QSFer K.L. Noone has a new queer fantasy romance out (bi/pan): Magician.
A magician in need of redemption. A loyal hero on a quest. And only one bed at the inn.
Once the world’s most legendary sorcerer, Lorre fled the Middle Lands after his own curiosity — and a misguided transformation spell — turned him into a dragon and nearly killed a king. He isn’t a dragon anymore, but he is hiding alone on a tropical island, avoiding people, politics, and his own reputation.
But now a hero’s found him. And not just any hero. Prince Gareth’s full of patience, intelligence, a kind heart…and unfairly attractive muscles. And he needs Lorre’s help: his tiny mountain kingdom is under attack from ice magic, and Gareth hopes the world’s last great magician will save his people.
Lorre is done with quests and princes and trying to change the world. But Gareth might tempt him to believe in magic again.
Noye: The short story that takes place before this, in the same universe, is “Sorceress” – but you don’t really need to’ve read that one! “Magician” begins about eight years later, with different main characters – we do get guest appearances from the main (m/f, bisexual) couple from “Sorceress” near the end, but it won’t matter if you haven’t met them before. :-)
The world’s greatest living magician, lying on his back on a rocky ledge halfway up a cliff and bathed in sunshine, felt the boat’s arrival on the island shore below like an uninvited knock at a private door. He did not enjoy it.
He didn’t move for a moment. He did not feel like it, and there’d be no rush. Nobody’d get past his wards.
He kept both eyes closed. Sun streaked red behind his eyelids; gold warmed his skin, his hair. His body soaked in the sensations of strong heated stone, sank into stone, became stone: learning how the rock felt when bathed in lush late-morning light. His edges blurred, softened: time slowed, thrummed, grew earthen and deep, salt-lapped and wind-etched. He might’ve been here for centuries, unhurried. Equilibrium and erosion, solidity and reshaping: a balance.
He had needed balance. Something he’d thought he’d known, once. Something he no longer understood.
He’d thought the island might help. Being rock for a while, or the wind, or the seaspray: being suspended amid them all. Being alone, because he was not sure he recalled how to be human, not well enough.
The island was warm—Lorre had always shamelessly adored being warm—and far enough from the mainland that he’d been mostly undisturbed, and close enough to trade routes that he could occasionally walk on water out to a boat and barter some repairs or some healing for some news of the Middle Lands and King Henry’s court at Averene and the Grand Sorceress Liliana. Lorre had promised not to magically check in on Lily or their daughter; he was attempting to keep that promise.
Equilibrium. Difficult. Sunlight was easier. Sunbeams were weightless. Stones did not have to think about human promises. Human perceptions.
The knock came again. It was not physical, or not entirely. It was a presence, an unexpected intruder standing below, shuffling feet in the sand and no doubt wondering where precisely a magician could be found, being faced with a towering blank cliff and no visible habitation.
Lorre sighed, pulled himself back from frayed edges and heavy sleepy light, and sat up, pulling a robe on in an unfussy tumble of blue and gold, mostly just because he liked the caress of silky fabric on bare skin. His senses shifted, dwindled: more human, though not entirely. He’d been a magician too long to not feel the threads of brilliance—cliff, vines, fish, grains of sand, sea-glass polished by waves—all around.
He peeked over the side of the ledge. Behind him the cave yawned lazily, reminding him of sanctuary: he could simply walk back inside, the way he had for several years now, and ignore the new arrival. That generally worked.
He was rather surprised someone’d found him at all. He wasn’t exactly hiding—oh yes you are, said a tart little voice in his head, one that sounded like Lily’s—but the island, after a bit of work on his part, nearly always concealed itself from maps and navigation charts. At the beginning a few enterprising adventurers had managed to track it down, young heroes on quests or proving their worth by daring an enchanter’s lair or begging for Lorre’s assistance in some revenge or inheritance or magical artifact retrieval scheme.
He’d ignored all but two of them. The illusion-wall kept everyone out, simple and baffling; the island had fresh water but little in the way of food. Mostly the adventurers’d given up and gone home, years ago; he couldn’t in fact recall the face of the last one. Two had become nuisances, loud and shouting; one of those had actually threatened to drink poison, melodramatically demanding Lorre’s assistance in collecting a promised bride from a glass mountain, claiming he’d die without her.
The young man currently standing on the beach was neither loud nor melodramatic. In fact, he was calmly considering the sheer cliff-face, which revealed nothing; he stepped back across the small curve of beach, shaded his eyes, seemed to be measuring. After a second he put a hand up, obviously checking the edge of the cliff: having noticed the very slight discrepancy where sea-birds dropped behind the illusion-wall a fraction sooner than they should vanish in reality.
Intelligent, this one. Lorre dangled himself over the ledge at an angle which would’ve been dangerous for anyone else, and watched.
The young man had dark reddish-brown hair, the color of autumn; he wore it tied back, though a few wisps were escaping. He’d dressed for travel, not in shiny armor the way some knights and princes had: sturdy boots and comfortable trousers, a shirt in nicely woven but also practical fabric, a well-worn pack which he’d swung down to the sand. He wasn’t particularly tall, but not short: average, with nicely shaped shoulders and an air of straightforward competence, not trying for impressive or intimidating.
Lorre, despite annoyance at the interruption, couldn’t help but approve. At least this one had some sense, and didn’t walk around clanking in metal under the shimmering sun.
K.L. Noone employs her academic research for writing romance, usually LGBTQ+ and often paranormal, fantasy, or historical! Her full-length romance novels include the Character Bleed trilogy (Seaworthy, Stalwart, and Steadfast), Cadence and the Pearl, and A Demon for Midwinter, available from JMS Books, and A Prophecy for Two, available from Inkshares. She’s also the author of multiple romance novellas and short stories with JMS Books, and previously with Less Than Three Press, Circlet Press, and Ellora’s Cave. Her non-romance fantasy fiction has appeared in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress and the magazine Aoife’s Kiss.
With the Professor Hat on, she’s published scholarly work on romance, fantasy, and folklore, including a book on Welsh mythology in popular culture and a book on ethics in Terry Pratchett’s fantasy. She is happily bisexual, married to the marvelous Awesome Husband, and currently owned by a long-legged black cat named Merlyn.