QSFer Tali Spencer has a new fantasy book out:
Imperial captive and former Sebboyan prince Peta Kordeun has one great wish: to meet Darius Arrento, conqueror of his country and a man he has idolized since childhood. That wish comes true the day the Uttoran emperor assigns Peta to assist the artist who will be painting the great general’s official portrait.
General Darius Arrento would rather take a crossbow bolt through his flesh than sit for a portrait, until his friend the emperor forces his hand. The notorious artist, Brazzi, uses semen and other sexual fluids to bind his colors—and Arrento is captivated by the artist’s pretty helper. Before long he is driven to possess the gorgeous young man who draws battle maps and whose naïve charm has won more hearts in Uttor than Arrento has won battles.
When Arrento learns that Peta, the slave he covets and wants for his own, is one of the despised Kordeun princes, he storms from Uttor toward a far corner of the empire—where he quickly finds himself embroiled in a plot to tear Uttor’s empire apart. His emotions and loyalties frayed, the great Arrento is in the battle of his life…and Peta may hold the key to his survival.
Pride of Uttor Book Four
“I feel like viewing some theater tonight. Which would you prefer? A solemn pageant of gut-wrenching hopelessness and despair with unclothed beauties whipping themselves artistically with flails? Or a rousing sea battle in the maritime amphitheater, complete with galleys, flamboyant pirates, and outrageously brave sailors destined to prevail?”
Emboldened by Brazzi’s irreverence, Peta grinned. “The sea battle!”
“Are you familiar with the Battle of Khare?”
“This will look nothing like it. Go, get on. Show starts at dusk. They’re fond of flinging fire.”
The Battle of Khare had been amazing. Peta had never seen a sea battle and the sight of ships engaged in combat mesmerized him. Only a few of the ships had been real. The rest had been moving pieces of painted board. Even so the spectacle filled him with wonder. The maritime amphitheater’s size dwarfed any construction he had ever seen. The man-made lake at the center could hold a small armada and was deep enough for the galleys—specially built for this purpose according to Brazzi—to maneuver with ease. Men screamed in battle and “died” bloodily as weapons clashed and fire arced overhead. However artificial, the combat looked, sounded, and smelled real. There had even been an appearance of the sea goddess Tria borne by fish-tailed men as she blew upon her horn to summon a great wave that spilled over the lowest seats to drench delighted onlookers.
Brazzi had made a point of not seeking out those seats, which was just as well because they were in great demand, but Peta hoped someday he would get to sit there and find out if the water would taste of salt.
The entire amphitheater had been packed with bodies and any hope he’d had of possibly spying General Arrento was dashed early on. There was simply no way to find one man in that crowd even if the general had chosen to attend the spectacle. Peta looked hard at the people sitting in the elegant pavilions reserved for citizens of rank and wealth but saw no one of Arrento’s stature and appearance. He worried that he might not recognize the man out of military clothing. What would Arrento look like wearing ordinary attire? The same, he was certain. Tall and broad with the smoldering countenance of one of Uttor’s gods.
Darius Arrento had won battles at sea, of course, though not very many, most of his wars having been conducted on land. He’d made his career as a general, not an admiral. Peta couldn’t remember if he’d ever fought pirates. Probably, and if so he had bested them. It was easy for Peta to imagine Arrento onto one of the galleys being beset in the amphitheater, blue-striped sails aflame and seemingly doomed. He would be the lead, of course, that helmeted hero rallying his sailors to deliver their foes to pain. The only part that didn’t fit was that the hero had succumbed to a noble death.
Peta could not imagine his hero in death.
As he walked back with Brazzi, Maximo and Jannte—both of whom had arrived home in time to join them—Peta felt a part of their merry group. They jibed. They critiqued. Maximo had actually been on a galley, whereas Peta and Brazzi had only known sea travel by caravel or carrack. Only Brazzi was old enough to have been alive to hear the facts of the battle. “They all died. It was the wave that defeated the pirates.” Jannte displayed a fire ward worn on her wrist that she said had washed ashore on the island of her birth and been salvaged by an ancient relative: a carnelian pendant carved with the symbol for Tria and the words Spare from Fire our Ship in Uttoran script.
“Too many fireballs being tossed not to have this in hand,” she said. Her accent lifted the words as if on a wave and gave them a tumble.
“My woman is superstitious,” Maximo said. His master had been generous with the wine. He put his arm companionably around Jannte’s shoulders.
“His woman, says he.” Jannte winked at Peta. “Not true until I say he’s my man.”
Maximo was having none of it. “She said it so last night.”
“Called you a fine example of one, that’s the truth…but I didn’t call you mine.”
And so it went for the several more blocks they had to traverse on the way home. Peta enjoyed the happy flow of wine-warmed blood in his veins and the easy security of having companions. For the first time in a year he felt included. It reminded him of being with his brothers and sisters, of having family. Almost like belonging. How long had it been since he’d actually belonged anywhere?
Except he wasn’t Brazzi’s slave. Without warning, that realization kicked him in the gut. His being included was a result of Uttoran etiquette, wherein slaves were often times barely distinguishable from their masters. His companions probably did like him, and happily included him in their activities, but the fact he was the emperor’s slave and himself a person of rank tempered how they treated him.
This moment and the people who filled it were not the main players in his life, but they were real. He was real. But Darius Arrento, even when having sex with him, was part of a scheme taking place in an emperor’s game.
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Tali Spencer delights in erotic fantasy and adventure, creating worlds where she can explore the heights and shadows of sexual passion. A hopeful romantic and lover of all things exotic, she also writes high fantasy and science fiction. If you would like to see inspiration pictures for her characters, or glimpse how she envisions her worlds, check out her Pinterest boards.
When not writing, Tali reads everything from sweet goofy romances to medical research, manages her fantasy football team—go Gekkos!—and takes long walks with her loving, if slightly neurotic, poodle.
Tali’s other books include the three preceding Uttor books: Captive Heart, Dangerous Beauty, and Adored, all with Resplendence. Her gay male high fantasy stories, Thick as Thieves, Sorcerer’s Knot, and The Prince of Winds, are published by Dreamspinner Press. She often posts free stories and excerpts on her blog.
Visit Tali’s blog at http://talismania-brilliantdisguise.blogspot.com
E-mail: [email protected]