King by Right of Blood and Might, if you'll notice, has a number 1 on the spine. This book will have a number 2 there.
Here is the beginning. Tell me what you think.
Canis curled tighter in his old blanket and listened as his mother entertained another man. He was loud and stomping around. His mother would have red marks on her face again when he left. He could never ask her about them and when he touched them, she merely smiled sadly and held his hand away from them.
His mother had been entertaining men ever since he could remember, and ever since he could remember, Canis was hidden away whenever someone came to the door. Sometimes, one of her men or the house owner found him anyway. They would travel for a while before his mother found them a new place, then she would start entertaining again. She didn’t bring a man to their tiny room every night. On those free nights, Canis’s mother would bring out some much-abused paper, and with a coal from the fireplace, they would curl up on the warm hearth and she would help him trace his letters.
Canis had no problem tracing the letters, but when it came to grouping them into words, it was as if he stumbled into a giant dark chasm. His mother was very patient with him, but she couldn’t understand how wide and dark that chasm was. It was as if a vast empty hole was inside his head right where writing and speaking was supposed to be.
Canis could read though. His mother read to him from their one tattered book over and over again. He had the words of the story memorized, but his mother didn’t suspect, not even when she caught him reading it; she merely assumed he was only looking at the pictures. There was no way he could tell her otherwise.
Canis was working on a surprise for her though. Whenever she was away, he struggled to say a single word - Canis - his name. If he could say his name, maybe he wouldn’t have to hide anymore. His mother told him once that it was the name of a star - that it had something to do with his father and his father’s family, but he didn’t understand and he couldn’t ask.
The first time he succeeded in uttering the whole word in one halting piece, it felt like a rope had been tossed across that vast emptiness in his head. It was like a single strand of spider’s web strung across a canyon so wide the other side could not be seen. It was so small and fragile compared to the vastness, but Canis could feel it and he treasured its hold.
When he finally showed his mother his achievement, she cried. “Wonderful, Canis. Wonderful,” she said with tears streaming down her face. She pulled him into a long hug. “I’m so happy you can talk now.”
It wasn’t the response he expected, but then, perhaps something had happened while she was away. It had happened before.
The man his mother was entertaining this time was stomping around, banging on the table and shouting about his plans. Canis could scarcely hear his mother’s quiet voice as she tried to calm him. The man ranted of riding and cutting, but Canis didn’t understand it all. He hoped he didn’t cut her hair; he liked her shiny copper braid, it was long and silky. He would stroke it while she read to him. Suddenly the man fell into the closet where Canis hid, breaking the door with his weight.
Startled, Canis snarled a yelp and the man reached for him. Cornered in the closet, he couldn’t dodge away so he was forced to fight back the only way he could. His sharp teeth left four slices in the man’s hand, but the man didn’t pull away from the pain.
His blunt nails scored painful welts across Canis’s chest as he grabbed for him. He cried out when Canis’s teeth drew blood, but the pain only seemed to increase his rage. He pulled Canis out into the light and gave him a shake, roaring, “You hid a beast in your closet, woman, a Changeling, I say; only animals have eyes that glow in the dark. It was an animal that bit me, I say. What is this witchcraft? It’s bad enough you have hair of the devil’s fire. This spawn with an animal’s teeth is proof of your witchery.” He shoved the woman from his path.
As he headed for the door with a snarling bundle of fury in his meaty hand, Stephanie wailed her denials. “No, that’s my baby. Look at him. See, he’s just a child. Give me my baby. You can’t take my baby.”
The man wasn’t listening. By the time he reached the common room, Canis was struggling in earnest. Every time he came close to finding more flesh with his teeth, the man would give him another violent shake.
Brandishing his prize and shouting “changeling” and “witchery,” and with blood staining his arm, the man whipped the patrons of the inn into a superstitious frenzy. He grabbed Stephanie by her hair and threw her out among the crowd, yelling, “Witch” and “demon child.” In minutes, everyone was shouting, and there was a surge for the door. From his vantage point at the end of this arm belonging to such a mountain of man-flesh, Canis could see his mother’s red hair over in the middle of the crowd. Someone grabbed her long braid, and he heard her scream.
Hearing the sound, Canis put new effort to freeing himself. He curled around the hand holding his tunic and tore a gash in the arm, winning his freedom this time as blood spurted rather than dripped. Outside, people who had been heading for early morning market joined the mob. Now there were sticks, fists and clods of ice to dodge, and his mother was being pushed away somewhere else.
One man swung a stick; perhaps he intended to throw it, perhaps not, who can say, but the blow knocked Canis into a man near the edge of the crowd. The man hadn’t heard the cry of ‘changeling’, nor did he suspect anything but a pickpocket when Canis careened into him. He snagged a hold of the boy’s shoulder and flung him out into the frozen slush of the street. No sooner had he turned him loose then the man who started it all spotted Canis. His shout was incoherent, but his bloody-handed point was unmistakable and Canis became the new target.
Instinctively, Canis tucked and rolled where the man threw him, but to his dismay, he looked up to see massive creatures with very large hooves plunging and kicking directly above him. Before he could roll completely free of the danger, someone else had his hand on him and the mob was being pushed back.
No matter how hard he tried, Canis couldn’t break the hold this new man had on him. The man’s powerful fist held his tunic in back this time; the material drawn tight in his fist, prevented Canis from turning enough to find skin and draw blood.
For perhaps a whole second, Canis thought he was going to be thrown aside once again, but his hopes were dashed when the man looked him in the eyes. With a wave of his hand and a curt “collar,” Canis suddenly found himself wearing a metal ring around his throat. Attached to it was a metal chain. Both items were alien to him; both frightened him more than he had ever been frightened before.
As soon as his chain was hooked to the big-ringed chain that ran among others who wore the metal around their necks, Canis clawed at the ring and threw himself against the chain with a panicked frenzy. The others on the line gasped in surprise and clutched at their ends of their chains, gripping them to protect themselves from his struggles. Moments later, men descended on him again and his hands were bound behind his back. Though they could prevent him from clawing at the metal ring around his neck, they couldn’t stop him struggling, despite one man’s hiss of, “I’ll cut your legs off if you don’t settle down.” But Canis didn’t settle down, not until he was exhausted from his struggles did he stop, and the man never carried out his threat.
When his panic mellowed, Canis started to think. ‘These people will not be able to hold me forever. There will be an opening sometime. I will wait and watch for an opportunity then I will escape, I will.’