New Release from Fantasy Author Andrew J. Peters
Atlantis is besieged by violent storms, tremors, and a barbarian army. For sixteen-year old Aerander, it’s a calamitous backdrop to his Panegyris, where boys are feted for their passage to manhood.
Amid a secret web of romances among the celebrants, Aerander’s cousin Dam goes missing with two boys. With the kingdom in crisis, no one suspects the High Priest Zazamoukh though Aerander uncovers a conspiracy to barter boys for dark spiritual power. Aerander’s proof — an underground vault that disappears in the morning — brings shame on his family and suspicions of lunacy. The only way to regain his honor is to prove what really happened to the missing boys.
Tracking Dam leads Aerander on a terrifying and fantastical journey. He spots a star that hasn’t been seen for centuries. He uncovers a legend about an ancient race of men who hid below the earth. And traveling to an underground world, he learns about matters even more urgent than the missing boys. The world aboveground is changing, and he will have to clear a path for the kingdom’s survival.
From Kirkus Reviews (10/2/2013): “A marriage of equality among fantasy, mythology, action and same-sex love. Varied, vivid landscapes will entice discerning fantasy readers, and beefy vocabulary keeps the narrative hearty.”
It all started when Dam went missing. Not the tempests, or the mutiny, or the ragtag militia sniping at the borders of the kingdom from the frozen mammoth steppe. These things happened, but to Aerander, who was sixteen years old, the world had become a spectacle of horrifying and exhilarating events, lacking reason or connection, for the most part. He tried to mind what was immediately apparent, and before Dam disappeared that was he was entering the Boys’ Panegyris, however bleakly it coincided with the troubles of the day. Every Atlantide principality, across the Fortunate Isles and the continents east and west abroad, had sent young men to the island capital for the quadrennial festival. The families of the Ten Royal Houses were quartered at his father’s palace for eight days of temple services, athletic contests, and feasts. Aerander had a duty to show well for his family, and—as his father said—through example, help restore the kingdom to a normal routine.
Then Thessala came by his room on the morning of the opening day of the festival while he was doing his exercises on his balcony.
Her hair hung loose below her shoulders, she was wearing a simple housedress, and she had something important on her mind. Thessala was Aerander’s stepmother, but there was only twelve years between them. His mother had died when he was two. His father had married
Thessala one year later.
“There’s news,” she said. “Two boys went missing from the palace last night. Kosmos and Leonitos. From the House Eudemon. I heard it from Myron just moments ago.”
Myron, the house porter, had been the bearer of gossip each day since the palace guests had arrived. This seemed like a particularly toothsome bit for Thessala to gnaw on, given the rivalries between the houses to show off their most earnest celebrants in the festival competitions. Still, Aerander minded his curiosity. It probably wasn’t much to-do. Few had done it, but boys talked about breaking curfew to run off into town every day. The pre-festival weeks were their last chance for fun and freedom. Afterward, there were bartered marriages and politicking for their fathers.
“There’s a third boy missing,” Thessala said. “Damianos.”
Aerander stepped out of his stretch against the balcony ledge.
“There’s word the three of them were together last night. Do you know anything about it?”
“Why would I know anything?”
“Dam was your best friend.”
His gaze wandered to the city. Four ﬂights above the mounted Citadel, his balcony was the second-highest perch in the palace, giving view in the weak morning light to a gray labyrinth of canals, boulevards and alleys, and parapet fortiﬁcations—stripped of their gleaming bronze
plates for military scrap—that encircled the city in great stone-masoned ﬂanks. In the center of town, the weathered dome of the Temple of Poseidon rose above the terracotta roofs like a giant, blackened scalp.
“Was,” Aerander said. “Dam and I haven’t talked in ages.” He had grown up with Dam in the palace. They were more than friends, actually; they were kin, though the relation was difﬁcult to understand. Dam’s father was a third or fourth cousin of Aerander’s or their two fathers were related through the marriage of a great-aunt. Thessala had explained it once; Aerander forgot. Dam’s parents had died before he could remember, so it was all kind of confusing and didn’t really matter anyway. Dam left the palace at thirteen to become a priest.
Thessala drew up beside him by the balcony ledge. Though just out of bed, she still smelled of fennel oil, which she used to wash her hair each evening. “It was stupid, but I had the most horrible idea when Myron told me,” she said. “I felt certain for a moment you’d gone with
“That was stupid.”
Thessala’s eyes followed his. “The city is a dangerous place.” Her hand closed lightly on his arm. “You must promise me and your father you would never do anything like that.”
“Why didn’t he tell me about Dam?”
“He was out of the house before sunrise, gathering his courtiers. He wanted to deliver, personally, a salver of ﬁsh to House Eudemon. If there was to be any question of the security of the Citadel, you know Governor Eulian would be the ﬁrst to raise it. Now two of his nephews
are missing. The sentinels are searching the palace grounds, and they’re embarking on a street-by-street search of the city.”
On the balcony ledge, there was a bronze monocular that Aerander liked to use for stargazing. An impulse hit him: pick it up and scan the city for Dam. But he quashed the idea as idiotic. There had to be an easy explanation, late-night hijinks gone mildly wrong. But it looked bad,
Dam being associated with his family, and it would look even worse if certain other things came out. He had to catch up with Calyiches.
“Sorry to get Opening Day off to a sour start.”
Aerander headed to his bedchamber. “I ought to get dressed.”
Thessala followed him. “You—rushing to your dressing? Has the festival changed you already? What is it they say—boys go in, they come out men?”
“There’s nothing particularly manly about sitting for a bath and getting ﬁtted with a cape and shoulder clasp.” He looked to his attendant, Punamun, newly appointed for his Panegyris, a Lemurian slave. He was hunched drowsily at his gypsum bench. Aerander’s eyebrows shot
up, and he clapped his hands. The young man’s bowl-shaped head of hair jostled. He stood and ambled about the room collecting the strigil and the drying cloths for the bath.
Thessala hung back by the archway to the balcony with a smirk.
“Still, you used to like to dawdle.”
“I want to get an early start.”
“Is it Calyiches?”
“Haven’t I a right to privacy? You’re always pulling at me like a knot of yarn.”
Thessala ventured farther into the room. “It’s hardly private that he gave you his house ring.” Her gaze was narrowed on the House of Mneseus signet band on Aerander’s ﬁnger.
“So, what of it?” He watched Punamun tottering about the place with nothing to show for it. A strange fellow. Had he forgotten already where he kept his bathing cloak?
Thessala went on. “Boyhood lovers—I think it’s quite romantic. He’s very handsome. And popular. But you’d be wise to keep it from your father. Your family still has its prejudices.”
Thessala liked to say your family when there was something she didn’t agree with, though her ancestry was a mix of House Atlas and House Mneseus by intermarriage. Aerander knew what prejudices she meant, and his stomach twinged. Boys who romanced other boys didn’t produce sons. House Atlas had a hard enough time raising heirs due to a blight of stillbirths that went back many generations. They called it the family curse. Aerander had been well aware of his responsibility to marry and continue the family legacy. Then Calyiches had come along.
Thessala stepped near with a look of being instructive. “House Mneseus is fond of their boyhood traditions,” she said. “Being a favorite of their governor’s son could be an excellent way to win your father allies on the Council.”
Aerander wondered what was she talking about. His relationship with Calyiches had nothing to do with politics. He would have corrected her, but there wasn’t time. He had to ﬁnd Calyiches before he spoke to anybody else. He pointed Punamun to the hutch where he kept his bathing clothes, and he pointed Thessala to the door.
“Good cheer,” she called over her shoulder. “And don’t forget to let them cut your hair for temple.”
About the author:
Andrew J. Peters likes retold stories with a subversive twist. He is the author of the paranormal e-novelette series Werecat. The Seventh Pleiade is his first novel. A former Lambda Literary Foundation Fellow, Andrew has written short fiction for many publications. He lives in New York City with his husband Genaro and their cat Chloë.