Wednesday, 22 April 2015

The Heir Reluctant - Available for Preorder

The Heir Reluctant is the second concealed Kingdoms novel, and features some of the same characters as The King's Ward, which is available for 99cents on the 27th only.

The fey are a race apart, with us since the dawn of time. As children, they are all but invisible, instantly forgotten. As Kelly Smith puts it in her review - Imagine you were a living, breathing human being but no one could see, hear or remember you? That you had to make a fuss just to be noticed for one minute?

At breakthrough, triggered by the touch of another fey, their abilities blossom. The weave illusions, read minds, communicate with others by telepathy, and can manipulate reality. Those with the most powerful creative power can build worlds, adjacent to our own, hidden, hard to reach and mostly reserved for their own kind.... and the creatures the fey create. These are the Concealed Kingdoms of the series title.

Excerpt, from somewhere near the end.

I walked slowly over the frozen ground, headed toward the isle in the frozen river and the fort that rested there. I had nowhere else to go, no better idea in mind. I would leave the cold, bleak landscape of Nifflheim behind me, having no better plan. And the world would die.
My mood did not inspire me to hurry. Kieleth had left me alone, and alone was how I felt. The watcher on the wall of the fort seemed indifferent to my approach, the fort itself uninviting, and thoughts of my arrival there offered no comfort.

Ophelia and Gyr were behind me, somewhere. Following, or not. I'd left hem behind. Somewhere out there were Gunnthra, Aun, Bjorn and Starkad. They searched for me, but would not find me now. I would never see any of them again. I was going back, back to a world where no one saw me or remembered me. The thought was intolerable, but there was nothing I could do here, nothing I could do to change things other than allow myself to be used by Freya or Hel, either one a bad as the other. And without Odin, nothing would change.

Hopelessly, helplessly, I closed to within two hundred yards of the bridge, its struts locked in the ice of the frozen river. The figure at the gate disappeared, but I paid no mind. It didn't matter. There was no reason to suppose he meant me any harm. Who here had sought to harm me? No one. Only to use me for their own ends.

The gate was pushed opened as I set foot on the bridge. The wood echoed underfoot. I kept my gaze on the figure who stood at the threshold to the fort, dispirited and disinterested, but without anything else to occupy me. He waited, a dark figure against the pale world we inhabited; his hair was long and dark, fell over broad shoulders clothed in black leather, open to the waist. He wore blue jenes over black boots. In one hand he carried a sheathed sword. He studied me with an appraising expression and calm, brown eyes.

“You,” he said, mildly, “would be Syn the fey.”

Now I was closer, perhaps too close, I could see the jene jacket under his leather, and clearly see his colors. I stopped a few paces away.

“Bikers,” I said, listlessly, too surprised to realize how relevant the comment might seem.

He grinned broadly, his expression softening and his eyes twinkling with humor.

“And I am Beowulf,” he said, “though in the world outside, most people just call me Wolf.”

When I didn't respond, he turned and sketched a bow, one arm flourished to indicate I should pass through the gate. “Welcome to the Hall of the Wild Hunt,” he grinned at me and straightened. “Don't be shy, now.” He said when I hesitated. “We won't eat you.”

“Bikers?” This time I made it a question, my incredulity plain in my voice.

He shrugged, looked beyond me to scan the bleak landscape beyond, then looked at more thoughtfully. “Really, Syn, there's nowhere else to go. Here, there's food and shelter and warmth.”
I shook my head, bemused, and gave up on making choices. I walked past him and through the gate. I stopped inside and looked around while he closed and barred the gate behind me. Stout rail fences stood either side of a wide path, and in the corrals to either side there were two dozen horses that reacted to my presence more than I felt I could react to them. Some drifted our way to investigate us.

In the middle of the stockade stood a longhouse, a wooden hall with tiled roof. From inside, I could hear music. Thrash metal, played strangely low and with an odd overlay to the sound.

Wolf came to stand beside me as I looked around. Nearby, a big gray horse put its head over the top rail and watched us. I looked at the horse, the hall, and then back up to Wolf, who stood better than two feet taller than me.

“Music?” I asked. “I thought electricity didn't work here.”

“Vinyl,” he grinned. “Bakolite, in fact. And a wind up player. It cost a buck, but definitely worth it. Beer?”

I nodded, absently. Then shook my head. “Bikers?”

He stepped forward and I matched his pace as we headed for the hall. “Why not? We travel in a group. People assume we are on a run. No one bothers us much, or is surprised to see us come, or much other than relieved when we go. While we're there we live up to our reputation, well enough. We hunt and kill monsters.”


“Why?” He leaned closer, a wild grin breaking out all over his face, his eyes widened. “Because it's fun!”

I blinked in surprise and shrank from him a little.

He laughed at my reaction, then carried on toward the hall. “Come on now, little fey. Let's get that beer,” he said, lightly, and then more ominously, “and then we will decide what to do with you.”
Beowulf threw open the door to the hall and stepped inside while I hesitated, outside, close to the threshold, trying to adjust my thinking. The smell of cooking wafted out to me on a breath of warm air. The sound of music was louder but as loud as it was going to get. I recognized the strange undercurrent to the music now, the scratching sound of a needle on the physical surface of a record. The thunk and clatter of pool cue and balls rattling round a table made me blink in surprise.
Just inside the door, Beowulf slapped a big bear of a man on the shoulder and jerked his thumb over his shoulder. The bearded man looked out the door and grinned at me. He reached to one side and when he momentarily filled the doorway in passing, the twin blades of a butterfly ax flashed, the long haft held in one meaty hand. He winked and grinned as he walked past me and I stepped to one side and watched him pass. He headed for the gate, the big ax slung casually over one broad shoulder.

Overwhelmed by a sense of unreality, I drifted into the hall. Beowulf kicked the door closed behind me while I stood and looked around at the half a dozen bikers who inhabited the huge room of the hall. Two played pool, three sat at one end of a long table nearby and watched the game as they talked and drank beer, the last splayed full length on a huge leather sofa and watched me with half lidded eyes before he closed them, dismissively. The brief looks they turned my way, were not unfriendly. Each seemed to decide I was of no immediate concern or interest, not important enough to stop what they were doing.

The hall was a strange mixture of ancient and modern. Metal lamps with tall glass chimneys probably burned kerosene. At the far end of the hall, a huge open fire held wrought iron ovens and a blazing fire. To one side, a closed door seemed to draw my attention above all else and I found myself staring, my attention fixed.

Beowulf looked from me to the door and back again. “The gates are made to draw the attention of those with fey blood,” he commented. “If I didn't know who you were already, I'd know you were fey by that alone.”

I shivered, though the hall was warm enough that I'd have to shed layers soon. “How do you know who I am?”

He headed across the hall and I followed in his wake, wanting his answer.

“Freya was here,” he told me as I caught up to him. “You missed her by just a few minutes. She flew in, manifest as the black dragon she is so fond of, threatened us some, and tried to persuade us as well. Then flew away again.”

He stopped by the fire and casually filled an bowl with hot stew from a cooking pot close to the fire to keep it hot. He dropped a spoon into it and passed it to me.

“You'll be hungry, I bet.” He steered me to a chair at a long table and took another at an angle to me. “She told us you were brought here by some of her people, but that they had lost you somehow. An unquickened fey, a girl named Syn. And look at you,” he said, his casual gesture encompassed me from head to toe. “Who else would you be?”

I felt sick with nerves, but hungry as well. Too hot on the outside, too cold inside. I shivered, began to undo the fastenings of my parka. I opened my mouth to ask a question but my lips trembled instead; then, abruptly and to complete my misery, I began to cry.

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