Since I’ve been posting excerpts from the upcoming sequel at http://www.minl.wapshottpress.com, it seemed like a good time to start posting a few excerpts here as well.
To begin at the very beginning…
The little boy looked up in amazement as hooves clattered on the loose cobbles of the alley and a man in brilliant red rode into the yard. He had never seen such a colorful being before, wrapped from hood to polished heels in a crimson cloak and most wondrous scarlet mantle. A gold talisman glittered upon his brow in the early-morning sunlight. All about the little yard, common folk in home-dyed garb of brown and butternut were out to lift their storefronts and throw rubbish to the gutters, but the boy had forgotten them. He was transfixed by this stranger, who seemed larger to him than all of this small, dirty patch of Lammouthe.
Lammouthe was made up of narrow, tangled streets, mud-daubed buildings around little stone yards, a busy marketplace and a busier port. The boy had never been out of this maze, but at times he would venture to the docks to gape at the tall ships, the mariners who spoke in odd tongues, and the great, greenish-gray ocean, and wonder what was beyond: where did the ships and sea-folk sail to? He heard the names of faraway lands—Persia, Napoli, Arabia, Cathay—and he tried to imagine what they were like, but his imagination would not take him out of the only place he knew. He thought all the world must be like Lammouthe: an endless town by the endless sea.
But as he stared up at this stranger—so tall and handsome, radiant with light and strength—the boy began to believe that there might be other things than brown-garbed shopkeepers and the ever-present stink of fish, things more strange than foreign mariners, more beautiful than the ocean, more wonderful than the tallest ships. Surely this red-robed man must be from the most marvelous place in the world!
The splendid stranger turned to him. “Do you belong here, Child?” His voice was deep and gentle, but the boy inched timidly back into the shadows. “Do you know a woman named Nann Dafodylle? Is such your mother’s name?”
“Mama is Nann Lyghtelotynge.”
“And your name, Child?”
“Orlan,” he whispered.
“Orlan.” The stranger smiled. “I believe I am seeking your mother. Can you tell me which house she lives in?”
“Mama’s ill,” the boy answered. “Ellan says I mustn’t `sturb her.”
“I might be able to help, if you will tell me where she is.”
Orlan pointed to the tavern. Ellan, the old woman who looked after him, was out at the yard well and she frowned suspiciously as the stranger approached. They spoke together and looked at him, and then they went in. Orlan had followed cautiously, a shy step at a time; now, unobserved, he slipped into the tavern after them, past the forehall where the great, empty ale barrels and casks were piled, and into the unlit stairwell at the back of the house….
A door shut. As Orlan reached the landing, he saw that Ellan had gone to her room. The other door, to Mama’s room, was open. Orlan could see—the stranger knelt at her bedside with her silver amulet in his hands.
“Fare ye well, Dafodylle.”
The boy was shocked. Mama had always worn the amulet on a faded black ribbon about her throat; Orlan knew the large silver disk, its engraved face worn almost indistinguishable by caressing fingers, so well as his mother’s face, her voice, her scent. It was as much a part of her. But why was this man taking it? Why did Mama let him?
He stepped to the doorway; the floorboards creaked beneath his feet. As the stranger turned, the scarlet hood fell back and long, silvery white hair tumbled free. The eyes that shone into his were palest gray, like small pools of water, irises rimmed by bright blue. Orlan stopped at the sight, thrilling with sudden recognition and near understanding. No one except old, old folk had white hair, and no one, old or young, had such odd, colorless eyes. No one except this stranger, and himself.