she had hidden the fluffball better, but there was no fixing that now...