The Gauntlet Runner
by J. Scott Coatsworth
Series: The Tharassas Cycle (Book 2)
Release Date: Thursday, September 21 2023
Publisher: Other Worlds Ink
Cover Artist: Kelley York – Sleepy Fox Studio
Length: Novel / 95,700 Words / 376 Pages
Primary Plot Arc: Speculative Fiction
Genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction
LGBTQ+ Identities: Gay, Bisexual
Keywords/Categories: Science Fiction, Sci-Fantasy, Fantasy, Giveaway, New Release, Announcement, Gay, LGBTQ, Queer, YA, Young Adult, Blog Tour, Gay, Bisexual
A guard and a thief. What could go wrong?
The Tharassas Cycle is a four book sci-fantasy series set on the recently colonized world of Tharassas. When humans first arrived on planet, they thought they were alone until the hencha mind made itself known. But now a new threat has arisen to challenge both humankind and their new allies on this alien world.
Both the prequel and book one are on sale for just 99¢:
A GUARD AND A THIEF. WHAT COULD GO WRONG?
Aik has fallen hopelessly in love with his best friend. But Raven’s a thief, which makes things… complicated. Oh, and Raven has just been kidnapped by a dragon.
Now Aik is off on a quest of his own, to hunt down the foul beast and make them give back his … friend? Lover? Soulmate? The whole not-knowing thing just makes everything harder.
Meanwhile, the world of Tharassas is falling apart, besieged by earthquakes, floods, and strange creatures no one has ever seen before. Aik’s ex, Silya has gone back to Gullton to do try to save her people as the Hencha Queen, and Aik’s stuck in a caravan with her mother and a damnable magical gauntlet that won’t let him be. He has to find Raven, before it’s too late.
Things were messy before, but now they’re much, much worse.
✨ Exclusive Excerpt ✨
The hallway was a bustle of activity, sisters and staff going back and forth with various chests and cases and even a few plates of a wonderfully savory-smelling breakfast — gully fowl eggs and aur steak, if he guessed right. His stomach rumbled.
He’d packed his own meager belongings, along with some of Raven’s clothes — he might want them if they found him. When we find him. He refused to believe they wouldn’t.
“What in the green holy hell, Tri’Aya?” Silya’s voice was as strident as he’d ever heard it. “We were right here in this hallway last night. ‘We can talk more in the morning’ you said. ‘We’ll figure out what to do next together,’ you said. And now you’ve convinced poor Aik to leave his post and run after Raven with you?”
“Calm down. ‘Erio’s a grown man. He can decide for himself. Besides, it’s a standard contract — Ser Kek has been consulted.”
Aik found them in the entry hall, along with a visibly agitated sergeant. “What’s going on?”
Silya turned on him, her face flushed “Apparently you and Tri’Aya have been busy deciding things behind my back.”
Here we go. “I’m sorry, Sil … she asked.” He glanced at the broken doors. “I have to go after him.”
She crossed her arms. “I agree.”
He blinked. “You do? Then what’s this fuss all about?” His hand flew to his mouth. “Sorry. I mean —”
Her face turned a shade of red he’d never seen on a person before. “I know what you mean. You made yourself very clear.”
“Then … what?” He bit his lip. An angry Silya was a dangerous Silya.
“I’m upset because I’m the Hencha Queen, not to mention your daughter —” She poked Tri’Aya’s leather vest before facing him again — “and your friend. And I’m being treated like a five- year-old girl who doesn’t know what’s good for her. You couldn’t ask me first?”
The words echoed through the entry hall. Aik was surprised the roof didn’t cave in.
Ser Kek started to say something, but Silya turned her gaze on him. “You don’t get to speak right now.”
The usually brave sergeant nodded and stepped back.
Wise man. He knew better than to say another word.
Tri’Aya touched her daughter’s arm. “I’m sorry. You’re right. I
should have consulted you first.” She sighed. “Old habits die hard.” Silya gaped at her, her mouth open. “What did you just say?” Tri’Aya managed a grim smile. “I’m sorry.”
“You all heard that, right? My mother actually apologized to
me for once.” Pleasure and anger warred on her features. “Aik, could you check and see if the Harkness has frozen over?”
He put up his hands, palms out. “I … don’t think we can see the sea from here….”
Silya shot him a look and barreled on. “She said she was sorry. Last night she said she was proud of me. Do you know how long I’ve been waiting to hear those words?”
Tri’Aya was still. Too still. He backed up a step, determined to retreat to his room until the squall blew over.
Silya sighed, her shoulders sagging as if all the air had gone out of her. “Well, done is done, I suppose.”
Tri’Aya put a hand on her shoulder. “Why don’t you come with us too? I always wanted you to go on a trading trip with me.”
Silya shook her head. “I can’t. I’m needed back in Gullton.” She have her collar a couple of sharp tugs.
“All this fuss, and for what, then?” It was Tri’Aya’s turn to be angry. “Just because I didn’t consult you on a business decision?”
“This is so far beyond that, and you know it. You always —” She shook with anger. “No, I can’t. I won’t.”
“Spit it out.” I can take it.”
He glanced from one to the other. They were mirror images. Silya’s hands burst into blue flames. “You are one of the most manipulative, selfish, thoughtless people I’ve ever met! You take advantage of every situation, and then you try to shame me when I call you on it. I wish you weren’t my mother!”
Silence filled the room. Tri’Aya was as still as stone, her face white. Silya’s breathing was heavy, her hands closed in fists, arms shaking. Sapphire flames licked up and down them, leaving her untouched.
Like fire and ice. Even though he knew it was a terrible idea, He slipped between them, halfway expecting to be struck down by one or the other, burned by hencha flames or a mother’s colder rage. “Look, you’re both angry. But let’s remember what’s important here.”
They both glared daggers at him, and he touched his chest involuntarily, surprised to find he wasn’t bleeding.
Taking one for the squad. He pushed on. “Raven was abducted by verent — godsdamned verent — and I’m wearing some farking metal armor I can’t take off. Sil, you’re supposed to be a healer, and you’re the godsdamned Hencha Queen, for Jas’s sake. So act like it. This childish fuming is beneath you.”
Ser Kek’s eyebrow raised, the only indication of his surprise.
Aik wasn’t done. He turned what he hoped was a righteously angry gaze on their host. “Triya, Silya is your only daughter. What will you do once you manage to push her away for good? She came to you, not the other way around. What if she never comes back?”
He closed his eyes, preparing to be smitten by fire. Or ice. Nothing happened.
He opened his eyes just a little.
The women were staring at him like he’d grown another head. “What?”
Tri’Aya started to laugh.
It wasn’t the reaction he’d expected. At all. He blushed furiously. Why is she laughing at me? “What?”
“You look so scared. Like a little boy who just stole a foldover.”
He turned toward Silya. She was smiling too. “Really, Aik, did you think we would hurt you?” Her flames extinguished with a whoosh.
He bit his lip. “Maybe … yes?”
“Silly man.” She pushed past him to face her mother. “He’s right, though. We shouldn’t fight.”
“We’d probably tear the whole Manor House down.” Tri’Aya chuckled and held out her hand. “Truce, then?”
Silya took it. “For now. I’m still mad as green holy hell at you.” A ghost of a smile played across Tri’Aya’s face. “Noted.”
They retreated a couple paces away together, suddenly talking to one another like civilized people.
“What in Heaven’s Reach just happened?” He would never understand women, Silya least of all.
Scott lives with his husband Mark in a yellow bungalow in Sacramento. He was indoctrinated into fantasy and sci fi by his mother at the tender age of nine. He devoured her library, but as he grew up, he wondered where all the people like him were.
He decided that if there weren’t queer characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.
A Rainbow Award winning author, he runs Queer Sci Fi, QueeRomance Ink, and Other Worlds Ink with Mark, sites that celebrate fiction reflecting queer reality, and is the committee chair for the Indie Authors Committee at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).