She never wanted to be a political pawn. She only wanted to succeed her mother on the throne.
Now more than just the Gurun dynasty is in danger as rival houses conspire to take the throne — at any price. Will Princess Anlei survive the Great Succession Crisis?
Romantic prequel to The Ghosts of the Past and Princess Anyu Returns.
Targeted Age Group:: Teens and adults
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
The Great Succession Crisis, The Ghosts of the Past, and Princess Anyu Returns were originally one book, a fan fiction story based on a 1980s television series. As I developed planet Beinan and wrote core portions of the story I discovered that what was emerging was something very different and unique to my imagination. I broke the single book into three — a two part mystery-thriller that became The Ghosts of the Past and Princess Anyu Returns — and a prequel young adult romance telling the primary back story to Ghosts and Returns that is The Great Succession Crisis.
Besides the world building (which is lavish and scientifically grounded), GSC is a fusion of Frank Herbert’s Dune and Cinderella rooted in my knowledge of medieval Britain. So it’s this beautiful mix of all three.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The entire Peers of Beinan Series is grounded in everything I love best about classic science fiction. Characters in GSC in particular are rather archetypical. Lord Knight Corann could easily emerge from the pages of Arthurian legend if he were an Earth human. Princess Anlei emerged as a blend of several medieval noblewomen and princesses that I as a biographical historian have researched. Most of the other characters formed organically from the world building process itself and from my early love of the classics like Star Trek, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and original Battlestar Galactica.
Against Anlei’s will, Bevin and Corann lead her through the labyrinth of corridors connecting the Ten-Arian campus. Finally, they emerged into a court yard adjacent to the principle buildings used by the healers of Ten-ar. The location was carefully chosen; injuries during martial practices were to be expected, giving ample opportunities for student healers to practice their arts on live patients. At the range Lord Knight Eisiq fired a laser cross bow, its bolts discharging deadly plasma upon impact with flesh, its high energy “strings” making the crossbow easier to draw than with a heritage cross bow. Lord Eisiq aimed carefully at a laser cross bow target set up 5 zhang from the firing line, and then fired. The bolt sizzled as it hit near the bull’s eye. Putting down his cross bow, he greeted Bevin and Corann warmly, “Congratulations, Lord Knight Corann on your elevation yesterday. How does it feel to be a knight at last?”
“I am already assigned as a protector, Master,” reported Corann.
Lord Eisiq looked at Anlei, “Is this your charge, Corann?”
“Yes, my lord, Princess Anlei, daughter of Lord Knight Bevin,” replied Corann.
“Your daughter, my liege? It’s been too many yen-ars, Bevin. Last I saw Anlei was at Prince Alastair’s dedication ceremony in Bira Hecen; you’ve grown up, young lady,” remarked Lord Eisiq.
Bevin hugged his friend affectionately, “Good to see you too, Eisiq. And yes, she’s grown a great deal since last you saw her – in most ways, anyway. She still does not respect her grace, High Priestess Wehe. Religion remains a fallacy to her.”
“Are you sure she’s the queen’s daughter? She sounds like a star warrior of Xing-li: all science and no faith….”
“The queen will allow Anlei to go exploring in a star craft about the day our sun turns green. Her sister Anyu perished out on the edge of known space, remember?” reminded Bevin.
“I heard the rumour; it’s been confirmed?”
“Yes – Princess Anyu’s remains were found on D425E25 Tertius,” reported Bevin.
“I-I-I’m speechless,” stammered Eisiq. “Please send my condolences to her majesty.”
Anlei, feeling bored once more, surveyed the equipment carefully hung on nearby racks. Curious, she picked up a target arrow and started to play with it. Eisiq noticed her, “Do you shoot, Your Highness?”
“N-n-no – I have never seen an arrow up close before in my life. Weapons of war are not fit for a princess,” gibed Anlei.
“There was a time, my lady, when bows were the preferred weapons of house leaders, especially female house leaders. Your own paternal grandmother is such a woman. Throughout much of your father’s childhood she represented house Balister on the Great Council, her leadership gained through her speed and accuracy with a bow just like this one. It is part of your heritage, Your Highness, even though the connection between your father and his mother are rarely recognized. Here, let me show you how it’s done.” Eisiq picked up a Balister heritage bow, it’s recurve making it stronger and more powerful than simple longbows. Notching an arrow into its string, he drew the string to his ear and fired at one of the heritage bow targets. It thumped five cun to the right of the bull’s eye, a good but imperfect shot.
Bevin noticed Eisiq’s imperfect accuracy, inspiring him to walk up to them, select a bow and string it, “May I?”
“Please,” welcomed Lord Eisiq.
Bevin fired. The arrow effortlessly landed at the center of the bull’s eye. Corann picked up a bow and aimed, joining in the demonstration. As he pulled the string to his ear, he felt a stabbing agony in his shoulder. Trained to ignore pain, Corann calmed himself and took careful aim, releasing the arrow as gently as his first kiss with Anlei. The arrow plunged deep into the target, slicing against Bevin’s arrow and shaving off the side of it. Anlei’s eyes widened in disbelief, “How did you…?”
“Practice,” exclaimed Corann, surprised at her interest.
Anlei hugged Corann excitedly. Blood stained her dress. Stunned, she jumped back aghast, “Corann! You’re bleeding.”
Lord Eisiq looked at the wound with the skilled practice of a warrior accustomed to such injuries. After a xiao-shir, he pressed a button on his belt. Two xiao-shirs later, a refined lady healer 105 yen-ars old stepped out onto the firing range holding a medical scanner in her hands. Eisiq looked at her with surprise, “Lady Healer Cara, what are you doing home? I thought you were assigned to the palace as chief healer?”
Cara raised an eyebrow, “Nice to see you too, Lord Eisiq. I came for Lord Knight Corann’s elevation last beinor. Lord Knight Culain is my brother, after all. Besides, my instincts told me one of you knights would get into trouble somehow. These elevations seem to bring out your worst instincts, giving we healers way too much work to do.”
Bevin smirked at Cara’s witty retort. She was right, of course, that much Bevin had learned in his many yen-ars of close friendship with her brother. Bevin was one of the few knights to observe the sibling relationship between Cara and Culain up close, a merry war of wit between the siblings who were as different in world outlook and politics as their professions were to one another. Cara was the consummate pacifist while Culain gloried in skilfully applied martial arts. Cara’s world view tended towards scientific atheism while Culain largely maintained a very spiritual outlook on the world. They were an odd pair bound together by mutual parentage and equal skills in witty debate that often put both of them in the same social sphere. Half against her will, Lady Healer Cara found herself cleaning up the physical messes made by her brother, Lord Eisiq, and Lord Bevin.
Noticing Corann’s bloody tunic, Lady Cara scanned his wound, “How did you do this?”
“Lord Knight Bevin landed a solid blow with his rapier,” answer Corann as Cara inspected the wound with her gloved fingers, wincing reflexively. Cara eyed him suspiciously. Recognizing her stern countenance, he added, “Then I fired a Balister heritage bow.”
“That would do it,” scolded Cara.
“How bad is it?” asked Bevin.
“Bad enough – he needs surgery. I suggest something more primitive than your typical laser sutures. Filament sutures will work more effectively given the location so close to his heart, especially since I cannot imagine him actually following my instructions and not moving his shoulder for at least forty-five beinors. It’s deeper than it looks; I estimate an extended healing period,” assessed Lady Healer Cara. “I can do the sutures now – but he really should come to the palace healing center so I can watch him more carefully. Just a hunch, but I think you end up re-opening that wound before it’s healed. Bring him to my office here at our main healing center in ten xiao-shirs. I should have everything ready by then.”
Bevin bowed to Lady Healer Cara, “Thank you, lady healer. We will comply with your instructions.”
“That would be a change,” teased Cara, returning to the healing complex.
As Eisiq and Bevin watched Cara leave, Anlei pulled Corann aside, “I – I am so sorry, Corann.”
“You did nothing, Your Highness.”
“But you did all this, this display of martial prowess to try to teach me a lesson. You only took me out here to the range because I was so bored with your…whatever you call that.”
“You would not be the first princess or noble lady for that matter to fail to appreciate the material arts, my lady. But I do agree with your father that it’s only proper for you to educate yourself in martial arts. There may come a time when you need to know at least the basics.”
“But isn’t that why you took your vows to me last night? Aren’t you here to protect me?”
“There are … limits to what I may do, Your Highness, particularly once you are wed. In such a situation, your husband may not welcome my close proximity to you – especially given my attraction towards you.”
“What are you saying, he would be worried that one beinor I might indulge myself with you at his expense?”
“Yes, that is exactly what I am saying. I care deeply for you, Anlei. That is a powerful thing, especially to a rival for your favours,” implied Corann.
“But we are just friends; friends love each other if they are close….”
“Some men see women as trophies of the bedroom, Your Highness. Such men would do anything to have their property and their perceived carnal rights protected. Or have you forgotten the romantic songs of our antiquity?” Thinking hard, Corann began to sing a verse in an ancient tune,
“Lady fair I am yours this morning.
Lady fair I serve you.
In your royal grace,
Illuminate my face.
And grace me with your love.
I am yours my liege;
Serving you to please.
My lady fairest queen.
Anlei smiled at the song. Blushing, she took his left hand, “Do you mean the words of the song, Corann?”
Corann played with a lock of her hair, “I think you know the answer to that, Your Highness.”
Anlei blushed, “I do; if only things were different. If only I dared believe that someone like me can have someone like you….”
“Take heart, Your Highness. Your life is not over yet. This great succession crisis has only just begun. Not even the wisest knows for sure how this will end up.” Noticing a signal from Bevin and Eisiq to head indoors for medical treatment, Corann bowed, “Now if you will excuse me, my liege, Lady Healer Cara is waiting for me.” Anlei nodded her consent and watched him leave.
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