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Xander's Tangled Web

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When Princess Mena vanishes without a trace, Xander must deal with gypsies, love potions and half-truths before unraveling the mystery.
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Author: Susan A. Royal
Description

After a late night visit to Battington’s marketplace, Princess Mena vanishes without a trace. Merchants are frantic, because King Leander has called for a curfew and postponed the Spring Festival until further notice. Certain his former constable is the man for the job, the mayor hires Xander to investigate, hoping he can solve the mystery in a hurry so things can go back to normal.

But Xander’s not so sure that’s possible, because there’s romance involved, and he knows when that happens folks who are normally very sensible seem to lose all reason. In addition to sorting out truths, half-truths and outright lies, he must deal with gypsies, love potions and an illegal moonshine operation before he gets to the bottom of things.

Title Xander's Tangled Web
Author Susan A. Royal
Genre Fantasy
Release April 26, 2016
Designer Suzannah Safi
Length 319 pages
ISBN 978-1-77127-792-1
Price $5.99
Tags Fairy tale, fantasy, apothecary, love potions, gypsies, love triangles, Spring Festival, princes, princesses, castles, secrets,
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Excerpt

Xander peered through a gap in the thick foliage at the edge of the road into the grassy meadow on the other side. White stones neatly circled a large fire burning in the middle of the gypsies’ camp. Its flames crackled and leapt high. Smoke rose in the air, curling into a lazy spiral and hanging like clouds over the colorful canvas pavilions dotting the clearing.

At a distance the meadow seemed to be filled with giant wildflowers in all shades of lime, fuchsia, orange and sapphire, each of them trimmed with snapping banners and bells heard jingling in the wind.

The gypsies were not to be outdone by their surroundings. From their patterned scarves and gold hoop earrings to their brightly colored peasant shirts, every man, woman and child was costumed in garments as colorful as their tents and as bright as the morning sun shining down on them.

Xander inhaled. A gentle breeze blowing from across the camp brought with it the tantalizing aroma of food. The whiff of spicy things cooking and the musical sound of laughing voices seemed to permeate the air, lending it an aura of festivity.

Rhone leaned back and braced his feet against the footrest, pulling on the reins and addressing the mule. “Whoa, girl.”

She ambled to a stop and whinnied in response to the gypsies’ horses in the field.

“Well, well, well. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen old Emil and his bunch in the area. From all appearances, I’d say they plan to stay a while,” Rhone said. “Wonder what they’re doing here.”

Xander turned to the young man and frowned, his heavy brows nearly coming together to meet in the middle of his forehead. “If I had to venture a guess, I’d say they’re here because of the festival. It’s been a while, but in the past, they never missed coming through the area this time of the year.”

“I didn’t think about that. You’re probably right.” After a moment’s silence, Rhone squeezed his eyes shut, laced his fingers together on the top of his head, and muttered more to himself than Xander. “There goes my day.” His voice sank even lower. “As if things aren’t bad enough already…..”

“What do you mean?” Xander gestured toward the field. “How’s all this going to cause a problem for you?”

Rhone’s shoulders sank along with his voice. “Father is going to be angry enough when he hears I’ve collected nowhere near as many hides as he was expecting.” He jabbed his finger in the direction of the field. “I can’t begin to imagine what his reaction when he gets wind of this development.” He shook his head. “It won’t be pretty. I can assure you.”

Xander had all but forgotten Fairmont’s aversion to Emil and his clan of gypsies. To him, the tanner’s dislike had always seemed a bit unreasonable, especially since none of them ever frequented the tannery, much less stole anything, but it didn’t seem to matter.

His father treated them like they should be avoided at all costs. He made it a point to give them a wide berth and black looks on the few occasions he happened across one of them. Xander had to wonder why.

In all honesty, he couldn’t say any of the gypsies were troublemakers, at least not openly or during daylight hours. Most times he would be hard pressed to find them anything but charming. They were always courteous, respectful and smiling, white teeth flashing and black eyes sparkling with amusement.

True, they spent their lives moving from place to place, living out of wagons and tents, wandering the countryside, but Emil and his people weren’t always the nomads they had become. They had descended from a dark, swarthy race of folk called Fyes. Hundreds of years earlier, their people lived deep in the forest in houses hollowed out of the trunks of ancient trees.

In those days, Fyes had been shape shifters with the ability to see into the future. Because they were different, most people were frightened of them, so they kept to the woods and avoided everyone. When a forest fire ignited by a freak lightning storm burned their homes to the ground, they escaped with little more than the clothes on their backs. Their ancestor’s abilities were the only possessions they had left. They had no choice but to become wanderers.

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