It’s been a while since I posted an update to The King is Called Home – I guess the ADD kicked in. I started writing another “quick” one-off short story at the beginning of February, and as of this morning, it’s at about 60 pages. I guess you never know how much story there is until you start to write it. I’ll continue to update this one periodically, but I’m just dying to finish the first draft of Daughter of Oreveille so I can share it with you! So – thank you for your patience. Here’s part 6, where life shifts once again for Megan and Brian. (Want to go back and refresh your memory on the rest of the story? Here’s the archive.)


Megan slowly sipped her coffee, looking around the suburban house that was so different from the tiny city apartment she and Brian shared a decade ago. In their first years in Chicago, she had asked him every few days if he had heard from MacDuff. But Ian MacDuff had not come, and Megan had made her peace with it. She couldn’t remember when she stopped asking about him. These days, peanut butter and play dates were more real to her than the Castle at Scardough.

She smiled at her three-year-old daughter, sleeping on her lap. Soon she would wake, ready to tell elaborate stories of her dreams. Sometimes Megan longed to tell stories of her own, stories that seemed little more than dreams, of a young duchess and a handsome prince and a beautiful palace. But she didn’t dare. Even after so many years, the danger was still very real. Every so often Brian would mention that he had contact from the state department, but never any real news from Corlaund. So she stuck to Disney fairy tales and left the truth alone.

Brian would be home soon, unless a late patient arrived. He had enrolled in the University of Chicago just a few days after their arrival in the United States, and surprised everyone by declaring his major in pre-med. Megan and MacDuff both assumed he would study political science, in preparation to take back the throne once the unpleasantness was over. But Brian was adamant. He had spent his entire childhood studying political science. If he was going to have a career, he was going to do something useful. Megan laughed to imagine what the King of Corlaund would say if he knew that his only son spent his days stitching up wounds and delivering the occasional baby in the emergency room.

“What’s so funny?”

Megan startled. “You’re home early! Slow day?”

Brian nodded. “I’m on call, so if they need me I’ll have to go back in, but I can sit around at home as easily as I can at the hospital.”

The little girl stretched and sat up, instantly awake. “Daddy!”

“Hello, Princess!” Brian greeted his daughter. “I thought you were a big girl who took naps in her very own big-girl bed?”

The little girl shook her head seriously. “I take naps with Mommy. I sleep in a big girl bed later.”

Brian laughed and kissed the toddler’s forehead. “Is that how it is, then?”

The little girl snuggled in closer, as though defying her father – or anyone else – to remove her from the coveted spot.

Brian sat down next to his wife and daughter, putting his arm around both.

“I met with Davis this morning.” Brian said quietly, keeping his voice neutral. Megan remembered the plainclothes officer from the American State Department who had guarded them on their flight to America. She knew that he lived in the area, and that Brian met with him occasionally to get updates on the situation in Corlaund, but their meetings were usually brief and uninformative.

“How is he?” Megan asked. Despite the fact that Davis never gave them the answers she hoped for, she thought of the man fondly. He had seen them through the most difficult time of their lives, and she took comfort knowing that he was always around, watching out for them.

“He’s good. Didn’t say a whole lot, as usual.” Brian replied. “I invited him here for dinner on Friday. He seemed to have more to talk about this time, and the hospital cafeteria isn’t the place to have that conversation.”

Megan shifted to look at Brian. “Do you think…?”

“I don’t know. But there was something he was very carefully not saying, and he accepted the invitation.”

“I haven’t seen any news out of Corlaund. Have you?” Megan asked.

Brian shook his head. “I try to keep track of the chatter online, but I haven’t seen anything unusual. About half of it is from political extremists more interested in ideology than in running a country, and the other half is from gossip bloggers who are fascinated by a couple of our cousins acting like spoiled teenagers.”

Megan laughed. “It’s hard to remember those little girls are teenagers now.”

Brian grinned. “We did our fair share, remember? We were just lucky that every member of the staff wasn’t writing a tell-all blog back then.”

“We stayed within the bounds of propriety.” Megan said primly.

“Barely…” Brian answered, kissing her.

The little girl between them squirmed. “What’s a blog?” She asked.

“She listens to every word!” Megan smiled at Brian. “It’s a place to write about something that interests you.” She explained.

“I should get dinner started anyhow.” Megan stood up from the couch as the doorbell rang.

“I’ll get it.” Brian answered, exchanging a questioning glance with his wife. Megan shrugged and shook her head as he walked to the front door.

Megan held out her hand to her daughter, who came to join her in the kitchen.

“Come in.” Brian said. He led two men in dark suits to the breakfast nook off the kitchen. “Megan, you remember Davis. This is Mr. Miller, his associate.”

Megan nodded. “Hello.” She turned to her daughter. “Let’s go turn on Sesame Street!” She offered with a bright excitement designed to distract the little girl from the intriguing strangers.

When Megan returned to the room, the three men sat around the small round table that was already covered in papers and 8 x 10 photographs of Castle Scardough.

Mr. Davis and Mr. Miller stood as Megan entered the room. “Lady Boderlund.” Davis greeted her.

“Davis. Mr. Miller.” She replied graciously. “Has something happened in Corlaund?” she asked as she took a seat next too Brian.

“The situation has changed.” Davis answered tersely.

This week, Megan begins to realize the reality of her situation, and proves herself a up to the task.

(Want to catch up on the story? You can find it here.)

The King is Called Home, Part 5

When Megan opened her eyes the next morning, the tiny apartment was full of shadows that moved as cars rushed past the building. She was alone. Shivering, she pulled the blanket tighter around her shoulders, and resolved to buy a warmer wardrobe immediately. Chicago was certainly colder than Scardaugh!


The inky black shadows faded to a muted grey as her eyes adjusted to the early morning light. She sat up in bed, reaching for her morning coffee and mail. At home, this routine was well established, and these things were always waiting for her on the nightstand when she awoke, as if by magic. Here, without the staff that kept the great houses running smoothly, if she wanted a cup of coffee she was going to have to make it herself. Half an hour later, Megan finally sat down at the little kitchen table with her hard-won cup of homemade coffee. “Automatic coffee maker – hardly!” She spoke out loud.


As she sipped, she surveyed the apartment once again, deciding what to do. She savored the moment. It was a rare day when she had no appointments, no commitments. Perhaps she would go out shopping, and meet Brian at a café for brunch after he finished his registration at the University.


Their luggage sat open on the floor near the bed, clothes from the previous day nearby. She rummaged through the tiny suitcase she had packed so hastily, and realized how limited her options were. She had not been thinking of what she might need on an extended trip when Brian and MacDuff woke her in the middle of the night and told her to pack a bag. She chose a burgundy cashmere sweater from the assortment she had brought, then realized she had not put a second pair of jeans into the suitcase.


Megan sat on the edge of the bed, staring at the open suitcase. “How am I supposed to get dressed? I can’t even go buy more clothes if I can’t get dressed!” The apartment felt like it had shrunk, and suddenly her day full of possibilities seemed impossible.


She took several deep breaths, and looked around. Panicking would not solve anything, she reminded herself. She saw the jeans she had worn the day before, lying on the floor of the bathroom. Realizing she had no other choice, she stood and walked calmly into the bathroom and got dressed. If she could dance with the Baron Ceridan, who was old enough to be her grandfather and who sweated whiskey, she could wear the same pair of jeans for two days and do it gracefully.


Brian closed the front door behind him just as Megan came out of the bathroom. “Good morning. Hope I didn’t wake you…I wanted to get to the registration office early. Classes start on Monday.” He set down a large armful of textbooks.


Megan smiled. “Not at all. I made a pot of coffee.” She told him. “I was thinking of doing some shopping today, after brunch of course. Perhaps there’s a nice café at the University?”


“We might be better off staying in. MacDuff and the Americans have put some money into an account for me, but it’s not much. Large amounts of money transferring from the Caudorian treasury would be noticed and traced.”


“That’s fine, I’ll just use my monthly allowance.” Megan replied.


Brian shook his head. “Your credit card could be traced. For all we know, we have enemies in the National Bank. They know by now that you’ve disappeared, and have guessed that we’re together. If your credit card suddenly turns up in Chicago, they’ll know where we are.”


Megan sat down at the kitchen table as this new development sunk in.


“Actually, we should probably destroy that card. If it were found or stolen, it has your real name on it. That could get us both killed.” Brian


Megan watched as he cut her credit card into tiny fragments and threw a few of them away.


“I’ll throw the rest away in different trash cans around the city so even if someone found them, they couldn’t piece it back together.” Brian explained.


“Aren’t you being a little paranoid?” Megan asked, finally. “I’m sure MacDuff has this under control, or he will soon.”


Brian sat down across the table. “Maybe. He might come to bring us home next week. But it could be years. We just don’t know. They made it clear before I left that I may not see Corlaund again until I return for my father’s funeral and my own coronation. If you want to go home, I can try to get in touch with the American State Department…”


Megan reached across the table. She took his hand, still clenched around the shards of her credit card. “I’ll stay. It’s not like I was doing anything all that important at home – just waiting around to marry a prince, and I can do that anywhere.”


“Then why keep waiting? I know it won’t be the court wedding you’d planned, but…Lady Megan of Boderlund, will you be my bride?” The traditional words sounded out of place in the tiny apartment, but Megan didn’t care.


“Of course My Lord.” She smiled, as he drew her close for a kiss that made her grateful their betrothal had not taken place in public after all.

Stay tuned for next week’s installment, which I’ll post here on Monday. Impatient? Leave me your email and I’ll send it to you on early:

(Don’t worry, I don’t have time to send you spam. All I’ll ever send you are stories and the occasional announcement when I’ve published a story elsewhere.)

This week’s installment was inspired by a reader comment back in part 2. It’s all part of the fun of a serial story – it’s evolving week by week, and even I don’t know what’s going to happen until I start writing! Today, Megan and Brian get a first taste of their new life.

(Want to catch up on the story? You can find it here.)

The King is Called Home, Part 4

Megan woke, startled, at the change in cabin pressure and roar of the engines as the plane began its descent.


“Welcome to Chicago O’Hare International Airport. Local time is 9:45pm, and the low tonight is 23 degrees. Enjoy your stay in Chicago, and thank you for flying with us today.” The pilot’s voice left no question in Megan’s mind – this was all too real.


Brian brought her hand to his lips. “Feel better after some rest?”


Megan nodded. “I do. It’s been a strange day. It will feel good to get in and soak in a hot bath.”


As the plane touched down, Brian leaned over to kiss her temple. His whispered order belied the tender gesture. “Follow my lead, and don’t show surprise.”


Megan simply nodded and squeezed his hand for comfort. She wondered what else lie in store before she could sink into the steaming, scented water.


At nearly 10 o’clock in the evening, the airport was a hectic jumble of luggage carts and overwrought toddlers. Megan recalled flying into Heathrow Airport for the Olympics in London. The small private jet had landed outside the commercial area, and their escort had ushered them directly to their waiting limousine. Her luggage had arrived in her room within the hour. The entire experience had been a study in orderly luxury. The passenger terminal at O’Hare was not. She and Brian were simply dropped off the plane into the sprawling terminal and left to their own devices. Megan looked at Brian. He had told her to follow his lead. Perhaps he had some idea where to go next.


Brian stood beside the long rows of blue seats and looked down at the ticket in his hand. For the first time all day, Megan realized, he did not seem in command of the situation. A voice over the broke through her thoughts. “Would passenger Brian Scardaugh please report to the customer service desk? Your party is waiting.”


Her stomach clenched.


An older man spoke to himself as he brushed past Brian. “Next stop – Baggage claim A.”


Brian glanced up at the man, then looked at the directional signs hanging from the ceiling of the terminal. “This way.” He placed his hand at the base of Megan’s spine, guiding her quickly down the passageway. Megan kept her features calm as she hurried to keep up, wondering who could have followed them to Chicago.


The baggage claim lacked any semblance of charm. The cold tile floors and once-white walls seemed infused with decades of grime from the millions of travelers who passed through this basement room each day. As suitcases began to appear on the conveyor belt that snaked through the room, Brian joined the other passengers at the sides, waiting to haul their luggage off the belt. It did not take long for him to collect their two small cases, hastily packed less than 24 hours ago.


“Let’s get home.” Brian spoke quietly as he set the suitcases down.


Megan nodded. “Which way to the car?”


Brian pulled out the envelope MacDuff had tossed into his lap as they fled Corlaund. “The car is parked in long-term parking. We take the shuttle. This way.”


Megan followed him outside into the frigid night. The older gentleman from the terminal was there as well, reading a newspaper to pass the time. He, like the other dozen travelers waiting to board the shuttle, completely ignored the Crown Prince of Corlaund and Lady Boderlund.


After a briefly interminable ride from the baggage claim to the long term parking lot, the shuttle stopped and several passengers quickly gathered their belongings. Brian pulled their luggage from the rack, and paused to let Megan stand without being jostled as she got off the shuttle. Standing alone in the freezing night, they scanned the parking lot for the car MacDuff had arranged. They found the small off-white Honda parked alone in the shadow between two street lamps.


Brian quickly unlocked the passenger door and held it open for Megan before loading their luggage into the trunk. Megan searched the dark parking lot but they were alone. If anyone knew they were in Chicago, they had not followed them to the car.


As Brian started the car, he handed her the manila envelope containing their new life. “There should be directions to the apartment in there, if you would . . .”


anonymous apartment

home, anonymous home

Megan nodded, and found the single printed sheet. She read the directions as Brian drove the unfamiliar city streets to their new home, a six-story concrete box. Its only feature was its perfectly spaced glass windows. She couldn’t imagine a more anonymous building. Brian parked the car in their allotted space and led the way up the cold concrete stairwell to apartment 4G. Megan was too tired to ask about an elevator, and slightly afraid that Brian would tell her there wasn’t one.


Brian unlocked the dark brown door and swung it open to give her a first view of her new home. The furnished room was not large, perhaps the size of her chamber at Castle Scardaugh. “Not a terrible foyer…” she thought as she walked into the apartment, trying to be positive. As she set her purse down, she realized that she stood in the kitchen, looking out at both bedroom and sitting room. There was only one other door in the room, which led, she supposed, to the bathroom.


tiny apartment kitchen

tiny apartment kitchen

“How cozy.” She said.


Brian nodded, kicking the door shut behind them. “MacDuff said the place was small, but…” Brian took a deep breath. “He knows what he’s doing. If this is where he’s decided to hide us, he’s got his reasons.”


Megan walked through the tiny studio apartment, noting the outdated décor and cheap furnishings. “True. No one will look for the Prince of Corlaund here. We will be fine for a few weeks, until MacDuff and your father find out who is behind all of this.”

Stay tuned for next week’s installment, which I’ll post here on Monday. Impatient? Leave me your email and I’ll send it to you on early:

(Don’t worry, I don’t have time to send you spam. All I’ll ever send you are stories and the occasional announcement when I’ve published a story elsewhere.)

On to Part 5


Castle Scardaugh

Castle Scardaugh, site of the annual Gathering.

The King is Called Home is a serialized flash fiction piece I’ve been working on for the past several weeks. However, I realize some people prefer to read the whole thing at once, so I’ve collected it all here. Enjoy!

  • Part 1 – Brian, Crown Prince of Corlaund, refuses to leave without his betrothed.
  • Part 2 – Megan and Brian flee Castle Scardaugh.
  • Part 3 – Megan sees a new side to Brian.
  • Part 4 – The young couple gets their first look at their new life.
  • Part 5 – Megan faces reality for the first time, and proves herself up to the challenge
  • Part 6 – Fast forward a decade, and life shifts once again.

Most fairy tales end with the prince kissing his true love. This modern fairy tale began there. Now the question is, will the royal couple survive?

Megan dressed quickly while Brian and MacDuff waited in the sitting room just outside her chamber. She glanced around at the room, her eyes resting on the elegantly traditional gown arranged on a manikin in the large walk-in closet. She spent weeks with the designer last winter, creating exactly the look she wanted at to her betrothal ceremony. It would just have to wait for her until she and Brian could return.


Five minutes later, she opened the door to the sitting room wearing a pair of designer jeans and a softly draped cotton blouse with a tailored suede jacket.


MacDuff looked up and scowled at the chocolate brown boots that tied the outfit together. “Let’s go.”


“What do we say if someone asks where we’re going?” Megan asked.


MacDuff turned around to face the young couple. “You don’t stop to chat. If you make it on the plane alive, it’ll be a damn miracle. Now let’s go.”



Image courtesy of Ben Jacobsen

Brian squeezed Megan’s hand as they followed MacDuff into the dark corridors. Even at this hour, the castle wasn’t quiet. Sounds of drunken giggles from one room mixed with intense debate from another. They walked fast to keep up, as MacDuff led them around corners and through passageways neither knew existed.


Finally, an hour later, they emerged through a service entrance at the rear of the castle. Several black government vehicles were parked nearby, but MacDuff led them to a plain grey sedan instead.


As he drove away from the castle, MacDuff seemed to relax a bit although he kept a cautious eye on the rear-view mirror.


“Where exactly are we headed?” Brian asked. “You and Dad were a bit light on the details.”


“America. It’s a good place to disappear.” MacDuff answered.


“Oh how fun!” Megan said. “It’s silly, I suppose, but I’ve always wanted to tour Disney World.” She laughed.


“Now get this straight, you two. This isn’t a vacation, and you’re no royals. Not any more.” MacDuff tossed a plain manila envelope into Brian’s lap in the back seat.


Brian opened the envelope and pulled out a thin stack of papers. He thumbed through the birth certificates, drivers licenses with their pictures paired with someone else’s name, the title to an inexpensive car and a lease agreement for an apartment. Brian took a deep breath and handed the stack to Megan.


“This looks pretty permanent, MacDuff.” Brian said. “I thought we were just hiding out someplace for a couple of weeks until things settled down.”


“Could be. But your Dad and I aren’t taking chances. This mess goes deep and they’ve been watching your family for years. Until we know who is behind this, you two need to disappear. Any hint gets out of who you really are, and you’re going to be dead before you even know you let something slip.”


Megan nodded, and looked at the name on her new American driver’s license: Margaret Hennessey.


“When will we be able to go home?” Megan asked.


“Watch the news. If Corlaund starts making headlines, pay attention. If we’re lucky, we can take care of this quietly and I’ll be in touch. If not . . . the American State Department knows who you are. If we fail, they’ll make the arrangements for you to come back so Brian can claim his throne.”


MacDuff pulled into the airport parking lot and stopped the car. “This is where I leave you. Just get yourselves on that plane.” He turned and nodded to the couple, and Megan thought she saw traces of fear in his eyes. “Good luck.”

The story is at a turning point right now – would you rather delve into Brian and Megan’s adjustment to normal American life, or skip ahead to the moment where their normal life is turned upside down – again? Let me know in the comments below!

I’ll post the next installment next Monday, but if you’d like to read it on Friday afternoon, sign up for the newsletter. Subscribers get new installments early 🙂

On to Part 3

As promised, I’ve started a new flash fiction serial story! The King is Called Home is a modern fairy tale. After you read it, I’d love your feedback. One of the fun things about a serial story is that it really does change and evolve as the weeks go by, and sometimes those changes come as a result of reader comments.

Megan tossed in her bed, unable to sleep. She usually slept well when she visited Castle Scardaugh for the Gathering. Every summer, anyone in Corlaund with even a hint of royal blood descended upon the old feudal palace for two weeks to take part in the festivities. The media loved it, of course, and tourists filled the villages and hotels for miles around to get a glimpse of Europe’s last feudal government in action.


Castle Scardaugh

Castle Scardaugh, site of the annual Gathering.

This year’s Gathering started, as every Gathering for 800 years, with a state dinner designed to give minor nobility their annual opportunity to feel important. Some simply toasted the king and encouraged others to do the same, reminding the gathered nobles that the strength of Corlaund lie in its loyalty. Others gave lengthy rants on the myriad problems of the kingdom. Megan let her mind wander back to the first opening feasts in the grand hall at Scardaugh. How different they must have been, before Corlaund became quite so civilized. She noticed this year, the speeches seemed much more strident than usual. Even meaningless toasts to the king’s health were delivered with the force of a dueling challenge.


At least the speeches and toasts would only last as long as the meal. Once the final course was cleared away, everyone would drift across the corridor to the ballroom to dance, and try to work off the mountain of calories they just consumed. Megan glanced to the head table as her father, the Duke of Boderlund, stood to deliver his toast. Brian, nineteen and intensely handsome, sat just to the right of his father, Niall, King of Corlaund. Brian caught her eye and grinned, glancing toward the ballroom. Megan nodded slightly, unable to keep herself from smiling, despite her father’s dire warnings. Megan hadn’t been paying attention to exactly what he was warning the assembly against, but she had picked up that it had something to do with complaining or disloyalty or something. Megan took a bite of perfectly seasoned roast beef and let her mind wander to the ballroom, where she would spend the better half of the evening.


It was well past 1:00 am by the time Megan finally returned to her room, bathed, and climbed into the ancient four-post bed. The castle had been renovated several times over the centuries, but she was glad that many of these pieces had remained the same, even if it meant having custom mattresses made. She tried to soothe herself to sleep, reliving the moments she had spent with Brian this evening, but somehow even he had seemed a little tense. She would try to talk to him about it tomorrow, if she could get a quiet moment.


Tomorrow would be even more important than today – at noon, the assembled lords would carry out the ancient ceremony of fealty to the King. This year she would attend as well, and when her father knelt to swear loyalty to the King, Brian would step forward and offer Megan his hand. She would take his hand and step forward to stand beside him, and the betrothal they had whispered about for two years would be official. She took several deep breaths to calm herself. She had to keep her composure tomorrow, however excited she was. She only wished her betrothal didn’t mean another interminably long meal with the nobles. At least tomorrow night she would be seated next to Brian instead of halfway across the dining hall.


Megan was still trying to find sleep when she heard a soft knock on her door. She climbed out of the enormous bed, pulled on a robe, and peeked into the hallway. Brian stood in her doorway with Ian MacDuff watching the hallway behind him.


“Get dressed – quietly.” Brian told her. “Traveling clothes, as plain as you’ve got.”


“What’s going on?” Megan asked, shaking the light sleep from her head.


“Do you trust me?” The Crown Prince of Corlaund asked her.


“I love you. Of course I trust you.” She answered without hesitation.


“Several of the nobles tried to kill my father tonight. MacDuff has orders to get me out of the country so the line of succession is safe. And I’m not leaving without you. My father’s enemies know I’d come out of whatever hole MacDuff hides me in the moment they threatened you. Will you come, or do we stay here and fight them?”


Megan looked at MacDuff. She had known the man since she was a child, and not once had he so much as let his breakfast get cold over rumors of treason and enemies at the door. Yet here he was, pacing the hallway, while her soon-to-be betrothed lay their futures – perhaps even the future of the kingdom – at her feet.


“I will go wherever you go.”


Brian smiled and kissed his bride-to-be, until the man-at-arms gruffly reminded them that time was not on their side. As the young couple left the palace that night, they gave little thought to what life would lie ahead.

I hope you like the beginning of The King is Called Home – and I’d love your feedback in the comments! I’ll post the next installment next Monday, but if you’d like to read it on Friday afternoon, sign up for the newsletter. Subscribers get new installments early 🙂

On to Part 2