Here it is, folks, the last snippet on the blog.. but you can buy the book now! (ebook release is officially tomorrow). Happy reading, and be sure to leave a review. I look forward to hearing what you thought of the whole thing. If you’re so inclined, pass the word on that the book is available, whether that is on social media, or to your local library.
As always, the snips on the blog are not fully edited. You can tell me about errors, but the estimable Jason Dyck has edited the manuscript pre-publication, and hopefully between all of us it’s pretty smooth.
If you want to enter to win a print copy, click here and comment on that post (not here). Winners will be picked at random and announced on August 2.
If you want to sample from the beginning, click there, too.
And with no further ado:
Deirdre spoke first. “Want to see the library?”
The boys all looked at her. It was obvious to Linn that none of them had any interest in that pursuit. She knew the cat-boys avoided it on general principle, but could read for school when they had too. She had no idea about Merrick.
“Let’s go see if Bes is back.” Linn suggested. She was a bit antsy about their adult having gone off without them, leaving them in a strange place. It wasn’t that she felt they were in any danger, but it was weird.
Bes wasn’t back, and Linn wound up in the library with Deirdre anyway. The boys had vanished. Whatever they had been tussling over while out hunting, they had still bonded in some mysterious male fashion over it, leaving Linn outside their brotherhood. She was bored.
So the summons from the king, in the form of the first child she had seen at Mac’Lir’s court, came as a welcome event. He was tiny, with a nut-brown face and hair, like he spent far more time playing outside in the dirt and sunshine than he was now, dressed up in a formal page outfit and bowing stiffly.
“You are requested in the Great Hall, to attend the king’s desires,” he announced.
“I don’t have any dress-up clothes,” She told him, torn between amusement at his formal garb, and concern that she was supposed to come up with a dress or something. He didn’t seem like the kind of king who stood on protocol… she remembered the garden encounter that morning.
“As you are.” The little boy told her pompously.
“Well, then…” she stood up. “Let’s go.”
Deirdre followed as well. They came to the Great Hall of flags, where Manannan Mac’Lir was seated on a carved wooden throne, with a small group of people around him. Some were standing and talking, others were at two tables, sitting and writing on paper. Linn had a fleeting thought to wonder what the king would think of a computer. She hadn’t brought her laptop along.
She stopped when the page stopped. He executed a neat little bow, and she looked up at Mac’Lir. “Am I supposed to curtsey or something?”
He laughed. “No, I know you aren’t my subject, and besides, you are charmingly different my dear.”
“I’m an American.” Linn shrugged. “I know what a king is, but I’ve never had one.”
He nodded. “Much has changed since I laid down to sleep. I am learning, but it will take time. Which I don’t have to spare.”
“I’m not sure how I can help, until Bes gets back.” Linn shrugged.
Mac’Lir looked surprised. “Have you looked at your hand?”
“Wha-” She looked at her palm, where he had put the feather last night. There was a black mark there, in the shape of a feather. “You tattooed me!”
“Not exactly. It will fade in time. I used the feather to give you all you needed to complete your quest. Then, you may return to me, having proven yourself, and I will grant your wish.” He leaned back in his throne, doing that sleepy-eyed contemplation of her again. Linn opened her mouth to give him a piece of her mind, and then shut it again.
This was, after all, what she had wanted. She’d volunteered for it.
“Am I going alone, then?” Linn really didn’t want that.
Mac’Lir shook his head, smiling. “You may take whomever you like. But you must go within the hour. I will also send Merrick with you, of my household. He is close to my heart, and will make a good champion for you.”
Linn felt her mouth drop open again, and made herself close it quickly. Of all the people she didn’t want, Merrick topped the list. Not that he’d done anything wrong, but… he annoyed her. She turned and looked at Deirdre.
“Do you want to come?” Linn asked her.
Dee shook her head, looking sad. “I’m not ready for that kind of adventure, I’m sorry.”
“Oh, Dee…” Linn hugged her impulsively. “It’s ok. You don’t have to if you don’t want to. I’m the one that volunteered. I’ll leave Spot with you, so you aren’t on your own until Bes gets back.”
Dee nodded, her eyes a little watery. “Thanks. I’m not alone, but…”
Linn nodded. She knew she wouldn’t want to be alone in a place full of people she didn’t know. She turned back to Mac’Lir.
“I have to get my pack, and I am ready.”
“Brave girl. You are to go where the feather takes you, and return with the one who seeks my ruling. They cannot travel here on their own, they have not the strength.”
Linn could feel the palm of her hand grow warm as he channeled a little Power into it. The tiny nanobots, a legacy of a civilization so far in advance of humans as to appear magical, might be invisible, but they had a lot of strength even after all these centuries. Linn’s hypothesis was they were self-replicating, but on a very limited level, or the gods would have taken over Earth a long time ago instead of retreating as humans developed tech of their own.
But for now, she clenched her hand around the mark he’d made, and nodded goodbye before retreating to the room where she had left her things. Someone had taken her dirty clothes, and they were folded neatly and clean on the bed. A cloth-wrapped bundle proved to be food when she investigated, and her water bottle had been refilled. Linn wasn’t sure whether she was upset someone had touched her things, or happy for the help. This whole trip had her off balance – it had from the beginning when she’d been separated from Bes on the High Path.
Hopefully that wouldn’t happen this time. She was going to take Blackie, and had to take Merrick, and who knew if he could walk the High Path. He’d come to get her in a car, after all. Linn sighed and put her backpack on. Time to get this done. Maybe it would be easy.
Want to read it all? Click here!