Excerpt from A Time of Darkness (The Circle of Talia)


Today is Humor Meets Fantasy. Fantasy is the first genre we are highlighting this summer in hopes of bringing notice to more talented writers out there.  We selected three Fantasy submissions.  First up is Dionne Lister who has written for us before for our Humor Meets Horror Week for Halloween. Her award-winning fantasy stories and novels made us truly appreciate this genre.  We hope you enjoy these special posts!  

Donna and Betsy


Queen Gabrielle paced the throne room, too agitated to sit. Why did everything have to go wrong when Edmund was gone? She supposed things probably went wrong when he was here too, but he was experienced at dealing with the complexities and politics of everyday life—he possessed more patience than she.

“So, Perculus, tell me again why I can’t tell Duke Fortescue to pay the back-taxes he owes. The money will go a hell of a way to paying the food bill for the orphanage for the next two years.” She placed her hands on her hips and narrowed her eyes at the rotund advisor.

He smiled his oily smile, the patronizing one where his lips remained closed and his head tilted to the left. The queen wished she were a dragon. She so wanted to breathe fire and watch Perculus disintegrate. Gabrielle opened her mouth and, disappointed when no fire materialized, closed it again.

“Well, my queen, if you understood the tax system, you wouldn’t have to ask me that question.”

“I don’t have to understand the tax system. I have an advisor. You are the advisor, aren’t you?”

“Ahem. Yes, and you should just trust I know what I’m talking about.”

And there was the problem. She didn’t trust him. Gabrielle contemplated how she could make his life more difficult, when two men rushed into the room. They stopped and bowed. Dirt smudged their faces, their clothes were ripped, faces unshaven, and their hair was the consistency of straw. Recognizing the two men, she quickly hid her surprise and didn’t know whether to be happy or sad. One wore a coat that marked him as the captain of Edward’s bodyguard. He spoke. “Forgive us for the intrusion, my Queen. I need to speak to King Edmund. Now.”

“That’s all right, Pernus. What are you doing back here? Has something happened? Is Leon…?” It was difficult to look concerned rather than excited at the thought the prince might be dead.

“Not that I know of. I would prefer if we spoke in private, with the king.”

“Follow me.” Gabrielle took one step forward, and Boy ran into the room, sliding on the tiles and careening into Fendill.

“Whoa. Careful, young man.”

“Sorry, sir.” Boy untangled himself from Fendill’s gray robe and looked at the queen. He spoke through quick breaths, “They’ve taken Verity.” The queen froze and felt as if she couldn’t breathe.

Pernus leant down and grabbed the child’s arm. “Who are they? Answer me. Quickly!”

“The… they were wearing gray clothes, and their faces were covered. I saw them try and grab the princess, but Brooklyn stepped in. He injured one, but there were four, and one made some kind of magic. They made a lightning bolt come from the sky. They killed Sergeant Brooklyn.”

“Where did this happen?” Pernus kneeled in front of Boy, keeping hold of his arm.

“About two miles from the castle. I rode Chalk as fast as I could. I’m sorry.” Boy remembered Verity’s screams. She was the first person who had been truly nice to him. He had betrayed her.

Pernus dropped his arm and pushed Boy towards Gabrielle. “Take him to your room and make sure he stays safe. He’s our only witness. Come on, Fendill. We need to go. Now.” The men ran out.

Wading through her shock, the queen spoke to the first-year guard who had run after Pernus when he’d arrived. “Find Captain Gaston and send him to my chambers. Hurry.” She turned to Perculus. “And you. You tell Duke Fortescue he has one month to pay what he owes. If he doesn’t, we will confiscate lands to the value of what he owes us. Is that clear?”

Perculus pursed his lips and retrieved his sly smile. “Of course, Your Majesty. If there are repercussions, I trust you will tell Edmund they were your fault.”

Speaking through clenched teeth, Gabrielle growled more than spoke, “Get out before I lose my patience. I would hate to have to explain to my husband how his advisor ended up in the dungeon.” Turning her back on him, she knelt down to Boy. “Did they hurt my daughter?” She held her breath.

“Not that I could see. She was struggling and screaming. But when they carried her off, she didn’t look hurt. I didn’t hang around in case they grabbed me.”

“That’s okay. You did the right thing.”

Tears glazed Boy’s eyes, and she put her arms around him. When Boy’s tears came, the queen couldn’t tell, but they were from guilt. If Leon killed Verity, he would never forgive himself. If he told the queen what he knew, she would never believe him—he’d probably end up in the dungeon, not to mention creepy Perculus would probably kill him. Boy cried on the queen’s shoulder. He didn’t want to tell her the truth—they had knocked Verity unconscious. He remembered her limp body, her head and arms bouncing as one of the gray men carried her away. His tears came faster. What the hell had he done?

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