The Heart and the Crown….

22 Apr

Today on the GSP Wee Folk Promo we welcome Stephen M. DeBock.

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Stephen DeBock writes on just about any topic but for fun concentrates on sci-fi/fantasy adventure and supernatural fiction.

As a teenager, Steve would entertain (and frighten) the neighborhood children by retelling them stories from E.C. horror comics like The Crypt of Terror. As a middle school teacher, he continued the tradition by reading his students a horror story to initiate the school year. Now retired, he has time to write his own stories.

His first writing success came as a high school senior, when a 25-word essay won him an all-expenses-paid vacation in Alaska. Upon his return he entered the Marines and was chosen to serve in the President’s Honor Guard. Vignettes from that venue have appeared in American Heritage magazine and in various newspapers.

Upon leaving the Corps, Steve worked days, went to college at night, and spent weekends earning a private pilot’s certificate. A flying narrative he wrote was published in AOPA Pilot Online.

During his teaching career, Steve garnered an award by the State of New Jersey for his work in consumer education. He served briefly as a consultant for Consumers Union and contributed to essays in Time magazine, ABC’s World News Tonight, and CNBC.

Having founded and later sold a video rental business, Steve and his wife also sold their home and lived for three years aboard a 42-foot sea-going trawler yacht. An article describing one of their summer cruises was sold to Living Aboard magazine.

Steve has written newsletters for both private and non-profit organizations; a flash fiction story for the children’s magazine Spider; and the text for a coffee-table book on one of America’s most-collected living artists: The Art of H. Hargrove.

His book we are highlighting today is The Heart and the Crown.

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Whenever the beautiful Princess Mallory so much as bats her eyes, all the knights in the kingdom take notice, but none so much as Sir Nicholas. Thus, when Mallory sweetly asks him to kill a dragon for her, he is eager to do her bidding.

Meanwhile, in the woods far from the castle lives a witch who also has reason to want the dragon killed: a dark purpose known only to her. Every day she sets out on a secret mission, leaving her poor servant girl to clean and cook and keep her hovel in repair.

The dragon, the servant girl, the witch, and the knight are all destined to meet in a battle for their lives, one in which the knight will discover that things are not always as they appear—not even his adored Princess Mallory.

Excerpt:

Long ages ago, in the islands which would one day be named Britannia, sages told wondrous tales of magic, and of monsters, and of sorcery and darkest witchcraft. But among adults such tales were seen only as stories designed to frighten their children into proper behavior. In truth, the small kingdoms suffered only the occasional band of robbers who preyed upon isolated farms and unwary travelers.

One such band ran rampant for a time in the Kingdom of Evermore, until the king sent forth his bravest knight, Sir Nicholas, to seek out its leader and bring him to justice. That tale would provide a heroic story in its own right, but what followed proves even more memorable—because it gives the truth to the stories the ancients told.

Early one morning, the newly risen sun reflected its golden glow in the silver breastplate of the knight standing in the castle’s courtyard before the king, the queen, and their dark-haired daughter, the Princess Mallory. Gathered behind the knight in the castle courtyard were the other Knights of Evermore, and behind them stood the citizens of the nearby village. From the parapet, trumpets blared a fanfare, and the throng fell silent. The king spread his arms, as if to embrace them all.

“My fellow citizens,” he began, “for the past year your village and the countryside have been plagued by a band of highwaymen. They have stolen from your homes, robbed you on the roads, and even butchered your livestock for no other reason but to keep you living in fear.”

Nicholas lowered his eyes self-consciously, for he knew what the king would say next.

“This bold and brilliant knight,” continued his majesty, “single-handedly found the leader of this band of brigands and brought him to justice. Now the leader and his cutthroat crew are imprisoned in our dungeon, awaiting trial. And we have the honor of awarding Sir Nicholas with the kingdom’s highest honor, the Order of the Cross.”

The knight looked up and found himself staring into the coal-black eyes of Princess Mallory. Her long, raven-colored hair flowed from beneath her headpiece, framing her lovely and delicate face. Her red lips were parted in a smile that seemed directed toward him alone. Such a beautiful young woman, he thought, and but a few years younger than I. However, I must remember that she is a princess and I but a common knight. And so Sir Nicholas put all thoughts of a union with the fair princess out of his mind as as he knelt to receive his award: a golden cross, emblazoned with the crest of the king himself. A thick golden chain was threaded through a loop at its top, and as Nicholas lowered his head, Princess Mallory herself leaned forward and draped it around his neck.

As she did, she whispered in his ear, “I must meet with you privately, Sir Nicholas. Please report to my chambers within the hour.”

#
Shortly after the ceremony had ended and the celebrants had retired to their respective homes, a confused Sir Nicholas stood before the chamber door of Princess Mallory. The guard outside saluted him with his spear and knocked on the door, opening it when the princess called, “Enter.” The knight walked through, and the door closed behind him.

Princess Mallory welcomed Sir Nicholas from a chair near the unshuttered windhole. He bowed, and she extended her hand for him to kiss. “Welcome, brave Sir Nicholas,” she said. Her voice was gentle as a summer’s breeze.

“Your highness,” he replied.

“You are no doubt wondering why I sent for you.”

“I am indeed, my lady.”

Mallory’s eyes narrowed and she spoke softly. “I need you to carry out a mission for me.”

“A mission, Princess?”

“There is evil afoot in the kingdom,” she said.

“Evil, my lady? But the highwaymen are no longer a threat.”

“That is so, Sir Knight. But I’m not talking about highwaymen. I’m referring to—” she lowered her voice to a whisper—“a dragon.”

“A dragon? But—”

She placed two fingers against his lips. “I know, I know. No dragon sightings have been reported for centuries. Some people even refuse to believe they exist at all. But my lady in waiting, who with my blessing spends much of her time outside these castle walls, reports that on the outermost borders of the kingdom many sheep have been slaughtered. Now, we all know dragons love sheep more than almost anything else.”

“So have I heard, Princess.”

“And would this evidence not suggest a dragon is about?”

“One might think so, if one—”

“I need you to kill the beast. And bring me a vial of its yellow blood as proof of your kill.”

The knight nodded his head, but did not lose his frown. “My lady, your wish is my command. But why am I awarded this commission from you, and not from your royal parents?”

Mallory’s smile lost its warmth. “My parents are wonderful rulers,” she said. “But they are growing older, and they are sometimes . . . out of touch . . . with what is going on in the outlying reaches of their realm. As I said, the dragon’s kills have occurred near the border dividing Evermore from Evenmore, and news from there is scant. But the danger lies in the fact that once it has eaten its fill of livestock, the dragon may advance upon the village below and then upon this castle. Were I to tell my parents of my concerns, they would brush them aside as the fears of a child. This I could not bear. So for the sake of our kingdom . . . and for me . . . will you undertake this quest?” She fluttered her eyelashes as she spoke the last.

“I would be honored, my lady,” replied the knight, bowing. When he kissed her hand again, she held it to his lips a bit longer than he might have expected. She looked into his deep blue eyes and smiled as she casually swept a loose lock of his sandy-colored hair behind his ear. His strength and bravery notwithstanding, Nicholas suddenly felt weak at the knees, so totally captivated was he by this beautiful young lady.

A few moments later, Mallory stood by the windhole and watched Sir Nicholas ride away from the castle. “Thus events are set in motion,” she murmured to the empty room.

Links: http://www.gypsyshadow.com/StephenDeBock.html#HandC

Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Heart-Crown-ebook/dp/B007Z5XVBI/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1366650510&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Heart+and+the+Crown

 

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One Response to “The Heart and the Crown….”

  1. chalaedra April 22, 2013 at 8:11 pm #

    Reblogged this on Chalaedra's Weblog and commented:
    http://www.amazon.com/The-Heart-Crown-ebook/dp/B007Z5XVBI
    http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-heart-and-the-crown-stephen-m-debock/1110503908
    https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/157307
    http://www.gypsyshadow.com/StephenDeBock.html#HandC

    Princess meets knight; knight meets dragon; dragon meets girl; and all meet in a battle for their lives against a hideous witch. The Heart and the Crown, a short story by Stephen. M. DeBock. Available from Amazon, other fine eBook vendors and Gypsy Shadow Publishing at: http://www.gypsyshadow.com/StephenDeBock.html#HandC

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