Three Dark Roses Excerpt
Chapter One: Gathering~Joel
“Joel, where are you? Joel, I need you to set out the plates before everyone else arrives.” The voice of my mother, Elizabeth, floated down the hall. “I’m expecting at least fifty people for the efrat, and you know how Eliana and Amad’s family eats.”
I slid my flute into a case hidden under my cloak before lazily shuffling to the kitchen. “I’m coming, I’m coming.”
Elizabeth motioned to a stack of bowls, not even lifting her eyes from the kettle of soup she was stirring. “Can you take those into the music room? I thought it might finally be warm enough to eat outside, but after that frost last night I think most of us will elect to eat indoors.”
I winced at the idea of fifty-some people filling the Masada with their music. No matter how melodic their songs, it still was unsettling.
Knock! The sharp, precise rap was followed by half a dozen more scattered at varying heights on the wood. “That’s Eliana, right on time as always.”
I opened the door, quickly stepping to one side to avoid the tide of children. Eliana balanced Tamar on one hip and Talmai on the other. Shaqed held Josiah’s hand, and Daleth and Ariel ran past me, laughing. Amad stepped in last, closing the doors behind his unruly party.
“Welcome, welcome.” My father rounded the corner, harp dangling from its pouch on his back. “May the King bless your songs.”
“Ah, Micah, you’d do better to ask Him to preserve your ears from the clamor of my children,” Amad laughed. “Josiah has been begging for a dulcimer lately. As if I needed another instrument in my house.”
“Just wait till Tamar and Talmai want some,” Eliana furrowed her brow. “Micah, are there any two-player instruments?”
“Keyboards, I guess. But we’ll let the King guide them.”
Rap! This note was gentler, almost musical. “Jedidiah,” Elizabeth poked her head out of the kitchen. “I’ve been wanting to ask him a question about a song I’ve been working on.”
“Can’t ask me?” Micah pulled a ‘poor me?’ face. “I am the Shoshanah here, in case you forgot.”
“Hey, don’t leave an old man outside in the cold all day,” the voice filtered under the door.
“Or a young woman. I don’t like cold any better than Grandfather, you know.”
“Joel, just prop the door open for now. It’s mild enough that we won’t freeze.” Elizabeth wiped her hands on her apron and stepped into the room. “Soup’s simmering, bread’s cooling off, and we have plenty of warm cider.”
“No wine?” Jedidiah stepped in, kissing Elizabeth on the cheek. “I’m an old man; I could use something to light a fire in my fingers.”
“You haven’t played anything in years.” Eliana grinned, setting the twins down. ‘Besides, I don’t want to risk Josiah getting his hands on anything. He’s already crazy enough.”
Mizbeah entered behind her grandfather, cradling a mandolin in her arms like a baby. “Hey, Shaqed!”
Shaqed smiled at her friend. “Are you ready for our duet?”
“A little extra practice never hurt anyone,” Mizbeah shrugged. “Except for sore fingers, I guess.”
Jedidiah hung his cloak on a peg. “How have you been doing, Eliana? Those twins of yours wearing you down any?”
Shaqed tapped her mother on the shoulder.
“I’m still talking.” Eliana commented
Shaqed rubbed her stomach, making exaggerated growling sounds. Can we eat?
“Let someone else go first, or there won’t be anything left for anyone else.” Eliana smiled.
“I told you she’d say that,’ Ariel muttered to his sister.
Daleth peered around her older sister and glanced down the walkway. “I see Ariach and Tirzah.”
I could hear Abigail coughing as they approached. She was still wearing a heavy winter cloak, even though the snowdrops had already bloomed. Keturah ran ahead of her sister, with the hood slipped off her fire-red hair. “Come on, slowpoke,” she teased.
I ran out to greet her. “Hey, cherry-hairy.”
“Hey, Joel the pole.”
“Who’s already here?” Ariach strode up and clapped my shoulder.
“Jedidiah and Mizbeah and Eliana, Amad and their family.”
“Come on, Abigail. We’re almost there.” Tirzah let Abigail burrow under her cloak. “I’m sure Elizabeth will warm some cider for you.”
As they stepped into the Masada, Elizabeth ran into the kitchen. She ladled out a helping of soup into a mug, which she handed to Abigail. “The cider’s coming. Will soup do for now?”
“Of course.” Abigail gingerly sipped the liquid, coughing as some slipped down her windpipe.
“Amad! May the King bless you and your family,” Ariach called.
“How is everyone doing?” Eliana asked Tirzah.
Tirzah glanced wearily at Abigail. “She’s had trouble breathing all winter. Hopefully she’ll improve when it warms up.”
Josiah tugged on his mother’s sleeve. “Can I pleaseee eat now?”
Eliana threw up her arms in mock defeat. “Fine, you win. Daleth and Shaqed, can you take the twins through the line? And Josiah—“
“I can do it myself,” he crossed his arms.
“At least let Ariel ladle out the soup.”
Another young family of five ran up the lane. “So sorry we’re late. Yitz’chik soiled his tunic, so we had to bath and dress him.” The mother nodded towards the twins. “Look, Selah, you can play with Talmai and Tamar after we eat.”
“More girls, more girls, more girls,” Selah’s braids bounced on her neck in time with her excited chant.
“Ah, yes, but you and your mother are my favorite girls of all,” Selah’s father Avar smiled. “Rebekkah fed Ezra before we left, so he probably will fall asleep soon.”
“We left our basinet at home,” Rebekkah added. “Do you have a large basket we could borrow, Elizabeth?”
“I can get it,” Mizbeah interjected. “It’s in the hall closet, right?”
An elderly couple stepped into the house. “We aren’t late, are we?” the wife asked.
“As long as we’re here before the food’s gone, we’re early,” Her husband replied.
“She giving you trouble again?”
“Aleh can give me all the trouble she wants as long as we get here on time,” Ro’eh answered.
Families poured into the Masada. A newly wed couple here, a clan of parents, children and grandchildren there… After a while, I stopped keeping track of everyone.
“…I asked him why he kept oinking so much. And then he said, ‘Well, you said I’m a little piggy.’ Eliana rolled her eyes. “I tell you, you really have to watch what you say around those young ones. They listen like hawks.”
One of the listeners nodded. “Time goes so fast, though. It seems just yesterday that Moshe was that age. And now he’s married.”
Eliana sighed. “Gurion came the other day asking permission to court Shaqed.”
“Mother!” Shaqed squawked. “That was private!”
“Well, since you accepted, I figured it would come out sooner or later. Besides, look at him over there. He’s staring at you like a hungry man in a kitchen. Go practice a duet with him, why don’t you?”
“What about our duet?” The gleam in Mizbeah’s eyes belied her words..
“Don’t worry, I’ll always find time for my friends, even when I’m an old married woman like my mother.”
“You little snapper, I’ll show you old. I can outplay you any day, hands behind my back and eyes closed,” Eliana laughed.
In the corner, Jedidiah and other elders laughingly traded stories about the aches of age. Nearby, Daleth and her friend Mayim played mother to the little ones. I edged over to Keturah. “Hey, I have something to show you,” I whispered.
“What is it?”
“It’s a secret.” My hidden flute banged against my back as I leaned in closer. “Come on, it’s out in the garden.”
“A flower?” she teased.
“No,” I shook my head. “It’s better than that.”
“Will it take long?”
“The sooner we go, the sooner we’ll be back.”
“Well…” Keturah brushed off her cloak and stepped back from the table. “I suppose it won’t hurt to get some fresh air.”
Crystals of ice nestled in the roots of last autumn’s dried grass. Only the roses stood out against the filthy gray of melting muddy snow. I glanced at my chestnut-brown blooms, satisfied that the true color was sufficiently disguised for the time being.
“Where are we going?” Keturah asked.
“Into our old fortress,” I motioned to the thick tangle of bracken cloaking the near side of Briar Hill.
“So, my brave Sir Joel, what quest are we on today? Rescuing fair maidens? Fighting off hordes of Witherers with just a single song?” Keturah grinned, remembering our childhood games.
Her words unknowingly sparked anger in my heart. “None of that.”
Keturah fingered the tambourine tucked into her belt. “Joel…what’s this all about?”
“Come on,” I repeated, pushing into the undergrowth. Fallen leaves crunched underfoot. Keturah slid her hands into her sleeves to protect them from brittle branches. A ring of evergreens shrugged off their shawls of snow as I brushed against the trees.
“Presenting…the Snow-Joel.” Keturah announced. “You look so funny.”
“Thanks for the compliment,” I growled.
“Loosen up, Joel. Spring is coming, and I’m getting excited.” She reached down and pulled out her tambourine.
Accompanied only by the early spring breeze and the hesitant drip of melting snow, Keturah began to play. The jingles on the edge of her tambourine rang in time with the slight crunch of her feet on the ground.
Her flowing dress reminded me of laughing brooks, of wind on emerald leaves. I closed one eye and let her music fill my ears. The melody was a new variant on an ancient theme, the theme that filled my life.
The King’s melody… it was always his melody… “Don’t you ever get tired of playing the same song over and over?”
“No, silly, there are so many ways to play it. I like my tambourine best, but sometimes I borrow Abigail’s flute when she’s asleep and play it. The same songs sound so unique on a different instrument.”
I shrugged. “I’ve heard His anthem so many times it’s gotten kind of boring.”
“Well, maybe you’re not cut out to be a Shoshanah, but surely you don’t really mean that.” Keturah paused and looked at me.
I stood and laid my hands on her shoulders. “If I told you a secret, would you tell anyone else?”
“Of course not, Joel.”
“Even if it goes against others’ beliefs?”
“Joel…” She stared at me. “What are you saying?”
“I won’t say it,” I corrected, reaching into my robe. Keturah’s eyes widened at the sight of my instrument.
“A metal flute? Joel—what in the King’s name are you doing?”
The anger inside me exploded in a note like a crow protesting some thievery. I raised the flute to my lips. Craw! Craw! Each note stood out like thorns on flesh, sharp-edged and raw. Smoothly polished melodies broke into a hundred separate notes, each chanting a different word. Twigs crackled at the harsh sound.
Keturah screamed. “Stop! Stop! That—that’s evil!”
I lowered the instrument and stared into her eyes. My voice burned like the touch of steel in winter. “Evil—or merely forbidden?”
She sank to the ground, gasping for breath like a fish brought out of the stream.
In the sudden silence, I heard branches breaking in a path away from the thicket. “Someone was watching us.” I narrowed my eyes, staring at the bracken. “Maybe it was your sister.”
“Abigail wouldn’t follow us up here,” Keturah replied automatically. “It was probably just a squirrel or something.”
“No one can find out about this, understand?” I grabbed her shoulders. “You can’t tell anyone.”
I shook her shoulders. “You promised, remember?”
“But I didn’t know—I never expected—you’re the Shoshanah’s son, after all…” she babbled.
“Well, maybe that’s part of the problem. I’ve been expected to follow in Micah’s footsteps since I was knee-high to a harp. I’ve heard the King’s music night and day for nineteen years. And I’m getting sick of it!” I gestured back toward the Masada. “All those songs in there—they make me sick. I want music that asks questions, that dares to go beyond the boundaries. I want to explore anger and danger and all those things that people think are wrong. I want to find out for myself what life is like.”
“Joel…” Keturah laid a hand on my chest. “I won’t tell. But please, don’t do anything rash.”
Her touch set my skin afire, hunger and anger stirred together. “I suppose we should go back before anyone misses us.” My shoulders shuddered involuntarily.
But she had no idea how far things had already gone.
“…I will praise you, my Healer and my King,
You are my melody, you are the notes that I sing
I will praise you, my Healer and my King
To you all my gifts will I bring.”
Mizbeah and Shaqed breathed out the final notes of their duet as I snuck into the back of the crowd. After the wild thrill of the woods, their music seemed stale. I glanced at Keturah. Her cheeks were still tinged with cherry—whether from the cold or from my song, I couldn’t guess. As the final notes died away, the room erupted in clapping.
“Well done! Well done!”
“You both play so well together.”
“A true rendition of the King’s melody.”
“May the King bless your playing.”
Mizbeah laughed. “I was nervous, but it turned out fine.”
“Just wait till I play,” Ariel piped up. “I’ll blow you all out of the water.”
“Ariel, you shouldn’t say such things.”
“Then can you say it for me, Mother?”
Micah raised his hands for silence. “I heard that Abigail has a song for us. Abigail, are you ready?”
I followed his gaze. Abigail sat on the floor next to her mother, fingering her reed flute. “If you think so,” She started to rise to her feet.
“You can stay sitting if you want,” Elizabeth whispered.
Abigail shook her head. “It’s not as clear that way.”
Her cloak rippled as she stood, accenting every tremble of her limbs. Slowly, she raised her flute to her lips and began to play.
At first, her notes were inaudible against the murmur of restless children. Slowly, the room fell silent to listen.
Her song was softer than the spring breeze that had rustled my hair. Yet the weak notes wrapped the room in beauty. A diaphanous veil of morning mist fell from her flute, powerful in its very fragility.
Cough. The note squawked an octave higher than it was intended to play.
Cough. Cough. The music broke off in a screech of piercing sound.
“Eh-hoo. Eah-hoo.” Abigail coughed, struggling for breath. She lowered the flute as a coughing spasm shook her lungs.
Tirzah ran up, slipping an arm around her daughter. “Breathe. Just breathe. That’s it…easy does it.”
Abigail winced. “Owh…My chest…there’s a rope around it.”
Elizabeth stepped up, gently massaging Abigail’s shoulders. “Micah, I think it’s your turn to play.”
Keturah squeezed my hand. “It shouldn’t be this bad. She played that song without trouble yesterday.”
Micah sat down, resting the pedal harp against his right shoulder. His right hand reached down, plucking a sequence of high, quick notes like birdsong. Then his left hand joined in, playing the rich, lower notes to join in rich melody.
I nervously rubbed my hands together. I tried to avoid the gatherings whenever possible, but Micah’s music tugged at me like a hundred tiny cords, twisting and tightening my heart like the strings on his harp. He didn’t know my secrets, but his music did. Every time he played, he was unknowingly calling me back.
Even though we were less than three yards apart, the distance between our hearts was as great as the eastern ocean.
“…Do we have to go already?”
“Just a little bit longer, please?” Selah begged. “Tamar, Talmai and I are having fun.”
“No, no, I’m sure Micah and Elizabeth are worn out from all these guests.” Rebekkeh smiled..
“Are you sure you don’t need help with cleaning up, Elizabeth?”
“I’m sure. Go home and let the twins take a nap, Eliana.”
“You don’t have to tell me twice.” Eliana rolled her eyes. “Goodbye.”
“May the King keep you in his care.” Jedidiah called.
“And the same to you.” Micah replied.
“Come on, Abigail, it’s time to go.”
“Can we wait just a few minutes? It’s so windy.” Abigail shivered.
“Well, if it’s okay with Elizabeth,” Tirzah replied.
“Of course.” My mother answered. “You know, I still have some soup if you want it. We can’t eat all these leftovers ourselves.”
“Thank you.” Tirzah smiled.
“Can I have some too?” Ariach grinned. “That group piece really made me hungry. It sounded like growling stomachs.”
Keturah laughed. “You need to practice more, Father.”
“I’ve been practicing longer than you’ve been alive.”
“Well, I would never have guessed,” Keturah curled her lips.
Abigail glanced at me for a moment, then looked away.
Did she suspect me?
I drummed the tabletop nervously. Anger welled in my throat, longing to stream out through my flute. But I didn’t dare reveal my new instrument.
“So, Joel, what were you and my daughter doing all morning?” Ariach asked. “Dancing?’
I forced a laugh. “I have two left feet, but Keturah is amazing.”
Keturah put down a slice of bread. “You’re better than you think. All you need is practice.”
Anger weighed on me, pressing down from the ceiling. I kissed Keturah’s cheek.
“So that’s why her face was so red,” Elizabeth laughed. “Keturah, keep an eye on that son of mine.”
She knows! She knows about my song!
“Can we expect to hear some duets soon?” Ariach pursed his lips. “Wedding duets, perhaps?”
“Not too soon. After all, you’re only seventeen, Keturah,” Tirzah smiled wistfully. “I want to hold on to my daughters as long as I can.”
Abigail laid her head on Tirzah’s shoulder. “Don’t worry about me. I don’t plan to go anywhere yet.”
“Do you want to know where I’m going?” Micah grinned.
“Where?” Elizabeth asked.
“To the other room. I heard Elizabeth left a lovely pitcher of wine in there for wetting parched throats after singing.”
“By the way, I haven’t heard you play today,” Elizabeth commented. “How about playing something on your horn?”
“I’m kind of tired,” I pushed back my chair. “My throat hurts. Can I still have the wine, though?”
“No song, no wine.” Micah’s tone was harsh, but his eyes sparkled with laughter. “Work before play, you know.”
About a week later, I was at the market when I saw Keturah coming out of the linens shop. “Keturah, how are you?’
She didn’t answer at first.
“Is something wrong, Ket?”
“Abigail’s worse. She can’t stop shivering. Her hands and feet feel like ice, even under the blankets. Mother sent me to get more.”
“But the weather’s been mild.”
“I know, but…”Keturah lowered her voice to a whisper. “Do you think she heard your song?”
“So now it’s my fault?” I gritted my teeth. “Am I so evil?”
“Shh!” she hissed. “No, I know it’s not your fault. But she’s so sensitive.” Keturah’s eyes gazed into the distance. “When she was born, I thought she was a china doll. But she wouldn’t cry...even when she was hungry, she was too weak to cry.”
“That was twelve years ago!”
“I know she’s just too good sometimes, but she’s still my sister. I can’t imagine life without her. Not hearing her voice or flute…sometimes she sleeps with the thing. And I’m pretty sure she named it too.”
“I named my first tambourine. Called it ‘Jingles.’”
“How…original.” I snickered.
“Didn’t you name your horn?” She chuckled. “I believe you called it ‘Roary.’”
“Don’t remind me.” I quickly changed the subject. “Has Micah been over?”
“He’d have to live at our house if he performed a healing every time my sister got sick. But your mother’s been over twice. Abigail likes her mandolin.”
“Elizabeth always wanted a daughter,” I shrugged.
“Why would she when she has such a wonderful son?” Keturah didn’t seem to notice the use of my parents’ proper names. “See you around.”
I turned away, walking towards the Street of Songs, the longest street in Neveyl. All the instrument makers have shops there. Music of all kinds always echoes down the lane—from the rich virtuosity of the experienced searching for better instruments, to the squawks and howls coming from children trying to discover which instrument is best for them.
On my first visit to the Street of Songs, my head was barely even with the neck of a cello. Father spent hours in each shop, trying out every instrument available. Harps, violins, trombones, oboes, mandolins…none of them appealed to me. But the horn—oh, the horn—had a great voice, wild and bold like an eagle soaring on the clouds. That was the instrument for me.
I glanced around before ducking into a tiny hut, a mere shed, at the street’s end. As my eyes adjusted to the dim shadows, I saw the form of a man. “May a new song fill your heart with the King’s Melody each day,” he growled.
Everyone, even those who questioned the King’s power, greeted others with references to his melody. Like everything else in Neveyl, indeed all of Karav, life always came back to the King.
“My melody has gone down new paths.” I replied.
The man nodded in approval and quickly turned to lock the door. “Well said, boy. Have you revealed your true song yet?”
“Not quite. I tried to tell a friend, but she was frightened.”
“You were too, at first.”
I nodded. “I had heard whispers of these songs at home, but only as something shameful and wrong. But I was passing by here one day…and I heard your song. It tugged at me like a rope. And I knew I had to return.”
“It has been over two weeks since your last visit. I was starting to wonder if you had turned back to weakness.”
“There was an efret. I couldn’t find time to get away without being questioned.”
“Whose side are you on?”
“There are still some things I don’t understand, Shroud.” The man had not given me his real name, nor had I given him mine. But he had shown me power beyond my imagination. “I’ve been thinking about power. Why do you play Deathroot’s song here, where the power of the King is strong?”
“The enemy’s power is indeed strong here, Blight.” Shroud hissed at the King’s name. “But it is so strong he overlooks the quiet rebellion of those like you and I. And that will be his downfall.”
Blight. The name he had given me. Like a disease tearing away at a plant unseen, I had the ability to destroy the King’s followers from the inside.
“And that’s something else I can’t understand. You say His power is strong here. But you also say that He is weak. That He never acts. How does that make sense?”
“The King is but a myth. A fable. A story, with no real power. But many believe lies. And a lie that is believed by enough people gains strength. If there was a King, He would have died a long time ago. And if somehow, he lives, he is never seen. And the Abir are even more elusive.”
I nodded in agreement. “Deathroot has power. I want to learn more.”
“Are you sure, Blight? His power is not soft like our enemy’s. It is not for the weak. It is only for the ruthless. Only for the strong. And when his day comes, he will crush those who believe in the King.”
For a moment, Abigail’s pale face flashed in my mind.
She was too perfect. She had to be hiding something.
And when I found out, I would crush her.
The tulips were finally blooming, opening their tightly closed buds under the gentle fingers of sunshine. Keturah and Abigail had come over while Ariach and Tirzah were visiting another village.
“Keturah, come with me,” I smiled. “I have a surprise for you.”
“I’m supposed to keep an eye on Abigail.”
“Like she’ll get into any trouble. All she ever does is play her flute.”
Keturah stared at me. “I’m responsible for her. If something goes wrong—“
“Listen, Elizabeth and Micah are both cleaning out the Rapha Chamber. If anything goes wrong, they’ll be much more help than we would be.”
Keturah sighed. “I guess you’re right. Where do you want to take me?”
“Just to meet a friend.”
“Does this ‘friend’ have something to do with your flute?” Keturah’s eyes blazed.
“Just come on,” I urged. “You trust the King, right?”
“I trust him.” She bit her lip. “But I don’t trust you.”
“Look, Micah always says that good will overcome evil, doesn’t he?”
“Then you have nothing to worry about.”
Keturah sucked in her breath. “Alright, I’ll go.”
“The Street of Songs? I don’t understand. What are we doing here?”
“Do you remember the song I played?”
Keturah closed her eyes. “Yes. I keep hearing it in my dreams. It’s like standing on the edge of a cliff, knowing you will fall, but unable to move away.”
“It felt like that at first, but when you finally fall off…it’s amazing.” I pushed open the shed door. “Ladies first.”
“May a new song fill your heart with the King’s Melody each day.”
“May your song ever be joined by new voices.” I replied. “Shroud, this is my friend Ket--.”
Shroud held up his hand. “I do not wish to hear her name. I will judge her on her own merits, regardless of who she may be in the world outside this shed. Why are you here?”
“I wish to follow the trail of truth, wherever it leads. And my friend Joel—“
“Blight,” I interjected. “Here my name is Blight.”
“Blight.” The name rolled uneasily off her tongue. “He played a song I had never heard before. And I want to know the truth behind it.”
“So you are a seeker of truth, my friend? I will call you Hound, then, because you have the courage to follow truth’s trail wherever it leads.”
“Truth can be many things, Hound. To a fish, the truth about water is that it doesn’t exist, because he has never been dry. To a rock, the truth about water is that it slides off easily. But to the soil, the truth about water is that it changes things.”
Keturah—no, Hound now—brought out her tambourine. “Do you wish to hear my truth?”
“Go on,” Shroud nodded.
Hound’s song spoke of wild places, of trails to adventure and courageous acts. But underneath the noble melody of the King, I sensed the slightest hint of questioning. Why must things be this way? Is there something more?
Her notes slowed, inviting me in. I slid out my flute and began playing. My notes twined with hers, echoing the wildness I felt in her heart. Gradually, my notes began to lead, while hers followed. Shroud picked up a drum, and his dark beats pounded like a frantic heart.
The air throbbed with music. My heart thrashed with anger, building up to a crescendo. This was a type of power never heard within the Masada’s quiet walls. Like a wild beast, it tore away at stale flesh.
The tambourine dropped from Keturah’s hand as she began to dance. But unlike the quiet swirl of previous dances, she twitched and jerked like a child’s marionette. There was no visible pattern or rhythm, just the wild chaos of the dance.
“That is truth, isn’t it, Hound?” Shroud shouted.
Her head jerked down to her chest.
“Have you ever seen power like that?”
“No,” she yelled.
“Never!” I echoed.
“The King has no power like that. Who says he has any power?”
Keturah froze mid-step. “That’s not true.”
“Come back in when you are ready. If you can show me the power of the King, I will reconsider my conclusion. Otherwise, you should consider mine.”
I bent over and picked up Keturah’s tambourine. “We should go.”
“So soon?” She shuddered like one awoken from a nightmare.
“We can’t risk drawing attention to ourselves. I never stay long.” I opened the door. “Ladies first.”
Emerald sprouts poked their heads out of the muddy streets. I slid my flute back into its case as we strolled back to the Masada. “So, Keturah, what do you think?”
She took a deep breath. “I don’t know. I’ve never felt so—alive—before. But his words don’t make any sense. How can the King have no power? And if the King has no power, where does Shroud’s come from?”
Shroud had told me on the same night he gave me my flute. But that truth would only scare her at this point. “But what did you think of the power?”
Keturah smiled at me. “I get so tired of feeling helpless. Every time Abigail gets sick, every time something goes wrong, I want to do something. If I had that kind of power, I could fix things.” She shook her tambourine absentmindedly. “I wonder if Shroud has a better instrument for me. I want something more powerful. Why did you choose a flute after a horn anyway?”
“The horn was too rich, too normal. I want my voice to be heard.”
“So you chose a flute?”
“It’s shrill. It doesn’t fit in.”
She shrugged. “Whatever you say—Blight.” She winked at me.
“Are you ready, Hound?”
“A-a-aahooooooooo!” She howled.
This is an excerpt from my 2009 NaNo novel, based on the short story of the same name. If you want to read more, ask me for permission to serve as an editor.