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The Nameless Prince
cover art © Dominick Domingo


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The Nameless Prince

YA fantasy


Dominick Domingo




Chapter 1


Seth Bauman scribbled, as fast and furious as his ten year old hands would scribble. The coarse stucco of the exterior wall at Allesandro Elementary School quickly wore his pencil down to a nub. He pulled another from his backpack; there was a job to be done. Several yards away, tongue lodged firmly in the corner of her mouth, Elena Gomez worked with equal fervor. The two glanced at one another periodically, as if to check the other's progress. But more importantly, the look was one of camaraderie— of two souls who shared a most vital mission. And though she spoke almost no English, Elena's dark almond-shaped eyes were full of urgency. Suddenly they grew even wider.

"They come," she warned, having heard something in the adjacent corridor.

Seth did not panic. There were only a few left, and he was not about to leave the job undone. Each and every declaration of ‘Seth + Elena' had to be obliterated. And with all the divots and grooves in the stucco, it was important to grind the lead with great force, lest the original statement remain legible. It wasn't that the two didn't like one another. It wasn't even that liking a girl was still considered ‘icky;' that having a girlfriend was instant social suicide in the sixth grade. His objection was in principle. It simply wasn't true. Their pact to correct the facts was nothing more than ‘revisionist history.'

They'd waited until class had let out. The majority of their classmates had been picked up by their parents or headed off on foot, bicycle or skateboard. The few who remained for afterschool sports were quite a distance away, and if anything served as a nice distraction from their own covert activities. It had always been a mystery just how late the teachers stayed, or the staff in the principal's office. But if theirs were like most adult jobs, they were surely stuck at their desks until well after sundown. Luckily the wall where most of the heart-shaped graffiti had appeared was out of view of the windows in the main building. The twenty-or-so love declarations, in varying shapes and sizes, floated above the three-spigoted drinking fountain where one could choose ‘Coffee, Tea, Soda-Pop or Pee.' The only window in the vicinity looked out from the cafeteria, and surely the cafeteria staff had gone home for the day, unless they were concocting a new-and-improved recipe for ‘Barf on a Bun' or Pizza Surprise.

As it turned out, this assumption was wrong. Seconds after Elena issued her anxious warning, the double doors flew open, and an enraged presence burst onto the playground.

"What on Earth are you kids doing?" The Cafeteria Lady, a stern, matronly figure, charged toward them across the hot asphalt.

For a split second, Seth considered running. The Cafeteria Lady had no real authority. He was not fooled by the clear plastic gloves or the hair net; she was just someone's mother. Still, something compelled Seth to stay and face the music, rather than putting off the inevitable and having to face her in the lunch line the following day. In a split second, the Cafeteria Lady had them both by the ear.


"Allesandro Elementary," a receptionist sang as one call after another came in to the Principal's office. Seth and Elena sat in silence, legs dangling from the hard mahogany bench that was meant to be torture, awaiting their real punishment. The offices were busier than Seth had imagined— heels clicked on linoleum tile as the staff finished up their business for the day. Papers were shuffled, time clocks punched. Some distance away, Mrs. Calloway, a counselor, and school nurse Miss Schoichet, were casually leaning in the doorway to a small office. Mrs. Calloway was plump, with a large magenta bouffant that teetered when she spoke, like a scoop of strawberry ice cream threatening to plunge from its cone.

"From what I understand, her family arrived no more than a month ago," Mrs. Calloway was saying in a low whisper. "She's legal."

"Ah," Nurse Schoichet replied.

Nurse Schoichet was more conservative than Mrs. Calloway, with a chestnut pageboy and a smart, tailored pant suit. Her eyes darted in Elena's direction.

"So they're legal. Let me guess— they have family here?"

"Mmmmmmm-hmmmm…" Mrs. Calloway nodded emphatically. "It seems they were living with relatives for the first three weeks, but wanted to have their own place before the school year began."

Seth knew that was often the way. The Silver Lake neighborhood of L.A. was ethnically diverse. Every nationality. Every creed. But there was no denying it, the majority of the population were Latino. At Allesandro Elementary, eight of ten students had names like Hernandez, Lopez or Giminez. Like Elena's family, many of Seth's classmates had immigrated to the United States, first by living with relatives in Silver Lake. The fact that Hispanic was the norm, however, did not stop some in the community from exhibiting prejudice.

"Been here one week and already she's defacing property," Mrs. Calloway whisper-shouted, her voice tinged with scandal. Her soft-serve bouffant was bobbing wildly.

"It's a shame…" Nurse Schoichet shook her head.

Seth pictured them perched on a vine in the Amazon jungle, clucking away like exotic birds. Mrs. Calloway's bouffant was suddenly the colorful crest of an oversized parrot. Seth often saw people as animals, with horns, or hooves, or worse.

Seth's own last name was Bauman, but for some reason his teachers still asked if his family spoke Spanish at home. Though Seth considered himself as average-looking and homogenous as the next guy, something about his look must have been exotic. Ethnically ambiguous. He was olive-skinned, with hazel eyes and a tousled mop of auburn hair that the girls seemed to like. Though his skin was medium in tone, his cheeks and nose were peppered with light freckles. He hated them. But again, the girls had no objections. Even his shorter-than-average stature and the narrow space between his two front teeth seemed to be assets. But any attention he received was a source of discomfort. Seth preferred to be left alone; it was much easier that way.

He looked over at Elena, her tiny legs dangling several feet from the floor. She looked like Alice in Wonderland awaiting the guillotine. Suddenly Seth felt responsible for getting Elena involved in the operation in the first place. She knew what the hearts meant. There were surely similar traditions in Mexico. But if he hadn't coerced her, maybe she would have let them remain, lived with them until the school painted over them. Seth didn't know why the truth was so important to him- it just was. Sure, the taunts were mean-spirited. But beyond the meanness of the gesture, it was the principle that bothered Seth. He had always insisted on truthfulness, even with adults. And speaking up had often gotten him in trouble. Seth didn't know exactly who had scrawled their names on the wall in the first place, but he had an idea. The perpetrator had not acted alone— he'd recruited accomplices, judging by the variety of writing styles.

"I don't know why they think we like each other," he whispered after an eternity of silence.

Elena turned, and a covert smile appeared on her face. But quickly her expression reverted to one of anxiety. She was in a new country. Everything was different. For all she knew, she was going to land in jail.

"It's not my fault I was given the job of walking you home every day. My Uncle Troy and your mom came up with that. It wasn't my idea…"

Elena said nothing, her eyes returning to the two women several yards away, who were now clucking, chirping, screeching wildly. One of them had told an off-color joke.

"It's not like you're going to get lost on the way home or anything." Seth continued. "For Pete's sake, we live three blocks away from here…"

Inside, Seth knew that Elena getting lost was not their concern. It was the unfamiliarity of it all. At least he knew all the rules. Do not accept candy from a stranger. Do not accept rides from strangers. During the three-block journey, other than the cars zipping past on Glendale Avenue, he'd never once encountered a stranger. Only local gang-bangers. Oh, and the homeless man who parked himself at the foot of the Glendale Avenue Bridge. The homeless man was anything but a stranger. Strange no doubt, but as familiar as each crack in the sidewalk, which Seth had memorized.

When he said as much, Elena looked at him quizzically.

"You don't understand a word I'm saying, do you?"

Elena still said nothing. Her eyes were downcast, but even so they were wide, bordered by thick, dark lashes. Her hair was equally thick, bangs trimmed squarely above the brow. In the back it fell just beyond her collar, neatly blunted in an old-fashioned pageboy. Everything about her seemed antiquated to Seth— the knee-length white dress with its ornate appliqué around the collar, the white stockings that came up to the knee. She was the embodiment of innocence. Despite his insistence on the truth, Seth didn't feel so innocent. And maybe that was why protecting her was so important.

Abruptly, Elena's eyes shot back to the floor as a shadow slipped over her.

Principal Sellars stood before them, arms behind his back. Large and pear shaped with a gray moustache, he'd always reminded Seth of a walrus somehow. A walrus in a tweed suit. His patent leather dress shoes tapped the linoleum tile menacingly. Their sentence was about to be handed down. And the man's body language did not bode well.

For a moment the man said nothing. Just looked down at them, watching them squirm on that hard bench. And then, ever so slowly, enjoying his authority, the principal released his arms. A smile crept across his pudgy, pink face as he revealed what he held in each fist— an industrial-sized house painting brush.

For an hour, he stood over the two with similar glee as they retouched the cafeteria wall. To prolong the punishment, he had first allowed them to attempt removing the graphite with bathroom soap and scrub-brushes. When that didn't work, the paint brushes were put to use. The sun was just beginning to dip behind the Santa Monica Mountains as Seth and Elena closed the lid to the latex house paint.

"Good job!" Principal Sellars smiled, his walrus whiskers pointing skyward. "I think you two have a new career option!" Though his appraisal was surely mockery, the man did appear to be genuinely impressed.

Seconds later he was calling after them, having released them to go home. "Remember, it's called defacing public property. You scribble on a wall today, and you're arrested for tagging tomorrow! Y'all don't want to go down that road, do you?"

The walk home was spent in silence, dusk falling all around. A charge of silvery violet infused the urban sky, lending it a twinkling ambience that somehow added to the anxiety.

"My uncle's gonna kill me," Seth said at last, under his breath.

Elena looked at him, struggling to keep up. The words escaped her, but she understood the sentiment.

Though the walk home was a mere three blocks, they were long ones. The bulk of the journey was spent scaling Glendale Avenue Bridge, a monumental structure spanning the L.A. Wash. Once upon a time it had been a natural river. Now the wash was nothing more than a concrete channel directing foul waters alongside the Ventura Freeway before dumping them into the ocean. During rainy season, it could rage like a real river, but most of the time it was little more than slick concrete with a mere trickle of still, slow-moving water down the center. Musty and stagnant, the channel was flanked by patches of graffiti, as far as the eye could see in either direction.

Today the water was moving more than normal. The school year had begun several weeks earlier, in mid-September. There had been an inordinate amount of rain in the mountains surrounding L.A., so the river had swelled to a healthy size, enough to split into several tributaries punctuated by clumps of shrubbery and piled-up rock. From the bridge, one island stood out from the rest. Seth had often noticed its silhouette peeking out from among the others, an oasis in urban chaos.

His body involuntarily slowed as they reached the apex of the bridge, and a familiar force compelled him toward the great stone railing. Below, the trees were flecked with autumn colors, which twinkled in the warmth of sunset. A shaft of crimson light, the last sliver that remained, raked between the distant mountains, touching the uppermost branches of the majestic trees at the island's center. It wasn't the first time Seth had been mesmerized by its mystery; he often wondered who or what might be living in the tiny, concentrated forest. Maybe he had been reading too many fantasy books, but he was sure the island was its own magical kingdom.

Elena never objected when he perched himself at the railing for a moment or two— she had noticed his fixation early on. Scaling the bridge was treacherous, and even more so when hefting a backpack full of text books and Pee-Chee folders. So the brief respite at the apex of the bridge was normally welcome. But today there was no time to be idle. Detention had eaten up several hours; if the school had called Elena's home there would have been a language barrier. And Uncle Troy did not have a land line— he was a cell phone guy. He would have no idea of Seth's whereabouts. And boy could he have a temper.

"Vamonos," Elena said gently, touching his arm, "Es tarde…" Come on. It's getting late…

Moments later, Elena waved goodbye as she turned down the walkway to her tiny cottage, half a block from Seth's. Mrs. Gomez, a tiny woman with just a touch of silver in her hair, waved from behind the screen door.

Seth waved back.

He turned toward home, the sound of crunching leaves punctuating his step. For some reason Seth looked back, in time to see Mrs. Gomez opening the door for her daughter. She kissed the girl's forehead, wiped the bangs from her eyes. Okay, maybe Elena was cute. In an innocent sort of way. But Seth most definitely, without a doubt, did not like her. He tolerated her. Okay, maybe he liked her a little bit, but only as a friend. He didn't like her like her. Not in that way.

Seth continued on, closing the half-block gap between Elena's home and his own. Without Elena to divert him, anxiety set in. His heart involuntarily raced as he neared the small Victorian cottage he shared with his uncle. His dread always kicked in about this distance from the porch, not knowing from one day to the next what he would find. But he was rarely this apprehensive. His palms were even sweating. He cursed each maple leaf that crunched beneath his feet, threatening to announce his arrival. If he could make it to his room unnoticed, he could claim to have been there all along. Maybe Uncle Troy would be embroiled in a game of Warcraft, or out back in his makeshift office. Maybe he hadn't noticed Seth's absence at all.

Seth stepped gingerly onto the splintery porch. The crickets were just starting their symphony, but it was not enough to drown out the long, pronounced groan of dilapidated wood. With excruciating caution, Seth eased the front door open. Slowly. Steadily. Even so, its rusted antique hinges creaked irritably.

Luckily, the sound of explosions and raining flack reverberated inside the vertical, two story home. Bluish television light danced on papered walls. Gears of War. Whew. Uncle Troy was occupied.

Seth eyed the steep, carpeted staircase that led to the second story, and the safe haven of his bedroom. He tiptoed across the exposed hardwood of the foyer, and into the plush, sound-absorbing carpet of the staircase. The first step groaned, signaling his presence. Shit. The second step was even louder.

In a split second, Uncle Troy had rounded the banister from the living room and pinned Seth to the wall.

"Where the hell have you been, punk?" Uncle Troy was inches from his face, smelling of sweat and homegrown marijuana.

"I had detention," Seth answered, looking to his feet, which dangled a foot from the floor. Uncle Troy's reaction was worse than he'd anticipated.

Peripherally, Seth could see Cheryll on the couch. It was always embarrassing when Uncle Troy acted like this in front of his girlfriend. But she had lived with them as long as Seth could remember, so it was bound to happen.

"What the hell you get into trouble for this time?!" Uncle Troy demanded.

Seth sifted through various responses in his head. It didn't really matter how he answered. There was no logic to Uncle Troy's parenting anyway. Sometimes he felt like he had a better sense of right and wrong than his uncle, despite being the child. So he said nothing.

"Answer me, PUNK!" Troy shook the boy so that the pictures rattled on the wall.

Cheryll normally just watched without intervening. This time, due to Troy's sheer force, she stood from the leather couch.

"Troy…Go easy…" she said softly, advancing across the room.

Uncle Troy shot her a look that stopped her dead in her tracks.

"Stay out o' this. The boy's gotta learn…" He always called Seth ‘the boy.' When referring to him in the third person, anyway. When addressing him directly, it was more often ‘punk.'

"Boy's lucky I took him in. Lucky he ain't out on the street somewhere, or selling Chicklets in Tijuana. He's lucky he ain't lost in the goddamn foster care system. An' he knows that." Uncle Troy had been calling to Cheryll over his shoulder, eyes wide and maniacal. But now he turned them on Seth and moved in even closer, so that their noses touched.

"And you know what?" Seth could see the sweat dripping from Troy's forehead. "It ain't never too late."

The man had been stewing for hours, probably the whole time Seth and Elena were painting the wall. He'd been ready for a fight. Seth concentrated on the vein that bulged from his uncle's brow. His breathing relaxed. He pictured the pupils of the man's eyes as reptilian slits, imagined a great mantle of horns sprouting from his skull.

"It ain't never too late…" the monster hissed through bared teeth.

Just then, the porch creaked and someone rapped on the door. It was a familiar knock, like a code.

"You stay out of trouble, punk!" Troy spat his final warning, letting Seth slide to the floor. He turned to the door.

Quickly Cheryll took Seth by the shoulders, guided him to the couch. His heart was racing again, but not out of fear. It was rage that surfaced in him now. He always felt powerless in the face of his uncle's wrath. It was completely irrational. And now, on top of everything else, he had to endure Cheryll's placating gestures. When all he wanted to do was crawl into a shell and disappear.

"C'mon, Seth. Play me some of Gears of War. We were just getting started. But your uncle's clients are here; he's got work to do." She handed Seth the console as Troy opened the door.

Seth had recognized the knock; it was either Carlos or one of his homies. Carlos was a local gang leader— the badass kingpin of LAMO— the L.A. Mayan Order. The drill was always the same. He would shake hands with Troy, a complex ritual that took up to thirty seconds. Then he would look around nervously and slip inside while his homie stood watch on the porch. When the two men disappeared into Uncle Troy's office, which was really just the converted garage, the front door was always left open a crack. The homie could be seen pacing the rickety porch, whistling while looking out over the satellite dishes and smog, while Troy and Carlos conducted their business.

This time the homey was someone Seth did not recognize, a lanky individual covered in multi-colored tattoos, who reminded Seth of a rat. As Carlos neared the couch, Seth lowered his eyes, allowing him to pass. But he could feel Carlos's eyes burning a hole in his head.

"C'mon— here we go," Cheryll said cheerfully, diverting Seth's attention. "Let's kill some Locusts."

She always tried to distract him while Troy conducted his business, but Seth was no idiot. The ‘client' would always leave while still rolling up a plastic sandwich bag, which was then tucked in a low-riding waistband at the last moment before exiting.

Seth didn't really like interactive video games. Troy and Cheryll would spend hours on that couch, killing zombies or exploding enemy tanks. But Seth lost interest quickly, would most often rather be reading or drawing in his room. Today was no different. Cheryll looked after him, mystified in her attempts as he wandered off, climbed the stairs to his tiny room, and shut the door.

Seth plopped onto the mattress belly-down— his default drawing position. He grabbed his sketchbook from beneath the antique twin bed. Drawing kept him sane. And the books he read provided entire worlds just waiting to be drawn, to be coaxed from the imagination and on to the paper, borne for the first time in the material world. Dragons. Elves. Dwarves. Seth loved giving them life— he was God and they were as yet unborn souls. But today, the image that rendered itself on the page, slowly taking shape on the empty white void as if being chiseled from an invisible chunk of granite, did not come from one of his books. It was an island. A magical island with glistening trees. In pencil, the crimson light did not sparkle quite as much as it could have, but those with imagination would recognize its otherworldly aura. And towering over the highest treetop, the fangs of a gaping, cavernous portal. It was a freeway overpass, but also a dragon. Seth was not sure why he drew it this way. It just made intuitive sense.

The drawing came out of him fast. Sometimes this happened when he wasn't thinking too much. And these were always the drawings he liked the best. The ones he could look at later without shame. Not that he ever showed them to anyone anyway. At school the other kids were always impressed when he drew something for an assignment. But this was his personal work, and he did it for himself.

Once, Cheryll had found his sketchbook when it fell out of his backpack unnoticed. She'd shown it to Uncle Troy, but he didn't say too much. She'd knocked gently on the door to Seth's room. When he invited her in, she'd sat on the edge of the bed and handed the sketchbook to him with a gentle smile. But there was something else in her eyes. Respect.

Cheryll was nice enough. She was pretty, with long auburn hair and a pleasant smile. She wore the right amount of makeup, just enough to bring out her green eyes, but not enough to cover the freckles that made her seem youthful somehow. In fact, she was twenty-seven. Seth wished he could better accept her attempts at being nice. She really did try to be a mother figure to him. But it wasn't the same, knowing his real mother was out there somewhere. Cheryll was Uncle Troy's ‘common-law wife,' he had heard someone say. Seth didn't know what that meant, but he knew it did not make her his mother.

Seth flipped to the last page in his sketchbook. Some time back, he had skipped to the final page for some reason, dedicated it to what would turn out to be his best, most lifelike portrait to date. He'd done it from an old photograph, the only one he'd ever seen of his real mother. If Uncle Troy knew he'd stumbled across it, let alone kept hold of it, he'd do more than throw Seth against the wall.

The portrait flawlessly captured every detail— the dark, flowing mane that swept well past her shoulders, the long, regal neck, even the haunted, vaguely sad look in her eye. For some reason, after rendering everything else, Seth had added something not seen in the photograph. A tear drop. And not just any teardrop. This one was complete with reflections and highlights, in the moment of suspension after leaving the corner of her eye, but before cascading down her cheek. He was particularly proud of the detail.

Looking at the rendering anew, Seth decided it belonged in the ‘permanent collection.' He carefully removed it from its binding, tearing the page from the top down with great care. He reached under the bed and withdrew a stack of drawings of all shapes and sizes. These were the ones he'd created in a frenzy— during which he'd lost all track of time. The images that seemed to come from somewhere else— somewhere beyond himself. These were the ones he considered masterpieces. Gingerly he laid the portrait of his mother on the very top— just above the giant tadpole-dragon and the duplicitous faun.



The Nameless Prince Copyright © 2012. Dominick Domingo. All rights reserved by the author. Please do not copy without permission.   




Author bio

In 1991, Dominick Domingo graduated with distinction from Art Center College of Design. As an Illustrator, he spent the 90's visually developing and painting production backgrounds for Lion King, Pocahontas, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Tarzan, Little Match Girl, and One by One. During this time he also illustrated books for Young Readers for Penguin, Random House, Lowell House, Disney Publishing, Hyperion Books, and Harcourt.

In the new millennium, Dominick redefined himself as a live-action filmmaker. His films have been well-received, garnering such accolades as 'Best Short Film- Palm Springs International Hispanic Film Festival,' and 'Best Director- Long Beach Q Film Festival.' Having sold two screenplays, Dominick decided to capitalize on a growing writing resume. At forty, (call it an acute awareness of his own mortality) he went on to pen a collection of Narrative Nonfiction essays titled "Jesus Shoes," which he has been performing in Spoken Word events around Los Angeles. Two selections from the collection have recently been included in anthologies.

The Nameless Prince represents Dominick's foray into Young Adult urban fantasy. He would be very happy to retire from illustration as a full-time author. He currently lives in Silver Lake, California, surrounded by hipsters.

TTB title: The Nameless Prince

Author web site.




To order this book:
Format: ePub, PDF, HTML, Mobi/Kindle compatible
    Payment Method

    Payment Method
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List Price: $6.50 USD

Format: Trade Paperback
    Available now
Order this book via check or credit cardaStore   ~ or visit ~ Amazon;  Barnes & Noble; Indie bookstores.
List Price: $16.95 USD







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