A squire’s oath is to be of service… but to whom?
In the kingdom of Basileon, an unremarkable and emotionally detached young man named Obed Kainos is about to stumble into adventure—quite against his will. When the knights of the realm gather in a quest to search for the lost Armor of Arkelon, Obed is chosen at random to replace the recently deceased squire of Sir Lance Valentino. While trying to perform his menial tasks faithfully, the young squire becomes entangled in the plots of mages, thieves, and kings.
And that’s just his first week on the job.
Unfortunately for Obed, his indifference cannot save him from his new oath. For despite his enigmatic personality (or perhaps because of it), he manages to attract a band of misfits to his cause— the ugly, the arrogant, the clumsy, and the cowardly—putting the legendary armor within the grasp of one who never wanted anything at all.
Obed’s eyes sprang open as his cheek hit the cold floor. He blinked. He saw nothing. He could not tell whether his eyes were open or closed. He rolled to his back, his arms searching the floor. A hand discovered the bed. Turning his head, he found a blinding sliver of light. Slowly, he pushed himself to his feet and hobbled toward the light with outstretched arms. He touched wood and pressed himself against the frame, gasping from exertion.
Groping along the door’s surface, he found the handle. He pulled it open—it was not locked—and brilliant light washed over him. He waded into the light, into the hallway, and pulled the door shut. The hall was empty. He stood swaying as his eyes sought the door and looked beyond it, to where his cot lay. Obed’s hands clenched then slowly loosened. He did not move.
“My life is not my own. I am squire to Sir Lance Valentino. My strength, my will, my… my will,” he yawned expansively, “my very life… is, is forfeit to the… preservation of order.” He leaned fully against the door. “The preservation of order,” he mumbled as his eyelids slid shut. Obed whacked his head against the wood. They opened reluctantly.
“The purity of maidens,” he continued, taking a step down the hallway, his shoulder against the wall. His eyes, dull and unfocused, were directed ahead, to the stairs he had ascended earlier that evening—but the moment’s clarity passed, and slumber’s seductive fingers beckoned him. He forced himself forward in spurts. He passed Lanna’s room, and then Liam’s, and reached the entrance to a vast room. Within, he heard voices.
“…no longer needed. I have acquired one by other means. You may do what you wish with yours. I have no use for her.” It was Garic speaking.
“You promised me payment upon locating and procuring her. It wasn’t easy. Who else could have done so with such alacrity?”
“You were still too slow.”
“I expect my money.”
“But you’ll not expect mine, I hope. Perhaps you could ransom her.”
There was bitter laughter. “Who’d want her?”
“A valid question. It is yours to answer. Now, in regard to your other tasks—”
Obed rubbed his eyes fiercely and, with a burst of determination, pushed himself past the open doorway. Inside he saw Garic talking to a full-length mirror. A wiry, weasel-like man stood in the mirror. His nose hooked like a beak.
Obed reached the stairs. Bracing himself against both walls, he descended. The stairs ended at a single room.
As Obed pushed the creaking door open, a column of light pierced the darkness. Upon the bed, sleeping, lay Violet. Obed walked slowly along the light’s path, but before Violet, his shadow heavy upon her, he hesitated. “Hello,” he said softly. She did not respond. “Please wake up.”
Violet jolted awake with a scream. Obed stopped her mouth with his hand. “I’m here to help you. You said you needed help. I’m here.”
She stopped screaming. Obed released her, deliberately wiping the saliva from his hand on to his pant leg. “Are you all right?”
“Get me out of here. Get me out of here before I don’t want to leave.”
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Nick Hayden is the author of the fantasy novels Trouble on the Horizon and The Remnant of Dreams. He has penned a number of short story collections, including Dreams & Visions, and the novella The Isle of Gold. Hayden co-hosts a story-telling podcast, Derailed Trains of Thought, about once a month and also helps run the Children of the Wells web serial. Nick describes himself as a mild-mannered bookkeeper by day, a mild-mannered (albeit tortured) writer by night, a writing teacher three times a week, a youth leader on weekends, and a podcaster every month or so. He has a wife and two kids, who do a fine job of putting up with him.
What people are saying:
“A remarkable tour de force set in a medieval world where magic is as common as muck, misunderstandings are ten a penny, and everyone but the hero has a remarkably good opinion of themselves. Nick Hayden mixes humor with fantasy to delight the inner eye and ear of the reader.”
— Adele Abbot, author, Postponing Armageddon
“Dazzling damsels in distress, a magical suit of armor, mayhem and danger at every turn, a host of unique characters and plenty of laughs make this novel worth reading. Mr. Hayden tells a worthy tale well!”
—Phillip Tomasso, author, Sounds of Silence
Our website: www.barkingrainpress.org
Link to story page: http://barkbks.me/WfDXRg
Author Website: www.worksofnick.com
Many, many years ago--twelve, maybe, or more--I first conceived of the idea that would, after many transmogrifications, become The Unremarkable Squire.
It was pretty cliche. It was a parody. There was going to be a school for archetypal fantasy characters--the knight, the wizard, the princess, the thief. And, of course, the main characters would be ill-suited for their roles. A strongman wizard. A tomboy princess. A honest thief. Or something like that. (My memory is quite fuzzy after so many years.) They would be outcasts. They would find one another. They would beat the system and live happily ever after.
Anyway, the years swallowed up whatever details I had of a plot. I chucked most of the concept, but all the choicest morsels were subsumed into The Unremarkable Squire. Perhaps the most important morsel was the centrality of misfits to the story.
I like the underdogs winning. I like the oddball getting his day in the limelight. In real life, I’ve always had an affinity for those who hover outside the mainstream of culture, those who tend to be not quite the best or not quite the smartest or not quite the bravest.
This is quite a tricky thing for a writer to incorporate into a story. Sure, you can have the strange sidekick or the quirky office assistant, but in the end, your main character is going to have to be the best at something or why are you writing about him?
My unremarkable squire, as you can probably guess, is remarkable is some way. Otherwise, why bother writing a book about him? What matters to me, though, is How is he unremarkable? There are traits the world dismisses and personalities people discount. But these traits, and these personalities, can indeed be remarkable. A misfit in a culture misdirected might be the very thing needed.
I like misfits. There is something refreshing about them. And, many times, something honest. They just need someone to see what’s special about them, to notice who they really are.
My initial parody is gone. What emerged is something a bit more complex: A somewhat stereotypical fantasy world, replete with mages and treasure hunters and quests and knights. But it’s not a parody. There are not-quite-caricatured, half-step-above-common men running between the grand events of the kingdom, and these are the characters I spend my time with, those almost-regular, not-quite-epic men and women of the realm.
Why? Because these are the people who interest me as a writer. Not the farmboy turned all-powerful warrior or the manipulative mastermind, but the simple, the lonely, the cowardly, the boastful, the weak, the angry, and the ugly.
Get them together, and it’s quite a fellowship. Not exactly a force to be reckoned with, but, like I said, honest and straightforward and surprising. At the right time, in the right place, that might make all the difference.
In both The Unremarkable Squire, and in real life.
And, really, who isn’t a misfit?
Except for you--yeah, you, with the perfect hair and high-paying job and sun-flashing car. You know who you are.
But everyone else--welcome!
Nick will be awarding a Winner’s choice of a $10 Starbucks card or a 4-piece box of Moonstruck truffles to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour, and a Winner’s choice of a $10 Starbucks card or a 4-piece box of Moonstruck truffles to a randomly drawn host. In addition, anyone who is interested can go to their website (Barking Rain Press) and get a free 4-chapter sample of the book, plus a coupon for 35% off the price of the print or ebook version of the book.