Sinner - The kan Ingan Archives - Book One
Click on image to enlarge.
by Toni V. Sweeney
Description: Deroes kan Ingan, the stubborn and strong-willed Margrave of Arcanis, has eluded all attempts to get him to marry, and never intends to fall in love, but then he meets?
Spoiled, beautiful and accustomed to getting her way with men, Elizabeth professes love for and weds Deroes, privately calculating the benefits of marrying the ruler of a galaxy. Unexpected obstacles derail her plan -- most significantly, Deroes' nephew (and former heir), Aric.
Taken from his mother at age twelve and raised as the heir to the Arcanian throne, Aric bitterly rebuffs Elizabeth's overtures of friendship. Events take an unexpected turn when he falls in love with his uncle's wife.
While Aric and Elizabeth begin a passionate affair, other forces in the kingdom are plotting rebellion and murder?
?using Aric as a less-than-innocent pawn.
eBook Publisher: Double Dragon Publishing/Double Dragon eBooks, 2012 Double Dragon Publishing
eBookwise Release Date: January 2012
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [601 KB]
Reading time: 367-513 min.
The Beginning of the Circle
The Elders' Council Room
10 Years Before
The reason behind Arcanis' policy of isolationism regarding the Solar System was such common knowledge that the most inattentive schoolboy could recite the story quite readily. Conversely, the intrigues played out before that policy was done away with and the betrayals coming afterward were carried out in the strictest secrecy.
They had once sent a delegation to the only planet--unnamed in the star system X97B--showing evidence of sustaining life, expecting to find angelic inhabitants in the green paradise's lushness. Instead, they were set upon by a band of naked apelike creatures who promptly beat two of their members to death with clubs and proceeded to devour them.
Being on a peace mission, the crew had no more defense than their personal weapons, and, though their retaliation killed more than two of the beings, they saw no need to further risk the lives of the remaining men--the mission lost them their Crown Prince and his cousin--and their grief-stricken ruler agreed.
From his stronghold in Aljansur, the capitol of Arcanis, the Margrave decreed no one from the Emeraunt Galaxy would again endanger his life by doing so. They would wait until the creatures reached a stage of development in which they could receive alien visitors in an intelligent and peaceful manner.
It took longer than they expected.
Two millennia and several hundred Margraves later, in fact, and that was why--as soon as the present ruler made his decision to once more contact the third planet from the sun X97B, now called by its inhabitants Terra, the Council of Elders called a secret meeting.
Not that they had much hope of changing his mind.
Deroes III had been king since the age of eight, after his father, an unassuming man perfectly content never to leave the planet, died as quietly as he had lived.
As usual, the Elders stepped in, declared themselves the young monarch's guardians, and made the boy a figurehead. That lasted until the eve of Deroes' thirteenth birthday when he called them together, declared their authority over him null and void, and relegated them to their original position as counselors to the Throne and nothing more.
The Margrave and his advisors had been at odds ever since.
It had quickly been driven home to the twelve men that one might ask, one might suggest, one might even cajole or beg, but one never, ever told the adult Deroes kan Ingan what he could or could not do. He seemed determined to prove his name--meaning He who is easily lead, in Arcanian--was definitely a misnomer.
The latest example of this was his announcement a few days earlier that he was sending a delegation to the planet which the Emeraunt had quarantined from outside communication for the last two thousand years, and that he himself would lead the party. In a long, narrow room whose windows looked out over the road to Aljansur City, they attempted to formulate a protest to the Margrave's decision.
"I suppose there's no way to dissuade him," someone said, hopelessly.
"Perhaps we should encourage him to go?" another suggested.
"Reverse psychology? Tell him we approve of his going and he won't want to?" Kozlu Lowen, eldest of the Advisors, spoke ironically. "Do you really think that would work?"
"I say we let him go to Terra. Get this wanderlust out of his system," the speaker went on. "Then perhaps he'll settle down as we want him to."
"Since when has Deroes ever done anything we wanted him to?" asked Malik Azura, gloomily.
"Exactly!" Kozlu agreed. "As for settling down, do you truly think letting him go to that far-off planet is going to kill the adventure in his blood? After all, he is a kan Ingan."
"Perhaps it's for the best," Arim Tam, the newest member of the Council, put in, hesitantly. "You know it was his grandfather's dream to open trade with the Terrans." He brightened hopefully and looked around at the others. "Perhaps once the Margrave has done that, he'll return home and be ready to accept a more...sedentary... life."
"Yes," Malik agreed. "Perhaps this journey'll cool his adventurous blood."
"--and then, we can persuade him to marry." Arim finished.
His refusal to select a bride from the many noblewomen presented to him had long been a bone of contention between Deroes and his Advisors.
"I doubt it. He hasn't shown any inclination to do so thus far, has he?" Jared Tam, Arim's older brother, put in. "In fact, I'm beginning to wonder--"
"Wonder what?" Kozlu interrupted, sharply. He fixed Jared Tam with a steely gaze. "You wouldn't be questioning our sovereign's sexuality, would you?" When his fellow Counselor didn't answer, he went on, "Everyone knows of his trips to the Pleasure Dome." He waved a hand in the building's general direction, seen in the distance if one were standing at the Assembly Room window, "And the woman he keeps there. Why, I took him there myself when he was thirteen."
"No, Kozlu, of course not," Jared back-stepped hastily. "It's just that he manages to find something wrong with every girl we've introduced him to--this one's too tall, that one's too short...this one talks too much--"
"Well," Malik pointed out. "Being married to a woman who chatters like a magpie can truly be Hell."
That brought a roll of laugher from all of them, for Malik's wife was a notorious chatterbox and he'd often joked that it still astonished him how he'd managed to get her to shut up long enough to listen to his marriage proposal.
"I say, we don't oppose him," Landrum Kohl, who, until that point had remained silent, now spoke up. "Let him go, with our blessings. After all, he's going to anyway."
"We're straying from the subject," put in another Elder. "Which is--the effect this'll have on our planet."
"That's right," Arim Tam leaned forward earnestly. "Terrans are centuries behind our own galaxy in space travel--they still put their passengers into stasis--and they continually try to convert other planets to their religion. Think of it...missionaries attempting to convince our people there's only one god?" He lowered his voice as if imparting a secret. "And they obviously have no sense of pride in their ancestors. Anyone may marry whomever he pleases. The mixture of their races is evidence of that. Why, they don't even have a caste system."
The horror in his voice--that of a pure-bred Arcanian--was plain. "Terrans have a reputation for being the most sexually indiscriminate species in their galaxy. Do we really want our people--or our leader--exposed to such motley, promiscuous creatures?"
"For the gods' sakes, Deroes is just going to open trade negotiations, not sleep with them!" The other Advisors stared at Kozlu. Seeming to realize how his burst of anger surprised them, he went on a little more mildly, "Granted, they've only just begun spatial exploration. I understand their reception of His Majesty's message caused a bit of an uproar since they had no idea our own galaxy existed."
"You're defending them?" His brother Willem spoke up.
The Elder Advisor ignored him. "If I might play the god of Hell's advocate for a moment. Perhaps we can help them advance a little technologically. Who knows? And their ... uh ... biological diversity ... may provide an interesting study. As for religion, I believe what you're suggesting, Arim, only happens when there's an aggression and a planet's occupied, and that'll never happen here."
Effectively silenced, Arim Tam sat back, but his look said plainly he still had severe doubts.
"All that said," Kozlu continued. "Are we in agreement, then? We'll notify His Majesty we disapprove of his plan and strongly suggest that he--"
Behind them, the door slid open.
"--that I what, Kozlu?"
The men at the table left their chairs, hastily dropping to their knees as their sovereign entered the room.
"Your Majesty..." Kozlu turned, attempting not to look guilty and failing miserably. "We ... I ... That is--"
Under the steady gaze of those amber eyes, as unnerving as the stare of an attacking hawk, he gave up and bowed. He might once have been Deroes' tutor and was the nearest person to a close friend the Margrave had, but he was well aware that wouldn't save him from His Majesty's anger.
Deroes came into the room and stopped directly in front of his old friend. "That I should give up my plan to go to Terra?"
"Sire, I--" Kozlu bowed his head.
"No prevarications, Kozlu, please." Deroes voice was quiet, holding a hint of exasperation. "I know why you're here, all of you." He looked past the old man to the others. "You're trying to think of a way to convince me not to go to Terra, the way you did my grandfather, and my great-grandfather, and his father before him." He made an impatient gesture with one hand. "Oh, get up, get up!"
With great difficulty and a few groans, the twelve men staggered to their feet.
"They're still a violent, unpredictable people, Sire," Kozlu protested.
"So are we, for that matter." Deroes placed a gentle hand on the old man's shoulder but Kozlu had the definite feeling the fingers wanted to tighten into a bone-crushing grip. "Sorry to disappoint you, my faithful counselors, but I'm going to Terra." The hand fell from Kozlu's shoulder. Turning, Deroes stalked through the still-opened door, saying over his shoulder, "--in two days--" as he disappeared down the corridor, leaving his old teacher staring after him.
When the sound of their sovereign's footsteps had died away, Kozlu turned back to the others.
"Gentleman." His voice was filled with the long-accepted sound of defeat. "You heard His Majesty. I believe we've been dismissed."