A Seat for the Rabble
Author: Ryan Schuette
Publisher: Bedivere Press
Release Date: September 2023
Series: A King Without a Crown: Book One
Genre: Epic fantasy, high fantasy, fiction
Cover Art: Ted Nasmith
Background: Jason Warchild, the bastard prince, has returned from war. His king father’s spymaster, the Grand Inquisitor, Charles Burke, guides him back to the castle through an unexpectedly congested capital city.
Charles seemed much less taken with the display. “It was my intention to escort you on this road to avoid this attention, my lord, I apologize. It’s especially congested today.”
Jason shrugged off the apology. It was nice to feel like an actual prince in the royal succession. His last night with Garrett on the galley made his popularity with peasants a sweet salve for wounds that didn’t show.
The ranks of the admiring wine sellers soon swelled to fifty or more, slowing their speed to a crawl. Charles agitatedly told the guards to keep the peasants away, even as the bastard prince himself extended his hands, letting his fingers brush the soot-nailed fingers of Common men. This is home.
Turning onto Silver Street, the party encountered a crowded marketplace that all but brought them to a halt. A stern-looking man addressed the gathered peasants from the perch of a statue’s plinth. His drab gray wool and the belt of a rope identified him as a reader of the Free Beliefs, no one important. Yet when he opened his lips, the man came alive with the fire of an anger that radiated through his face. He spoke with his hands as he exhorted his listeners to retake what was theirs by the grace of the god of twelve faces.
Charles sneered. “It’s Watley,” he muttered to his leftmost guard with contempt. “Summon the Lord Mayor. Tell him that Firemouth snuck into his little kingdom. We need armed men with dogs. I won’t lose him again, do you understand?”
Jason flickered from the threadbare reader to Charles. “I don’t understand. Who is this?” The speaker delivered rousing lines that drew roars of approval from his audience, drowning out his voice.
The Red Tower lord scowled at the reader. “Forgive me, Lord Jason. He’s a treasonous vagrant. Jon Watley’s his name.”
“What’s his crime?”
“Crimes, more like. He travels across the kingdom looking to incite unrest. The rat eludes every trap we set, and scampers off to hide with his conspirators in Eastland when we loose the hounds. Not this time.”
Jason strained to hear Watley over the crowd. An infant squealed hysterically somewhere. “The Eighth Testament tells us that man knew no shame when elves saw their nakedness. Sent by god himself, the elves, our teachers, upheld the law we still observe in our hearts: no thing living is above another.”
Some men hooted rowdily; another cried, “Point us true, Firemouth!” Watley waited for complete silence to continue. “If no living thing was above another at man’s birth, can any man be within his god-given rights to claim mastery over another?” The crowd’s response was swift and jarring: ”NO!”
I can see why Charles would want this man in irons, Jason thought. For the rulers of Loran, the order of things was set in stone. There was a king, and below him his Worthy Assembly of sworn lords, priests and parish readers, and merchants, in that order; peasants came last, if at all. Treason it was for the poor soul who challenged that hierarchy.
Watley’s voice rang out through the marketplace. “No, of course not,” he assured the crowd. “The elves were as teachers to men, not their rulers. Yet what are the Commons to the lords and priests of this kingdom? No higher than the flea. Priestking Parlisis dispatches more priests to our shores every day just to remind us. Are they wiser than the elves?”
“Then what of the First King’s Great Covenant?” Jason was surprised to see the challenge came from Charles himself. Men hadn’t taken notice of them on Silver Street; they shied away from the Grand Inquisitor almost instantly. “Did we not give up our ancient freedoms for the crown’s protection?”
“We.” The reader shielded his eyes from the sun with a hand, squinting as he searched the crowd. He whitened visibly when he recognized the challenger. “That we did, Lord Charles, that we did.”
“Then why do you preach this treason?” Charles rejoined. On the crowd’s fringes, Jason spotted a familiar face in the man some called the Little King. He had with him a handful of men, plus his poor-of-cloth city guard, no hounds. “You say no thing living is above another. You are subject to a lord, and your lord is subject to the king. Is King Hexar not your better, you little rat?”
Watley stiffened indignantly. “The One True King was the only one ever above anyone, and his line is long broken.”
Torturer and reader stared knives into each other. Jason turned to the insistent tug on his left sleeve and discovered the mustachioed wine seller, a barrel in his arms.
“Milord, wine milord?” he asked eagerly. He was opening the spigot single-handedly when one of the guards shoved him off, spilling rich purple wine on the man’s breeches. Off in the distance somewhere, an admirer shouted Jason’s name.
“Would you like to repeat that in my Dread Chamber?” Charles pitched his voice.
Watley looked like a hunted animal on the edge of flight. “Turel e’sartha, turan e’sparta,” the reader said defiantly.
Jason knew the forbidden saying well. It was the motto the Worthy Assembly had sewn in its sigils when the body still housed the Wing of the Commons, which sat peasants beside their lords for the making of laws. To each a chair, he recalled the Romarian motto, to all a piece. A daring statement.
“JASON, BEHIND YOU!”
Sunlight flashed on steel. A sword sliced the air by his ear, slashing his silken sleeve. Jason ripped his sword free from his scabbard. He deflected the next thrust from the heavyset wine seller, shorn his casket, now armed with a falchion. His strokes fell too clumsily for the tested warrior. Jason urged the man to desist, but still he came. He shoved his blade through the man’s neck. A fount of crimson erupted from the wound, and down the seller went, dying as peasants dispersed like rats from a burning house.
Jason was still turning when the other assassin leapt up from behind. The wine seller’s apprentice lifted a sword above his smooth hairless head. “For Lady Alyse, you bastard,” he said in a thick accent. Jason raised his blade much too slowly . . .
. . . and flinched as the blur of a dagger whirled into the man’s thigh. The assassin slumped to a knee with a pathetic, half-gurgled scream. Charles, still reeling, barked orders to his men-at-arms, who promptly surrounded the king’s bastard, swords drawn. Four guards encircled his assailant, inflicting abuse.
Jason spun on the dagger thrower. He was an older man with blond hair that dripped to gray around his ears and about his beard. He had on a lord’s finery beneath his travel-stained cape. He doffed his feathered cap, spread his arms in welcome, and bowed as he would for a king.
“Nephew,” the man said loudly. “I am pleased to see you at long last, and find you unharmed.”
Nephew? Only two men could call him that, and one was in the east, far from these shores.
The Grand Inquisitor narrowed his eyes, grimacing. “Evan Sinclair,” he said through his teeth.
About the Book:
Centuries ago, the peasants of Loran killed their king. The more powerful classes—lords, priests, and merchants—exacted revenge by stripping the lowborn of their seats in the Worthy Assembly, where subjects make laws with the crown. Consumed by corruption, Loran now teeters on a knife’s edge . . . and there is no end to the terror and injustice visited on Commoners.
As priests ruthlessly rip peasant children from their families, Jason Warchild sees a war coming—a war he means to prevent. Aided by his cunning sister and traitor uncle, the bastard prince enters a deadly tournament to claim his crown, unite the land against his family’s enemies—and return peasants to power for the first time in hundreds of years.
Amid tournament politics and threats of revolution, two children embark on journeys that will shake Loran to its core. One, a boy hostage, accompanies Drexan the sorcerer to confront an ancient evil responsible for the strife; the other, a peasant girl, stakes her soul on a gambit to raise her father from the dead.
Kirkus Reviews: “Immense yet immersive. . . . a curious, highly detailed, engrossing fantasy.”
Reader review: “It’s one of the best fantasy books I’ve ever read and a triumph for the genre.”
Reader review: “A Seat for the Rabble represents epic fantasy at its finest—addictive, shocking, and rich in world-building complexity. If you want a work with a cutting interpretation of the forces running our own troubled world, this one’s written specially for you.”
About the Author:
Ryan Schuette is the author of A Seat for the Rabble and The Art of the Big Lie: Political Cartoons About the Fight for America’s Soul. He’s also authored a romance novel under his pseudonym.
Before returning to fantasy fiction and art, Ryan wore a few hats. He’s both illustrated and reported for National Public Radio and various trade publications, including DS News and MReport. He’s also freelanced for Al Jazeera America. He lived and worked in Uganda as a 2008-2009 Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar and holds a master’s degree from American University in Washington, D.C.
Somewhere along the way, he also started a nonprofit and fair-trade lingerie company that operated in West and Central Africa, respectively. Many of his friends still wear safari-print boxers.
Ryan lives in Texas, where he looks after his cat, Rusty.
To learn more about Ryan or his epic fantasy series, A King Without a Crown, visit RyanSchuette.com.
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