“From the stage that brought you Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre,” Allyn-a-Dale proclaims before the curtain, “here’s Ever On Word’s original talk show, Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell.”
The curtain rises, the studio audience applauds, and Will Scarlet himself walks smiling and waving onto the bright, cozy set.
“Hullo, everyone! Let’s jump right into it, shall we?” Leading by example, he hops into his armchair. “Allyn, who is our guest character today?”
As the guest enters from the other side of the stage, Allyn says, “Our author describes Bellamy, princess of Skycastle, thus:
In accordance with her royal parents’ oath, Bellamy has been groomed since her earliest youth to become her people’s savior, along with her twin sister. …until aforementioned sister disappears without notice. With the lives of her kingdom’s women on the line, Bellamy fiercely turns her back on what she views as her twin’s betrayal, the better to focus on her destiny ahead. But the monster she’s sworn to kill may be the least of what she’ll have to face.
“Welcome, Bellamy!” Will greets the young woman now seated in the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – who do you think makes the prettier girl: You, or your new crossdressing co-assassin?”
She gives him a look cold and flat as an artic plain. “Why on high is that ‘first things first’?”
Will shrugs. “I usually open the interview with a completely superficial question like that. It makes for a fun icebreaker.” Under the weight of her glare, he mutters, “Though it looks like the ice is on me, this time around.”
“It’s a frivolous practice,” says Bellamy, “but as I’m not in the habit of bucking established tradition, I would answer if I could. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen my face in the past eight years, so I can’t very well compare myself to Rowan – or Rowena, as he’s called in his work clothes.”
Will gapes. “Not seen your face once in eight years? What, are mirrors not a thing in your kingdom?”
Bellamy’s posture stiffens. “Skycastle has no shortage of mirrors – those left by its former occupant, and those brought by our people when they emigrated from the world below. I choose to avoid my reflection, that’s all. For personal reasons.”
“Personal reasons to do with your missing sister?” Will hints.
“I’d really much prefer not to talk about her.”
“I figured as much,” Will sighs. “Well, then, let’s talk about Skycastle. How did your people convert a giant’s castle in the sky into a human kingdom?”
Bellamy visibly relaxes somewhat. “It took some ingenuity. Space, the castle had aplenty, but much of it was difficult to access, due to the scale. So over the first year, the best of our architects and engineers led in building upward along the walls. Our population is small enough and the castle tall enough that there’s plenty of room on the main floor to house all of our kingdom-city’s districts – from the affluent top tiers, to what we call ‘the Ground’ (which is as near as Skycastle comes to a slum and is, if I rightly recall, where the royal guards found Rowan). Twenty years later, we’ve yet to fully explore the second story, to say nothing of what’s beyond. Oh, and thanks to the late giant’s collection of the stuff, gold’s more common than dirt in our castle on a cloud.”
“Wow. How fantastic is that? On a more personal note – but not too personal for you, I hope – what are your plans for once you and Rowan/Rowena have taken out your kingdom’s archenemy, the Lord of Wings?”
“I haven’t thought about it much,” Bellamy says contemplatively. “My life’s focus has been to kill our giant’s brother, if it’s the last thing I do – which there’s always a chance it will be. If I survive my mission’s completion… well, I suppose it will be back to Skycastle to learn how to run a kingdom. I am, so far as we know, the throne’s only surviving heir.”
“A real ‘all work and no play’ type, aren’t you?” says Will. “Well, let’s see if you’re at least game for this. Tell me, Bellamy, what is our mutual author’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret?” He offers a sunshiny smile. “Or would you rather kiss me?”
Bellamy’s mouth twists downward. “I don’t feel right telling secrets not my own. I suppose that makes my duty clear.”
With an air of resignation, the princess rises from her chair, takes Will’s hand in hers, and brushes a kiss over his knuckles.
“My! How… gallant,” he says, rather pleased at the gender role reversal. “Allyn, how ‘bout a quick word from our sponsor?”
“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Allyn, “was brought to you by Danielle E. Shipley’s short story in the “Steel and Bone” steampunk anthology – launching tomorrow! – ‘A Mind Prone to Wander’.
The refugees of Skycastle survived the end of the world only to fall prey to the dreaded Lord of Wings. Together with an assassin princess, a young man gone mad with missing memories must venture into the monster’s mechanized fortress to vanquish him once and for all. But the threat against Skycastle takes a most unexpected shape, forcing both princess and madman to brave the pain of the pasts that left them broken.
“Thank you, Allyn,” says Will. “Thanks to you as well, Your Highness. And thank you, my beautiful audience. Remember, authors – if your characters would like to appear on the show, simply follow the guidelines provided here, and we’ll get them on the schedule. ‘Til next time, lovelies: Scarlet out!”