Just in time for Halloween we have an author spotlight on Andi Lawrencovna and her soon to release anthology, WHO’s THE FAIREST? A Sisters Grimm Anthology. (October 20, 2020 and it is available for preorder, now.)
Andi Lawrencovna lives in a small town in Northeast Ohio where she was born and raised. She writes Fantasy with a twist, un-Happily-Ever-After-ing as many fairy tales as she can. And she’s not averse to looking at the odd nursery rhyme or ten when the mood strikes. Her Never Lands series is currently enamored with an ash covered assassin and a prince who’s not in the highest of towers. From ogres spouting poetry, to princesses toting swords, Andi’s stories aren’t quite like you remember.
For more, visit: www.AndiLawrencovna.com
Andi’s story in WHO’s THE FAIREST? A Sisters Grimm Anthology is called “The Snake’s Leaves” and we’re please to have an excerpt.
The clipper bobbed with the tide against the dock, rocking in the first waves as the storm blew in. Dark clouds churned the sky. Raindrops threatened to fall, but remained heaven bound for a moment more.
“It’s a bad omen.”
“There are no such things as omens.”
Reigner turned his head and stared at his prince.
Despite the response, Euridone’s voice held concern, and his face was stern with concentration and consideration.
Though the ship might not set sail during the midst of the storm, it would set sail eventually.
The waters whispered of hate and roiling death.
Rey did not think the voices beneath the waves referred solely to the tempest.
He might not have believed in omens before, but he wasn’t fool enough to ignore them when they stared him in the face. He opened his mouth to argue with his master—
“We should find our berth and get settled in. She’ll be along soon enough, and I’d rather be stowed away than have to deal with her.”
A call to action, and yet Rey remained still at Euri’s side, the backs of their hands touching where they stood together, neither of them wanting to move forward to whatever fate awaited them.
“I hate the sea.”
“It hates us too.” He replied and shifted the pack on his shoulder. A raise of his hand, the quick flick of his fingers forward, and the servants that lined up at their backs with the prince’s trunks moved towards the ship, and Euri followed their lead, Rey bringing up the rear.
The wind wailed as they walked the gangplank to the clipper’s deck.
Ware. Ware. You will die here.
Rey turned his face to the storm as the first drops of rain fell. “I’ve died before. I’m not afraid of my end.”
For only a moment, the wind stilled, listening to his words.
It screamed at his impudence when he smiled into its gale.
Prince Euridone Adavignlor, Hero of the Battle of Blackmore, Lord of the Southern Settlements, husband to the Princess Abrialla, wedded Heir to the Kingdom of Spinick, stood in the hallway outside the birthing suite and paced the cold stone floor.
His wife’s labor had slowed to a crawl somewhere in the tenth hour of the trial.
The healer said it was normal for a first birth to take time, and perhaps it was, but that was over a day ago when the pains first started, and now, at nearly forty hours, even Euri knew that something was wrong.
He was born a farmer’s son with nothing to his name but the clothes on his back and the dirt caked to his skin. Hock and hoof, field and plow, working the land and toiling beneath the sun, that was where he came from. He was a good farmer. A good and dutiful son.
And when the war came, and the king called all eligible men to battle, he traded pitchfork for pike and learned to wield a sword in place of the culling scythe.
He was a good soldier.
When his captain died, and he was chosen to replace the man, Euri discovered he was good at leading too.
He won the war with his tactics for King Ashwarth.
He should have died at Blackmore, but he’d somehow returned to the land of the living where the king took an interest in the man named champion.
A good soldier. A good leader. A good prince.
Words Euri never expected, nor wanted, to hear, especially when they were followed by a wedding decree, and the burden of what marrying the princess would entail.
For all his life, all he’d ever wanted was to escape his farm.
Now all he longed for was a chance to return to the quiet fields and the mooing of cattle and the mucking out of horse stalls.
He wanted to take his child away from the castle walls and show the babe the beauty of a simple life that Euri always took for granted with the man who he’d come to depend on more than his next breath.
A man who was not Euri’s spouse but her bastard brother.
Rey was more honorable than all the nobles put together in the palace halls.
And he was the only one Euri wanted, and that his vows demanded he never claim.
Not that Abrialla honored her marriage to Euridone.
For all the prince knew, the babe fighting to be born was not even his, some other of his wife’s lovers having whelped the child on the princess.
He should be angry at the knowledge, at the implication.
All he could feel was relief.
A small, childish, plaintive part of him prayed that if the babe proved to be another’s, he would be allowed to break his oath and be free of the witch.
The more rational part of his mind knew the unlikeliness of the same.
It wasn’t Abrialla who wanted Euri as a prince.
No matter that the king gave his daughter every other wish she desired, Euri was Ashwarth’s demand for the kingdom, and there was no escaping a king.
Abrialla would destroy the kingdom Euri fought a war to save.
Ashwarth chose a farm-boy to lead his country instead of his own spawn to keep the land safe.
And now, here Euri stood, outside his wife’s room, waiting for the birth of the child that would tie him eternally to the nation he called his own.
Knots tangled in his stomach.
Because the child was late in coming, and country or not, rule or not, the infant was innocent of his mother’s indiscretions or his father’s peasant desires. The babe deserved a chance at life, but Euri knew how frail new life could be.
The door to the princess’ suite opened.
A tired nursemaid stepped out of the brightly lit room into the dim hall where the prince waited.
“It is a boy, your highness.”
All along he’d known that she would bear a son that Euri would call his own.
He held himself still, one hand braced at the windowpane behind him, not sure if it was to hold him back from forging the room and looking at the child fresh from the womb, or if it was to keep him standing, that the birth was done, and the child was here. He was well and truly bound up in the fight for rule now with an heir of his own, blood or not.
Euri’s valet stepped forward to draw the maid’s attention when he could not.
“How is the prince’s lady wife?”
Rey stood with his hands clasped behind his back, anxiety showing in every line of his body. There was no love lost between princess and manservant. Where Euri might not abandon a bastard child, the king had no such proclivities when Rey was born and cast aside.
It was a mercy, in Euri’s mind.
If Rey was raised a prince, or a lord, or anyone of importance, they would never have met upon the battlefield. That Reigner was just a man, same as Euri, made all the difference.
Rey kept his eyes on the maid, and Euri tore his from the valet to watch a tear slide down the woman’s face.
“It was a hard birth. The healer,” her hand trembled when she raised it to her cheek. “He has asked the prince be admitted to speak his farewells.”
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