In the spirit of Fairy Tale Fortnight (brought to you by The Book Rat and A Backwards Story) and in anticipation of the June release of my fourth Wilderhark Tale, “The Song Caster”, I’m sharing excerpts from a never-before-released (and not entirely finished, yet) story chronicling the life of our minstrel in blue prior to his introduction in Wilderhark Tale #3. Part 1 is linked here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here, and Part 4 is below. Enjoy!
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Like many a man before him who’d laid eyes on Wendara, Jeromey Gant found himself utterly infatuated – a fact which Wendara’s practiced eye noted at once. But, unlike those many men before him, when coyly invited to act upon this infatuation in the usual style, he evenly refused. Wendara, unused to the word “no”, was taken aback, and wondered if she had been mistaken in thinking he desired her.
But, “No,” he said again, “my desire is irrefutably for you. And when you have grown weary of your wandering, you have only to return to me, and I will have you, and no other.”
Wendara scarcely knew what to think. But following the meeting, as the traveling band put weeks and miles between themselves and that otherwise inconsequential stop in modest Emmett Down, kingdom of Anuranda, her thoughts turned with increasing frequency to Jeromey; to the man who had seemed to want her more than any man had before, and had yet refused to claim her. …And by so doing, Wendara realized, had quietly claimed her heart.
Jackillen was surprised by Wendara’s sudden insistence that the two of them leave the caravan and retrace their steps to Emmett Down. In all the fourteen years of his life, his mother had never expressed an interest in going back to any of her men friends before – for that matter, from what he understood, this man and his mother had never gotten very well acquainted at all. What, then, Jackillen asked himself, when he first saw the man for himself, was so special about this Jeromey Gant?
He was not especially handsome, Jackillen thought critically. He was not wealthy or important; like almost every other resident of the Down, he was naught but a simple farmer. And yet the look the man and his mother shared when they were reunited was unmistakably one of love.
Jackillen wasn’t altogether sure that he approved of any of this.
He turned his back on the courtship, focusing all of his attention on using a whittling knife to try to coax a lute out of a piece of wood. Frustratingly, Jackillen’s many talents did not include handicrafts; and between his lamentable lack of lute and the peculiar behavior of his mother and her new reason for living, Jackillen’s mood darkened by the day.
Then came the morning that Jeromey presented Jackillen with an exquisitely-wrought lute, shining with newness, almost audibly calling to Jackillen to be played.
“There’s sure to have been a less expensive way to buy my affection,” Jackillen said brusquely, for if the price of a well-made lute were in any way attainable, he would have purchased his own long ago.
“That may well be,” Jeromey said, expression placid behind his cover of close-trimmed brown beard. “But I did not set out to buy your affection. I set out to buy you a lute. As for your good favor, you may continue to bestow or withhold it as you choose. It will not cause me to love your mother or you any less.”
“Love me?” said Jackillen, looking at Jeromey in sharp surprise. “Why should you love me?” Why should this stranger care for him when no one else would bother?
“Because I will soon marry your mother, making you my son.”
“Stepson,” Jackillen corrected.
“Son,” Jeromey repeated gently. “I mean to adopt you as my own, Jackillen. I will be your father, and you will have my name.”
“Gant…” Jackillen murmured. “Jackillen Gant…” His eyes widened, mouth drawn into a brilliant smile. That was it! – the missing note in the melody of his name! And this man had given it to him – given him a name complete, and a lute dearly-bought, and a third thing unasked for: Love.
Jackillen regarded the man before him with a new curiosity. He didn’t understand this Jeromey Gant, not one little bit. But, he reasoned, he now had a family name and a lute and a father; wanting understanding on top of all of that would just be greedy.
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More of the pre-“Song Caster” tale to come as Fairy Tale Fortnight continues!
And two things to remember: One, I’ve got a giveaway going on! Check out my feature on A Backwards Story and/or my interview with The Book Rat and enter to win a free paperback of Book Three of The Wilderhark Tales, “The Seventh Spell”!
Two, I’m looking for advance readers! If you’re willing to read and review “The Song Caster (Book Four of The Wilderhark Tales)” ahead of its scheduled release on June 24th, drop me a line via my contact page and I’ll send you a PDF of the tale in all its practically completed glory!