Of Princes False and True by Eric Alan Westfall
Eric Alan Westfall has a new MM Historical Fantasy book out. Please join me in welcoming Eric to my blog. He’s here today sharing an exclusive excerpt to his fantastic new fantasy novel!
Publisher: Eric Alan Westfall
Release Date: Monday, August 13 2018
Price: USD 2.99
Length: Novel / 81,400 words
Cover Artist: Karrie Jax
Pairing/Genres/Tropes/Keywords: MM, fantasy, fairy tales, fairy tale revisited, romance, magic, wizards, witches, crones, humor, gods, goddesses, gender fluid dieties, courtroom proceedings
About the Story
A tennis match? Starting a war between the Duchy of Avann and the Kingdom of the Westlands?
Only in a fairy tale.
When Prince Henry hurts a young ball boy who told him Danilo’s ball was inside the line, Danilo’s response is automatic. Punch the prince’s face, pick him up left-handed, and break the royal jaw. Unfortunately, there’s another “automatic” at work: a death sentence for whoever strikes royalty.
King Hiram can’t—won’t—change the rule of law to rule of royal whim. But he grants the Heir of Avann fifteen days to find words that will allow Danilo to live.
In those fifteen days: Magick. The gods, goddesses and gender-fluid deities on Deity Lane. Kilvar, the assassin. A purse which opens in a bank vault. A mysterious old man. The Lady of All. The Magickal Hand writing, rewriting. A fairy tale within a fairy tale. A huge horse called Brute. And at the end…perhaps the right words and a most unexpected love. Plus a deity-supplied dinner with just the right amount of garlic.
All royalties will go to a local LGBT organization.
From Chapter Three:
The Small Throne Room
The King of Westland’s Castle
Late Morning, the Day The Story Starts
“Sit,” King Hiram commanded. The young man, still head-bowed, didn’t move. The guards squeezed the prisoner’s biceps, half-marching, half-dragging to the chair at the opposite end of the table from the king. With four guard hands occupied by flesh or chains, the difficulty in moving the chair was obvious. The wizard’s spell removed the chains; they reappeared with a clunk! on the floor beside the table.
The guard on the young man’s left pressed a dagger-point against his throat. The other guard released him, stepped behind the chair and pulled it enough away for the young man to be maneuvered in front of it. Rough hands on shoulders forced him down. It was, of course, only happenstance the knifepoint nicked the neck, a drop of blood appearing when the blade was removed.
The recent command not to hurt the prisoner apparently didn’t apply to chairs in which the prisoner was sitting. The force used to propel it toward the table would have crushed the young man’s fingers if he’d rested them on the arms when he sat. Fortunately, his hands were in his lap. The young man’s head remained down as he was in effect caged by the chair and table.
He raised his head, looking straight ahead, but Hiram and his advisors could see he wasn’t seeing anything then present in the room.
Beneath the dirt, bruises, scrapes and crusted blood he was handsome. Sharp cheekbones, aquiline nose, thin lips, a faint cleft in his chin. Brilliant green eyes, flecked with gold. Unusual long hair tumbling near his shoulders, red-brown strands mixed with varying shades of gold. There was something almost familiar… The king chased a wisp of memory, but lost it.
The young man tilted his chin up enough to look at the king, apparently believing if cats could, so could he. There was no cringing in those eyes, no shame, no embarrassment. No anger or resentment. Perhaps, though, a tiny glimmer of…interest. As if this was some grand adventure and he needed to absorb everything happening to and around him for later remembrances.
Unfortunately, he wouldn’t be remembering anything again, in the not too distant future. A man doesn’t when his head has been severed from his neck, or he’s been hanged until a neck-snap or slow strangulation ends him. Hiram realized he didn’t remember what death the law required. He would, he knew, have to check.
In silence, the young man lifted his hands, and pushed the long, thick hair behind his ears, each movement telling a story of strain and pain. As did his face. One eye was swollen almost shut; a cut on his forehead still oozed blood; there was dirt on the bruising on cheeks and jaw; one lip was split.
“Did he resist arrest?”
“No, Your Majesty.”
“Did the prince do this?” The king refused to let himself display the tiniest glimmer of hope the answer was “yes.” The hope Henry fought back.
“Did he attempt to flee and have to be captured?”
“He is as the Guards found him on their arrival. I am—”
The young man interrupted with a laugh—a bright, beautiful baritone, filling the room with a joy entirely out of place in the circumstances.
The king’s low and angry voice in turn smashed the laughter. “You think all this is a joke?”
The young man blinked. “No, Your Majesty. I just thought it was funny someone thought I might run away. Only a coward runs, when he knows he’s done no wrong. I did what was right.”
“You struck my son.”
The young man shrugged. “I’ll strike any bully beating a child.”
Someone in the room gasped. The king merely thanked the Thirty-Nine it wasn’t him and pretended he hadn’t heard.
But as Hiram spoke he realized he was defending his son because of a father’s obligation, not from a belief in his innocence. “Prince Henry is my heir. He would never—”
“He did.” Kings do not flabbergast easily. Hiram was rendered so. Roger might interrupt him in the privacy of the royal chambers, but elsewhere? No one dared. Until the young man.
Who had no idea what he was facing; had no idea of the inevitable outcome of his admission of guilt. Hiram did not need to hear more. The law was clear. The punishment was clear.
Yet if he was compelled to do as the law demanded, he would at least learn the truth first.
“Do you have any witnesses?”
The young man’s response was a scoffing, “Of course. Anyone there will tell you…” His voice faded away. “But they won’t, will they? He’s a prince, I’m a foreigner, and they’ll only tell you what a kingly father wants to hear: his son is as pure and innocent as the drifting…slush would be, in a kingdom where snow is possible.”
The chin-tilt this time was defiant. “So. What’s the penalty in this kingdom for saving a child from a beating which might have left him crippled?”
The young man paled, but didn’t flinch, and when he moved his hands to the table, there was no trembling.
Nor was there any in his voice. It was calm, almost matter-of-fact, and he didn’t avert his eyes from the king’s. “Interesting. I thought to rescue a child and instead I start a war.”
Old Moldy heard a threat and started to bluster. Hiram heard a statement of fact, or what the young man believed was truth. He told Old Moldy “No!” and the Chancellor slumped back in his chair.
“A man admits to a crime in my kingdom, for which the law demands the severest penalty. Why should anyone go to war over just punishment?” Everyone heard the silent question, “Who are you your death would cause a war?”
The young man’s bow—so far as he could in his seating situation—was formal. An objective observer might have called it regal.
“Your Majesty, permit me to introduce myself. I am Danilo ys Daeaen ys Cirill. I am the only grandson of the Duke of Avann.” The young man shrugged. “They call me the Heir of Avann.”
☆ Exclusive Excerpt ☆
Danilo, and his bodyguards Jonar and Ivyn, continue the search for words.
From Chapter 8
The Inn, and
The Royal Registry Office for Wizards, Witches,
Crones and Other Magick-Workers
Before the silence following the brisk discussion of the Lady of All became unbearably awkward—as opposed to the bearable-for-a-while awkwardness already in existence—Jonar pulled them back to the search.
“Where to today, sir?”
Danilo inhaled a long, slow breath and let it out the same way. “I have no idea.”
A considering silence as the three sat—Danilo on the bed, the other two on the chairs.
Jonar broke it. “I say, let’s try the magickal. Wizards and such.”
Danilo smiled. “Are you suggesting I buy a spell powerful enough to make its way past all the wards around the king, and enchant him into accepting whatever words I offer, even something so simple as ‘Your Majesty, I’d really prefer not to die today?’”
The guards’ words overlapped in a rush.
Ivyn, with enthusiasm: “You didn’t promise not to.”
Jonar, with cynicism: “Would it work?”
Danilo’s smile was rueful. “Two things say it won’t work. I’d have to go outside the Westlands to find a strong enough wizard, and on departing the capital, much less the country, I’d be breaking my oath. More important, Grandser would consider it trickery and trumpery since it would be magick and not my words which persuaded the king.”
He stood, shrugged, straightened his clothes, belted the ever-valuable wallet to his side. “Let’s see if good King Hiram maintains a public registry of wizards.”
As it turned out, he did, in the aptly named Royal Office for the Registry of Wizards, Witches, Crones and Other Magick-Workers. A small office, buried in the older…oldest?…part of the running-the-kingdom part of the castle. The furnishings clean, but ancient. It was a tossup which was older: the furniture or the man in charge. He was the oldest man Danilo had ever seen—so fragile-seeming it appeared the next shallow breath might be his last. Wizards were rare, and foot-traffic to and from his office was almost non-existent, given they saw no one else in the various corridors and staircases in the last ten minutes of the journey from the front gate to the door.
The sound of the door woke him from the first of his morning naps, but he was at least alert. And knew who Danilo was, as evidenced by the immediate sorrowful look and his “Alas, my Lord, I have no words to help you.”
“But you do, good sir. A list of wizards who reside in the city is formed of words, is it not?”
A not-altogether-toothless smile rearranged the deep wrinkles on the old man’s face. “Indeed so, my lord.”
“And when might it be ready? I am…ah…under some time constraints.”
The old man waved the concerns away. “My writing is, alas, neither as clear nor as fast as it once was. But the King’s Wizard has solved the problem.”
The old man pulled a piece of parchment from a drawer to his right, set it carefully in front of him, and with equal care picked up the quill, provided it with ink, and began writing. Even upside down and at a slight distance, the three could see it was an incomprehensible scrawl.
But the parchment understood, as a list of names and addresses, in neat calligraphy, appeared on the desktop, as if by magick. Which of course it was.
“Your list, my lord,” the old man said, before placing his fingertips on the edge of the sheet closest to him. It would not have prevented a snatch and run, but Danilo assumed if magick was used to create the lists the old man needed, the King’s Wizard had provided magickal traps to protect the office and its occupants. “Ah, there is a fee, my Lord. I would if I could, but I can’t. Waive it, that is.”
“Of course there’s a fee.” Danilo was pleased the amount was reasonable, rather than the extortionate rates on Deity Lane.
Fee paid, list in hand, Danilo turned to leave.
The old man said, as Danilo started the turn, “May the Lady o—”
“Yes, thank you, but I’ve already had a ‘Lady’ blessing this morning. I doubt I’ll need another.”
Finishing the turn, Danilo walked the three steps to the door, assuring himself he hadn’t heard a…sort of feathery sound conveying mild annoyance. With whom and why he chose not to consider. He had greater concerns. Like his life.
Back at the castle gates, they stepped out into the bright sun. Danilo looked at the first name on the list, and said, “Well, gentlemen, it seems we’re off to see the wizard of Ahz. And according to this, he’ll provide a road of golden bricks to guide us.”
He looked down at his feet. “There they are.”
Meet the Author
Eric is a Midwesterner, and as Lady Glenhaven might say, “His first sea voyage was with Noah.” He started reading at five with one of the Andrew Lang books (he thinks it was The Blue Fairy Book) and has been a science fiction/fantasy addict ever since. Most of his writing is in those (MM) genres.
The exceptions are his Another England (alternate history) series: The Rake, The Rogue and the Roué (Regency novel), Mr. Felcher’s Grand Emporium, or, The Adventures of a Pair of Spares in the Fine Art of Gentlemanly Portraiture (Victorian), with no way out (Regency) coming out a month after Of Princes.
Two more fairy tales are in progress: 3 Boars & A Wolf Walk Into A Bar (Eric is sure you can figure this one out), and The Truth About Them Damn Goats (of the gruff variety).
Now all he has to do is find the time to write the incomplete stuff! (The real world can be a real pain!)
Facebook Author Page | Twitter (@eawestfall43)
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