With three weeks and a day until the release of “The Song Caster (Book Four of The Wilderhark Tales)”, I’ve decided to be a terrible tease and feed you excerpts of the novella to come. You shall have three before the book’s launch on June 24, each accompanied by a mini-giveaway! The first happened here, and the second begins… now.
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“What’s this all about, sire?”
“That is more or less my question to you,” Villem said, his expression full of gentle concern. “You have seemed preoccupied today, Lute. Discontented. Restless. What is it that troubles you?”
Lute’s lips tugged into a rueful smile. “What troubles me, Your Majesty,
Is perhaps a foolish and selfish thing.
It is just, today, my dear Viralei
Did something quite sobering say.”
“And what was that?” Villem asked, taking in stride the musical turn his friend’s side of the conversation had taken.
“In essence?” Lute sighed. “Said she, ‘Oh, when, my Jackillen,
Will marriage our lengthy engagement end?
Will you settle down, stop your wandering ‘round,
And accept, now, your Crown Prince’s crown?’”
Rosalba’s brow furrowed. “Do you not wish to marry Viralei?”
“Most assuredly, I do,” Lute answered. “I wish very much to marry Viralei. I am much less enthused, however, at the prospect of marrying the kingdom of Carillon. I do not now, nor have I ever, desired to be a royal. I cannot imagine I am suited to all that comes hand in hand with such a rank.”
Villem could empathize. “I felt much the same, in the beginning,” he said. “There is such a great responsibility pertaining to—”
“Pfft, responsibility,” said Lute. “It’s boring! Sitting on a throne all day, getting dressed up for meetings with Lord This and Duke That and Count Wha’-do-you-call-‘im, next-to-never setting foot outside the castle walls unless it’s to parade down the streets so your subjects can wave at you, or – if you’re lucky – go to war, somewhere… except that we never have any wars,” he sulked, “perhaps because the never-ending tedium of royalty has sapped the spirit right out of any would-be warmongers.”
“You want war?” cried an appalled Rosalba.
“Not war. Freedom! Excitement! Facing giants, rescuing damsels, matching wits with a riddler and staves with a highwayman! Crisscrossing the countryside in search of obstacles to overcome, and then besting them! Or even as little as watching the sun rise from a different viewpoint every morning – today from the valley, tomorrow the mountain, the next day the sea, the day beyond a mystery!” Lute’s eyes implored his audience. “Have you never wished this?”
“I think,” said Edgwyn, “that you and I must have very different ideas about excitement. Expertly woven cloth is exciting. Watching my children play and grow is exciting. Being called for supper after a long, hungry afternoon is exciting. Trouble for trouble’s own sake? That just makes me queasy.”
Lute grimaced in clear disappointment. “Cloth?” he said. “Children? Supper? Dear me. You see what princely life does to a person. Or is it your advancing age which has made you so dull?”
“If that is truly how you feel, Lute,” said Villem, “then, as I see it, you have three options: One, relinquish Viralei for a life of what you call excitement. Two, relinquish your life of what you call excitement for Viralei. Or three, convince Viralei to relinquish her life for yours.”
Lute shook his head. “I could never ask that third of her. As you began to say, before I so rudely interrupted,” – here he offered the king a bow of apology – “royalty is a responsibility. It would be unfair of me to force Viralei to choose between who she is meant to be, and me. Nor could I bear to be parted from Viralei forever.” He sighed. “No, I must marry her. There’s nothing for it. But…”
Watching Lute’s eyes shift through their tri-color cycle, Villem got the sense he knew what was coming next.
“We have waited this long. Would one season more really matter? One adventure more before I cage myself in?”
“Seeking out adventure,” Villem mused. “Are you sure that is wise?”
Lute shrugged carelessly. “If it is not wise,
I shall be the wiser for it
On the other side.
Just as crushing grapes
Down to next-to-naught’s what makes the
Sweetest kind of wine.
The firing of gold makes it shine all the purer.
Of this I’m full certain – am of nothing surer:
Though it beat you down –
Run you ragged, strain you, drain you
‘Til you’re nearly dry –
The adventure that
Doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,
Braver, true, and wise.
“That’s the beauty of adventure, Villem. That’s why I’m not prepared to give it up, just yet. If anything, the fact I still think I need it only proves that I do. And of course,” he added, with a winsome smile, “the best adventures are faced with friends. Perhaps Your Majesty, having so recently been granted a second chance at life, would enjoy living it on the edge for a while? Or, hmm…” The minstrel paused to play with the sounds of speech. “‘Edge for a while’… Edgwyn Wyle… What say you to a while on the edge, Edgwyn? One final fling, you and I?”
“No, thank you,” Edgwyn said with some vehemence. “After that close call of the Seventh Spell, I am all flung out.”
“As am I,” Villem seconded. “I’m afraid you’re on your own for this one, Lute.”
Breaking her silence of several moments, Rosalba said, “Maybe not.”
Villem raised an eyebrow at his daughter. “Are you thinking of joining him?”
“Not me, no. But if Lute is correct in saying adventure works such wonders for a person’s character…” The princess’s eyes took on a faraway look. “I think I may know someone for whom a proper adventure could be just the thing.”
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To be continued, in part, soon enough. To be continued, in full, on June 24, release day for “The Song Caster”!
And now, for mini-giveaway number two! Leave a blog comment between now and the end of Friday, and from the commenters I shall randomly select one winner to receive the signed “Song Caster” bookmark pictured here.
Joining the “Song Caster” cast in her Wilderhark debut, say hello to Emmelea, as realized by my valued Wilderhark artist, Yana Naumova! Now comment away, my dears, and I’ll have Will and Allyn announce the winner after their Interactive Theatre skit this Saturday. ^_^