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A Truth so Clear

M/M, Fantasy Romance, Friends-to-Lovers
[34 Pages / 7,800 Words]

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Prince Rolan does not require anyone's approval, least of all his studious hermit of a best friend. Newly returned from a dangerous hunt, Rolan should be more than content with the noisy feast in his honor. But when Mietri slips away mid-celebration, Rolan can't ignore his absence.

Most likely Mietri has squirreled away in his study below the castle to fuss with some bewildering quandary of magic. Rolan should not interrupt, no matter how much he craves Mietri's company and attention.

But when those familiar cravings take a new and confusing turn, Rolan isn't strong enough to stay away.


At last, he reaches a heavy oak door set into the wall on iron hinges. A thin gap beneath the door allows brighter light to flicker out across the worn floor. Rolan was right. No one comes here so late at night. Mietri must be inside.

Rolan knocks, firm and sure.

Only a brief pause precedes Mietri's firm, sharp tenor calling out, muffled through the thick wood. "If I tell you to go away, will you leave me alone?"

Rolan grins at the exasperation in Mietri's tone. "How did you know it was me?"

He imagines Mietri sighing theatrically, though not enough sound carries into the corridor to actually hear it. A moment later he hears the muffled thump of the bolt sliding back, unlocking the door and implicitly inviting entrance.

Rolan lifts the latch and steps through, setting the bolt again out of grudging deference to Mietri's desire for privacy.

"There's little point locking the door now. You're the only one liable to come looking for me." Mietri says this with fond exasperation, already returning to his place before a tall and burning hearth, sitting down amid a soft nest of rugs that has been carefully arranged on the floor. Several enormous tomes sit before him, open and layered atop one another, as though Mietri keeps thinking of some new point of research before finishing the one before.

"I can't believe you would rather study in the dark than attend a lavish feast," Rolan teases. He doesn't mean it, though.

Of course Mietri would rather study than make merry. He is vastly different from Prince Rolan that way. He has always preferred quiet and solitude to the company of crowds.

And quiet solitude is exactly what this room provides. By original design, it's not intended as a library, though Mietri has gradually transformed it into one through years of obtaining books about language and magic. The original purpose was a shrine of sorts—the massive hearth a monument to both spirits and ancestors—and perhaps Mietri has imbued those things into his work. Rolan has tried to ask, but he rarely understands the answers when Mietri starts trying to explain magic. The concepts are frustratingly beyond him, a dangerous and fascinating realm that he doubts he will ever grasp.

It might be enough to make Rolan worry, if he did not trust Mietri so completely. Impossible not to trust the man who is a brother to him in all but blood—who has been raised at his side, has sworn fealty in a hundred ways, has saved Rolan's life more than once—not that Mietri ever willingly acknowledges committing acts of heroism.

"I can't believe you would rather follow me into the dark than attend a lavish feast," Mietri counters dryly. He has returned his attention to his tomes, as though Rolan's presence in this bookshelf-laden study is barely worth acknowledging.

Rolan considers possible retorts. He enjoys arguing with Mietri, and he has not done it in weeks.

But some other instinct guides him to answer more honestly. "I've missed you." Then, not waiting to be invited closer, Rolan crosses the room and lowers himself to sit beside Mietri before the hearth. The nest of rugs is every bit as soft as it looks, and Rolan wishes again that he were not wearing all this armor.

When he leans back on his hands and turns to look at Mietri—the metal of his pauldrons bumping into the smooth panel that covers his back—he finds Mietri watching him with an expression of surprised curiosity.

Has it really been so long since Rolan expressed an honest feeling?

The silence extends too long, and Rolan wonders if he has erred. His smile falters. It is wholly foolish, the way his heart begins to race in his chest as he considers trying to withdraw his admission.

Before Rolan manages to speak, Mietri blurts, "Would you please take off that ridiculous armor? It's unnecessarily distracting. I can't even look at you in the firelight. The reflection is too bright."

Rolan huffs a relieved laugh and obliges without delay. Considering how high the fire is burning, the glinting reflection is painful to the eye. Besides, he aches to sit easier in the radiating warmth. If Mietri is willing to let him stay and keep company, he would rather do so in comfort.

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A Truth so Clear
Cover design by Yolande Kleinn
ISBN 978-1-946316-42-4
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