Once again, I was wrong.
Hold on there, podnuh!
It’s the story of a child king, a husband and a ruler by the age of thirteen, a young man who, when he meets his cousin, will delight in sitting on a balcony and “lighting up” with said cousin and then both getting so snockered on royal wine they can barely stand in the receiving line given in Sar’s honor.
Darien-Marcus may be royal but he’s a descendant of Riven kan Ingan, called the Heretic, the barbarian progenitor of the royal family which has ruled for 3000 years. Rebellion is in his genes and his behavior proves it.
“My Lady Ariadne.” Dutifully, Darien bowed to her, taking the hand she offered him as she curtseyed. She reacted more as a child then a noblewoman would, however. Looking up at him and then down at her hand, she giggled.
“What’s so funny?” Darien released her hand, brushing back his hair, which had fallen over his forehead as he dipped his head. He thought she was pretty, in a way. She was wearing a white ruffled dress, white stocking and slippers, and had bouncy blonde curls. Her hair was just a shade lighter than his own which probably meant she was a relative of some kind, but her eyes were blue so the relationship wasn’t very close.
“You are.” She giggled again.
“I am?” That made his color rise slightly, his fair cheeks reddening. I’m missing my game to be told I’m funny? He affected a bit of bluster and a slightly insulted air. “Where exactly am I funny?”
“Oh.” Well, scratch that off the list then. Darien tried again. “How about sailing? I’ve my own boat. It’s anchored at the city marina in Jestey.”
“I’m afraid of water.” She shivered slightly, then went on as if defending her fear, “The ocean’s so big and deep, it’s scary.” Her blue eyes got round. “And there are monsters…”
“Don’t be silly.” His laugh was scornful. “The Great Ocean doesn’t have anything in it bigger than a three-foot sunfish.”
“So you don’t swim, then, I imagine.” Abruptly, he thought he’d like to see her in the water, her skin tinted a pale green by the ocean’s darkness, hair like seaweed floating on its surface. He imagined she’d look like a mermaid. That sent an odd little tingle through his belly and it shook him slightly because he’d only felt it before when he was with Mirelle, his mistress.
“No, but we couldn’t swim together anyway. That’s not allowed,” she reminded him.
She giggled again, but from the way her eyes brightened he thought she might agree to such an adventure. Suddenly, Darien wished that could happen. He envisioned himself and Ariadne tiptoeing down the stairs to the pool area, getting out of their clothes, and diving into the clear, warm water. A sudden frisson trickled along his spine. Then another thought intruded.
“How about riding? I’ve my own stable of horses.”
“I’ve never ridden a horse,” she apologized. “But I do have a pony.”
“Well, that’s almost the same thing,” he allowed.
“Darien,” Tyron said. “The Tripod and Lady Ariadne’s father have come to a decision.”
“Yes sir?” Darien looked at Lord Summerlee, relieved that he didn’t have to search for any more topics of conversation. He was rapidly running out of subjects. Girls, he was discovering, were difficult to talk to. Ariadne, especially. She didn’t seem to like anything he did.
“That was just a trifle rude,” Jantzen remarked, looking at the doors swinging shut in Darien’s wake.
“The boy’s just shy of thirteen. Give him a little leeway,” Tyron defended his sovereign.
“Since when do you have official business?”
“That’s right. I forgot.” Orion looked thoughtful. “That means you’ll become margrave pretty soon, and then you’ll really be our ruler.”
“I certainly will.” It was said with satisfaction. They were at the exit from the castle now, going through the door. The sentries there bowed and Darien acknowledged them with a wave as he pulled the chest plate from Orion’s hands and thrust his arms through the shoulder straps. Behind them, Daneel double-timed it, his fat little legs pumping to keep up.
“Darien, your becoming margrave isn’t going to make a difference is it? In our being friends, I mean.”
“Not a bit,” Darien declared. “There’s something else that might, though.”
“He said it’d be later.”
“Years from now, I hope. Ariadne’s pretty young.”
“I agree,” Darien answered. “But silly. She laughed because my hair fell in my face when I bowed to her.”
“I hope she stops doing it. I’d hate to have a wife who sounds so addlepated.”
In This Kingdom by the Sea was released by Class Act Books on July 15, 2013.