This is not your average schoolyard bully fight.
Last week I promised I’d post the progress on the climactic showdown scene in my daughter’s and my WIP, The Last Princess. So here we are. The fact that I’m actually able to do this is an amazing moment for us; only a few short months ago we had no idea how this book was going to go or how it was going to end. Now that we’re here it feels like a triumph every bit as much as it does for the winner for the fight in our novel. This is just one more example how when art imitated life, life can imitate the art right back.
Cat believes she is part troll on her father’s side, and having finally embraced her trollishness (not exactly what she’d imagined for her princess self), she agrees to the deal….
I swallowed. I needed to end this. Now. I needed to truly be the Troll Princess and take care of this menace once and for all. I ran through all of the things I’d read about trolls in my diary, hoping for inspiration: if you threaten what’s theirs they’ll fight to the end; they’re strong, feel no pain, have fists like stone…. What would Dad do?
I lifted my chin and took a step closer to the prince, thinking about my secret weapon. I grinned, showing my teeth. “Maybe you’d better call that army of yours. Because you’re going to need something to hide behind.” I took another step closer and my hands curled into fists.
His smile faltered but he held his ground. “What are you going to do, Cat-litter, punch me?” He barked another laugh. “Did you forget about my ring of strength?”
“No. Did you forget about my fists of stone?” I raised my fists in the fighting stance Alex had taught me.
Bone-Breaker’s eyes squinted. “Your what?”
“I may be exactly what you say I am, but I’m still not letting you hurt anyone else. Let. Gail. Go.”
“Come a little closer and say ‘please.’” He taunted, crooking his finger at me.
“Please!” I pounced but he scrambled back out of my reach, fear flashing on his face.
Growling with rage he lashed out and kicked the leg of a display table, sending a dozen of Dad’s pots and Mom’s flowers crashing into the dirt. “You want to be next?” he snarled, pointing at the destruction he had caused. “I offered you the easy way out!” He reached for his back pocket.
“Hey!” Dad lurched into motion, but Mom grabbed his arm.
“No, Richard! Cat has to do this by herself.”
I stared at my parents like they were from another planet. Dad had tried to rescue me – even after I’d told him I hated him. And Mom … Mom believed in me?
I turned back to the prince. He held Gail’s phone between two fingers.
“I was going to trade her for you, but now the deal’s off.” He dropped the phone in the dirt and stomped on it with his heel, smashing it with a sharp crunch.
Gail flinched, but her eyes met mine and she raised her chin.
“Now I get both of you,” Bone-Breaker sneered. He turned and reached for Gail, held just behind him by the dark elf twins.
His body blocked what he was doing but I heard Gail gasp. Her arms flailed, but the twins held her fast, grim smiles splitting their pale faces.
“No! I’ll do what you want!” I leapt and grabbed the goblin by the shoulder, tugging him away from Gail.
“How dare you touch me?” He spun and the back of his hand caught me square in the face, his ring hitting my cheek like a wrecking ball. I sprawled in the dirt and heard cries of shock and surprise all around me. I turned my head painfully and saw the feet and legs of dozens of people standing just outside the booth, like an audience.
“Cat!” My dad shouted. “Are you alright?”
I struggled to my hands and knees, then climbed to my feet. I gave Dad a grim smile and two thumbs-up. He nodded and returned the thumbs-up, his own smile proud.
So, I had an audience, now? All the better. I turned back to the prince.
But instead I found Gail standing in his place, smiling at nothing.
Oh, no! “Gail?” I took a step closer, reaching for her.
Her pale blue eyes focused on me and her smile melted away. “Who are you? You’re not the prince.” She looked around, searching, her pretty brow pinched in confusion. Behind her the prince and his brainwashed minions laughed at me.
I let my hand drop and took a long, deep breath. This was ending. Now. I had my secret weapon and it was time to use it.
“Hey, Melvin,” I called over their laughter, and the goblin boy stiffened. “You want this, come and get it.”
He roughly pushed Gail aside and came to stand toe-to-toe with me. I could feel his hot breath on my face as his beady, gloating eyes drilled into mine, but I refused to blink. After a minute he said so only I could hear, “You know something, grumpy cat? You’re kind of cute when you snarl like that.”
My face flamed and my stomach flip-flopped. He thinks I’m cute?
He blushed at my reaction and tried to cover it with a sneer. “But you’re still just a stupid girl! I wouldn’t touch you with a ten foot pole if I didn’t have to show you who’s boss.”
I smiled at his sudden embarrassment. And because I knew something he didn’t. “You’re not afraid, are you? Chicken-boy?”
The rims of his ears turned red and he flashed his teeth in a snarl. “Oh, you are so done.” He grabbed my arm.
I wanted to shake him off like a bug when he touched me but I didn’t flinch, even as tingles shot through me. My eyes never left his and I whispered, “One of us is.”
His eyes widened when I didn’t melt into a puddle of adoring fangirl at his feet, and the tingles vanished for an instant.
It was true! My diary said trolls were immune to magic, and the changeling’s charm wasn’t working on me! I chuckled wickedly, loving the confusion on his face.
“How are you doing that?” He grabbed my arm with both hands, squeezing painfully.
Electricity iced through me and I locked my knees so I wouldn’t collapse. Gritting my teeth, I forced my eyes to uncross and focus on his face. “I’m a troll, you moronic little toad,” I spat. “Trolls aren’t affected by magic. Or didn’t you know that?”
His eyes narrowed and the ice ripping though my veins eased to a thousand pin-pricks as his grip faltered. “But … you’re not a troll.”
In that moment of relief I saw the truth in his confusion. “But … my dad….” I panicked, suddenly doubting myself, and the waves of electric ice crashed over me twice as strong. The magic is getting to me! I’m not immune!
The color drained from everything as numbness crept through my brain like icy fingers. I’m not going to win. I should have felt my heart pounding in my chest, but I didn’t. Everything had faded away until only the changeling’s cruel voice filled my world: “You are so stupid.”
I am so stupid, my mind echoed obediently.
The numbness felt like a warm blanket after the waves of ice, and I wanted to wrap it around me and snuggle into it more deeply. I could forget all of the pain and everything bad that had happened if I just pulled the blanket over my head and let somebody else deal with it. Nothing would matter until tomorrow. Always tomorrow….
But another voice intruded, distant and muffled as if I had ears full of cotton. “Fight him, Cat! Fight him off!”
Fight who off? It took me a while to remember how my eyes worked, and I forced them open. Light stabbed in, piercing the fog in my head, and sounds of the crowd poured back in with it. My head lolled to the side and I struggled to focus.
“You can beat him, Cat! Don’t let him win!”
Rose! There in the crowd, shouting at me. Beside her stood her mother, waving her hands at me to get on with it. On her other side stood a man in a uniform, and my eyes fastened on the little gold wings pinned to his chest. Rose’s dad. They were cheering me on.
More shouts rang out: “Shtop toying vis that goblin, Fürstin!” Mr. Goldschmidt’s red beard jutted as he shook his fist, almost lost behind the taller people in front.
“Yah!” shouted Hunter Alfson beside him. “Put that yerk in hiss place!”
I felt my strength trickle back as the shock of what I was seeing warmed my blood. Everywhere I looked the crowed glowed with sparkles. Fae-born, every one of them. I saw faces I barely remembered – the mean girls from Rose’s birthday party, the groundskeeper from soccer practice, neighbors I’d never looked at with my fae-dar before. All of them here, all of them cheering for me. I fought against the numbing fog, my heart thumping in my chest to remind me I was alive.
“Oi! You’ve got ’im on the ropes, now, Your ’Ighness!”
Nanny was here, too? In the middle of the day? How did all of these people get here? Who told them to come? Shock melted the last of the fog: they wanted me to be their princess!
My hands curled into fists as I came to grips with my new reality. I wasn’t a troll. And I wasn’t alone. I may not have known what I was, but I knew who I was, and I would be true to myself forever more. As the chosen princess of the fae.
Bone-Breaker saw my sudden determination and the color drained from his face. “No! You can’t!” In a frenzy he clutched at a charm hanging from a chain around his neck. The silver teardrop had a purple gem cut in the shape of the moon, and Bone-Breaker strained to touch me with it.
“Watch out, Princess!” someone shouted.
I drew back my fist like Alex had taught me, and with my weight behind it I punched the goblin prince right in the face. I heard a pop, and he screamed and crumpled to the ground. The prince rolled back and forth in the dirt, clutching his face with both hands.
A few gasps, and the crowd went silent.
“You broke my dose!” The prince stared in horror at the blood on his hands. “You stupid girl, you broke my dose!”
I could feel the eyes of every fae-born on me as I looked down at the boy writhing in the dirt at my feet. “Yeah. I guess you’re done.
And just like that, after all of her trials and quests and heartbreaks, Catherine Brökkenwier becomes the princess of the fae. Of course, a bloody nose is hardly going to stop the goblin boy from trying to rule the world….
We are very close to finishing the first draft of our novel. Once we do, we will need a team of beta readers to give us feedback on the completed manuscript. If you are interested in being a beta reader for The Last Princess, click on the Beta Reader Sign-Ups tab, at the top of this page and sign up!