I’ve already posted loudly about this at my blog, but going overboard never hurts for announcements like this. I am going on vacation June 10-17, but in reality I’ll be MIA from about the 9th to the 20th. There are also other personal matters keeping Sasha and I pretty busy and away from the internet indefinitely, but more on that when it wraps up.
I cannot stress enough that June 9-20 I am basically going dark and am going to be unreachable. This is a break I (and Sasha and Sam) sorely need and the first vacation vacation I’ve taken in years (as opposed to the working ones we’ve taken once or twice, usually combined with conventions). So if you need me, contact me by June 5th. After that, it’s iffy, and after the 9th you’re SOL until I’m back in action on the 20th.
Which brings me to my next shenanigan: I am way too busy to do ever get to do things like blog tours, cover reveals, that sort of thing. I feel like I’ve fallen off the map and get pretty lonely. I don’t think I’ll ever stop missing my Livejournal days when I got to talk to people more. So I at least can keep people better posted about stuff, I am going to try a newsletter.
It’s a once a month thing, and it’ll have the usual suspects (coming soon, recent releases, sales, upcoming events and plans) but I also hope to include WIP snippets, books I’ve read and enjoyed, other things like that. If it doesn’t pan out, no big. But if you want to sign up, the page is here (and I don’t sign people up, that shit isn’t cool. No one will be adding your name to the subscriber list except you, and it sends a ‘make sure you want this’ email anyway just to be sure).
And because I asked twitter peeps which book they wanted a snippet of to go with my vacation/last call blog post, and it was a tie between The Painted Crown and The High King’s Golden Tongue, I put Painted Crown on the blog post, and you get High King here ^__^ As I mentioned… somewhere… two of the biggest changes to this story are Lesto and Rene, who are muchly fleshed out and have bigger roles. This snippet is where you meet Rene (and first get to see Allen do what he does best) :3
Love you all! <3
The door slammed open, making them all jump. A fierce looking man strode into the room, looking toward the desk as he spoke. “Seyn—” He broke off as he realized the desk was vacant, turned, paused when he saw Allen and noted the marks upon his jacket marking his royal status. “Your Highness, I beg forgiveness. Master Seyn, is there anyone is this damnable palace that can speak Outland? I need them immediately, or it will—”
“I can speak Outland,” Allen said, standing. “Take me where I am needed.”
The man did not look as though he quite believed Allen, but he only nodded and spun sharply on his heel, storming from the room. Allen turned to Seyn. “Thank you very much. I hope to speak with you again soon. My apologies for the abrupt departure.” He hastened after the soldier, stifling a sigh because at least this man seemed to need to hurry, unlike Allen’s brothers who only walked quickly because they knew he could not keep up.
Allen followed him through another maze of hallways until they were suddenly outside, the air cold, the sky so clear the stars looked like sharp-edged bits of glass. Voices milled about him, speaking at least half a dozen languages. Torches and small fires lit for the guards on duty to keep warm provided the only light, dark and flickering, casting strange shadows that lent an eerie quality to everything. Allen caught snatches of words: blood, battle, mercenaries, dragons, ambush. He ignored them, focused on keeping pace with the stranger.
Until they came to an abrupt halt in front of a cluster of men, all dressed in the same black tunics and leather armor as the man Allen had followed. They were sweaty, bloody, rank with recent battle. They parted in front of Allen and the man, the word Captain floating on the air.
Their tunics bore a crest of a three-headed dragon… So this was very likely Commander Lesto’s brother, Captain Rene Arseni of the Three-headed Dragons. The resemblance seemed obvious now that he was paying attention. Rene was a younger, rougher-edged, yet also prettier version of his brother, hair long enough to note it was black and prone to curls.
Someone moaned, and Allen turned his attention to the bloody, battered man lying on the dark stones of whatever pavilion they were in. He had the gold-brown skin and brown hair common to the Outlands, but that wasn’t Outland he was speaking. Allen knelt beside him, trying to ignore the blood that covered the man’s robes. Pantheon, he was used to blood, but there was so much of it. The man was clearly dying.
Allen wrapped an arm behind the man to help him sit up slightly. Holding one of his trembling, bloody hands, Allen said, “I am sorry for your pain.”
“What does he say?” Rene demanded.
Allen’s head snapped up and he met Rene’s eyes, said coldly, “Be quiet.” Not waiting for Rene’s reply, he looked back down. “Tell me what we need to know.”
“The Swan wrecked off the coast of Yryma, and Benta took all the survivors prisoner. There were Carthians among the Bentans. I managed to get away, but they got me at the base of the mountains. Thank the Dragons for me. Tell my family I love them.”
“Rest in the arms of the Mother Ocean, brother.” Allen held him until he went still, then set him back on the ground. Breathe in, breathe out. Emotion had no place in court. When he was certain he had himself under control, Allen rose to his feet and looked at Rene. “He is a survivor of a ship called The Swan. It wrecked somewhere off the coast of Yryma, and the survivors were taken prisoner by Benta. He managed to escape, but the Carthians caught up to him at the base of the mountains. He said there were Carthians mixed in with the Bentans.”
“Damn,” Rene muttered, raking a hand through his hair and sighing. He nodded as he looked up again. “Thank you, Prince—uh.”
“Allen. I hope I was of some use. Do we know his name?”
Rene shook his head. “No, but it will be figured out. There aren’t that many Outlanders on military vessels.”
“Farlander,” Allen corrected.
Staring at him blankly, Rene said, “What?”
Allen’s mouth tightened. The man was dead, had died to bring them important information. Couldn’t they at least bother to get that one detail about him right? “He wasn’t from Outland. He’s from the Farland Islands, the South Star Island, if I had to guess, though his accent was hard to determine. I am guessing he was pressed into service to pay off debts. That’s how the islanders usually wind up as… what is the charming term soldiers use? Ah, yes. Easy targets.”
Rene opened his mouth, but immediately closed it again and stared pensively at Allen.
“They all sound the same,” someone else muttered.
Allen knew that was fair enough. Knew how hard it was to tell the difference without years of training. But Pantheon damn them all, the man had died in his arms. They could care where he was really from. Not even trying to fight his temper, just letting it have him, Allen drew himself up and said coolly, “‘They’ only look and sound and feel the same to those who do not care enough to note the differences. The next time you think ‘they all sound the same’ put yourself in that man’s place and imagine how your loved ones would feel if your body was lost because Tricemorien and Carthian ‘always sound the same’ and they shipped you to Tricemore instead of Cartha.”
“How did you know I’m Carthian?” the man demanded.
“Your speech is stilted, and you speak too flatly, like someone accustomed to the tonal languages of Tricemorien and overcompensating. You use pronouns with ease, which faded out of frequent use in Tricemorien well over a century ago, but which the Carthian dialect retains. Among other things.”
“Silver tongues,” Rene said, shaking his head again. “Thank you again for your assistance, Your Highness. I will ensure that the Farlander is returned to his proper home. Goodnight.” He turned and strode off, his armor, sword belt, and spurs jangling, the sound echoing off the stone walls surrounding the courtyard.
Allen wondered if anyone would be willing to show him back to his rooms, but the scowling faces not quite looking at him seemed a definite no.
He turned and saw that Seyn had followed them. “Seneschal, my apologies again for leaving you so abruptly. I hate to abandon dinner, but I think perhaps our conversation is best resumed on the morrow.”
“Of course. I’ll have someone show you to your rooms if you like. Um… might I ask… how many languages do you know, Your Highness? I was impressed already that you were fluent in Harken, Tricemorien, Selemean, and of course Gaulden. You also know Outlander, the Farlander dialect, and the Carthian dialect?”
Allen stifled a sigh because his sudden need to be left alone was not anyone’s fault, and they should not have to endure his temper. But he was long past ready for the day to be at an end. “I speak fourteen languages. If you will pardon me, gentlemen, it is time I call this night ended. Goodnight to you all.”
“Of course.” Seyn motioned to a servant, who hastened forward and bowed.
Managing a thank you, Allen followed him, ignoring the whispers that chased him inside, trying not to think about how it felt to hold a man as he died. When he finally reached his bedroom, Allen stripped off his bloody jacket, sat on the edge of his bed, and cried.