Hi guys, we have James Comins visiting today to show off the cover to his very first published novel Fool School and I’ve nicked a bit of an excerpt so you can have a peek 😉 So lets check out what this debut author has to offer! <3 ~Pixie~
In the year of our Lord 1040, fourteen-year-old aspiring jester Tom is en route to Bath to begin his studies in the art of being a Fool, following in the footsteps of his father, and his father before him.
Along the way he meets Malcolm, a fire-haired boy with eyes green as forest glass. A Scotsman who’s escaped from the ravages of the usurper Macbeth, Malcolm elects to join Tom at school. Though the journey to Bath is hazardous, it pales in comparison to what they face at the austere and vicious Fool School, where all is not as it seems. A court jester must aim to be the lowest rung on the ladder of life, and the headmaster will not abide pride.
As they journey through life’s hardships together, Tom and Malcolm find they only have each other to depend upon.
IT’S THE year of our Lord 1040. Henri is king in France, the Vikings own Britain, and I’m leaving my life forever for a foreign education.
This is me, Tom Barliwine de Motley. I’m not so tall, sunken thin, with brown hair that goes in spirals and a mind that goes the same way. I wear green and honey-gold, the cloth too long and patched too often, and on my feet are curly red shoes. That’s how you tell fools from other professions. My destination is Bath, England, where for more than four hundred years all jongleurs north of Venice have been educated. Papa went there thirty years ago, pépère seventy, and grandpépère more than a century ago. Now it’s my turn.
I’m traveling with Papa. Come with me.
Grapes ripen on grids of staked vines, stems curling and berries fat. The ocean glisters on my left, and the horse has taken to sneezing every third trot as it makes its way up the coast toward Normandy. My papa slugs out of a wineskin and his face slowly reddens like a sunburn. I sit behind him in the shadow of his large hat, clutching his belt, less than thrilled to be on horseback. Large animals always seem ready to bite me. The horse sneezes again, and the miniature cart hiccups into the air and lands, shuffling my luggage.
Here, beyond the pear trees, is Cherbourg. We’ve come to the end of France. Through coastal warmth we reach the bustling pier overlooking the English Channel. Seagulls tumble above me in the early evening, just before sundown, calling for crumbs. Down my crooked French nose I watch as Papa unloads my two cases from the cart. They contain thousands of silver deniers’ worth of costumes and musical instruments and such. They belonged to my grandpépère, who was a kingsfool, the highest appointment of all jesters. Papa is not a kingsfool. He says he got thrown out of Paris for remarking on the king’s mistress, but old King Philip is a saint now and can’t have had a mistress, or they wouldn’t have let him be one. Papa lies.
Norman water washes beneath the dock. Silver whitecaps burst between the ferry’s low sides and the dock’s posts. The water is the blue of my mother’s courtesan eyes.
On the pier beside me my father sways, pointing a round ruddy nose into the air, arguing loudly with the wharfmaster, bellowing demands for cheaper passage and flashing fistfuls of old copper coins. Copper’s been worthless for almost a hundred years now, and Papa’s coins are cut to pieces for the metal anyway. The wharfmaster repeats a demand for real silver, and Papa snorts. Unsteadily, he balances a talon-sharp piece of copper coin on the end of his thumb, flicks it, and strikes the wharfmaster on the chin. Papa laughs like a seal on a rock. My papa.
The wharfmaster coldly turns from Papa and grasps my face between two sudden fingers.
“Tell your father,” he hisses, “that you’ll get no passage on my ferry this evening. I’ve no place on my boat for a drunkard’s son.”
And my papa throws up his lunch onto the pier in a tidy wine-purple pile, hurls two fistfuls of cut copper coins at me in an orange blizzard, and storms off unsteadily, wiping his cloud-colored beard.
Keeping my eyes up, watching the wharfmaster, I stoop and pick up the few pie-slice quart-deniers that haven’t slipped through the pier’s gaps, sweeping them out of the vomit and into a stack, wincing as more and more drop into the water.
“Monsieur, my father is a good man, but he—”
As the cold eyes of the wharfmaster meet mine, I stop speaking. I won’t pretend I’m not afraid. The big man draws a finger across his jaw where Papa’s coin struck him and a tiny line of red comes away.
“A scar,” the man says, showing me. “I’ll have a sad bit of a scar from that. What have I done to earn myself a scar today, would you say, boy?”
“A scar for my kindness. Get gone.”
I stand, dumbstruck. My life is unraveling. Everything is nothing now. Papa’s given up, the Fool School waits across the English Channel, and I have no silver for passage. There’ll be no school without a ferry ride.
Look out over the sea toward the purple horizon with me. That’s where my life should be headed, and I can’t get there. Papa’s already made himself scarce, fading into the doorway of some bar. The quayside at Cherbourg is warm. Small unusual plants like palmer’s fronds grow wild.
I look down at the brown quartered discs in my hand, trying to burn them with my eyes. I hate them so much, and I hate Papa and want nothing of him or his poverty in my life. Overcome, I take a salty breath and throw the coins away, throw them outward from me with both hands, watch them skip across the water like stones. They catch the light as they spin beneath the surface, and then disappear, swallowed.
The wharfmaster’s eyes follow the old cut coins for a moment. I feel my cheeks flush hot red, feel pride rise up rudely behind my eyes. Then I turn and run.
In my secret mind I hope the wharfmaster will run after me, call out, pick me up and say he forgives me my father’s drunken sins and that he’ll take me across to England as an act of Christian charity. Maybe he’ll even say that I remind him of a son of his, one who died as a boy or who left to travel abroad in search of hope and never returned, maybe he’ll tell me that it was all a mix-up and Jean Motley isn’t my honest father but stole me from my cradle at birth, and the wharfmaster will embrace me and tell me to call him Papa now, and he’ll teach me the sailor’s and ferryman’s trades and I’ll grow old working the ferry—after a few years sailing the coasts of hot jungle lands abroad, of course, every boy must do that—and… but… but the wharfmaster is speaking with other men now and has forgotten me.
I walk the lane, along rolling stacked-stone walls, keeping to the center cobbles between the cart ruts, smelling the filth of the human city. The odor is cut by cut flowers in sheaves projecting from the brown-brick buildings. I wonder whether a handful of silver coins will change the harborman’s mind. Perhaps I could steal the money, but I’m not optimistic. On the other hand, maybe the little cut on his chin will heal proper in a day or two, and I could pay him a full sou and he’ll take me and my trunks….
Oh, no. How could I? I turn around on my cloth heel and run back to the docks at full speed, certain they’ve been stolen. I always do this. Life’s important things spin away from me while I dwell on the impossible. I fly down the winding track streets, kicking up dust, falling more than running. I trip and rise and run again.
The wharfmaster has my trunks open. With a cobbled leather toe he pokes through my belongings, appraising them with his eyes. I imagine a merchant’s Moorish al-gebra scrolling through his mind. He becomes aware of my presence and shuts the case with his foot. Changing his mind, he opens it again.
“Fine cloth,” he says, pointing to my great-grandfather’s tumbler’s clothes from the duke’s court at Lyons. The motley is brocaded with real gold wire and trimmed in royal purple.
If you don’t know, there are no more than ten or twenty rolls of royal purple in the world at a time. In the world. They’re made from seashells that can only be harvested along the coast of North Afrique and Andalus. The color never fades, it only grows brighter with time. Only men in the court of a king may wear royal purple, but my great-grandfather had permission.
“It belonged to my—”
“Take it out and hold it up to the light for me,” the harborman says.
I lift my grandpépère Jacob Motley’s uniform from its place folded in the trunk and watch it unfold, blazing in a dozen bright colors against the early sunset. Cloth diamonds in red and gold, blazing purple trim, thick fine embroidery. Ocean water slops up—it’s high tide—and I hold the garment higher, keeping it above the froth.
The man lays a hand on the uniform. He pulls out a small knife and I almost die. I believe he’s going to cut up the golden cloth, but he turns the blade around and presses the pommel into my hand.
He wants me to cut up the cloth instead.
“Take all the stitches out,” he tells me.
“Sir, this was made for my—”
“I’ll be taking the cloth for your passage. I’ll not be needing it as one garment.”
I take the knife and sit.
Beautiful cloth, beautiful suit. It’s princely, and it almost fits. None of us is tall in my family, and Papa always said that I’d grow into Jacob’s suit and stay Jacob’s size, and when I was a kingsfool I’d wear it and outshine the king himself.
I begin shredding stitches, plucking them out like goose feathers and throwing the short threads onto the planks beside me. I tuck the scraps away from the reach of the wind. Can you believe this is my life? A wiser man would have sold the suit whole to a haberdasher for a thousand silver sous and returned to the ferryman with two or three of them and called himself rich.
I’m not a wise man. I’m an idiot boy. I’m the son of a jester who got himself thrown out of Paris for mocking King Philip for calling himself a saint while he was taking mistresses. I live in oxcarts and penny-a-barrel bars. Here I am, shredding my clothes for a mule of a man. See me. Watch me picking at a duke’s tailor’s masterpiece.
And it’s over. All are swatches and a pile of high-end thread. I’ve destroyed Jacob Motley’s suit.
The wharfmaster takes the ball of cloth, removes a dozen purple scraps that had lately ringed the collar and hem, removes a few brocaded cloth-of-gold strips, and throws the rest back to me.
“We leave at dawn, Monsieur Buffoon. Remove your trunks from my sight.”
For more excerpt click here: http://www.waywardinkpublishing.com/product/fool-school-by-james-comins/ (just click the drop down tab for chapter one)
JAMES COMINS is incapable of writing about himself in the third person. His future autobiography will probably be titled, “The Man Who Groaned His Way Toward Death.” He writes stories for children and adults.
Born down the street from Stephen King, he now divides his time between Denver and Seattle.
JAMES COMINS can be found at: