Healing Glass by Jackie Keswick :: New Release
Title: Healing Glass
Author: Jackie Keswick
Published: 13 May 2019
Cover Design: Pavelle Art
Keywords : M/M, Fantasy romance, friends to lovers, two against evil, fighting oppression, personal responsibility, love is stronger than tyranny, never piss off a man who has something to protect
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A dying city.
An ancient, forgotten accord.
And two gifted men caught in a web of greed and dark magic.
Despite belonging to different guilds, glass master Minel and warrior captain Falcon are friends. Their duties keep them apart, but when Minel falls ill and chooses death rather than the only known cure, nothing can keep Falcon from his side.
As their friendship grows into more, old wrongs and one man’s machinations threaten the floating city and leave both Minel and Falcon fighting for their lives. Can they learn to combine their gifts to save the city and its magic, or will everything they know and love perish before their eyes?
Healing Glass is an LGBT fantasy adventure with its head in the clouds. If you like medieval backdrops, impressive world-building, three-dimensional characters and a touch of magic, then you’ll love Jackie Keswick’s socially-conscious adventure.
Half a mile above the surface, a deep, rumbling groan rattled through Favin’s bones and turned his guts to water. The elevator jerked and shuddered—long enough for Favin to wonder whether he’d left his errand too late—before it resumed its stately progress up towards the floating city.
The groans and jerks came more often these days, on almost every journey. Despite the trickle of ice-cold fear, Favin welcomed the noise and stuttering ascent. He’d raised the alarm weeks earlier, but no one had believed the word of a servant. No one but Councillor Teak, who now clung to the transparent wall on the far side of the elevator, face grey and eyes wide.
The City Council would believe Teak.
“Is… this… why you wanted me to accompany you?” Teak spoke louder than necessary in the tight confines of the chamber bearing them aloft.
“Yes, Councillor. I reported it several times, but—” Favin stopped, loath to criticise the council. “I felt you had to know what’s happening.”
Teak, resplendent in a well-cut black coat and lace cuffs under his scarlet robe of office, didn’t belong in an elevator filled with rows of stacked crates, bins of cloth, and rolls of parchment, even when Favin hadn’t packed the space as full as he usually did. The councillor didn’t need the experience of a full cargo run, of squeezing into a gap just large enough to get in and out of. Never mind that he wouldn’t have fit. The servants joked that were the councillor hollow, one of them could fit inside his frame with space to spare.
Teak enjoyed his food as much as he enjoyed his status and privileges, but he hadn’t lost all sense of his responsibilities. When Favin had asked for his help, he’d only grumbled a little before agreeing to investigate the matter. Now here he stood, pressed against the transparent wall, gaze riveted to the crate in front of him, not daring to look down.
Favin watched the sea and the sky over Teak’s shoulder, wishing—as always— that he could see the city as they made their way towards it. The freight elevators didn’t allow for such a view, and Favin’s work rarely left him the leisure to sit on the beach.
Four levels of squat glass tiers and elegant spires connected by sweeping stairs and graceful bridges, suspended high above the waves by a raft of near-invisible columns… the floating city had stood waiting at the edge of the ocean when the Craft Guild arrived in need of shelter. Nobody knew its builders. Nobody quite understood how it worked. The city kept its occupants warm and dry, the glass walls closing or receding depending on the weather. Fountains supplied water in every square, and in all the buildings. The middle tier of the city—a wide, level space between the double-story, flat-roofed dwellings of the lower level and the skyward-reaching spires of the top tier—had been given over to growing food. All other goods the inhabitants needed came via the trade guilds and the Merchant Guild. The craft masters could have anything that fit into one of the eight large elevators, whether it came by land or sea, while men like Favin ensured the goods arrived where they were needed.
The groan came again, more of a pained shriek now, like the death cry of a material used too long and too well, as an abrupt slip downward hurled both Teak and Favin to their knees.
Then the sounds stopped.
The downward movement stopped.
And the elevator resumed its unhurried climb.
Sweat pearled on Teak’s brow and upper lip by the time the transparent cabin reached its goal. “Can we… not use this elevator?” He stepped off the floating disk before he turned to ask.
“It will delay deliveries, Councillor.”
“How many journeys do you make in a day?”
“Some days as many as fifty.”
“And the noise and the… jerking… have been getting more frequent?”
“Yes. I’m told the other elevators show the same signs of trouble. And in the upper city, the glass is said to be weeping.”
“That’s what I’ve heard, Councillor. I’ve not seen it.”
“No, of course not.” Servants of Favin’s class had no access to the upper levels. “Thank you, Favin, for bringing this to my attention.”
Favin bowed to the councillor before he set about unloading the cargo into the hands of the waiting servants. The council would decide whether to shut down the elevator or keep it running. He’d done as much as he could do, given his station. He’d said his piece and had had a councillor listen.
He continued with his work, until words drifting through a half-open door stopped him on his way to deliver rolls of parchment and ink to the council chamber.
“Weeping is the only way to describe it, Wark. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“And you think it’s going to be a problem?” The clipped tones were the regent’s and Favin froze where he stood, listening.
“Of course, it’s a problem,” Teak argued. “Go and see for yourself if you don’t believe me. There’s liquid glass welling up out of the column and trickling down its length. What do you think will happen if the glass wears away doing that? Or if the whole column turns to liquid? Will it continue to support the upper level in that state, or will it run into the sea and disappear?”
“Calm yourself, Teak. I’m sure there’s no need for panic.”
“You would know, of course.” Teak said snidely. “But I say you should listen. There’s more than one of those weeping spots in the upper city. The freight elevators jerk and groan, and servants are buying out their contracts, happier to make a life elsewhere than work here.”
Then it is serious, Favin thought, glued to his spot. More serious than I knew.Positions with one of the three gifted guilds were hotly sought. Only the king’s court paid better wages, and with the high prices in the royal city and port of Allengi, those wages didn’t go nearly as far.
“We must deal with this, Wark. Before it is too late.”
“Repairs to the city’s fabric are the task of the glass master. I will make sure he attends to the problem.”
“Minel is an outstanding craft master.” Teak bristled as if he had heard something in Wark’s comment that Favin had not. Something he disagreed with. “Most sought after, despite his youth. His list of commissions is near endless and he earns—”
“There are no other glass masters in the guild. Minel is our only choice if we want to fix the problem you’ve brought to my attention.” Regent Wark sounded oddly gleeful.
“No. You can’t— What if—?”
“You can’t have it both ways, Teak. You can’t bring me a problem and then object when I solve it. Minel’s work and his designs pay a large part of the city’s debts. I’m not so stupid I’d interfere with that. But if the fabric of the city fails, all the money and favours we’re owed will be no use to us. It’s fortunate that Minel cares about nothing but making glass. He doesn’t have the stomach for confrontation. I think… I think this will work out very well. Minel will accept that we direct his work and we can add another treasure to our collection. I have waited long enough.”
The glass carafe spun on its chain, propelled in slow swirls and small circles by the gentle breeze drifting through the wide-open doors to the roof garden. A rainbow of sparkles washed over the room’s white walls with each of its movements, bringing memories of the endless sky, of sun and sea, and the expanse of green that reached from the shore towards the horizon.
Minel lay on the floor and watched his masterpiece sway and spin. The carafe was perfect. Graceful lines and flawless material marked the craftsmanship as that of a true artist. Joy poured from each facet and curve and suffused the room until Minel felt the hum against his skin. A fitting tribute to his imagination, the carafe showed his mastery of that most difficult, fragile, and most expressive of all materials: glass.
He’d designed and crafted it to bring joy to others. Now it swung on its chain over Minel’s head, bringing joy to no one but Minel. The carafe would never be used. It would spend its days nestled in a bed of velvet, displayed as a testament to Minel’s command of his craft. A tombstone to the joy he’d thought to create.
Because Minel was dying.
Fever burned under his skin, the breeze from the terrace insufficient to quench the inferno. Instead of cooling the blaze in his chest, the eddies of air brought scents to torment him: the vibrant green bouquet of the plants he grew and studied for his designs and the sweet fragrance of their many-coloured blooms, the acrid bite of seared meat, and the throat-clogging miasma of reflected heat and dust on sun-baked rooftops. And fainter, more insidious smells that were even harder to escape: hope, desire, arousal, sweat… satiation.
Those scents raised images in his mind of things he knew nothing about. Or too much, depending how he looked at it. He played with them for a while, pictured ocean-dark eyes fringed by long lashes and dishevelled locks the colour of old gold. His memory added plush lips, the lower one fuller than the upper, and both as delicate a pink as an early winter sunrise. He imagined a broad-shouldered shape looming over his prone form and smooth limbs tangled with his. Thought of touching soft, warm skin, and of calloused palms grazing his aching sides. He dreamed of meshing lips and exploring tongues. He wished for the nip of teeth in sensitive places, the tiny pain a prelude to pleasure. He visualised core-deep shivers and heat, and joy so strong it blocked everything else from his mind.
When a sliver of regret pierced his joy, he pushed the images aside, pleasant and intriguing though they were. He’d never acted on his dreams. And he’d never dealt in regrets. His designs, and the pieces he fashioned, radiated joy, peace, acceptance, healing and any other emotion Minel aimed to convey. Regret had never been amongst those.
He wouldn’t start changing the way he worked. Wouldn’t start changing the way he saw the world now that his time grew short.
The tell-tale tingle in fingertips and toes had been his first warning. Then his surroundings appeared brighter, louder, and more fragrant every time he woke. And the slight shortness of breath grew harder to ignore as time passed.
He’d felt the onset of the disease and had turned his knowledge into a challenge, a race to finish one last piece. Finish it in a manner that would leave people wide-eyed and make them remember him in years to come.
Now the light’s rainbow caress brushed his skin like a velvet glove. The air sang with the carafe’s gentle movements. And Minel knew that he’d achieved what he’d set out to do.
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Jackie Keswick was born behind the Iron Curtain with itchy feet, a bent for rocks and a recurring dream of stepping off a bus in the middle of nowhere to go home. She’s worked in a hospital and as the only girl with 52 men on an oil rig, spent a winter in Moscow and a summer in Iceland and finally settled in the country of her dreams with her dream team: a husband, a cat, a tandem, a hammer and a laptop.
Jackie loves unexpected reunions and second chances, and men who don’t follow the rules when those rules are stupid. She blogs about English history and food, has a thing for green eyes, and is a great believer in making up soundtracks for everything, including her characters and the cat.
And she still hasn’t found the place where the bus stops.
For questions and comments, not restricted to green eyes, bus stops or recipes for traditional English food, you can find Jackie Keswick in all the usual places.