The tavern was packed when the figure in a hooded cloak stepped in. People took no notice of her, which was how she liked it. She took a seat at a corner table. Her contact would surely be there soon, and they had incredibly important matters to discuss. She adjusted the hood on her head to ensure that none of her hair was showing. Recognition was not what she was after - in truth, it was what she feared most from this meeting.

A man sat in front of her, his clothes dirty but well intentioned. "S?" he asked, his voice hushed. She nodded.

"You mentioned in your letter that you had a plan," she stated, her voice forceful but quiet.

"Yes," her contact quickly replied, "I say we use the dragon."

The dragon? She admitted to herself that the thought had crossed her mind. "How do we control it, though?" The dragon, which she knew would be a powerful weapon, had only been seen on Gallican lands twice or thrice, and only had stolen cattle. She was not afraid of the dragon like most of the people were, but she still was cautious about attempting to tame it.

"We don't need to," he explained. "We only need to show it how Phrygia has such an abundance of livestock, and perhaps it will start eating their people, too."

"That's foolish," S spat. "How do you expect to be able to reason with a dragon?" The man was silent. S intensified her glare. "I want this war more than anyone. If our forces can overthrow the Phrygians, we will have effectively doubled our territory. But we can't take over Phrygia unless we have a plan to destroy their royalty, a plan that doesn't suck. Do you understand me?"

"What if we bait the dragon? Kidnap Princess Sabrina and bring her to the border?"

S laughed coldly. "And what good will that do?"

"Dragons eat princesses," the man said simply, "it's what they do."

The tavern door flew open. Tall, muscular, armored men wearing Gallican royal garb entered the establishment. "Nobody move," the tallest one ordered. A hush fell over the patrons. "We have been informed that plotting is taking place here against one of Gallia's allies. If those guilty will not hand themselves over, then we will be forced to take everyone here into custody."

S's contact stood up quickly. "It's her!" he shouted, pointing at her. "She's the head of this whole operation!"

"I don't know what you're talking about," she said quickly, but her attempt to save face was unnoticed as the royal police grabbed her. She stood up and raised her voice. "You will unhand me this instant! And that is an order!" The guards did not unhand her, so she pulled down her hood to reveal her identity.

Sabrina's dark curls fell from where they were hiding, and the guards gasped. "That's right," she spat, "and not a word of this will be said to my father. You will let me go, or I will have you all imprisoned for laying hands on me, and I will personally hand you off as the drafted ones come June. I will destroy you all and your families. And you -" she turned to her contact, apparently the informant, "you will be the first to die. I'm sure all of your bastard children would benefit from the money they receive. Unless there isn't enough money for all of them, however many there are."

The crowd was silent. The bartender, who had paused in the middle of wiping down a glass, put the glass on the bar counter and spoke. "Princess, if I may... why?"

"Why what?" she asked, one more question away from flying into a rage. "Why provoke a war with Phrygia? Because they have the coast. We could have fish again, so much cheaper, if they were a Gallican territory and not an ally. We could take their farmland, their resources. And their prince is the biggest numbskull I have ever had the displeasure to be courted by!"

The people murmured. Sabrina took a deep breath to try to steady herself. "Not a word of this to my father. Nothing will be said. Am I understood?" Silence. "Good."

An older voice, both regal and tired at the same time, broke the silence from behind the guards. "You've already said everything, Sabrina. No one needs to say anything to me now." The guards parted silently, revealing the king standing behind them.

Strange as it was, Sabrina was at a loss for words. "Father, I..."

"Enough. Guards, take her. We'll continue this discussion later."

Stunned, Sabrina allowed herself to be handled like a criminal. She had seen nothing wrong with what she was doing, so why was her father acting this way? She hid her head as the guards took her to the palace throne room, where they knelt her down like a common criminal in front of the thrones.

Her father sat in the larger, older one in the center. The smaller throne at his right side had been added a few years before Sabrina was born, for her father could not bear to rule without his queen by his side at all times. Sabrina's mother had been a seer, her father had said, and she had often been able to give him insight on rulings based on dreams she had. The king had been lost when she died.

"Sabrina..." he sighed, his head in his hands, "to say I am disappointed in you would be the gravest of understatements."

"I don't understand," she said, "you have your diplomacy and I have mine."

"Diplomacy and war without reason are two completely different things." He opened his mouth as if to say something else, but he changed his mind.

"Father, you want that land as much as I do, as much as the people do - " Sabrina tried to argue, but her father waved his hand.

"No, Sabrina, we both know what this is about. Don't give me your excuses, noble as they might be. It's George, isn't it?"

"Of course it's George!" she shouted, louder than she intended. "You want me to marry him, but I couldn't give a rat's a-"

"Silence!" her father interrupted, raising his voice for the first time since Sabrina could remember. "This is the way it's done. Isn't a peaceful union between two lands better than a show of force?"

"I. Don't. Care," she hissed through her teeth. "He's an imbecile, and I refuse to be his - his - subordinate. I don't see like Mother, he'd have no use for me. He can burn in Hell, for all I care."

Leaving no room for silence, her father kept going. "And plotting with rebels? Planning the death of Phrygian royals by coercing a dragon? I thought I raised you better!"

"Apparently, you thought wrong!" she yelled.

Silence. Then, her father's baritone voice seemed to make the throne room itself tremble. "Then I am afraid I have no choice. I sentence you to one year's exile, commencing immediately."

Sabrina stood quickly, causing the guards to tighten their grip on her. "Mother would never have let you do this!"

"Don't you dare bring her into this! The one time I don't give you what you want, you go behind my back! I will not tolerate this any longer!"

"I hate you! I want you to die - I hope you die! I hope you get trampled by one of your own carriages! I hope you get overthrown and killed! Go to Hell!" Sabrina screamed, her tantrum escalating with each word. The guards pulled her away and out of the palace while she continued screaming, her exclamations growing even more absurd.

She ran out of breath when she was forced onto the transport carriage and somehow managed to calm down. She realized quickly that she was terrified, but she was somehow removed from the feeling, like it was something she was holding in her hands and not something inside of her. Nothingisgoingtobethesame,isit? she thought.

The carriage bounced as the horses trod down the cobblestone. Sabrina felt sick. She knew she had nowhere to go. She could never ask for sanctuary, especially in Phrygia. George would be more likely to marry her than to help her, and that in itself was a worse punishment than exile.

The carriage stopped abruptly and the guards opened the door. Sabrina was led out and onto the street. She saw the gates right ahead and was powerless to stop once they began to walk her forward. Looking around, she saw the old milkman's cottage and farm, his sons working. She recognized the eldest as her contact. "Wait," she said, and turned towards the cottage. "Why would you do this?" she asked, half screaming.

"Father is sick," he stated, "And we need the money they offered me."

Before she had the chance to respond, the guards pulled her away and walked her to the gates. They shoved her to the ground outside of the gates and closed them. There was a thud as the gates locked.

She was tempted to shout and ask for someone to let her back in, but before she even had the chance to breathe, the breath was snatched from her as two large, scaly talons wrapped around her and took her from the ground.

Shit, she thought.

A/N: Hi, everyone! I'm pretty sure I won't be updating every day, but the lovely reviews I got yesterday drove me to get this chapter finished. So a big thank you to Alex Rashid and The Hiddenworlder!

Yesterday, I decided to Google "Ascalon" without the word "novel" next to it, like I previously had, and it turns out that Ascalon is a place in Guild Wars. No, this story has nothing to do with Guild Wars, as far as I'm aware. But I'm pretty sure we have a similar source!

If anyone is interested, I might start a little bit of a Q&A. If anyone asks me questions in their review, I'll answer, as long as it doesn't give anything away. (;