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Honored in the Rainbow Awards, Dusk Peterson writes historical speculative fiction with diverse characters: historical fantasy, alternate history, and retrofuture science fiction. Family affection, friendship, romantic friendship, and romance often occur in the stories. A resident of Maryland, Mx. Peterson lives with an apprentice and several thousand books.
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The boundaries of rank declare that Serva can be a princess or she can be a slave. But for the bastard daughter of the King of Daxis, life is not that simple.
Forced to be a tool in a battle waged by her land's unstable King and his dangerously devious heir, Serva cannot even find refuge among her fellow slaves. Instead, she secretly explores the hidden portions of the palace. In this way, she meets an imprisoned spy who is scheduled for execution.
But when a simmering war bubbles to the surface, Serva must choose where her loyalties lie. She must also solve the mystery of the spy's past, and of her own future.
This novel can be read on its own or as part of The Three Lands, a diverse fantasy series on friendship, romantic friendship, romance, and betrayal in times of war and peace. The series is inspired by conflicts between nations during the Roman Empire and the Dark Ages.
The Three Lands is part of Chronicles of the Great Peninsula, a cycle
of diverse fantasy series about an epic battle between cultures, set at
a time when a centuries-old civilization is in danger of being destroyed.
¶ Sample or subscribe at Patreon: Breached Boundaries (The Three Lands).
Much of the cell was bathed in moonlight from the barred windows near the ceiling, but it took me a moment to locate the Koretian, for he was sitting cross-legged on the floor, his right hand stretched out, palm-up. He did not look my way; his concentration was on something at the edge of the cell. As I watched, a large, rough-haired rat darted out – dungeon vermin have little fear – and snatched something from the man's hand before darting back to its home under a crumbling wall-stone.
He looked up then, staring at me expressionlessly as though I were another rat who had come to feed. I said, "You gave part of your meal to a rat?"
"I had a sudden wave of sympathy for my fellow prisoner." He rose to his feet, and as he did so, he touched his heart and then his forehead with his fingers.
It was the free-man's greeting, exchanged only among equals, and, as its name suggested, only among free-men. I felt my face grow hot with embarrassment. "Sir, I'm a slave," I said stiffly, recovering, in that moment, my memory of what type of speech was proper between a slave and a free-man.
"I greet everyone that way," he replied.
"Even noblemen, sir?"
"Even them." For a moment I almost thought I saw amusement enter his eyes, but if it appeared, it was gone again immediately, like a death shadow barely noted. "And lay aside the honorific, please. It does not seem appropriate for this setting."
He stood easily, his eyes shifting up and down as he took in my appearance. His own appearance was interesting, though Lady Felicia had clearly exaggerated his beauty. In fact, his expression had a certain repulsive coldness to it that made it seem unlikely any bard would ever choose him as the model for a love-stalked hero in a song.
He was tall, and he had the dark hair and skin that Koretians share with Daxions; it makes it easy for us to spy on each other. He was dressed in a dusky tunic, which must also have been handy for spying. He was only a youth – or so I thought at first, but as I looked again at his steady eyes, I revised my estimate of his age. He might have been as old as me, though it was hard to tell, as his face was shaved in Emorian fashion. Along his bare cheek was the thin red gash of a blade, and he had a second fresh cut along his dagger arm. He spoke good Daxion, using formal, uncontracted speech. His tenor voice possessed an oddly clipped that suggested he kept himself in continual control against something hidden.
"What is your name?" I asked, dropping the "sir," as he had requested.
He considered this question for a while before saying, "Do you wish the truth?"
"I don't want a lie."
"Then you had better call me what you like. Spies do not give their true names."
¶ Sample or subscribe at Patreon: Breached Boundaries (The Three Lands).
You'll notice I'm no longer posting at my Facebook profile. Facebook
has made certain changes to its procedures which make it much harder for
me to post there. If you were using Facebook as the main way to receive
information about my stories, I suggest that you switch to one of the other
For over twenty years, Lord Carle has told the heir to the Emorian throne that vengeance is only the other side of mercy, and that disobedience and treachery should never be forgiven. Finally it seems that his message has been received. Which makes it all the more unfortunate that Carle should have chosen this moment to break the law.
As war threatens and the foundations of his life crumble, his only hope for rescue lies with a man who has every reason to hate Carle.
This novel on a young man's quest for true manhood and an old man's quest for peace can be read on its own or as part of The Three Lands, a diverse fantasy series on friendship, romantic friendship, romance, and betrayal in times of war and peace. The series is inspired by conflicts between nations during the Roman Empire and the Dark Ages.
The Three Lands is part of Chronicles of the Great Peninsula, a cycle of diverse fantasy series about an epic battle between cultures, set at a time when a centuries-old civilization is in danger of being destroyed.
¶ Available as an e-book: Law of Vengeance (The Three Lands).
The Chara Nicholas was two years my senior. His face appeared older at this time than his forty-five years because, like me, he followed the army custom of wearing a beard. This and his height gave him an imposing appearance; it seemed almost superfluous that he also had a piercing gaze and an expression that was always serious and dignified.
We had been friends for seven years, since I was first granted the title of council lord. Only during the past year, though, since I rose in rank to become a senior council lord, had I considered that I possessed the right to come unbidden to his presence. Never before had I intruded on him so late at night.
Perhaps as a reminder of this fact, he said, "You're lucky to find me here. I'd nearly convinced myself that it's more important that I get some rest before tomorrow's court than that I try to sort out this incomprehensible set of proposals which the Daxion Ambassador has given me. May I be delivered from the high doom and from ambassadors who know nothing about Emor."
"I apologize for disturbing you, Chara. I had best leave you to make your way to your bed." I still stood near the doorway, a long way off from where the Chara was standing at the other end of the room.
This was the third of the three great rooms of the palace: the Council Chamber, the Court of Judgment, and the Map Room, the last being where the Chara studied military information, held receptions, and tried prisoners in private. The room was largely empty except for the table that the Chara was standing next to, and the shadows that hung like cobwebs from the high ceiling.
Even from the distance, I could see Nicholas's scrutiny. It was followed by his reverberant voice saying, "No, I know that you wouldn't be here unless it were important. Did you try to locate me in my quarters first?"
I moved forward, saying, "I did not need to do so, Chara. Your son had told me that you would be here tonight."
There was a long silence. Nicholas, with careful precision, timed his reply for the moment that I reached the table. "You met with Peter?"
My breath was momentarily trapped in my lungs until I realized that I, at least, was in no danger. I said, my voice dragging with reluctance, "He came to see me this evening. He did not ask your permission?"
"He did not." Nicholas was sharp in his reply, but he added more gently, "It worries me little. Peter rarely disobeys me, and when he does, it is only on matters he considers to be of the greatest importance. You should feel flattered that he places a visit to you in that category."
Edging my way carefully through the conversation, I said, "I am not happy that I am the cause of his disobedience, but I am indeed flattered. I thought that he had come to see me on your command."
Nicholas gave an uncommon smile then. He was a somber man and rarely lightened his mood, even for his friends. He sat down in a chair by the blazing hearth. "Peter knows of my respect for you and has wanted for some time to be able to speak privately with you. Did you come here tonight because of him?"
"Only in a roundabout manner, Chara." I was busy timing myself to wait a full minute before sitting down. I had made the mistake early in Nicholas's acquaintance of seating myself before the Chara was fully settled. The look he had given me on that occasion had caused me to avoid his presence for the next three months. "I am sorry to report that one of my slaves has run away."
Like all the Charas, Nicholas had a memory which captured events like a snare-noose. He said, "The one who created the small incident during dinner tonight?"
Nicholas sighed and asked, "Does he know the penalty for escape?"
"I thought I had impressed that knowledge on all my slaves," I said bitterly, "but this is not the first time I have failed to brand a fact in his mind."
Nicholas stared down at the hearth-fire, his expression even more sober than usual. I wondered how many times he had watched a Slave's Death, the method of execution for palace slaves. I had watched it only once. Nothing I had witnessed over the years, not even in the Chara's army, had sickened me more. Only my determination as a new council lord to know the discipline of palace life had kept me watching for the full week.
Nicholas said softly, "As a boy, I swore to myself that I would one day repeal the penalty for escaped palace slaves, or at least allow them a Free-man's Death. But as you know, my ascent to the throne coincided with the beginning of the Border Wars, and we discovered then that the Koretians had been able to breach the border so easily because of military information given to them by a former palace slave. Did you ever see the villages destroyed by the Koretians?"
"Unfortunately, yes, Chara."
"Now that the Koretians are under my care, I try to wipe those memories from my mind, as well as the fact that Koretia broke its peace oath through its attack. It was not a pleasant beginning to my duties. So my first act – once I had relieved Godfrey of his High Lordship, since he had given my father such poor advice on Koretia – was to institute another custom for palace slaves: thereafter, they could never be given their manumission papers. No doubt this makes life hard for the slave-servants here: they face permanent enslavement if they stay, painful death if they try to leave. But I would rather that a few slaves suffered than that the borderland villagers ever endure the Koretians' treachery again."
I did not reply as I watched the anger and pain in Nicholas's face. My first real encounter with the Koretian thirst for bloodshed had shocked me so greatly that never again had I visited that land of dagger-wielding gods and murderous blood vows. But I could not escape the news that crossed the border, and so I had heard on many occasions of the Koretians' penchant for betrayal, especially during the final years of the Border Wars, when Nicholas's patience had been stretched to its farthest endurance. He had finally resorted to trickery worthy of the Koretians: he gained passage for his army through our southwestern neighbor of Daxis and had attacked the Koretian capital from the south. I remembered the relief that we at the palace had felt, three years before, when news of the victory came. I recalled our determination that never again would we allow the Koretians the freedom to attack us.
It had been during that same summer that I had gone one day to the city market and discovered an arrogant Koretian slave being sold.
¶ Available as an e-book: Law of Vengeance (The Three Lands).
If a god were to appear in the Three Lands, would his appearance bring an end to the fighting between nations? Or would he merely help to spark an inferno of war?
Chronicles of the Great Peninsula is a cycle of diverse series set in fantasy versions of the ancient, medieval, and modern worlds.
The Three Lands. He vowed himself to his god. Now the god is growing impatient . . . ¶ The Three Lands is a fantasy series on friendship, romantic friendship, romance, and betrayal in times of war and peace. The series is inspired by conflicts between nations during the Roman Empire and the Dark Ages.
Chesapeake Sword. One of their worlds can't possibly exist. The problem is figuring out which one. ¶ Chesapeake Sword is a fantasy romance series about travel between different times on parallel worlds.
The Thousand Nations. In a shattered world of warriors and barbarisms, only the deepest ties of friendship and romance can protect them. That, and a god they may not be able to trust. ¶ The Thousand Nations is a fantasy series about what happens after the fall of a civilization.
Darkling Plain. Separated in time and place, these young women and young men are united in their goal: to protect those they care for from the destruction of battle. The odds are against them. ¶ Darkling Plain is a collection of fantasy tales about young people in times of conflict, set beyond the waterfall at the world's end.
Blade Tales. Blades of metal are not as powerful as blades of companionship. ¶ Blade Tales is a fantasy series presenting book bundles of interlinked stories from Chronicles of the Great Peninsula.
Chronicles of the Great
Peninsula series resources.
Turn-of-the-Century Toughs is a cycle of diverse alternate history series about adults and youths on the margins of society, and the people who love them. Set in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as well as in a future that never existed, the novels and stories take place in an alternative version of America that was settled by inhabitants of the Old World in ancient times. As a result, the New World retains certain classical and medieval customs.
The Eternal Dungeon. In a cool, dark cavern, guarded by men and by oaths, lies a dungeon in which prisoners fearfully await the inevitable. The inevitable will be replaced by the unexpected. ¶ The Eternal Dungeon is an award-winning alternate history series on romance, friendship, and family, set in a nineteenth-century prison where the psychologists wield whips.
Dungeon Guards. In the Eternal Dungeon, there are only two types of guards: skilled guards or dead guards. But one guard has been both. ¶ Dungeon Guards is an alternate history series about nineteenth-century prison workers who seek love and companionship as they fight together against danger.
Life Prison. They are imprisoned until death, and their lives cannot get worse . . . or so they think. But when an unlikely alliance forms against their captors, the reformers risk losing what little comforts they possess. ¶ Life Prison is an alternate history series on friendship, romance, and rebellion in nineteenth-century prisons.
Commando. The nautical nation is backed by the military might of an empire. The mountainous republic is populated by farmers and shopkeepers, and it has no standing army. The nautical nation is about to make the mistake of attacking the mountainous republic. ¶ Commando is an award-winning alternate history series on friendship and romance, which imagines what the South African Boer War could have been like if it had been fought on American soil.
Michael's House. In a world where temples are dying and sacred theaters have been replaced by brothels, what will happen when a hard-headed businessman joins forces with an idealist? ¶ Michael's House is an alternate history series on love in a Progressive Era slum.
Waterman. How can a youth from a bay island boarding school survive when he is sent to a futuristic prison? ¶ Waterman is an award-winning speculative fiction series of love in an alternative version of the Chesapeake Bay region during the 1910s and during the future as it was envisioned in the 1960s.
Young Toughs. During the turbulent years between the cannonball battles and the atom bomb, life is not easy for young people. ¶ Young Toughs is an award-winning alternate history series about the friendship, romance, and struggles of youths in the twentieth century and into the future.
Dark Light. Only in the dark can one truly see the light. ¶ Dark Light is an award-winning alternate history series presenting book bundles of interlinked stories from Turn-of-the-Century Toughs.
Turn-of-the-Century Toughs series
Turn-of-the-Century Toughs timeline, with stories linked in chronological order.
The Three Lands timeline, with stories linked in chronological order.
List of published fiction in reverse order of the date of composition. Includes publication histories for each of the stories.
List of published fiction by date of publication.
Also serves as a timeline for my literary life.
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Shared universes. Fan works! Commissioned art! Stories and art set in my worlds by other authors and artists. I welcome fan works of my writing.
Word counts. For those interested in my creative process.
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