Neil Gaiman Masterclass : Dialogue and Creating Character (2)

"Well then," breathed the king in relief. "Now that horrible business is done, we can get back to your choosing a Champion."

Fiona withdrew to arm's length and stared daggers at her father.

"Seriously? We're back onto this?"

"Fiona," King Leopold tried with a pleading air. "If anything, what happened just proves why you need a Champion!"

Fiona threw her hands up in exasperation before rounding on him. 

"I escaped. I returned. I rescued everyone. I even fought the freaking dragon for crying out loud! And we're still talking about me being a little princess that needs protection. You people are unbelievable!"

"'You people'?" King Leopold repeated. "And what is that supposed to mean?"

Fiona gestured wildly around.

"Everyone here! Everyone stuck on 'tradition' and doing things because that's how they've always been done! Well I'm sick of it!"

"Those traditions you so mock are there for a reason," the king countered, fighting to keep his tone level. "You're too important to allow to roam free without someone to keep you safe at all times. Someone who would be willing to lay down their life to protect you. Especially now that you are what you've become."

"I'm not a child anymore," she retorted stubbornly. "I don't need protecting."

King Leopold gripped his daughter by the shoulders.

"You will always be my child," he breathed, his eyes welling with tears. "I lost your mother so long ago and I will not lose you too. You cannot expect me to not want to keep you safe with every fibre of my being when you are all that I love most in the whole world."

Fiona looked up into her father's eyes and put a hand over his, her heart softening. 

"If I do this," she relented after a time. "Then it has to be my way. Under my terms."

King Leopold smiled warmly as he withdrew himself a step.

"My dearest daughter. You are fierce, willful, determined and strong. Just like your mother. She was my Champion."

Fiona stared, taken aback.

"But," she stuttered. "I thought..."

"That I was the Champion?" he finished for her with a knowing smile. "I know. Tradition says that was how it should have been. Always in our family there has been a Lady of the Gate. My parents were always disappointed that they were only able to have a son."

Fiona was shocked.

"So you were never what your parents wanted to be either?" she ventured.

Her father gave her a sympathetic smile. 

"Trust me Fiona," he said. "I know what it is to have to live up to peoples' expectations of you. When your mother was with child I was so afraid that I'd disappoint our family and our history once again by having a son. In the end though, we were blessed with you. Our beautiful, special, radiant Fiona. Finally, I'd done something right. I was determined to keep it so."

Fiona nodded, everything falling into place now. She straightened herself, a determined set to her shoulders.

"You didn't disappoint anyone dad. Especially not me. But this is where tradition has to end. Before now the Ladies of the Gate had the Gate Gems to guard. Now I am the Gate Gem. This has never happened before. I'm not the Lady of the Gate I was supposed to be. Everything's different now. So we can't do things the way they were."

The king nodded, relenting.

"Then my daughter," he said with a resolute light to his eyes. "It is time we started making new traditions. Starting now, with you and I."

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