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Alassa's Tale
cover art © Brad Fraunfelter

 

 

The kingdom of Zangaria teeters on the edge of civil war. The nobles are plotting another coup, the merchants are demanding political representation and the peasants are on the verge of outright revolt. It will not be long before all hell breaks loose. And Princess Alassa, one of Emily's closest friends, is at the center of the storm.
   Book 14.5 in the Schooled in Magic series.

 

 

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Alassa's Tale

fantasy

Christopher G. Nuttall

 

 

Prologue

King Randor had, as far as anyone outside a very small group of trusted counselors knew, three reception chambers in his castle. There was the Great Hall, where the monarch might address the court or hold formal events; there was the Privy Chamber, where the Privy Council met and talked; there was the King's Bedchamber, where the king's most intimate associates - or those the king wanted to favor - were invited for private discussions. A watching courtier could tell who was in favor and who was being frozen out, or who had influence over the king, simply by determining where the king chose to meet them. A man who was invited to the King's Bedchamber was a man to watch.

There were two other reception chambers protected by a combination of subtle magic, powerful wards and simple misdirection. The Royal Chamber was reserved for the Royal Family and the king's most trusted counselors, its mere existence known to a select few. The other - the Black Chamber - belonged to the spies. Only a handful of the king's agents knew of the chamber - or how to use the secret passages to enter without being detected - and none of them could step into the castle itself without Randor's permission.

The chamber itself was surprisingly bare, for all that it belonged to the king. Randor sat in a large chair, rather than a throne, and sipped from a glass of wine he'd poured himself. Dust hung in the air, a mocking reminder that the chamber hadn't been cleaned for nearly a year. It would soon be time to bring a maid in to do the work, then execute the poor girl and dispose of her body somewhere in the catacombs. Randor had balked when his father had shown him the chamber, back when he'd been on the verge of ascending to the throne, but he'd long since lost any doubts about the practice. Secrets had to be maintained, whatever the cost in blood and treasure. And it was never safe, even for those who had sworn undying loyalty, to know the secrets of a king.

He took a sip of his wine as he brooded. He'd been king for nearly thirty years, yet he was on the verge of losing his grip on the kingdom. The barons were rebellious, the common folk were revolting ... and he couldn't even trust his own family! His brother was an enchanted fool, locked up for his own safety; his daughter was an ambitious bitch, moving steadily to secure more and more power for herself. It didn't really surprise him - Alassa was his daughter, after all, and it hadn't been that long since Randor had fought for scraps of power from his father - but it worried him. A conflict between the royals could easily lead to outright civil war as the barons sought to take advantage of the chaos.

And the more I restrict her, he thought grimly, the more likely it is that she will rebel.

He stroked his greying beard, cursing his own mistakes under his breath. He'd banked everything on getting a son, a legitimate heir. Even if the baby boy had been four or five years younger than Alassa, there would have been plenty of time to raise him to be a king and teach Alassa that her duty lay in supporting her brother. Alassa was a competent sorceress, after all. And if you couldn't trust your own flesh and blood, who could you trust? They would have made a great partnership ... but it had never come to pass. Alassa had been his only child - she was still his only legitimate child - until well after he'd been forced to confirm her as his primary heir. And then ...

The irony was enough to make him wonder if he'd offended one of the gods. He'd seduced Alicia - the sole surviving heir to the Barony of Gold - as an act of revenge against her dead father more than anything else. The pleasure he'd gotten from making her crawl had been amusing, all the more so because he knew her father would be screaming curses from the traitor's grave. But Alicia had become pregnant and given birth to a handsome baby boy, fifteen years too late. Randor ground his teeth every time he thought about it. There was no way he could put Alassa aside, not now, without sparking outright revolution. And Alassa would be a formidable foe.

He took another sip of his wine. His father had had no trouble controlling Randor, but Randor had never been in any doubt that he would succeed his father. He'd undergone an apprenticeship under a harsh taskmaster, a father who had never hesitated to box his ears for mistakes or failure. But King Alexis the Great had understood Prince Randor because he'd been a young man, once upon a time. Randor hadn't had that advantage with his daughter. In hindsight, he knew he should have treated Alassa as his heir from birth. But he'd squandered the opportunity in his desperate bid for a son.

And Alassa has some of the most powerful people in the world on her side, Randor thought, grimly. And she has time on her side too.

The room felt colder, suddenly. He still shivered when he remembered Emily breaking out of his wards, even though a dozen wardcrafters had sworn blind they were unbreakable. Randor had ordered the men executed afterwards, more to assuage his fear than anything else. Emily could have killed him in that moment and he knew it. And he was sure she knew it too.

If I'd known how many changes she would bring, I would have had her killed, he told himself, again. A girl from an alternate world ... if it hadn't been Alassa who'd told him, he wouldn't have believed it. But it's too late now.

He looked at the simple wooden table, wondering if he had the time to watch his son grow to manhood. It would be good to have another heir, given that Alassa and her husband Jade had yet to produce a child of their own. And then ... who knew?

But he doubted the barons would give him that time. He'd banned private armies, after the coup attempt six years ago, but he knew the barons were secretly building up their forces in preparation for a war. They knew, as well as he did, that it was only a matter of time before hostilities broke out, once again. And the commoners were arming too. He knew that revolutionary groups were spreading, despite his best efforts. Recruiting sergeants had been attacked, tax collectors had been brutally murdered, priests who proclaimed the divine right of kings and noblemen had been driven from their temples ... chaos was spreading, no matter what he did.

And Alassa ... who knew what Alassa would do?

She had options, Randor acknowledged. And a very good reason to want to seize power before Alexis - Alicia's child - grew up. And if she chose to side with the barons or one of the revolutionary movements ... why not? That was precisely what Randor's own father had done when he'd assumed the throne. He'd played the barons off against the commoners and, in doing so, had taken control of the kingdom. Why would Alassa not do the same? She was a girl, just as Prince Alexis had been a fop who loved to play with soldiers. It would be easy for Alassa's allies to underestimate her until they felt the knife at their throats ...

The wards shifted, slightly. Randor tensed as he sensed his visitor walking up the hidden passageway, her presence muffled by the wards. The doorway opened a second later, allowing a cloaked figure to step into the chamber. She threw back her hood, revealing a pale face topped with inky black hair. Her dark eyes were wide with surprise.

"Your Majesty!"

She went down on one knee, hastily. Randor concealed his amusement behind his beard. Sir Xavier hadn't told her she would be meeting the king, then. But the report from the Black Daggers had been clear. This was a report Randor had to hear.

"You may rise." He reached out with his senses, using the wards to get a better impression of his visitor. A magician ... a powerful magician. She was masking well, hiding her power behind her wards, but that in itself was revealing. She might well be strong enough to face a combat sorcerer. "I understand that you have a report for me."

"I do," the girl said. She looked to be around twenty-five, although appearances could be deceiving. "I am Lynnette ... Your Majesty ... I discovered ... "

"There's no one here to hear us," Randor said, dryly. There was no reason to take official notice of her stumbles. "You may speak freely."

"I discovered treason, Your Majesty," Lynnette said. "Treason most foul."

Randor tensed. One hand reached for the sword at his belt. "Explain."

"I must distress you," Lynnette said. "I ... "

"Then distress me," Randor snapped, impatiently.

"I was tracing the remnants of the plotters who attacked the wedding, last year," Lynnette said. "Sir Xavier tasked me with finding out who backed them."

Randor nodded, slowly. The plotters - who'd come within millimeters of killing both Randor and Alassa - had been slaughtered. But someone had backed them, someone powerful. And that person had remained unidentified.

"It was Paren who supplied the funds," Lynnette told him. "And the Lady Emily knew."

It took Randor a moment to understand what she'd said. Paren? Paren the merchant? Paren the man Randor had lifted into the aristocracy? Paren the man whose daughter was one of Alassa's closest friends and advisers? Paren ...

A hot flash of anger roared through him. He believed it. Paren had means, motive and opportunity. And his daughter ... his daughter was far too close to Alassa. Imaiqah had to know, which meant ...

And Emily knew, he thought, angrily. His thoughts spun from side to side. He needed time to think. And she said nothing.

He looked up into two dark eyes. "Do you have proof?"

"Yes, Your Majesty." Lynnette recovered a set of papers from her bag. "Emily knew. And I believe that Lady Imaiqah knew too."

Randor nodded, impatiently. Paren would not have left his daughter out of the planning, not when she'd been organizing the wedding. Smuggling weapons into the ceremony would have been easy - had been easy - with Imaiqah's connivance. And that meant ... either Imaiqah had cold-bloodedly plotted the murder of her friend or she'd intended Alassa to take the throne after Randor's death. And then ... did Alassa know? Had she plotted to turn her wedding into a patricide?

And I let Imaiqah go to Cockatrice, he thought. What is she doing there?

He cursed. He'd have to act fast, but that wouldn't be easy. Alassa had been sent off on a diplomatic trip, but she'd be back soon. Too many things would have to be set in motion before Alassa returned to the castle. He didn't even have time to check and double check the evidence, just to be sure someone wasn't trying to mislead him. And then ...

If Alassa was ignorant, this will teach her a lesson, he thought. Trust was not something to be used in great quantities. And if she's guilty ... I still have a son.

His thoughts hardened. And I will hand the kingdom over to him if Alassa plotted to kill me.

 

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Author Bio

Christopher G. Nuttall is thirty-two years old and has been reading science fiction since he was five, when someone introduced him to children's SF. Born in Scotland, Chris attended schools in Edinburgh, Fife and University in Manchester ... before moving to Malaysia to live with his wife Aisha.

Chris has been involved in the online Alternate History community since 1998; in particular, he was the original founder of Changing The Times, an online alternate history website that brought in submissions from all over the community. Later, Chris took up writing and eventually became a full-time writer.

Chris has produced The Empire's Corps series, the Outside Context Problem series and many others. He is also responsible for two fan-made Posleen novels, both set in John Ringo's famous Posleen universe. They can both be downloaded from his site.

Website: http://www.chrishanger.net/
Blog: http://chrishanger.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChristopherGNuttall
Discussion Forum http://thewritersclub.prophpbb.com/

TTB titles:

Schooled in Magic fantasy series
  Schooled in Magic  book 1
  Lessons in Etiquette  book 2
  Study in Slaughter  book 3
  Work Experience  book 4
  The School of Hard Knocks  book 5
  Love's Labor's Won  book 6
  Trial By Fire  book 7
  Wedding Hells  book 8
  Infinite Regress  book 9
  Past Tense  book 10
  The Sergeant's Apprentice  book 11
  Fists of Justice  book 12
  The Gordian Knot  book 13
  Graduation Day  book 14
  Alassa's Tale  book 14.5

The Decline and Fall of the Galactic Empire military SF series
  Barbarians at the Gates  book 1
  The Shadow of Cincinnatus  book 2
  The Barbarian Bride  book 3

Author web site.

 

###

 

Alassa's Tale Copyright 2018. Christopher Nuttall. All rights reserved by the author. Please do not copy without permission.

 

To order this book:
Format: ePub, PDF, HTML, Kindle/Mobi
    Payment Method
PayPal -or- credit card -or- via Amazon Kindle; Amazon.co.uk; Apple iBookstore; BN.com Nook; Kobo Books
List Price: $6.50 USD

 

  Author News

  Articles

Christopher has a number of interesting articles up at his blog, The Chrishanger.

"The Stronghold Academy of Martial Arts"
https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2016/10/03/the-stronghold-academy-of-martial-arts/

"Emily's Finances"
https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2016/10/01/emilys-finances/

"Religion in the Nameless World
https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2016/09/29/religion-in-the-nameless-world/

"The Military in the Nameless World - A Very Brief Overview"
https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2016/09/28/the-military-in-the-nameless-world-a-very-brief-overview/

"Wedding Hells: Randor and Alicia"
https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2016/09/10/wedding-hells-randor-and-alicia/

"Past Tense: Freedom and (Women's) Rights"
https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2016/08/15/past-tense-freedom-and-womens-rights/

"Wedding Hells Appendix (II) - History Exam"
https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2016/06/22/wedding-hells-appendix-ii-history-exam/

"Idle Musings (SIM 10)"
https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2016/06/08/idle-musings-sim-10/

"Whitehall's Liability Insurance"
https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2016/05/29/whitehalls-liability-insurance/

"Emily and the Barony of Cockatrice"
https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2016/04/02/emily-and-the-barony-of-cockatrice/

"Bonus Material: Whitehall History Essay Question"
https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2015/10/16/bonus-material-whitehall-history-essay-question/

"Schooled in Magic: Jade, Emily and Alassa" [Warning: spoilers]
https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2015/08/11/schooled-in-magic-jade-emily-and-alassa/

"Deconstructing Emily" [...There are a handful of spoilers for Books 1-6, so read carefully.]
https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2015/07/15/deconstructing-emily/

"Love's Labor's Won: Playing the Blame Game [Warning; spoilers!]
https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2015/03/24/loves-labours-won-playing-the-blame-game/

"Christmas Post: Five Things that Could Have Happened to Emily"
https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2014/12/25/christmas-post-five-things-that-could-have-happened-to-emily/

"The Tragedy of Marius Drake [Warning: massive spoilers in this post.]
https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2014/11/23/the-tragedy-of-marius-drake/

"Meet My Character Blog Hop" [Master Tor]
https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2014/11/05/meet-my-character-blog-hop/

"Draft Afterword (I)" [Cincinnatus]
https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2014/07/01/draft-afterword-i/

"But What Do We Do on Our Hols? An Introduction to Lessons in Etiquette"
https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2014/05/21/but-what-do-we-do-on-our-hols-an-introduction-to-lessons-in-etiquette/

"The Free City of Beneficence" [A new setting for Schooled in Magic.]
https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2014/03/24/the-free-city-of-beneficence/

"An Introduction to Schooled in Magic"
https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2014/03/03/an-introduction-to-schooled-in-magic/

 

Interviews

"When did you start writing and what got you into fantasy?"
Author interview on Blogcritics

"When did you decide you wanted to become an author?"
Author interview on Blogger News

Character interview with Princess Alassa on Beyond the Books

"Deconstructing Emily" blog post

"Schooled in Magic is a fantasy book, but it draws extensively from real history."
Guest post on As the Page Turns

"The Inspiration behind 'Trial by Fire' by Christopher Nuttall"
Guest post on Review From Here

"The Story behind 'Trial by Fire' by Christopher Nuttall"
Guest post on The Story Behind the Book

"I was asked, at Ravencon, just what makes an indie writer successful.
I think they were hoping I'd know some great secret to success that I could tell them."
Guest post on The Writer's Life eMagazine

"No matter how well you write, you will get bad reviews."
Author Christopher G. Nuttall discusses The Decline & Fall
of the Galactic Empire novels in an interview with Edinburgh49

Trial By Fire chapter reveal on Plug Your Book

 

  Reviews
 



 

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