Princess, Empress, and Amazon: Chapter 8

Ellis woke early and dressed for a funeral. She’d been unsure what to wear but had finally decided that her dress uniform would work. The dress uniform jacket was a darker blue with bright silver buttons and braid, but it lacked the blouse that went under her everyday jacket. With only a shirt under it, the fit was closer to the body and showed off her increasing lack of slimness. The buttons strained across her belly, although the pale blue sash helped disguise that a bit. It would do, though, for today.  

Almost every moment that she’d spent with her brothers, she’d been in uniform. She didn’t believe young Michael had ever seen her out of it. He would understand.

For a second, hot tears stung her eyes again, but she forced that reaction down with a stern gaze into the mirror. If nothing else, it would make her scars redden and freshly healed chin and nose whiten. She rubbed her hands together, then passed one thumb over the back of the other hand, where new skin had replaced the scabbing from the coal mine. Faint blue spots speckled them, coal dust ground into her skin staining it. She hoped that would go away in time.

Her wild hair looked neat at least, clipped back at the nape of her neck. That was about as good as she could manage.  

Once she emerged into the sitting area, she found Carel waiting for her next to the table. The older woman’s lips pulled to one side as she observed the tight buttons, but then her eyes flicked to Ellis’ face. “I’m going to put powder on your nose,” Carel warned. “And that chin.”

Ellis kept herself from flinching, although just barely. “Why?”

“Because you will be out in public today,” Carel said, touching a red lacquered box on the table. “Was this Miss Eladine’s? It was in my bedroom.”

Not only did the box not look like something Merielle would have owned, the contents displayed when Carel opened it—an assortment of small pots and containers—didn’t either. Merielle had simply been too beautiful to ever think of painting her face. “Certainly not.”

“Another mysterious surprise from your brother? Or perhaps his ever-so-helpful tutor?” Carel let out an aggrieved sigh. “Well, sit down, and I’ll see if I can hide the raw spots.”

Given Carel’s outburst the previous afternoon, Ellis decided to comply with as much grace as she could. In the past, Miralys had done this before they attended balls together, but those days seemed so long ago. Ellis perched on the edge of her chair while Carel daubed paint from a pot on her healing scrapes, dusted her face—and scars—with tinted powder, and stained her lips. “Do I look presentable?”

Carel’s lips twisted again. “I’m unsure whether we should be hiding your scars… or accentuating them.”

“Accentuating?” Ellis blurted, more loudly than she’d planned. “I’m sorry. Why?”

“To show that you are military,” Carel said, peering narrowly at Ellis’ straight brows. “Beyond the three earrings, that is. They’re small enough not to be noticeable at a distance, not you’re your hair. Perhaps I’ll have some guidance from above on that, too, but for today, since your husband is coming, let’s stick with this.”

Ellis had long since come to terms with her scars—the ragged y-shaped one across her cheekbone and the smaller one cutting into her lower lip. Most days, she did her best to ignore them. She’d never thought of them as tools. She should ask Carmeyon what he thought, since he understood public opinion better than she did.

After the funeral, though. He had sent word the previous evening that, barring any incident at the war college, he should be there in time to escort her. Even though it would be a small and private funeral, she wanted his company for the ordeal.

Carel closed all the small jars and set the unexpected lacquered box over on the pianoforte, out of the way. “I’ll contact your seamstress today. You need to make time to see her, Ellis.”

“I will. Thank you,” Ellis managed. 

“I’ll move some buttons on that jacket later today,” Carel said with a casual gesture at Ellis’ uniform. “That should get you through Captain Dantreon’s memorial service, at least.”

Carel had said nothing so far about a service for Mikael, and Ellis had lost that thread in the chaos of the last couple of days. “Have you spoken to the chaplain here about a service for Mikael?”

Carel’s eyes didn’t meet hers.

“Do you want me to talk to him?” Ellis asked.

Carel’s chin lifted. “If you think you should.”

Ellis had no idea what Carel wanted now. “I’ll do that, then. Mikael had a lot of friends at the war college, and they will want to meet you.”

Carel sighed. “Fine.”

Ellis could not have been more relieved when a knock on the sitting room door ended the awkward conversation. She went to open it herself and had to choke back a sob when she saw Carmeyon there, dressed in his dark dress uniform.

Her husband stepped over the threshold and wrapped his arms around her. “I am so sorry,” he whispered against her hair. “I wish I could have been here.”

After a moment, she made herself pull away. Carmeyon’s dark hair was neatly brushed, his uniform nearly uncreased, so he must have stopped at his father’s house in town to change clothing before coming to her.

“It’s the way this is always going to be,” she said softly. Recalling abruptly that Carel was there, watching them, Ellis stepped back and made a belated introduction. Carel studied Carmeyon with a cool gaze, as if he was a problem to be solved. Ellis wondered if no one had told her Carmeyon was half Cantreidian. Another thing I don’t often think about.

Carmeyon responded smoothly to whatever she’d said to him. “Thank you, and I am so sorry for your loss as well, Mrs. Deviron. Mikhal was well-liked at the war college. I suspect his memorial will be well attended, even though he didn’t live here.”

Ellis’ lips pressed into a hard line.

“His parents should be the ones having the memorial,” Carel said quickly. “Not me. I… I had only known him a short time.”

Carmeyon let out a soft sigh. “His friends will want to meet you, Mrs. Deviron. They will want to assure you that your pain is worthy, too. They want to offer you comfort, and you would be giving them that gift.”

Carel’s lip trembled, but she merely nodded, then made a shooing gesture. “You should go now, or you’ll both be late.”

Ellis grabbed Carmeyon’s hand and drew him to the door, suspecting that Carel wanted to vent her emotions on her own.

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After breakfast, Miralys took a moment to talk to Idiris, stopping the girl before she escaped into more self-imposed chores. “Dear, I wanted to talk to you about this weekend. Will you stay a moment?”

Idiris’ dark brows drew together, but she remained in her chair as Damon and his parents left the dingy dog-smelling breakfast room to get on with their own business for the day. This morning, the girl wore a dark blue overdress over a gray underdress, and her thick hair was braided back, making her look as serious as an old matron.

Miralys worried that Idiris had too little spontaneity in her life, too little fun. She certainly never courted trouble as Miralys had at her age. “My father said the memorial service for your father will be held on Saturday morning. We’ll need to take the train on Friday…”

“No,” Idiris said, jaw squaring off pugnaciously. Her arms closed over her chest. “I’m not going.”

Miralys nearly fell out of her chair. She knew that Idiris was still angry with her father for abandoning her, but the flat refusal shocked her. “But… he’s your father, Idiris. You should…”

“No!” She pushed her chair back and jumped to her feet. “You can’t make me go. I’m not going.”

Miralys chased her niece out of the breakfast room and down the hallway—at a ladylike pace, of course. “Idiris, don’t make me run up those stairs.”

Idiris stopped at the base of the stairwell, her slim back rigid. When she turned around, her mouth was clamped down in a tight frown. “I don’t care about him. He’s not my father anymore.”

Miralys’ eyes stung. She reached out and gathered Idiris into her arms. “Oh, sweetheart, I know. We’re your mother and father now. But this isn’t about him.

Idiris sniffled, blue eyes glistening. “I don’t care that he’s dead.”

Miralys turned her loose and sat down on the steps. “Here, sit with me. Please, Idiris.”

Idiris hesitated, but then settled next to her.

Miralys had never been fond of her eldest brother, Andrian. He’d gone into the Guard when she was a child, but before that, he’d never approved of his father’s brown children, as he called them. She’d always suspected that epithet was more a form of anger with their father rather than actual prejudice against his four half-siblings. All the same, it had given her little reason to care for Andrian, especially when she was a child. When he’d abandoned Idiris when the girl was only eight, though, that had set Miralys’ mind firmly against him. “Dear, your father and I never knew each other well,” she said. “He was too much older than me. It’s hard for me to miss him now that he’s gone.”

Idiris’ frown didn’t abate.

“Despite that, I’m still going to his memorial in Jenesetta,” Miralys told her. “Whatever else happened, my father—your grandpapa—lost his oldest son. I’m going there for my father, not yours. And I would like you to come with me because Father says he would love to see his grandchildren, you and Siron both. You don’t have to go to the actual service if you don’t want, I promise, but I would like you to come visit with your grandpapa, at the least.”

Idiris sniffed in a breath, then said, “I’ll go, but only for Grandpapa.”

“Thank you,” Miralys said gravely.

Then Idiris sighed. “Do I have to go see my aunts?”

Since Idiris had only one aunt on her father’s side—Ellis Dantreon—Miralys suspected she meant her mother’s family, the Seredians, comprised of two sisters who were possibly the fussiest women Miralys had ever met. Idiris wrote to them monthly but didn’t enjoy visiting them in person. “Perhaps one short visit. Since you’ll be busy consoling your grandpapa, I mean.”

Idiris nodded her agreement. Miralys snaked an arm around her shoulders and squeezed her close. “Thank you. And now I think we should get up before the dog-pee smell transfers to our clothes.”

Idiris pointed to the newel post at the end of the stairwell, a spot which surely must have been a canine favorite. “I think it’s coming from there.”

Miralys heaved herself up to her feet, then hauled her niece up as well. “So glamorous, like living in a palace.”

Idiris just snorted and headed upstairs.

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The funeral for Michael Revasien was held in the smaller chapel in the garrison, but every pew was crammed with officers and their wives, all of whom were there for Sirien Revasien’s sake. Ellis didn’t recall much when she thought about it later, the chaplain’s words floating over and past her mind. She just felt numb.

Three deaths, all close to home for her. They were at war now, and gatherings like this would be all the more common in the future. The first in a long line of memorials.

Carmeyon sat or stood by her side throughout, answering others’ questions for her when he could see her civility had worn out. As the crowd in the chapel thinned down to only close friends and family, he grasped her hand and led her to the side of the chapel. “Are you ready to go?”

They should take their leave of the sub-marshal. “I’m not good at this sort of thing,” she whispered. “Knowing what to say.”

“No one is,” he returned.

A young aide with very Menhirre looks stopped in front of them. “Captain Dantreon, Lieutenant Dantreon, Marshal Severin needs you in his conference room.”

Ellis felt a flush go through her. “Is this about my hearing?”

The young man—probably five or six years older than she was, Ellis guessed—regarded her with brows drawn together. “I did not ask, Lieutenant.”

Carmeyon’s hand squeezed hers, and he told the aide they would go. “A simple exit that requires no more socializing. I would think you would like that.”

She walked along the aisle with him, noting as she did so that the aide had moved on to talk to Sub-marshal Korileys, head of the King’s Bodyguard. Ellis glanced up at Carmeyon’s face. “Did you arrange that?”

For a second, he seemed startled. “Uh, no. Mr. Fareinacassan is one of Severin’s aides, so it’s a legitimate request.”

They exited the chapel and made their way along the hallways of the garrison, not missing the somber mood throughout the halls. Revasien was well-liked, and the unusual quiet was evidence of that.

They took the stairs up to the conference room, wondering who else might have been called. When the entered the room, Marshal Severin sat at one end of the long conference table, Harisen standing next to him along with several other officers from the bodyguard in that corner of the room. A cough behind her warned her that Sub-marshal Korileys had made good time getting up the stairs, so she and Carmeyon moved farther into the room and took a pair of seats on one side when Harisen motioned for them to. Ellis was surprised to see Mr. Felidias enter the room—her father’s secretary—which meant surely this wasn’t about her hearing. Then Carmeyon’s father entered, his pale face grim. He sat on Ellis’ other side as the various officers and one secretary took seats about the table. He gestured for Ellis to wait as Marshal Severin gathered a sheaf of papers into a folder on the desk in front of him.

“First,” Severin began, “this information must not leave this room. Is that clear?”

Everyone around the table began to nod, so Ellis did the same.

“Lieutenant Dantreon,” Severin asked, “why did your Mrs. Deviron request information about the regency proposal from Mr. Felidias yesterday?”

Had Carel already done so? Very efficient. “Um, to be honest, sir, a letter was left for her in my rooms that said she needed to understand the proposal, so I suggested she ask Mr. Felidias. I knew he would have that information.” When Severin gave her a strange look, she added, “It was a letter from my brother, Prince Kerris. I don’t know how it got into my rooms, but it’s not the first one that’s shown up there.”

Severin’s square jaw clenched. “That explains that. Unfortunately, the prince must have a stronger Gift than we were aware.”

Ellis had known that, but she didn’t think Kerry had made a show of it to anyone else. Not much, at least. Carmeyon and his father knew, and a few others. “Is that what this is about, sir?”

“I’m afraid that Karsyas has had a stroke,” Severin said, his pale eyes on Ellis’. “He’s been unable to speak or even to rise from his bed.”

A hot wave of nausea surged through Ellis’ gut. “When did that happen?”  She swallowed hard as Carmeyon clenched her hand in this. “My apologies. When did that happen, sir?”

“Yesterday, when he was informed of Michael Revasien’s passing, Lieutenant. He said there was nothing left and slumped onto his chaise in his library. The bodyguard thought at first that he’d merely lain down, but Harisen recognized quickly that something was wrong and sent for Queron.” Severin gestured toward the garrison’s surgeon.

Queron drew in a careful breath. “He’s not responding to stimuli at all, Lieutenant. As strokes go, this was a bad one.”

Triggered by learning of Michael’s death. She licked her lips. “What did he say again?”

Captain Harisen leaned forward. “He said, There is nothing more.”

Ellis closed her eyes, recognizing the quote from an old myth about a wise Seer who recognized death when his visions ran dry. “Is he dying?”

“Not immediately so, Lieutenant,” Queron answered. “He could recover enough to walk and talk in time, given some effort.”

“However, I have been conferring with a Seer in the city,” Severin added softly, as if he feared startling her. “He does not see your father attending the Council again. Not ever.”

Ellis pinched the bridge of her nose, fighting back irrational tears. She felt Marshal Dantreon’s hand cup her elbow, supporting her, and Carmeyon’s grasp on her hand.

They want to enact the Regency.  

Return to Index

Go on to Chapter 9

One 2021 goal down…

Back in 2020, I purchased a copy of Vellum and started re-issuing all my books. Most had no substantive changes, but this was an opportunity to clean up the back and front matter on some, add maps to some, change out covers, and basically try to make the format of each one look more professional.*

This morning I finally uploaded the last of them: Iron Shoes, The Dragon’s Child, and The Sparrow in Hiding.

One of the nice parts about self-pubbing these is that I can do this whenever I wish (although it is -very- time-consuming.)

But I’m glad that’s done, and I (currently) like all the new covers. I cleared up some typos, which is always nice, but somehow I fear that other typos will have crept in to replace them. Like vermin.

I’m still uncertain what I’ll do with all my old stock under the old covers. I’ve got them all for about $1 each at my Storenvy store, but… people still have to pay postage. Eventually I’ll have to figure out somewhere to donate some of them, I suppose, but that’s maybe a chore for after I get all the other stuff done.

Now I will return to the editing of Mary Quirk 2 and Beneath the Waves, but this week I need to get my Patreon post ready for Feb. 1, so that will take precedence. I’m also trying to get started on Princess, Empress, and Amazon again, although that’s also of lesser importance.

*FWIW, I have been told by a reader that if one already owns any of these re-issued books, but wants the newest version, they can talk to Amazon CS (in chat), an Amazon will send the updates through to that reader.

Soldiering on…

It’s been a few months since my last post, but I’m trying to get things under control here. We had a rocky December, including a death in my family, and that made for difficult times getting anything done. January was complicated by the sudden need for foundation work for our house, but we’ve only got one more related workman to come out and we’ll be done with that.

I do have plans to publish a couple of books this spring and summer. The final novella in the Golden City setting should be coming out in May (subject to change). This will be Beneath the Waves, formerly serialized here as O Submarino.

(More info if you scroll down to the very bottom of the Golden City page.)

I will also have the second book in the Mary Quirk series coming out this spring, although the date is still undecided (hoping for March.)

(More information about that book here!)

After these two, the remainder of the year will be dedicated to

a) Finishing up the fourth (and final) Palace of Dreams book: Twilight of Dreams. I hope to have this one out before Christmas, but Book 3 was exceedingly difficult for me to write, so I’m not going to make any promises.

b) Reissuing all my current books (basically cleaning up some typos and updating the front and back matter.) I have reissued all of the King’s Daughter series, the Books of The Horn, and all the Golden City books. That leaves a clean up job for Iron Shoes, The Dragon’s Child, and The Sparrow in Hiding.

c) Rough draft work for Mary Quirk and the Endless Summer.

If I can get all that done, I will be super happy!

Sale on The King’s Daughter novels…

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been uploading new cleaned-up versions of the first three books of The King’s Daughter and On Common Ground. In addition, the first three books have gone on sale:

The Amiestrin Gambit: now 99 cents

The Passing of Pawns: now $2.99

The Black Queen: now $2.99

And of course, Knight and Nightrider is now available here, only $4.99

And for those who are following Anna St. Vincent, Mary Quirk and the Secret of Umbrum Hall is now available as well.

Coming 9/15, The King’s Daughter: Book 4

Book 4 of The King’s Daughter will be available on September 15th!

Amazon/ Others

A country braces for war…

The former cadets of the war college of Amiestrin know their king isn’t just royal. He’s a Seer of profound talent and, quite possibly, a madman as well. But for years now, the king and the other Seers have been predicting war, and they’re the ones who will have to fight it.

Llelas Sevireiya has spent the past year preparing his home province for that war. When a young Seer shows up at his door with orders for him to take time out to seek out a wife, he travels to Perisen and brings one home, not one anyone expected.

Thomas Farrier has plans for his life, but the marshals seem determined to upend them. Now he must adapt to a political role helping refugees who are fleeing over the border into Jenear. That assignment takes him to Sandrine, the home of his friend, Llelas.

Ellis Dantreon serves as a member of the King’s Bodyguard, guarding her own father. When the king decides to visit the border, the only question he has for his daughter is whether she’s ready. Now she, Thomas, and Llelas must become what the Seers expect of them: the princess, the knight, and the nightrider.

Now Available!

The third book in the Palace of Dreams cycle is now available in ebook and paperback.

I’m hoping to have the fourth (and final) book out next summer, although life hasn’t been entirely cooperative here in the last year, so… please don’t be upset if I’m a little off.

And I hope you all enjoy it!

Check it out on Goodreads.

Read an Excerpt.

Almost there…

The third book (of four) in the Palace of Dreams cycle will be coming out August 13th. (Click here for preorder links.)

DreamsfromtheGrave_ebook

Mikael Lee has dreamed of death for a decade now. He shares the last moments of murder victims, usually ones he’s later fated to investigate. But one death has always eluded him: his father’s murder.

Now he’s dreaming his father’s murder again, an old and powerful dream that can drag him to the brink of death. This time, though, he has a witness who can help him find the truth: Shironne Anjir. She’s been dragged into Mikael’s dreams for years. As much as Mikael does, she wants this dream put to bed, the deaths in Mikael’s memories solved once and for all.

And more than that, Mikael wants to uncover his father’s greatest secret—the identity of a half-brother Mikael has never met.

industrial

I honestly think this has been the hardest book I’ve ever written, and… I’m not even certain why. That does, however, offer an explanation for why it’s taken so long to get this one from the computer to the page.

Oddly, the main plot of this book was written back in 2004 or 2005, but because of various life incidents, publisher incidents, and changes made to the first book, it’s had to be totally rewritten.

I have already started on the fourth and final book in this sequence (Twilight of Dreams), and hope to have that out next year, although I have a lot of work coming out between the two.

And there is a possibility of a separate book about Sera… but right now I’m not committing to that.

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And I do have a book coming out later this year under the Anna St. Vincent name.

I am working on editing Knight and Nightrider, but I am not sure whether I’ll publish it this year or not. (Ideally, I’ll hold K&N and PEA until The White King is finished, but… that may be some time.)

industrial

Much of this slowness is related to family life issues. My in-laws have been living with us for most of June and July, and we’re having some renovation done to make it easier for them to live here, so that’s been eating away at my writing time. I’m hoping that life will return to normal eventually, but this year has been… a difficult one.

But here’s to getting a single book out this year!  Mejor que nada.

One Terrible Month

Well, I wanted to have so much more done in the month of June, but life intervened.

My in-laws spent most of the month living here in my house. My father-in-law had a health crisis that provoked 6 Emergency Room visits, 2 planned hospital visits, and two visits from Paramedics here at the house. My mother-in-law also had a planned surgery amid that, so… it was clear they couldn’t keep on top of all that alone.

Therefore, much of my time last month was diverted to in home care, and stress took away a lot of other time that I could have spent writing. Between this and the pandemic, I’m surprised I got much of anything done. (We’re in a state with rising hospitalization numbers, so all the above hospital visits were full of additional challenges.)

As a result, Dreams from the Grave didn’t get sent to the editor yet. In fact, I haven’t even gotten to my final edit pass, although the editor has set a slot side for me in August.

I did almost get my end-of-the month Patreon posts done, and I am still working on the edit of Mary Quirk. I’ve also started a series of blog posts over on my Dreamwidth about why writers quit publishing, which is a thing that’s been on my mind for a few months now.

Anyhow, pushing on, which is the best I can do with all the issues.

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Slow Progress

I want to apologize for not updating the various series lately. I’ve actually finished the first drafts of two novels over the last two months, and I’m currently working on editing those into shape.

The first (and one I’m currently editing) is the next book in the Palace of Dreams series: Dreams from the Grave, wherein Shironne and Mikael try to decipher what he is supposed to learn from his own father’s death, but the only tool he has to do so is his dreams.

I’m hoping to have this one off to the editor by the end of May, although I’m not quite on track. I must work faster!

DreamsfromtheGrave_ebook

The second book I finished (last month) is intended to be published under a pseudonym, and is rather different in texture from the above work. It’s been fun to work with this one, although who knows if it will sell?

Mary Quirk 1

This is a young adult novel (as one might guess from the title) and I’m still working on a marketing plan for it. I have been publishing chapters of the ROUGH DRAFT on Wattpad, though, if you’re curious.

(ROUGH DRAFT means that it still needs editing, just like the chapters that I post here. That’s also a tentative cover, along with a horrible horrible series name!)

Anyhow, I hope to get back to regular posts on the serials next month, although no one can be sure how things will pan out, then!

I hope everyone is staying safe and being cautious!

 

 

 

Working away… and the new map

I’m still working on getting The King’s Daughter Book 4 out, although I suspect it will hit in either late September or early October.  (Mary Quirk will be out 9/8

The fourth KD book (Knight and Nightrider) is a bit of an odd duck, mostly because the content of the first half and the back half are quite different. So the book is neatly cut into two parts under one cover, just to make that plain. 

And, since I’m going through with republishing all my self-done books (which will take months), I will be adding a map to all the King’s Daughter books: 

 

It’s not unusual for a writer to have a map in their book, and I did have an older one, done years ago (2005?) in Campaign Cartographer. This new one was done using my friend Photoshop, and I’m happy with it. It’s not perfect (and I always struggle with straight lines), but this should do for another 15 years.

And back to edits now…