An excerpt: Call of Sunteri, Book Two of the Keepers of the Wellsprings Series

 

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    We crowd together into a corner as the carriage fills with them. They bear down on us, their wood-like teeth glistening. Saesa is panting. Trying to be brave. I think she can’t lift her sword arm anymore. It’s up to me. The Wildwood stink, like decay. Like the musty water that dripped into my mouth. I hate them. I fling my knife and they light up. More come.
    Outside, another sound mixes with the whispering and screeching. A lower sound. Like wind catching in a sail, but more rhythmic. Steadier. The sun creeps out again. The storm cloud has broken. The Dreamwalker is gone. The Wildwood in the carriage pause. They look to the sky. The sound comes louder, and with it an odd clicking. Bird-like. Hissing. Snake-like. I creep back to Saesa. She’s holding on.
    “The pink vial. Give it to her.”
    I search in my bandolier. Find the vial. Give it to her. She drinks it and looks better. An eerie silence falls over the carriage. All around us, the Wildwood crouch down. Hide their heads. They’re like mounds of earth, dotted with seedlings and mushrooms. The three of us peer up out of the window. A great feathered wing sweeps across our view. As Saesa passes the vial to Raefe, I pull myself up to look.
    There are three of them. Strange creatures, with bird-like, feathered white bodies. Bigger than horses. At their chests, the feathers fade to scales of blue, green, purple. Their heads are proud. Like swans, with pointed beaks and yellow eyes. On their backs, each has a person. No, an elf. I know what they are, even though these are the first I’ve seen. Sister always wanted to meet one. She read stories and stories about them. Now I understand why. There are two men and one woman, and even the men are beautiful. All dressed in white. Slender and elegant, with pale faces that smile even though now they’re stern. I think these must be kings and a queen, the way sit with their backs so straight and their shoulders so square.
    “Go,” one of the men says. All around us, the rest of the Wildwood hop up and skitter away. Back to the woods. Back to shelter.
    “What is it, Tib?” Saesa asks weakly.
    “Elves,” I reply. “Riding bird-lizards.”
    “The White Line,” she whispers. “On cygnets. Oh, I want to see.” I drop down beside them. Raefe’s arms are around her. He’s shivering even though it’s not cold. Pale. Saesa is slumped against him. She looks a little better after the potion. Not much, but she’s stopped bleeding. I wonder how I got through it without getting hurt. I’m sure Mevyn has something to do with that.
    Outside, the elves speak quietly to one another. I don’t understand the words. It sounds like Mage talk. The hair on my arms prickles up. I don’t like magic. It isn’t a spell, though. Just talking. I hear them dismount lightly. Their feet barely make a sound as they walk among the fallen.
    “Go and greet them.”
    I don’t want to leave the other two, but Mevyn tells me he’ll stay with them. Don’t worry, he says. But I am, a little. Something nags at me. A thought that I try hard to push away. He should have fought more. He should have, but he just hid and ordered instead. Saesa fought. Raefe fought. Mevyn hid. I climb up out of the window. Look at the bodies all around. Dozens of Wildwood. Our three guards and driver. Four horses. Five, if I count the first one we lost. My anger grows. Mevyn has magic. Magic powerful enough that those Wildwood creatures wanted him. He could have done more. He could have prevented these deaths.
    “Begone from here,” the lady elf says. Her hair is long and white. It shines yellow in the sunlight that comes through the trees. She carries a bow that’s almost as tall as she is. The carvings on it are detailed. I want to see them closer. Instinct tells me to look away, but I can’t stop staring. I creep forward. “You are not welcome.” At first I think she means me, but then a voice echoes through my thoughts.
    “I go where I like,” it says.
    “You shall fail,” one of the men declares. His hair is long, too, and just as white. His armor is white. His sword and shield are white. “You shall be destroyed.”
    “Go, Dreamwalker. While you are still able.” This one is the same as the other two. Too beautiful to look at. So white he gleams and I have to squint, but I can’t look away. As he walks toward me, I can feel the weight of the Dreamwalker lifted.     It’s almost like the elf has a cloud following him. A bright cloud. Full of hope. It settles over me as he raises a fist to his chest to greet me.
    Even through the elf’s fog of false-hope, I hear the Dreamwalker’s reply. “It has only begun.” Then, nothing.

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