I’m here in the rugged, brigand-infested hills of the royal barony of Milkdales, hoping for a few words with the most controversial woman in all of Trascolm—the outlaw and rebel leader, Helgurdda, who has sworn to overthrow Royenne Sharei and run her Gerisari allies out of the country.
The rebel camp is not at all what I’m expecting—for all the talk of Traditionalist members of the royal clan rallying to Helgurdda’s cause, all I can see is the biggest collection of bandits, rogues, and thugs ever gathered and left unhung. I came here unarmed to assure Helgurdda of my peaceful intentions towards her, but now I’m not feeling the least bit reassured about her rebels’ intentions towards me!
I’m expecting actually two people: Helgurdda’s uncle Eirgei, her warleader and the most famous warrior in Trascolm, will be a part of my interview—his decision thirteen years ago to side with his niece rather than abide by Royenne Sharei’s idea of justice was what had transformed Helgurdda from a tragic outlaw into a rebel leader with a cause. I’m a bit taken aback when I arrive at Helgurdda’s tent—it’s vacant. When I peer inside, there’s nothing to see, just a bare map table, some camp stools, and a couple cots piled with furs.
In the distance, I hear what can only be called drunken revelry, and my hopes of learning from Helgurdda’s own lips her tale of doomed romance, royal scandal, blood-feud, and rebellion shrivels and dies in me.
Something sharp pokes me in the back, just below my ribs, and I freeze.
“Heh, Princess Ragna is sending female assassins, now?” The voice is young and male. It carries a trace of a foreign accent and no amusement whatsoever.
Seriously? Me, an assassin? “I’m here to do an interview with Helgurdda.” I start to turn around, but the blade jabs deeper. “I’m harmless, I swear!”
“Ockh, Wyl! Hold!” a woman cries out. “She’s not an assassin!”
The sharp point in my back eases out. I wonder if I’m bleeding.
A female mercenary wearing bronze mail and a sabre rushes up. “You must be Lady Laurie! There’s been a change in plans. Helgurdda and Eirgei had to ride out to meet with—well, you don’t need to know who—but they won’t be back until tomorrow.” She has the same accent as the backstabber, only hers is stronger, more guttural.
“I’ve come all this way for nothing?” I do my best to sound aggravated rather than afraid, trying to focus more on the hole in my shirt than the hole that might be in my back.
“Ockh, there was no help for it, but maybe I can tell you whatever you want to know? I’m Lanney, Helgurdda’s bodyguard for the last six years.”
I look at her skeptically. Just what I need, more hearsay. But I really don’t want to leave empty-handed.
“Come, sit by the fire,” Lanney says. She turns to the young man who had stabbed me in the back. “It will do Wyl some good to carry on a polite conversation with a lady.”
At first glance, I mistake her partner for Folk, on account of the ragged black hair overhanging most of his face and the fact that he only comes up to my shoulder. But when he steps into the firelight and tosses aside his hair to glower at Lanney, I can’t help staring, and drastically revising my first impression of the young cutthroat.
He can’t be even sixteen years old, not a man, but a boy. I don’t know what he is, but he’s not Tras or Dremn, or even full-blooded Folk, despite the black hair. I’ve never seen anyone with silver eyes and there’s an exotic cast to his features that I can’t place.
I don’t realize how long I’ve been staring, trying to work out what he is, until he scowls at me.
I’ve interviewed a lot of rough, tough, sexy men in my time, but never a beautiful boy who could make my blood run cold with just a look.
“Wyl’s my foster-son,” Lanney says hastily. “He spends the winters with us, mostly to hunt for the leaders’ cook pot.”
“And to help you,” he puts in, with an edge to his words and the look he gives her.
“Which, tonight, means helping me answer questions.” Lanney grins at me with a sidelong glance at the boy. “He’s the youngest of the rebels.”
I can hear teeth grinding, but when I look at the boy, his face is perfectly expressionless. “So, you’re Wyl?”
Great. I love conversations with pre-verbal Neanderthals. I roll my eyes and look at Lanney. She gives a great sigh and shakes her head—but I swear I see her smirk.
“Does your family know you’re keeping company with riff—I mean, rebels?” I ask him.
“Lanney’s my foster-mother,” he says. “Helgurdda’s rebels are my clan.”
There’s defiance in the way he says that, and I realize he’s an orphan—or he’s been disowned by his real family. That’s when my eyes leave his face and I notice he’s wearing archaic Folk-style armor made of leather and covered by overlapping aurochs horn scales. He has a sabre just like Lanney’s sheathed behind one shoulder. Something tells me it’s not just for show.
He gracefully sinks down to crouch over his heels and rests his elbows on his knees. He reminds me of nothing so much as a coiled spring awaiting its release.
“What do you do to unwind and relax?”
He gives me an icy stare. “I don’t.”
“He likes to draw,” Lanney says. “And if he’s not spending a lot of time brushing his horse, he’s drawing her. Wyl, why don’t you show the lady how you decorated the cover of that book Eirgei gave you?”
Wyl looks positively aghast. “The book?”
“The one Eirgei used to teach you how to read. The one about training warhorses?”
He blinks, his expression suddenly, curiously blank. “Heh, right. Learning to read.” He uncoils, rising with an ease that makes my knees ache just watching, and glides out of the firelight.
“Sorry about the attitude,” Lanney says to me. “He spends too much time around brigands. Eirgei’s always getting on him about his manners.”
Wyl returns with a thin book and abruptly thrusts it at me. I can’t read his expression, on account of all the hair hiding his eyes. Is he shy?
As Lanney said, the cover bears a series of amazingly realistic ink sketches of a horse’s head.
“Eirgei says Firebrand is the best warhorse in all of Trascolm. I’m his best pupil.” The belligerence is back.
“Really?” I glance at Lanney, and she confirms that surprising claim with a nod. “So, what do you want to be when you grow up?”
“I’m going to be Helgurdda’s viceroye, after Eirgei, and her warleader.”
“Oh? So, you think Helgurdda’s going to become Royenne of Trascolm?”
“What was the scariest moment of your life?”
He tosses his head. “I’m scary, and nothing scares me.” He gives me a truly evil smile, and I believe him.
I try to lighten the mood. “Are you a Morning Person or Night Person?”
“Heh, I’ve killed more people during the Dead Hours than in the daylight. I particularly like killing assassins, spies, and other nosy people.” He snatches back his book, and shifts his stance.
Suddenly, he’s not a boy—he’s an angry predator. The mood is unmistakably dark and dangerous. I don’t know what just happened, but I do know Interview over when I hear it. Especially when the mercenary bodyguard suddenly gets between me and the boy, and takes custody of my arm. It’s protective custody—just one sidelong glance at Wyl is enough to convince me of it.
“Keep an eye on things here,” Lanney says to him. “I’ll see Lady Laurie safely to the road back to town.”
Legend of the Spider-Prince: REBELWyl is a young rebel whose life of dangerous lies and hidden truths has cost him his childhood and his ability to trust. He is fanatically loyal to the rebel leader, a woman embroiled in a blood-feud with Trascolm's ruling clan. When he’s not away spying, he’s her secret bodyguard—she needs protection from her army of renegades and outlaws as much as from bounty-hunters and assassins sent by her archenemy.
But when the rebellion meets with disaster, the rebel leader's strategy changes. Wyl is thrust into a hostile royal court of underage teens—mere children, to his mind. He’s expected to embrace this more civilized way of life, but his brutally-honed instincts betray him, and he makes enemies instead of friends. Wyl—a boy raised by outlaws—is in over his head and must somehow master the subtleties of court intrigue well enough to keep the rebel leader and her rebellion alive, despite the treacherous machinations of her enemies, and do it without getting himself killed.
About the Legend of the Spider-Prince series
In a war-torn land where men have unbridled influence, but women hold the reins of power, a young rebel becomes entangled in a deadly web of magic, court intrigue, and revenge amid an escalating wave of events that will ultimately destroy magic, overturn governments, cause the near-collapse of civilization, even threaten the very existence of life on Eryth—and make him a legend.
I loved fairy tales as a child, but could never get enough of them until I learned to read for myself. I spent my formative years with my nose in a book or playing dungeon master for my sisters long before there were actual games requiring one. Our Barbies fought Klingons, conquered the galaxy—and always had room on their spaceship for horses.
I am a horsewoman, an archer, a fencer, a former military officer, and a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism—all useful skills and experiences for a fantasy novelist. I am currently holding down a day job in Mississippi, USA, where I live with my husband and two daughters, and am presently down to one horse, one cat, and one dog—and ‘way too many books.
Visit me on the web at www.margoander.com
My Facebook author page is at www.facebook.com/AuthorMargoAnder
I have a blog, www.margoander.wordpress.com, where I review books I like by other indie authors.
I have another blog, marguerot.wordpress.com, where I blog about writing.
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