Servitude

Reagalos Book 1

by Rebecca Cohen

Servitude - Rebecca Cohen - Reagalos
Part of the Reagalos series:
  • Servitude
Editions:ePub - 2nd: $ 3.99

Lornyc is good at keeping secrets, because secrets can get you killed.

Lornyc's forbidden relationship with Methian, heir to Xenetra, has caused him enough grief. Ripped from his life as a student to fulfil a magical contract as punishment for his family's past, he now has to play valet to Methian for ten years. It'll be hell on their already strained relationship.

And with his city of Katraman under attack, Lornyc needs to connect to the powers he’s been hiding. If he can’t master his powers and find the leader of the plot, he could lose everything he knows and loves: his family, his future as High Lord, and Methian.

Trigger warning: mind control, attempted assault

Previously published, this second edition has been edited and reworked for release.

Excerpt:

Chapter one

 

As High Lord of Katraman, Tancorix Reagalos had many duties he hated. Attending the annual gathering of the leaders of the Five Cities of Rystal Lake ranked high on the list, although it was less objectionable than dealing with his fellow leaders individually. The carriage ride back from this year’s event had given him time to reflect on yet another excruciating conference, which, considering the disastrous leeway he had been forced into on behalf of his city, was not a pleasant experience.

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Tancorix could usually rely on the rolling scenery to distract him on such journeys. But as his carriage raced alongside its banks, the shimmering waters of the lake only annoyed him further as he remembered the debate he’d lost on fishing quotas. Even the view of the Splander Mountains far to the north couldn’t ease his mind, no matter how vivid the lightning that lit the distant sky. The plains could not give way to the urban sprawl of Katraman soon enough. At least then he wouldn’t dwell on the grain agreement he’d been forced into signing.

Stepping down from the carriage as it arrived back at Reagalos Manor, Tancorix noticed Isabelle, his wife, heading towards him at such a pace that her long hair streamed behind her.

“Librava wishes to speak to you. He says it’s of great importance,” Isabelle said. “He’s waiting in your office.”

It wasn’t the welcome-home greeting he’d wanted. The archivist was known for his dislike of travel, so his presence at the manor did not bode well. Tancorix headed straight for his office; there waiting for him was the shabby figure of Prasutagus Librava, Archivist to the Five Cities of Rystal Lake. He carried several scrolls under one arm, and fiddled with the ornate, but now frayed embroidery, on the cuff of his official robes.

“This had better be good, Librava. I am a busy man with a short temper today,” said Tancorix as he entered his office, enjoying Librava’s flinch as the door slammed shut.

“Believe me, my lord, I am not here for pleasure. What I have discovered will have repercussions for the Reagalos family.”

Tancorix sneered but didn’t speak as, one by one, Librava placed four scrolls on the desk. Librava was a sheltered man, his idea of serious was the risk of running out of ink, but there was something in the way he raced to unfurl the scrolls that made Tancorix pause.

“These materialised in my office yesterday,” said Librava. “On cursory inspection, it seems that the paper has been magically treated so that they appear at a time when the conditions of the referenced contract had been met.”

Tancorix accepted the scroll he was handed. He scanned the parchment then closed his eyes and opened them again, expecting the words to have changed since what was written was beyond ridiculous. “This has to be some kind of hoax.”

“If I may explain, my lord. One of your ancestors, a Romanus Reagalos”—Librava paused as Tancorix groaned at the all too familiar name—“signed a number of these contracts with the same conditions attached.”

Librava picked up one of the remaining scrolls, checked the details written on it, and handed it to Tancorix. “However, this one is by far the worst of the four.”

A few very tense seconds later and the quiet of the office was broken by Tancorix’s roar of anger. Seething, he ordered Librava to arrange a meeting with the Hadrals, the rulers of Xenetra, immediately.

 

 

Tancorix doubted he would ever like Lady Urla Hadral. Her unfriendly smile spoke volumes; she was clearly delighted at the new turn of events. Librava had been right in his assumption that the Hadrals would have also received a copy of the contract, and the glint of malice in Urla’s eyes warned Tancorix that little could be achieved by negotiation, or at least not the ones he would be willing to make.

“It was, of course, a shock to find out how badly a member of our family was treated by the Reagalos,” said Urla. “Just as shocking, is to see how long reparation has taken.”

Tancorix watched the contempt spread across his wife’s face. “I am sure you are shaken to the core,” said Isabelle.

“Terribly so,” replied Urla. “But I believe that compliance with the terms of the contract will go some way to restore my usual balanced demeanour.”

Librava’s face morphed into a picture of concern, and Tancorix thought he was cataloguing the valuable documents and books in his office that could get damaged if things were to get out of hand.

“I’m sure both parties were equally overwhelmed by the nature of what has come to light,” said Librava diplomatically. “But we must find a way of moving forwards that is agreeable to all.”

“I have read the contract,” said Bartemus Hadral, “and I expect the High Lord to honour the conditions.”

Tancorix snorted. “You will live to be disappointed.”

“In the short time I’ve had the contract, I’ve managed to conduct some research,” Bartemus conitnued, ignoring Tancorix’s grunts of discontent. “It has become apparent that Liam Hadral arranged for the contract itself to be governed magically. You will find that the element of choice has been removed, so Lornyc, the unfortunate boy that he is, will have no option but to serve my son, Methian, who is the youngest Hadral.”

Only Isabelle’s hand on his arm had kept Tancorix in his chair. From the moment he’d read the conditions of the contract, the vile wording condemning his youngest to a period of servitude, Tancorix knew there would be no way the Hadrals would willing let the opportunity to pass them by, it did not mean he would not try to prevent it. “Don’t be preposterous!”

Bartemus pressed on. “From what I’ve read so far, the traditional servant markings will appear within forty-eight hours of the contract materialising.”

What?

“It’s all in the bylaws, Tancorix,” said Bartemus, his tone containing none of the smugness of his wife’s. “I’m sure Librava can provide you with a copy.”

“But you surely can’t approve of this,” said Isabelle, looking directly at Urla. “You were just as vocal in the condemnation of Lornyc and Methian’s involvement when they were at College. You can’t possibly want Lornyc to be given to your son as a servant—past mistakes can easily be repeated.”

Urla stared back impassively. “But this time Lornyc will be Methian’s manservant, not his peer. Believe me, my son cares far too much for his reputation to risk an improper relationship with a member of staff.”

“Your son’s reputation,” sneered Isabelle, “was the reason I didn’t want Lornyc anywhere near him.”

The atmosphere in the office chilled as the two women glared at each other. Librava rustled the papers on his desk. “I am afraid, Lord Reagalos, that in regards to the bylaws, Lord Hadral is indeed correct.”

“This is madness,” said Tancorix, he could feel his cheeks reddening with anger. “Give me a copy of those bylaws—now!”

Librava thrust the papers at Tancorix, his hands shaking slightly. “I have highlighted the pertinent paragraphs.”

Fuming, Tancorix waded through the legal jargon. The more he read, the worse the situation became. “I suppose there’s little more I can do but concede defeat. But be warned, Hadral. Should anything happen to Lornyc while he is in service to Methian, neither you nor your son will live long enough to regret it.”

 

 

The green light from the reaction chamber flashed across the surface of Lornyc’s tinted goggles. He used his heat-resistant gauntlet to wipe away the sweat on his brow and move a few wayward strands of long black hair that, if left unchecked, might contaminate his experiment. A loud crackle filled the laboratory, making the equipment on the bench rattle. Lornyc leant closer to the glass column, watching the shimmering liquid glow a lustrous green. He clicked his tongue and jotted down a few careful notes into his lab book.

A plume of acrid smoke poured from the top of the column, the light faded, and a high-pitched whine marked the death of his experiment. Swearing profusely, Lornyc ripped the goggles from his head and threw them onto the bench along with the gauntlets, waving the smoke away.

“Not again!”

Lornyc pulled his hair out of its tie, ran his fingers through it, and then scraped it back into the ponytail. Staring around at the wreck of his research, he removed his apron and shook his head at the waste of time and effort. It was no good. Nothing could be salvaged.

He dumped the dirty glassware on the end of the bench for the technician to deal with and stalked out of the lab. There was no point restarting. His concentration was shot, and he was likely to make more mistakes than add anything of value.

Lornyc left the lab behind him, making his way through the corridors of the department, deciding he’d be better off writing up his research notes back at rooms in Jillax House. He ducked into an alcove as he spotted his supervisor, Dr Zimieon, talking to Tris. His friend was tugging at a tuft of her red hair, a clear sign she wanted to get away. Not wanting to discuss another round of failures, he waited for them to move along, and, checking the corridor was clear, he continued.

One of the benefits of keeping rooms on campus was having somewhere to retreat to that wasn’t the library or a noisy coffee shop. He left the department and crossed College’s main quadrant. The weather didn’t help his mood and he sprinted to get out of the rain. He’d forgotten about the messy pile of research papers waiting for him on his desk, and he felt less inclined to continue working. With far more pleasurable pursuits on his mind, Lornyc decided that he should take advantage of the unexpected free time he’d been gifted. He headed into his bedroom, and to the large black curtain in the corner, pulling it back to reveal a grey rectangle the size of a doorway. From a shelf in the wardrobe, he collected a cerulean-coloured ball, and placed it into the chrome bracket on the wall. With a gentle push, it began to spin, its dull surface coming to life with an iridescent glow.

The rectangle emitted a low hiss and a series of waves and swirls appeared across its surface. Lornyc stepped into the portal.

He emerged into what he knew to be a seldom-used dressing area, and called out, “Are you here?”

A muffled reply came from the other room. With a decidedly wicked grin, Lornyc advanced towards the bedroom door, stripping off his tunic as he did so. “I thought,” he said to a figure reclining on the large bed, “I’d put in another long night in the lab—that’s if you’ve not got anything better to do.”

The sandy-haired man grinned and bounced to the end of the bed, holding out his arms in invitation. “You know I’m always willing to help with your studies.”

Lornyc laughed. “Your dedication, Methian, is touching.”

Methian’s strong arms wrapped around him, and the kiss they shared chased away his worries about the lab. Lornyc yelped in a most undignified manner as Methian pulled him onto the bed, but any further complaint was lost as Methian’s expert touch distracted him fully.

 

 

COLLAPSE

About the Author

REBECCA COHEN spends her days dreaming of a living in a Tudor manor house, or a Georgian mansion. Alas, the closest she comes to this is through her characters in her historical romance novels. She also dreams of intergalactic adventures and fantasy realms, but because she’s not yet got her space or dimensional travel plans finalised, she lives happily in leafy Hertfordshire, England, with her husband and young son. She can often be found with a pen in one hand and sloe gin with lemon tonic in the other.

First published in 2011, Rebecca primarily writes gay romance but in many sub-genres (historical, sci fi, fantasy, contemporary), and she simply can’t bear not to follow a story even if it is set in a different time, space or reality.


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