The first piece for Today’s Boosting the Signal doubleheader comes from fellow NIWA member E.M. Prazeman! She’s the author of the Lord Jester’s Legacy trilogy, and having laid personal eyes on her covers, I can report that they got a LOT of attention at Norwescon this past April. I’m looking forward to checking out her work, although from what I’m seeing in this piece, one will clearly want to tread lightly around her bad guys. She’s going to let you into the head of one of them now.
E.M. Prazeman writes secondary world fantasies with strong historical leanings. Current works include The Lord Jester’s Legacy Trilogy (Masks, Confidante, and Innocence & Silence) and a short story which will appear in an upcoming anthology that will go on sale in November. Current works in progress are The Poisoned Past (Oubliette, Penumbra and A Dark Radiance), sequel series to The Lord Jester’s Legacy, and The Kilhellion, a sword and sorcery fantasy. The Poisoned Past will go on sale this summer. Oubliette looks good for an early June release! Now, please let me introduce to you a certain person from Oubliette whom you would not want to meet under any circumstances. If he succeeds, you’ll all get to see him again in Penumbra.
I’m a villain. I like it, and I’m good at it. I wouldn’t have become one, if people weren’t slow, stupid liars. Are you afraid? I don’t care if you are. Not anymore. I used to like fear, and blubbering, and people pissing themselves. I’m not sure what happened. For a while I thought I got bored with it, but honestly … don’t you look for a way to escape when I’m talking to you. I thought you weren’t as idiotic as the others, otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered with you. That’s a compliment, and a gift. You’re exceptional. Too bad for you, hmm?
Anyway. Years ago when I raped a man, something went wrong. He liked it, in a way. He killed himself later, but that wasn’t what changed me. I’m pissed that he changed me, by the way. He and his wife. I can’t stop thinking about that look in his eyes. Release. A strange joy behind his fear, as if I’d set him free. He wanted to die then. I didn’t want to kill him. Fuck, I wanted more from him. I wanted to make him mine forever.
I find it curious that both people I harmed who liked it were men. I should have enjoyed it better, I think, if they were women, but a hole is a hole when it all comes down to it, don’t you agree? No? It’s all right if you disagree. I don’t mind. Truly. As if I would care what people think of me.
Anyway, since then, for the most part, I kept my work simple. I interrogated, mainly using my wits and their lack thereof. I tortured people sometimes if I thought they’d respond in the way that normal, rational people do when they’re in pain, but that seemed risky to me. I should have trusted my instincts. Because that boy.
I can still hear his exquisite voice calling my name softly down the dungeon hall. Cock. His mouth cupped the word like he wanted to take me in. A Trace. A lover’s whisper. Cock, a trace. Cockatrice.
Oh for pity’s sake you didn’t know who I was? Am? Whatever. It’s so obvious to anyone who’s paying attention. They called me Cock in school. I deserved it, earned it, both for the good and the wicked reasons, though they tried to humiliate me and make fun of it. And then, when I graduated, I took the name Trace. Cock. Trace. I have no idea why no one makes the connection between Trace the Master Jester and Cockatrice, the dreaded highwayman. It’s not even that clever. What can I say? I was young and I think part of me wanted to give the people who hunted me a little help because I didn’t feel hunted. I wanted to play the fox to their hounds and I wanted them to get close because that is about as thrilling as you can imagine. But they never got close to catching me, no matter how many sacred guards they sent after me. Now I’m employed rather than a free agent. I work alongside sacred guards every day. My employer would protect me if I was accused, but the pathetic nut rubbers that try to play mavson these days still haven’t caught on.
The boy, you ask? None other than the infamous regicide, that dreaded and feared little boy, Lord Jester Lark. Have you seen him? He’s as short and slight as they describe, with his angelic little innocent face. You’d never dream he was dangerous at all, especially when he’s not wearing his jester’s mask. I made the mistake of hurting him. And oooohhh, how he yielded to me, gave in to the pain. How he took strength from his endurance. I wanted to whip him bloody and then force myself upon him.
I’ve gotten quite carried away. Hand me that drink.
He got away and I want him back. I don’t want you. But I need you. Not like I need him. I need your skills. Track him for me. They say he ran off into the woods. That’s rather like saying he sailed away across the wide ocean, isn’t it? But you’re going to find him for me. It shouldn’t take you long. I know where he began, and I think I know where he’s going. We need to intercept him. And when you find him for me, I’ll be so preoccupied with my prize you’ll be able to slip away from me. I won’t care. I’ll happily let you go. Here. I’ll even pay you in advance.
Ha! You’ve never seen five sol together in one palm? Well now you have, in your own hand, my friend. I might give you another five if you find him.
But. If you don’t find him, I’ll have to take my money back and try to satisfy myself with you. For this boy does inspire a strange lust in me, and the closer I get to him, the stronger my lust becomes. Now, don’t you worry about him. He’ll be far more interested in me than you. He might be strong enough to kill me, which will be a great relief to the living world. But I’m betting he won’t hurt me. I’m betting that he felt the same thrill I did when I gripped his hair so hard that some tore free from his scalp, when I forced him against that cold, hard stone.
A shame we were so rudely interrupted.
Compared to him, you’re not at all interesting. But if you’re all I’ve got, I will use you. So go get him for me. And make it quick. I’m more patient than I was as a youth, but that does not make me a patient man.
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