From their prisons, the old gods watch, and wait.
Calcifer, the arrogant and obtuse sorcerer turned monster hunter, wants nothing more than to bleed his country of its gold, and return to his lover. When she is assaulted and her mind is left in tatters, Calcifer seeks vengeance by any means necessary.
Sir Clark Pendragon has murdered more men than he cares to remember. Tired and battle scarred, the old knight just wants to live out his last days in peace. When he is needed to stop an assassination, Pendragon is ripped from his retirement and sent north to save his country one final time.
Shrike, keeper of Amernia's secrets, spends his days combing through letters in search of blackmail. Cunning, and with a mind sharper than a blade, Shrike's luck is slowly running out, as sinister shadows conspire against him.
War is coming to Amernia, and the Blood Queen stands at the heart of the chaos. A wave of hatred ripples across her country, and she maintains order with fire and fear. The rift between rich and poor, human and nonhuman, divides the kingdom more every day, as a spectral rider streaks across the sky, heralding the death of kings.
The fates of Calcifer, Pendragon, Shrike, and the Blood Queen are hopelessly intertwined, and new alliances will be forged and broken as war threatens to tear Amernia asunder.
"If you're looking for an unpredictable, engaging fantasy novel that will hopefully be the start of an awesome series, then look no further than Sins of Sovereignty."– The Fictional Hangout
"The writing was superb. The world was unique. The characters are delightfully flawed. The plot is addicting and unexpected. Sins of a Sovereignty was a huge surprise."– Bookworm Blues
"Plague Jack's writing is the best I've read so far in the SPFBO challenge… If you enjoy dark fantasy and want something that dips into the shadier sides of morality, then Sins of a Sovereignty might well scratch that itch for you."– Bibliotropic
At the end of the hold Bridget Van Cann sat atop a ragged crate as if it were her throne. Unlike her guards, the Vaetorian queen showed no signs of being disheveled. Upon her head sat the Vaetorian crown, a gold ring ornamented with steel spikes that gripped her white hair like a kitten's claws on a ball of yarn. Tied around her chest was a purple cloak sealed with a silver unicorn-shaped clasp. It would be unfair to say that Bridget Van Cann looked her age. It would also be untrue to say that she looked youthful. Though an eighty-year-old woman, she hardly looked a day over sixty.
"You were ordered to come alone," said one of Van Cann's more daring guards.
Minerva ignored him. "Why are you in my city?" she asked, staring at her mother with an icy gaze.
The old woman paused, taken aback by her daughter's harshness, before smiling. "It's good to see you again, Minerva. It's been ten years, hasn't it?"
"Ten years too few," said the Blood Queen. "I thought I made it clear that diplomatic relations between Amernia and Vaetor were through when you and your King left Amernia at the mercy of the subhumans."
Bridget's mouth twitched. "I am sorry for that, Minerva." Her eyes were soft and glassy.
"Sorry?" Minerva laughed. "You weren't sorry when you left me to die. What was it King Van Cann said? I believe it was that Vaetor couldn't afford to be on the losing side of any more wars."
Queen Van Cann's face twitched again. "That was not my decision to make."
"Inaction is action, Bridget. You know I could light this boat on fire and watch it sink into the bay. I've done it before—don't you remember?" Minerva stared unblinking at her mother. She seems so much frailer than I remember. So much more beaten down than I had expected. Perhaps life is fair?
"I'm well aware of what you've become," said the old woman, her voice shaking slightly. "But I came here seeking sanctuary." Van Cann turned around and spoke to the shadows behind her. "Joseline, my dear, stop hiding. Say hello to your aunt." Van Cann pushed forward a crying little girl no older than seven. She was pale with short-cropped red hair and green eyes.
Minerva's eyes widened with shock. She had been so focused on her mother that she hadn't noticed the child hiding behind the crate. "Have you gone mad?" snapped Minerva. "What have you done?"
Van Cann sighed. "I did what I thought was right. Your father is pragmatic and ruthless, and your brother is sickly and frail. Vaetor has no gold, and the Firelands are becoming more and more aggressive by the week. In order to appease them he was going to marry Joseline to their Emperor."
The Firelands treat their swine better than their women. No child deserves that fate, thought Minerva as she stared into the child's eyes. She's younger than I was when they married me to Gabriel, much younger, and the Gesskara is not likely to wait until she's of age… "Nothing will appease the Gesskara," said Minerva. "It's not in his nature to be appeased. He only knows how to take. Look at how many he massacred to conqueror the Firelands. Has my brother rebelled against your husband?"
Bridget Van Cann shook her head. "No, but even if he did it wouldn't make a difference. Your brother has become bedridden with sores, but it's not plague. The royal apothecary thinks he's going to be dead in a matter of months."
Father's doing, no doubt, thought Minerva, continuing to inspect Joseline. She's so scared, no different than I was. "Don't cry," Minerva told the girl. "A queen must be strong and never cry. How will your subjects respect you?"
"I couldn't let my granddaughter get married to that monster," said the Queen Van Cann. "We left in the dead of night and escaped in this fishing boat. No one knows we're here."
"Doubtful," said Minerva, eying the Vaetorian bodyguards. "Someone always knows."
Van Cann shook her head. "This is not a favor I ask lightly."
"I should hope not," said the Blood Queen. The fact that there hasn't been war between Vaetor and the Firelands means that my father's kept his granddaughter's disappearance a secret. When the Gesskara finally does find out, he will declare war on Vaetor. The Vaetorians' alliance with the Sun Dynasty will bring them into the conflict and there will be a world war. "Do you realize what's going to happen when it comes time for the wedding?"
"Of course," said Van Cann. "But I am old; death is no longer something to be feared, and that has an odd way of putting things into perspective." Remorse flashed across the old woman's face. "I made mistakes as a mother. There is nothing I regret more. I just want to do the right thing for Joseline."
Minerva still stared at her mother, who seemed to be on the verge of tears. If word gets out that I'm sheltering the Van Canns, the Wild Hunt will be the least of Amernia's worries. Minerva gazed into Joseline's eyes. She's no different than I was. Scared, confused, alone. I will not do to her what my father did to me. "I will grant you your sanctuary. You will live in the palace as a servant. No one will know who you are. You will not try to speak with me. If you are needed you will be contacted." A pair of Vaetorian royals could be quite useful. I could ransom them back to the Gesskara and let father burn.
Bridget looked shocked at her daughter's kindness. "Thank you, Minerva. We owe you everything."
"Of course you do. Don't forget it," said the Blood Queen, eying her mother hair to toe. "Did you bring clothes that would make you less conspicuous?"
"Then put them on," said Minerva. "My country doesn't give warm welcomes."
It took forever for the old woman to get dressed. The aged do nothing swiftly, thought Minerva. She felt very alone as the guards exchanged glares and Joseline fretted without her grandmother. "Be quiet and be still," the Blood Queen ordered the child.
"Are you my aunt?" asked Joseline.
"You're pretty," said Joseline nervously.
"I used to have hair like yours," said Joseline, her eyes wide. "Grandma made me cut it so I would look like a boy. She said that it would help keep me safe." The girl paused, running her fingers over her closely cropped head. "I miss my long hair."
"Your grandmother is a clever woman."
"She's also scared of you."
"Good," said the Blood Queen. "And you should be scared as well."
The little girl shook her head. "You don't scare me."
Innocence can border on stupidity. Someone needs to drive the naiveté from her, thought Minerva before asking, "Why not? You should be."
"My daddy said you were a good person. He said you'd protect us."
Something inside the Queen churned. It's been so long since I've seen Eric, the poor sickling has no idea. "You should never assume someone will help you. And didn't I tell you to be quiet?"
Joseline ignored Minerva. "Grandpa is mean, but Gesskara's evil. He must be if he scares Grandpa. If you don't want to give me to them, you must be good."
She ignores commands, just like I did, until I started giving them. And she understands when she's met an ally. Perhaps she's not as naive as I thought. "And how do you know the Gesskara's evil? Did your grandmother tell you about him?"
The girl shook her head. "I met him once. He visited the castle to meet me. His eyes were balls of fire and his skin was hot like liquid iron. I was scared, but Grandpa said I have to marry him or else many more people will die." The little girl frowned. "I don't want people to die, but I don't want to marry him either."
A door creaked as Bridget Van Cann hobbled out on a cane. The regally decorated woman from earlier was gone. Bridget had scrubbed her face of powder and changed into a commoner's garb. "How far away is the palace?" asked Van Cann. "I'm not sure how far I'll be able to walk."
"Quite a ways. It would be best if I had Shrike order us a carriage," said Minerva, turning to lead her family up the ship's stairs. As she did, Sir Richard and Sir Ballister took posts by the door to the deck. "Non-royal Vaetorians are to remain here for processing," Minerva ordered.
"But we are sworn to protect Her Highness!" objected a Vaetorian loyal with a red mustache.
"And you'll be able to do just that after you're processed," said the Blood Queen. "If you want to see a Van Cann again you're going to have to obey me first."
The loyal with the red mustache gritted his teeth as Sir Ballister and Sir Richard gripped their swords, ready for battle. "Calm yourself, Sir Reginald," said the soft voice of Bridget Van Cann. "Our fates are in her hands now."
"That's just what I'm afraid of," Minerva heard the guard grumble as her Queensguard escorted them up the stairs. Sir Ballister went up first, followed by Minerva and then Joseline. Sir Richard slowly kept pace behind Van Cann as she crept up the stairs at a snail's pace.
Shrike was perched on the edge of the boat's railing, smoking a pipe as if nothing of any consequence was going on around him. "Did you and Mommy have a good visit?" asked the dwarf.
"Shut up, Shrike, and see to it that a carriage to the palace is ordered. Van Cann cannot make the walk."
"As you wish," said the dwarf as he let loose three piercing whistles. "Carriage ordered."
"Wow!" exclaimed an excited Joseline. "Is this Voskeer? It's much nicer than Typhonhold!" The little girl looked at Shrike, perplexed. "That's a very tiny man. Why is he so small?"
"Yeah," said Shrike with a shrug. "And you look like a very tiny boy."
"I'm not a boy!" said Joseline, indignant rage swirling across the little girl's face. She was quickly distracted as her grandmother finally made it up the stairs. For the first time in ten years Minerva saw her mother happy. "It's is good to see land again," said the old woman as she gazed upward towards Voskeer's copper spires.
The crossbow bolt cut off a lock of Minerva's hair as it flew by her head and embedded itself deep above Bridget Van Cann's heart. The bolt had been fired by a child in a red hat and he was winding another bolt into his crossbow. There was the patter of light feet as children swarmed the deck, daggers in hand. Faelings, thought Minerva as Shrike hopped from the railing and pushed Minerva to the ground.
"Grandma!" shrieked Joseline, running to her grandmother, whose face turned ghost-white as blood spurted from her arrow wound. The Queensguard drew their weapons and formed a wall to block the faelings from entering the boat.
This is ridiculous. Does the Wild Hunt really think that a few faelings are going to be enough? Thought the Blood Queen as she unfurled the volcanite steel mace stashed behind her apron. Joseline continued to scream, and the Queen's eyes widened as she realized just how many attacking faelings there were.
The practice of doctoring faelings to appear human had given their attackers the advantage of surprise. Those that clambered over the ship's far side were undoctored, giving them a devilish, almost demonoid appearance. They were slick with seawater as they climbed over the ship's railing, eyes wide and mad with hate and rage. Minerva could hear her blood pumping as one of the faelings wrapped its arms and legs around Sir Ballister's throat, tearing and chewing. Sir Ballister screamed and fell back into the water with a red splash. Ordinarily the faelings would have been no match for the Queensguard, but their lack of armor made the men vulnerable. And the faelings had what the guardsmen didn't—numbers.
"For the Wild Hunt," screamed a faeling girl, her claws poking through her fingertips as she rushed towards Minerva. In a flash of steel, Sir Richard's sword turned the faeling girl's arms to bloody stumps.
"Subhuman filth!" shouted Sir Richard, hacking furiously at anything childlike within his vision until his sword was spattered red.
Shrike had taken a defensive position over Van Cann, who muttered unintelligibly as she bled. Always has his eyes on the prize that one, thought the Queen as Shrike buried a hatchet in a faeling's head while Joseline shrieked and hissed behind him. One of Minerva's guards bumped into her as he fell back, three doctored faelings stabbing him over and over again with their serrated blades. Minerva was knocked to the floor, and her face hit the deck as she fell. Below deck the Vaetorian guards fought for their lives, and their muffled screams reverberated through the floor.
A pair of faelings leapt past Minerva's remaining men and scrambled through the blood towards Minerva. Little hands wrapped around the Queen's soft white wrists. Sensing their hostility, the rubies in her choker flashed bright, setting the faelings aflame. They convulsed and writhed on the deck as the fire consumed them, its heat burning the blood on the deck black as tar. Their screams ceased, though they continued to writhe as fire consumed their flesh. Arrows flew from nowhere as Shrike's snipers picked off the last of the faelings, who had begun to flee.
Minerva's remaining bodyguards dealt with the gathered crowd of city guards and horrified citizens as the Queen stood and walked towards a half-disemboweled faeling. He was one of the doctored ones, identical to a human child. A softer woman may have been moved, but Minerva had no such weaknesses. "You've made a big mistake today. Tell me where the Wild Hunt is hiding and I'll end it all for you." He ignored Minerva and instead lay on elbows and knees as he heaved and gasped. "Answer me!" yelled the Queen as she kicked the faeling hard in the gaping hole where his entrails slopped from his belly.
The poor thing wheezed in pain as he fell to his side.
"The elves took us from the wild and uplifted us for war," coughed the dying man. "The humans hate us, except when they get to fuck us. You sit in your gilded cage and offer my kind nothing."
"Where is the Wild Hunt?" asked the Queen, covered in blood. "Tell me who their leader is. Tell me!"
"The Wild Hunt burns in the hearts of those you have scorned," said the child-man as blood poured down his chin. "Our leader is a great man, a strong man. He will lead the hunt"—the faeling raised a shaky finger to point at Minerva—"and he will kill his prey. The Huntsman will come for your soul, and the souls of your followers. One by one you will fall. One. By. One," gasped the dying faeling as the deck fell silent.