DISENCHANTED 2 Excerpt (Draft): A Ducal Tragedy
Disclaimer: Kindly note that this is the tentative prologue of my very rough first draft; I say tentative because it is a draft and depending on what my characters choose to do—or not do—this portion could be changed rewritten entirely. Thanks for reading!
A smile tugged at Lilac’s lips as she trailed the violet robed figure along the west corridor. Garin immensely despised attention, wishing to remain inconspicuous with the kingdom’s new and fragile state of affairs. His priest’s hood did little to conceal his piercing eyes—and equally sharp tongue—which turned heads everywhere on castle grounds. The monks were either indifferent or saw him as one of their own, but Madame Therese and the convent didn’t know what to make of him.
The muffled trod of leather turn shoes approached, and Lilac glanced up from her thoughts to see a pair of nuns bowing as they passed. Returning from mid-morning Mass,
Lilac guessed. Before she could reciprocate a curtsey, the two had scurried away, their faces pink as posies.
Lilac had known winning her people’s hearts would take some time; it was either lead by loyalty or fear, and the latter wasn’t an option. Not to her. She sniffed and pretended not to notice, ignoring the small pang of hurt resonating in her chest—until she caught a glimpse of Garin’s grin in the shade of his hood.
“Unsettling others,” Lilac muttered dryly. “Does that bother you at all?”
Garin continued his stride, slower this time to match hers. “It’s a rather comfortable role for me, Your Majesty,” he replied casually. “Though, tonight I think I’ll relinquish my position at the Abbey to our dear Guillaume. Priesthood is not enjoyable in the slightest.”
She chewed her lip to stifle a laugh; a little over two weeks ago, Garin had escaped from a dungeon inferno to steal the castle priest’s robes and officiate her ceremony. Instead of murdering him, Garin had convinced poor Guilliame he’d held a dutiful career as the chateau stablehand.
The lack of impulsive bloodshed was a notable improvement on Garin’s part; however, and in consequence, he now played a double role as both Fenfoss Tavern barkeep and occasional devout Chateau de Trécesson priest.
His voice dipped lower still. “Does it unsettle you that a quarter of the town believes you’re cavorting with one of the clergy?”
“There have been worse things said of me,” Lilac reminded him.
“And the worse you’ve done.”
They came to a halt outside the stone doors of the Grand Hall. Towering nearly to the roof, they were grey and carved with several gargoyles tangled in filigree; their size and dated design never seemed foreboding, so much as they made her feel small. Lilac squared her shoulders and pivoted to throw Garin a polite smile before bowing; with a raised brow, he did the same.
Even if he hadn’t towered above the entire clergy and made the convent giddy, even if he wasn’t at least 20 years their junior—his aura alone was enough to alarm anyone. It obviously irked him to tend such tedious matters, yet she’d spotted him in the halls twice the past week. She often wondered why he still bothered, but hadn’t had the chance to ask him; in all the initial political fuss, which her parents promised her would tamper soon enough, they hadn’t had a moment alone since the night of her coronation.
Regarding the nature of the audience requested that morning, she’d decided to summon the priest’s company herself.
“Duke Armand awaits,” he announced, the gravel gone from his voice. He placed his hand on the door.
She started forward—and then paused, suddenly noticing something shifting in the metal liquid of his eyes.
“Aren’t you... You're not attending?” she seethed, her stomach sinking. She recalled the chilling warning issued by Armand’s wife, the Duchess Vivien, and their son Sinclair’s outraged attempt on her life during the coronation ceremony.
Two evenings prior, Armand had sent missive for Lilac’s most urgent audience; he hadn't mentioned any details, but if there was even a chance the entire Le Tallec family was in attendance, Garin surely wouldn’t let her go without his company.
“Your father is in, along with his men,” was Garin's only answer. “His incessant chatter is unmistakable.”
Indeed, her father had reassured her of his and their counsel’s protection, but they couldn’t snap spines quite like the wily priest.
“Meriam’s insisted I prepare the inn for you tonight. She's absolutely charming in anticipation of your arrival, by the way.”
“Tonight.” Her apprehension suddenly dissipating, Lilac's throat burned with excitement—then dread. At the start of the week he’d left a note beneath the lip of her duvet that only she would find, but she’d lost track of the days since receiving Armand's request. The notion of an evening at the Fenfoss Inn—one spent with Garin—was no more thrilling than it was horrific. Her first time there she’d enjoyed his fellow barkeep Lorietta’s company, and the bar-brawling Korrigans were now kindred folk, but the thought of facing the human-despising innkeeper made her nervous, especially since she now knew of Lilac’s true identity; she'd quickly and abashedly proposed a discreet meeting at her quarters instead, which Garin had politely turned down.
He leaned away from the door and folded his hands, bowing at the pair of servants whose gaze lingered a moment too long in passing. The opening of his hood revealed a reserved grin. "Why does a mere duke invoke such reaction from the queen herself?"
Months ago, she wouldn't have known quite how to respond; in childhood, before her Darkling Tongue was discovered, the Le Tallecs were too friendly, too close, almost too generous for a family whose status resided beneath her own. When the tragic events of her tenth birthday unfolded and with her ability exposed to the kingdom, Armand and Vivien eagerly sidled up to her parents’ side to comfort them in their devastation from indirect societal ruin—all while Lilac remained kept in the shadows.
After her coronation ceremony, thanks to a letter from the leader of the Fairfolk, Kestrel, Lilac and Garin realized just how dangerous the Le Tallecs were. Vivien had somehow managed to murder the former head of the Brocéliande vampire coven, and while this event, in an almost comedic twist of fate, was what first set Lilac and Garin on an intersecting trajectory, the duchess wasted no time pushing her son toward the throne as soon as Lilac fled the castle.
Garin was watching her carefully, but with the glint in his eyes she suddenly realized the question was rhetorical. With a shaky smile she exhaled slowly and nodded. “Until tonight, then.”
He took her hands in his with unsettling grace and grasped them firmly. “Your father has his flaws, like all men do, but he’ll never leave you unprotected again. Your absence shook him and your mother both.”
“How would you know that?” Her reply shot out more scathing than she’d intended.
“For one thing, your father has cut down to three pints per day. And your mother has actually let her hair down enough to enjoy a single glass of wine before bed. It seems to loosen her perpetually clenched jaw and fists.”
The former king would have family physicians fired and replaced at the drop of a hat for suggesting curbing his alcohol intake might be a bright idea, and the queen was always so uptight she‘d some days resemble a gargoyle herself.
Lilac blinked. He wasn’t wrong. Before she could reply, the bell began to toll in the distance, signaling the turn of the hour.
Garin released her and gripped the door handle again. “Come to the gate after you’re finished for the day. I know you’re usually fed up with everyone by dinner.”
She giggled. “I’ll meet you at the tree line after the castle is slumbering.” She then paused, her stomach suddenly heavy. She was, in every sense of the word, new to her role—new to the throne, and thus, growing accustomed to every responsibility it came with. This time, getting caught by guards wasn’t her greatest fear. Her esteemed title did not grant her any immunity outside her castle walls, not against rogue vampires, not against vagabonds or vengeful ogres who undoubtedly remembered the smell of her urine, and especially not against Ophelia, whenever in the woods the witch was.
But Garin placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder, gently encouraging her forward. “Not to worry. I’ve taken care of everything. Your evening journey to meet with the owner of The Jaunty Hog will be well secured.”
She shook her head; none of what he said made any sense. Paimpont’s largest tavern made the Fenfoss Inn look like a luxury, or so she’d heard. Why would he use that, of all things, as her alibi? “My parents hate that tavern. They despise Gwereg even more. I’ve heard he‘s a cheat, he overcharges drunks and pockets every shilling and gros instead of tending to needed repairs.”
“Which is why they’d never wish to follow. The council believes you’re evaluating their tavern for safety.”
“Wouldn‘t I send someone else to do that?”
“Let's see—you're a woman. You speak our language. One might as well assume you’re a hands-on ruler, which you are." She couldn't help but grin through his words. "You're progressive, Your Majesty, and they’ll have to respect that.”
“But if my parents send guards to accompany me—”
“They could. But not against your protest, Your Majesty.” Garin frowned as if remembering something. “If you do bring guards, though,” he added, “please bring your least favorite, or ones you’ve known to assault innocents and women.”
He winked, and Lilac shuddered involuntarily. “Armand has just arrived. Best to not keep them waiting.”
He was right. She couldn’t keep stalling any longer. If she’d been forced to trust the man—the creature—in front of her back when she hardly knew him, she could trust him now. Plus, another moment with him, a moment to process everything and just be, was worth almost anything in the world.
She lifted her skirts and offered him a bow, and he simply returned the gesture. Garin pushed the enormous lefthand door in with a single arm—a small but rare slip-up which Lilac noticed in the moments after but didn’t think to mention—and the queen stepped into the vestibule.
The door slammed shut behind her before she registered the screams. A male, animalistic screech echoed through the high ceilings from the sunlit room beyond. Her father. without a single glance back, Lilac sprinted into the entry.
Henri Trècesson stood, in presumable well health, frozen on the steps at the head of the marbled room. An expression of helpless shock was etched into the fine lines of his blotched cheeks and forehead; his trembling fingers on one hand gripped a crystal glass of water, while the other rested upon the wrapped hilt at his hip. The trio of council members behind him had risen unsurely to their feet. Four of her royal guards surrounded Armand—or who passed vague resemblance to Armand—with their swords half drawn.
The disheveled man at the center of the room was near unrecognizable, his matted hair in knots and missing in some places as if it’d been torn out. His robes hung loosely on his frame and so too did a large cloth sack across his shoulder. His blue eyes darted wildly, and she was unpleasantly reminded of the night Sinclair at the end of his wits had cornered her and Garin outside Ophelia’s cottage.
“You,” he roared, beads of spit flying from his chapped lips. It without a doubt was Sinclair’s father. “This is your doing, you ever-tardy, treasonous—”
“Armand that is enough!” bellowed her father at her side. “You requested an audience, not a fucking jury, for Christ's sake. Say your piece and harp on, or leave us with this madness immediately. Your Majesty,” Henri vigorously beckoned his daughter while trudging back up the steps.
Forcing her breath to slow, Lilac felt every pair of eyes on her as she hastily made her way to the front of the room. The French physicians the Le Tallecs had hired must have found out what happened to Sinclair during the ceremony, that Ophelia’s Low Forest toadstools had caused his hallucinations. How on earth would she skirt around modern medical evidence?
She skipped the steps to join her father on the landing, but remained on her feet as he did. “Lords and Ladies,” she began shakily; although there were none at all present, it was the only salutation she could recall. "Father."
She bowed at Armand and forced herself to meet his bulging eyes. “Your Grace. You may speak."
The duke, usually the most collected amongst his immediate family, moved to remove the sack from his shoulder without lifting his gaze from her. A slow smile spread across his face as he reached into the bag—and suddenly, without good reason, Lilac Trécesson felt her ears grow warm. The king shifted uncomfortably beside her. Was it a hurling potion? A musket? Lilac suddenly found herself wishing she'd brought her insubordinate dagger.
In one fluid motion, Armand removed a sizeable object from the bag and tossed it onto the floor as if it were a small bag of flour. It landed with a solid thud.
It was an arm. Part of an arm--a forearm and hand, pale with splotches of blooming purple, silver bracelets and cuffs and rings still attached.
PRAISE FOR DISENCHANTED:
"Girl meets boy, girl turns out to be heir to the throne, boy turns out to be a centuries-old vampire...tale as old as time, right? Wrong. Sure, Disenchanted delivers all the explosive romantic energy you'd expect when a woman on a mission to save her kingdom gets mixed up with a reluctant bad boy bodyguard. But, Brianna Sugalski's magical pen delivers so much more: adventure, intrigue, humor and the kind of deep and diverse world building that leaves you eager for more."
-Sean Gibson, author of The Part About the Dragon Was (Mostly) True and The Camelot Shadow
"Disenchanted by Brianna Sugalski is a bold combination of history and fiction, fact and fantastical. As if the upheaval of the French Revolution weren't already enough to ramp up the tension in any story, the addition of magic and our heroine's quest to save herself makes for a thrilling adventure that will leave you on the edge of your seat." - Katelynn Watkins, Watkins Editorial Review
"Though the story is woven on the yarn of a political conflict, it's romance that stays at the heart of the book. Sugalski, with an exceptional eye for characterization and situations, creates an absorbing fantasy that's a delightful romance and a compelling coming-of age tale wrapped together. With its witty, sharp dialogue, crisp prose, and tight plotting, this impressive series opener has all the merits of a well-crafted fantasy. Readers who love medieval-esque fantasy will be greatly rewarded by this thrilling tale of magic." - BookSiren, The Prairie Book Review
"I loved this book from cover to cover. Author Brianna Sugalski weaves a highly atmospheric tale with her many talents, not least of which is the elegance and mystery of a European fantasy setting, with its dark forests and royal politics brought into sharp reality by a keen mind. Lilac makes for a very affable heroine with whom one can sympathize, and I liked her more and more as she developed against the hardships of the real world when her adventure puts her under strain. I love tales where witches do not take the typical villain role, and there were some very clever subversions of fairy tale tropes woven into this story which made it refreshing, yet enjoyably familiar at the same time. Overall, I would highly recommend Disenchanted to fantasy fans looking to begin a compelling new journey with an author to fall for." - K.C. Finn, Reader's Favorite
"Readers will be enticed into a world of mystery, intrigue, and romance. Sugalski showcases her mastery in worldbuilding by transporting readers to Broceliande forest and taking them on the journey alongside. Lilac and Garin." - Danielle, YA Allegiance
"Sugalski's writing is what predominantly adds the fantastical touches to this tale of risk and vulnerability. A lyrical prose coupled with vivid descriptions completely engulfs, effortlessly carrying away readers to another place and time. A straight-forward plot with the majority of its focus on the evolution of its characters transforms this epic romp into a very intimate illustration of personal growth and self-awareness. The mechanics used to build tension do so without flaw, which oftentimes had me audibly declaring "just one more chapter". It's easy to lose yourself in this world she's created, and I honestly couldn't ask for anything more." - Justine Bergman, Whispers and Wonder Reviews
About the Author:
With an education in Mass Communication—and an engrossment in all that is curious and bewitching—Brianna Sugalski is Historical Fantasy author and blog editor at the Parliament House Press.
The Filipino-American author was born and raised on the island of Oahu in Hawaii, but travels every few years with her husband and two children. She admires the luminaries of the Victorian Era; growing up reading period literature, folklore, and fables has inspired her to twine vibrant settings of nature with emotional narratives that readers will hopefully enjoy. When she's not writing or studying history, Brianna can be found eating Snoballs or on a beach somewhere, picking up seashells with her toes.
Ultimately, she aspires to make her own readers laugh, to challenge their perspectives on societal and systemic prejudice, and to help them discover the magical meaning of their own powers within.