Winter Roses

by Jo Tannah

Winter Roses - Jo Tannah
Editions:ePub - First Edition: $ 4.99
ISBN: 978-1-4874-0936-4
Pages: 93
Paperback - First Edition
ISBN: 1487411480
Pages: 101
KindlePDF

When you let your heart lead the way, magic happens.

In Kizerain, preparations are underway for Yula, a once in a lifetime Royal festivity. Everyone is excited, except Anwyll and Pedr.
Prince Anwyll had always dreaded winter, but this year, he's turning twenty-five, and for the first time since his birth, the nation will be simultaneously celebrating three momentous events—his birthday, his ascension to the throne, and the identity of his chosen consort.
Pedr Gardner is a talented botanist whose days are spent experimenting to create new varieties of plants and designing gardens. As a recipient of a much sought after royal invitation, he needs to present the king with a unique gift. Unfortunately, he's coming up blank.
When a handsome man walks into Pedr’s garden, they strike up a conversation that soon evolves into friendship and finally love. As Yula draws nearer, Anwyll has to find a way to make Pedr his.

Excerpt:

Chapter One
Whenever he sat down to meet his father’s council, be they the heads of government or just the cabinet, Anwyll always adhered to protocols and formalities. Addressing the men seated around him according to their titles and positions kept the meetings in order, and no one had cause to accuse anyone of any slight or wrong doing. Considering his father’s advisers were also members of his extended family or close friends, it was one way to curb the tendency of some to flaunt their connections.
His father never failed to remind him that he, King Eljin, was there as the king, and he, Anwyll, as the prince. With barely one month remaining before taking over his father’s position, it served well to remind the attendants of the officious nature of the meeting.
Anwyll sat to the right of his father at the head of the table, while his uncle, Chief Counselor Fiacre, sat to his left.

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On either side of the long table were his two cousins, Lairgnen and Llewellyn, attending in their capacities as kingdom ministers.
This morning there were only five of them in attendance, not counting their secretaries and aides standing about, ready to do their bidding. Earlier, Fiacre had handed Anwyll an update on the preparations being made for the Yula celebration. With it was a list of potential candidates for the role of royal consort.
Yula only occurred once in every generation. On the winter solstice, when a royal heir turned twenty-five, they
became eligible to take over the reins in the management of the kingdom. The three-day winter holiday celebrated three important events that would change everyone’s lives.
Even when other children had been born to the family, if a royal birth occurred on the eve of the winter solstice, that child would be declared the heir to the throne. It didn’t matter if they were male or female, the eldest, middle or the youngest. Because of the timing of their birth, they were considered a gift from the gods. Of course, no one could ignore the physical sign of the royal heir—they were all born with silver hair.
On the first day of Yula, guests were expected to bring in gifts to their abdicating king. These were to be placed in a room for the king to examine privately and to choose from. The king would then appear before the assembly and show off the favored gift. Whoever brought that gift was then given a monetary reward, forever cementing their reputation and pockets.
On the second day, the heir was expected to reveal the identity of their consort. If he or she had not already found their chosen from among their peers, they were given the one night to find one from among the guests.
Aspiring families wanting royal connections through their children did not hesitate to spend their money on dressing them in extravagant clothes. The parade of elegantly dressed royal personages was a spectacle the populace looked forward to, even if they were only to witness it from their viewing monitors at home.
The third and final day celebrated the bonding and coronation of the newly anointed king and consort followed immediately by the royal couple paying homage to their people and a pledge of public service.
Anwyll read over the list and made a face at the names he saw there. Yes, his uncle had included the names of the sons
of his friends and business colleagues. Unfortunately, Anwyll knew all of them. It was not that they were unattractive—they were just too young for his taste. He was not one to have to raise a child while married to them. Setting the paper aside, barely concealing his distaste, he picked up another. A quick run through over the list of expenditures immediately revealed that someone had decided to go overboard in anticipation of the Yula celebrations
He tapped on the paper with a finger and looked at his uncle. “I thought I said we were to stick to the budget I’d approved. This says the planners are already over budget.”
“Yes, they are, and I warned you it might happen when we last talked,” Fiacre said.
“You have to remember that our people are expecting a spectacle,” King Eljin said beside him. “They’ve been looking forward to celebrating Yula since the day of your birth. We have to give them the experience. If they see a lackluster presentation, they’re going to feel slighted and think the gods are withholding their blessings.”
Anwyll looked at the faces around him. “Where did they get the extra money?”
Fiacre harrumphed when no one answered his question. “Your father approved the extra expense.”
Anwyll sensed the discomfort from the others as they struggled to keep their faces blank of expression. They knew of Anwyll and his father’s differing opinions on managing monetary affairs. Where King Eljin tended to be lax when it came to money, Anwyll had a reputation for being close-fisted.
“I, among all of us, should know how important Yula is to our people. However, I gave the planners a certain amount and I expected them to adhere to it without going behind my back and consulting my father about it.” He looked at his
cousins’ masked faces and knew that they either knew nothing or if they did, had disapproved of the action.
“I will let this slide for now as it’s already too late and the money has been spent. They placed the king in a precarious situation, and I don’t blame him for approving the release of the money. What’s done is done. However, please inform the event planners this is their first and final warning.”
Resting his arms on the table, Anwyll clasped his hands in front of him. They all knew it as a sign that his word was law, and no one voiced their opposition to his decision. Beside him, he felt his father’s hand pat him on the shoulder and he threw him an apologetic smile.
“I apologize for whoever made you uncomfortable, Father,” he said. As he turned to his companions, his smile fell and his voice deepened. “Indeed, the king’s actions speak loudly of our unwillingness to embarrass the family should the events be found lacking by naysayers or critiques.”
He looked at each man’s face, and one by one, they tipped their heads in agreement. “I will extend more funds for their use, but I expect a full accounting for everything they spend on that was not included in this preliminary list.”
Anwyll looked at his cousin, Lairgnen. “As minister of finance, I want your office to send me regular reports on the Yula preparations. I know it’s not your task to do this, and I apologize.” He waited until Lairgnen dipped his head in understanding before turning to Llewellyn.
“As minister of security, I need you to monitor the approved guest list and their parties. With so many visitors and their servants entering the walls for the celebrations, we need to maintain a safe environment while making them welcome.”
“Understood,” Llewellyn said.
“Excellent,” King Eljin said, rubbing his palms together.
“Gods willing, we will have a joyous festival ahead of us and a consort we can all be proud of.”
Tensions forgotten, the others laughed as the meeting came to a halt, partaking in the refreshments brought by the palace servants. His father, especially, seemed more joyous than he usually was, and Anwyll felt a surge of affection.
King Eljin had endured a lot after the death of his beloved consort. He’d raised Anwyll without help from nursemaids or tutors as tradition dictated and had tackled on the responsibilities of the kingdom with unswerving dedication. Unfortunately, the repercussions brought about by the burden of ruling alone without receiving respite in the arms of a partner had taken their toll.
The king’s role was purely magical, psychic and spiritual in nature and he would need someone to ground him, to anchor him to their world. Without a consort’s scientific mind, an anchor to reality, his magic could turn destructive.
For a man supposedly in his prime, King Eljin looked worn and faded. His once shiny golden-white hair had dulled to salt-and-pepper, while his eyes, once a vibrant gold, were now milky and watery. Although his face remained unlined, there was no mistaking he looked tired and world weary. Without a bonded consort, he’d had no one to replenish the loss of energy his position demanded from him other than what his brother, Fiacre, could provide.
Anwyll was more than ready to take over from his father and shoulder the burden of rule. Five years earlier, King Eljin had nearly died, and Anwyll had taken on many of his minor duties, like the management of the economy. Over the years, he’d gradually taken on more royal duties, and in less than a month’s time, he would finally assume the mantle and become king. He only hoped he could find the right consort willing to give up everything for the sake of their world.
His eyes fell on Fiacre’s list of probable consorts once more. Picking it up, he read through the names again, hoping to feel that tug of awareness his father had once described, an awareness that would lead him to the right man who would share his life. When he reached the bottom of the list, he knew he’d not found the right name. Taking up a pen, he looked at the names one final time. With bold strokes, he made a huge cross over the paper.
“You did not find a name that called to you, my prince,” Llewellyn said beside him.
Anwyll looked up and shook his head. “No. Nothing.”
Llewellyn set his glass of wine on the table and pulled out a chair to sit beside him. “Uncle Fiacre is at his wits’ end, Anwyll. He’s given you the names of practically every single unbound man in the city, including the under-aged boys. Should we decide then, on the second directive as dictated by our laws? Someone outside the family may be waiting out there in the common grounds for you.”
Anwyll leaned back into his chair with a sigh. The others must have heard Llewellyn’s suggestion, for they walked closer around the table once more. He looked up at them only to see his father and uncle’s grim faces.
“Is it so bad to think of someone other than our relatives joining ours? We’ve married into each other’s families for many generations—isn’t it about time we introduced new blood? At least that way, we’re guaranteed our next generation of princes and princesses will not suffer from degenerative diseases.”
Fiacre sat down on the chair nearest him. “No,” he said, shaking his head. “If it were not an option for you, there wouldn’t be a second directive.”
“I agree, though I do foresee a potential security problem,” Lairgnen said, looking over to where Llewellyn sat.
“No, that is not an issue at all,” Llewellyn said with a shake of his head. “In fact, it is something that has been addressed in the past, and all we need to do is reestablish the security protocols as had been used before. This wouldn’t be the first time a king had chosen a consort from without our city boundaries.”
“I have to agree with Llewellyn,” King Eljin said. “I think it would be fun having new people about.” He laughed at the looks of consternation on Lairgnen and Fiacre’s faces. “Now, seriously, wouldn’t you want to see someone other than the usual faces? I, for one, would love to talk to someone from the common grounds.”
Anwyll laughed at his father’s excitement. “Then you wouldn’t mind if I chose a commoner, Father?”
“Of course not,” King Eljin said, taking a sip from his wine. “The only concern I have is for the choosing itself.”
Lairgnen placed his hands on the edge of the table. “It would mean Anwyll would have to go down to the common grounds and search out the allowable five.”
“I always did wonder why only five are chosen,” Llewellyn said.
“As a seeker, Anwyll would need to search with his mind for his potential consort.” Fiacre sipped on his wine before continuing. “In case you’ve forgotten, our planet is populated by over seven billion people. If he were not limited to five, not only would it take him forever to find someone, but he’d also deplete his energy levels. Five is the safest number.”
Anwyll rested his chin on a hand, his gaze wandering over to the window. Outside, tree branches swayed in the breeze, their leaves falling and drifting in the wind. The season had turned and it was close to winter. A cold breeze caressed his cheek and a sweet, fresh fragrance wafted into the room. His back stiffened, he closed his eyes and he leaned back heavily into his chair in shock. A longing, close to an ache, tugged at his heart.
“Anwyll, what is it, my son?”
He opened his eyes and became conscious of the worried looks on his companions faces. Anwyll let out a soft breath even as he began to feel the gentle tug gain strength.
“I feel a heart calling mine, Father.”
Gasps of surprised disbelief echoed within the room. Turning abruptly, Fiacre motioned for the aides, secretaries and servants to leave the room. In seconds, the room was emptied of all save the five of them.
“Explain yourself, Anwyll. Tell us what it is you felt, exactly,” Fiacre ordered, his eyes intently focusing on his.
As Anwyll narrated what he felt, he saw hope rise in his uncle’s eyes. When he turned to look at his father, he saw the glimmer of unshed tears of relief in them.
“If I understand it correctly, your chosen is close by,” Llewellyn said.
“It is highly probable, Llewellyn. Yes, Anwyll’s chosen may live very close to us,” Fiacre said.
“But why only now?” Lairgnen asked. “Why is it, if indeed he is living very near us, hasn’t Anwyll felt him before?”
“Because I have never smelled them before,” Anwyll said. Standing from his chair, he walked toward the open window and looked down.
Other than the sunlit gardens of the palace grounds, he could only see the heavy clouds float beneath the plateau’s edges. Just then, a gust of wind rose from below, bringing with it a strong scent of sweet, lemony fragrance. He inhaled deeper, relishing the bouquet of his chosen, but his satisfaction turned to curiosity.
“I smell flowers,” he said, cocking his head to the side as he tried to describe the final note reaching his nose. It held
just a hint of cloves and something else he couldn’t quite place. He took a long, indrawn whiff before realizing what it was. “I smell ice.”
“Floral ice? What does that even mean?” Lairgnen said with a puzzled frown.
Anwyll turned around to face his cousin, but the call pulled at his heart and he looked outside and below the window again.
“Father, I need to go down there. I can feel him. I need to go to him” he said, leaning his hands on the window sill, gripping it tightly against its stone edge. The strength of the draw bound around his torso like a sturdy rope being pulled by someone with all their strength from the other end.
“Anwyll, get away from there,” King Eljin said in alarm from behind him.
Anwyll felt hands gripping his arms and drawing him away from the window. He gave an involuntary whimper when his uncle closed the windows and drew back the drapes.
With the windows closed, he lost that strange connection, only to have it replaced by a cold emptiness that crept deep into his chest. Taking a lungful of breath, he looked up at his father.
“Father, I felt him,” he said, his voice pleading. Belatedly, he realized he was rubbing his chest, as though the massage would somehow ease the ache inside.
“I know you did, but you cannot jump out of the window and survive the more than two thousand feet drop. No, you will go down there at the soonest time possible. Lairgnen and Llewellyn will accompany you,” King Eljin said.
“I want to go with them,” Fiacre said.
“No, I need you to stay here and make sure Anwyll’s orders are followed to the letter. I will send a missive to the elders in the common grounds that we’re sending a contingent to search for...” King Eljin drifted off. He frowned down at Anwyll. “We need to give them some sort of reason why we’re sending a contingent. Any suggestions?”
Anwyll thought over several possibilities, but nothing logical came to mind. Lairgnen looked thoughtful, but when he began to scratch on his skin, Anwyll knew he’d found a solution. He poked Lairgnen’s shoulder making his cousin startle at the touch.
“Have you thought of anything?” Anwyll asked.
Lairgnen threw him a disgruntled look. “Well, I was thinking,” he said, looking around him. At Anwyll’s raised brow, he continued. “We can say we’ve run out of flowers for the celebration and are looking for suppliers among them. That way, we can search among those who are directly connected to flowers—wait! Why not use the distribution of the invitations? But instead of just the usual four, we can add a fifth. That way, Anwyll can find his chosen without drawing much attention to him.”
“Why flowers? Why not food?” Fiacre looked at Lairgnen.
“Because Anwyll smelled flowers.” Lairgnen turned to Anwyll. “Right?” At Anwyll’s nod, he rubbed his palms together. “Now, we cannot reveal the real reason behind adding one more invitation, so we need to come up with something.”
Anwyll heaved a sigh of relief. His father had described the pull to him, but he’d never expected it to be this intense. As to why it was happening just now, he didn’t know. Running a hand over his scalp, he took a deep breath and held it. He could still smell the fragrance, almost taste it. The scent had been strong and so icy, it numbed his nostrils.
“Lairgnen, please make the arrangements,” he said, interrupting Lairgnen as he made plans. “We’re leaving at daybreak.”
“That’s less than ten hours from now, Anwyll. We need more time,” Fiacre said.
“I know we need more time, but I cannot ignore him, Uncle.”
They must have heard the urgency in his voice, for they looked at him before nodding their agreement.
“Don’t worry, Anwyll. We’ll make this a very simple plan, something so stupid no one would think of it other than we’re truly in need of flowers.”
“Throw in a special compensation,” Llewellyn said. “Like... oh... how about a royal seal of recognition? That should work? Right?”
Anwyll left the room, leaving them to their discussion. As soon as the door closed behind him, he walked quickly to his suite of rooms, three corridors down from the conference room, and lay down on the bed as soon as he was inside. Pacing his breathing, the scent whirling in his mind, he calmed his racing heart.
I will find you. Soon.

COLLAPSE
Reviews: sljasble on Goodreads wrote:

A fairy tale blend of magic and science and love

This story reads like a fairy tale and the backstory that weaves around this tale is very well thought out and described. It left me wanting more. I want to know more about the religion and culture and how the mix of magic and science can play out. I waffled on the star rating because some of the story seemed stiff and some of the story could have been sequenced better. It felt that the author struggled with keeping a word count low when a couple thousand more words would have made this tale much fuller and richer. All in all I loved the characters, especially Pedr. I would have liked to see more of his parents and family and life before the prince. I would definitely want to read more about these two.


About the Author

I am a wife, mother and blogger by day, a writer by night. It can be
difficult to say the least but it is a challenge that keeps me on my toes.
I grew up listening to folk tales my father and nannies told either to entertain us children or to send home a message. These narratives I kept with me and finally I wrote them down in a journal way back when I kept one. Going through junk led to a long forgotten box and in it was the journal. Reading over the stories of romance, science fiction and horror I had taken time to put to paper, brought to light that these were tales I never met in my readings.
The tales I write are fictional but all of them are based on what I grew up with and still dream about. That they have an M/M twist is simply for my pleasure. And I hope, yours as well.


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