Excerpt: The Mercenaries of the Stolen Moon

Twenty years ago, Myra killed a man. It was, on the surface, a simple if brutal action, but it resulted in several things: saved the life of the High King, ended Myra’s time in the imperial army, and set him on the path to becoming Imperial Head Secretary. It was not a life he’d ever imagined for himself, but it was a life he loved.

He’d hoped to never kill another person after that day, but if Sarrica forced him to change the day’s schedule one. More. Time. Myra would face execution for murder of the High King without a second of regret. There was work to be done, and Sarrica’s inability to stick to a schedule was ruining any chance of getting it done.

Of course, such a long, prominent presence had earned Myra a reputation. Most of the palace—residents, staff, and military—called him High Secretary behind his back, and not in a respectful tone. Myra didn’t give a damn. He’d fought hard for his life, and if that was the worst he had to endure because of it, he was grateful.

“It must be bad if you’re showing your irritation.”

Myra looked up from the headache that was the master schedule, flicking back the braid that had snaked over his shoulder. Piru, his best and favorite undersecretary, smiled, yellow-brown eyes bright with mirth. Without Piru and Corrint, the clerk in charge of the antechamber, to help run the imperial office, Myra would have lost his mind a long time ago. “I will be glad to fall into bed tonight, that’s for certain.”

Piru snickered. “Even the Pantheon would be exhausted doing just half your job. And it’s only going to get worse in two days, not including today.”

“Don’t remind me,” Myra muttered as he looked back down at the chart that laid out where and when Sarrica and Allen were each day. He had the charts filled as far out as a year, with copious notes in an accompanying notebook for things even further out that would be added later on, and spent hours each day adjusting them and filling out new ones. Maintaining the schedule was nearly a full-time job on its own, and he was also in charge of all the paperwork that went through the imperial office: sorting, delegating, hunting down Sarrica to make him sign it and about a hundred other things. He had ten undersecretaries, eight clerks in the antechamber, plus a fleet of messengers, and still the place was always three steps away from collapsing into chaos.

Mostly because Sarrica forced him to change the schedule practically every hour.

He bit back a groan of frustration as he looked over the schedule for anything that would let him untangle this latest snarl. The last thing he needed was some stiff, pompous delegate from Treya Mencee getting offended at a breach of protocol—never mind all the protocol they’d broken a few years ago when Lord Lesto had been kidnapped. Kin del Kar…well, if Treyans were pompous and expected everyone to follow protocol to the very letter, and Harkens were nosy and flummoxed by people who didn’t want to know everything about everyone, Kinnish were apathetic and overly casual. This left all three parties constantly frustrated with one another.

Myra sighed as he finally saw a way to adjust the schedule to both appease Treya Mencee and finally squeeze in the meeting with Kin del Kar—and in time for both Allen and Sarrica to attend dinner like they wanted, so Allen could spend more time with his eldest brother, Crown Prince Larren of Gaulden. Unfortunately, that meant Myra would have to give Allen the new Kin del Kar contracts after dinner, which meant he needed to find time to do them, since they were too high a security to be given to an undersecretary. Myra had intended to start them tomorrow, once the festival schedule was off his hands, but that was clearly no longer an option.

Of course, all of this would be a good deal less stressful if he’d been able to hand over the final schedule last week as he was supposed to, instead of three days before the festival began.

These latest changes also meant no lunch break, and probably dinner at his desk or after he was finished with the contracts.

If someone else wanted to be Head Secretary, right then would have been the perfect time to persuade Myra to retire.

He swiftly wrote out the revised schedules on slips of paper, sealed them and sent them off with clerks to be delivered to Allen and Sarrica. That done, he returned to the task he’d been trying to accomplish all day so he could finally be done and move on to the Kin del Kar contracts. The Kinnish might be relaxed in manner, but that didn’t mean they slouched on business matters. If the contracts weren’t perfect, they’d complain.

But before the contracts, his primary task was the final schedule for the Festival of Harmony—the hundredth celebration no less, which was even more fun than the Harmony usually was, which was no fun at all when it came to the organizing. Thankfully, once this schedule was finalized, it was highly unlikely to change again, given the festival was only days away. Large portions of it relied heavily on the High King and Consort being where and when the schedule said they would be.

The whole affair gave Fathoms Deep hives trying to oversee the security, but that wasn’t Myra’s problem. His problem was merging where Sarrica and Allen had to be, together and separately, with what each of them disliked and favored, and coordinating all of that with the various guests and such they should or wanted to spend time with.

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