QSFer J. Tullos Hennig has a new queer fantasy book out:
The Summer King has come to the Wode…
Yet to which oath, head or heart, shall he hold?
Once known as the Templar assassin Guy de Gisbourne, dispossessed noble Gamelyn Boundys has come to Sherwood Forest with conflicting oaths. One is of duty: demanding he tame the forest’s druidic secrets and bring them back to his Templar Masters. The other is of heat and heart: given to the outlaw Robyn Hood, avatar of the Horned Lord, and the Maiden Marion, embodiment of the Lady Huntress. The three of them—Summerlord, Winter King, and Maiden of the Spring—are bound by yet another promise, that of fate: to wield the covenant of the Shire Wode and the power of the Ceugant, the magical trine of all worlds. In this last, also, is Gamelyn conflicted; specters of sacrifice and death haunt him.
Uneasy oaths begin a collision course when not only Gamelyn but Robyn and Marion are summoned to the siege of Nottingham by the Queen. Her promise is that Gamelyn will regain his noble family’s honor of Tickhill, and the outlaws of the Shire Wode will have a royal pardon.
But King Richard has returned to England, and the price of his mercy might well be more than any of them can afford….
The Wode Book Four
Deep in the Shire Wode
Waning of Alban Eilir,
(Vernal Equinox) 1194 ACE
“You mean, you waint.”
“I mean exactly what I said.”
Stubborn git. Robyn whirled on Gamelyn, angry-quick, and Gamelyn rocked back, almost tripping on a gorse. “You mean, you waint!” Only a step more and Robyn was on him, nose to nose. Gamelyn’s expression had an instant of shock—slight, to be sure, but there.
Good. It meant Robyn was getting to him.
“You’re the one who won’t. You’re not even trying to understand.” Aye, the mild control to Gamelyn’s voice had a scratch around the edges, and his eyes more the giveaway, witching from soft juniper to a gilt-rimmed verdigris.
If only it were witchcraft. The beginnings of admission, or agreement, or capitulation to… well… everything. If only it weren’t threatening to rain. Again. If only the sun would make some sort of appearance and dry the slippery ground beneath their booted feet. If only the bloody game weren’t wily as hares—again—and they’d not tracked that hart halfway to Nottingham, then lost it. If only Robyn, brassed off at losing their first fresh meal in a brace of fortnights, hadn’t brought all this up just to ram his head against another type of brass and stone.
“I’m trying to understand! You’re the one’s makin’ precious little sense!”
Enough of this squabbling, the Horned Lord rumbled behind Robin’s eyes, his shade a resolute track upon their heels. You and the Maid are too lenient. Put the Oak on his knees and keep him there.
Gamelyn scowled—he’d heard—and twitched akin to a horse shuddering a biting fly from his withers. “I’m not making any sense? Is it my fault you seem incapable of using what brains you have?”
Aye, Robyn was definitely getting to him. Gamelyn only tossed the bloody stupid peasant die when he was that angry. Not to mention all those freckles were disappearing beneath a flush of color vying for a match with his hair. Unbound, strands of the latter snagged in his beard… all of it bronzed against those eyes. All of it akin to metal left in winter rains—held frozen by his own runneled-on rust of pride and protection… yet canny-deadly for all that.
And just like that, Robyn’s own fury melted from brassed off to sexed up. He stepped closer, head cocked, eyebrows lifted, and lips curling in a smirk. An appreciative one—yet Gamelyn didn’t appreciate it. His nostrils flared white, stark contrast to all that ginger-and-scarlet… he was furious. Nor could Robyn stop himself from saying, “Sweet Lady, but do you know how bloody gorgeous you are when you’re all roiled up?”
“God grant me patience!” It escaped—not without an accompanying eye roll—and one hard hand slapped against Robyn’s chest, gave a shove that sent him sprawling.
Right, then. Mayhap a good rut wasn’t in order, even though sometimes ’twas a bloody fine way to quit an argument….
The Horned Lord growled louder.
Not that you’re helping! Robyn growled back, and started after.
Gamelyn stampeded across the small clearing before he lurched to a stop—and then Robyn wasn’t sure but that sodden curtain of willow hadn’t been the true reason.
Its own giveaway, that.
Gamelyn made a snatch at the lithe green branches before him, and they sent a shower over his boots. Indeed, the forest hung heavy about them, scented and thick and nigh dripping—plumped not only with rain, but the beginnings of spring. With waiting. No longer time to hold back, or yearn after oaths gone conflicted and awry. It was long past any expectations that Summer should keep dragging his feet like he wished the frost would cover him… again.
Gamelyn half turned, opened his mouth, closed it again. Finally said, “You know the only reason they let me go.”
They didn’t let you go. They made you. That still lay between them, a hot brand neither would touch.
But Gamelyn wasn’t the only one who could bite back words until his teeth bled. Revision was proper unnatural to Robyn, but he did it—several times over in his head—and settled for “Marion wants it. The Horned Lord, the Lady. It… it must be done.”
“And you? What do you want? And me—what about what I want? Am I allowed an opinion in this?”
Bloody damn, what is he on about? Robyn sent the darting, inward query to god or goddess or forest spirits all woven with them into skeins of tynged. But there was nowt to be found in the foretelling or the fate. Merely ice and rust, a cairn carven deep and bound about with iron.
Aye, but his lovely Oakbrother had barriers like to none Robyn had ever known. Such times he wished Marion were here, to untangle the secret weave of metal and stone when Robyn himself couldn’t broach it with fire. Maybe that was the problem. Robyn had always been the throwback, too much of his mother’s Barrow blood rushing his veins.
Iron was murder to the fae, after all.
“Gamelyn.” Robyn pitched it soft—light as his footfalls, coming after. “You’re here, ent you? I even think most-times you want to be here—”
“I do want—!”
“Then come with me. To the caverns.”
“Aren’t you afraid of what I’ll witness?” It was flat.
“How can you betray what’s yours?”
Ah, and that went home, somehow. A bone-deep shudder along that rigid spine—and more, quivering its way through heart and mind. Robyn scented it, marked it. Stole after. “’Twill be all the more yours after I take you below. Me and John’ll see to it, see you to rights. See you prepared for what comes of it.”
The words were gentle, reasonable. But Gamelyn was no less a predator; he sensed the stalk beneath.
“You’re willing to take me into the caverns and do this—”
“And you’re not worried about what I’ll witness.”
“It’s what you’ll See that matters. And that, you’ll take nowhere.”
“And you’re sure of that.”
“Never sure with you, pet, there’s too much as you keep close when you needn’t. But this I do know. You’ll not be able t’ speak of what comes, save to those as have rights to hear.” Robyn put a hand to Gamelyn’s face. More, Gamelyn let him. Robyn leaned closer. “You’ll have no choice.”
With an inveterate fascination in other times and places, J Tullos Hennig has managed a few lifetime professions in this world–equestrian, dancer, teacher, artist–but has never successfully managed to not be a writer. Ever. Since living on an island in Washington State merely encourages–nay, guarantees–already rampant hermetic and artistic tendencies, particularly in winter, Jen is quite reconciled to never escaping this lifelong affliction. Comparisons have also been made to a bridge troll, one hopefully emulating the one under Fremont Bridge: moderately tolerant, but… You know. Bridge troll.
Blessed with an understanding, longstanding Amazing Spouse, kids and grandkids, Jen is also alternately plagued and blessed with a small herd of equine freeloaders on retirement pensions, a teenage borzoi who alternates leaping over the sofa with snoozing on it… and, of course, a press gang of invisible ‘friends’ who Will. Not. Be. Silenced.