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Home > The Sea King (Weathermages of Mystral #2)

The Sea King (Weathermages of Mystral #2)
Author: C. L. Wilson


Chapter 1

 

 

Sunset Beach, Isle of Calberna

 

“Higher, Dilys! Higher!” Pangi Mahilo’s high-pitched squeal pealed out across the pink sand beach.

“Higher, eh?” Laughing at the squirming boy in his arms, Dilys Merimydion, Prince of the Calbernan Isles, cast a quick glance at Pangi’s mother, who rolled her eyes at the son Dilys had been tossing in the air but still nodded her permission. “All right then,” Dilys told Pangi, “higher it is. And you’d best hold on to your belly!” With a grin, Dilys tossed the gangly little boy several feet into the air over his head. Since Dilys stood seven feet tall, that meant the child flew a good ten or more feet above the ground.

Pangi’s piercing shrieks of laughter startled a flock of seabirds hovering near the Calbernan Islanders who had gathered on the pink sand of Sunset Beach to celebrate the marriage of one of the sailors in Dilys’s fleet.

“Me next! Me next!” came the chorus of childish pleading as Dilys set Pangi down.

“You’ve started something,” murmured Dilys’s cousin, Arilon Calmyria, with a grin for the horde of clamoring children.

“I always do.” Dilys loved children, loved interacting with them and making them laugh. Maybe it was because he’d never had brothers and sisters of his own. Or maybe it was because he longed for a wife and children of his own with a ferocity of emotion that even among passionate, larger-than-life Calbernans was rare. “I have a particular talent for entertaining the little ones,” he added.

“True. That’s why you’re the party favorite.”

“Ono—no—” he corrected with a grin, “I’m the party favorite due to my good looks and charm. Isn’t that right, Beno?” Dilys directed the question to one of the four-year-olds clinging to his leg like a barnacle.

“Right!” Beno cried.

Dilys rewarded the boy by plucking him out of the crowd and tossing him high into the air.

Nearby, another of Dilys’s cousins, Ryllian Ocea, laughed and said, “The veracity of answers provided in exchange for personal gain is questionable at best.” Ryll was studying law in preparation for his pending retirement from the sea and the mercenary work all adult male Calbernans performed until marriage.

That change of career would be happening within the year . . . for all of them. Ryll would take his place in his mother’s law practice. Ari would be working with his parents at House Calmyria’s shipbuilding business. And Dilys would begin his training to take over the daily operations of House Merimydion’s vast shipping and agricultural empire.

Because tomorrow, Dilys, Ari, Ryll, and every marriage-worthy son of the sea who’d sailed with them last winter to the Æsir Isles—the northern archipelago that included the kingdoms of Wintercraig, Summerlea, and Seahaven—would be returning to those shores to court and claim wives from among the unwed and widowed women of Wintercraig and Summerlea. And once they were wed, their mercenary days were done.

As if reading Dilys’s thoughts, Ari draped an arm across Ryll’s broad shoulders and pointed his chin towards the bride and bridegroom, both clad in shimmering sea blue, with circlets of fuchsia and yellow flowers on their heads, their necks draped in plump stoles made from dark green tili leaves dotted with tiny, delicate white merimydia blossoms. “Just think, cousins, before the year is out, that will be us standing on the beach beside our lianas, grinning like we just won the All Isles Cup.” The All Isles Cup was Calberna’s most coveted prize in competitive sailing.

“Speaking as a former All Isles champion,” Dilys said, “I can promise you I’ll be grinning much, much more on my wedding day.”

“I know that’s true,” Ryll agreed. It was no secret among Dilys’s close friends just how impatient he was to close the youthful, unwed chapter of his life and move on to the next.

Four years ago, Dilys had earned his ulumi-lia—the tattoo curling across his right cheekbone that proclaimed him a man worthy of taking a wife. Most Calbernans wed within a year, two at most, once they earned that mark, but not Dilys. And not by his choice, either. He’d been sailing the sea, fighting other people’s wars, for more than fifteen years now. He was more than ready for the comfort and joy of a wife and family.

Unfortunately, because his mother was both the Myerial—the ruling queen—of Calberna and the Matriarch of House Merimydion, one of Calberna’s oldest and most venerated royal Houses, and because Dilys was his mother’s only child, his marriage had become a matter of state.

He carried great power in his pure Calbernan blood—power that should have been merged with the pure blood of another great Calbernan House, not diluted by marriage to an oulani—an outlander—but the death of his childhood betrothed, Nyamialine Calmyria, had ended those hopes. And because any son of Calberna who wed an outlander remained a part of his mother’s House rather than joining his wife’s, marriage between Dilys and an oulani woman opened the door for a half-blood daughter to become the next Myerial of Calberna and the next Matriarch of House Merimydion.

A committee of the Queen’s Council, led by Dilys’s uncle, Calivan Merimydion, had therefore spent years investigating the bloodlines and magical gifts of Mystral’s most powerful families to select a suitable bride for their prince. The committee, which Dilys’s cousin Ari had jokingly labeled “the Bridehunters”, had concluded that Dilys should wed one of the daughters of the Summer King, but before the marriage could be arranged, Prince Falcon of Summerlea ran off with the Winter King’s betrothed, murdered that same king’s heir while making his escape, and threw Wintercraig and Summerlea into three long years of war.

It was only now—after two negotiated treaties and four years of war, rebellion, and a ferocious battle to prevent the return of a dread god who would have cast the world into endless winter—that Dilys was finally setting off to claim his outlander bride. Not all Calbernans were happy this day had come. A group calling themselves the Pureblood Alliance had been quite vocal in their opposition to Dilys taking an oulani bride, and they’d gained the support of quite a few powerful Houses.

“Is Spring still the Season of choice?” Ryll asked.

Dilys tossed another boy high in the air, caught him, set him down, and shrugged in answer to Ryll’s question before picking up the next boy and sending him flying up into the air. “If my uncle has his way.”

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