I do think I found a publisher I like for ARDACIA. (Now to make them like it!) Here's the start to that book for your entertainment. But mostly because I'm like too busy to come up with something to say. And because, man, I kinda like it. [Oh, and I forgot to mention it's Epic Fantasy.] All rights reserved, yada yada.
“Cut her throat. His own wife.”
Draken vae Khellian couldn’t escape the whispers. Chains shackled his wrists in a ship’s hold, just long enough for him to reach the bucket that served as a toilet. His arms bled from the heavy metal bands and he cramped from sitting in one position for so long, but the physical pain didn’t compare to the agony tearing at his heart.
“Probably thought he’d get off, being the king’s cousin.”
Bastard cousin, Draken thought. Korde knew it never counted for much.
“I heard he was a bowrank commander in the war. Fought off the coast.”
And decorated for it, too.
Draken had passed the better part of three sevenmoons in the dank prison ship hold, listening to the sea slap the wooden sides, quivering from seasickness and rotgut, and trying to ignore the whispers from the other three prisoners. They rarely rose to direct taunts, but he heard them all the same, speculation on his wife's murder.
Draken kept his head down and his eyes slitted at a rat. It edged nearer, whiskers twitching. If it got close enough, he could snatch it for the biggest meal he'd had in weeks.
“Truth? Even royal blood don’t spare you from what you are.”
The last was louder, spoken by the youngest of the prisoners: Sarc. He was a lanky boy-man convicted of a rape and murder spree. The beatings and worse indignities he’d suffered while awaiting the prison ship was relieved by the arrival of Draken, who’d paid in flesh not only for Lesle's murder, but double for the insult of pumping royal blood through his veins. Of course, the other prisoners didn’t know the common half of Draken's blood was Brînian, nor that his wife had been gutted and blooded like an animal, such as Ardacian magickers did for their black spells. If so, he might well be dead.
“Land!” Ropes banged and riggings spun overhead. “Ho, Captain! Land!”
Draken lifted his head.
“My lens.” The captain’s voice, crisp, clear.
Footfalls scuttled overhead, followed by a lengthy silence.
No one in the belly of the ship met the others’ eyes as the hatch overhead opened, admitting cool sea breezes and a rectangle of blue sky. The Captain didn’t sully her polished boots on the hold floor. She didn’t even show her face as she called down, “Half-day to Ardacia, dogs.”
Draken leaned his head back and laid his bleeding wrists in his lap. He stared at the patch of sunlight glaring through the open hatch and drew in a breath heavy with stinking men, sea salt, rotted fish, and body waste.
The ass-end of the world.