The Boar King’s Honor Trilogy
By Nancy Northcott
A wizard’s fatal mistake
A king wrongly blamed for murder
A bloodline cursed until they clear the king’s name
Book 1: The Herald of Day
In 17th-century England, witchcraft is a hanging offense. Tavern maid Miranda Willoughby hides her magical gifts until terrifying visions compel her to seek the aid of a stranger, Richard Mainwaring, to interpret them. A powerful wizard, he sees her summons as a chance for redemption. He bears a curse because an ancestor unwittingly helped murder the two royal children known as the Princes in the Tower, and her message uses symbols related to those murders.
Miranda’s visions reveal that someone has altered history, spreading famine, plague, and tyranny across the land. The quest to restore the timeline takes her and Richard from the glittering court of Charles II to a shadowy realm between life and death, where they must battle the most powerful wizard in generations with the fate of all England at stake.
Most of Dover’s folk turned out for the witch’s hanging. Merchants in fine silk and linen mingled with farmers and laborers in stained homespun. Shoulders hunched against the damp salt air, they chatted while they waited.
To see justice done. Or so they thought.
Miranda Willoughby knew better. Although she hid her own powers, they would alert her to anyone else’s gifts, and she’d never caught a whiff of magic around old Mistress Smith. But saying so wouldn’t save the woman. It would only win Miranda a hanging of her own.
“Black Bess, now,” said a short woman, “she danced like a hen on a hot slate b’fore she died.”
Her burly, male companion shook his head. “That don’t compare to Jack Dawes, the highwayman—took near half an hour dyin’.”
Their anticipation rasped across Miranda’s magical senses as harshly as rough surf scraped the shore. Standing by a small cart in the midst of the crowd, selling hot bread from the inn where she worked, she steeled herself against the callous talk.
She’d known how people would react and so had pushed to be the maid chosen for this duty. While her limited magical skills could do little to ease the doomed woman’s passing, Agnes Smith would at least have one person in the crowd who recognized the injustice of her death.
“I seen a double hangin’ in Canterbury,” the inn’s driver said from the cart seat. “Pair o’ thieves danced a merry jig.”
Standing by the front wheel, his friend nodded and grinned.
Miranda gritted her teeth. If only she could stop this. But Mother had died before she’d had the chance to teach Miranda more than summoning and glamours, and they were no use here.
She and the inn’s driver had arrived early to secure a spot near the hanging tree, a stout oak. The noose dangled from a thick limb above the crowd’s heads. Swaying in the moist ocean breeze, it taunted her with her lack of power.
To her right, a narrow, rutted dirt lane ran toward the town. The sheriff would bring the doomed woman that way.
The pie-seller’s stand to Miranda’s left did brisk business, and a juggler near the road collected coins in his upturned hat. Shrieking, laughing children chased each other through the fringes of the crowd.
A sturdy, blond man in rough woolen garb stopped beside her. “A hot cross bun, mistress.”
He barely glanced at her, which was no surprise. Men didn’t favor plain women, and she’d used her magic to become so. Her dark brown hair appeared thin and limp, her form scrawny, and her face pox-marked. In homeliness lay safety that was well worth its cost to her in other ways.
She uncovered one of the three pails in the back of the cart, where warm bricks kept the buns hot. A sweet, yeasty scent rose from the pail. Reaching in, she said, “That’ll be a farthing, if you please, sir.”
He passed her the coin and accepted his bread.
As he turned away, a shout rose from the crowd. They surged as one toward the road. Their bodies obscured her view of the approaching wagon, but its lone passenger, her aged face twisted with fear, stood high enough for Miranda to see.
People stooped, picking up rocks and dirt clods. Threw them at that helpless woman.
Miranda gripped the edge of her cart, the weather-worn wood biting into her palms. What use was power if you didn’t know enough about it to help someone in need?
The sheriff’s wagon rattled its way toward the tree. The crowd followed, gleeful over the woman’s helplessness. A stone flew through the air and hit her shoulder. With her hands tied behind her, she couldn’t deflect the missile. She cringed, turning into the path of a dirt clod that struck her temple.
Shuddering, Miranda swallowed against nausea. If she lost her breakfast, she’d draw attention she couldn’t afford.
The wagon stopped under the tree, and the sheriff’s men pulled the old woman out. They pushed her up onto a ladder below the noose and put the rope around her neck.
The sheriff stood in the wagon to read the sentence. The wind kept his words from carrying clearly, but Miranda caught some phrases. “For the crime of witchcraft...Squire Mason’s cows...”
Miranda frowned. Cows, hah! This had more to do with Squire Mason’s desire for the old woman’s land. Everyone knew he’d tried to buy her little plot at an absurdly low price, which the widow had resented. That resentment had opened the way for the witchcraft accusation. As had the old woman’s eccentric ways and homely, pox-scarred features.
Miranda’s hand rose to the pox scar illusions on her cheek. Her disguise could have liabilities she hadn’t expected.
“Hanged by the neck until dead,” the sheriff finished. He rolled his parchment with a flourish and jumped from the wagon.
“I’m innocent. I done nothing!”
The crowd’s derisive shouts drowned the old woman’s screech.
“Nothing anymore,” a man yelled, and everyone laughed.
Sickened by the cruelty, Miranda stepped on the hub of one of the cart’s wheels, boosting herself above everyone’s heads. Her eyes sought the condemned woman’s in the probably vain hope of making her last sight a kindly one.
“Now,” the sheriff yelled.
Someone kicked the ladder away. Mistress Smith’s body dropped, pulling the rope taut. She thrashed wildly in the air. In her reddening face, her eyes bulged. Her desperate, pleading gaze met Miranda’s.
Miranda’s stomach lurched, and she tasted bile. Swallowing frantically, she murmured, “Ease,” and tried to push power into the words. “Stop the pain. Stop.”
It wasn’t working. Desperately, she whispered, “Stop!”
Nothing changed. Oh, if only she could do something. Anything!
Wrenching pain lanced through her head, and the crowd vanished. Purple-gray mists swept around her, swallowing the shouting, hooting voices.
Beneath her feet lay solid shadow, and the nasty odor of rotten eggs pervaded the dank, foggy twilight. Her neck and arms tingled with magic. With cold foreboding.
The fog receded, revealing a white boar—with blue eyes, not small, black, piggy ones—lying on a carpet of deep blue bordered in mulberry. It struggled to rise, its eyes dark with pain and mute appeal that wrenched her heart.
Above it loomed a red dragon bugling in triumph. White and green striations shimmered on the undersides of its spread wings. Blood dripped from its talons and flowed from gouges in the boar’s side. She’d always loved tales of dragons, but this one’s joy stabbed into her with the certainty that the creature was evil.
Summon the boar’s knight, said a voice in her head.
As she backed away from the gory tableau, the reeking fog closed around the images. A man’s face flashed into her mind, his strong, stern features framed by a knight’s helm. Clad in gleaming, silver armor, he galloped a black charger through the swirling vapors to confront the dragon.
On his left arm, he bore a shield emblazoned with twin stripes of mulberry and blue down the middle and a white rose backed by the rays of a sunburst in the center. Etched boars and sunburst roses covered his armor.
Beneath straight, dark brows, his blue eyes narrowed as he eyed the dragon and its prey.
If he opposed the dragon, did that mean he was a force for good? Her instincts said yes, but how could she know?
The dragon roared, a ground-shaking threat, and the knight’s expression hardened. He slammed his visor shut, drew his broadsword, and spurred his mount to charge. The dragon belched flame.
No! He’d be killed.
The fog closed over the scene, then cleared.
Miranda found herself sitting on the ground by the cart, surrounded by half a dozen anxious townsfolk and the inn’s driver. The vision, or whatever it was, was over. Gasping in relief, she clutched the arm supporting her.
Its owner was the last man who’d bought a bun. “Did you hit your head, mistress? Are y’all right?”
They were watching her—all looking at her face. Staring. Oh, no—were her glamours—? But she could feel her power still shrouding her, holding them in place.
Shaky with relief, she scrambled upright. “I’m quite well. I thank you. I must have lost my balance.”
Of course she had. That had felt like a true magical vision, as unexpected as it was disturbing. Until today, though, she hadn’t used her magic for anything other than her glamours in years. Not since coming to the inn. Why would such a vision come to her now?
And why would a man fight a dragon for a boar?
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The Herald of Day
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Nancy Northcott’s childhood ambition was to grow up and become Wonder Woman. Around fourth grade, she realized it was too late to acquire Amazon genes, but she still loved comic books, science fiction, fantasy, history, and romance.
Nancy earned her undergraduate degree in history. Her favorite part of her course work was a summer spent studying Tudor and Stuart England at the University of Oxford. She has given presentations on the Wars of the Roses and Richard III to university classes studying Shakespeare’s play about that king. In addition, she has taught college courses on science fiction, fantasy, and society.
The Boar King’s Honor historical fantasy trilogy combines Nancy’s love of history and magic with her interest in Richard III. She also writes traditional romantic suspense, romantic spy adventures, and two other speculative fiction series, the Light Mage Wars paranormal romances and, with Jeanne Adams, the Outcast Station space mystery series.
Reviewers have described her books as melding fantasy, romance, and suspense. Library Journal gave her debut novel, Renegade, a starred review, calling it “genre fiction at its best."
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