You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Today's Wild Card author is:
and the book:
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (October 7, 2012)
***Special thanks to Candace Little for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Visit the author's website.
SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:
A dream. A king. A riddle. A map. A journey. A dungeon (or two). A decision. A sacrifice. A sword. A throne. The Pursuit of a King (A Tale of Wisdom) by Candace Christine Little recounts the adventures of Artemerio and Barto as they cross deserts, climb canyon walls, face the evil Dunley, rescue Lady Wisdom, save cities from certain destruction (using only cake!)—and discover their destinies.
List Price: $12.00
Paperback: 186 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (October 7, 2012)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Chapter 1: Summoned by the King
“How did we get here?” I asked in awe as I walked with my brother, Artemerio, through the halls of the palace of the king of Windsal.
“We walked,” said Artemerio.
“I suppose I should have known better than to expect a serious answer from you. You know what I mean. To think of it—we were summoned by the king to present our request. You must admit, if we get no farther than this palace, we will have lived what some have only dreamed.”
“You think too small, Barto. We may go down in history as the mightiest of men, and we may see palaces greater by far than—”
The echoes of our footsteps through the marble-floored hallways slowed. Confronted by the greatness of what were merely the doors of the throne room, Artemerio’s words sounded vain and absurd.
Even he must have felt it. He stared at the door for a long moment, a hint of nervousness in his expression. But then he lifted his chin and straightened to his full height. His self-assured smile returned. “Here we go.” He took hold of the massive door before him and led the way in to see the king.
I swallowed hard and followed.
I cannot adequately describe the splendor of that room—the fine marble, the exquisite touches of gold and jewels, the ornate thrones, the gleaming tapestries, the stately columns. And crowning it all were the king and queen, noble and glorious. Though they had seen many, many years, those years had enhanced rather than diminished their appearances. The beauty and elegance of Queen Athalia were beyond compare. So imposing were King Syroton’s stature and deportment that I feared for any man who might face him in battle.
But the splendor was not limited to what was visible. Magnificence pervaded the air itself with a spectacular, inspiriting weight: the weight of goodness, of wisdom, of courage—of virtues so solid and real that they seemed not only tangible but transferable, like a richly scented oil that leaves traces of its fragrance on those who encounter it.
And I have no doubt Artemerio sensed it, too. When he offered the traditional courteous phrases due a king, his voice was shaky. Gone was the insincere ease with which he typically addressed those in authority. But even humbled, he was eloquent and bold.
I mumbled my greeting and made my bow, and then, with the formalities out of the way, Artemerio began to present our request.
“Good king,” said Artemerio, “it has been our desire for some time to advance the cause of Windsal—to bring her greater honor, to improve her economy, and to multiply her lands. This can best be done through exploration and conquest. We appeal to you for the right to sail in the name of Windsal to discover for her what will be hers and hers alone, waiving all rights to establish our own lands. We appeal to you, for the love of Windsal, the right to leave her—”
A jester nimbly tumbled into the room, interrupting Artemerio’s speech. “And in this way to improve her? Hah! I am sure she will improve the moment you set sail and leave her shores!” The jester brushed away a nonexistent speck of dust on his sleeve, adjusted the bells on his hat, and sat on an unimpressive wooden stool beside the king.
Artemerio’s jaw tightened. He clenched his fists and pursed his lips. I thought—and desperately hoped—he might dismiss the provocation. But then his nostrils flared, and he breathed in sharply.
“Sail with me, then, and let us triple her improvement. Better yet, never return, and she shall stand in a glory she has never known.” Artemerio’s proud look dared the jester to respond.
“Gentlemen,” I have something to say,” said King Syroton. “Does it interest you at all?”
Having lost the reverential attitude he had had during his earlier speeches, Artemerio resorted to the superficial fawning at which he excelled. “A thousand apologies, King Syroton. Speak your will, and we will make it so.” He bowed deeply.
“A thousand apologies are not necessary, Artemerio, if one apology is sincere,” said the king. “I have not summoned you here only to hear your request. I have summoned you to have you solve a riddle for me. I understand that you and the very silent Barto already have all that you need to sail, but here is my offer: If you will solve this riddle for me, I will give you one of my own ships for your adventures.”
Artemerio and I needed no time to discuss our answer. The offer of the king’s ship was too generous to refuse.
“Yes—of course, Your Majesty,” said Artemerio.
“Very well. Here is the riddle.” The king began to recite:
“My value is priceless, though I can’t be bought.
I call out to all, though I must be sought.
I help men write laws, and I help rulers reign.
I turn all from waywardness, suffering, and pain.
Pursue me and choose me, whatever the cost—
Without me, the greatest of men would be lost.
Who am I? What do all good kings pursue?”
King Syroton paused after he finished the recitation. A somber look stole over him. “When you return to me, you will be changed men—greatly changed. The dangers to you are more than you can guess. This is no small task. The fate of this kingdom rests on your shoulders. I can reveal no more to you than this. But take heart. I know you will return. And now the jester will explain to you how you are to begin your quest and where you are to go. Jester, proceed.”
“Yes, sir.” The jester jumped up from his seat and bowed sharply and quickly toward the king. Then he turned to us.
The faintest flash of a grimace crossed Artemerio’s face.
The jester stared at him and smiled, as if he had seen the grimace and found it amusing. “Let those humble enough to follow and take orders from a mere jester follow me.”
I took a few steps following after the jester but then turned back. “Your Majesty, we thank you for this opportunity.” I bowed, and in doing so, I caught sight of the Windsalian insignia carved into the base of the throne platform. I gasped. Under the insignia were words that had been part of a strange dream I had had two nights before:
Secured not by a noble birth,
By soldiers’ strength, or mighty works.
Secured by virtues daily shown.
Through justice, mercy, truth—a throne.
“Is something wrong, Barto?” said the king.
“N-no, Your Majesty.” I bowed again and turned to follow the jester and Artemerio.
They were far ahead of me in the broad hallway that stretched away endlessly from the throne room, which may be why neither of them seemed to hear the whispers I heard as I left the king. But I know I heard whispers mingled with the echoes of footsteps.
“Barto, do not be afraid to speak,” a mysterious voice said again and again.
Curious, I stopped. But when a quick glance around revealed no obvious source of the whispers, I hurried on, concerned at the thought of Artemerio alone with the jester.
Within a week, we were ready to begin our journey. The night before we were to sail, Artemerio and I discussed our travels as we dined.
“Barto, I have no doubt that we will be sailing for the Unconquered Lands in a month or two. The greatest difficulty we will face in solving this riddle is keeping our thoughts occupied as we cross the many miles of open country. The jester marked only six cities on the map for us to visit. I have heard tales of riddles taking lifetimes to be answered, but the king is sending us on a journey that should take only a matter of weeks.”
“Perhaps—but have you not wondered why the king would make such a generous offer? What waits for us in these particular cities? And what do we know about solving riddles? We are the sons of a fisherman. We grew up in a small, unimportant village by the sea. Why would the king send us? There is more to this story than we see.”
“Oh, I forgot. You heard those whispers. ‘Speak, Barto.’” Artemerio laughed. “Perhaps there is a royal dog named Barto—and what you heard were orders given to him!” Artemerio laughed even harder and pounded on the table with glee.
“No, they were not orders given like that. The voice said, ‘Do not be afraid to—’ No. You are missing the point.”
“Which is?” Artemerio asked, one eyebrow arched dramatically and a mocking smile on his face.
I sighed. “You can be so infuriating. The point is—why us?”
Artemerio raised his cup. “To us, may our—”
“What about the dream? The words on the base of the throne were the words from that strange dream I told you about. How do you explain that? And what about the king’s words—that the fate of the kingdom is resting on our shoulders? Do you not feel a sense of destiny about this whole turn of events?”
Artemerio took a sip from his cup. “Yes, Barto. I do sense the same sort of strangeness you do. But what do you want me to do about it? Be as solemn and heavy-hearted as you? Think it strange that the king would find me worthy to be an adventurer? No. I do not know what you think we can figure out—or why we should spend any more time thinking this through. Solving riddles is a child’s game! Surely we are up to the task.” He raised his cup again. “To our destinies!”
We sailed to the southernmost point of Windsal aboard a swift, graceful ship called the Lady Lucinda.
“Barto! Where are you? We make landfall soon!” Artemerio called to me that morning. He barged into the cabin where I had been studying the maps—a map of my own and the map that the jester had delivered to us mere moments before we set sail. “Come!”
“Artemerio. Good. I want to show you something.” I rolled up the maps and followed him out onto the deck. “I have discovered a very curious thing—”
“As have I.” Artemerio glanced at the maps inattentively. “Well, perhaps curious is not the word for it. But regardless—I have been talking with some of the members of the crew about our plans—you know, for after this riddle is solved. From what I hear, there are riches to be made beyond what we can imagine not six months south of Blackdragon Point. Ah—perhaps the spot could be found on your map. Why do you have two?” He took one of the maps from me and began to examine it. “We could easily—”
“That can wait. And the maps are maps only of Windsal. You will not find Blackdragon Point on either of them. But look. Look there on the map. See that city there—by your thumb? Now look at this other map. Same coastline. Same rivers. Same mountains. Same paths. No city.”
“What are you trying to tell me? That one of the maps is wrong? Throw that one out, then. Now, back to what I was saying…Blackdragon Point…the Unconquered Lands…oh, yes—we could easily—”
“The map with the city is the one the jester gave us. The other map is mine. My map is a common map of the kingdom, as current as they come. I do not know what this means, but I do not think we should expect our journey to be as uneventful or as short as you seem to think it will be. And there are markings on the jester’s map that are entirely foreign to me. They could mean mountain peaks or walls—see the ones I mean—the strange marks surrounding the city that is again by your thumb? I have a feeling we should be prepared for anything.”
Just then a member of the crew called to us from across the deck. “Mr. Artemerio, Mr. Barto—we have reached the port. Will you be needing help with anything? We are to sail on as soon as you are safely deposited.”
“Crewman Beefeathers,” I said, “you may tell the crew we need no help, and we will be leaving you shortly after we dock. Thank you.”
Artemerio had turned to stare at the coastline. The jester’s map dangled loosely in the hand he had dropped to his side. “It is too late for examining your maps now, Barto. There is the port city of Sumada. We will be seeing the strange cities of the jester’s map and discovering what his enigmatic markings mean very soon.” He turned, his broad grin growing broader still. “And then—on to the Unconquered Lands.”