Happy Winter Solstice! On the longest night of the year the Oak King duels the Holly King to turn the silver wheel of the seasons. You can read all about it in OAK KING HOLLY KING, a gay Victorian fae romance available now wherever fine books are found. And you can read an excerpt of Shrike and Wren’s first winter solstice together below.
As the two kings reached the centre mark, the Holly King turned to cast one final glance back up at the queen’s bower. The glimmer in his eyes froze before it ever reached his cheeks. He raised his two-handed longsword aloft in salute, then resheathed it, as to begin the fight fair.
Shrike did no such thing. Instead he cast his gaze over the crowd in a last desperate quest for Wren. He’d almost consigned himself to defeat when he spied him at last—a pale bespeckled face, chestnut locks tumbling in disarray over his brow, his dark eyes wide and deep with a longing that sang through Shrike’s own heart.
Shrike vowed to return to his arms. Then put him from his mind for the remainder of the duel.
The herald—an apple-cheeked, toad-mouthed courtier in exquisite wasp-lace—called for the combatants to take their places marked on either side of a ring some three ells wide burned into the ground. He held up the queen’s token between them. A scrap of emerald velvet, shimmering with sunbeams, a portent of the spring to come. Then he turned to the queen herself for the signal.
Shrike didn’t bother glancing back at her bower.
She gave her sign regardless, for the herald dropped the token and leapt backwards out of the fray as it fluttered to the ground.
The moment the merest corner touched the dead grass, the peal of metal against metal rang out through the cold air as the Holly King unsheathed his longsword.
Shrike did the same with his arming sword an instant after. He had time to do little else before the first blow fell from the Holly King’s blade and forced him to dive to the side. The blade sang as it cleaved the air by his head.
In its wake there came a sharp sting in the tip of Shrike’s ear. Something cold trickled down its length.
The crowd roared in approval.