Friday, February 3, 2017

SFR Brigade Presents: Excerpt from Arrow of Fate

The Science Fiction Romance Brigade is a fabulous group of authors who offer a monthly Showcase to give people a taste of upcoming sci fi romance novels.    See this month's offerings at SFR Brigade Presents

My current excerpt is from The Arrow of Fate, a novel set in the To Be Sinclair universe, about 300 years before that series.  Prince Evan Grant Summerfeld is the sole scion of King Ian, a tyrant responsible for murdering his own brother for the throne while blaming it on offworlders trying to invade their planet, Fondulac.  Evan has to tread carefully around his father, especially since he distinctly sees both sides of the man's personality, while trying to convince him he's ready to take on some of his responsibilities....

Father came into Evan's bedroom just before bedtime.  As he settled in his chair, Evan set down his pen and journal.  “Good evening, Father.  Rather late for a visit, isn’t it?”
King Ian grimaced.  “I need to talk to you about security.”  He glanced toward his bodyguards, two just inside and two outside the doorway.  “Leave us.”  The two inside stepped smartly out the door into the parlor, and closed the door.
Evan’s eyebrows rose.  “What can I help you with?”
Father ran his hands up and down his thighs.  “I was talking to Sir Medford, who said he had heard this weekend that you were easily accessible.  He tried to get information from the man, but it was at a party, and he slipped away before Medford could round up enough people to detain him.”
Evan bit his lips together, trying to evaluate his father’s real concern.  “Do you mean the Lowenas?”
“Lowenas?”  Father’s brows drew together.
“Oh, sorry, my personal name for the bodyguards you assigned to me.”  At King Ian’s hard stare, he shrugged.  “They act more like scavengers than warriors, and I certainly can’t think of them as ‘high’, given their language and interests.”
“What did they do?”  Father actually acted like he cared, which surprised him.  He wondered if he could get King Ian to listen, now that he was paying such grave attention to him.
Sitting back in his chair, he assumed one of Father’s most notorious postures, setting his ankle across his other knee and grasping the arms of the chair, an attitude of relaxation from which he could burst into action if needed.  “They didn’t do anything, but they constantly talk big to each other, how they could whack so-and-so’s head off and such. 
“But I’ve never seen them work out, only carry pulse pistols.  I reckon most wouldn’t last ten seconds in a ring with me, and that they’d let me kill anyone seriously threatening me just to see me fight.  That’s what I meant by scavengers, ‘cleaning up’ after a kill. 
“And they’re nasty.  The sexual slurs they make about everyone make me want to puke at times.  I figure I’m safe simply because no one wants such low-life scum to touch them.”
King Ian’s expression didn’t change, so he continued.  “Whereas your guards never talk because it distracts them from observation.  They train together in groups so they all know each other’s moves, and they have plans so coordinated that each one could be in any position, yet perform perfectly against any threat.  In comparison, my men are fools who think power is in weapons instead of intelligence.”
King Ian’s closed expression morphed into a grimace at that harsh criticism.  “I’ll see you get new guards.”  As Evan continued to gaze at him without a word, he wondered, “Why are you staring at me like that?”
Evan swallowed, moved to set both feet squarely on the floor, and sat forward slightly with hands on his knees.  “I don’t mean to impugn your honor, but I wonder if you’ll actually do it.  Why did you never tell Lord Desai about the emblem I requested for my investiture robe?”
Father’s eyebrows rose before they crimped above his frown.  “It’s too untraditional.  And obscure. What does a bloody talon represent, anyway?”
“Logic, farsight, and necessity.”  His lips thinned in a brief smile as Father’s parted. 
“Raptors are unlike other animals in that they have absolutely no empathy.  Lord Valente can fill your ear over their sheer intelligence, all of which comes down to how they act in their own self-interest at all times, tolerating humans simply because they know they can get a ready meal out of us.
“Their vision is notorious, of course, and they only kill to eat.  They kill in battle because their handlers have taught them that’s the way to get regular food from them.  The tomahawks and dire eagles only coexist in the mews because their nesting needs are consistently met, clean and airy with the proper dimensions.  The ones we call ‘tame’ are simply smart enough to have learned beyond their instincts.”
Father’s face showed his growing fascination.  “You sound like a real scholar.”
Evan shrugged and sat back, letting one hand stroke his scar.  “Everyone underestimates me, so I listen and learn.”
Lips parted, King Ian inhaled his nonchalance.  “Tell me something I don’t know, then.”
Since he prided himself on his security and his spies, Evan unleashed a sly smile, wondering if he could finally gain all of King Ian’s trust while simultaneously blowing his mind.  He stood and went to his boot locker for his oldest pair of boots.  After handing them to him, he returned to his desk.
He couldn’t tell if it was King Ian or Father turning the boots over in his hands.  He thought it was King Ian when he noted, “There’s a lot of wear on the toes….” before his eyebrows rose.  When he directed a speculative smile his way, Evan decided that was Father.
“I, um, send a certain flower to a certain holy shrine before I visit a certain mansion of an evening.”  He smirked; if Father knew how rare those evenings were, he wouldn’t be chuckling so heartily.
“Who is she?”
Evan actually blushed.  “Ah, sorry to mislead you.  It’s one of the courtesaneries.”  Of which there were five in the capital.
Father slapped his thigh as he roared with laughter.  He howled even louder when Evan mentioned, “You did command me to tell you something you didn’t know.”
Father settled down with an amused sigh.  “I suppose two levels to the library’s roof is nothing.”  He glanced out the sixth-story window.
Evan examined his fingertips.  “Well, I wouldn’t say ‘nothing’.”  Although he wore climbing gloves for his escapades, Father didn’t need to know that. 
“Anyway, I figure that’s where the allegations of my ‘accessibility’ come from.  Very few people actually know the series of actions that precede my ventures, though, and I otherwise make sure I’m masked in public.”  He wouldn’t be adventuring again, after this, but since his investiture and subsequent plans were a month away, he didn’t care.
Father sat back with a broad smile.  “So, how else have I underestimated you?”
Evan’s mouth parted.  In order to get King Ian, he asked, “Are you sure you’re ready for that conversation?”
Father chuckled and stood.  “Not tonight.  I have the lovely lady Rosalyn waiting for me.”  He handed back the boots.  “I’ll find an opening around lunch tomorrow so you can educate me on my spectacular son.”
Father winked at him before letting himself out.  Evan was glad he would have a chance to impress King Ian.  Maybe he could get some serious work done before his investiture.

◊   ◊   ◊

The next morning, two of King Ian’s own guards stood beside the lifts in his foyer as if they had replaced the first four Lowenas.  Evan granted them respectful nods, which they returned.  “Good morning.  What are your names?”
He shook hands with them before herding them into the eastern lift to the basement for his workout.  “I’ve noticed you scoring impressively in your workouts, Sir Laetres.  I’ve often longed to spar with you, but I always got the impression that, as Father’s personal security, I wasn’t to challenge any of you in any way, lest someone think badly about it.”
“Ah, yes.  That would look bad, wouldn’t it?”  The wiry Sir Laetres stroked his chin.  “We lined up a real treat for you today, though.”
“Oh?”  He was about to ask what when the doors to the lift opened.  His subsequent broad smile made both of his lips sting at the puckers of his scar.
Eight of his previous guards were lined up near the mats, in workout clothing and with no weapons.  Half of them fidgeted nervously while the others paced or breathed deeply to pump up their psyches for the upcoming debacle.  “I see you’ve found some workout partners for me today.  Thank you.”
“King Ian’s idea.”  Sir Mason bowed.  “We’ll be the moderators of the fights.”
“Any rules?”  Evan rubbed his hands with glee before removing his shirt.
“Not really.  He simply asked us to step in if it appears you’ve grossly underestimated your opponent.”  Sir Laetres shrugged at his raised eyebrows.  “I take that to mean he doesn’t want you killed.”
Evan laughed; then-Prince Ian had to have given Sir Graeme specific instructions to kill him two years ago, undoubtedly so he could get himself another heir.  He had always wondered if his current survival was proof against the possibility King Ian might never impregnate another woman, or if he just couldn’t figure out how to off him that would play well enough with the commoners.
This was obviously a test his father approved of, but he had to couch it in terms the commoners would understand: make sure his son is tough enough by throwing him a challenge, yet make sure he’s able to attend his own investiture in a month’s time.  He could hear his frugal father in his mind: Can’t let all of Lady Elita’s work go to waste, after all.
Swinging his arms to warm up, he stepped on the mat and beckoned to the men.  Of the eight, the one he thought actually had a chance of marking him stood forth.  They bowed, and Evan took a couple of minor blows before knocking him out in less than ten seconds. 
As one of the Palace’s night guards dragged the man off the mat, Sir Mason called on his wrist phone for a janitor to clean away the blood Lowena #1 had spat out before the knockout punch.  Another night guard took a wad of money out of his pocket and paid a few of his quietly-jeering comrades.

Evan moved to the next mat and beckoned for another Lowena.  Even if the rest came on as a group, he had a good chance of thrashing them before getting too tired.  He laughed again, imagining the man was actually his father.

I promise, this IS a sci fi romance, but the heroines haven't been introduced just yet.  It takes two chapters of action just to describe why these characters are so complex in the first place!
I anticipate Arrow of Fate will be done by summer 2017, available at the usual retailers, and a stand-alone, unconnected to my previous books except by the occasional mention of similar planets and technological developments.
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