The streets of Valermoore City were very different nowdays. The first thing that a newcomer to the capital noticed was the absense of girls. There were plenty of old and middle aged women on the streets, buying and selling in the markets and going about their duties, and small children being taught in the schools, but very few teenage girls. A couple of years ago, random girls had been picked up by the Valermoore City Guards and taken, not to the Guardhouses or to the prisons, but, much to their surprise, to the Royal Palace of Queen Yocasta. None had ever returned, and their worried parents had been told by the Guards that no harm had come to them. When the first few vanished, the parents told themselves that their daughters were lucky, that they had been given well-paid jobs as servants within the Palace walls and would be allowed out on leave soon to spend their wages and see their families.
But as more of the raids happened, with random girls, who were doing nothing wrong and were just minding their own buisness, rounded up and dragged away in full view of the townspeople, darker rumours spread from house to house with the speed of a disease until the whole city heard of them. That the girls were kept locked up in an underground brothel for the use of the highest members of the Royal Court. That they were being sold to the slavetraders from the southern countries where slavery was common. Even that at the Queen's command, the Royal Wizards had summoned a mighty deamon from the Lower Hells for advice, and that the girls were being fed to it nightly.
The parents had organized a public demonstration, with banners held aloft saying "Bring back our daughters" but the Queen had sent out her best soldiers and broken it up brutally.After that the parents had for the most part, told their daughters to flee the city and stay with friends in the country or even risk the perils of homelessness rather then be taken to the Palace.Many of their boyfriends had fled with them as well. Finally the Queen had blocked most townspeople from leaving the city.
Eleanor Howlett was sitting in the "Blue Dragon Inn" sipping from a goblet of watered-down wine. Despite it's name the place was in fact one of the best and most expensive inns in the city. As the only daughter of John Howlett, the
Ambassador from Karnivhal, she was hardly interested in *slumming it*. Besides, she feared falling victim to thieves or kiddnappers if she went into the poorer areas of the city. As a diplomat's daughter she was allowed to carry a dagger in case of attack, but she knew it would be no use against an armed gang, so she was careful where she went.
Six guards strode into the Inn, members of Yocasta's "Eyes", the best and most trusted of her military units.Each carried a wooden baton and a shortsword in his belt, and wore chainmail armour and the symbol of a red eye on his surcoat.They gathered around her. "You are coming with us to the Royal Palace. The Queen wants to see you," said the tallest one.
She pulled out her diplomatic pass of gold embossed leather with the Karnivhal coat of arms upon it. "I am the daughter of Ambassador Howlett, and I'm not going anywhere."
He slapped the pass from her hand. "Yeah, right, and I'm the Lord High Admiral of Banhosea. You can come with us willingly or in chains-and hand over that dagger. You are outnumbered six to one, Princess."
She sighed and did what she was told.
The Ambassador tried to confort his wife who was sobbing in his arms. "Our only child, they've taken her and we will never see her again. Can't you demand of the Queen that she give her back?,"
"And risk a war? Things are bad enough between our nations as things are.However, I know someone who could help,and I'll send an aide out to bring her here, where I can offer her a hefty reward to bring our daughter back safe and sound."