Date Published: January 14, 2021
Publisher: The Intoxicating Page
Welcome to The Gold Piece Inn, where you can drink, gamble, and play!
Cursed on the day the king is assassinated, Dewey Nawton is compelled to protect the widowed queen, but protection means different things to different people (and different curses).
Kings have dictated every role Queen Dafina has ever played. Now, a halfling innkeeper assigns her the role of serving lass. But is The Gold Piece Inn just another tavern? Could it be an orphanage? … surely, it’s not a brothel.
Oh yes, she’s fallen from grace, but will that stop her from leading a handful of pirates and a dozen bastards to avenge her king and rescue Glandaeff’s faeries, elfs, and mermaids (and merbutlers!) from a brutal tyrant?
Dewey has a secret. Dafina has a secret. The Bastards have two secrets.
Is there even a sip of moral justice in all this bawdiness?
The Book of Bastards combines a riveting, intense plot of righteous vengeance with tongue-in-cheek banter that will keep you turning the page with eager anticipation. With settings that make you wish they were real, characters you can’t help but cheer for, and twists that keep you guessing, Ransom Stephens has crafted an engaging tale that makes every minute of reading, time well spent. I don’t often reread a book, but I think I’ll make an exception. Loads of fun. Highly recommended. – Brian D Anderson, million-selling author of The Bard and the Blade
“A delightful, detailed tale about morality, being honest with yourself, and self-reflection, even when you don’t like what the glass has to show. A perfect treat for lovers of rich fantasy worldbuilding, gory battles, and the kind of thoughtful, character-driven stories that make your brain whirl, your imagination dance, and your heart surge.” -J.M. Frey, bestselling author of The Accidental Turn Series
Queen Dafina at the Gold Piece Inn
Dewey took his seat between the fireplace and the only glazed window in the building. He could see the street, the saloon, the casino, the red-carpeted stairway, and the balconies and rooms on the second and third floors. He listened to the minstrel’s ballad of a heartbroken pirate on a desert isle, ate salmon grilled in rosemary and served on sourdough bread, felt the warmth of the fire on one side and the cool evening fog on the other—and none of it soothed Dewey’s worries.
Then he saw her on the porch. She fell through the door but not the way drunks fall. She reached up as though climbing from an abyss, and wailed, “Oh gods, please help me. Anyone, please!”
Loretta got to her first, dropped to her knees, and took the woman’s hands.
The woman grabbed at Loretta, tears cascading down her face, sobs racking her from head to toe. “Please!”
“It’ll be all right, dear. We’ll care for you.” She looked up at Dewey and added, “We will care for her.”
Dewey stood over them. Children accumulated. Teen-aged Aennie said, “She’s the cleanest beggar I’ve ever seen.”
Another kid plopped down next to the woman and held his worn black feet up to her clean pink soles. “Somefin wrong wit her feet.”
“What the?” Loretta said. “Feet don’t come that clean. I’ve tried.” She held the woman at arm’s length and examined her. “She’s a bag of bones, must be starving—Macae, fetch salted bread.”
“Get her out of sight,” Dewey said.
“You know her?”
“To the barn. Now!”
Loretta lifted her, muttered, “She weighs nothin’,” and guided her back outside.
The screech owl that lived in the barn announced to everyone within a mile that a stranger had arrived.
Dewey looked back at his inn. The minstrel had switched to a light ditty about a horny woman who carried drunk men into a field and took advantage of them—the sort of song that’s mostly chorus so anyone can sing along. Children were underfoot and some of the goats had found their way back inside. Bob was pouring ale and wine, the servers who weren’t delivering food and drink were lounging on the laps of smiling patrons. A serving-lad named Faernando slipped off a sinewy woman, the profiteer sailor and card-cheat named Baertha. She threw the lad over her shoulder and carried him to the stairs just as the chorus returned to “she threw the boy down, he popped up, and she made him a man.” The crowd erupted. Baertha took a bow, the lad waved, and Dewey held out his hand. As she passed, Baertha dug into her belt and tossed a silver ohzee. Dewey said, “You give him two of those when you’re through. If you hurt him, it’ll piss off the wrong kinds of faeries.”
In other words, it was just another night at The Gold Piece Inn, and no one had noticed the beggar at the door.
Dewey rushed through the kitchen and out to the barn. He dodged sheep, rabbits, a sleeping cow, nearly stepped on the tail of an old bloodhound, and climbed the ladder. The loft was covered in straw and cordoned into sections by blankets of differing color and quality. The woman lay on a brown blanket next to an unshuttered window that let in the last light of the day. Loretta appeared to be threatening her with a baguette.
“She’s lovely but there’s nothin’ to her,” Loretta said to Dewey. And then to the woman. “You faer?”
“I require your aid,” the woman said. “Please, my children …”
Loretta took a bite of the baguette dripping with salty olive oil and then offered it to the woman again. “Never seen a beggar who won’t eat. She elfin? Your kind?”
“No, she’s as human as you are.”
Loretta leaned forward and sniffed the woman’s neck. “She don’t smell like a human.”
“She bathes. Some people do that, you should try it.” Dewey helped the woman up.
Loretta examined her hands, no scars or calluses. She ran her fingers through her long, straight black hair and mumbled, “Fine as silk.”
Dewey said, “When have you ever touched silk?”
Loretta said. “I didn’t think skin got that pale.”
The woman’s eyes lost focus, and she fainted.
“Farqin shite!” Dewey said, “Get some water—nay, a blast of brandy.”
Loretta dropped down the ladder in a fluid, practiced motion.
Dewey waited a few more seconds and then whispered, “Queen Dafina, what are you doing here?”
She sat up straight, dabbed her eyes, and said, “I require your help.”
“You have to get out of here.”
“You must assemble the bodies of my husband and children.” Her voice cracked. “They require decent burial.”
“The usurper has them. There’s nothing I can do.”
“I can pay you more than you can imagine.”
“Maybe so but pay means nothing to a dead man.”
“Think of the favors I can grant, I can—” and then she went quiet and looked down, blubbering out the words, “My children, my husband, everyone is dead.”
“I’m not, and don’t plan to be any time soon.”
She looked up at him and then around. She fondled the rough threads of the blanket and pulled a piece of straw through a gap in the weave. A lamb bleated below, and a mouse scurried across a rafter overhead.
“Surely you don’t want to watch more people die.”
The Queen stood and bumped her head on a beam. Dust sprinkled onto her face. “No,” she said. “No, anything but that.”
“I’d like to help,” he said. “Dozens of good people, your subjects and their children, live here—you’re duty bound to protect them, and you know what Lukas will do if you’re found here.”
“Right.” She started down the ladder and Dewey held her steady. “I’ll go.” She stepped toward the barn door and Dewey nudged her, gently at first and then with a bit of authority to the side exit that led to an alley out of view of High Street.
He put two silver ohzees in her hand and said, “Take the morning barge back to Glomaythea or get passage on a ship to Nantesse—isn’t that your home?”
He gripped her shoulders and rotated her to face him. He waited for her to look up and said. “You asked for my help and I have helped you. Right?”
“Yes, thank you good sir.”
He oriented her downhill and gave her a shove. She staggered into the dark alley and down the hill that would take her back to the marketplace if she followed it. She said, “My babies are dead. They’re all dead.”
Dewey shut the gate just as Loretta appeared with a goblet of brandy.
“Just in time,” he said. He took it and drank.
About the Author
Ransom Stephens has searched for the Holy Grail in Cornwall and Wales but settled for a cracked coffee mug. He’s won several awards, but they’ve all been named after people he’d never heard of which made for awkward acceptance speeches. The author of four previous novels on simple, non-controversial topics like science vs religion in The God Patent, technology vs environmentalism in The Sensory Deception, oligarchy vs anarchy in The 99% Solution, and love vs money in Too Rich to Die, in his latest, The Book of Bastards, he offers readers what they really want, a story of bawdiness washed down with a sip of moral justice.
I’m a fairly accomplished scientist and technologist, all the details at https://contact.ransomstephens.com