This is a cool blog hop I haven’t done since I was first working on Rise of the Storm! Sign-ups are open until the 15th if you’re interested. Shield of Kings is the first book in a new series. It’s already been to beta readers, a few of whom felt the beginning could use some more clarification. So, if you could let me know of any bits that seem confusing, I’d greatly appreciate it!
Chapter 1: Luzyana
“You must go,” King Arryk said, rushing into the room where Luzyana sat playing with the baby. “They’re going to kill you.”
Luzyana handed the baby to the nurse, then stood to face her husband. “Calm down, darling,” she said, taking his hands in hers. “Now tell me what’s going on.”
“There’s no time.” A deep crease was forming between Arryk’s blue eyes, though that was nothing new. The political situation had been deteriorating for months now and he took every setback personally. “There’s a mob coming this way.”
“A mob coming for me?” Luzyana attempted a smile even as her heart banged against her ribs.
“Yes.” Arryk’s hands tightened around hers. “The ruling council said the queen was responsible for my heresy and they’d give in to none of my demands until you were gone. They demanded I send you back to your mother, and when I refused … well, things got worse.”
“I see.” Panic tightened into a knot in Luzyana’s middle, but she forced herself to ignore it. Her mother had always said that any queen worth her title would likely face more than one life-and-death moment. It wouldn’t do to collapse in the face of her first one. “Then I suppose I shouldn’t be here when these people arrive. Do they truly seem dangerous?” She stared up at her husband, hoping maybe it wasn’t true. He had a tendency to exaggerate the bad.
“They very well might be.” He was pulling her out of her sitting room now, into her dressing room next door. “They’ve gone to the armory first and I don’t doubt the garrison commander will give them what they want.”
“An armed mob then.” Luzyana tried to keep her tone light and slow her pounding heart. She needed to get herself, her husband, and her children out of the capital as quickly as possible. She prayed to Vica that the palace guards remained loyal, but she’d seen the disapproval in so many eyes. They hated her, but at least they loved the king. Surely they would follow his orders?
Luzyana turned to her maid, who’d been dozing in a chair beside the massive carved wardrobe, but now stood at trembling attention. “Pack my smallest chest,” she ordered. “Only warm, plain clothes.” Vastivik Castle was not known for its comfort, but she didn’t care about that right now. Far more important were its thick, tall walls, wide moat, and the cannon and musketeers manning its walls.
She took baby Edwyn from the nurse, who’d followed them into the dressing room. “Go to the nursery and pack the children’s clothes and anything else they need. Quickly now,” she added as the nurse made a noise of protest. “We shall leave in a quarter hour.” She hoped that would be fast enough.
Arryk paced around the room. He needed something to do, so she asked, “Darling, can you go to the stables and order the little, fast coach harnessed? I’ll see your things are packed.”
Arryk startled. “Oh, I’m not going with you. I can’t just run away.”
“You are coming.” Luzyana walked over to him. “You must, or they will kill you too. They’ve tried it before.” The last, abortive rebellion had taken place five years ago, but the king had needed help to put that one down. He was too nice, always expecting the best of people when it was plainly obvious they wanted nothing more than to take his power for themselves.
Luzyana’s own mother Beatryz, the Queen of Maladena, would never have allowed the kind of insults from her nobility that Arryk endured on a regular basis. He’d explained to her that Norovaea was different, and that the nobility and merchant classes were allowed some say in the government, but Luzyana refused to accept that as an excuse for what felt like constant chaos. Once this revolt had been put down, she’d insist on reform.
Arryk hesitated. “It’ll look like I’m giving up.”
“Of course you’re not giving up. We’re going to Vastivik to regroup, and Magnus will help us.” Magnus Torsen was the king’s oldest friends and always reliable, if a bit dull. “You’ve always had more support in the countryside. Now go, we must be on our way before the mob arrives.”
She hoped the garrison commander would find a way to delay the rebels at the armory, though perhaps he wanted her gone too. “And send someone to get your brother,” she called after Arryk as he rushed out of the room.
Now she had to believe the servants would do as they were told, and quickly. Still holding little Edwyn, Luzyana hurried down the wide corridor to the king’s dressing room, where she ordered his servant to pack what he could, and meet them in the courtyard in ten minutes.
Back in the corridor, she paused and shifted the baby to her other hip. She’d better head for the courtyard. If they were after her, she needed to go even if her things weren’t ready. She couldn’t imagine they would harm her husband, his brother or her children if she wasn’t there. Would it matter that she was visibly pregnant? Surely no one would want to harm the king’s child. But she didn’t want to wait to find out.
It took her far too long to make her way down the endless corridor on the second floor of Arenberg Palace, the Zastwar carpets worked in blue and orange stretching into the distance. Edwyn was heavy; she wasn’t used to carrying him, and she soon found herself short of breath.
The palace was eerily empty of servants. Most likely they’d already heard the dire news and were scurrying out the doors like rats deserting a ship. When this was over, she somehow would have to find people more loyal to her.by