My Fairy Tale Academy Series continues with the next installment:
The Giant King!
This is, obviously, a Jack and the Beanstalk retelling. In my version, it was the king of the giants that fell down the beanstalk, and because Jak killed him, Jak is now the giant king.
Poor kid. I feel bad for him.
Good thing Maggie (*cough* Mulan) is there to help him.
Official release day is Wednesday, April 3rd!
I’ve had so much support and excitement for these books, that I’m going to have another fan appreciation day, which means the price will be 99 cents on release day!
Here’s the first chapter. Enjoy!
Jak sat on his bed and stared down at the objects in his palm. The opaque, green, kidney-shaped beans made a neat little pile. He used his thumb to spread them out, as if looking at them from a different angle would help him understand.
Jak’s eyes moved from the beans to the folded parchment sitting next to him. He sighed, dropping the beans back into the red velvet bag and pulling the drawstrings shut. Then he gently set it on the bed and picked up the parchment.
His mother hadn’t bothered to seal it. Instead, she’d simply folded it in quarters, then rolled it enough to get it in the bag with the beans. The parchment crackled under his fingers as he unfolded it and found his mother’s neat script on the page. He’d read it more times than he remembered, but some part of him hoped that if he read it again, he might find a different meaning in it.
I’ll keep this brief. The council has agreed to let you stay at the Academy for two years, which keeps you out of their way, and safe. When they bring you home, it is likely that one of them will challenge you for the throne.
While I understand how terrifying that must be for you, you need to focus on the more pressing matter of our fields. A majority of the crops from the summer have failed, and as you know, the soil has become toxic. There is enough in our stores to last through the winter, but if we can’t grow anything in the spring, we will have to find another way to feed the people of Oreroth. The giants will blame us, and their solution will be to let us starve while they take what they need from another kingdom, which will result in a war that will likely cascade out of control.
The giants do not know the extent of the problem. They think it is a few fields and just the bean crop. We need to keep it that way.
Find out where the beans I sent with you came from, and how they work. Get back to me as soon as you can.
Boom, boom, boom!
“Sure, Mom. No pressure.” Jak refolded the parchment.
The slender bed creaked as he rose to his feet. The desk drawer gave a squeal as he opened it and put the letter inside.
The room looked almost as barren as it had upon his arrival. The desk sat at the far end of the bed, the long side against the wall. Beyond that, light poured in through a window. A single blanket lay on the bed, now wrinkled from him sitting on it. The dresser stood at the head of the bed. An invisible line ran down the middle of the room, and the other side was a mirror image of his own. Only no one slept there.
Boom, boom, boom!
The pounding penetrated the wood, and likely the entire building. Jak wondered what the Academy made their doors of. There wasn’t much that could stop a determined giant.
“Your Highness, we need to get going.” Beklor’s voice dripped with irony.
“I’m coming. Don’t have a cow,” Jak said before Beklor started pounding in earnest.
Jak caught his reflection in the full-length mirror on the back of the door. Tall and lean, Jak looked like a beanpole in his school uniform, which consisted of a white shirt, black pants, a red-and-blue plaid tie, and a red jacket. The collar of the shirt struck a drastic contrast with his ebony skin. His mother had cut his black hair short the month before, and it had finally grown enough to form tight curls on his head.
He adjusted the tie, smoothed the jacket, and reached down for his blue messenger bag.
A low growl floated through the door, and Jak reached out and turned the knob before Beklor began foaming at the mouth.
Beklor’s wide frame practically filled the doorway, and he had to lean down to see beneath the jamb. His massive shoulders barely fit into the black tunic he wore, and he’d ripped the sleeves so his muscled arms could be free below the elbow. The gold belt buckle around his thick waist had to weigh more than Jak’s head. His boots, which rose to Jak’s mid-thigh, cinched around his muscular calves.
“Are you finally ready?” Jak asked the giant. “I’ve been waiting for hours.”
Beklor ignored the remark. “We’re going to be late.” His dark blue eyes regarded Jak. He’d pulled his long blond hair into a ponytail at the base of his neck.
Jak rubbed his smooth chin. “The trim looks nice.”
“Apparently humans find food in their hair disgusting.”
Jak pointed at the giant. “Everyone should have that problem.”
Beklor stepped aside and followed Jak down the stairs. They’d arrived late the night before, and hadn’t had a chance to look around.
A smattering of furniture filled the lobby. A semi-circle of chairs had been dragged to the fire, and Jak could imagine students gathered there, laughing and talking. Now they sat deserted except for a single figure standing before the fireplace. He must have heard Jak and Beklor, because he turned to greet them.
He wore a school uniform. Short brown hair topped his head, and the color of his skin sat somewhere between the pale white of the northerners and Jak’s. He had to be about Jak’s age, but he carried himself with almost as much confidence as Beklor.
“King Jak?” the young man asked.
Jak made a face. “Please don’t spread that around.” He offered his hand to the young man. “Stick with Jak.”
Beklor let out a little grunt.
The young man’s fingers tightened around Jak’s, but not to the extent of a challenge. “Tayle. I’m in charge of security here at the Academy.”
“Sounds like a big job.”
“Not as big as being king,” Tayle said.
“But we’re not talking about that.” Jak put a finger to his lips.
Tayle’s eyes flickered to Beklor.
Jak pointed. “This is Beklor.”
“I am the giant king’s keeper,” Beklor said.
“Good to meet you.” Tayle didn’t hesitate to shake Beklor’s hand.
“Please don’t break him,” Jak said to Beklor. “We need him to like us.”
Beklor looked mildly disappointed.
Tayle gestured outside. “Are you ready for the tour?”
“Ready,” Jak said.
Tayle opened the door and held it as the other two went through.
“Mind your head,” Jak said to Beklor.
The giant glared and ducked. Before Tayle joined them, the giant muttered, “You need to show your dominance.”
“How? By outwitting him?” Jak might be taller, but Tayle obviously worked out and could probably tie Jak in a knot if he wanted to.
A cold breeze licked at Jak’s skin, and he shivered. Gray clouds hung low in the sky.
“These are the dorms,” Tayle said. “The first years live in the far building, second years in the next one over, and so on.”
“So the rooms get better as you go?” Jak asked, noticing that the fourth-years’ building was much larger than the first-years’.
“Basically.” Tayle pointed over and behind the dorms. “The fields there and the woods beyond are within the Academy limits. Don’t get too close to the barrier.”
“Or what?” Jak asked.
“Or it will fry you like an egg.”
A huge, round building stood across the cobblestone path that ran in front of all four dorms.
“That’s the library,” Tayle said. “The entrance is on the far side.” When they reached the edge of the fourth-year dorms, Tayle turned right. They followed the curved wall of the library around to the first of six other buildings. All were roughly rectangular and rose one to three stories. Tile covered slanted roofs to high peaks.
“These are our academic buildings.” He pointed in turn. “Magic, arts, math and science, agriculture, the gymnasium…”
Jak lost interest when he got around the library far enough to see the square.
Before him stood a fountain with a two-tier bowl resting on the backs of a human, an elf, and two others that he couldn’t see. At the edges, eight statues representing other races spit water into the pool.
Cobblestones lined the fountain’s perimeter, which sat in front of the library and formed a box around a large expanse of grass. Several clusters of tables with benches dotted the area.
“Do you guys paint the grass green?” Jak asked.
Tayle chuckled. “The grass is enchanted; it never dies.” He pointed at the other side of the square. “That’s the dean’s tower and other administrative buildings.”
Jak glanced over his shoulder and found Beklor’s eyes scanning every inch of the area. “Already planning how to invade?”
“And defend,” Beklor said in a serious voice.
When Jak looked back, he noticed a ring of students around a trio of nearby tables. He strained to see what they were doing, and caught a single glimpse through the crowd. “Are they playing Shiji?”
Tayle glanced over and nodded. “That is our Shiji club. Do you play?”
Jak shrugged. “A little.”
“Would you like to meet the players?”
“Sure.” He leaned closer to Tayle. “Remember, it’s just Jak.”
Beklor gave him a jab with his elbow, and Jak swatted him away.
“It makes things awkward,” Jak said.
“They should know who you are,” Beklor said.
Tayle watched the exchange, then waved for Jak to follow.
A few heads turned their way as they approached. Most eyes went wide when they spotted Beklor. Jak could only imagine the expression the giant was giving them. “Be nice,” Jak muttered.
“Giants are not nice.”
“Believe me, I know.”
Tayle stopped a few feet away and waved a centaur over. Short, white hair the same color as his coat and tail stood up in spikes. A swirling blue tattoo started on his cheek and disappeared into the shirt of his uniform.
“Tayle,” the centaur said.
“Haleros, this is Jak. He’s new.”
The centaur turned to Jak but did not approach. Instead, his eyes slid from Jak to the giant behind him.
Jak closed the distance. “Nice to meet you, Haleros.”
Haleros kept half of his attention on Beklor as he shook Jak’s hand. The centaur was almost as tall as the giant. “Welcome to the Academy,” Haleros said. “Where are you from?”
“Oreroth.” Jak plowed on. “You’re the captain of the team?”
“I am.” Haleros finally dismissed Beklor and looked at Jak with raised eyebrows. “Do you play?”
“If you have a minute, come watch.”
Jak licked his lips. “I think I will, thank you.”
A strangled sound came from Beklor, but Jak ignored him. He would have to endure the Pride-of-the-Giants speech later, but for now he could pretend like he was a normal teenager.
Haleros made a hole, and Jak slid in next to a short girl with almond-shaped eyes. Her straight, dark hair hung to her shoulders. She barely gave him a glance before returning her attention to the game.
Winters were long in Oreroth, and Jak and his father had spent countless cold nights playing and discussing the game. It only took Jak a moment to assess each board and take an educated guess at their strategy. One pair of players had just started, another looked to be in the middle of a game, and the last were only a few moves away from the end.
Another inspection showed Jak that the game that looked half over would be decided in the next three moves. If the satyr didn’t notice the goblin’s strategy, then he would likely lose.
“What are your thoughts on that one?” Haleros asked.
Jak blinked. “You always talk about people like they’re not sitting in front of you?”
Haleros laughed. “We put silence spells around them. They can only hear one another.”
“Then why is everyone so quiet?” Jak asked.
“Habit, I guess.” Haleros pointed. “Well?”
“The satyr is going to lose unless he protects his goblin.”
“Interesting way of looking at it,” Haleros said. “Would you mind explaining?”
Jak narrowed his eyes. “The goblin pieces are some of the most versatile on the board. If the satyr playing loses that one, then the right flank of his First Fey is going to be exposed.”
“You’re wrong,” the girl next to Jak said.
Jak turned to answer, but the words stuck in his throat. The girl’s dark eyes studied him. Delicate cheekbones and full lips struck a contrast to the muscles in her neck. A strange combination of beauty and power. He cleared his throat. “Oh yeah?”
She thought a moment before saying, “He’s still got several puppets he can use to protect the right flank.”
“But they’re vulnerable.”
“So is the other player’s king.”
Jak looked at the board again. It took him a few seconds to work out what she was saying. “I’ve never seen that strategy before.”
“Glad to know you can still be taught,” the girl said before walking away.
Jak tried not to stare. A girl who knew that much about Shiji was worth getting to know.
Haleros waved a hand. “That’s Maggie. Don’t take it personally, she’s like that with everyone.”
Jak looked back at the board as the satyr moved his piece. He winced. “That was a mistake.”
“You might be right,” Haleros said.
Tayle appeared at Jak’s side. “Come on, we need to finish the tour before classes start.”
“Right.” Jak nodded to Haleros. “Thank you for letting me watch.”
“Come by later. We’re here before and after classes, and we can always use new victims.”