A fugitive storyteller running out of time. A prince hiding from his mother. A kingdom on the brink of collapse. A search for a world of magic.
Convinced his tales are true, storyteller Jinji is determined to find the legendary fae realm of Shinac to save his world from a dread lord trying to cross over—before a fatal illness ends Jinji’s life.
Prince Jetekesh is caught between a controlling mother and his affection for his dying father—until he’s kidnapped and forced to journey with a delusional storyteller and a motley band of fugitives in search of a myth.
Hunted by the queen, hindered by a malady, and invaded by an enemy empire, Jinji and Jetekesh race across a crumbling kingdom to find the alleged gate between worlds.
But even if Shinac exists, how can a humble storyteller and deposed prince hope to stand against a devastating evil?
There was nothing special about him.
He traveled with a satchel over one shoulder, his gait slow, ignorant of the world rushing on without him. His clothes; threadbare, vest open, every button gone, shoes worn out. The traveler didn’t appear to mind, meandering as he was through tall meadow grass beside a trickling stream. He strolled with a full smile on his lips, eyes bright as he gazed all around. Rarely did he look ahead, yet his steps were certain, and he never stumbled. When he looked forward, there was a light in his face that left no room for doubt: He knew his destination, but he was in no hurry to get there.
Crouched against a hillside west of the stream, Yeshton watched the man. One hand gripped the pommel of his sword.
One thing Yeshton didn’t understand: How could this man have a price on his head? Not that Yeshton would receive any reward for bringing the traveler in. As an Amantieran soldier under Duke Lunorr’s banner, this was duty, not fortune. But by capturing the wanted man himself, no one else could claim the reward either. Two hundred gold kana was a lot of money.
Yeshton’s eyes narrowed. Is he from Shing?
The black hair and short stature implied it. Was this simple man a spy for the KryTeer Empire? In that case, the price was too low.
But the Shingese weren’t really of the KryTeer Empire. Shing had surrendered only five years ago. Odd that a loyal spy would come from there so soon. A paid informant, then? Not duty-bound but seeking profit or maybe a decent meal. The latter was probable, judging by his apparel.
You’re a soldier, man. Do your job. Yeshton raised his hand, bracing to signal the other men stationed in the shadows around the point of ambush. The traveler approached the sloping path between two steep inclines. Yeshton had guessed right. This was the way toward Kavacos of Rose Province, the Royal City of His Majesty King Jetekesh the Fourth.
The rabbit strolled toward the snare.
Yeshton pressed against the slope. Patience. No mistakes.
The traveler stopped before he reached Yeshton’s position and turned to study a large elm. Had he seen Brov hidden in the higher branches?
The traveler whistled up at a nesting bird. The bird trilled a reply. Hitching the satchel higher on his shoulder, the man continued walking.
Three more steps. Two. One.
Yeshton signaled and his men appeared around the hill, three wielding bows and arrows, the rest with their swords unsheathed. Yeshton stood tall and folded his arms as the traveler stopped to gaze up at the eight armed soldiers.
“Jinji Wanderlust,” Yeshton said. “By order of Her Majesty Queen Bareene, you are under arrest.”
The man turned to look up at him, a gentle smile on his lips. “What is my crime, sir?” His accent was faint. His eyes were a teal blue color. Perhaps not from Shing after all.
“Rabble-rousing,” Yeshton said.
Jinji blinked. “I can’t see how that is so.”
“Contend with the queen if you dare. You’re to come with us.”
“I will come.” Jinji hitched up his satchel again.
Yeshton nodded to Kivar, who slung his bow over his shoulder and moved down the slope. Near the bottom he stumbled. Jinji darted forward and grabbed the man’s arm before his feet caught even ground.
“Take care. The dew is abundant this morning.”
Kivar jerked from his grasp. “I don’t need your help, spy.”
Jinji held out one wrist. “Do I go in irons?”
Yeshton looked him up and down. Pale and thin, white threading through his hair, though he appeared little older than Yeshton; perhaps thirty years. “I doubt that will be necessary.” He trotted down the hill and started along the path. His men followed, Jinji at their center until they cleared the hills and reached the horses tethered to several fallen trees. Yeshton untied his horse and swung up into the saddle. “Can you ride, Wanderlust?”
The man studied the horse. “I’ve never tried, but I can learn.”
“We don’t have time. Nallin, help him up behind me.”
The young soldier helped Jinji to clamber onto the horse’s back. He rested his hands against Yeshton’s shoulders, his touch light as a breath. “I am ready.”
Writer of fantasy, magic weaver, dragon rider! Having spent the past 20 years devotedly writing fantasy, it’s safe to say M. H. Woodscourt is now more fae than human. All of her fantasy worlds connect with each other in a broad Universe, forged with great love and no small measure of blood, sweat, and tears. When she’s not writing, she’s napping or reading a book with a mug of hot cocoa close at hand while her quirky cat Wynter nibbles her toes.
Learn more at www.mhwoodscourt.com