I promised you an excerpt from my Cozy Mystery novella Murder in Lorseth (working title) and here it is.
If you haven’t read the first trilogy of the Dark Tales of Randamor the Recluse, there may be a few mild spoilers.
The text is unedited and may still contain typos and other mistakes.
Obyann of Ramaldah let out a deep sigh. He straightened his tunic and raked his fingers through his slightly greasy hair. Scraping his throat, he gathered all his resolve and knocked on the door.
He strained his ears but no sound came from the closed room.
“The little perverts must still be asleep,” he muttered to himself. Or — worse — they are otherwise engaged, he thought, shivering.
Even so, he had to draw their attention somehow. Prince Anaxantis had asked for them.
“Rahendo, Ryhunzo,” he called out. “Are you awake? Are you decent? Open the door. If you’re decent. Only if you’re decent.”
Since there came no immediate reaction he was about to try the doorknob, but before he could do so someone opened the door from the inside.
“Ah, it’s you, Obe, my man,” a cheerful curly-haired young man said. Cheerful, curly-haired, and stark naked.
“I asked, Ryhunzo. I did ask if you were decent,” Obyann complained.
Ryhunzo scratched his bush, which made his dick go up and down in a nodding gesture. Obyann cringed. Ryhunzo yawned.
“I’ll have you know my Golden Dawn After a Long Dreary Night and I consider ourselves to be some of the most decent people you will find in a radius of thirty miles around Lorseth, Obe. Frankly, methinks I ought to be insulted.” He smiled radiantly. “But since it’s you, I’m not.”
“Who is there, Pookie?” a voice called from inside.
Rahendo emerged from behind the drapery that separated the sleeping quarters from the rest of the room. He too was as naked as the day he was born.
“Oh, Obie, it’s you,” he crowed. “Come in, come in.”
Obyann sighed again.
“One day you’ll really have to explain to me what horrible crimes clothes have committed that you hate wearing them,” he muttered.
“We like clothes perfectly fine.” Ryhunzo beamed.
“Especially our elegant maroon mantles,” Rahendo added.
“I don’t know about elegant. What I do know is that they were damn expensive,” Obyann grumbled. And of course, it made the other head pages, Echron and Robrant, jealous. So we had to buy them maroon cloaks as well.
“It’s just that clothes get in the way, you know, when my Pookie and I want to prove our undying love—”
“I don’t want to hear it and I certainly don’t want those images haunting me for the rest of the day. Dress yourselves. Anaxantis wants you. Both of you. Yes, I know, I thought he had lost his mind, but then he explained. It’s weird but it makes sense when he explains it.”
Two naked boys looked expectantly at Obyann.
“Well, Obe, my man, care to tell us?” A mountain of curls moved excitedly on Ryhunzo’s head. He blew at a strand of hair that had fallen over his left eye.
“Put some clothes on, you little deviants, and I’ll explain while you’re dressing.”
“It’s not as if it impairs our hearing when we’re not wearing anything,” Ryhunzo said in his usual cheerful tone. “Come, Blinding Light in the Dark Grotto of My Life, we mustn’t badger Obe too much. He’s rather fragile. He might break.”
The two pages withdrew behind the drapery. Judging by the rustling and occasional giggling that went on, they were not just dressing themselves. Obyann repressed some of the more vivid — and disturbing — images that came to mind.
“Well?” a voice insisted from behind the heavy curtains.
“Eynurm is in trouble,” Obyann said in a loud voice.
“What?” Ryhunzo shouted, emerging from behind the curtains with only one leg in his pants.
“Nurmie?” Rahendo cried out. “Why? What’s the matter? How much trouble? Does he need money?” He too came from behind the curtains, keeping his pants up with both hands. “Pookie, could you latch my belt for me? I seem unable to find the right notch.”
Ryhunzo, still with one leg uncovered, shuffled behind Rahendo, reaching around his friend’s slim figure to fasten the belt. Then he put his second leg in his pants, balancing himself on his friend’s shoulder.
“You recall how Eynurm dated this girl from Lorseth Market for a while?” Obyann began.
“Yes. Wasn’t she the daughter of a well-to-do saddler?” Ryhunzo asked.
“Oh yes, I remember,” Rahendo said, fidgeting with the laces of his shirt. “Poor Nurmie. She dumped him, didn’t she, when he told her his father had disinherited him for behavior unworthy of a noble?”
“Said behavior being dating her, a commoner lass,” Ryhunzo added, nodding. “The girl had caused our poor friend to lose his inheritance, albeit unwittingly, and in the end he lost her too. Love can be cruel like that.”
Obyann looked confused and it took him some moments to take up the thread again.
“Anyway, that was months ago…” He took a deep breath. “But now the young woman — by name of Iselda — finds herself pregnant and she claims Eynurm is the father.”
“So what?” Rahendo asked. “There are a lot of noble bastards running around in the Highlands. All over Ximerion, in fact. Nothing out of the ordinary, I would think.”
“Yes so you would, wouldn’t you?” Obyann said. “You’re probably thinking of myself as a case in point.”
“Oh no, Obie, that was not what I meant. Your father loves you, and that is all that matters, isn’t it?” Rahendo shrugged. “Then again, you know what they say about Anaxantis. That the queen had an affair and that he isn’t the son of the king. Doesn’t stop him from being a prince and lord-governor, though.”
“In this case there’s a snag or two,” Obyann replied, somewhat mollified. “The most important of the two being that mistress Iselda claims that Eynurm forced himself upon her against her loudly and repeatedly uttered protests. She also wants Eynurm to marry her and support both her and the child.”
Rahendo bit his lower lip in thought.
“It’s all nonsense,” he said after a while. “First of all, Nurmie would never force himself upon anyone. He’s one of the kindest guys I know. Next to Nulfie. And you, of course, Pookie. Oh, and you too, Obie. It follows that if she consented to this, eh, union the kid is her responsibility. That’s always been the case for bastards of a noble father.”
“It’s good manners, though, to support the wench in some way or other,” Ryhunzo added. “And help the boy later on, or arrange for a suitable match if it’s a girl. Provided the child shows promise.”
“All true,” Obyann agreed, “under normal circumstances. I know of several bastards in Lorseth and wide environs, as far as Crockton village, all fathered by pages of Anaxantis or by squires of his brother. Usually Anaxantis makes them, or their fathers to be precise — well, the fathers of the fathers — pay a nice sum for the upkeep of the child and that’s that. The lasses are usually more than happy with a generous lump sum or a stipend that keeps them out of poverty and from having to work. Moreover, having a nice little nest egg makes them sought after brides, believe it or not. Never mind they come with a noble bastard.”
“So, it’s money after all,” Rahendo said. “That’s easy then. Eynurm needs most of his pay as master of pages to support himself, now that his father has seen fit to stop his monthly allowance, but I’m sure he can pay a modest sum — if need be in installments. And we can help, can’t we, Pookie?”
Ryhunzo nodded enthusiastically.
“I’m sure Nulfie will contribute as well and—”
“And nothing,” Obyann interrupted Rahendo. “Haven’t you been listening? She claims Eynurm forced himself upon her.”
“But he denies it, I’m sure.” Rahendo looked more hopeful than certain. “Doesn’t he?”
“He not only denies forcing himself upon her, he claims the child can’t be his because it’s too long ago when they last, eh…”
“Made hot, hot, wild, steamy, shameless love, their naked, sweaty bodies intertwined so as to be indistinguishable from one another?“ Ryhunzo proffered.
Obyann’s face turned red.
“That’s… Well… Yes. But Iselda maintains she is pregnant and that the child most certainly is Eynurm’s. She wants him to marry her.”
“Him being disinherited and all?” Ryhunzo asked.
“Maybe she heard Eynurm has been promoted to master of pages, Pookie,” Rahendo said.
“First of all, master of pages is a paid office. And one thing could lead to another. The prince likes Nurmie, and Anaxantis can be very generous, for all that he can be very mean too. He has ennobled a lot of his commoner friends — even some of peasant extraction. And what with his plans to develop the Renuvian Plains there will be a lot of new fiefs. New fiefs means new titles. She probably thinks there’s more than a fair chance that Eynurm will be starting his own House in a few years.”
“Ah, I see.” Ryhunzo’s eyes lit up “Clever lass. She wants in on all that. And she’s right too. New nobles may not be as prestigious as those born to old Houses, but they’re still more impressive than commoners. Eynurm will be kind of both, though. He’s born into old nobility, but his House will be new. Who’s going to know — or care — on the Plains, anyway?” He shrugged and tilted his head. “I don’t see how she can make our friend marry her, though. Pregnant or not.”
“But oh, there’s a distinct possibility she could,” Obyann intervened. “The crucial part seems to be that she claims Eynurm forced himself upon her. She wants the prince to speak justice in his capacity as lord governor. I don’t know why, but it made Anaxantis all upset. I never saw him so… disturbed.”
“But why?” Rahendo asked, puzzled.
“I think I know why our liege was unsettled,” Ryhunzo said. “Mistress Iselda wants Anaxantis to emulate his long-time-ago predecessor, Prince Pie. Now, anywhere else but in the Northern Marches — no, anywhere else but in Lorseth she might not have had a snowball’s chance in Murokthil to make her demand stick, but in this case she rests her case on the precedent of Prince Pie’s judgment.”
“Prince Pie? Who is this Prince Pie, Pookie?” Rahendo asked, even more nonplussed.