Excerpt from Natalia's Diary

Twelve moon cycles have passed since I was taken from my home and thrown unceremoniously across the Captain's horse brought bound and naked to this village. I've heard no word from what is left of my family, the nobles of the court or even the servants; I know not what my father - The King's - plans are for reclaiming the throne. For that matter, I do not know what has happened to him at all.

There was one girl brought to the village who bore some remote resemblance to our family. Though that is no great feat given my father's penchant for wenching. Apparently, there was enough resemblance that Sir Defiant - a ruffian who has claimed the throne to a nearby Kingdom known as Netherland, named for his captive princess' nether regions so the story goes - has declared that the girl is my half sister by virtue of a birthmark. That would make her one of a half dozen or more of my father's known bastards, even if it is true.

Now, there is an intriguing figure, Sir Defiant. For all of his bravado, crassness and hard exterior, Sir Defiant has at least one weakness that is bound to be exploited. It is for the girl, toy, he keeps enslaved. He thinks no one notices, but I do. I notice many things, being mostly invisible - just another naked slave among hundreds in the village. As the Captain's fetch and carry girl, I'm privy to much information that is either placed squarely in my hands or picked up through my routine shuttling about the village. And, with the Captain always busy handling village affairs that often exceed the scope of His position, I've plenty of time to ponder the usefulness of the information I gather.

Being invisible has other advantages, too. It allows me to acquire more than information - things more tangible and perhaps more useful, such as clothing hanging from the lines in the alley ways or a coin here and there that I manage to pinch from distracted soldiers and drunken Inn patrons. Many would be shocked to learn of my petty thievery, but in truth it is not a new habit. I was lifting coin from the pockets of guests and guards at my father's kingdom for years.

I learned that little trick from Archy, a traveling court jester who took up residence in my father's castle for a time. Having neither the time or inclination to take much notice of his daughter - it was well known that he wanted a son to follow in his footsteps, the King compensated with finery and hired entertainment.

At first, Archy elicited squeals of delight and amazement by pulling coins from behind my ears, yet no matter how much I pleaded, he would not show me how he did it, until that day...the day before he left the castle under the cover of night. That day when he had me very much alone, he decided to pull coins from places other than behind my ears. I promised not to tell anyone how he did it and he agreed to show me how it was done, along with a few other useful tricks of distraction and slight of hand. Though he gave me more attention than most and taught me things I'll never forget, I can not in all honesty say that I miss him...but I digress....