THE UNREMARKABLE SQUIRE by Nick Hayden
A fantasy novel
A squire’s oath is to be of service… but to whom?
In the kingdom of Basileon, an unremarkable and emotionally detached young man named Obed Kainos is about to stumble into adventure—quite against his will. When the knights of the realm gather in a quest to search for the lost Armor of Arkelon, Obed is chosen at random to replace the recently deceased squire of Sir Lance Valentino. While trying to perform his menial tasks faithfully, the young squire becomes entangled in the plots of mages, thieves, and kings.
And that’s just his first week on the job.
Unfortunately for Obed, his indifference cannot save him from his new oath. For despite his enigmatic personality (or perhaps because of it), he manages to attract a band of misfits to his cause— the ugly, the arrogant, the clumsy, and the cowardly—putting the legendary armor within the grasp of one who never wanted anything at all.
“Dazzling damsels in distress, a magical suit of armor, mayhem and danger at every turn, a host of unique characters and plenty of laughs make this novel worth reading. Mr. Hayden tells a worthy tale well!”
—Phillip Tomasso, author, Sounds of Silence
Obed’s eyes sprang open as his cheek hit the cold floor. He blinked. He saw nothing. He could not tell whether his eyes were open or closed. He rolled to his back, his arms searching the floor. A hand discovered the bed. Turning his head, he found a blinding sliver of light. Slowly, he pushed himself to his feet and hobbled toward the light with outstretched arms. He touched wood and pressed himself against the frame, gasping from exertion.
Groping along the door’s surface, he found the handle. He pulled it open—it was not locked—and brilliant light washed over him. He waded into the light, into the hallway, and pulled the door shut. The hall was empty. He stood swaying as his eyes sought the door and looked beyond it, to where his cot lay. Obed’s hands clenched then slowly loosened. He did not move.
“My life is not my own. I am squire to Sir Lance Valentino. My strength, my will, my… my will,” he yawned expansively, “my very life… is, is forfeit to the… preservation of order.” He leaned fully against the door. “The preservation of order,” he mumbled as his eyelids slid shut. Obed whacked his head against the wood. They opened reluctantly.
“The purity of maidens,” he continued, taking a step down the hallway, his shoulder against the wall. His eyes, dull and unfocused, were directed ahead, to the stairs he had ascended earlier that evening—but the moment’s clarity passed, and slumber’s seductive fingers beckoned him. He forced himself forward in spurts. He passed Lanna’s room, and then Liam’s, and reached the entrance to a vast room. Within, he heard voices.
“…no longer needed. I have acquired one by other means. You may do what you wish with yours. I have no use for her.” It was Garic speaking.
“You promised me payment upon locating and procuring her. It wasn’t easy. Who else could have done so with such alacrity?”
“You were still too slow.”
“I expect my money.”
“But you’ll not expect mine, I hope. Perhaps you could ransom her.”
There was bitter laughter. “Who’d want her?”
“A valid question. It is yours to answer. Now, in regard to your other tasks—“
Obed rubbed his eyes fiercely and, with a burst of determination, pushed himself past the open doorway. Inside he saw Garic talking to a full-length mirror. A wiry, weasel-like man stood in the mirror. His nose hooked like a beak.
Obed reached the stairs. Bracing himself against both walls, he descended. The stairs ended at a single room.
As Obed pushed the creaking door open, a column of light pierced the darkness. Upon the bed, sleeping, lay Violet. Obed walked slowly along the light’s path, but before Violet, his shadow heavy upon her, he hesitated. “Hello,” he said softly. She did not respond. “Please wake up.”
Violet jolted awake with a scream. Obed stopped her mouth with his hand. “I’m here to help you. You said you needed help. I’m here.”
She stopped screaming. Obed released her, deliberately wiping the saliva from his hand on to his pant leg. “Are you all right?”
“Get me out of here. Get me out of here before I don’t want to leave.”
~Visit the book’s page.
AN INTERVIEW WITH NICK
-What made you want to write?
Interestingly, I wrote quite a bit in high school before I realized I wanted to write. A friend and I plotted and started a novel. Another friend and I plotted and started an RPG. I wrote short stories now and then and humor articles for the newspaper. But in the back of my mind, I was going to be a math teacher. Because, really, I was better at math than English.
Then--as the story goes--I had a revelation of sorts. My high school had these two weeks at the end of every year when we ditched normal classes and took electives. In my junior year, I took an elective on the writings of C.S. Lewis. We read The Great Divorce. It’s the story of people from hell who visit heaven and decide they’d rather go back to hell. (Seriously, if you haven’t read it, go hunt it down. It’s fabulous.)
There’s this one scene that gets to the heart of my desire to choose to write. One painter is telling another who is visiting from hell that when he painted the light in his pictures, what he managed to do was capture a glimpse of heaven in his presentation of the light and that is what attracted people to his paintings.
And, for some reason, I read that and thought I had a way to glimpse the Truth and deliver it in an beautiful and entertaining way.
Though I don’t use light. I use words.
-What draws you to fantasy?
Because I’d rather write than do research. (I’m only half-joking.)
Truthfully, though, I find it so much easier to say what I want to say in fantasy. I don’t have to conform to the real world. I create a world that fits my plot and characters and themes. The world itself is part of the creation. And I love the sense of wonder and playfulness you can infused a fantasy world with. I’d rather a reader visit my fantasy world and come back refreshed than visit a rundown, realistic corner of his own world.
Plus, I’ve always loved the more fantastical stories--Star Wars and anything Miyasaki and Alice in Wonderland and Bradbury. I tend to resist gritty realism in my worlds, though, perhaps, not so much in my characters.
-Name a fun fact you learned researching this or another project.
Research? What do you mean, research? (See above answer.)
Actually, what tends to happen is that things I learn through random acquisition of knowledge seep into stories more unconsciously than not. I started The Unremarkable Squire while in college, while studying literature (which makes sense for a writer) and koine Greek (which does not), among other things. The result is references to King Lear and Poe, as well as names and terminology rooted heavily in Greek.
Also, I tend to be a character-centric writer, so most of my “research” goes into understanding how people work and interact, and that consists mainly of living (which I happen to do every day) and examining myself (which I tend to do in deep funks on Sunday night).
-Which of your characters would you go out for drinks with?
The title character of The Unremarkable Squire, Obed Kainos, is actually a guy I think I’d like quite a bit. I’m not sure he’d go out for a drink, per se, unless that drink was a root beer, and he’d seem rather distant at first, because that’s just how he is. But I’m rather a shy introvert myself and I think we’d connect slow and steady. And maybe, just maybe, we’d be like that line from a Muppet song: "There’s not a word yet/for old friends who’ve just met.”
Most of the other characters are rather loud and boisterous and should be taken in small doses by partial hermits like myself. Except for Emmitt. He’s pretty low-key. Not particularly astute, but solid and innocent and friendly. So we’d make a three-some--Obed, Emmitt, and me. It might not be a rocking party, but we’d have a good time.
-For aspiring writers, any tips?
Besides the usual--keep reading, keep writing, never, never, never quit?
Perhaps just this: There is a story only you can write, and its value isn’t dependent on how many people read it. Make it true and beautiful and good. That’s enough.
-Is there a genre you could never write? Which and why?
Despite my protestation above that I prefer fantasy to all else, I’ve done some contemporary fiction, a bit of gothic horror, a smidge of half-finished romance, and, of course, some science fiction. I like experimenting in different styles. (Which is different from being good at writing in different styles, but never mind that.)
Chick-lit, though, is a foreign language, a strange, perplexing, eye-crossing madness. So, probably chick-lit.
What I would like to try someday is a good, old-fashioned mystery.
Nick Hayden is the author of the fantasy novels Trouble on the Horizon and The Remnant of Dreams. He has penned a number of short story collections, including Dreams & Visions, and the novella The Isle of Gold. Hayden co-hosts a story-telling podcast, Derailed Trains of Thought, about once a month and also helps run the Children of the Wells web serial. Nick describes himself as a mild-mannered bookkeeper by day, a mild-mannered (albeit tortured) writer by night, a writing teacher three times a week, a youth leader on weekends, and a podcaster every month or so. He has a wife and two kids, who do a fine job of putting up with him.
Check out the publisher’s website.
It must be a fantasy writer thing. My first response when people say “why fantasy” is something along the lines of “because I hate research. Only joking (sorta).”
And don’t forget to comment for a chance at a prize.
Nick will be awarding a Winner’s choice of a $10 Starbucks card or a 4-piece box of Moonstruck truffles to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour, and a Winner’s choice of a $10 Starbucks card or a 4-piece box of Moonstruck truffles to a randomly drawn host. In addition, anyone who is interested can go to their website (Barking Rain Press) and get a free 4-chapter sample of the book, plus a coupon for 35% off the price of the print or ebook version of the book.
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