Cadivel: Selected Previews

I promise, this will be my last blog post about Cadivel for a few weeks! But for now, experience three short selections from my novel, available for all Kindle apps on Amazon. Remember that 50% of each purchase goes to the incredible literacy charity Room to Read, and share if you enjoy.

Preview #1: The Beginning

Ocean

The Arrival

I saw the passion of the sea.

The ocean roared with a salient flare of green in its arachnid’s spine, bony to human eyes, as the ridges of waves stab upwards in a regular grid. I saw the ocean tear with hidden rage at the tall cliffs guarding the northern coast—such fury! It wanted to tear the whole world apart. It wanted to fissure Marinne, again at war, to pieces, to peace. And yet where our story begins did not see this anger—for those obstinate cliffs blocked the saline wrath.

Cadivel, a peaceful town by the rough edges of the sea, does not always see the ocean. The ocean spills over sandy beaches chained to cliffs jutting upwards. These rocky ridges absorb semi-frequent rainfall and sprout grasses, shrubs, and crouching, humpback trees. The first houses appear beyond: the craggy homes of hermits, monks, magicians, and old couples that love the sea. A famous fish shack rests among these homes, stuffed with tourists and locals sampling delicious fresh-fried seafood. Down several streets a town square develops, resting on red bricks and cobblestone. A plaza, trinket shops, cafés, inns, and a few larger townhouses surround the square and an ornamental fountain trickles in the center. Townspeople gather and gossip there in the markets or on holidays. The rest of the houses, humble homes laid out back to back in a variety of colors and shapes congregate around the town square and push outwards by the hundred. On the opposite edge of Cadivel there is a schoolhouse, an open meadow, and a governing house. To the south a great coniferous forest expands. The climate is foggy, moist, and temperate, but often enough pleasant and sunny. One dirt road leaps out of the forest and leads to Cadivel.

That road splits, but earlier than one may expect: before the town even begins. One path runs beside the meadow and schoolhouse while the other takes a left turn towards cliffs to the northwest. This path winds around hills and rises up a giant gray cliff to a castle. It’s a grand, medieval stone castle that casts looming polygonal shadows, with towers and carved-out windows and golden statues perched on the upper sills. The castle’s estate expands to a private beach. This was to where Samuel and Owen were brought—in view of the sea.

“We’re out.” Samuel could tell because the crickets’ and frogs’ croaks and cries had suddenly hushed.

He nudged a sleeping Owen. Owen blinked and came to consciousness.

“Mmmfffg,” he replied.

“Look.” Samuel pushed the curtain off of the window. He saw an untamed field of grass and wildflowers. He leaned to look ahead—and saw a few brick and timber buildings. “Civilization,” Samuel said. His body creaked from stagnation.

Owen stretched and yawned. Owen appeared about thirteen years old, with dark wavy hair, a small mouth, and big, inquisitive eyes. Samuel was three years older, taller, and had a lighter complexion, but the same eyes, although Samuel’s shone an emerald green. Samuel’s face also looked a bit rugged—an explorer’s cheekbones. It made him seem older than he really was.

They had come to the castle in a decrepit horse-drawn carriage, bought by their mother’s last coins. They lurched along charred wastelands, burnt farms and ghost towns. In the morning dew flora and fauna—grasses, flowers, sniffing rodents and cautious birds—began to arise from the ashes, reincarnated from their scattered bones. As the evening redness in the west blossomed trees came, old red oaks and aspens, and they rose up an incline. A full coniferous forest emerged on the fourth day and they journeyed on a single dirt road through evergreens and prickly pines. The carriage stumbled on the bumps and roots and bends of the road. After five days in the forest they emerged into ample open night.

The dirt road twisted but the driver pushed the horses on. The old man had been on the road for nine days and had barely slept. He shouldn’t have put such effort into a poor-paying customer, but he liked Cadivel, although he had been there just once before.

The two boys sat in an awakened stupor, waiting for the journey to end.

The carriage reached the foot of the cliff where the great castle rested. Chimney smoke puffed from afar and the woods lurked behind. The ocean was vast and grey.

“We’re here,” the driver grunted.

The two boys managed to pick themselves up and shove themselves out the door into the night. They staggered blindly, stretching their legs and arms. The stirring sea air filled Samuel’s nose and mouth. Owen noticed first.

“Wait… is that where our uncle lives?” He pointed to the castle’s towers that stretched above the overhanging cliff.

“No way.” Samuel turned to the driver, who looked superbly comfortable dozing against the cliff. “Sir… are you sure this is the right place?”

“Sure as the sun rises.” His plaid cap lay over his face, muffling his voice.

“But…”

He took the cap off of his face, revealing a furry grey beard and twinkling eyes. “Listen, I’m old, real old, and never once gotten a destination wrong. This is where your mother told me to go. So unless she’s wrong, this is the place.” He pulled his cap back over his head.

Samuel shook his head, a smile forming. “I guess our uncle lives in a castle.”

Owen looked incredulous. “Why don’t we live in a castle?”

“Just head up to the main door,” the driver said. “If something’s wrong, I’ll be here. If you don’t come back in ten minutes, I’m heading to town to get a drink.”

“Very well. Thank you very much, sir,” Samuel said.

The two set off on the upward path, pebbles crumbling beneath their worn shoes. When they reached the top, they saw the stunning castle in full. A groomed crop of trees and bushes skirted the edges and a pool rested to the right of the castle, beside the tallest tower of all. A light glowed from its highest window.

They walked to the castle door, smooth wood with a glinting knocker.

“Shall we?” Samuel looked at Owen.

“You do it.”

Samuel chose to rap on the door with his knuckles.

“You need to do it louder,” Owen said.

Samuel tried again.

“Coming, coming, coming…” a voice mumbled from inside the building. The doors swung open, and inside a dim entrance hallway appeared a beautiful young woman, with dark hair and skin, shapely arms and legs, and eyes as black as a starless night. Yet her eyes had a certain resplendence: they reflected the moon like a glimmering stream. She wore a simple brown dress and a necklace with a silver star. She was tall with short hair and looked extremely impatient.

“Who are you?” she asked.

Her beauty struck Owen, but Samuel managed to find his tongue. “Uh… we’re… nephews, of Sir Perrin. My name is Samuel, Samuel Perrin, and this is my brother, Owen. Our mother sent us here since we had to move. She sent a letter.” He fumbled through his pockets and turned it over to her.

Her eyes narrowed as she took the letter.

“Wait here.” She strode off into the darkness.

Owen looked at Samuel with an eyebrow raised.

A moment later she returned. She lead a small, crooked figure: an old man in white robes, face shadowed by a hood. He moved sluggishly towards them.

“Do not fear,” he croaked. “I understand you are Lord Perrin’s nephews. It brings me pleasure to make your acquaintance.” He extended a withered hand. Samuel carefully shook it.

“We are impressed by the house here,” Samuel said.

The man creaked out a laugh. “Yes, it is undeniably quaint. Anyhow, Lord Perrin busies himself at this moment; still I am quite confident you will see him tomorrow morning. Please make yourselves at home. Rose will show you to your rooms. I offer condolences for the moments prior; she is one to suspect strangers.”

Rose scowled.

“It was nice to meet you, sir…?”

“You may call me Henry.” He shuffled away, tortoise-like.

The two boys turned to Rose. She looked menacing. Her face then softened a bit. “He’s in charge of all castle affairs, even though he’s so old he regularly pisses his breeches.”

“He’s still your boss,” Owen said, speaking for the first time.

Rose looked surprised, but surprisingly, not angrier. “I suppose. Follow me.”

She led them through the hall into a large room that had a white marble spiral staircase curling up from the floors below; two massive jeweled chandeliers hung dazzling on either side of the staircase.

“You two will share a bedroom on the third floor. This way.”

Their steps clacked up the marble staircase. On the landing between the first and second floor, a giant glass window faced the ocean. A yellow moon squatted on the horizon and the quiet hushing of waves seeped through the glass. They reached the third floor, a hallway lined with bookcases, closets, and cabinets housing sculptures, glasses, silverware, toys, and tools. Samuel and Owen followed Rose and shut doors popped up along the hallway.

They reached the last door after a minute’s walk. “This is your room,” Rose said, opening the door and lighting the lamps inside. It was a modest bedroom for a castle, with two beds, finely crafted blue quilts and pillows. Still, the room had plenty of space and Samuel suspected silver lining on the window shades. Two closets and a large dresser stood against the wall, along with a few paintings of old men and sailboats on a bright blue ocean.

“Do you have any belongings at all?” she asked. Owen had already climbed on to the bed and may have been asleep.

“Well, we did…” Samuel said, “but we had to leave them. We left in a hurry.”

Rose’s haughty expression relaxed at these words. “Well,” she said in a flat tone, “we’ll just have to fix that. You’ll have clothes tomorrow. I’ll get that ready. Breakfast tomorrow at 8:00. On the first floor, take a right at the foot of the staircase, go until you see a large statue of a fish, look to your right, there it is. I’ll see you boys tomorrow. Good night.”

She left.

“Thank you,” Samuel said as her footsteps receded.

He looked at Owen. Owen was snoring.

***

Preview #2: Anna

Silver

The Gift

Samuel’s prediction was accurate. Samuel’s class at school had twenty-five students—fifteen were visibly rich and the rest middle class. Perrin’s children also attended the school. This meant that the automobile (a huge red one with bug-eye lights and silk seats; the driver claimed it was the first in Cadivel) filled with six kids every morning as it rolled down the cliffs and to an expensive private day school in town. Here children were schooled in impractical subjects to be accepted to one of the elite universities of the kingdom. From there, the children could continue their parent’s economic domination.

The automobile would contain: Vera, the ugly teenager that loved knowledge to the point of obsession; then Samuel; Roland, the kid with the upturned nose, a drawling cynic; Owen; Lindsay, ten, short-haired, and outdo­orsy, searching for insects; and Mica, the youngest (and chubbiest). The car rides often proved eventful due to Mica’s active troublemaking.

School consisted of four teachers and thirty students. Samuel took mathematics, physics, biology, astronomy, history, literature, writing, and languages. Samuel found this private school more intolerable than his old one—challenging, elitist, and frustrating. He thought most of his teachers boring. He often daydreamed of home: first pristine and proud, then a pile of smoking rubble. However, and fortunately, Samuel loved biology. The teacher, an old fellow with a bushy white beard, fascinated him with lectures about the human body and his practical observations of plants and animals.

Most of Samuel’s classmates would not talk to him, sniffing out his farm-boy scent and accent, though Samuel usually spoke properly and held on to his manners. He did make a few friends, notably a boy named Charlie. The two got along after the teacher chastised Samuel for improper grammar. Charlie had raised his hand and said, “I don’t know Miss, I thought his words were spoken good.” Samuel and Charlie both found refuge in helping the biology teacher take care of his remarkable array of plants and pets. Samuel and Charlie talked at lunch about class, the area, hobbies, but never about their past or present lives away from school. The first school thus week flew by for Samuel, and for Owen as well, whose easygoing nature allowed him to make several friends.

On Thursday evening, Samuel decided to go into town. Owen didn’t want to come, instead wishing to spend his free time at the pool. Owen got lost in that pool, drifting as if in a dream. Something about the too-warm water soothed and relaxed him and took his mind away from the flames that billowed throughout his dreams.

Samuel left on his own, dressed in clothes provided by Rose (not the school uniform—far too gray and proper for Samuel’s taste), and ambled down the rough cliffs to the road that curved into Cadivel.

After twenty minutes on the dirt path, Samuel passed through an unwatched iron gate into town. Shops and townhouses replaced farmhouses and isolated buildings. A real town center bloomed around Samuel, unlike anything he had seen before. He was used to a miniscule town square with a market, stables, and one or two shops in his neighborhood, and Gehrig, which had hundreds of streets overflowing with vendors, hustlers, and laborers, but nothing like Cadivel. Cadivel was in between. Red brick homes with blue roofs intermingled among colorful shops, a central plaza with a fountain and a large announcement board covered with posters. In the chill of evening many people still walked about, some rushing, some meandering, some somber and dark-clothed, others laughing and carefree. The moon glowed behind fast-moving clouds, rushing in the wild sea breeze. The sun dissolved on its last breath, burning out into pink haze.

Samuel hoped he would run into Charlie, but he knew that Charlie lived a few miles out of town—there was little chance he would show up on a Thursday night.

Samuel had ten silver pieces in his pocket. He looked around and wandered into a tea and coffee shop: bells jingled and a rich aroma wafted over him. He saw a few people sitting at low tables, drinking by candlelight. A warm drink would be nice, he thought. Never having been in a shop like this, he was unsure what to do. He looked towards the counter: a mounted menu featured beverages scrawled in green chalk.

“Hi there, can I help you?”

A girl about Samuel’s age stood at the counter, dressed in a white uniform. A lump suddenly stuck itself in Samuel’s throat.

“Ah…” He looked at her: she had a smiling, bright, oval face, with even brighter eyes, a twinkling silvery grey, and caramel hair one shade darker than her skin. “I’ll have some tea, please.”

“Which one? We have a special jasmine tonight…”

“Yes, I’ll take that.” Samuel tensed with the effort of restraining a blush

The girl smiled. “Well take a seat and I’ll bring it right out.”

Samuel looked towards the rows of wooden tables. Swiftly turning back, he felt he had to explain himself: “I’m new to this town, so…”

“We have lots of newcomers around, so don’t worry about it. It’ll be two silver pieces.”

Samuel sat down near the window. A worker lit oil lamps in the darkened town square. He watched people walk, waltz, skip, and stagger across the redbrick plaza towards various nightly destinations. A minute later, the girl reappeared at Samuel’s table and set down the hot, aromatic tea. He looked up at the girl, who looked away as they caught each other’s eye. He took out two silver pieces. After a moment of hesitation, he said: “Hi, well, sorry—I’m trying to get something nice, for my brother. A little gift. But I only have eight silver pieces. Do you have any suggestions for someplace to go around here?”

“That little?” She thought about it. “Well, all the obvious places will be too expensive. But there’s a tiny little place on the other side of the square that has beautiful and unique things. I don’t think you could find it in the dark though…” She thought some more. “You know what? I’ll show you it. I stop working in twenty minutes so you can wait for me.”

A shiver crossed Samuel.

“Wow, that’d be great,” he said. “Here.” He gave her an extra silver piece.

She laughed heartily. “Now you don’t have as much money to buy your brother something!”

Samuel shrugged. “Take it.”

Warmed by the tea and the prospect of getting his brother a gift, he sat by the window, sipping the infatuating drink, watching swirls cross the surface, waiting for time to pass.

He felt the softest tap on his shoulder. The girl had changed and now wore a deep red collared shirt. “Let’s go.”

So they went. Out the door into a breezy night, still rich with sea salt and the flavors of a busy day: flowers, roasting meat, musty rugs for sale, whiskey, sweat. They walked across the plaza under flickering lamps into an alleyway. “Up here,” she said. They climbed a concealed stairwell behind a garden. As he followed her up the stairs, she looked back once and their eyes met: silver on green. It lasted just a second but Samuel would not forget.

They entered the shop, again with the tinkling of bells. The cluttered shop was lit with candles, casting maroon shadows.

“Hi Bors,” the girl said as they entered. A wizened old man rose from a wicker chair and set down a wooden doll and metal tools.

“Hello Annabel, dear,” he wheezed. “What brings you to my humble shop?”

“A friend,” she replied, gesturing to Samuel, who smiled.

“Hello sir.”

“He’s looking for something good and cheap to get for his brother,” Annabel added.

“How cheap?” asked Bors, now wiping his eyeglasses with cloth.

“Eight silver pieces.”

Bors sighed. “Eight’s not much around here.”

“I know sir, but please, surely there is something,” Samuel said.

“Well there’s certainly something.” Bors hobbled around the shop. The shelves were loaded with all sorts of objects—glass balls and sculptures, bags, watches, jewelry, unusual candlesticks, pots and pans, mirrors, toys, even lamps.

“You know what,” Bors said, “since dear Annabel brought you here, and she is a good friend of mine, I’ll show you the very best thing I own worth eight silver pieces.” He disappeared into a backroom.

“Do you come here often? It’s a great place.” Samuel asked Annabel in Bors’s absence.

“Yes, Bors is a good friend of my grandfather’s.”

“Do you really think something will be only eight pieces?”

Anna smiled and handed him a silver coin. “We can try nine.”

The candles burned, fizzing sparks like sea spray. Bors returned holding a watch. He motioned for Samuel to come.

“Now this looks like an ordinary watch, and if it was, it would be a fine one,” Bors began. The watch was silver and had small engravings for the times. “But here’s the special part. On the back, where it connects around your wrist, is a little tube right here. It’s a sort of beautiful mirror, look, look!”

Samuel examined the watch’s back. On the silver ridged strap a tube extended that reflected light in a kaleidoscope of radiant mists. As he moved it, the colors swirled like shifting clouds; Annabel’s face passed through and the candles appeared as octagonal rubies surrounded by whirling teal eyes.

“Wow,” Samuel said. “I have nine. Is that enough?”

“It’s a discount,” Bors admitted. “But I’m willing to sell it to you.”

“I’ll take it. If I had more I would pay more. Thank you so much.” Samuel exchanged money for the watch and now he had a gift for Owen.

Samuel and Annabel left the shop with thanks and walked back towards emptied plaza.

“I need to head home now,” Samuel said. He shivered in the night and felt his face blush.

“Okay.” Annabel seemed cold in the night air; her face appeared lighter, softer, and shadows of her hair fluttered gently. “Well it was nice to meet you, um… I never asked your name.”

“Samuel. And I know you are Annabel. Thanks very much for helping me. I can’t wait to give this to my brother.”

“Samuel… You can just call me Anna. And it was no problem.” The clouds had receded from around the moon, which shone solitary in the black sky.

“I’m glad I met you, Anna,” Samuel found himself saying, “Maybe I’ll see you again.”

A rosy pink clouded her cheeks. “Yes. I work in the teashop most evenings. I should go now too. Bye Samuel!” She was then swept away by a quiet breeze, a zephyr drifting by.

Samuel stood in the center of the plaza. Anna’s moonlit face burnt itself into his memory. The silver eyes and watch. He glanced at it: it proved quite late. But Samuel didn’t rush. He let the strong sea breeze push him along, cricket and bullfrog cries pulling him towards the forest, its gravity heaving as a whirlpool of sound.

Night had truly descended upon Cadivel when Samuel made it back to his bedroom. He gave the watch to Owen, who was grateful but refused the gift. “It’s yours Samuel, really. I don’t need a watch. I’m really thankful but this should be yours.”

Ordinarily Samuel would have insisted Owen take it, but Samuel felt that he wanted to the watch, and accepted his own present as a gift from his brother. “Thank you.”

“You’re my brother, Samuel. You don’t owe me anything! That’s what Reuben would always say.”

Samuel wondered if Reuben had ever seen a girl like Anna.

“Good night.”

***

Preview #3: The Mystery of Raymond Perrin

Thunder

The Mission

The pair put on the darkest clothes Rose had given them and left saying that they were going to visit all the truffle and taffy shops in the town, to which Mica jealously responded: “That will take one million bajillion years.”

Clouds shrouded the night: not even the moon shone through. Thus a complete blackness had wrapped the city in a blanket, stifling the wind. The remaining stillness only had an occasional flutter of nomadic wisps. A single oil lamp lit the road every hundred feet, casting a yellow glow. Once the two boys left the center of town, filled with yells and greetings and delicious scents, they truly were in the void of the dirt road away from the source of all civilization. Owen lit his own butterfly red flame for warmth and light, sputtering and spinning in his white fingertips.

As they walked the dirt road through houses and cliffs and trees, they did not speak to one another. They both contemplated the task ahead. The night did not darken further—the blackness was already mature just a few hours after sunset.

The twenty-minute walk dragged on for hours in Samuel’s mind. He was nervous they would get caught, nervous to find out the truth, nervous that all the preparation and nervousness would be a waste.

They approached the grand castle and paused halfway up the widening cliff towards it. It glowed with candles in the night and phantoms of shadow moved within the lit windows. Staring up at the palace of lights above them, they waited, shivering in the cold.

“Let’s go,” said Samuel.

They stayed close to the cliff’s edge so they could not be seen from the castle. Every noise now seemed amplified—the pebbles shook like lion’s roars, the rustling grass howled as a screaming typhoon. As they reached the top of the path, they ducked behind the ledge.

“What now?” Owen whispered.

“Straight for those trees.”

A thick line of trees and bushes was situated at a point midway between the boys’ current location, the castle door they were trying to get to, and the side gardens. The distance seemed longer than in daylight.

They took deep breaths. “Ready?” Samuel said.

Owen shook his head.

“Go.”

They sprinted across the dark lawn, crouching near the ground. The wind bawled in Samuel’s ear and he felt his heart rate rise to a thumping bass beat and they made it, diving into the dewy grass by the thick-leafed trees, blocking the castle from view. Owen was crouching, breathing heavily, and Samuel fell to his knees, thinking out loud, We made it this far, come on, We made it this far, come on… The two brothers waited in the bushes there for five, and then ten minutes, waiting to be discovered. It seemed inevitable. Samuel suddenly felt miniscule—they weren’t prepared to break into Lord Perrin’s castle and listen to secrets from right under his nose. There must be servants everywhere! How could he be so stupid as to drag Owen into this? He heard nebulous clamor from the castle, peeked around the tree and saw two drunk dignitaries stumbling across the grass.

Owen looked straight ahead. Samuel couldn’t figure out what he was thinking and waited for silence and emptiness to return.

Sighing, Samuel tapped Owen on the shoulder. “Ready?”

Owen nodded.

Blood pounding in their ears, they crept around to the edge of the bushes and trees, peeking towards the back door. Its topmost corner jutted out above a row of hedges. The paved path and gardens had no inhabitants and none of the lamps were lit. It seemed safe. After looking at each other they sprinted, heads down, into a tight corner of hedges by the door. As they cooled down and made sure no one had heard or seen them, Samuel found himself staring at the door. It leered and taunted him, as all closed doors sometimes do—do you really have the courage to open me? What happens if Raymond Perrin is standing right inside?

They walked through thick shadows to the door. Samuel put his hand on it and turned it soundlessly. He hesitated, and then pulled the door carefully open.

The back hallway was dark. The two entered, shut the door, and immediately felt trapped and exposed. Activity, lights, and noise stumbled through the walls into the eerie darkness of the hallway. Samuel glanced first towards the back end of the hallway, which would lead to the kitchen, and then to the other side that led to the dining room. Samuel moved close to his brother’s ear and mouthed: “You go and listen to what’s going on in the kitchen, I’ll go listen to what’s going on in the dining room.”

Owen gave the slightest nod and crept the other end. It seemed that people were proceeding with merriment—people shouted for more wine and “Bravo!”

After a final backwards glance at Owen, Samuel focused on being as silent as possible and hearing what happened in the room. He moved his ear close to the door without touching it. His heart pounded fiercely, seemingly intensifying every second. A cold sweat chilled his neck.

“Do you agree with what’s going on here, Carroway?” A rich, booming voice filled much of the room, making it difficult for Samuel to find Perrin’s voice.

“Leroy, I do, I think it’s genius, but…”

“…I feel like some details…”

“We’ll be rich, I know it! Andrew, pay attention, Mr. Robin will infiltrate…”

Samuel filtered through the different voices until he finally heard Raymond Perrin. He held his breath and listened closely.

“I’ve heard the talk going around this foul room.” Raymond Perrin voice sharpened like an axe and rose in volume. “Don’t even consider turning your back on me. I organized this; I did the dirty work,” he spat. “Cadivel will be ours you fool, all of ours, but it will firstly be mine!” Undoubtedly Perrin strode around in a fury. “Who will kill the mayor? Who invested the most money into the mining industry for weapons and kept the business from falling apart? Who kept in contact with the government to ensure we received all the funding for our plan? But most importantly, who could scorch you to a crisp?” Perrin was shouting and the room had fallen silent. Samuel found himself struggling to hold his breath—he was sure if he exhaled he would be heard in the complete silence.

Samuel then heard the trickling of wine and the beginning of distracted conversation, mainly about politics and the weather. Samuel continued holding his breath for another minute and began to turn blue. He backed away from the door and gasped for air into his own shirt. Owen turned around and glared at him. But they seemed to be safe in the black corridor. Owen raised his eyebrows. Samuel unfurled a single finger, and returned to the door.

Trying vigorously to hear every word exchanged within the dining hall for the next two minutes, Samuel heard nothing beyond small talk. He had heard enough. Returning to the center of the hallway, he gestured to Owen, and they slipped outside.

The night felt identical though perhaps brighter—their eyes had adjusted to darkness. They approached hedges, the last barrier before the open yard.

“Did you hear anything?” Owen whispered.

Samuel nodded. “I’ll talk later. Let’s go back to those hedges out there.”

Feeling braver than they had when they sprinted in, they dashed out into the night towards the tree line, still ducking close to their own shadows, but not with the same mad fear. Samuel beat Owen to the trees and leaped behind them; Owen, a few yards behind, glanced over his shoulder as he collapsed behind some tall bushes, and he saw a light on in an upper window in the castle—and then at once leaves and brambles obscured the view. Felix Stein had returned to his bedroom and opened his window, staring out into the tar and pitch sky and around the permanently pristine castle grounds, so devoid of the chaos of the real world. He looked at the trees that Samuel and Owen hid behind.

Owen crawled over to Samuel’s body. “A light’s on,” he said. “I think someone’s looking out at the yard. We should hide for a little.”

Samuel nodded and collapsed on the cold grass.

And so they waited. They felt the temperature drop and bugs buzz by, looking for safe, warm homes. After ten minutes, Owen moved to the edge and peeked his head out. All the upper lights were off; there were no faces in the windows. He sighed deeply.

“Okay Samuel, I think we can go now.”

They sprinted off despite tiring limbs and dove over the small ledge, the beginning of the cliffs, onto the dirt path, and sat down against the crumbling walls.

“We made it. We made it,” Owen said, huffing and puffing.

“Not yet,” Samuel said. “Let’s get a little farther away.”

Staying close to the cliffs, the two retreated. Once the castle disappeared behind the towering rocky cliffs, Samuel turned to Owen, and told him what he had heard as they walked.

“So to me, it seems like Lord Perrin is about to kill the mayor of Cadivel. And probably start controlling the city.”

“That seems clear.” Owen nodded with a horrified, pinched mouth.

“I don’t understand the part about the weapons though. Why are they mining materials for weapons?”

“If you’re taking over a city, I’m sure weapons come in handy.”

“And that part about the government? Why would the government fund him to kill a mayor? A publicly elected figure?”

“I have no idea.”

Suddenly Samuel’s face lit up, partly in excitement, partly in horror. “You know Owen, we need to do something about this!”

“Like what?”

Samuel stared down the dirt road. “Tell the mayor! We need to tell the mayor!”

“Do you really think anyone will believe us?”

“Well…” It hit Samuel that Perrin’s plan was essentially complete. If Samuel told the mayor or any public figure, they wouldn’t believe him—he had no proof. If Samuel tried to confront Perrin, bad things would happen. If Samuel tried to confront whatever spirit Perrin had summoned, worse things would happen. There was no way.

“We need to at least try to tell someone,” Samuel said.

“You’re right.”

The clock struck midnight; the bell in the center of the town gave a single, half-hearted bong, caught and dissolved by the viscous, starless night before it reached Samuel and Owen.

“I didn’t get to use any magic,” Owen said.

“Yes, thankfully.”

They continued silently through the void. “We can go to the governing house tomorrow,” Samuel said. “It’s right down this road. We need to at least try.”

They arrived in town. Samuel’s legs were wobbling: he was prepared to collapse into a deep slumber. The central town square remained empty with just a single lamp on, the same one that washed glow over Annabel’s face. All of the sudden Samuel heard a window close. He looked up in the corner and he saw Annabel sitting and looking down at a desk, face washed in fragmented, oscillating light and shadow. Turning towards the window, he said to Owen, “Head home. I’ll be there soon.”

The sight of Annabel reminded Samuel of tiny thoughts that flooded him at once in a massive downpour. Checking his watch and thinking of her face’s reflection in it. Locking eyes with someone accidentally and imagining hers. Had he dreamt of her? Dreams of Anna in languorous worlds of sapphire sunshine? No—in Samuel’s dreams everything came fiery, redhot before a strong wind came and wiped everything to ash-gray, only gray, and sometimes white.

Owen sleepily nodded and walked away. Samuel stepped towards the house and looked up. She was on the top floor of a thin, ragged brick house that stretched up three stories, cramped on each side by other houses. Green vines furled over the building and flowers lined the room and doorway.

He reached down and picked up a tiny dislodged piece of cobblestone. He threw it gently up. It bounced off her window with a clack.

All of the sudden he felt stupid and nervous. Why would you do that? What makes you think she even remembers you?

A sliding noise.

“Samuel?”

He had turned around, prepared to storm off.

“What are you doing?” Her voice drifted down, not angry or scornful.

“Uh… Anna!” he exclaimed, trying to stay quiet enough not to wake anyone else. “Well, I just happened to be walking by, and I heard you close your window…”

She smiled genuinely, casting a happy glow down towards Samuel. “I was wondering where you had been. Where have you been?” She leaned out the window and her hair tilted towards Samuel; her eyes caught a gleam of the lamplight.

“Really busy,” he said. “Well, I don’t really know why I wanted to get your attention… I suppose I wanted to ask if you were around tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow? Yep, it’s my day off.”

“Well, would you like to do something?”

“Something?” she said. “That’s vague.” She pushed her hair out of her face.

“Whatever you like,” Samuel said. “I don’t know this town very well, so I don’t know what would be good.”

“In that case I’ll leave it as a surprise for you! Just meet me over by the fountain tomorrow. What time?”

Restraining a grin, Samuel shrugged with false nonchalance. “How about four?”

“Perfect! I really need to get to sleep. I’ll see you tomorrow, Samuel. I’m glad you dropped by.”
“Me too,” he said, nervously laughing. “I’m glad I happened to notice you there.” The clouds receded and the moon peeked out—the world felt infinitely brighter and more spacious; a silver light descended and swept over the plaza.

She waved. “Good night Samuel.”

“Good night.”

The window closed but Anna took a last look and a last wave, and then disappeared. The light went out.

Samuel realized his armpits were damp with sweat. He stretched and sighed. “My god,” he said.

And then he realized he was happy. He soared back to the sleeping townhouse and stared at the ceiling from bed. The moon brimmed with bright water and slipped a disc of light through the window shades, a single beam of reflected sun, a straight line of glow.

***

Album of the Week: Big Echo, the Morning Benders

Book of the Week: A Severed Head, Iris Murdoch

The next blog post will not be about Cadivel, I promise! Stay tuned…

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