Kingless Country introduces two new POV characters. Both of witch appear in early chapters of the novel. Here’s a sneak peek from the viewpoint of of Genis Lunan, the mysterious minstrel.
Genis, Memory 02 — Savior
The Bard waited at the gate of Browarda, holding his pack tight, and watched others attempt admission to the city. Some were turned away and merchants set up shop on the outskirts of the city to capitalize. When his turn came, the inspection guard sized him up, pacing about, taking in his odd state of dress. He made a habit of wearing a heavy travelling cloak dyed a deep blue. Underneath he wore three additional layers of clothing, each a different color. He completed the ensemble with a wide red scarf wrapped around his mouth and a blue wide-brimmed hat with an oversized blue feather tucked into its band.
The head guard let out an annoyed sigh. Judging from his armor, he was newly appointed to the post. He still wore the chain and leather armor attributed to a common guard, but a badge depicting the dragon protectors of Geldbane noted his higher rank. “Name?”
“Genis Lunan,” the Bard said. “An alias.”
“None of your business.”
“Then your business has no business being in Browarda. Next.”
“You would be wrong.” Genis pulled his pack from his shoulder, undaunted. “I have clients inside the city. They value their privacy, as I do. So I do not share my identity lightly.”
“Have nothing to do with concealing one’s identity. Entry laws are simple. One needs not state their business or their identity following a simple confirmation of their belongings. You will find no contraband on my person, unless there has been a recent restriction on clothing and instruments.”
“Bundled up as you are, you could be hiding weapons.”
“But I am not. If it makes you feel better, I will take off all my clothing save my scarf and cap. My identity is a guarded secret, you see.” Genis leaned in cordially. “And I am quite fond of this cap.”
The head guard made a face. “That won’t be needed. Stand still, I need to check your person.”
A second guard approached and looked through his bag.
“Your search will yield two sets of clothing, a bound book, and an instrument,” Genis said, raising his arms to submit to the search. “You will find nothing on my person.”
“And money, I assume,” the second guard said without looking up from his search.
“Must be a terrible musician then.” The head guard said. He approached and removed Genis’ travelling cloak. He investigated its many pockets but found nothing.
“Actually,” Genis said, staying calm. “I’m the best. A real artist needs no money.”
“Sir.” The second guard held up a bound leather book. “This looks suspicious.”
Genis shrugged. “The bound book, as promised.”
The head guard handed his cloak back to Genis. “Let me see.”
“What’s your name, sir guard?”
“Fine work. You are one that does his duties to the fullest. You make me proud.”
“You mind?” Gerald took the book from his junior and eyed Genis, who shook his head. The head guard flipped it open to find music notes lined up in tidy arrangement. “What is this gibberish?”
“My notes. They are in code,” Genis said. “I like to make observations of the world around me. Writing in written word is safe enough, but cyphers are a hobby of mine. After all I am trying to solve the greatest mystery of them all.”
“And that is?” Gerald snapped the book shut and handed it to his subordinate.
“How to save the world.”
The two guards exchanged a look and laughed. Gerald wiped away an amused tear. “Go on through. Browarda could use a few more clowns.”
“Much obliged.” Genis bowed his head, taking care to hold his feathered hat in place.
Browarda remained in the state Genis had last left it. Stuffy atmosphere choked by self important authority. The law kept a leash on those in charge more than its people, as it should be. He stopped at a small restaurant for some roasted meat, the attendant kindly gave him the unwanted scraps towards the bottom for free. He ate on the move, slipping the pieces under his scarf and into his mouth one by one.
“What sort of monster skulks about with his face covered?” An Erdaki man wearing a long black coat and shoulder length raven colored hair to match approached Genis.
“One who values his privacy, Mr…”
“Kristoph Rupandil. A pleasure, Mr. Lunan.”
Genis looked over the man and finished his last piece of meat. The Erdaki people were known to be beautiful, and Mr. Rupandil was a prime example. He was tall and muscular in a lean, dangerous sort of way, and smiled with calm confidence. His fine sculpted cheekbones and deep olive-colored skin drew intrigued glances from passerbys, men and women alike. His jacket, while travel worn, had not a speck of dust on it. This was a man that cared about his appearance. “How long have you been following me?”
“Since the gate,” Kristoph said. “Those delayed by the guard often have interesting stories. Please tell Kristoph you have one such interesting tale. One would grieve wasting valuable time.”
“Perhaps I do,” Genis said. “Are you looking for work?”
“You would offer work to a man who follows you on a whim? This is a surprise. So many Gelbans distrust a handsome face as this. Perhaps we are kin?”
“No, Gelban through and through, and this is my best interest.”
“Your work is nothing too grisly, I hope.”
Genis held up a calming hand. “Nay. I only ask for simple protection for my time in Browarda. I go to meet a lovely young woman, she may be in peril.”
“One would assume a savior would be popular, no? Or is your pilgrimage to save the world a farce?”
“I am deadly serious about my goal.”
“And how would you pay for this? You told the guards you are without coin.”
“More than you can imagine.” Genis smirked behind his scarf. “Perhaps you care for a demonstration?”
Kristoph lost his smile. “Yes, please.”
Genis pulled his pack from his shoulder, drawing out his bound book and made a show of consulting his notes. He tapped a particularly interesting section and gestured to a guard standing at a corner. “Approach that guard and demand five pieces of gold. He will give it to you. Take three steps away, pause, then return one of the five with an apology. He will thank you.”
Kristoph raised a brow.
“Go on. It will go well. Probably.”
Kristoph approached the guard, clearing his throat. “One needs five gold, now.”
The guard tilted his head to one side, paused to consider and offered his polearm to Kristoph. He hurried to reach into his pouch and produced five shiny gold coins. Kristoph traded him for the polearm. The guard licked his lips and glanced around.
Kristoph turned, jingling the coins in his palm, counting out three steps under his breath. He turned and flipped a coin back to the guard. “Apologies, one needs only four.”
The guard caught the coin handily, as if expecting the action. His face lit up into a beaming smile. “T–Thank you, sir. Kind of you, sir.”
Kristoph gave Genis a sideways glance. “Who are you, Mr. Lunan?”
“Someone who has solved the method,” Genis said, snapping his book shut.
“And if one were to simply leave four gold richer?”
“I would think you a fool, but would hold no grudge. Not my money, after all.”
“Kristoph thinks a fool pays someone for nothing.”
“Perhaps the payment served a different purpose,” Genis said. “Now I have your attention, you may be entertained to do other work. I need nothing else from you at the moment, however. At the very least you are less inclined to cause me harm. Loyalty is earned by the potential of reward, not reward itself.”
“So you want Kristoph to protect you? Why?”
“The songs I sing, the games I play. They are so very unpopular. My voice and my methods, however, bring nothing but joy. This is the tragic duality of a genius. You can pull off miracles if you know the rules.” Genis shook his book for effect. “Geldbane is full of rules, so miracles are easy to arrange.”
“With such access, one could afford two burly man-guards, or if one prefers, two bookend beauties, no?”
“I chose you because of your discretion. Also there is but one beauty I have interest in at the moment. You have shown the ability to follow unnoticed. This is what I look for in a protector, not iron and bravado.”
Kristoph jangled the coins in his hand, considering. “No harm will come of you in Browarda, Mr. Lunan. Not by Kristoph’s hand, at least.” The rogue turned away, offering a casual parting wave.
Genis let out a small sigh of relief. A surprise I could certainly do without. He put away his book and slung his pack over his shoulder, resuming his trek to the city’s main fort. He had an appointment to keep.