#Excerpt week – USURPER’S LEGACY (The Prince’s Son) – Deborah Jay #Fantasy

USURPER’S LEGACY (The Prince’s Son)

A little longer than my usual excerpts, this is the prologue from my nearly complete (yay!) sequel to THE PRINCE’S MAN, and tells the climax of the first book from a very different viewpoint…

* * * * * * * *

Hungry flames invaded the garlands festooning the roof beams of the palace’s Great Hall. Tiny specks of gold darted in and out of the greenery, setting new fires wherever they touched; miniature dragons with flickering wings—salamanders.

Forbidden magic.

Another cluster of berries exploded, raining hot juices down upon the heads of the panicked crowd. Mykel Dench braced himself as a horde of finely-dressed nobles stampeded towards him. On the raised dais at the front of the hall he could see his master, Hensar, the pretender to the throne, grappling with the loyalist spy, Lady Risada Delgano vas Domn. The stench of burning greenery, the cacophony of screams and clatter of tumbling chairs all faded into insignificance for Mykel when Lady Risada slit Hensar’s throat.

Mykel shrieked his fury but his voice vanished into the crowd. Rage lent him strength and he ploughed into the oncoming mob, swinging the pommel of his sword like a club, not caring if he cracked a bone or three, or sliced the odd gobbet of flesh. He’d worked too hard for this moment; for the downfall of the royal family and their spymaster, Prince Halnashead.

His master might be dead, but Mykel would see Prince Halnashead dead too. And that bitch Risada.

A squawking noblewoman with her hair ablaze fell in his path and Mykel stumbled over her, cursing. Her hands wrapped around his ankle, dragging at him. He inverted his sword, stabbing her repeatedly until her grip fell away. He had taken two more stumbling steps when a swag of burning ivy crashed down in front of him and he lurched to a stop.

Turning his eyes to the dais, a scant ten paces before him, his heart leapt to his throat. Hensar was not dead after all. Lady Risada was stooped over his supine form, but the Royal Bastard’s hands were wrapped around her throat, choking her. Mykel’s breath caught. Yes! The coup would succeed after all.

Then ice shot through his veins. A figure with bound hands but unfettered feet lashed out at Hensar, kicking his head so hard Mykel was sure his neck must have snapped. The ice in his blood turned to white hot rage. That miserable lackey of a prince’s man, Rustam Chalice, would pay too.

Seeing Hensar still moving, Mykel gathered himself and leapt over the flames that blocked his path. Heat singed his nostril hairs and invaded his lungs. Overhead, the roof writhed with flames, thick noxious smoke curling downward, threatening to smother all who remained. Mykel narrowed his watering eyes. Lady Risada was injured and failing, Rustam Chalice’s hands were manacled behind his back. If Mykel could only get to the dais, he could finish those two and aid his master.

With a roaring whoosh, one of the huge roof timbers crashed down, obliterating Hensar even as he rose once more.

Mykel screamed again, venting his wrath. All his plotting, all his deceit, all those interminable years spent building the prince’s trust, for naught; gone in one swift action of fate.

“Risada!”

The high voice cut through the crackle and hiss of the burning hall. Mykel spun towards it and saw the one piece of good fortune left to him. When the beam fell, Lady Risada had been forced back from the dais and now stood, wavering on unsteady feet amidst tumbled chairs, two rows over. Mykel smiled. Small compensation, but at least one of Halnashead’s spies would not leave the hall alive. He raised his sword.

“I don’t think so.”

The voice came from behind him—just before a chair crashed against his shoulder, knocking him off balance. One of its legs caught him along the side of the head and stars sparkled across his vision. The breath that whooshed out of his body was replaced by smoke as he inhaled, and he coughed it back up even as he lashed out at his attacker. His sword swung through empty space as something smacked into the back of one knee, felling him.

He landed in a tangle amidst fallen chairs and smouldering greenery. Heat seared his lungs as he struggled to regain his breath. If he didn’t escape the hall soon he would die, yet he still found his focus drawn to Lady Risada, on her knees now and so tantalizingly close.

A tiny feminine figure knelt down beside Risada and pried her fist open, extracting a ring of keys. Straightening up, the small woman threw the keys, sending them flying through the air to arc over the conflagration obscuring the dais.

Whoever it was, she’d just provided Chalice with the means of rescuing the shackled members of the royal family. Teeth gritted, Mykel lurched to his feet, determined to finish both women. He finally recognised his assailant from her petite form: Betha Fontmaness, a lesser noble who had confounded his plans once before. She turned to face him.

“Come on!” she encouraged, beckoning. Mykel hesitated. Was she stupid? He was twice her size and armed, yet she showed no fear. A frisson of alarm shivered through his body; was she a magic user? He had no defence against the vile art.

Yet how could she be? She was Tyr-enese through and through; it could not be!

Giving himself a shake, Mykel resumed his attack. Though still wary he could not possibly see how two unarmed women might escape his wrath.

He swung his sword, only to have the irksome female duck beneath it again and come up close beside him. Something in her hand glittered with reflected flames. Mykel was too slow to avoid her dagger thrust and the tip scored a stinging trace along his ribcage. Infuriated, he jerked his arm backward, elbow connecting solidly with the side of Betha’s head. She swayed with the force of the blow and staggered, but did not fall. Spinning round, Mykel grabbed her hand, grappling for the dagger. He twisted her wrist hard, feeling the fragile bones break, and still she did not let go.

Was she not human, after all?

She glared defiantly at him and kneed him in the groin.

Agony erupted through Mykel’s body and he doubled over, hugging himself. He was barely aware when Betha shoved him over, and by the time he came back to himself he was alone, blinded by smoke and choking. Through watering eyes he stared at his reddening skin and somewhere in the back of his mind, some speck of an urge to live whipped him into a crawl. With little idea of direction, he followed a jumbled line of chairs, hoping it might lead to an exit. A bright point of light darted near and the skin on Mykel’s nose started to blister. He recoiled from the tiny elemental. Magic! His heart raced, and he bit back a cry. Reaching for his sword, he realised he’d dropped it.

Just as he was convinced he was to die, the salamander shot away and Mykel resumed his struggle, scrambling on hands and knees, burying his nose and mouth as well he could in the folds of his uniform jacket. He coughed incessantly, and his skin felt ready to crisp and shrivel like a hog on a spit.

A waft of clean air shocked him and he froze for an instant. Blazing ivy dropped onto his head, clinging to his hair and face like a parasite, eating into his flesh. Frantic, he ripped the stuff away, hollering in pain as it tore patches of skin away with it. Shaking almost too hard to stand, he drove himself to his feet, shedding his smouldering jacket as he went. Another gust of fresh air drew him to a staggering run and he burst out of the Great Hall as it collapsed behind him. He fell to his knees.

“Are you hurt? Can you move?”

“Oh goddess, look at his face!”

Voices pummelled ears still ringing with the sizzle and clamour of the inferno. Hands grasped his arms, pulling him further from the intense heat of the burning building. Someone threw a bucket of water over him and he gasped with shock, but in the next second drew a sweet breath of relief as his skin cooled.

“Who are you? Who were you with?”

He shook his head, gasping at the agony that was his ruined face. Staying mute was easy, and seemed the safest option for now anyway. Glad that he’d shed the telltale black and silver uniform jacket, he might blend more easily with the general crowd, at least until he knew who had taken charge. He assumed it would be the royal family. On the other hand, the nobles had been divided in the lead up to the coup, some acquiescing only as a result of intimidation, whilst others had been openly supportive of the pretender. In the aftermath, political turmoil was sure to ensue.

“I’m fine, really,” he muttered from one side of his mouth as he lurched to his feet, shrugging off the eager helping hands. “I need to find someone.”

Clutching his arms over his wet shirt and starting to shiver, he stumbled away. Blinking repeatedly, trying to clear his smoke-blurred vision, he veered suddenly to his left to avoid a cluster of highborns kneeling around the unconscious figure of Lady Risada. Much to Mykel’s chagrin she was alive, and there was nothing he could do about that vexing state of affairs. He ducked his head and skirted a huddled group of servants, keeping line of sight on Risada and scanning the area for the Lady Betha. He had no wish to walk into her again; his balls still throbbed from their last encounter.

He clasped his arms even tighter around himself when he spotted her, seated on the ground near Risada’s feet. She was deep in conversation with another woman, and Mykel frowned as she gesticulated expressively, showing no sign of injury to her arm. He could have sworn he’d broken her wrist, and to see her apparently shrug off the harm he’d thought he’d inflicted irked him even further.

He bowed his head and kept moving, heading for the stables.

The stable yard was in uproar. Many of those who had supported Hensar were plainly eager to put distance between themselves and the palace until the rubble settled. Lads scurried to and fro, tacking up horses and presenting them for mounting; so many that in no way could the riders be certain of ending up with the right animal. That suited Mykel just fine. He grabbed the reins of a passing horse and swung into the saddle before the boy could protest. Setting his heels to the beast’s sides, he escaped the palace grounds along with the fleeing nobles.

Mykel glanced back over his shoulder at the smoke rising from within the palace grounds. Prince Halnashead and his family might have regained rule of Tyr-en, but their troubles were far from over, and Mykel vowed to ensure that it stayed that way for a very long time to come.

* * * * * *

Although part of ‘The Five Kingdoms’ series, this is also a standalone, and can be read without the above prologue, as I know quite a few readers refuse to read them. Personally, I think it sets the scene nicely, though the book picks up 2 years later.

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The Prince’s Man was the winner of a UK Arts Board Award, and was an Amazon Top 100 Hot New Release; here’s hoping for the sequel.

You can find ‘The Prince’s Man’ at Amazon , B&N , Apple , Kobo , Scribd and Page Foundry

27 thoughts on “#Excerpt week – USURPER’S LEGACY (The Prince’s Son) – Deborah Jay #Fantasy

  1. It utterly amazes me that anyone would skip a prologue, just because that’s what it’s called. If you put Chapter 1 on it, they would read it and love it, especially in this case. But to ignore something that’s an intrinsic part of a book simply because the “idea” of prologues is not a new concept smacks of a reader who is more interested in the latest fad than in the story being told.

    This is a terrific lead-in to your tale, Deb. Love it! I swear, I’ve got to read the first book, but this might work out well. By the time I finish it, this one might be out, and I LOVE going right to the next book in a given series. Good luck with this! Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

    • BTW, it’s fine that it’s long. What I’ve been doing is letting the entire thing stay on the main page for a day (for the longer posts), then inserting the Read More tag to shorten what shows on the Home Page to make room for the new day’s posts. No one will be able to resist clicking on through for the whole thing when I do that tomorrow night, I’m sure.

      Liked by 1 person

        • That’s not a problem, Deb. I keep an eye on the Home Page, and I quite like having the entire post there for at least a day. Then I go in and do the Read More/ Continue Reading thing after that. I’ll do mine tonight, as well as yours, just to condense things on that Main Page for the next day’s posts. With a scrolling Home Page, I think it helps to do that at some point, or the older posts never get seen.

          Liked by 1 person

      • I didn’t find it confusing at all. I could clearly tell who the main bad guy was, and I recognized the hero’s name from the first book, even though I haven’t read it, yet. Now I realize not everyone reads the same way I do, but from my perspective, it was a great beginning, no matter what it’s called. Of course, keep in mind that I would never, EVER–and I can’t stress that enough–read a series out of order. It makes absolutely no sense to me to do that. For me, a series is just one very long book, broken into smaller, easier to digest, bites. Reading it out of order is akin to opening a stand-alone book in the middle and reading the last half first. I don’t get it.

        If I didn’t want to read a series, I would simply find actual stand-alones to read and be done with it. And I also read every single word an author has written, on the assumption that if he/she wrote it, it has some importance or value. I even read the Dedications, Acknowledgments, and Author’s Notes. I especially enjoy the Author’s Notes, where I often find out very interesting things about their research, or their new projects, or what parts of their story might have been based on real places/people. (I admit I’ll just skim the Acknowledgments if they are only a list of names, but skim them I do. I often see very interesting mentions of other authors I like, and see the interconnections between writers.)

        I’m probably pretty much a writer’s dream reader. 😀 BUT . . . if the book doesn’t speak to me pretty early on (usually via characters I’m immediately attracted to), I’ll likely not finish it. I simply HAVE to be pulled into their lives and care about what happens to them.

        For me, this prologue/scene setting/first chapter works just fine. It slammed into me with plenty of action, showed me who the bad guy was, and that he got away, and let me know that with his face badly burned, he just might decide to “become” someone else in order to get another chance at his targets. (Just one possibility that crossed my mind as I was reading). I liked it!

        Liked by 1 person

        • You sound like me – I have to read everything (even cereal packets!), and I agree, often author notes are really interesting.
          I only read series out of order if I pick one up by accident – it has happened – but I guess it’s less likely these days, as titles tend to be more clearly and obviously numbered. Even so, I like a book to stand alone in terms of having a beginning, a middle and an end, as opposed to my pet hate – the cliff hanger!

          Liked by 1 person

          • Oh, I agree with that. There should be a bit of backstory woven all the way through, where appropriate, to help not only those who have accidentally started reading out of order, but to remind those who read the earlier book(s) some time ago, and need their memories refreshed. That happens, when you read a lot . . . sometimes details get lost. “Now who was Uncle Harry again, and why don’t they want him there for Christmas dinner?” 🙂

            I don’t like cliffhangers and won’t write them. Whatever the main story of my book is, it will be resolved for better or worse by the end of the book. And then I’ll give a hint of what the next drama will be about.

            I read dictionaries. What do I know? (Obviously a lot. I just told you, I read dictionaries. Hahahahahahaha.)

            Liked by 1 person

    • ‘Prologue-rage’ seems to be quite rampant amongst SF and Fantasy readers, especially on Goodreads (of course, those are the readers with the most to say for themselves), and I sort of understand, having read many a prologue that doesn’t seem either necessary or relevant, but if they are, as I try to make mine, informative and helpful with setting, then I see no problem.
      I have, however, because of the outspoken opinions, made sure the book is comprehensible if you don’t read it, it just won’t be as enriched.
      Perhaps I could call it something else, but Prince’s Man has a prologue and an epilogue, and I plan on doing that with each book in the series, so I won’t.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The prologue-ragers need to get over it. Judge each one on its own merits. If it’s boring you to tears, okay, skip it. But if it’s done right, and chock full of goodies of one sort or another, read the dang thing, and forget what it’s called! (That’s my story, an’ I’m stickin’ to it!) 😀

        I honestly don’t think the majority of readers care either way. Just the outspoken ones. (ducking and running, here)

        And I have to say, I find it harder and harder to be active on Goodreads for a number of reasons. Things like this are part of it. I WANT to be. I USED to be. But lately, it’s not nearly as much fun as it once was. (Or is that just me?)

        Liked by 1 person

        • Not just you. I’ve had some unfortunate experiences with Goodreads, learned my lesson, and now I just follow the odd conversation and might comment once in a while on a thread.
          I spent lots of time putting posts (in permitted places) offering books for review, running contests etc., and the tiny return wasn’t worth the time investment; the only thing I find useful is to put out notices to all my friends/followers when I have an ‘Event’, like a book launch or a sale. That still brings returns, but that’s about it.

          Like

  2. I think the word “prologue” has got itself a bad reputation for being of little use to the reader, or providing a spoiler to a later event in a book, so do be careful. If this is a type of scene setting, why not call it “The story so far”? There is a danger of too many characters, I don’t know any of them, so perhaps keeping their name to all one thing in this first piece is less confusing. You can give Risada her full title later. Be careful that you have two character names you are dropping in here with the letter H, Hahashead and Hensar, from a reader’s POV with few picture images in my head yet as to what they look like, they are difficult to keep separate.

    Liked by 2 people

    • If people think prologues are of little use, I think they’ve been reading the wrong books. Yes, some are boring info-dumps, but usually that’s because the writer isn’t that strong to begin with, and hasn’t used the prologue to its best advantage.

      For me, a prologue should either relate an earlier event (in an engaging way) or give a hint to what’s coming up in the book, causing the reader to feel like they simply have to know the rest of the story, from the beginning. In the interest of making sure EVERY reader of my books reads mine, I have removed the word Prologue (under protest), and simply put a date/place at the top of the page. But I love prologues, and will always use them.

      After all, what was the dream sequence in Daphne du Maurier’s stunningly wonderful Rebecca but a prologue? She dreams of the ruins of Manderley, walking down the path of overgrown rhododendrons. A classic foreshadowing of the rest of the tale, which, in Chapter 1, goes back to her first meeting of Maxim de Winter aboard a cruise ship. I admit, we can’t all be Daphne du Maurier. I’m not sure even Daphne could be her, today, sadly. Short attention spans don’t allow for such lovingly built books with many current readers. But I submit that Rebecca is an example of a prologue being used to perfection, and that there are also plenty of readers who still enjoy them.

      As always, these are simply my own thoughts, and I know not everyone agrees with them, but I think there is a way to write a prologue that will still work, even in today’s market, and I’m going to continue to try to utilize them when they fit my story. I hope other writers will, too.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Rosie, it occurred to me that keeping Risada’s name to just the forename might be an improvement, so I will do that.
      I can’t change the other names, as they are major players in the previous book – I made that mistake when naming several people, and now I’m stuck with them!
      Only one of those two is a prince though, so perhaps I can stress his title rather than his name.

      Like

  3. Powerful action sequences, Deb, written with all five senses. I was drawn in immediately!

    I have only one book with a prologue; it lent itself to the story. I don’t think that readers mind prologues, as long as the prologues aren’t “info dumps.” Many successful authors utilize the technique to set up their stories. When we’re writing our books, nothing should be taken off the table. (My opinion!) 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • I agree, Linda. MANY (probably most) of my very favorite series have prologues. They also have things like diary entries, song lyrics, or quotes at the start of each chapter. I love stuff like that. I also like clever chapter titles, and always keep an eye open for where the chapter title came from. Since I enjoy these things so much, I use them in my books, too, figuring some people will probably skip them (and then wonder why something doesn’t make sense later on), but most seem to read them. And I’ve gotten good feedback on them. Especially the Traveling Man snippets/poems at the start of the chapters in Finding Hunter.

      I agree. Nothing should be taken off the table (except poor editing, bad grammar, and misspelled words, though the last two can work in dialog, at times).

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I loved this prologue. It’s so gripping that I have to read the first book. Definitely one to keep an eye on when I load my Christmas iTunes gift card onto my account.

    Liked by 1 person

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