This month has been extremely busy as I am finishing up the editing process on "Inventing Stars" and working on Book 3 of the Roots of Conviction series. We have also been working on the cover art for "Inventing Stars" Which I hope I will be able to release in the next month or so. If you're interested, here is a sneak preview of book 3.
Abil stood at the prow of the flagship of the flaming fleet, looking at the growing coast of Puswa. He had been looking forward to this day for nearly a month now, but as his hopes drew closer to the friendly coast, his fears and doubts had begun to return. After everything that had happened between himself and Lysan during the last year, he couldn’t imagine his life without her, but now they faced a very good chance of being separated permanently.
Rustam and Magnai had offered to help, giving him the western neck to rule as a king so that he would have the rights to marry Lysan. While the offer still stood, he had asked for time to speak with Mettius, hoping that his liege would prove just as willing to help. He and his ancestors had always fought under the lion of Laral and giving it up felt wrong to him.
Becoming an anointed king was only half of the problem though. Once his title was secured, freeing him from being a landless lord, he then had to convince the king of Puswa to part ways with a second daughter. To solve this problem he had recruited the help of the Emperor’s little brother, whom he had found in the capital of Nonov a few weeks earlier and had sworn his sword to bring the prince home as well.
Drawing ever closer to the port, he began to make out the distinct banners of those that stood waiting for them at the large war dock that the Zanditans had just finished building months earlier. Standing at its center stood the proud silver lion on a field of purple flanked the red rose of Puswa and the Bronze elephant of Olhur, from these banners proceeded a sea of smaller banners, including the banner of his house standing a few paces behind the emperor. He was surprised at the feeling of safety and home that overwhelmed him as he studied the familiar face and flags, recognizing many of the kings and lords from his traveling years.
His nostalgia broke as a familiar hand took his, drawing his gaze away, to stare down at the face he had come to love so deeply in such a short time. Brushing some hair from her face he turned to quickly take her in his arms one last time and kissed her with all the passion he could muster before turning back to look out as the shapeless mass began to take shape and show the hundreds of people all cheering and waving flags as they drew closer. With a quick squeeze, he released her hand, before speaking softly enough that only she would hear.
“Until we have answers from Mettius and your father we need to be careful. The easiest way for us to fail is to draw unneeded attention before we have the blessing of both of them. I will ask for a private audience with Mettius first and ask that you and Ravi join us. I sent word ahead a few days before requesting this and stating that it is very time-sensitive, so neither one should be surprised.
“Everyone who has seen us together has been placed under strict orders as well, so we should be able to pull this off if we can control ourselves. During my time here as a guard, I learned that rumours move faster than anyone could ever imagine and they tend to be destructive. So don’t be cold to me but we need to keep a safe distance from one another until the meetings are finished.”
Giving him a reassuring smile, with just a hint of playfulness, she reached out and took his hand again only releasing when she got the confused look she was hoping for. The deck erupted into organized chaos as the ropes began to be thrown to the dock hands and the gangplanks were tied down and lowered to meet the dock. Moving down the gangplank as soon as it was secured, Abil moved to kneel before Mettius in the formal fashion of a returning dignitary. When he was signalled to rise he gave the ceremonial greeting for the crowd's benefit.
“Imperator, I have returned as ordered, fulfilling every letter of my command as well as doing that which is safe to assume would have been included in my mandate. May I first present the Prince and princesses of the Burning Isles who have served as our escort from Sclizar and who come seeking to formalize this alliance with Laral as they have already done with Sclizar when Prince Bongani married Princess Alfira just days before we set out to join the fight in the south. The princesses Fa’auma and Ingwe have accompanied us on this voyage as well.”
The future king and queen of the Burning Isles descended the gangplank first followed by the other two triplets. When the greetings were made and the gifts were exchanged, the prince stepped aside and motioned for Abil to continue. Stepping back in front of the imperial procession and spoke once again, directing his statements at Mettius but made sure that they were loud enough for the entire crowd to hear.
“Imperator, I have news of your family that I have been asked to share. Queen Antronia sends her regards and asks that I deliver this message to you. She has asked that the first part of the message be read in court, while the second part of the message contains sensitive information from her and her husband.”
Handing over the scroll, Abil stepped back to give Mettius time to read the first part of the message. Having been told what it said, he couldn’t help but watch his emperors face as he read. It was clear that he wasn’t expecting what was coming, and nearly dropped the letter when he reached the end of the public part. Turning to the crowd, Mettius yelled out the news to all in attendance.
“My sister sends two important bits of information. First she sends word that the fighting in Sclizar has finished and the armies of the north are now marching south to join the fight for Laral. They are now marching south from the newly constructed cliff wall to aid with the fight in Sewitt and to cut off the enemy at the Forest of the Four Winds.”
A cheer shot through the crowd at the news, giving the people hope from their fears for the first time in nearly a month. Mettius waited for the crowd to calm a little bit before raising his hands for quiet. This time he spoke with a hint of emotion in his voice, but the smile gave away the joy.
“The second thing my sister states is that she is well and will remain at the capital of Nonov with the empress Giorsal who recently had her first son. She hopes that she will be able to learn a lot from the new mother, while she prepares for the birth of her first child as well.”
Another roar of applause rang out over the pier, drawing everyone up onto the decks of the ships to see what was going on. The story rippled through the dockworkers and crews causing the cheers and shouts of joy to grow. Turning back to face the flagship and Abil, Mettius froze as he looked up to the top of the gangplank, where his little brother stood smiling down at him.
Breaking with protocol, Mettius sprinted up the ramp to embrace the twelve year old boy before he could get over the surprise of seeing his elder brother for the first time in over two years. Turning back to the confused crowd, Mettius tried to speak to introduce his brother, but failed to speak for the first time in Abil’s memory. Raising his voice so that all could hear Abil announced the arrival of the crown prince of Laral.
“People of the great empire of Laral, bow before the crown prince of Laral. After years of living as a fugitive, he was able to reach Sewitt where he encountered his sister. They were then forced to flee to Sclizar, from which point he sailed with me to return to his brother.”
The cheers erupted even more loudly as one of Mettius’ escort stepped out of line and took up one of the laraly banners lashed to the pole nearest to him and stepped to the stand beside the end of the gangplank. Descending the plank together all decorum was forgotten as the people celebrated, forgetting the rest of the greetings and formality. Turning back briefly, Mettius signalled for the others to join them as they moved to join the celebrating crowd.
Allowing most of his honor guard to escort Drusus and the royalty from the Burning Isles to the head of the column as they began to march back up to the castle and the waiting king of Puswa. Waiting for the crowd to move on ahead, Mettius and Ravi joined the remaining royals as they made their way to the castle as well. Turning first to the king of Tedia, he welcomed him and congratulated him and Naima on their wedding. He then also met briefly with King Branek and Princess Sophia
As the conversations drew to a close, Mettius left Ravi to continue pleasantries before slowing his step to walk beside Abil and Lysan. Without turning to look at them, or breaking stride, he spoke in a soft voice.
“I received your message and we will talk after the formal welcoming. During Ravi’s meeting with the guardian of Puswa, she had a vision of the two of you kissing in the fog. We have a pretty good idea of what you want to talk about and we want you to know that you have our support. Ravi has also been doing her best to plant the idea in King Perrin’s mind as well so that he will be far more open to the idea.”
Stepping forward again, Mettius left the young couple, moving to join his fiance. Moving a little closer to Lysan with each step, Abil allowed his hand to brush against hers as they moved into the castle and made their way to the great hall. They only separated when Lysan broke to embrace her sisters and father on the stand.