QSFer Riley S. Keene has a new queer fantasy story out:
Aurel can’t help but help…even when it comes to killers.
Aurel the silversmith is a famously generous man, and he has been of inestimable help to some of the mightiest figures in Underrealm. It has earned him powerful friends, and it’s even earned him a bit of coin.
And today it might get him killed.
An assassin of the Tabarzin is asleep in Aurel’s basement, and the law is hunting for her. He has no idea what to do about her, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time: he’s overloaded with work, and he’s just been commissioned to make a locket for the father of a dying child.
Oh, and he’ll also have to entertain Xain of the family Forredar—lifelong friend to Aurel, but sworn mortal enemy of the Tabarzin and the family they serve.
Aurel is a peaceful man. But it remains to be seen whether he can help those he has sworn to serve, while also keeping his friends and allies from killing each other within his very own home…
Riley is giving away a copy of Ancients, the first book in the Heroes By Necessity series. For a chance to win, comment on this post below.
The sun rose over the High King’s Seat just like it always did, and Aurel of the family Mein tried to ignore it. The breaking dawn, with its blinding first rays that scattered the chill of the lengthening autumn nights, wasn’t the problem. Aurel didn’t wake with the dawn often anymore, and today was no exception. He had been awake for hours.
His mother had suffered from a form of insomnia later in life, usually only sleeping four hours an evening. Aurel wasn’t a young man anymore, and he dreaded the nights where his aging bones and swelling joints caused him to lie awake. But rather than a night of tossing from an ache in the deepest parts of his body, Aurel’s sleeplessness had everything to do with his late-night visitor.
There was an assassin in his basement.
Aurel prepared his breakfast in an attempt to go about his normal routine. He told himself he wasn’t afraid. She was asleep. And she was injured. She had collapsed in his doorway with a dagger in her shoulder and Eile—the physician he had called to patch the woman’s wounds—had pointed out that the woman’s right arm was paralyzed.
Eile had also recognized the woman as a member of the Tabarzin, the elite assassins employed by the family Drayden. It had taken a great amount of effort to persuade Eile to leave the situation to him. She had wanted to turn the woman in to the constables, but she hadn’t witnessed the simple plea for help that had cut him to the core. An assassin, mayhap, but one who had trusted him to help her.
Aurel took his breakfast downstairs in the shop. Normally he enjoyed his meals in his small apartment, with the fireplace still warm and his favorite blanket drawn over his knees. Now, instead, the cold of the shop burrowed deep into his bones and made his joints swell with stiffness. But it let him keep an eye on the basement door. He took pains to not look at it directly, but he watched it warily from the corner of his eye as he ate and considered his options.
Letting the assassin go free was irresponsible. An unchecked knife let loose upon the Seat would weigh upon his shoulders. But there was something about the woman’s plea that had called to him. She was desperate and injured, sure, but he had seen her regret and her penance. The same penance another had once seen in him.
If he called upon anyone to help, they, like Eile, would immediately want to turn the woman over to the constables. So he would deal with it. He would assess whether the woman was truly the monster Eile had painted with her colorful stories of knives in the darkness, or was trapped in an endless cycle of mistakes.
It would be a delicate conversation to have; provoking her risked death. Aurel had no wish to greet the darkness that awaited him, but he had prepared himself for decades.
But for now she rested peacefully, and he had a job to do.
Aurel did well enough that he didn’t have to open his shop for the day. Local merchants, businesses, and households had ordered enough commissioned work already to fill his time for the next three weeks. He was pressed to complete the family Aloysia’s request before the end of the week. Then there were the new ewers and cups still pending for the Double Grape Tavern. Not to mention the various bits of holloware and cutlery that filled his backlogged workload like gravel along a cobbled path.
But Aurel knew he needed to keep the shop open for two reasons—the first of which was that he was expecting a visitor that evening. He couldn’t remember who, and it looked as if he had forgotten to jot it down in his ledger. It would return to him eventually. At least he had remembered that he made plans.
But the second reason was his unexpected overnight visitor. It would be harder for her to kill him if there were patrons in the shop.
Or so he assumed.