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Sep 19, 2012

WiP Wednesday and Call for Beta Readers for Wing

Wing, Book 5 of the Unfinished Song, is finished. I'll be announcing the release date next week.

The manuscript is with the editor and the alpha readers. It's about 90,000 words.

If anyone would like to be a Beta reader to proofread and help us hunt down typos, email me and let me know. Ideally, you'd receive a copy sometime be able to read it and get it back to me within a week.  I might not be able to take everyone who asks, but it's worth a try if you are interested. I already have a few people on the list.

I can't post too long an excerpt from Blood, The Unfinished Song, Book 6, without giving away spoilers for both Wing and Blood, but here's a scene from the Prologue in which we see Vessia back in the days when she was War Leader of the Aelfae. For the first time, we meet some Aelfae and see things from their point of view during the last stages of the generations-long War with humans.

Remember, there is still time to sign up for the Newsletter to receive a free copy of Wing.

Some people have worried they aren't the first hundred to sign up, and they aren't. But I've extended the number of copies I'll be giving away, due to popular demand (how awesome is that -- I've always wanted to say that!) so go ahead and sign up, no worries!

Vessia (Generations Ago - During the War)

Vessia smelled humans and it wasn’t pretty.

Mud crawlers, her people called them. An insult to good, clean mud. The human stench was closer to offal—a whiff of bad blood on top of damp fur and rancid corn. It soiled the wind even from here.

She stood on a rocky outcrop overlooking the grassy fields of the canyon floor, her wings camouflaged like a moth, to blend with the mottled grays and browns. Human warriors filled the valley on both sides of the river with their campfires. This was no innocent sheep drover clan, wandering too far north. It was an army up from the Rainbow Labyrinth, sent to hunt Aelfae. Spells guarded the only pass into the canyon, yet the human Tavaedies had known the dance to remove the boulders in the path.

Vessia crept back from the edge and rejoined the other seven Aelfae scouts. They camped inside a natural circle of huge stones, surrounded by trees that leaned over the stones to touch crowns, forming a canopy of branches. No trees grew inside the circle itself, but the ground was thick with wet, fallen leaves.

“The humans are here,” she said. “I suggest no one take wing anytime soon.”

“They can’t hit anything past their own noses with those spears,” scoffed Gwidan. He worked the string into his bow, testing the knots and the tautness with a few plucks. “If they ever figure out how to use my sweet device, then I’ll worry.”

“I won’t worry even then,” said Xerpen. He stretched out on a log with his legs crossed at the ankle. Like all of them, he wore little over his splendid physique besides a dabbling of paint and leaves that would enable him to blend into the forest.

“If you were the last Aelfae in Faearth, you still wouldn’t worry,” said Gwidan.

“No, and why should I? One look at my handsome face, and they’d probably make me their chief.”

“Go on then, show them your face. I’m eager to see an Aelfae become chief of the humans.”

“Later maybe,” said Xerpen. “Right now I’m busy with a new song. I can’t seem to get the ending right.”

He warbled a bit on his reed flute.

A dark-haired beauty, Mrigana, sat near Gwidan, whittling arrows for him. Never much for chatter, Mrigana inclined her head, acknowledging the human threat and Vessia’s command. In contrast, Lothlo and Yastara nuzzled by the fire, so lost in mutual appreciation that Vessia wasn’t even sure they’d heard her.

Hest tended a boar on a spit over the fire. “What if I fly in the other direction?”

“It’s not worth the risk,” Vessia said. “I’m sure they have scouts, same as we do. There are probably humans combing these mountains as we speak.”

“I really need some rosemary, and we have none.”

“Seriously, Hest? Rosemary?”

“This boar isn’t going to season itself, Vessia.”

“I shall season it with song,” Xerpen said grandly. He began to sing, “Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme…”

“Really not the same, Xerpen,” said Hest. “And, by the way, that is the dumbest song I’ve ever heard.”

“I’m hurt.”

“One of your worst. And that’s saying something.”

Vessia said firmly, “No flying.”

Hest sighed. “No rosemary.”

One person was not seated around the campfire, but Vessia had only to follow Gwidan’s disapproving glance to find the last member of their band. Xerpen touched him on the arm. “Play your bow, Gwidan, and I’ll sing.”

Gwidan nodded. He added strings to his bow so he could pluck them. The beautiful, eerie sound echoed a fall of water over round stones. In his voice as rich and deep and sweet as cream, Xerpen began to sing an old song:

To get over a mountain,
go through it.
To destroy your fear,
go to it.
To escape your worst enemy--
keep him near.
You can only find peace
at the point of a spear.
What was lost will be found
in what remains.
What is unwoven shall
be regained.
To receive the greatest gift,
become the giver.
To swim, keep your eye on the land
beyond this river.

Kia sat by herself with her back to one of the big rocks, almost out of sight of the others. She didn’t acknowledge Vessia’s approach until Vessia touched her shoulder.

“I hate you,” said Kia.

“Still having trouble?”

“You can turn into anything you want,” said Kia. “A bird, a butterfly, a wolf, a cat. Why can’t I become anything? What’s wrong with me?”

“There’s nothing wrong with you, Kia.”

Kia kicked a bare foot at the wet leaf carpet. “It’s not just shapeshifting. What kind of Aelfae has no wings?” She lowered her voice to a whisper hoarse with pain. “I know what the others call me behind my back. ‘Kia the Human.’”

Vessia had heard the cruel nickname. She squeezed Kia’s shoulder. “Nobody thinks you’re a human.”

“Have you ever thought…what if I am?” Kia clutched Vessia’s hand as a drowning woman would grab a rope. “What if I were switched at birth or something? It happens.”

“Kia, you’re being ridiculous. Lothlo is your father and Yastara is your mother. I was there on the day of your birth, and even now, I see the light of your parents’ auras flowing in you.”

“I can’t see those threads.”

“I do.”

“I don’t even have six Chromas. All Aelfae have six Chromas. Only humans have less. Except me. The freak.”

“You’re not a freak.”

“The footprints all lead that direction.”

“And I’ve told you before, you do have six Chromas. Some of your colors are just…weak. It happens, even to Aelfae.”

“Never to you. You’re the perfect Aelfae. Did I mention I hate you?”

Vessia kissed her forehead. “Keep trying. Don’t force it.”

“You do realize those two bits of advice are mutually incompatible, right?”

Vessia laughed and would have retorted, but she saw a shadowy figure move among the rocks on the opposite side of the circle. Swiftly, bone blade already in her hand, she moved to intercept the silhouette.

It was only Mrigana. A complex asymmetrical braid, sleek and black, cascaded down her right shoulder, decorated with purple Nightshade blossoms. Like Gwidan, she wore a bow across her back.

“A word?” Mrigana asked. She glanced back over her shoulder at the others gathered around the fire. 

Vessia moved closer and kept her voice low, as Mrigana had. “Share your worry, we’ll eat it together.”

“This is not the first time the humans have found us.”

Vessia had hunted down the same fear. Three times in as many decades, the humans had sent warriors to scour the Aelfae from their supposedly secret settlements.

“Their hunters are good,” said Vessia.

“Against our magic? Not that good,” said Mrigana. “And they showed no hesitation, no scouts, no testing party. They simply threw their whole army at us, all at once. As if they were sure we were here. They even knew the dance to part the rocks across the pass.”

“You think there is a traitor.”

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