Little Frankie Smallheath leaned out over the crowd. More than a hundred people were below and she hated every one of them. Men with coat-tails hanging down behind their knees, dancing dresses with hideous volume matched the wigs on their heads. The jewelry here could buy food for everyone Frankie knew.
Despite the unsettling frivolity on the floor, its attendees had no idea what was lurking above them. Frankie invited herself to the King’s Ball this evening, and she arrived in saint-like style through an unused chimney. Her soot covered body matched the color of her skin rather well. To get to the rafters, she left ashy handprints on the astoundingly long, ornate drapes. She hoped this could be her thieve’s signature.
The mark she left was only special if she succeeded tonight, though.
“The Crown,” Frankie thought from her perch, and she peered earnestly through the crowd in search of the goal.
Almost as soon as she spotted the king, rotund and equally boisterous, the chandelier to which she clung began to pull clumsily from the ceiling. First a bolt broke loose, and then a brace. She would be with the crowd in a only a few moments.
With wit that only Frankie Smallheath can claim, she began to swing the chandelier in an effort to make a trajectory close to the king. The second something this big falls on his dance floor, twenty guards will remove him from the site.
But before any more quick thinking could commence, the structure broke free from the ceiling entirely, and Frankie was in a free fall.
“MOVE!” She screamed in a hope to save a few dancers from some nasty injuries, and with a crash the the massive chandelier smashed into the floor. Splinters of wood and glass shards tumbled away from the scene and skidded to the feet of everyone in the room. The music broke into silence and everyone gasped.
Frankie might have been spotted by one or two, but they would not have had any clue what to do. The cacophony of the entire scene was rather paralytic. In the same second that some frightened screams rang out, the guards began shoving their way past the panicking people and toward the King.
Frankie moved differently. With less hindrance and more creativity. Like an eel popping its head in-and-out through coral, she darted from beneath one overly puffed dress to the next. If one was paying close attention and had an eye for it, they might watch in wonder as Frankie dashed cleverly this way and that, straight for the crown.
Just as the men in armor bundled into the King, Frankie moved like a whisper up his flowing cape. Without the alert of the spectators or the monarch, she now held a golden crown confidently in her hands, and she made for the exit.
“My Lord, your crown!”
As the King was being ushered out of the premises, he stopped and put his hands to his head. Frankie turned to watch solely for the satisfaction.
“My crown!” the King roared, and the entire troop stopped to look around.
It was as if the crown was more important than the kings life. Frankie was just going to make some money off of the thing, but she did not disagree with the thought. She attached the regal hat to her belt and began to leave the ballroom.
The front door would be fine this time – it was always easier to get out than in. She headed that way with a full head of steam and excitement. She knew once she was on the streets, nobody could catch her. That was her ballroom. That was her dance.
One of the guards at the door actually caught sight of Frankie as she was darting past. That, or he noticed the shiny gold thing at her hip, and made an effort to stop her. But his substantial belly and less-than-ideal trousers, left the man panting for breath and watching as Frankie scaled the nearest tavern and was out of sight.
She sat on the roof for just a second, back against some ale barrels, and looked at her bounty. It was a pretty thing, or at least she thought it was supposed to be, but the entire symbol left a sour taste in her mouth, and she knew things would be different were it on her head. And there on the rooftop, in the glow of a fog-filtered moon, Little Frankie Smallheath was the King of England. She was the ruler of the world.
But moments have a tendency of being painfully fleeting. Crowns do not remain in the streets and gutters of a city for long, and they do not make its wearer invisible. Somewhere nearby Frankie heard a single person clapping, and she knew that her reign would be brief.
“That was a fascinating performance,” a slender man in a dark tunic strode towards Frankie. He had pale eyes and wore his hood only halfway on his head. He had apparently already been on this particular rooftop, and he had the girl and her crown cornered.
She twitched quickly in an effort to get away, but knew it was useless.
“Ho!” the man said. He jumped in front of her and put his hands up indicating he wouldn’t hurt her, “I just want to talk.”
Frankie looked around in desperation, but she found no escape.
Instead of running, she met his eye.
“Then talk,” she said with all the confidence she could summon.
The man smiled down at Frankie, and she noticed his face was kind, not greedy. He handed her a small piece of parchment with what looked like an address on it.
“My name is Robin,” he said, “I think you’d fit in with my friends and me.”
She looked at the note in her hand and then back up at the man.
“That’s where you can find us,” he snatched the paper back and had it in flames as quick as a mouse’s breath. As it burned at Frankie’s feet, he walked away and started down the ladder on the side the tavern.
“You–you don’t want this?” she said, and she held up the crown in her small hands.
“No, no,” he said, “it looks good on you.”