Not even a dozen days left until the release of my fairytale novella, “The Swan Prince (Book One of the Wilderhark Tales)”!
Wait, what?? *double-checks calendar* Holy smokes, it’s true.
I can’t tell if this feeling is panic or just wanting so bad for you to read this book that I’m fit to bust. How to tell the difference?
Well, let’s try an experiment: I’ll let you all read a “small part of [The Swan Prince], intended to show the quality, style, or nature of the whole”, and we’ll see if the sharing of this piece of the book’s early pages helps to lessen the monarch butterfly migration passing through my midsection.
Ugh! Swarming insects! Why did I choose that analogy?! This sample chapter will now serve a twofold purpose – a lovely “Swan Prince” appetizer for you, and a distraction from disturbing thoughts for me. Enjoy. (:
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~ A Girl in the Woods ~
Doctor Villem Deere was not easily surprised.
It was not that he could be said to have “seen it all”; he had only lived a little more than twenty years of life, and had spent much of that time seeing the same few things many times over. And it wasn’t that he had a particularly outrageous imagination. Rather, he was open-minded enough that he could accept almost any circumstance as being a perfectly probable one, and if it was only likely that something would happen, it would be foolish to be surprised when it did.
So when – one autumn morning, not long past dawn – his door was thrown open by a panicked young nun, Doctor Deere took it entirely in stride.
“What’s the matter, Sister?” he asked with efficient calm, already reaching for his medical bag and shrugging into his favorite twill jacket. “An illness at the asylum?”
“A girl in the woods!” gasped the nun – Sister Ariana, by name. “Her leg’s caught in one of those ghastly steel traps meant for things like bears and wolves and mountain lions and— well, never mind! The point is, it’s trapped a girl! Please, Villem, come quickly!”
The supplies of his profession in hand, the fair physician followed his dark-haired friend out of the quiet village of Wilderhark and into the vast forest that bore the same name, working to make sense of Sister Ariana’s disjointed explanations all the while.
“I was taking my daily constitutional, the same as I’ve always done – for the past four years, anyway – or has it only been three? Well, never mind, that’s hardly the point: The point is that it wasn’t the same as I’ve always done.
“Normally, I circumvent the woods, but I didn’t today, because I heard this terrible, tortured sound coming from inside them! I can’t really put a name to it or describe it and I very much hope I’ll never be able to reproduce it because I just knew that such a sound could only be the result of overpowering agony!
“And I hadn’t even gotten over the shock of the first noise before there was a second one; what sounded like ragged, tearful breaths. I followed them to their source, and— ah! There she is!”
As one might reasonably suppose, the girl with her leg clamped tight in a steel trap had not gone anywhere.
In the ungainly-looking girl’s childish face, Villem observed the signs of physical distress one would expect to see in the expression of one in her situation. But what he had also expected to see, and yet did not see, was relief; relief that salvation had arrived, that she would soon be liberated from her entrapment. Instead, Villem saw no small amount of fear in her hard, staring eyes, as if the girl viewed him not as a source of deliverance, but as just another threat. He sought to reassure her.
“It’s all right,” he said soothingly. “I’m Doctor Deere, and I’m here to help you. Can you tell me your name?”
The girl’s voice was shaky, but she managed an answer. “Sula.”
“All right, Sula. Now, how did this unfortunate accident happen?”
Assuming that it was an accident, Villem thought. It most likely was, but you never could tell what some people might do to each other; it was a mad world, and everything was probable.
“I was… running,” Sula said tentatively. “It was dark. I didn’t see the trap until too late.”
“What were you running from?”
“I—” Sula began, hesitated, and began again. “I was running from a bear.”
“Yes.” Sula nodded several times. “I mean, I thought there was a bear. Maybe there wasn’t, but I thought I had better run, in case there was.”
“I might have known there was a bear involved!” Sister Ariana cried. “I’ve heard of more than a dozen reported bear sightings in this area since this past spring alone. It was very foolish of you, dear,” she chided the girl, “to go into these woods at night; that’s when these local bears tend to be most active, I’m told. Your parents ought to have known better than to let you— Where are your parents, by the way?”
Sula’s answer was near inaudible. “I don’t have any.”
“Oh, you poor thing, how terrible! Well, never mind – I have just the place for you to stay. Would it be safe to move her there right away, Doctor, or will she need special care elsewhere?”
“Oh, she’s quite fit to be moved,” Villem replied, finishing his careful inspection of the girl’s entrapped leg. “You’ve been very fortunate, Sula: Somehow, your bone has withstood any breakage. How old are you, seventeen?”
“Remarkable,” Villem murmured. That a girl of sixteen should have fared so well when a grown man’s leg would almost surely have been snapped in two by such a powerful contraption…
Perhaps something is the matter with the trap’s springs, he reasoned. He would have to look into that later.
“So I can take her to the asylum now?” Sister Ariana asked.
“Once I’ve cleaned and bound her wound, yes.”
“Thank goodness. Now, don’t you fret, Sula,” she said, noting the panicked look that had reappeared in the girl’s gray-green eyes. “We’ll soon have you where you won’t have to worry about getting hurt by traps or bears anymore.”
If she was worried about bears to begin with, Villem thought.
It wasn’t that Sula’s story had been an improbable one; but for reasons he had yet to scrutinize to his scientific satisfaction, Doctor Villem Deere was unconvinced it was the whole one.
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To be continued… on May 31st!