Alright Space Cadets, I had so much fun with this I just had to share. Here’s a little sneak peek at Book 7, Metamorphosis which will be coming out in November. If you don’t know who Berkan, Loman or Charlotte is, you had better start with Lydia’s Dance, Taner’s Running Game, and most importantly, The Boy who Lit up the Sky.
“Berkan,” my father said interrupting my bath. His face appeared on the screen of the vid above me. He displaced my football game which was in the last two minutes before the half. The Cougars had the ball while the Lions were defending. The ball was hiked and a whistle was blown.
“Just a moment,” I tried to switch the view so I could see if the Cougars managed to score but my father’s face burst into the center of the field again.
“What are you doing?” he demanded.
“Having a bath,” I began to say, “and watching a game while drinking a beer which in my mind is equivalent to Heaven. What do you want? Why are you bothering me right now? Can’t it wait until I’m at least dry and clothed? You’re as bad as the Imperial Pain in the Ass who thank the Saint is now on vacation.”
“I’m sorry to bother you,” my father chuckled. “I just wanted to invite you to dinner tonight. Your new step-mother wishes to introduce you to your step-brother and sister-in-law.”
“Oh good Heavens,” I declared. “You haven’t tied the knot and committed yourself already?”
“Not yet but as soon as the ladies and the Emperor returns, we’ll go ahead with a quiet family wedding.” I rolled my eyes and finished my beer. Then I fortified myself with two more.
“Dinner tonight in your suite at the Palace or somewhere else?”
“Charlotte’s suite as she’ll be cooking in her kitchen. Be here by seven or any time after six. We’ll have drinks and appetizers on the deck since it’s not raining and then we’ll go inside for Charlotte’s special roasted turkey and candied yams.”
“What is a yam?” I dared to inquire. “Why would anyone make a candy out of it?”
“It’s something orange and comes from Earth. She had them shipped here just for me. Apparently, they are high in anti-oxidants and vitamins B and C.”
“Lovely,” I replied and reached for my towel to end my bath. “I’ll see you all tonight then.” I got out before finishing the game.
I dressed in somewhat normal clothes, just trousers and a shirt. I didn’t even bother with a tie. I chose not to wear robes of state or don my Imperial Medallion. I didn’t need to impress anyone, I thought. Certainly, Katie’s brother knew who I was. I didn’t need to put on airs or flaunt my station as we all were now nobility. When I arrived at Charlotte’s door however, exactly at seven o’clock, I discovered I was severely underdressed as they were decked out for a ball. Charlotte was adorned in the robes of a queen with a glistening tiara upon her head. Allen wore the robes of an Imperial Duke though his duchy was merely a blot on the map. Stella dressed in a gown that would have made Luci green with envy although her face was tight and her hair quite stiff due to recent cosmetic manipulations.
“Good evening, Father,” I greeted Loman and then kissed my future step-mother’s hand. “Allen, it’s good to see you again and Stella, you are looking quite lovely.”
“Lord Berkan,” Allen replied clearing his throat, his bald pate now bristling with implants. “Shall I fix you a drink? What suits you tonight? A spot of brandy or perhaps a margarita?”
“Vodka,” I replied. “And I’ll take it straight up. Better yet, just give me the bottle.”
“Ah, Lord Berkan,” he laughed and waved to the bartender who winked as he poured me a double shot. “Shall we go out and recline on the deck?”
“It’s lovely that it has finally stopped raining,” I remarked as I reclined on a chaise after tossing back my entire double drink. “I wonder if that has to do with Senya going on vacation. Perhaps it is flooding now in Karupatani.”
“Who?” Allen inquired. “Where?”
“Senya,” I repeated, “your other brother-in-law. Your sister’s husband? The Emperor? The one who owns this place?”
“Oh yes,” Allen cried.
“You must mean Ron,” Stella agreed.
“Indeed,” I sighed and fetched another full glass. “So are you enjoying our fair planet, Allen? How about you, Stella? It’s been now what? Five years?”
Allen cleared his throat and looked pointedly at me while Stella grimaced in her tightened face though she may have been trying to smile. “Shouldn’t you refer to me as ‘sir’?” Allen noted. “After all, I am a duke while you are only an earl.”
“I beg your pardon?” I coughed on my drink and spat out precious drops which I probably needed.
“As we understand the protocols,” Stella tried to explain. “It’s proper for an earl to address his superior in that way and you haven’t yet inherited your father’s duchy of Kildoo.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and I couldn’t speak nor begin to respond. That I should address this nimrod fool as my superior was beyond comprehension. I fortified myself with yet another double shot and then I sat down at the dinner table fully loaded.
“Are you enjoying yourself, Berkan?” my father inquired as the waiter set a giant bird before us.
“Truly,” I declared watching him carve great chunks of meat and garnishing it with globs of those orange yams.
“I roasted it myself,” the Queen of Nothing But Loman’s Heart demurred. “I was always very good at turkeys. “Why poor Manny used to say I made them very moist.”
“Indeed,” I nodded and stabbed the bird meat with my fork. It flaked off into a pile of bits and pieces.
“You need some gravy, Berkan,” my father instructed and passed me a boat of yellow goo. “Delicious Charlotte, my love,” my father beamed. “Indeed you make the moistest bird around.”
“I beg to differ as Senya prefers them even more so,” I interjected.
“In what way, Lord Berkan?” Stella probed. “Do tell us how he likes it cooked? After all, he shall be joining us for Mom and Dad’s wedding celebration.”
“Mom and Dad?” I coughed again and choked on my saliva but inoculated with four double vodkas, I valiantly tread on. “Senya likes his birds so they are practically raw. In fact, they should bleed red all over his plate. Don’t worry about the feathers. No need to pluck anything for him. He likes to suck the blood from the arteries in the quills.”
“Oh my god,” Stella cried and dropped her fork upon her dish. She brought her hand to her mouth and swallowed hard.
“Who are we talking about?” Charlotte asked.
“Nobody,” Loman growled. “Berkan, are you finished with that boat of gravy?”
“Of course, Father.” I handed it back to him as he glared across the table and then smiling at Charlotte he poured some on her plate.
“Oh thank you, darling, you must have read my mind. This bird is a tiny bit dry and the yams are a bit undercooked although I boiled them for an hour.”
“Perhaps we shouldn’t have turkey for your wedding dinner,” Allen suggested. “How about fish instead? Do you think…uh…Ron will like that?”
“Ah, fish,” I agreed, “would be an excellent choice. His Imperial Majesty adores fresh fish. Why I’ve seen him rip apart an entire salmon with just his teeth. He loves the heads too so you must save them all for him. He says the eyes taste just like candy though I’ve never tried.”
“What?” Stella gasped and covered her mouth with her napkin. Her tight face turned pale and her neck began to sweat.
“Berkan!” my father roared and knocked his hand down on his plate which rattled the table and all the crystal stemware.
“Loman,” Charlotte snapped. “Control your temper before you have a stroke. Fresh fish would be nice. I’ve always enjoyed that too. Although, I prefer mine cooked. I don’t like sushi much at all. Shall we offer a beef option for those who would rather have red meat?” Everyone looked at me and waited for my next explanation. I shrugged and finished my dinner though the turkey was exceptionally dry.
“Beef is good,” I smiled and sipped my water since my vodka glass had not been refilled. “Senya is always happy to have a burger and beer.”
“Then it’s settled,” Charlotte declared and waived to the waiter to take our plates away. “Now on to dessert though I didn’t prepare this myself.” A chocolate torte was laid before us. It was my favorite since I was a child and I promptly took my fork and dug in as if I were starving. A glass of brandy was served with some dessert wine and cigars were offered all around but I demurred and settled back to let my stomach digest.
“So Loman,” Allen began to speak leaning back in his chair as well. “I’d like to understand how this whole things works. If Berkan is merely an earl while you and I are both Imperial dukes, shouldn’t he be addressing the both of us as ‘sir’?”
“Here we go again,” I muttered under my breath and swallowed an entire glass of brandy in one gulp. I glanced at my father who winked and gave me his concurrence.
“Allen,” I started while standing up. “Let me explain just exactly how it is. You are the Duke of the tiny little Duchy of Renfort. There are half a dozen people who live there. It’s a meaningless title though a gift from your brother-in-law. I am the Earl of Korelesk, a city of more than four and one half million. Though technically a duke supersedes an earl, I am also Lord Chief of Staff of the Imperial Realm. That means governors of forty-nine planets, sixty-seven moons and nine stars all report to me. If that isn’t enough to shut you up, I’ll have you know His Imperial Majesty is my best friend. Though he may be married to your sister, we are cousins by blood and I can tell you, he no longer answers to ‘Ron’.” With that, I bid them goodnight. I shook my father’s hand and kissed Charlotte on the cheek. Then I retired to my suite in the building next door where I drank myself silly once again. The next day I returned to Korelesk, the beautiful city that had given me her name. I didn’t need to be a duke for I was already a prince, if not by blood then by my associations. This vacation must have done the trick for I missed my offices and my chores. I missed Senya’s pages and his endless demands and I was ready to go back to my work. I tried to ring him to tell him so but his cell did not answer and when I rang Karupatani, his cousin told me that he wasn’t and had never been there.