A dream came true yesterday— my first novella Canes and Scales transformed into an epic fantasy novel Canes and Scales: The Novel. In the novel, Linden, the Serpent Prince of Ardaul visits his cousin’s manor for a well-needed rest and recovery. There he meets Alasdaire, a noble half human/half elf who has been broken down to pleasure slave status by his father. Despite their races being dire enemies, after weeks together, the pair realizes they are fated to be together.
The novella explored their initial love. The revised, rewritten novel adds depth to their relationship as it moves forward to detail their death, danger, and treachery-plagued relationship after Linden becomes King. Many new characters, such as Linden’s insane brother Edward and Alasdaire’s noble elven grandfather Enterna Afratair, Supreme Duke of the Southern Totandia Empire, add to the layers of suspense.
If you read the novella Canes and Scales, you only experienced part of the romance. Canes and Scales: the Novelsweeps the reader further into Linden and Alasdaire’s spellbinding relationship. Except for their love, nothing is as it seems.
This excerpt details the first meeting.
Serpent Prince Linden of Ardaul is determined to drag his barbaric, power-hungry country into the modern age by encouraging learning, advances in the sciences, and tolerance. His insane brother Edward, the King, delights in making him pay for his efforts.
Long years of watching his back, fighting wars, and solving conflicts started by his cruel brother have taken a toll on Linden’s body and mind, and he needs a respite. When Linden meets an alluring young bed slave named Alasdaire, his weary heart responds. Alasdaire is an exotic mix of southern royal Totandian elf and human, and, although he’s also suffered hardship most of his life, his loving personality captivates the Prince.
Despite their differences, Alasdaire, canes—and Linden, scales—unite in body and soul, but their romance is nearly shattered by betrayal. When Linden becomes King, magical assassins, treachery, and threats plague them. They narrowly escape death more than once. The lovers must discover who wants them dead and more importantly, where they can turn for aid. Neither enemies nor allies are what they seem. Only time will tell who means to harm Linden and Alasdaire—the elves, the imprisoned Edward, or something even deadlier—and time is one thing they don’t have.
My trunks bobbed past along with my bags. I chuckled; it looked like my two travel trunks had sprouted legs. “Still running splendidly as always, eh, Anders?”
Raised voices echoing from the left interrupted Anders’s quiet reply. Scornful words violated the air.
“You annoying bore, I am ready, but he has arrived hours early! At least let me button my jacket.”
My, my, someone had a saucy attitude.
Anders’s scolding sniff punctuated the outburst. He thinned his lips before he twitched his right brow. He appeared ready to rip out a servant’s unruly soul.
“Excuse me, my Prince, there seems to be—”
A short young man dressed in a stylish black suit, not the normal dull rust livery, hastened from the left into the foyer. His abrupt arrival sent agitated waves through the foyer.
How odd. Why did I feel his agitation?
He rapidly buttoned his knee-length frock coat over his black silver-embroidered vest, adjusted his jacket, looked up, and froze, before he regained his composure and stared at the floor. He used his long black hair to curtain his face.
“A thousand pardons, Master Anders, erm, my esteemed Prince.” His melodic voice—ah, what an interesting accent—sounded breathless. “Forgive my shameful tardiness and unseemly behavior. Please forgive me. Please.”
The young man bowed lower until I feared for his balance. He straightened back up and took two more steps. He halted and bowed in a fresh dire tip. His short stature allowed his long hair to sweep the ebony marble floor. The two black hues swallowed each other.
Powers on High, his lively arrival rivaled an actor’s drama. My calming laugh fought against the unwelcome tension. “Please, young man, no need to fret. Cease the relentless bowing. Your constant up-and-down motion makes me dizzy.”
He needed to cease, since I wanted to see the fair face again to confirm my amazement.
The young man looked up. “Yes, my gracious Prince. My apologies.”
The words emerged from full lips set in a deep copper-hued, high-cheekboned face. Delicate violet swirls started at his right temple and meandered to his chin before winding around his neck. The languid swirls imitated wild Nerdean canyon rose canes—graceful, yet deadly. In the Southern Desert, the hunting canes hooked into their victims. The canes trapped their prey until the carnivorous blooms fed on the flesh. Since the roses sprang from old magic, they resisted all known modern pesticides.
There, today my knowledge of other races served me well. Before me stood a Southern Totandia elf of the ruling rank. The violet canes showed the elf’s startlingly high status. Up North we seldom saw Totandians. Their ancient race now hid in the deep Nerdean canyonlands edging against the inhospitable South Inatoli Desert. They believed in nature’s rule and nothing else. Their attitude challenged modern thinking. In the past, my ruthless Serpent family had used lethal efficiency to ferret them out from the realm. Their subtle magics and strange, secret culture made the elves a target. After nearly destroying the race, now our country regarded them as handy slave fodder. Delicate in stature, they usually acted docile and nonviolent.
My scholarly heart regretted the destruction of such a mysterious race.
Still, the male’s features had a distinctly human cast, especially in the strong cheekbones and firm chin. As I recalled, pure elves had narrow faces and extremely pointed chins. No hint of the uniquely slanted Totandian eye structure met my examination, but his eyes displayed the unusual violet color befitting his noble rank. The robust coppery skin and one pointed ear tip peeking past his hair screamed elf, yet his long narrow nose appeared too pronounced for an elf’s. His compact muscular build also refuted his elven heritage.
Before me stood an exotic human-elven mixture, rare to see in this age.
Even more curious—something about the refined features sparked a hazy memory. How odd.
Another deep bow almost followed before the male conquered his instinct. He respectfully inclined his head. His wavy mane drifted around his face.
“I am Alasdaire, my esteemed Prince. During your visit here, my duty is to serve you to my full ability.”
To my surprise, Anders released a quiet but pointed huff. Coming from him, the sound counted as a cruel slap across the young man’s face.
“Yes, my Prince, since he knows you travel sans your normal staff, Lord Keith arranged for Alasdaire to be your personal slave.” Anders sniffed. “That is, if you will allow a lowly half-breed slave to serve you.”
Powers on High, I could have ice-skated on Anders’s last words. I disliked how Anders emphasized the slave aspect. I thought Keith had servants, not slaves. Hmm, a hidden story lurked here. I certainly wanted to give the unusual male a chance, especially since I understood what Alasdaire meant by serving me. Keith had remembered my fondness for fascinating young men.
“How lovely, yes, I heartily approve of my cousin’s special choice for me.” I sounded positive and upbeat—in fact, I sounded nauseatingly charming. Dreadful. “Anders, feel confident to leave me in Alasdaire’s company.”
I smiled at the watchful young half-breed. He quickly looked at the floor. Hmm, no mutual flirtation from a pleasure slave? Why?
“Very good, my Prince. If this particular slave annoys you, please let me know immediately. I shall correct the staffing error. Above all, I desire your complete satisfaction.”
Anders shot Alasdaire a deadly glare. I wondered why Anders despised this glorious male. Ah, sadly, the prejudice against elves ran strong in many men’s hearts. Such ill behavior from the normally stoic head butler bothered me.
Despite my annoyance, I nodded. “Thank you, Anders.”
Anders bowed and glared at Alasdaire one last time before he turned on his heel like a king departing from a council meeting. Even I never acted that regal. He paused to swivel back toward me.
“Ah, I almost forgot, my Prince. Master Adrian has comms from the palace for you.”
I managed not to sigh. “No surprise there, Anders. I’ll check in with Adrian later.”
Another stiff bow answered me. “Very good, my Prince.”
Around us, bustling footmen finished carrying my belongings up the grand staircase. I winced. Had I really brought along that much luggage? Gerald must have packed enough outfits to last for months. I would have been happy with one formal suit, casual clothing, and plenty of underwear.
I glanced back toward Alasdaire. He still frowned after Anders’s retreating back before he realized I watched his ire. He inclined his head with silent apology, then gazed up at me. In a flash, his expression turned blank as he banished his former passion.
“My Prince, it is time to create today’s schedule. Lord Keith and his guests currently attend Lord Lazio’s grand picnic. Do you want to join them?”
I held up my hand. “Please, absolutely not, Alasdaire. I wish to enjoy a light lunch along with a not so light drink, then a bath. Perhaps I’ll act slothful and indulge in a nap.”
I grinned with glee. Ahh, the thought of sprawling against a feather mattress thrilled my aching body. The last war had destroyed my stalwart constitution. Before this past week, a carriage ride had never defeated my body. My constant exhaustion bothered me. At least I knew no one had poisoned me—a personal ward spell guaranteed protection from common poisons.
My brother Edward had already tried to poison me.
He had regretted the attempt.
“Of course, my noble Prince. I shall arrange for your supreme comfort.”
Alasdaire signaled to four watching young pages. They stepped forward. He leaned down to issue orders. The boys bowed and scurried off in different directions.
Alasdaire turned back. He gracefully gestured forward.
“My Prince, I trust you enjoyed a pleasant journey from Rahalda? I understand the weather embraced calm, sunny conditions, unlike the recent unruly storms.”
“Pleasant enough, although it was a long journey. Five days of carriage travel taxed my old body.”
At least the young slave chatted with me. Normally everyone acted dumbstruck around this so-called mighty prince. Still, his words sounded mechanical and rehearsed, merely a pleasure slave’s trained interest. But I sensed his uniqueness. I wondered how many times Alasdaire had entertained Keith’s
guests? Did he despise his pleasure-slave status? Hmm. Usually the pretty young men in such positions were well-treated, pampered pets, since they supplied the master or mistress discreet pleasure. Judging by how basely Anders treated him, this manor did not regard Alasdaire as special. How foolish of them. I certainly looked forward to enjoying this exotic creature’s company.
My self-pitying sigh made me sound in need of comfort. “I confess I feel battered as an old boot.”
“Now you may relax. You will be pleased to hear fresh weather graces us, Prince. The late-spring storms have passed on their way east. You will enjoy a lovely visit.” Alasdaire mounted the carved staircase.
Interesting. My new companion ignored my baiting words. He wasn’t prone to abject fawning. I appreciated the trait. I followed Alasdaire, taking the opportunity to admire his knee-high, pearl-button boots. The supple black leather sculpted his strong calves into delicious fullness.
We traveled down the long hall. Dreary portraits depicting dour deceased ancestors cluttered the walls. During my childhood visits, Keith and I had made up silly names for them. Lady Hortense Horseface, Duke Dreadful Drooler, and Sir Sticky Spankalot still scowled at me with painted menace. I scowled back at them.
Who is S.A. Garcia?
Forty years ago, I started writing gay male romance. Writing about men inserting tab A into slot B didn’t seem the norm for a suburban female teenager. Reading Gordon Merrick, John Rechy, and Larry Kramer helped me fill in the serious informational gaps. Yes, I read those informative books in my bedroom. No wonder.
As the years progressed, I continued writing gay male romance, although the stories progressed from scribbles in notebooks to hiding on the computer. I wrote fantasies, contemporaries, bodice rippers—my muse Diva Faboo refused to let this old lesbian write a F/F romance. Go figure. Someday!
I’m glad I kept the writing faith. I never thought anyone would published my novels. Imagine, my comedy An Elf for All Centuries (formerly from Silver Publishing; now in talks for a new home) was in the running for a few awards. What a thrill!
My life has turned into a fun quandary of too many stories hindered by my slow, two-fingered typing skills. I blunder onward into more trauma, drama, and humor. I just hope I can keep up with sexy men who insist on running off with the plots!
Along with Canes and Scales: the Novel, Dreamspinner is also home to my novellas, assorted short stories, short stand-alones and the M/M romdramedys (romance/ drama comedy) Cupid Knows Best and The Gospel According to Cher.
Love in the Shadows, my first attempt at mixing M/M historic and contemporary with a touch of the supernatural, is at MLR Press.
Facebook: S.A. Garcia