Enjoy this book trailer by Whitney Hurst
Opening scene to the third King’s Trial book
Creating a story involves a lot of revising. In this case I created a new opening which better captured the challenges that Kate faces. (warning–this has spoiler elements for the previous two King’s Trial books)
“Some say that change smells like springtime; damp earth and the vanilla scent of crocus. It doesn’t.” Kate’s voice lilted with laughter as she walked beside her father, Yosyph, her hand resting on the handle of his wheelchair.
The world blurred a few steps in front of her like it had always done since her first memories, but her father rolled along beside her, clearly in her focus, his black hair streaked with silver and his rich brown skin flushed with the exertion of the recent political debates. His somber coal grey tunic and leggings belayed the fact that he was ruler-judge, second only in power to the king. He pushed the large wheels of his chair along a marble hall the two of them had traversed often over the previous four years, even since Kate had declared on her twelfth birthday that she’d assist her father in his duties as ruler-judge. Slightly in front of them strode the blurred form of one of Yosyph’s guards and another guard trod behind.
Yosyph tilted his head up to face Kate, his brows raised over green eyes. “What does change smell like?”
Kate stopped walking and took a dramatic pose, her dark hair falling in waves around her freckled face and down the back of her green wool dress, her height bringing her level with most of the men in the hall. “Change is the scent of a thousand nobles crushed together to argue over whether to allow women to speak in the High Assembly.”
Kate laughed. “Indeed. But they got closer to making it into law. Just two hundred more votes in favor and they would have. Surely in the next two years, they will, and then when I reach adulthood I’ll get to do more than take notes at your debates. I’ll get to speak.”
“As you should,” said Yosyph.
A booming voice came from the opposite side of Yosyph’s chair. “Heaven help those who try to stand in your way, when you do. You’ll reform the whole kingdom over night.”
Kate squinted, bringing her uncle Halavant, King of Lansimetsa, into focus. He grinned and his arms wide, silver braces supporting his paralyzed hands showed at the ends of his blue satin sleeves, a thin golden circlet peeked from the mess of his blond hair. Four more guards joined, making six hulking blurred shapes surrounding them.
“Uncle,” she said, “You make light of a serious matter. Women will make as many mistakes as men. Our reforming the kingdom isn’t the point, but rather that we are humans too, with thoughts and needs and desires. Yet women are not allowed to be judges, or sit in the High Assembly, or even present to them. We must filter our needs and thoughts through the men, and hope that the men can present our view points correctly in debates.”
“I’m trying,” Halavant said, lifting his arms higher, two defensive lines of blue bent at the elbows. “But people change slowly. And the High Assembly is still learning to work with the many men—upstart commoners as they call them—that I’ve granted rank to over the last eighteen years. If all the wives, mothers, and sisters of the current members of the High Assembly decided they wanted this responsibility, they’d make up a majority of the assembly. I don’t know what the men would do if I threw women into the mix without their permission. ”
“Half the kingdom would rejoice,” said Kate.
“And the other half might rebel.” Halavant said, striding forward. “And that half would have weapons and armor.”
“Many women are adept at weapons,” Yosyph’s voice was in quiet understatement. “Both verbal and physical.”
Kate laughed. Her mother threw knives with accuracy that would make her a dangerous assassin, if she ever chose that path.
Yosyph pushed his chair wheels to catch up with the Halavant. “You are right that we must be careful to not turn this into a war. But Kate is also right. The Council of Judges helps hold the High Assembly in check, one being elected by the people and the other filled by right of birth, but some day that balance will tip. It is already unstable. Giving women a right to speak in council and even vote will help balance things again. It will give voice to those who may choose war last, instead of first.”
“Amongst other things,” said Kate.
“Amongst other things,” Yosyph tilted his head in acknowledgement. “It is a change worth working for in both High Assembly and the Council of Judges, however long it takes.”
“Agreed,” said Halavant. “Though that however long may be quite a while.”
A late winter wind hit Kate in the face as they exited the High Assembly onto the cobble street, pushing away the pipe smoke from the halls and replacing it with the crisp scent of stone and almost spring. Kate tucked her hair under her wool cloak and pulled the hood over her head. The hood muffled the surrounding noise, which left her unbalanced, but it was better than frozen ears. Carriages rumbled by and horses neighed on her right side, dark blurs against a paler blurred background, while more colorful blurs of people moved aside for the passing of the king and ruler-judge. They could take a carriage but Kate enjoyed these daily walks with her father.
“Sometimes,” she said, “I wish we could make things change faster. If a change is right, then why do we have to wait for a majority of people—in this case men—to realize it is right before change happens?”
“Once this kingdom could,” Halavant said dryly. “But Yosyph made it so I had to argue every change I wanted, instead of just ordering it as king.”
“It was vital,” said Yosyph. “No one should have absolute power. Not even a king.”
“True, but still oftimes uncomfortable.”
Kate stumbled on an uneven piece of cobble and caught herself against her father’s chair, his chair also stopped by the rough spot in the path. “Can’t there be something in between absolute power and this lengthy process of arguments? What if—” Kate stiffened. Along with the usual street scents of horse, manure, and human sweat, came a whiff of smoke and rotten egg. “Something smells wrong, like—”
Yosyph yanked her hand, pulling her in front of his chair. “Get down!”
She stumbled to her knees as her father launched himself from the wheelchair, landing on top of her and sending her face first into the cobble. He spread himself over her head and body and a second body landed on top of them, this one much broader than her father. Only her lower legs remained uncrushed.
Kate struggled to take in a breath under the weight, the stone biting into her cheek. What is Papa doing? Why—
A boom shook the ground. The rotten egg smell enveloped her along with heat. Pain peppered her exposed lower legs. Then it was over. Part of the weight rolled off her, then Yosyph pushed off of her and lay by her side. His face inches from hers was creased into lines of fear and pain. The air between filled with smoke. His lips moved but she couldn’t hear his words over the ringing in her ears.
“Papa!” Kate’s voice vibrated in her throat, but she couldn’t hear it either. Panic stronger than the fear during the explosion enveloped her. She couldn’t be deaf as well as mostly blind.