NOTE: The following is from the rough draft of the work in progress. Parts of it will change prior to publication (including any errors I haven’t caught yet), but I think it presents a good feel for the title character of the new book. (BTW, the book is still on schedule for September publication.)
Avenall leaned back against the trunk of the tree, his natural grace helping him to balance easily on the wide branch. He’d received a new flash drive full of music from his human friend Danton today, and he closed his eyes, leaning his head back to relax as he pressed the earbuds into his ears. Danton advised him this new music was called “prog rock”. It was like nothing he had ever imagined. It was so different from the slow, passionless chanting of the elves that they proclaimed as music.
Minutes into the second song, he was startled from his trance when the branches of the tree reached out swiftly to entwine around him. As his mouth opened in a gasp, a branch snaked around his head, gagging him so that he could not speak nor utter a sound. As the tree’s rough arms continued to twist rapidly around him, eventually covering his body completely, he wondered if he had somehow offended the dryads and his fate would end here in this tree as he slowly starved to death within his wooden cage.
Then, in the gaps between the twigs and leaves that covered his face, he caught a glimpse of something that frightened him even more than slow starvation: his father came stamping through the forest toward the tree where he was hiding. Avenall held his breath until he had passed. His father glanced overhead from time to time as he walked and then passed beyond the tree where his son was hidden. Avenall heard his footsteps continue farther into the woods.
Shortly after the sound of the footfalls faded, the branches began to unwrap themselves, treating him gently now. He looked around for the maker of his cocoon. On the large branch slightly above him, Eugenia’s head began to separate from the trunk of the tree, bark transforming to flesh as she returned to her humanoid, ambulatory shape. He turned away, embarrassed, as a bare shoulder materialized, and he realized she might not be dressed when she appeared.
After a few moments, he heard her soft voice. “I’m sorry, but I didn’t have time to warn you. You can turn now. I’m robed.”
Avenall turned his head back to her, smiling. The soft blue gown set off the icy blue of her eyes. “My thanks to you. For a time, I thought I had offended the dryads. I am glad it was only you.”
“It is best to keep in mind what could happen if you did offend us.” She was smiling. He knew she loved to tease him. But to her, he was just a boy. No matter how much of his heart he held out to her, there was no hope that she would ever notice him as anything else. Even to his own people he was a child. The elves would not consider him anything else until he had attained an age of at least thirty years. He had lived only seventeen to this point. He would have lived no further years at all if his father had found him listening to human music with human technology.
“Do you want to hear it? It’s so free…”
“No, I do not want to hear! If your father discovers that the reason you sneak away is to listen to human music and watch those moving paintings on your machine, he will gladly swing the sword at your beheading. How can you be so foolish? You were nearly discovered this time.”
Avenall shrugged. “Perhaps it would be better for everyone if he did find out. He has made it clear to me that I will never be anything but a disappointment to him. I had no control over the nature of the magic I was born with! At least I can tend the dragons. I might have had so little magic that I could only tend the cows, the pigs, and the chickens and be valued by my people only slightly more than humans.”
“There is nothing wrong with the magic you have. Your gift to share the mind of the creatures around us is a blessing. If the elves were not so arrogant, they would hold you in esteem for your gift–to ride in the mind of dragons, to soar above the earth with there–how can they not see the beauty and power of that?”
“It is difficult to believe in my value when everyone but you says I have so little. And even so, I love tending the dragons. I love the fiery intelligence of their minds. I wouldn’t want a warrior’s magic even if I could have it.” Avenall aggressively shoved his long black hair back from where it had crept over one eye. “I would live among the humans if I was able. There, I would not be the lowliest member of their society. I could be whatever I want to be.”
“Assuredly. As long as that did not include being an elf. Not all of the humans are accepting of fae.”
“No, but I could go to the queen. Look…” Avenall queued up one of the videos Danton had brought him and held it out to Eugenia so she could watch. “Do you see? She wants us all to live together as friends. Like Danton and I are friends, like your sister Euphemia is friends with the queen and her mother.”
“Yes, but she is not the same queen who once led us. Morgan is gone. While I like and obey this young queen, she has not been able to keep the fae united. Your people show her little respect. She must not continue to associate herself with the Abomination or other fae will begin to turn away as well.”
“She says he isn’t Faolan since she removed his memories. And she is the queen–we should listen to her.”
“Avie, I think you only like her because she is human. I fear you want to be human as well.”
Any other elf would have struck her brutally at the suggestion. Avenall only turned his face to the ground and shook his head sadly. Then he returned his gaze to hers and sighed deeply. “No. I just want to be me. And me? I like human music. And I like humans, even though I am elf.”
That’s it for the sneak peek! I’m getting very excited about the book and Avenall. He has an interesting story to tell. Obviously, there will be plenty about the usual crowd, but I think this new character is going to add excitement to the tale–and maybe even catch the eye of one of our lovely ladies :-)