Welcome to Day 2 of the DRAGONWITCH RELEASE DAY BLOG TOUR!!!
Today, I have a special treat…A SNEAK PEEK INTO DRAGONWITCH!!!
Sneak Peek from
By: Anne Elisabeth Stengl
“I couldn’t sleep,” Alistair said. “Never can much, you know. Sometimes it’s better not to try, so I wander about. I’m sure the guardsmen think I’m quite daft! That, or they assume all earls and earls’ heirs are a bit touched in the head. I try not to disturb them anyway.”
He leaned his elbows on the stone, looking down at the river then looking up, much as Mouse had done, to the crowded heavens. Mouse saw his teeth in a brief flash of a smile.
“We have a name for that star,” Alistair said and pointed at the sky. He indicated the blue star, Mouse was certain of it. Although many bright lights gleamed in that inky black sky, the blue star stood out like a torch.
“Ceaneus,” Alistair said in the tone that meant he wanted Mouse to repeat it. Mouse sighed. He didn’t like being treated like a trained parrot. “Ceaneus,” Alistair said again, still pointing.
Mouse folded his skinny arms across his chest. “Cé,” he replied. “Cé Imral.”
Alistair dropped his pointing arm and rested it once more on the stone wall. “Cé . . . Imral,” he said, though his accent was off. Still, it was an effort, and Mouse had to grin appreciation. The tall young lord ruined it, however, by rattling on in his own language immediately after.
“Is that your name for our star? I wonder what language that is. Perhaps you’re from Corrilond. They’re a dark-skinned folk but not so dark as you, I think, and their eyes are different. Hard to say for certain, but I don’t think you quite fit the Corrilondian description. Probably just as well. Corrilonders killed my father, and while I don’t bear a grudge for that—I mean, war is what war is—it’s a bit awkward, you must agree.”
Mouse stared at him. Concentrate though he might, he couldn’t pick a single word from this stream of talk. It ran together in a rush of sounds, leaving Mouse’s head spinning. When the young lord stopped for breath, Mouse could do nothing but offer a relieved smile. Alistair’s return grin vanished after scarcely a moment of life.
And he spoke again, in an altogether different tone: “My uncle is sick. Earl Ferox.”
Ferox. That name Mouse recognized. He nodded noncommittally, uncertain whether or not he wanted to encourage more babble from this pale stranger. But Alistair needed no encouragement. Scarcely aware of Mouse’s existence, he talked to himself or to the stars or to no one. “He’s dying, actually. Won’t last the winter. And then I’ll be Earl of Gaheris.”
Gaheris. Another word Mouse knew. He nodded again, his brow puckered.
“They say the next Earl of Gaheris will be made king of all the North Country,” Alistair said, and his voice was as cold as the night air. “But if I am that earl, how can this be? I know I will never be king.”
He laughed, a bitter sound. “My mother is convinced I will be. As are my uncle and Earl Lebuin of Aiven and all the most powerful men of our land. They believe when they look at me that they see their future ruler. They’re wrong. All of them.”
He bowed his head into his hands, running white fingers through his hair which was dark under moonlight. Mouse pulled back, at a loss what to do. What could possibly have upset this young man so badly? “Are you unwell?” he asked without hope of being understood.
“I’ll never be king,” Alistair whispered, “because I’m going to die. I know it. I’ve seen it, seen my death, every night for the last three years. Can you imagine what that means, Mouse?”
Suddenly, bright pale eyes turned upon the dark little boy, who drew back, frightened by the power of that gaze. “Every night,” said Alistair, “three years running, I see the same vision. I see the child lost and wandering in a dark place on the brink of a great chasm. I call out to him, telling him to save Gaheris, but I don’t know what from! And then I am torn apart by a shadow with a red mouth.”
The young lord’s voice had dropped to a tremulous whisper. The sound of it was enough to freeze Mouse’s blood even without understanding. But it also, strangely enough, made him want to reach out, to touch Alistair’s bowed head, to speak some word of comfort, to offer some kindness in the face of such distress.
The moment passed. Alistair straightened, and the fading moonlight illuminated his mouth, twisted it into an unnatural shape. “It’s grin or perish, Mouse,” he said. “It’s smile or go mad. So I’ll smile. Even when my uncle breathes his last breath, I’ll smile, and they’ll set the shield of Gaheris in my hand and talk of a crown and a throne. And I’ll smile, because I know they’re all of them fools.”
Mouse shook his head, his eyes round and frightened. “I don’t understand a word you are saying, sir,” he said at last, his voice a little breathless. “I wish I could help you, whatever your need is. But I can’t even help myself, and I don’t know what you are saying, and . . .”
It was more than he could stand. The shivering boy turned on heel and ran, unable to remain in the presence of that strange tall lord. He ran along the wall, past the sentry once more, down the stairs.
Alistair watched Mouse’s slight form as it flitted across the inner courtyard and on to the kitchen doors. He remained a while on the wall and waited for the coming dawn.
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