Hello Followers! Hello Brand New Readers! This month I decided that I would do my best to whip out a story from beginning to tend in just a month. My regular readers know that I tend to take a lot longer than that. Some of it has to do with my writing process and the fact that I really want to make sure that my commas are right or that I'm using the best word for a situation. Since I only have less than twenty days left, you're going to see an incredibly rough draft of a story below. I'm slightly cheating in that I'm using a world that I've already established in previous stories. None of that is necessary to read this. This is a brand new story and I'll be explaining things as we go along. You know. As if this was an actual story. :-) If something doesn't make sense, please ask questions in case I think that something is self-explanatory and it really isn't.

About this story here! I like no nonsense female characters! I like male characters who aren't always idiots! I like dialogue that seems realistic and not cheesy! I like dragons! Well, i guess that's mostly about me more so than the story...but you should be able to figure out where things will be headed based on these personal characteristics of mine.

Without further adieu:

Kirsten and the Beast

Kirsten looked down at the polished silver tray she carried from the footman at the door to her father. Her own familiar face stared back, her pale, white face framed with fiery red hair, typical of the northern Trillis clan. She even had the trademark affinity for plants. She couldn't make a plant to grow from seed to full-grown by concentrating and willing it to do so, but she did know how much water, dung, sunlight and music a plant needed when she touched a leaf. She wanted to hum right now because the tropical plant sitting in the corner was wilting from all the tension and shouting that had been filling the meeting room the last few weeks.

She knew better than to try now though. She knew far better.

"Papa," she murmured to the man seated at the table.

His majesty the King lifted his noble head from his chin and smiled absently at the sound of her voice. He had been deep in thought after the Pftar delegation had left thirty minutes ago. His eyes dropped to what she held in the tray before her and his expression opened in delight. "Oh, coffee! How lovely for you to ask for it, Kirsten. It's just what I need. Sit and drink with me."

Kirsten placed the tray on the table and wordlessly served her father. She was a troubled by his words. He'd forgotten that he'd asked for the coffee and she had scurried to have it prepared as quickly as possible.

"Kirsten, what in the world are you doing? You're the Crown Princess," he said as she placed the cubes of sugar in his drink. "Where are the footmen? They should be doing this, not you."

"You sent them away, Papa," she reminded him. "You wanted to be able to speak freely without them gossiping in the coffee houses."

"Oh, right. Right." He sipped his coffee in silence. "My mind's just not what it used to be, Kirsten," he murmured.

"That's because you've barely slept the past month," she said matter-of-factly. "You have to be well-rested in you want your mind to work properly. It's no different than the land. We have to allow it to rest between seasons to increase the yield."

"Master Otgard has been doing a good job," Papa smiled and sipped.

Kirsten sipped her own coffee. Papa liked his coffee sweet but black. She liked hers filled with cream, sugar and spices. He called her drink an adulteration. She told him that he needed to live a little.

He poured a second cup, stirred twice and lowered his spoon. "We have to summon the Heaven's Blade."

Kirsten's heart dropped. Papa wanted to call the most powerful cubus in the kingdom. They were odd creatures. They looked human to the naked eye aside from their delicately pointed ears. That was the only indication that one was dealing with a creature capable of wielding power. Pure, raw power. Jove's creative energy, capable of changing matter or mind with a spoken word, a deliberate gesture or a focused thought. And something about having that energy coursing through their veins extended their lives.

Master Otgard was such a being. He was male so he was an incubus. He had to be over a century old even though he looked like he was a little older than Papa. He could coax any plant to life. Master Otgard was kind and patient and an excellent teacher. If all cubi were like Master Otgard, then the world would be a happy place and Papa would not be sitting there, deliberating his options.

The Heaven's Blade, on the other hand, was a succubus who enjoyed elaborate political machinations. She ruled the province of Cutter and it was an area that had no lack of intrigue and backstabbing. Father hated dealing with her and avoided it at all costs. "You have to compromise your soul," he had said when talking about her. In saying these words, Papa was only a hairbreadth's away from uttering the gravest insult against a cubus that one could utter.

Papa hadn't said anything to this effect today. It must be weighing down on his conscience.

They were alone, only the two of them, so she dared to say aloud, "At least she won't drink your soul, Papa."

He lifted his head from his coffee cup. "That's true," he said with a wan smile.

Soul-drinking. The worst possible accusation to be levied against a cubus. No one who knew anything about cubi would be surprised when they learned that such a crime existed. There was a price to pay for wielding the power that they had to; to replenish their energy, cubi had to consume human emotions. They could either sip the elations of a crowd or guzzle the ecstasy of an individual. No one was about to risk having their soul slurped up though so the only humans willing to allow a cubus to feed deeply were the ones whom the cubus chose as his master.

That was perhaps the oddest thing to consider. Behind every well-fed cubus was a human who provided him with energy and in exchange that human could absolutely control how the cubus used his power. A soul-drinker was a cubus without a master who sucked a human dry of their energy and emotions.

Rumor had it that the Heaven's Blade allowed a few soul-drinkers to operate in her council. Papa discounted that claim as mere rumors. The Heaven's Blade was a covetous title among cubi and the recent challenges for reign had been won by the narrowest of margins. There were sore losers in every competition who were willing to defame the competition.

Papa pushed his cup to the side and stood up. He grabbed pen and paper from a nearby secretary and slid them to her. "Let's write her a nice letter reminding her of her obligation to the throne."

The scratch of the pen tip on paper was soothing, as was her Father's rich tenor as he dictated a missive that was flowery and flattering. Kirsten would occasionally interject her suggestions. Then the body was done and she had to list all the titles that belonged to her father, Lord this, Guardian that. She drew a perfectly handcrafted comma and handed the pen and paper to him. Papa signed, Brennan of Asteria.

"Think you can ask Otgard to deliver this for us?" Papa asked as he dripped hot wax onto the folded letter.

"Of course he will, Papa," Kirsten said. Otgard had no love for the Heaven's Blade. He would gladly use his powers to deliver the message to her. One of these days, Kirsten would have to remind Papa to do something nice for his human mate. She provided him with energy. He wouldn't be able to help them without her.

Papa pressed his ring into the hot wax. He handed her the completed document. "Then off you go, Kirsten."

Kirsten traveled up the winding tower. Twilight was before them so Master Otgard would be up in his observation deck. Sure enough, he was hunched over, peering into a small hole of a large black mental cylinder that extended far out through the window. Kirsten could feel a tingling in her upper lip so she knew that Otgard was using his powers in some way. Otgard was short and husky and had a mess of brown hair that he never properly combed so he covered it up with a skullcap. He looked less like an incubus and more like a fat dwarf. A dwarven wizard, Kirsten amended. Like from her children's books.

"Ahh… Princess…" Otgard said in his gravely voice, his face still scrunched as he continued gazing. "Come look at Sol!" He waved her over.

"Master Otgard…"

"Nothing is that urgent if you came to find me, princess. Look!"

Kirsten huffed, but she came and observed the orange star. Nothing seemed off about it. "It's pretty," she said politely.

"It's been almost three hundred years since your ancestor arrived from Terra," Otgard said. "It's about time for Sol to start pulsing again."

Kirsten smiled faintly. She owed her name to the last Lady of Earth who had been sent by Jove. Her namesake had married into the royal family. Queen Kirsten had co-ruled the kingdom with her husband. Asteria had enjoyed unprecedented blessings and wealth during that time period, not only because Jove favored the kingdom, but through the trove of knowledge that Kirsten had had in her head about botany and farming techniques. "Guess he'll be a boy so I can make him my consort," she quipped.

Otgard chuckled. "See those dark spots? You'll live to see it start to pulse, Kirsten. I guarantee it."

She pulled away from the viewer. Kirsten smiled again, this time politely. There was nothing to argue here. She would enjoy it if Jove sent his next hand of his will to Gaia during her lifetime. At the current moment though, she had to occupy herself with the Pftar clan's activities; Sol always pulsed when Jove was preparing to bring someone to their world. It wasn't pulsing right now. And even if it did start pulsing this very second, there wasn't a direct time correlation between it and the Terran appearing. Sometimes it pulsed for days. Other times, it pulsed for years.

"Whatever is the matter, princess?" Otgard asked with a frown. "I thought you would have enjoyed looking at Sol at twilight!"

"Master Otgard, you heard about the Pftar clan visiting Papa today."

"Yes, yes, of course. They want him to abdicate. They're being ridiculous, of course. What of it?"

"Papa is asking you to deliver this to the Heaven's Blade," Kirsten said. She held out the folded letter.

Master Otgard paled. "The Heaven's Blade! Is he mad?! Surely things can be that bad, child!"

Kirsten kept her face still, but lowered her eyes because she couldn't make eye contact with her botany, history and astronomy tutor. Mistress Valencia would be disappointed if she discovered that Kirsten had had to look away. Mistress Valencia had made her practice for hours in front of a mirror. She had to be able to keep a neutral face when she ruled. No one could know what she thought. Stilling her expressions would also still the emotions in her heart. Her passions had to be kept to herself so that they couldn't be used to manipulate her later.

But Otgard was an incubus and he was only a few feet away from her. He was capable of knowing what she was feeling. His face fell, but a moment later, he cleared his throat and wiped the emotions from his face. He took the letter from her hand with a bow. "Tell his majesty the King that I am more than pleased to be of assistance in this small way."

Kirsten returned the bow with a curtsy. "Thank you, Master Otgard. I best should return to him. Thank you for showing me Sol," she said.

She didn't have to hold her skirts up as high when she was descending. That was a small blessing. She hated these heavy things, but the Pftar Clan's arrival was a serious matter that required formal attire, not her typical pants, blouses and corsets.

Upon her descendant to the main floor, she deduced from the movement of the servants that Papa had elected to have dinner served. She went to the Great Hall which she had had decorated for today. Kirsten had ordered it thinking that they should show respect to their guests even if they wanted her father to abdicate the throne. She was glad that the Pftar Clan had snubbed their gesture of hospitality and left. She couldn't bear to be around them any longer. They would be able to enjoy the sumptuous foods without looking at those nauseating people.

That was her plan. No one cared about her plan though. She walked into the Great Hall and saw Papa's advisors crowded together into two different groups in opposite sides of the room. Papa was in the middle of one. Everyone fell silent when they saw her, even Papa.

"Is it done?" he asked softly.

Kirsten nodded tightly.

Murmuring resumed, but only for a moment. "Enough talk," Papa said. "Let's sit and eat. Where is Prince Aaron?"

Aaron was pulled out of a dark corner (Kirsten hoped he had been in another room) and Papa beamed. "Ah, there's my boy!"

Papa's advisors clearly wanted to talk more about the Pftar Clan, but Papa ignored their strained looks. The first two courses were spent discussing Aaron's lessons of the day. Aaron was only thirteen. He was starting to learn how the world worked. It was fun listening to what he learned and his impression of what he had learned. It had always been a highlight of their day: a family meal with the three of them.

Kirsten wished she could order the advisors to eat the rest of their meals with their eyes shut so Papa and she could enjoy the meal in peace. She certainly had the authority to do so. She was the Crown Princess and she was 27 years old. She was destined to rule, but they were on the brink of war.

Strained silent accompanied the third course. Aaron shifted in his chair. "What's going on?" he whispered to her.

Kirsten patted his head. Aaron had a sharp mind and he was perceptive. Kirsten hoped to be able to put him in charge of Asteria's military one day. He seemed perfect for tactical maneuvers. "Hush," she whispered. "Listen to what they say and don't be afraid by what you hear."

The strained silence continued as she, Aaron, Papa and his seven advisors sipped their soup. The advisors eyed each other though. Kirsten could see how they used drinking from their wine glasses as cover to look around. She wondered what the fuss was herself. Everyone knew what was happening. Everyone except Aaron that is. Were they keeping silent because of Aaron? Did they think he was too young?

Hadn't Master Otgard explained what was going on? Otgard served as Aaron's general studies tutor, which should have included geopolitical conflicts. Clan Pftar specialized in low yield, difficult to grow plants like coffee, chocolate and vanilla, and gemstone mining. The clan had become wealthy through its shrewd business dealings. It controlled the market by restricting trade and inflating the price. Their market dominance was now, however, affected by Lled insistence to trade with N'aaden where an easy-to-grow coffee plant had been discovered in the wilderness and Lled's cooling relations with Kungoria, one of Clan Pftar's largest trading partners for its gemstones. Pftar had requested permission to negotiate a trade deal with Lled separate from the agreement that Asteria had in place and the king had repeatedly refused.

Then came accusations of cubic interference with N'aaden; one report that Father swore couldn't be true stated that cubi on Pftar's payroll had snuck into the kingdom and destroyed all those wild coffee plants. It couldn't be true and yet a few weeks later came the desperate request from the N'aaden throne for the Heaven's Blade to investigate. It made Kirsten's heart fill with pity when she saw the queen's sadness and resignation etched across her reflection in the enchanted mirror.

N'aaden was so poor. It had so little to offer other than crops and crops could be easily grown in every other country that had longer seasons and warmer weather. That wild coffee plant could have changed everything. Coffee could have become a beverage for the masses rather than nobility.

The Heaven's Blade had performed a perfunctory review of the affected area and declared a blight had damaged the crops. Not just a blight, a blight brought about by divine punishment. Otgard had shaken his head when he'd heard. Then he pulled out a dead branch and showed her how it wasn't possible for this to be the result of natural blight. The Lledan ambassador had snuck the branch to him, he'd whispered. Mustn't let the Heaven's Blade know.

The last straw though was Lled. Pftar had tried to interfere with Lled in the same way that they had interfered with N'aaden. The difference though was Lledan steel. Lledan steel meant that the Lledan Armies had captured those agents. Lledan steel meant that they had captured those cubic agents and obtained a confession. That confession had been delivered by the Lledan ambassador along with a tiny needle.

Kirsten's heart stopped whenever she thought about that needle that Papa kept in his room in a glass case. To our larger, more powerful neighbor to the South, Greetings! I offer you the words of an Asterian son and the needle of an Lledan housewife, which is just as undetectable as the seven knives that Ambassador Jayden has on her person.

Papa had burned the letter and summoned the clan leader of Pftar. Lord Pfelter headed off Papa's demand for an answer with a demand that Asteria launch a rescue mission for his operatives. Then came the calls for abdication. Finally came the declaration of secession. Papa might have even been willing to let them if it meant the lives of innocents, but they added that they wanted Xaldres as their capital city. Lord Pfelter demanded that Xaldres be evacuated. And at this point, negotiations evaporated.

"Why don't we give them the authority to trade with Lled, your majesty?" Lady Lauret said, breaking the silence.

Lord Gagnam shook his head. "Only the Crown or the Sentinel of River City may negotiate trade deals with other nations."

"You're stating the laws. I know the laws," Lady Lauret snipped. "I'm asking why we can't change them."

"We can't elevate Pftar. We can't reward bad acts," Papa said.

"Like dog training," Kirsten said.

All heads turned to her. There were a few snickers, including from her father, but most of them were shocked. She ignored them and continued eating the second salad.

The tranquility of the meal was shattered when the main doors were thrown open and Otgard stumbled within. "My liege! Your majesty! King Brennan!" he gasped.

Kirsten rushed to his side. Even Papa half-rose. He wasn't indignant. He was worried. Otgard never acted like this.

"She's fallen! The Heaven's Blade has fallen!"

Gasps filled the room. Papa stumbled and leaned heavily against his ornate chair. "They got to her already?" he croaked. "How?"

"Your majesty?" Otgard said. It was only then that Kirsten noted that the incubus wasn't upset. He was ecstatic. "Help me, Kirsten," he huffed and she led him to the table. He plopped down and started fanning himself with the letter that Kirsten had asked him to deliver less than an hour ago.

"Well, man, tell me what happened!" Papa exclaimed when nothing else was forthcoming.

Otgard gulped down the wine before him. He slammed down the glass. "She's been unseated by a member of the Dragonborn clan!" he burst out, eyes shining. "It wasn't even a contest! He seized her in his grasp and he ran his sword clean through her neck."

"She's dead?" Kirsten blurted out.

"Yes!" Otgard bobbed his head. "Executed! They have nasty tempers, you know. Can't mess with them. She said something about plucking his wings when he turns into a dragon and he showed her his dragon temper. King Brennan, Dragonborn will be everything you want a Heaven's Blade to be! They're unbribable! They'll eat whoever tries!"

"Eat!" Aaron's still unchanged voice pierced the dining hall. Hearing his distress, Kirsten rushed back to take her seat so she could be near him.

"Ah, it's a figure of speech, Prince Aaron," Otgard said with a slight nod of deference. Kirsten knew he was lying though. It was something about his tone. Something didn't seem quite right.

"Sentinel Philip isn't the type of person who would eat someone, Otgard," Master Commander Damgard said as an older brother would. "He's a gentle soul."

Aaron looked to her, eyes pleading for an explanation. Kirsten smiled in encouragement. "Lord Philip is the Sentinel of River City. You've met him once when you were a baby. He's the one that gave you that enchanted amulet to keep you safe."

"He did?" Aaron said, looking down at it, "I've been telling my friends that the Heaven's Blade gave it to me."

Papa heard the softly whispered exchange. He turned his head toward them and shook his head. "Philip is a good man. His mate is the one who enchanted it specifically for you."

"Philip isn't an incubus?" Kirsten frowned. She didn't know as much about Dragonborn as she should. She'd always pushed it to the side. River City had been the most stable province in Asteria for hundreds, if not thousands of years. She knew more about the number of goods passed through its ports than about its leaders and their specific policies. She knew that she would never have to deal with River City in her lifetime so it made sense to focus on known threats like Pftar.

"Oh, no. He's Dragonborn, but he's human. His wife is the succubus."

"I don't understand," Aaron said. "How can he change into a dragon if he's human? And how did he kill the Heaven's Blade?"

Otgard cleared his throat. "Dragonborn is an odd clan, my prince. You remember what I've taught you before about how cubi are born?"

"Yes, Master Otgard. Jove designed the union of a cubus and a human to make a full-blooded cubus or a full-blooded human. There is a one in four chance the child of a cubus and a human will be human," Aaron recited in a sing-song way.

"Yes, very good, Prince Aaron! Normally, cubic clans follow the cubic line, not the human. For example, a firstborn member of Windborn would have life rights to the clan name if she were born human. This means that she can't pass on clan membership to her children. Dragonborn is different. The firstborn always carries the name, no matter if born human or cubus. The descendants of the other children become part of the Drake-clan. Dragonborn has been human for a while. Sentinel Philip is the first to take a succubus as his mate in five generations."

"What you're getting at, Otgard, is that Philip's child killed the Heaven's Blade?" Master Commander Damgard said dryly.

Otgard blinked at the interruption. He nodded. "That is a reasonable explanation, Damgard. My informant only said member of Dragonborn clan."

Papa rubbed his chin. "Philip's son is now Heaven's Blade? The seat of cubic power is now in River City?"

"They're on the other side of Asteria. It'll give us better time to prepare if they decide to side with Pftar," Damgard grunted.

Father said, "River City has always been our ally, Damgard. Dragonborn swore to respect the legitimacy of this government when it yielded to the throne."

"Oaths can be forsworn. Promises broken," Damgard said. "We should be ready."

"He's right," Otgard said. "You should contact the clan leaders before Dragonborn gathers other allies, your majesty."

Brennan looked fully at Otgard, the surprise was naked on his face. Kirsten could see her reflection in the silver on the table. That was the only reason she kept her face smooth.

"It's best be prepared," Otgard said.

Her reflection was the only reason she didn't let anyone know that she was afraid.

Civil war was coming.

Do you have a good gist of the world? Does everything make sense so far? If you're a returning reader, the lingo should be clear enough and some of the names should be familiar. I think the hardest part in writing this section was trying to figure out geopolitics. I just wanted to say that the Pftar clan hated Brennan and wanted him to resign, but that isn't realistic enough for me. I had to sit here and try to figure out something that would satisfy my inner logic. Luckily, money is a sufficient motivation for a good deal of people.

Well, we're just getting started. This was just the dull opening part!