Fealty to the King
The epic novel by Milo Swanton now for sale.
Historical Fantasy
Sample Scene from Chapter Titled The Parchment Contains Words
Jorgis stood. “I have another great prize.” He poked the inattentive Pokyer in the ribs. The servant dropped his pack and produced a strange pale object from inside.
Thoiren asked, “What is it?”
“A scroll.” Jorgis took the roll from Pokyer and unraveled a section on Thoiren’s table. “It’s one of twenty-seven we found in a cave three days upriver.”
Thoiren, Befdaul, and anyone else close enough admired the pictures on the parchment. One drawing depicted a serpent in a tree. Another dramatized a majestic winged being with a brilliant sword guarding a hedgerow gate, and one more showed a man standing over the bleeding body of another.
Thoiren pointed at markings surrounding the pictures. “What’s this, Jorgis?”
Thoiren was puzzled.
Jorgis explained, “The parchment contains words.”
Of course. Thoiren remembered Jorgis telling him about such a thing, and how he learned to speak written words. “What does it say?”
“I don’t know. The writing speaks an unknown language.”
“A shame,” said Befdaul. “The words must be as interesting as these pictures.”
Jorgis breathed deep and stared into Thoiren’s face. “Chief, I can learn the strange language of the scrolls by crossing the desert.”
The people in the room murmured, and Thoiren waved them silent. “Jorgis, how would you cross?”
Jorgis prompted Pokyer to produce another scroll from his pack and took it from him to unroll. “Look at this map.” He moved a finger along some curvy blue lines between a green area and a red one. “Here’s the Tauzzreen River flowing between the forest and the desert. You can see the long lakes.”
Thoiren pointed at a bended blue line within the green area. “Is this the Pultanik River?”
Jorgis tapped the narrow space between the two rivers. “Yes, here’s Pinkulda.”
Pinkulda was located one horizon downriver on the ridge that prevented the Pultanik River from joining the Tauzzreen River from the west. Seeing where they were on the map, Thoiren scanned eastward. “Looks like mountains across the desert.”
“Then many unknown lands beyond them,” said Jorgis. “I wish to go there without delay. Do I have your permission, Chief?”
“Seems like a long way. Will you return before your bride arrives?”
“Although my heart yearns for a woman’s love, I do desire to learn the secret of the scrolls.”
Thoiren paused before responding, “Do as you wish.”
“I thank you, my chief.”
“You need not thank me. I’m curious, too.”
Sample Scene from Chapter Titled Live Or Die
“How was your practice?”
Brutez frowned at the Jatneryim’s question.
Grebnar persisted. “Why shouldn’t I ask? My life is in your hands, isn’t it?”
Yes, it is. Brutez thought about it. If he beat Klinteg, Grebnar would be freed on ransom, otherwise the truth of the matter, Klinteg had a fortnight to contemplate which method of killing the Jatneryim would entertain him the most.
“I’ll be ready.”
Grebnar was dubious. “Is that so? Are you training against any worthy opponents?” His chain rankled as he rose to his feet. Standing tall in better health, he was the same height as Brutez. He looked powerful, solid with muscle.
Brutez realized his father’s expectation he would think of something had come true. He dodged Grebnar’s question. “The day I brought you here, you told me you killed many Herkt.”
“What? You remember the precise number?”
“Only those I slew in combat. I recalled each one while sitting here these days. Some I killed bare-handed.”
“That’s why you’re called the Bold?”
Grebnar snorted. “What’s bold about killing somebody who’s at your mercy?”
“Then what makes you bold, Grebnar?”
“I don’t care if I live or die.”
“Then you don’t care who wins our tournament for clanlord.”
“Not true. Given a chance to live, I’ll live.”
“Here’s your chance.”
Grebnar assumed a defensive stance. “Come at me with your dagger.”
Brutez drew his blade, unsure of his meaning.
“Come. Don’t hold back.”
The Herk lunged, resolving to stab the Jatneryim in the heart. A foot kicked Brutez in the kneecap, a hand grabbed his wrist coming with the dagger, an arm wrapped around his neck, and before he knew what happened, he was pinned within his prisoner’s grasp with his own dagger on his throat.
Grebnar’s breath blew hot into his ear. “Call somebody to unshackle my chain, or you’re number thirty.”
“Your thirtieth will be your last.”
Grebnar leaned around and stared Brutez in the face. “You have no fear in your eyes, Herk Brutez.”
“I don’t care if I live or die.”
Grebnar shoved Brutez away and tossed the dagger to his feet. “I’ll train with you.”
Brutez kicked the dagger to Grebnar’s feet. “You can start by teaching me that move you used against me.”
Sample Scene from Chapter Titled Thoughts of a Maiden
“Zabfrul,” said Lord Chrevram. “Come forward.”
She was taller than her parents and Sangern’s mother, Majdel. Sangern saw golden hair, the color of honeycomb, piled on her shoulders and waving down her back. She had glistening azure eyes, a dainty nose, and carnelian lips curved into a quaint smile. Her delicate cheekbones showed her smooth copper skin.
She wore a singular garment, leaving her shoulders and arms bare and cinched in the right places to present her slender form. The gossamer teal material revealed a hint of the rounding of her breasts. It pressed around her stem of a waist and clung to her hips, wisping to her ankles.
“My dear daughter,” said Chrevram. “You’ve left the young man speechless.”
Sangern realized his jaw dropped open and closed it. Zabfrul’s father was right. He couldn’t think of a word to say.
His mother rescued him with a suggestion. “Son, take Zabfrul by the sea and get acquainted.”
He gave Zabfrul a look of invitation and her little smile broadened, making dimples by the corners of her mouth. She accepted his offer of taking hands and walked by his side to the rail overlooking the shimmering Snarshyim Inlet. Her flaxen hair fluffed in the breeze, catching the sunlight and smelling better than any flowers he ever savored. He shifted, guiding her with the hand he held so he looked into her face, and took hold of her other hand. She met his gaze. His soul swam in the azure expanse of her eyes. He had his words to say.
“My fairest of maidens, I’m delighted by your presence.”
She looked away. When she spoke, her voice had a sweet and steady resonance. “True, I’m a maiden, but I must confess I don’t have the thoughts of a maiden.”
His heart paced. What does she mean? She wasn’t as innocent as she appeared. “What thoughts?”
She looked straight at him with azure eyes, dainty nose, curling lips, dimpled cheeks, and golden hair. “Now that I see you, betrothed husband, I think about sharing our wedding bed, pleasing you and being pleased.”
He took a deep breath to curb a surge of desire. “I’m surprised you think about such things,” he said when he could speak again.
She smiled wide, showing rows of white teeth, and asked, “Why shouldn’t I?” She leaned up with her lips and breathed more words into his ear, “We’ll create life together.”
He didn’t know what to say, for he could barely think. His stomach was aflutter. The silence would have become uncom­fortable except she wrapped her arm behind his back and didn’t seem to expect him to say anything while they looked across the water. He set his hand over her opposite shoulder. She was tall for her age. The top of her golden-haired head reached his nose, and she was young enough to grow taller.
The words he knew he should say came to him. “My dear Zabfrul, may I seal our betrothal with a kiss?”
She looked at him. “I would find that pleasing.”
His mouth met hers. Her lips seemed inexperienced at first but learned quickly.
“We should return inside,” he said after they parted. He figured he more than followed his mother’s suggestion to get acquainted.
They found their mothers with Aunt Yeemzal inside.
Lady Chrevram stepped away. “Zabfrul, come with me.”
Zabfrul followed her mother but glanced back at Sangern as she went. “Sangern, my love, I’m anxious to rejoin you at the meal.”
How could this be? Sangern questioned himself. They met a moment ago and were one mind.
His mother asked, “My son, what do you have to say about the Chrevram girl?”
“Mother, she’s a vision!”
Sample Scene from Chapter Titled I Prefer Green
Minor Spoiler Alert
The fire crackled as Brutez added another log to the flame. Sparks and snowflakes swirled in the night, melting over the blaze where heat met cold in the air. Grebnar sat with Brutez, chewing the last bits of meat from a longear carcass.
The Kipneesh River gurgled over rocks before them. They had crossed the largest ford between Taubueth and Doenesh before making camp. The firelight glinted on the dark rushing water and illuminated the nearest trees on both sides of the river within the flurry of snow.
Brutez had misgiving over his decision to travel alone with Grebnar. This fire was the most visible one of the journey, giving away their position up and down the river valley, but Grebnar insisted he would hold sway over any Jatneryimt they encountered.
He tossed his gleaned carcass into the river. “I must ask you, Brutez, why didn’t you kill me to avenge your uncle?”
Finally he spoke about it, Brutez thought. “You’re no more to blame for his death than I am for Chakstim and Rendif.”
Grebnar frowned.
“I recognized their bodies when you were captured.” Captured on this same river, Brutez thought, although a few horizons upriver.
Grebnar waved his hands. “How did you recognize my sons and know their names?”
“I spied on you many times.” Brutez fixed his gaze on Grebnar to observe the Jatneryim’s reaction to his next words. “Sometimes I was under your nose.”
What? Grebnar’s surprise was written on his face. “You infiltrated my camp? I would have noticed somebody the size of you.”
“I was smaller.”
“You spied on me as a youth. Why don’t your people call you the Bold?”
Brutez shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. Now they call me clanlord.”
Grebnar asked him troubling questions. “How long will you be their clanlord? Will they call you that after running away with your enemy?”
Brutez looked at the Jatneryim sitting across the fire under increasing snowfall. “I don’t consider you an enemy.”
Grebnar challenged him. “What if I still consider you mine? I lost more than my sons the day your clansmen ambushed us.”
“I saw Tharkwip’s body,” said Brutez, referring to Grebnar’s friend.
Grebnar snorted. “You’re right. I don’t blame you for the deaths of my sons and friend, but I’ll tell you something that should surprise you.” His face became distorted behind the fumes of the fire as he leaned forward. “Your aunt blamed me for the death of her twin sons, your cousins, only because I’m a Jatneryim.”
“I’m not surprised,” said Brutez, although he suspected Grebnar had more to say.
He did. “During my captivity, I thought about your twenty-nine clansmen I killed.”
“You threatened to make me the thirtieth, using my own dagger.”
“I didn’t tell you how much one pair looked like twins.”
Anger surged within Brutez. He wondered, Did Grebnar kill my cousins?
The Jatneryim continued, “They looked alike except for different colored eyes. I fought both years ago when your Clanlord Vulrath was foolish enough to attack the Green Citadel. They fancied themselves honorable by fighting me one at a time. They died as they were born, moments apart.”
Brutez lived among the Jatneryimt long enough to know they called the stronghold at Doenesh the Green Citadel, in like manner they referred to the lava rock fortress at Mapvin as the Black Citadel. He also knew his cousins were killed while attacking Doenesh. Grebnar killed his cousins. He didn’t want to believe it.
“These twins . . . were their heads shaved?”
“Stubble, like your uncle’s head, who was their father, I suppose. You see, Brutez, I am to blame for killing your cousins. Don’t you consider me your enemy?”
Brutez seethed and wondered why he was so angry. He knew Grebnar killed twenty-nine clansmen, each somebody’s relative. Why did his relations matter more than the others? He calmed himself, unclenching a hand from his war hammer. “I don’t. We must stop killing one another.”
Grebnar’s question left Brutez without immediate answer. The Herk brushed snow from his shoulders before he had one. “It’s a waste.”
“I agree. Our peoples would make better lives for themselves if they cooperated rather than plundering and butchering one another.”
Something about the Grebnar’s words bothered Brutez. “Who do you mean by saying peoples?”
Grebnar brushed snow from his shoulders. “The Jatneryimt and Herkt, who else?”
“You misspeak when you say peoples. You ought to say people.”
“Yes, people and not only Herkt and Jatneryimt. I mean all the clans and tribes who speak the Snarshyim language. We’re one people.”
Grebnar stood to shake more snow from his clothes and hair. “The other clans and tribes don’t think that way. Ours don’t.”
“Only we do, my friend,” said Brutez. “We must convince our own people and then the rest of the Snarshyimt.”
“I regret that’s for another day. This one’s done, and all we have left for us is sleeping on cold ground. I’ll take the first watch.”
“Cold ground tonight but perhaps tomorrow night you’ll share Sejel’s warm bed.”
Grebnar put more wood on the fire. “That would be more appealing if we didn’t have to talk about our sons being dead.”
Brutez noticed how Grebnar showed no reaction to him knowing his wife’s name, although the Jatneryim never spoke it, referring to her as my wife. “She’ll be glad you returned.”
Grebnar laughed. “She’ll consider me back from the dead.”
Brutez stepped across stony ground, now covered by enough snow for footprints, to retrieve the bedding from his mount. Clearing the snow and leaves from a spot near the fire, he unrolled his bedding and removed his cloak and boots. He took his war hammer and dagger in hand and climbed into the furs, covering his head in them. The steady sound of water rushing over the stones and rocks in the Kipneesh River soothed him.
Reflections of the high summer sun sparkled from the trickling water of the Taubueth River. His mother sat beside him on the grassy bank, feeding his baby brother. He remembered she looked pretty with ruby red hair and sapphire blue eyes. His older brothers frolicked in the river, splashing one another and shouting in boyish voices.
She asked him, “Brutez, why don’t you play with your brothers?”
He didn’t answer. I’m not like them, he thought.
“You’re a thoughtful boy in the manner of your father,” she answered for him. “You won’t only be clanlord like him but more.”