The Singer's Crownby Elaine Isaak
Prince Kattanan duRhys was in direct line to the throne—until his royal family was cruelly slaughtered by a usurping uncle who spared the life of his "favorite nephew" but left the boy mutilated and incapable of claiming his birthright.Nearly a decade on, Kattanan is a harmless wanderer—a coveted prize—serving many different masters. But now the… See more details below
Prince Kattanan duRhys was in direct line to the throne—until his royal family was cruelly slaughtered by a usurping uncle who spared the life of his "favorite nephew" but left the boy mutilated and incapable of claiming his birthright.Nearly a decade on, Kattanan is a harmless wanderer—a coveted prize—serving many different masters. But now the singer's simple life is threatened by chaos and dark wizardry, by his impossible secret love for the betrothed Princess Melisande . . . and by an obligation of the blood that forces Kattanan to pursue vengeance and a crown he's not certain he wants.
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The Singer's Crown
By Elaine Isaak
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2005 Elaine Isaak
All right reserved.
A ship on the Southern Sea
"We've never been so far away, Jordan," the singer said as he peered into the wind over the ship's rail. "Do you suppose we'll ever go home again?"
Jordan shrugged. "I don't know what the point would be since the monastery was destroyed." He pulled the monk's hood back from his clean-shaven head to look at the boy, small for a twelve-year-old and still sporting the long, blond curls of his childhood. The orphan looked out to sea, toward the land that was growing before them. "We left four years ago, Kat; that's as long as you lived there. I'm surprised you remember much of it, after our travels."
Kattanan duRhys turned toward his tutor. "Four years is much longer than I've spent anyplace else. By my count, we've had eight masters since we left the mountains."
"I reckon nine, if you leave in the fortnight we were with that spice merchant. Before the week is out, we shall probably have yet another. It's all your fault, Kat," Jordan teased. "Were you a singer of only fair talent, I'd be a happy scribe in some great library rather than keeping you to your lessons in palace after palace."
"It's really your fault for bringing me inside the gate eight years ago." Kattanan gave the usual response, poking the tall man's ribs.
Jordan narrowed his blue eyes and thought a long moment. He was supposed to reply that the boy need not have followed him in, another easy exchange of blame, but instead tried something different. "It's your fault for being left behind there."
The boy stiffened, crossing his arms with a jerk. "It is my fault. It's always been my fault." He did not see the foreign shore, but a garden where his uncle stooped for a fallen crown.
Jordan pushed back his hood all the way, revealing his sharp, handsome features. He touched his pupil's arm lightly. "It's a game, Kat, a joke. I would not wish my life any different. Few teachers ever have a student of such accomplishment."
"Few students have a teacher so difficult," Kattanan replied, lifting his golden head.
Jordan thought he might have seen a tear on the boy's cheek, but made no comment on that. "We're almost there, best to return to the cabin and pick up our things. We can rehearse that new tune you picked up from the boatmen."
The singer frowned. "Do you think that would be appropriate?"
"Let me start and see what you think." Jordan stood calm a moment, then began. The song, which had been a raucous ballad, was smoothed by his low voice into a rising breeze of sound. But Kattanan's voice was the sweetness upon the tune, blending in as he caught on to the changes Jordan had made, as high and clear as ever it had been. Jordan fell back into harmony as Kattanan's melody surged ahead and swirled around them. Heads raised among the sailors. Jordan sighed, smiling, and shut his eyes. The boy might not ever be a man before the Goddess, but his voice would conquer where strength could not. When Kattanan reached his full potential, no lord with ears would give him up for any price.
As they moved across the gently swaying deck toward the cabin they shared, Jordan imagined the singer as he had first seen him: a trembling child, bound to the monastery gate, bearing a note with his name: Kattanan duRhys--child of Rhys, with no mention of the mother's name. Looking at the adolescent's stooped shoulders and joyless eyes, Jordan realized that, while his singing had become ever more brilliant, he was still a trembling child, bound first to one master, then another. Not long after the orphan had been left in his care, Jordan himself had taken vows that bound him to the Goddess. He fingered the medallion that dangled around his neck, a comfort in the strange and faithless land they would soon be entering.
The wealthy wizard who had brought them beamed when they stepped ashore. He was a stocky man, and affected the dark robes with golden embroidery that his patrons expected of a man who lived by magic. Small, dark-skinned men greeted them, bearing long, feathered spears.
"Smile, lads!" the wizard exhorted them. "This place may be your home if the emir enjoys your music." He slapped Jordan on the back and winked. Turning to Kattanan, he remarked, "I hear his ladies are guarded by men such as yourself, maybe you can make some friends." He laughed loudly, even as the singer flinched. The wizard glowered, and commented in Jordan's ear, "You'd best make sure he is still in fine voice this evening, or both of you shall hear of it. I'll not have my bargain ruined by choirboys."
Jordan stiffened. "Kattanan duRhys has the finest voice yet heard on our side of the ocean. He may seem to you a child, but his song is not a toy, and neither is he."
"I thought you monks were supposed to be respectful and obedient."
"I'm not just his tutor, but also his friend; you may own him and therefore me, but my conscience is guided by a greater hand than yours. Someday that hand shall teach you about respect." Jordan stared at the wizard a long moment, then preceded him into the carriage.
Kattanan flashed him a brief but radiant smile, and whispered, "Let it be soon."
"At least the singer entertained my daughters," said the merchant as he heaved himself into a seat, "but I will not be sorry to see you go."
The rest of the ride passed in silence, with the wizard smiling widely at the curious natives who frequently barred their path. Jordan gazed over Kattanan's head toward the buildings that lined the street, plastered in a myriad of pinks and yellows, and marveled at the variety of sounds assailing them from . . .
Excerpted from The Singer's Crown by Elaine Isaak Copyright © 2005 by Elaine Isaak.
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