SNEAK PEEK SUNDAY
A sneak peek into UnderThese Restless Skies by Lissa Bryan
Journey back in time to Tudor England with a tale of romance, intrigue, and the Celtic legends of the selkies.
Will Somers has spent his life alone, thinking himself unlovable. Emma is a selkie, one of the immortal fae-folk of the sea. When Will finds her sleeping on the beach, he seizes this unexpected chance to have a wife and family of his own. He steals her pelt, binding her to him until the day he willingly returns it.
Emma has never experienced life on land, and can barely contain her excitement and curiosity. She has to learn to adapt quickly to human customs, for Will is headed to the glittering, dangerous court of Henry VIII to serve as the king’s royal fool. It’s a world where a careless word can lead to the scaffold, and the smallest of gestures is loaded with political implications.Anne Boleyn is charmed by Emma’s naiveté and soothing selkie magic, and wants Emma for her own fool. Can Will protect her from the dangers which lurk in every shadow? Theirs is a vocation that provides them some protection, but in Henry VIII’s court, no one is safe. Circa regna tonat: Around the throne, the thunder rolls.
“Your majesty, Lady Pembroke, Master Richard Fermor and Will Somers.”
“Rise,” the king said. Will glanced at him quickly. He saw a large, but still muscular man with thinning reddish-blond hair, dressed in a dark brown velvet doublet, ornamented with pearls and gold frogs. The king had gained weight in the last few years and to disguise it, he had widened the shoulders of his surcoats. His eyes were small, a piercing blue-gray. Will caught a glimpse of them before he lowered his own eyes to stare at the floor.
“So, Fermor, you have brought me a fool.” The king’s voice was low and gruff and he didn’t sound terribly interested. The lady seated at his side wore a French hood and an initial pendant attached to her strand of pearls, the letters AB twined together. She wore a dressing gown of brilliant scarlet, trimmed in ermine. It was raiment that only the highest nobility was entitled to wear, but Anne Boleyn was now royal in all but name. Just weeks ago, the king had created her Marquess of Pembroke, the highest noble title in the land. She idly patted the small dog in her lap.
“Aye, your majesty,” Fermor said. “If it pleases your grace.”
“Well, fool, what can you do?”
Will was startled. He hadn’t expected the king to actually speak to him. “I – I can juggle, your majesty,” he croaked. “I can make jests, tumble, and sing a little.”
“Let us see it, then.”
Will’s hands trembled as he withdrew the balls from his bag. “If it pleases your majesty,” he started. He straightened his shoulders as best he could and said in his haughtiest tone: “I, Will Somers, am the best juggler in England.”
The king snorted and Will hoped it was from amusement. He fell into his act, bragging about his abilities while seeming to lose track of his juggling and keeping the balls in the air seemingly by accident alone. He was grateful that he had performed this particular act so many times because he thought he’d completely forgotten his lines, but they slipped from his mouth of their own accord and his limbs seemed to move themselves. The king guffawed a couple of times and he thought her heard Anne laugh at one point. He ended with one of the balls balanced on the tip of his nose before dropping it into his hands and sweeping low into a bow.
“Well done, Master Fool,” the king said, and he seemed a bit more jovial than he had when Will first entered the room, or perhaps it was simply wishful thinking on Will’s part. “But tell me this: I have fools already who can juggle and make jests. Why would I wish to have you at my court? What have you to offer they do not?”
The answer popped from Will’s mouth as though he had rehearsed it. “Because I will do something that none of your council, lords and ladies, ambassadors, servants nor soothsayers will do.”
“I will tell you the truth, your majesty.”
Fermor gasped. Anne burst into laughter. “Oh, I do like him,” she said.
The king cast an amused glance at her. “Is that so, Master Fool? Then perhaps you are worth it after all.”
“But you must make an oath to me,” Will said.
The king flushed a little, but calmed when Anne giggled at Will’s audacity. “What?”
“You must swear it, as the word of a Christian king.” Will’s mouth was as dry as paper and his heart thudded wildly in his chest, but he continued. “You must swear to me, on your honor, that you will never hold it against me when I tell you the truth.”
The king stared at him, his mouth slightly agape, and then he burst into laughter. He slapped his knee and elbowed Anne, who laughed politely along with him, though she obviously didn’t find it as amusing as he did.
“You have my word,” the king said, as he accepted a perfumed handkerchief from one of his serving lords to wipe away the tears that had seeped from his eyes. “Or must I write it out and put my royal seal to it?”
“Your word is sufficient for me,” Will replied.
“I am flattered at your trust, Master Fool,” the king said solemnly, and burst into guffaws once again. “Go and have my steward find you rooms. Have you a wife?”
“I do.” Will thought quickly. He had to find a way to keep Emma away from court, but refusing lodgings offered by the king would be a gross insult.
The king waved a hand. “Bring her tomorrow. I wish to see what the wife of a fool looks like.”
“Much like every other wife in England,” Will said and that sent the king into laughter once more.
“Go, and come back on the morrow,” the king said. He waved a hand at the steward. “Find him some decent garb, and some for Milady Fool as well.”
Will bowed deeply and followed the steward from the room. “And for you, Fermor,” he heard the king begin before the door was shut behind them. Will’s knees gave out and he collapsed to the floor. His head swam in sick circles. He sat back on his heels and looked up at the steward. “Pray, pardon,” he rasped.
The steward smiled slightly. “You are not the first to react in such a manner.” He held out a hand and Will stared at it in surprise. The steward was a lord, and here he was, offering a hand to a baseborn commoner. Will took it gingerly and the steward helped him to his feet and drew him near.
“If ever a man needed to hear the truth,” the steward whispered, “it is that man in there.” He drew away again and his manner was once more brisk and officious. “Follow me.”
Lissa Bryan is an astronaut, renowned Kabuki actress, Olympic pole vault gold medalist, Iron Chef champion, and scientist who recently discovered the cure for athlete’s foot … though only in her head. Real life isn’t so interesting, which is why she spends most of her time writing.
Her first novel, Ghostwriter, is available through The Writer’s Coffee Shop (which is the least expensive option), Amazon, iTunes, and Kobo. Her second novel, The End of All Things, was released on January 24, 2013, and is available through TWCS,Amazon, and iTunes. She also has a short story in the Romantic Interludes anthology, available from TWCS, Amazon and iTunes. Her third novel, Under These Restless Skies, is scheduled for release in spring of 2014.