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A note from Wilson A. Bateman

An elven noble visits Halmilibranth during the rule of Queen Gliteau to secure an advantageous marriage.

Mother must be letting things slip.

The crust on his majordomo’s boot didn’t warrant a second look and was someone else’s to deal with, regardless, but it was irksome. How would it look were they receiving guests?

I shall have to bring it up to her later, Kertum decided. Maybe when next she tries to commit me to one of these parties, just to needle her.

He leaned back against the revelweave couch as the palanquin lifted into the air. That was absurd as well! Even consigned as he had been to the family estate in Bertelim, Kertum knew revelweave was out. The queen was upholstering in the somber tones of shadesilk now, harvested from the Noctworms of her latest dungeon. What was his mother doing at court all day if not keeping tabs on the current trends?

Probably inveigling her way into the good graces of the Countess Evenglow. How else would he have found himself powdered, plucked, and forced into the palanquin, directed to make efforts at Dela, the Evenglow’s heiress?

Though he hated the parties, perhaps because he hated the parties, Kertum was united with his mother in securing an offer quickly. If not Dela, his mother would only find another, and another, forcing him into an endless parade of suitors. Additionally, after Dela each failed approach would lower his eligibility in the eyes of the court, and thus the status he could marry into. He didn’t dare consider the prospect of actually marrying down. Lower ranked nobles, barrenborn, and even outlanders were fine for a quick release, and with a prophylactic spright contracted, Mother couldn’t complain about it, but for producing offspring his duty was to marry up, exalting the Whispercrest name.

I’m sure it won’t come to that, he comforted himself. Not with Euoga’s contract. Even the queen doesn’t have a steady source of Marked Water. If not the Evenglows, then at least the Turnstones or the Loftingsails. One of them would see the benefit, even if it meant marrying down.

He pushed the thought away and purposefully unclenched his jaw. Even with Euoga he couldn’t afford to let bad habits add ugly muscle and square his jaw. Restructors’ time was precious, and as much as he hated to be reminded, his family couldn’t afford it.

What I would do if I could afford it, he thought, after the palanquin jolted. Replace Bryant, that’s for sure! First the mud and now this? Who has he been hiring as bearers?

Knowing he shouldn’t, that it was beneath him, he raised his hand to pull aside the curtain and tell the man off.

Had he been sitting back he might’ve resisted, but when the palanquin pitched forward and to the side, he went with it, tumbling through the embroidered ferventweave curtain and out into the street.

Common marble? Where have they taken me? Was his first thought, completed even as his gaze found the collapsed bearer, sprawled similarly on the street.

The other bearers rushed to help Kertum up, pulling him to his feet with such an crass show of strength that Kertum felt pity for them. Imagine having to rely on the strength of your arms for your worth! What his sister saw in the broad brutes was beyond him. As well be a pack mule! At least the women among the elf and human barrenborn avoided vulgar musculature.

Kertum thought all of this in a daze as the bearers lifted him to his feet, but by the time he had regained them, he also had a clear view of the blood pooling around the fallen man,

“Wha-”

“An assassination attempt!” One of the men snapped. “We have to get you off the street.” The servant threw a cloak over Kertum’s head even as he and the others hustled him off the street. Unable to see more than his feet, Kertum struggled to push the cloak aside, only to have the man pull it low over his face again.

“Best you remain hidden, your lordship. There could be others nearby.”

Exertion made the air under the hood hot, and not being able to see made Kertum’s terror even worse, but the servants kept him going and on his feet, moving him faster than he’d ever run himself over flagstones of marble, cobblestone, gravel, and then mud. For once Kertum didn’t mind his shoes getting dirty. He was too frightened, too out of breath.

It wasn’t until the hood was finally ripped from his head that he thought to wonder where they were going.

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About the author

Wilson A. Bateman

Bio: Wilson A. Bateman was raised all around the world, but predominately in Utah. Never able to constrain his interests to one field, he has degrees in German, Biology, Professional Writing, and Computer Science. He thrives on mixing Psychology and Philosophy into his work, and has recently made his debut in the Fantasy and LitRPG genres with his books: Auger & Augment and Serpent & Spirit.

He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with his beautiful husband and their three hideous children.

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