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Dec. 22nd, 2020

Imprisonment. Slavery. War. Love. Historical adventure speculative fiction & suspenseful lgbtq novels: duskpeterson.com

I have lots of fiction at my website.

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PROGRESS METERS FOR 2016


Progress meters courtesy of Rikki A. Hyperion.


Wordage


29621 / 350000 (8.46%)


New e-books published


2 / 24 (8.33%)


New collections and reissues


5 / 24 (20.83%)

Aug. 29th, 2016

Risk | #althistory #scifi #queerscifi #lgbtfiction

*

Title: Risk.

Series: Dark Light.

Publisher: Love in Dark Settings Press.

Publication date: August 17, 2016.

Genres: alternate history | adventure | maritime fiction | military fiction | lgbtq fiction.

Tags: story collection | friendship | family | gay love | bisexual male characters | heterosexual characters | 16th-century America | 1870s America | 1890s America | 1910s America | Chesapeake Bay | Western Maryland | spirituality (reincarnation; polytheism) | mentally disabled character | torturers, guards, and prisoners | liege-masters and liegemen | masters and apprentices | masters and journeymen | masters and servants | masters and slaves | rebels and reformers | Boer War.

Word count: 100,000.

Buy link: http://duskpeterson.com/darkfics/#risk

Blurb:

"I hesitated. Was Fairview dead? Was it worth my while to risk my own life for a dead man?"

Until risk arrives, you never know how important the things are that you're required to risk.

A soldier must decide how high a price he is willing to pay for an unspoken bond. A journeyman must choose between an assured future and an untroubled conscience. A boy learns that his life is a lie and must decide which truth he desires. A servant and his beloved master face stark truths as their lives are endangered. A young torturer, satisfied with his lot, gambles everything he has ever valued to learn a new way of treating prisoners. A master must risk the future of his slave, or else risk his own future. . . . "Risk" looks at the dangers and rewards of taking risks.

This second volume of Dark Light collects two novellas (short novels), two novelettes (miniature novels), and two short stories. These tales come from Turn-of-the-Century Toughs, a cycle of alternate history series (The Eternal Dungeon, Dungeon Guards, Michael's House, Life Prison, Commando, Waterman, Young Toughs, and Dark Light) about adults and youths on the margins of society, and the people who love them. Set in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the novels and stories take place in an alternative version of America that was settled by inhabitants of the Old World in ancient times. As a result, the New World retains certain classical and medieval customs.
 

Volume Contents

"The Unanswered Question" (The Eternal Dungeon). No weapons, no allies, and no guarantees that he will survive the test.

"The Lure" (Young Toughs). His entire life has been a secret. Now he must rip open the secret.

"Journey to Manhood" (Young Toughs). "Perhaps, when they spoke next, the other young man could tell Simmons of any masters here who were in need of an apprentice who was perilously close to the age of journeymanship."

"Lost Haven: a master, his servant, and a disappearing island" (Waterman). Amidst a servant's nightmare, can a haven of hope be found?

"Master's Piece" (Waterman). He was his master's piece: the model for his master's sculptures. But his master was different.

"Spy Hill" (Commando). On a hot summer's day, on a high hill surrounded by the enemy, the best battle-companion can turn out to be the truth.
 

Excerpt:

He saw his master's boat long before it arrived, skimming over the afternoon-bright waters of the Bay. The closer the lithe vessel approached, the deeper the sun dipped in the sky, and the more the grey clouds huddled together like cloaked guests awaiting the start of a dinner party. Meredith began to worry that Master Carr would arrive so late in the day that he and Meredith would be trapped there overnight, with a storm approaching. Then Meredith recalled that a house awaited them, with four walls and a roof to shut out the wind and the water – a haven on an island that he had always considered a haven, since the time he left it as a child.

The Bay, which sliced like a knife between the two shores of the Dozen Landsteads, was already growing choppy from the upcoming storm by the time that the skipjack anchored, a few yards from shore. By that time, Meredith was hiding in a grove of loblolly pines, so he did not see the yawl carry Carr from the skipjack to the island. However, he did hear the uncultured voice of a servant say, "You sure you don't want us to come back, sir? Looks like a rough place to stay the night, and there's a blow coming in on the tide."

Meredith did not hear Carr's reply, but it must have been reassuring, for when he peeked out again, he saw that the little yawl was being hauled aboard the skipjack, while Carr stood on the shell-strewn beach, his back to Meredith, his hand waving farewell to the crew who had brought him to the island.

The anchor came up, the rising wind bellowed the sails full, and the crew began the painful job of turning the skipjack and tacking their way back to the Western Shore from whence they had come. They would be eager to return home, Meredith knew, for tonight was the final day of the festival week of Spring Manhood, when servants would feast in honor of their masters.

Meredith had never attended such a feast, either as a master or as a servant. He never would, he knew. He would be embarrassed to be toasted by servants who believed him to be a master, and as for receiving the joy of toasting his own master . . . It was enough that he finally had a master, after so many years spent masquerading as one.

Or so he told himself.

Pushing aside all lingering longings to live the life of an ordinary servant, Meredith waited until the skipjack was well away. Then he walked forward to join Carr, who was standing erect on the beach, watching the slender, long-necked boat depart. Meredith reached Carr just in time to catch hold of his secret master, as the heir to the High Mastership of the Second Landstead dropped to his knees and began to wretch.

Alarmed, Meredith turned automatically back to his liege-service training, holding Carr's forehead steady while wrapping his arm around his master's back. As soon as the last of the vile black-green liquid was no longer pouring from Carr's mouth, Meredith ascertained that his master remained steady on his knees. Then Meredith released Carr, searched the pockets of his own jacket, and offered the heir what he could: a clean handkerchief and a small canteen of water.

Carr accepted both, though he drank only a single gulp of water before returning the canteen to Meredith. "Thank you," he said in a faint voice, forever polite.

"Sir, are you well? Shall I signal your boat to return?" Meredith turned his eye toward the horizon. The skipjack was probably too far now to sight any signal, but at this hour, when watermen made their way home to nearby Hoopers Island, many fishing boats would be travelling alongside this western beach of Barren Island, for the eastern channel between Barren Island and Hoopers Island was too shallow for navigation. Meredith could flag down one of the boats; or if his signal-flags were ignored, the house that awaited them still had signal-fires stored in its cellar.

But Carr was shaking his head. "I'm all right. It was a bad crossing."

Meredith looked again at the waves, blood-red now from the setting sun. The waves furrowed the Bay, as though a great plow had been drawn across it. On the horizon, the skipjack bobbed its way across the furrows.

He had entirely forgotten, over all these past, joyful weeks, a passing remark that Master M Carruthers had made one day, early in their acquaintance. "I tend to get seasick," Carr had said in the midst of a recital of the boat-mastering skills he planned to acquire during the coming holiday from school.

Carr tended to get seasick; and yet he had travelled here upon Meredith's invitation, on a stormy afternoon, rather than return to their boarding school on Hoopers Island on any calm day he could have chosen.

"I think I'll walk back to school," Carr added with a touch of his usual dry humor as he rose slowly to his feet.

He was quite serious, Meredith realized. At low tide, the channel between Barrens Island and Hoopers Island was shallow enough that it could be waded, albeit at the expense of wet trousers. It was by no means the sort of activity that the heir to a landstead should undertake. Yet it was clear that Carr preferred wading like a servant to taking another boat over the water.

Appalled now at his own insensitivity and lack of foresight, Meredith said, "Master Carr, if you prefer, I would be glad to have you stay overnight at my old house. It has two bedrooms," he added as Carr turned to look at him. He did not want his master to think that he was acting like one of those servants in boys' comics, seeking to seduce his master. Aside from the single kiss that Carr had granted him on the night of their pledges to each other, light touches on the arm were all that Carr had given him so far. Meredith was still glorying in having a master who showed him any affection at all; he did not wish to endanger his service by demanding more.

Now there was a slight quirk at the edge of Carr's mouth. "A dry bed on steady ground would do a good deal to heal my stomach, I'll confess. Is your house far?"

"Just a mile from here, sir, on the eastern beach of the island. If it should please you to come this way . . ."

His original plan, born during the anxious minutes spent awaiting the start of his entrance exam for university, had been to show Carr his childhood. To take Carr to see the old haunts of his early boyhood, where he had lived before he began his terrible, painful years as a bullied schoolboy. Here on this island were the hidden havens of animals that he had found and secretly watched during those early, happy years, living alone on Barren Island with his father, keeper of the navigation beacons on the island.

Now his father was gone, learning to be a sailor in the Dozen Landsteads's Oyster Navy, which enforced the oyster laws. The lamphouse where his father had lived for the last seven years, and where Meredith had stayed during school holidays, had been given over to another lamphouse keeper. All that remained of Meredith's childhood, aside from the school where he had too many painful memories, was this island and the cozy little house where he and his father had once lived.

"It isn't very big," he explained now as he and Carr made their way around the edges of a salt marsh. "Father bought it when he first rose to the rank of master. It only has a single storey, plus an attic. It had room enough for him and my mother and one or two children. Father's liege-master loaned him the money—"

"And your father paid back the loan?" Carr paused as Meredith went forward to raise a needle-spiky branch out of his way.

"Yes, sir. He paid back Captain Pembroke long ago. My father has enough money saved now that he could buy a larger house . . . but after my mother died, there were no more children, just me, and I'll be going to university next autumn. If I'm accepted," he added with a pang of worry. He was a good student, but until recently he had assumed that he would be attending the university of his own landstead, the Third Landstead University. The university he had actually applied for had different examination questions than he had anticipated; he was still not sure whether he had passed the exam.

And if he had not . . .

Uncharacteristically – for Carr was always quick to pick up on Meredith's worries and to find ways to reassure him – Carr said merely, "Are you sure that the house will still be in good condition? It has been many years."

"Oh, yes, master," Meredith replied quickly. "Nobody comes here anymore, so there would be no thefts."

Carr raised his eyebrows. "Not even hunters?" He waved toward a long-billed willet, half-hidden in the cordgrass.

"Not these days, sir. Back in my father's childhood, it was different, because of the least terns."

Carr creased his forehead. "The least what?"

It surprised Meredith still when his master, so skilled in talk of government and politics, would reveal himself ignorant of the wildlife that had surrounded him for years. "A seabird, sir. It looks a bit like a gull, but it's smaller, with a forked tail. It likes to nest in open spaces such as beaches, so it was easy prey for the hunters, who would sell the least terns' feathers to the millineries – feathered hats are very popular among the women. My father said that, when he was a child, the beaches on Barren Island used to be entirely white-and-grey like shadowed snow, so many least terns nested there."

He paused; Carr's eyes had wandered away from him. Meredith said quickly, "I'm sorry, master. It was of no importance. I apologize for having bored you with such matters."

His throat ached as he spoke. It had always been like this with Captain Pembroke's son too. Young Master Pembroke could tolerate very little of Meredith's chattering about the island's wildlife. Why, in the name of all that was sacred, was Meredith making the same mistake with Master Carr?

Carr shook his head slowly, as though barely hearing what Meredith had said. "No, I—" Carr stopped mid-sentence, leaning against the scaly trunk of a loblolly. There was sweat on his forehead.

Concerned, Meredith asked, "Master, do you wish to make use of me by taking my arm?"

Carr gave a weak smile then. "Meredith, I can think of many ways in which I wish to make use of you, but treating you as a cane is not one of them. Lead on, liegeman."

Meredith quickened his pace; the sky was growing dark, and he did not wish him and Carr to be lost in the pine-shadowed marshland overnight. As a child, he had spent many an evening sitting beside the pond near his house – really a tidal pool – listening to the mysterious sounds of leopard frogs, muskrats, snapping turtles, fiddler crabs, herons, and marsh wrens. His father had permitted this, once he had ascertained that Meredith carried an almost magical ability to calm any animal that initially considered him a threat.

But that was many years ago, and from what Meredith had already seen during their crossing of Barren Island, the island had changed over the years. This had been a brackish pond in the old days, a mixture of freshwater and salt, but now it was entirely a saltwater marsh; he could tell that from the change in plants. The cattails he remembered had disappeared, replaced by cordgrass. There were fewer animals too; the harsher conditions of the salt marsh had driven most of them away.

It was odd; he wondered how it had happened. Then he remembered (on the edge of his memory, like a smudge of land on the horizon of the Bay) the reason that he and his father had lived alone on an island where once hundreds of people had lived.

It had occurred around the time of his birth, the final abandonment of Barren Island. His haven, as he had always regarded it, had ceased to be liveable for most of the inhabitants, who had built their houses close to the channel between Barren Island and Hoopers Island. The water had crept in, inch by inch every year, and then acre by acre. The channel that had once been ankle-high at low tide now rose far higher than that. Barren Island had begun to submerge as the waters rose, eating away at the houses and farmland.

That was eighteen years ago. Meredith's chest felt suddenly painful, as though it had been hit by an oar. He knew – he thought he knew – what they would see when they emerged from the trees.

It took Carr a long time to speak when they reached the beach. Finally he said, "Well, perhaps wading across to Hoopers Island would not be so wise an idea after all. The water seems to have risen somewhat."

Meredith could not speak. He was Carr's liegeman. Indeed, he was Carr's servant, by choice rather than by official rank. He had dual reason to ensure the comfort and safety of the young man standing beside him.

Instead, he had invited his seasick master over stormy waves to visit an abandoned island and stay at a house that was crumbling into ruins. . . .
 

Available as a multiformat e-book (epub, html, mobi/Kindle, pdf, doc): Risk.

Imprisonment. Slavery. War. Love. Historical adventure speculative fiction.

About the author:

Honored in the Rainbow Awards, Dusk Peterson writes historical adventure tales that are speculative fiction: alternate history, historical fantasy, and retrofuture science fiction, including lgbtq novels and online fiction. Friendship, family affection, faithful service, and romance often occur in the stories. A resident of Maryland, Mx. Peterson lives with an apprentice and several thousand books. Visit duskpeterson.com for e-books and free fiction.

Dusk Peterson's social networks: Blog & e-mail list | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook | Tumblr | AO3.

Aug. 21st, 2016

Tax the Dungeon (The Eternal Dungeon) | #ao3 #fic #webserial #mmromance

"'The Commissioner of Internal Revenue has instituted a three-percent tax on all subjects of the Queen . . .' Oh, sweet blood. There were going to be riots throughout the queendom over this. The High Seeker made a mental note to clear the dungeon's breaking cells as quickly as possible, in anticipation of the arrests."

Nothing in life is certain but love, death, and taxes. But what if all three should converge?

For a century and a half, the royal prison of the Queendom of Yclau has protected its prisoners against the wrath of the Queen and her officials. The dungeon workers have remained determined to learn the truth of accusations against their prisoners, regardless of how high in rank the men and women are who place charges against the prisoners.

But now a new threat has fallen upon the Eternal Dungeon: a threat of financial ruin. Faced with the danger of the dungeon closing down, the High Seeker and his love-mate must race to identify the thief who has been stealing money from the royal treasury. If the two men fail to find the answer in time, the result will not only be the destruction of the dungeon. Failure could mean the death of their own relationship. . . .

Read online or download as free e-books: Tax the Dungeon (The Eternal Dungeon).


My bio )

Aug. 13th, 2016

Sweeping Day (Young Toughs) | #fic #ao3 #althistory

"When she was hired as a maid, no one told her that she'd hold the future of the Dozen Landsteads in her bosom."

It's sweeping day again, and her task seems straightforward: clean the dirt in her master's study and leave.

But Sally's master is no ordinary master, and Sally's sweeping could be the trigger for war. Finding herself in a dangerous trap, Sally must draw upon the wisdom of her allies in the servants' kitchen before disaster strikes.


Read online or download as free e-books: Sweeping Day.

Aug. 6th, 2016

Guise (The Three Lands) | #fic #ao3

"'Yet every nation of the Three Lands possesses treasures that ought to be shared with the other two nations,' replied the bard, reaching for the key with which to tune his harp. 'Half-men know that.'"

Daxis is the land of bards and of truths too painful to be faced.

When a man in the guise of a Koretian trader visits Daxis for his own purposes, he is confronted with memories of a battle from the past, as well as a challenge for his future.

Guise.

Jul. 30th, 2016

New Day (Young Toughs) | #fic #ao3

New Day (Young Toughs).

"Having a servant-boy accompany them on this trip was annoying, Kit thought. But there was no way around it; Honey's parents would never have allowed Honey to visit Yclau without her young bodyguard."

Kit has reached her apprenticeship birthday and is on a path to inherit power. But what sort of power will she wield?

A journey from the First Landstead to the neighboring Queendom of Yclau seems an easy enough day-trip for two young women and a faithful young servant. Kit and Honey will simply catch a monorail to the queendom's capital and enjoy their first sight of a foreign nation.

But Yclau is not the First Landstead. It is a land of robots, memories of the Bomb, and a lingering fear of what might occur next.

Kit is determined to have her birthday the way she wanted. But she will need allies for her fight, and one of them is an ally she did not expect.

Jul. 19th, 2016

Daily life: My summer so far

The full messiness )

Since somebody (I suspect it's my body, in conspiracy with my online laptop) has decided I'm not going to issue any stories this summer, I'm spending this summer writing stories instead. (Yes, despite the cubital tunnel syndrome.) Expect to see my next update in the fall. It'll be a good one, I promise.

Jul. 4th, 2016

A song for troubled times

[I just posted the text and link below at the Falls Chance Ranch forum, where Rolf & Ranger are hosting a virtual campout to help ease their readers' stress over world events during the past few weeks. I will only add here that the song I link to is terribly appropriate for the story I'm currently writing, "Tempest."]

My apprentice Jo/e and I wanted to share a song that was written in the summer of 1969, and which seems as appropriate now as it did then.

Some context for those of you who weren't around back then (which includes me, in a certain sense; I was an oblivious six-year-old). As the author of the notes to this song's album put it, "The starry-eyed optimism that had taken hold of America's young during the mid-Sixties didn't just die in 1969 - it was ripped to shreds." In 1969, the murderers of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy were on trial. Americans feared further race riots. The Vietnam War was in full swing, and young American men waited to see whether they would be drafted. Across the country, university campuses were torn apart by protests which sometimes turned violent.

In 1969, the Midwestern university where my father taught underwent student and faculty protests. One of the results of the divisiveness was that my father eventually resigned his position and moved his family halfway across the country to take a new job. (That's why I now live in Maryland.)

In 1969, Jo/e's father was serving in Vietnam.

I often listened to this song at home in the 1970s, when I was a troubled adolescent; my parents owned the album. My parents and Jo/e's parents would have first heard this song around the time its album was released, in January 1970.

Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water."

Jun. 16th, 2016

Sorry for the delay

Sorry about the lack of e-book updates, folks. I've been sick, and now my online laptop is sick. As soon as the laptop is either fixed or replaced, I'll be able to return to publishing and to updating my website.
Tags:

May. 23rd, 2016

On Guard (The Eternal Dungeon) | #gaycrimefiction #gaypolice #gaysuspense

*

Feel free to pass on this post to other people. Requests for review copies may be sent to the author, Dusk Peterson.

Title: On Guard (The Eternal Dungeon, Volume 4).

Series: The Eternal Dungeon.

Publisher: Love in Dark Settings Press.

Publication date: May 9, 2016 (reissue).

Genres: alternate history | crime fiction (police procedural) | lgbtq fiction.

Tags: friendship | gay love | bisexual characters | 1880s America | mentally disabled character | ethnic character | torturers, guards, and prisoners | mentors and protegés | spirituality (reincarnation; polytheism).

Word count: 90,000.

Buy link: http://duskpeterson.com/eternaldungeon/#onguard

Blurb:

"'Shall we allow criminals to roam the streets at will because we're afraid to take the chance of harming an innocent prisoner?'"

A bloody knife from a crime scene becomes a mystery to be solved and a foreshadow of trouble to come.

The ties forged between the noble-minded Eternal Dungeon and an abusive foreign dungeon have set off an unpredictable chain of horrific events, in which the love between two of the Eternal Dungeon's Seekers (torturers) will be tested to the straining point. Caught in the middle of the struggle are Barrett Boyd and Seward Sobel, loyal guards who will find themselves questioning their most fundamental beliefs about the royal prison's ideals.

Barrett must help his Seeker determine whether their mild-mannered prisoner is an attempted murderer. His friend Seward has pledged to guard his own Seeker against an assassin . . . or should Seward be protecting the dungeon inhabitants against his Seeker? But when the guards' two Seekers fall into a lovers' quarrel, that is when the real danger begins.

A winner of the 2011 Rainbow Awards (within the "Eternal Dungeon" omnibus), this tale of friendship, romance, and suspense can be read on its own or as the fourth volume in The Eternal Dungeon, a speculative fiction series set in a nineteenth-century prison where the psychologists wield whips.

The Eternal Dungeon series is part of Turn-of-the-Century Toughs, a cycle of alternate history series (Young Toughs, Waterman, Life Prison, Commando, Michael's House, The Eternal Dungeon, and Dark Light) about adults and youths on the margins of society, and the people who love them. Set in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the novels and stories take place in an alternative version of America that was settled by inhabitants of the Old World in ancient times. As a result, the New World retains certain classical and medieval customs.

Excerpt (with spoilers for the first volume of 'The Eternal Dungeon') )

On Guard (The Eternal Dungeon) | #gaycrimefiction #gaypolice #gaysuspense

*</center>

Feel free to pass on this post to other people. Requests for review copies may be sent to the author, Dusk Peterson.

Title: On Guard (The Eternal Dungeon, Volume 4).

Series: The Eternal Dungeon.

Publisher: Love in Dark Settings Press.

Publication date: May 9, 2016 (reissue).

Genres: alternate history | crime fiction (police procedural) | lgbtq fiction.

Tags: friendship | gay love | bisexual characters | 1880s America | mentally disabled character | ethnic character | torturers, guards, and prisoners | mentors and protegés | spirituality (reincarnation; polytheism).

Word count: 90,000.

Buy link: http://duskpeterson.com/eternaldungeon/#onguard

Blurb:

"'Shall we allow criminals to roam the streets at will because we're afraid to take the chance of harming an innocent prisoner?'"

A bloody knife from a crime scene becomes a mystery to be solved and a foreshadow of trouble to come.

The ties forged between the noble-minded Eternal Dungeon and an abusive foreign dungeon have set off an unpredictable chain of horrific events, in which the love between two of the Eternal Dungeon's Seekers (torturers) will be tested to the straining point. Caught in the middle of the struggle are Barrett Boyd and Seward Sobel, loyal guards who will find themselves questioning their most fundamental beliefs about the royal prison's ideals.

Barrett must help his Seeker determine whether their mild-mannered prisoner is an attempted murderer. His friend Seward has pledged to guard his own Seeker against an assassin . . . or should Seward be protecting the dungeon inhabitants against his Seeker? But when the guards' two Seekers fall into a lovers' quarrel, that is when the real danger begins.

A winner of the 2011 Rainbow Awards (within the "Eternal Dungeon" omnibus), this tale of friendship, romance, and suspense can be read on its own or as the fourth volume in The Eternal Dungeon, a speculative fiction series set in a nineteenth-century prison where the psychologists wield whips.

The Eternal Dungeon series is part of Turn-of-the-Century Toughs, a cycle of alternate history series (Young Toughs, Waterman, Life Prison, Commando, Michael's House, The Eternal Dungeon, and Dark Light) about adults and youths on the margins of society, and the people who love them. Set in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the novels and stories take place in an alternative version of America that was settled by inhabitants of the Old World in ancient times. As a result, the New World retains certain classical and medieval customs.

Excerpt (with spoilers for the first volume of 'The Eternal Dungeon') )

May. 16th, 2016

The Lure (Young Toughs) | #scifi #althistory #maritimefiction #yalit #1910s #chesapeake

*

Feel free to pass on this post to other people. Requests for review copies may be sent to the author, Dusk Peterson.

Title: The Lure (Young Toughs).

Series: Young Toughs.

Publisher: Love in Dark Settings Press.

Publication date: May 2, 2016.

Genres: alternate history | maritime fiction | young adult (crossover fiction).

Tags: family | friendship | 1910s America (Chesapeake Bay island) | masters and servants | watermen (fishermen) | criminals | spirituality themes (reincarnation).

Word count: 9,000.

Buy link: http://duskpeterson.com/youngtoughs/#lure Available as a Kindle e-book. Also available in multiformat until Thursday, May 19.

Blurb:

"The panic was stronger, now that they had reached the wharf. It was his parents' mightiest rule: Never allow himself to be seen. If, by terrible chance, he met someone in the woods, he must run away immediately."

His entire life has been a secret. Now he must rip open the secret.

Hannibal S. Mercer has lived all his life in an isolated island home with his loving parents and two servants. Hannibal never receives the opportunity to meet anyone else. The older servant doesn't speak to Hannibal. The younger servant might or might not be an ally in time of trouble.

Now trouble has arrived. When hostile strangers invade Hannibal's world, he must uncover the truth his parents have been hiding from him. And then he must make a choice that will determine the course of his life.

With a setting based upon an island on the Chesapeake Bay in the 1910s, this novelette (miniature novel) can be read on its own or as a story in Young Toughs, an alternate history series about the struggles of youths in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Young Toughs is part of Turn-of-the-Century Toughs, a cycle of alternate history series (Young Toughs, Waterman, Life Prison, Commando, Michael's House, The Eternal Dungeon, and Dark Light) about adults and youths on the margins of society, and the people who love them. Set in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the novels and stories take place in an alternative version of America that was settled by inhabitants of the Old World in ancient times. As a result, the New World retains certain classical and medieval customs.

Excerpt )

May. 12th, 2016

My multiformat e-books that will remain available

As a follow-up to my previous post, here's the list of e-books that will remain available in multiformat for the foreseeable future.


In the series The Eternal Dungeon:

The Eternal Dungeon: a Turn-of-the-Century omnibus (just reissued; I don't yet have the bookstore links at my website).

Rebirth.

Transformation.

The Balance.

On Guard (just reissued; I don't yet have the bookstore links at my website).

The Unanswered Question.

Green Ruin (to be posted at AO3 soon).


In the series Commando:

Spy Hill.


In the series Young Toughs:

AI & Queue (upcoming; also available at AO3).


In the series Master/Other:

Debt Price (also available at AO3).

Pleasure (also available at AO3).


Because of Smashwords's blastedly difficult author dashboard, I've had to take down the titles there tonight (except for the above-mentioned titles). However, my multiformat e-books (all of them) remain available at my OmniLit / All Romance eBooks store (different link than I posted before) and my Gumroad store until at least Thursday, May 19.
Tags:

My multiformat e-books that will remain available

As a follow-up to my previous post, here's the list of e-books that will remain available in multiformat for the foreseeable future.


In the series The Eternal Dungeon:

The Eternal Dungeon: a Turn-of-the-Century omnibus (just reissued; I don't yet have the bookstore links at my website).

Rebirth.

Transformation.

The Balance.

On Guard (just reissued; I don't yet have the bookstore links at my website).

The Unanswered Question.

Green Ruin (to be posted at AO3 soon).


In the series Commando:

Spy Hill.


In the series Young Toughs:

AI & Queue (upcoming; also available at AO3).


In the series Master/Other:

Debt Price (also available at AO3).

Pleasure (also available at AO3).


Because of Smashwords's blastedly difficult author dashboard, I've had to take down the titles there tonight. However, my multiformat e-books (all of them) remain available at my All Romance eBooks store and my Gumroad store until at least Thursday, May 19.
Tags:

I'm moving most of my e-books to Kindle Unlimited

If you're a Kindle Unlimited member, congratulations. Lots of my e-books will soon be available to you.

If you're not a Kindle Unlimited member but you buy Kindle books, you're not affected in any way. My e-books will still be available for purchase at Amazon.

If you read my e-books in other formats, such as epub or pdf, read on. I offer some suggestions further on for how you can continue to read my e-books.


Which e-books will be appearing in Kindle Unlimited? )
The timeline for placing my e-books in Kindle Unlimited and removing them from other bookstores )
What to do if you don't read Kindle e-books )
Why I'm doing this )

If you have any questions, do e-mail me or post your questions in the comments.
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May. 2nd, 2016

In Hot Water (The Eternal Dungeon) | #queerscifi #mmromance #mmfiction #gayhistoricalfiction

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Feel free to pass on this post to other people. Requests for review copies may be sent to the author, Dusk Peterson.

Title: In Hot Water (The Eternal Dungeon).

Series: The Eternal Dungeon.

Publisher: Love in Dark Settings Press.

Publication date: April 25, 2016.

Genres: romance | lgbtq fiction | alternate history.

Tags: gay love | bisexual characters | 1880s America | mentor and protegé.

Word count: 7,000.

Buy link: http://duskpeterson.com/eternaldungeon/#inhotwater

Blurb:

"He was the flame, and his love-mate was the kindling. To say they were mismatched was an understatement. He knew that it was only a matter of time before their relationship was tested. . . . Layle had simply not expected the test to be a pile of dirty dishes."

They are two of the most talented prison-workers in the world. It's a pity their skills don't extend to dishwashing.

When the kitchen laborers of the queendom's royal prison refuse to clean dishes until their demands are met, the High Seeker and his love-mate must figure out how to accomplish simple housework that elite men such as themselves never condescend to do. It seems an easy enough task. But hidden between the two men lie memories and secrets that will turn a simple task into something much more.

This romantic short story can be read on its own or as a side story in The Eternal Dungeon, an award-winning speculative fiction series set in a nineteenth-century prison.

The Eternal Dungeon series is part of Turn-of-the-Century Toughs, a cycle of alternate history series (Young Toughs, Waterman, Life Prison, Commando, Michael's House, The Eternal Dungeon, and Dark Light) about adults and youths on the margins of society, and the people who love them. Set in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the novels and stories take place in an alternative version of America that was settled by inhabitants of the Old World in ancient times. As a result, the New World retains certain classical and medieval customs.

Excerpt (with spoilers for the first volume of 'The Eternal Dungeon') )

May 2016 round-up: e-books, free fiction, and news | #sff #scifi #althistory #epicfantasy #freeread

Historical adventure tales that are speculative fiction, including lgbtq stories and young adult fiction. All e-books are DRM-free. New e-books and reissues are multiformat.
 

NEW E-BOOKS

Click on the covers for more information.

Far Enough AwayIn Hot Water
 

NEW E-BOOK SERIALIZATION OF A 2011 VOLUME

Click on the cover for more information.

Blood on the Blade
 

REISSUED E-BOOKS

Now available in multiformat. Click on the covers for more information.

The BalanceRe-creation
 

NEW COVERS

Click on the covers for more information.

Blood VowLaw of VengeanceLaw Links


REVIEW: The Shining Ones (The Eternal Dungeon)

"Everything Dusk Peterson writes is ridiculously deep, rich, and satisfying. The Shining Ones is no exception. It was strikingly beautiful. The prose lingers and swirls." —Inked Rainbow Reviews on The Shining Ones (The Eternal Dungeon).


FREE FICTION: Night Shadow (Darkling Plain)

A reissued story at Archive of Our Own. Information about my fiction at Archive of Our Own.
 

Night Shadow. "That will be your death."

A prince who could see beyond his borders but not see the people around him. . . . An enemy who would take any measure to get what he wanted. .. . And now a stranger has brought news to the prince of an approaching danger.

Young though he is, Farsight has inherited a powerful gift from his father that allows him to protect his realm. But when a conniving king in a neighboring country sets his sights on Farsight's mountain of gold, the prince will need help to protect himself against an assassin's knife. Will a newfound companion-in-arms be enough to save Farsight, once the Night Shadow crosses the border?

(Permalink.)


Spy Hill

FEATURED BACKLIST TITLE: Spy Hill (Commando)

"Fairview was the finest friend a man could have, and the finest battle-companion. I dared not risk doing anything that might break our friendship."

On a hot summer's day, on a high hill surrounded by the enemy, the best battle-companion can turn out to be the truth.

Rook and Fairview have worked alongside each other for years, first as officers in the navy, then as officers on a steamship, and finally as colonels in an invading army. Members of a nation where tiny differences of rank are considered all-important, the two men defy convention by treating each other as equals.

But now their life-long bond is about to meet its greatest strain, when they are ordered to seize and defend a hill whose landscape is unknown, in the company of soldiers who may be incompetent or treacherous. Will Rook and Fairview's friendship remain by the end of the battle? Or will their lives take an unexpected detour as they struggle to survive on Spy Hill?

This novella (short novel) of friendship and gay love can be read on its own or as part of Commando, a historical speculative fiction series that imagines what the South African Boer War could have been like if it had been fought on American soil.

Available as a multiformat e-book (epub, html, mobi/Kindle, pdf, doc): Spy Hill.


Excerpt

As we reached the main trench, I bent down on one knee to inspect it. The stone breastwork that Spearman's sappers had built in front of the main trench – and in front of the right-flank and left-flank trenches – reached no more than a hand's span toward the sky.

"We'll be on our bellies if anyone shoots at us," said Major Arundel, Tice's second-in-command, who had come over to see how the other two battalions were doing. "Still, these stones are solid enough. They should do their work in shielding us, since the Mippites will have to shoot at us from far down on the slope. We should be able to kill any attackers before they come near enough to harm us." He glanced over his shoulder. Tice had evidently given up on swaying the General; he had stepped away from the General's rock, disgust on his face. To my dismay, I saw that the General was sitting in his field-chair now, smoking a cigarette and reading a book of poetry.

"I heard a rumor that his father forced him into the army," said Arundel, shaking his head. "He didn't want to be a soldier at all; he wanted to work for peace between Mip and the Dozen Landsteads, through the High Masters' diplomatic office."

"Even so," said Fairview, "he knows how to shoot a gun. I've seen him."

"Oh, yes, sir; he received military training in school," said Arundel. "But knowing how to fire a gun and being willing to do so – that's another matter."

Too many of Fairview's men were listening in on us; it would not do for them to think we had no faith in our General. I said stiffly, "It's not the General's job to shoot guns. His job is to issue orders."

"That's so, sir," said Arundel, saluting me in acknowledgment of my reprimand. "If you'll excuse me, Colonel Fairview, Colonel Rook – I should be getting back to my men."

"Prayers," murmured Fairview as he knelt down beside me to look at the shallow trench. It went down barely a foot before the sappers had hit rock.

"How many prayers do you know?" I tried to smile.

"Oh, plenty." Fairview turned to accept a sip of water from Davey, who was holding Fairview's water bottle. "When we joined the navy . . . do you remember that day?"

I nodded. "I was just remembering. We flipped to see who went first in line."

Fairview laughed. "Did we? I'd forgotten that, after all these years. Well, the night before we joined, I went to my grandmama and asked her what advice she had for me. My grandpapa had been a soldier, and I thought she might have overheard him talking about military matters before he died."

"Indeed?" I relaxed back onto my haunches. Around us, the enlisted men were tidying up after their breakfasts, while their officers checked to see that everyone's rifle was loaded, everyone's extra ammunition was at hand. In the dressing station, doctors and their assistants carried out final preparations. There was no sign yet of the stretcher-bearers and water-carriers, though I knew that Fairview had sent orders for their arrival, after he discovered that the General had neglected this task.

Fairview nodded, pushing back his helmet. The morning sun was growing brighter; an occasional bird flew past us, chirping brightly. Otherwise, all I could hear was the equally bright chatter of our men. "She taught me as many battle prayers as she could recall, and then she said, 'Alec my boy, the most important thing to remember is to put your affairs in good order before you go into battle. It's no use worrying about your affairs, once battle has begun. You need to do beforehand everything that needs to be done. The Fates get awfully annoyed at you if you arrive in afterdeath and tell them you've forgotten to do something. It's like leaving a stove fire going when you depart the house."

Fairview's messenger-lad put his hand over his mouth to smother his titter. I laughed outright. "And have you followed her advice?"

Fairview gave a quirk of a smile. "I suppose not. I've always been poor at tending to needed tasks."

"You're not the one who needs to make that confession." I frowned as I glanced back at the right flank. All seemed in order among my soldiers; the officers, good men, had noticed the brightening light and were urging the enlisted men into position in the trenches. It occurred to me, as I looked around, that Fairview's men were already in position, as were Tice's.

It was true enough, that Fairview and I made decisions jointly. But I had always been a bit slower than him in thinking matters through. The result of this was that, time after time, Fairview had acted first, and I had followed in his wake. It was the only flaw in our otherwise flawless friendship.

I looked over at Fairview again, and was surprised to see that he too was frowning. "Is something on your mind?" I asked. With one hand, I indicated the scene before us.

"The fighting, you mean? No. We've done everything we can to prepare, given our orders. It's just . . . Well, this isn't the place to talk about it, I suppose. Big ears." He looked over at Davey, who had been leaning in to listen. The lad blushed and ducked his head. Fairview laughed and patted him on the shoulder.

"Sir!" It was Branchwater, Fairview's second-in-command. "The mist is lifting!"

Fairview and I rose to our feet. Everywhere, despite the orders to entrench, men were standing up, trying to peer through the pale veil that was lifting as we watched. Whiteness turned to green and brown; I saw spread before us the lower ground that led to Fort Frederick. It was dotted with soldiers, many of them clustered near a creek at the foot of Spy Hill. Some of the soldiers below were already climbing.

My eyes rose further up. To the northeast I could see a magnificent range: the highest mountains I'd spied yet in Mip. And to our left, barely six hundred yards away, was the knoll to the north of Spy Hill. Light glimmered on rifle barrels there.

"Sweet blood," whispered Fairview. It was a prayer.

Then came a boom from Fairview Mountain, and the creek shook. Every man on the summit fell to his stomach.

The Mippite gunners had found us.

Available as a multiformat e-book (epub, html, mobi/Kindle, pdf, doc): Spy Hill.


NEW YOUNG ADULT COMPANION SERIES TO THE THREE LANDS

I've started a new young adult series that is a companion series to The Three Lands. It's called Young Spies, and it will center upon teenage characters in the Three Lands of the Great Peninsula. As with the Turn-of-the-Century Toughs cycle, I've given this cycle of two series a name: The Great Peninsula. And as with Young Toughs, this is a YA crossover series, intended to be read by both young adults and adults.

(As an aside: I was stunned to discover that nobody, in the history of American publishing, has ever before used the title "Young Spies" for either a book or a series. What are the odds of that?)

To start the series, I'm serializing Law Links, which was previously published in the Three Lands series but which I've shifted to Young Spies because its protagonist is a teenager.

You'll see that I've managed to figure out a way to keep the stories of The Three Lands available at Amazon while I bring out the new multiformat editions. However, the series omnibus will be unavailable for a while.

Apr. 25th, 2016

Blood on the Blade (Young Spies) | #sff #diversefantasy #diversesff #diverseya #diversityinya #yalit

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Feel free to pass on this post to other people. Requests for review copies may be sent to the author, Dusk Peterson.

Title: Blood on the Blade (Young Spies: Law Links #3).

Series: Young Spies.

Publisher: Love in Dark Settings Press.

Publication date: April 18, 2016 (serialization of 2011 novel).

Genres: fantasy | adventure | war fiction | young adult (crossover fiction).

Tags: friendship | family | mentor and protegé | MENA character | spirituality themes (polytheism; veneration of emperor).

Word count: 17,000.

Buy link: http://duskpeterson.com/youngspies/#bloodontheblade

Blurb:

"Sometimes I feel that Fenton is as mysterious as the gods, and that he is hiding something of vital importance from me. Something that would transform my life."

He has pledged himself to the god of death. He didn't realize what that meant.

As Adrian delves into the mystery of his young tutor, he is drawn into a feud between his family's village and a rival village where Adrian has friends and relatives. Now that Adrian has reached the age of sixteen, he is old enough to take part in the feud.

When the feud turns deadly, Adrian must choose between the ideals of his tutor Fenton and the orders of his father. The choice seems simple at first. But Adrian does not yet realize that the god to whom Adrian has pledged his service has his own plans. . . .

This novella (short novel) of adventure and friendship is the first episode in the serial "Law Links," which is part of Young Spies, a fantasy series about a world at war, in which young men and young women take part in warfare and espionage. The series is inspired by conflicts between nations during the Roman Empire and the Dark Ages.

Young Spies is part of The Great Peninsula, a cycle of fantasy series (Young Spies and The Three Lands) about an epic battle between cultures, set at a time when a centuries-old civilization is in danger of being destroyed.

Excerpt )

Blood on the Blade (Young Spies) | #sff #diversefantasy #diversesff #diverseya #diversityinya #yalit

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Feel free to pass on this post to other people. Requests for review copies may be sent to the author, Dusk Peterson.

Title: Blood on the Blade (Young Spies: Law Links #3).

Series: Young Spies.

Publisher: Love in Dark Settings Press.

Publication date: April 18, 2016 (serialization of 2011 novel).

Genres: fantasy | adventure | war fiction | young adult (crossover fiction).

Tags: friendship | family | mentor and protegé | MENA character | spirituality themes (polytheism; veneration of emperor).

Word count: 17,000.

Buy link: http://duskpeterson.com/youngspies/#bloodontheblade

Blurb:

"Sometimes I feel that Fenton is as mysterious as the gods, and that he is hiding something of vital importance from me. Something that would transform my life."

He has pledged himself to the god of death. He didn't realize what that meant.

As Adrian delves into the mystery of his young tutor, he is drawn into a feud between his family's village and a rival village where Adrian has friends and relatives. Now that Adrian has reached the age of sixteen, he is old enough to take part in the feud.

When the feud turns deadly, Adrian must choose between the ideals of his tutor Fenton and the orders of his father. The choice seems simple at first. But Adrian does not yet realize that the god to whom Adrian has pledged his service has his own plans. . . .

This adventure novella (short novel) is the first episode in the serial "Law Links," which is part of Young Spies, a fantasy series about a world at war, in which young men and young women take part in warfare and espionage. The series is inspired by conflicts between nations during the Roman Empire and the Dark Ages.

Young Spies is part of The Great Peninsula, a cycle of fantasy series (Young Spies and The Three Lands) about an epic battle between cultures, set at a time when a centuries-old civilization is in danger of being destroyed.

Excerpt )

Blood on the Blade (Young Spies) | #sff #diversefantasy #diversesff #diverseya #diversityinya #yalit

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Feel free to pass on this post to other people. Requests for review copies may be sent to the author, Dusk Peterson.

Title: Blood on the Blade (Young Spies: Law Links #3).

Series: Young Spies.

Publisher: Love in Dark Settings Press.

Publication date: April 18, 2016 (serialization of 2011 novel).

Genres: fantasy | adventure | war fiction | young adult (crossover fiction).

Tags: friendship | family | mentor and protegé | MENA character | spirituality themes (polytheism; veneration of emperor).

Word count: 17,000.

Buy link: http://duskpeterson.com/youngspies/#bloodontheblade

Blurb:

"Sometimes I feel that Fenton is as mysterious as the gods, and that he is hiding something of vital importance from me. Something that would transform my life."

He has pledged himself to the god of death. He didn't realize what that meant.

As Adrian delves into the mystery of his young tutor, he is drawn into a feud between his family's village and a rival village where Adrian has friends and relatives. Now that Adrian has reached the age of sixteen, he is old enough to take part in the feud.

When the feud turns deadly, Adrian must choose between the ideals of his tutor Fenton and the orders of his father. The choice seems simple at first. But Adrian does not yet realize that the god to whom Adrian has pledged his service has his own plans. . . .

This adventure novella (short novel) is the first episode in the serial "Law Links," which is part of Young Spies, a fantasy series about a world at war, in which young men and young women take part in warfare and espionage. The series is inspired by conflicts between nations during the Roman Empire and the Dark Ages.

Young Spies is part of The Great Peninsula, a cycle of fantasy series (Young Spies and The Three Lands) about an epic battle between cultures, set at a time when a centuries-old civilization is in danger of being destroyed.

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<center><p><img SRC="http://duskpeterson.com/bloodontheblade6x9.jpg" ALT="*" height=648 width=432></center><p><i>Feel free to pass on this post to other people. Requests for review copies may be sent to the author, <a href="http://duskpeterson.com/#contact">Dusk Peterson</a>.</i> <p><b>Title</b>: <b><a href="http://duskpeterson.com/youngspies/#bloodontheblade">Blood on the Blade</a></b> (Young Spies: <i>Law Links</i> #3). <p><b>Series</b>: Young Spies. <p><b>Publisher</b>: Love in Dark Settings Press. <p><b>Publication date</b>: April 18, 2016 (serialization of 2011 novel). <p><b>Genres</b>: fantasy | adventure | war fiction | young adult (crossover fiction). <p><b>Tags</b>: friendship | family | mentor and proteg&eacute; | <a href=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MENA>MENA</a> character | spirituality themes (polytheism; veneration of emperor). <p><b>Word count</b>: 17,000. <p><b>Buy link</b>: <a href="http://duskpeterson.com/youngspies/#bloodontheblade">http://duskpeterson.com/youngspies/#bloodontheblade</a> <p><b>Blurb</b>: <p>"Sometimes I feel that Fenton is as mysterious as the gods, and that he is hiding something of vital importance from me. Something that would transform my life." <p>He has pledged himself to the god of death. He didn't realize what that meant. <p>As Adrian delves into the mystery of his young tutor, he is drawn into a feud between his family's village and a rival village where Adrian has friends and relatives. Now that Adrian has reached the age of sixteen, he is old enough to take part in the feud. <p>When the feud turns deadly, Adrian must choose between the ideals of his tutor Fenton and the orders of his father. The choice seems simple at first. But Adrian does not yet realize that the god to whom Adrian has pledged his service has his own plans. . . . <p>This adventure novella (short novel) is the first episode in the serial "Law Links," which is part of Young Spies, a fantasy series about a world at war, in which young men and young women take part in warfare and espionage. The series is inspired by conflicts between nations during the Roman Empire and the Dark Ages. <p>Young Spies is part of The Great Peninsula, a cycle of fantasy series (Young Spies and The Three Lands) about an epic battle between cultures, set at a time when a centuries-old civilization is in danger of being destroyed. <p><lj-cut="Excerpt"><b>Excerpt</b>: <p>I went to see Fenton today, just after dawn. <p>Even though we are really too far north for such a construction, the priests' house is built in the style that became fashionable around the time that Koretia was born: it has an atrium in the middle, with a garden-bed of raised earth. Fenton uses it as a place to grow apple trees, however strange it may seem to grow trees within the walls of a house. He said once that the apple trees make him feel less homesick – the only time he has ever hinted that he misses his native land. <p>Now I found him busy, pulling the first apples of the season from the branches. I held the basket for him as I said, "Father wants me to make my blood vow of friendship today." <p>Fenton did not turn his eyes to look at me; he was trying to persuade a little green worm – which would no doubt destroy many of the apples on his tree – to crawl safely off the apple he was picking. "I imagine so. The blood feud begins tonight; you cannot take part in it unless you are pledged to one of the other men in the village." <p>"Yes." I let myself linger on that thought with pleasure, as I might have lingered on the last rays of summer sunshine. The murder still made me feel sick and hollow inside, but at least we would be able to find his murderer and punish him. <p>"Do you wish to make your blood vow of friendship to your father?" Fenton asked as he turned to drop the apple into my waiting basket. "Or do you wish another of your relatives to be your blood brother?" <p>"I thought . . . I thought perhaps it might be more pious to pledge myself to someone who is nearer to the gods." <p>I stammered a bit as I got the words out. I had spent much of the pre-dawn hours lying awake on my pallet, wondering how I would find the courage to make my request. My shyness was odd, for I am as close to Fenton as to a brother, but somehow, asking Fenton to be my blood brother seemed as bold as asking a god whether I might be a guest in his home. <p>Fenton gave me the barest flick of a look before turning his attention back to inspecting the apples in the basket. "Only the gods can say who is closest to them." <p>I bit my lip as my cheeks turned hot at this refusal. After a minute, Fenton added, "Here, put the basket down and come help me. I need the use of your blade over here, where the leaves are thickest." <p>I gladly helped but found I could not meet his eyes as we did our work. Finally, Fenton said quietly, "Do not think that I feel anything but the greatest honor at your offer, son of Berenger. If love alone were reason enough to pledge myself to another, my blood would already be on your blade. But I swore to my god, long ago, that I would not vow my blood to any man who took part in blood feuds." <p>"But—" I stared at the faint scar on his wrist that represented my father's oath to him. <p>Something that was not quite a smile touched the edge of Fenton's mouth. "Your father and I became blood brothers when I was newly arrived in this land, before I realized how matters of justice are played out in Koretia. I have received many fortunes from that vow: your father's friendship, the opportunity to serve as the gods' representative in this village, and the sweet enjoyment of teaching you. But now that I know of blood feuds, I cannot, in all conscience, allow myself to blend my blood with any man who takes part in them." <p>"But the gods ordained the blood feuds," I said in confusion, pausing from my work, blade in hand. "And the priests are the ones who bless the hunters." <p>Fenton, reaching high for an apple beyond my reach, said, "Not all of us." <p>After a time, he paused to wipe sweat from his forehead as he said, "I pray for the hunters' safety. I can do that much for them. But it is your father's decision to begin this blood feud, not mine." <p>"It was the decision of the murderer," I growled, misery and hatred washing over me again. <p>Fenton did not speak immediately. His face, bright in the early morning light, seemed as white as a bone. At last he said, "Let us leave the murderer aside. You know, as well as I do, that other men in Cold Run are likely to be killed in this feud. Is it right that their blood should be shed for another man's deeds?" <p>"They're shielding the murderer," I said quickly. <p>"We cannot know that they do so by choice. They may be acting under their baron's orders." <p>"They share the murderer's blood, for he is part of the village of Cold Run. Men who share the blood of a murderer deserve death as much the murderer does." The words tripped off my tongue easily, for I had learned them when I was young. Ironically, the lesson had come from Cold Run's priest, who had cared for us until Fenton became our priest. <p>"It is words like that," said Fenton, bowing his head over the basket, "which make me determined not to share my blood with any hunter." <p>I thought of this as I sheathed my blade and got down on my knees to begin inspecting the apples for worm-holes. I knew that Fenton's words could not be the words of a coward, not only because he is the bravest man I know, but also because he is in no danger of being killed. Any village man who does not bear a blade cannot be hunted in a feud, and Fenton never bears a blade. He cannot bear a blade, by his oath as a priest. <p>So his words puzzled me. Finally I decided that, being a priest who is oath-bound not to fight, he wished only to pledge himself to others in a similar circumstance. This made sense, that he would want to be blood brother only to men who were on a similar path of life to his own. And yet . . . <p>"What if," I said, my voice tight, "I should not be a hunter?" <p>His gaze flew over to me. "Your father would be angry." <p>His reply reassured me. He had not said, "No"; he had only shown concern about angering his first blood brother. Feeling myself on surer ground now, as though I had found a part of a cliff that did not crumble, I said, "I am a man, and I must decide for myself what oaths I take. . . . It's not too late for me to take another path, is it?" My words held more pleading than I would have liked. <p>"No," said Fenton, sitting back on his heels; he had joined me a moment before in sorting the apples. "It is not too late. Yet you place temptation in my path, Adrian. If I can keep you out of this feud . . . But that is a poor reason to bind myself in lifelong friendship to another man." <p>"You already said you wanted to be my blood brother." The words came more easily from me now. "If the only thing holding you back is that I'm to be a hunter, then I won't take part in the feud. It's as simple as that." <p>Fenton pushed back his hair under the hood of his robe, sighing. "It is far from simple. I see the possibility of another feud arising from this. And if you are doing this only for my sake—" <p>"No," I said quickly. "You are my priest. If you think it would be wrong for me to take part in this feud – if you believe that my god doesn't wish this for me – then of course I won't hunt. That would be wrong, whether or not you became my blood brother." The thought was rising in me that perhaps Fenton had specially chosen me for this role, as a Commander might have chosen one of his soldiers to remain away from battle in order to guard some important post. Normally, as a grown man, I would not be required to remain bladeless, as though I were a priest or a child. But perhaps Fenton believed that one man in this village should remain bladeless during the coming feud, as a visible symbol of the words of peacemaking that he had spoken at my birthday feast. <p>And he had chosen me. He believed that I had the strength to withstand the temptation of taking part in the hunt. <p>Something of my joy at being granted this special role must have conveyed itself to my face, for after looking at me for some time, Fenton said gently, "I wish I had the eyes of the Jackal, to know what will come of this. But as you say, you are a man, and it is your right to make this choice. Come, then, and I will pledge my everlasting friendship and faithfulness to you. May our bond never be broken, even by death." <center> <p>o—o—o</center><p>And so we exchanged blood, and then I went home and told my father of my decision, and he shouted at length until he finally calmed down enough to say, "Well, in practical terms, this means little. I will find the murderer when I am sent out, and that will be the end of the feud. But you ought not to have misled Fenton into thinking that you are on the path to becoming a priest, Adrian. You know that, the next time a feud arises between us and Cold Run or another village, he won't want you to take part in it, because of the promise you made him." <p>This had not occurred to me; I had thought of myself only as a special sentinel for this coming battle, not as withdrawn from battle for all time. But I dared not express my doubts to my father; I said only, "That is farther away even than the death of the murderer. Surely you have better things to worry about at this time. Have you whetted your blade?" <p>This turned our conversation to easier matters – ways to trap and kill the murderer . . . <br>&nbsp; <p>&para; <i>Available as a multiformat e-book (epub, html, mobi/Kindle, pdf, doc):</i> <b><a href="http://duskpeterson.com/youngspies/#bloodontheblade">Blood on the Blade</a></b>. <center> <p><img SRC="http://duskpeterson.com/dplogolove2016-200x300.jpg" ALT="Imprisonment. Slavery. War. Love. Historical adventure speculative fiction." height=300 width=200></center><p><b>About the author</b>: <p>Honored in the Rainbow Awards, Dusk Peterson writes historical adventure tales that are speculative fiction: alternate history, historical fantasy, and retrofuture science fiction, including lgbtq novels and young adult fiction. Friendship, family affection, faithful service, and romance often occur in the stories. A resident of Maryland, Mx. Peterson lives with an apprentice and several thousand books. Visit <a href="http://duskpeterson.com">duskpeterson.com</a> for e-books and free fiction. A portal to Dusk Peterson's young adult fiction is at <a href="http://ya.duskpeterson.com">ya.duskpeterson.com</a>. <p><i>Dusk Peterson's social networks:</i> <a href="http://duskpeterson.com/lists.htm">Blog &amp; e-mail list</a> | <a href="http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2072858.Dusk_Peterson">Goodreads</a> | <a href="http://twitter.com/duskpeterson">Twitter</a> | <a href="http://facebook.com/loveindarksettings">Facebook</a> | <a href="http://duskpeterson.tumblr.com">Tumblr</a> | <a href="http://archiveofourown.org/users/duskpeterson/profile">AO3</a>.

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