Chapter One Excerpt
Below, you’ll find an excerpt from Chapter One of Song of Parting.
Katarina Starsend lowered her long feather quill, sitting back in her chair with a smile. “That came out rather well, if I do say so myself.”
The still-damp parchment grinned in reply.
Tales passed through the ages had always fascinated her, but The Ballad of Hugh and Lilia held a special place in her heart. It had been one of her mother’s favorites, before her untimely passing, and was one of the first works she had set about independently translating in her early years as a scholar.
It had not been until her time with the gnomes, however, that her passion for the story was raised to new heights. A curious visitor to their collective, a friendly gnome by the name of Red, had told her of a fringe theory related to the famous couple. “There is evidence,” he had explained, “of the two not only genuinely existing”—a suspicion Katarina had long held to be true—“but of their being reborn.” The gnome’s voice had squeaked, his eyes wide, as though the final word held a world of its own, a new paradigm around which to orient her life.
Which had been precisely what occurred.
Reading back through Red’s trail of evidence, Katarina found many false rebirths alongside a few plausible reincarnations. At the gnome’s invitation, she had taken up residence in a small cabin a day’s ride from Red’s Cross, on the edge of the Stormside Forest, and helped him tackle the question of how they might identify a true rebirth if one were to occur in their lifetime.
Wax dripped from her candle onto the curved tray of its holder. She blew softly across the final shimmers of ink, waiting for the newest translation into Caldaran to dry.
Hooves clattered on the stone path outside her cabin. Katarina rose and ran to the door. Aravar, her older brother, was riding a great black stallion that cantered straight for her. Katarina ducked back inside the threshold door as he pulled the horse to a stop and swung down.
“Baby sister!” Aravar’s white teeth gleamed against his dark skin. Katarina ran to meet him, and her brother swung her up into his arms. “Let me see.” He pulled back and reached for her hands, turning them over. “Ah, here we are. Just as I suspected.” Aravar pointed to the ink stains along her fingers from her quill and blotting paper. “You’ve been hard at work already today?”
Katarina brushed her braids back over her shoulder. “There are countless stories in the world, and they’re in desperate need of recording.” She grinned and took the reins of his horse, leading the stallion to the pen in the small orchard behind her cabin.
“I was hoping you would say that.” Aravar’s eyes flashed over the back of his horse as he began to remove the saddle. “I have something of note to share with you, actually.”
Katarina’s pulse quickened. “Have you really?”
“Yes, little sister.” The brush bristles swished over the stallion’s black coat. “Your special project, searching for the new incarnations of Lilia throughout history?”
She leaned in closer. Aravar’s gaze followed a pair of sparrows flitting through of the eaves of the orchard. Katarina bounced back and forth from foot to foot. The stallion noticed her nervous energy and pawed the earth. “Just tell me. Did you find her?”
Another bright smile. “We may have. I followed Red’s notes, checking up on the various accounts he’s collected.” Katarina held her breath. They had been waiting for a chance like this in their research. “Kat, she’s alive now. To the east, in the kingdom and court of Linolynn, a young half-elf.”
Katarina narrowed her eyes, waiting for her brother to indicate he was less than serious.
His eyebrows contracted. “Did you hear me? We could go meet her, now!”
She skipped around to the other side of the horse and hugged Aravar. “Is it really true? What did Red say?”
Aravar grinned. “He wants you to go investigate, of course. Said he’d help connect you with the scholars there and would put you as close to her as possible. I have his letter of recommendation here somewhere . . .” He patted his pockets.
“You probably left it in the saddlebags.” Aravar tended to misplace small items, especially when he was excited about a project.
“Ah, yes, right again.” He shrugged and resumed brushing. “Anyway, I thought I would stop here, have a cup of tea with you, rest the horse, share the good news, and escort you to Io Keep.”
“That sounds perfect.” Katarina’s arms wrapped around her waist, her mind spinning at the possibilities. “I can hardly believe it. All this morning, I’ve been working on translating one of the lesser-known versions of Hugh and Lilia’s story. I just finished the account of their meeting if you’d like to read it while you rest.”
Aravar patted the stallion’s nose and led him over to a barrel of rainwater. After the horse had drank his fill, her brother strode toward the fence and sprang over the wooden railing. “I would love nothing more.”
Katarina laughed and hurried after him, letting herself out of the gate. She withdrew Lilia’s portion of the story from the stack of notes on her kitchen table. “Here you are—read away.”
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