Brown River Queen cover art

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Yes, another blog post about the book!

Just in case anyone is on the fence about trying this Tuttle character's new YA book (and I don't blame you being suspicious of me), I thought I'd put out another sample today.

This was taken from near the start of the book. You've got three of the main characters having a meal and plotting; there aren't any spoilers, so read freely.

Remember, the whole thing is now available for your Kindle or Kindle-enabled device here!


“But here we are, two old gaffers doddering on about roads and boats when we ought to be talking about the lovely young lady in our midst,” said Shingvere, as he handed Meralda another bottle of Nolbit’s. “So tell us about the Tower, Mage Meralda,” he said. “Seen the haunt, have you?”

Meralda groaned. “Please,” she said. “Not that. Anything but that.”

Fromarch, from his shadowed repose in his enormous Phendelit reclining chair, guffawed. “Oh, he’s always believed in haunts and the like,” he said. “Can’t blame him, really, given the standards of education in dear old Erya.”

Shingvere ignored the jibe. “’Tis true I spent a whole summer chasing the Tower shade,” he said. “Back in—oh, 1967, it was. Did you know that?”

Meralda blinked. “I didn’t,” she said. No more Nolbit’s, she decided. Her legs and arms were getting heavy, while her head seemed light and wobbly.

She sank back into Fromarch’s couch, pulled a small copper funnel from behind the small of her back, and relaxed again.

“Nobody does,” said Fromarch, after a sip of beer and a sigh. “Too bloody embarrassing. If the Exchequer found out we’d spent from the crown’s purse on a spook hunt, we’d have been put out on our heads, and rightly so.”

Meralda frowned. “Were you a part of this, Mage?” she asked.

“Reluctantly,” Fromarch growled. “I was to make sure our Eryan friend didn’t mistake flying squirrels for long-dead wizards.” Fromarch leaned forward, so that his short ring of thin white hair and pale cheekbones shone faintly in the dim, slanting rays of the setting sun streaming lazily through the window. “The ghost hunt, of course, was nonsense,” he began.

“Aye, but people were seeing lights in the Wizard’s Flat,” said Shingvere, quickly. “Reliable people. Guardsmen. Reporters. Even,” he said, after a pause and a grin, “a noted Tirlish Thaumaturge.”

Meralda shook her head to clear it. “You?” she asked Fromarch, incredulous. “You saw something?”

Fromarch snorted. “I saw lights in the Wizard’s Flat,” he said. “Once. Just lights, nothing more. Could have been kids with a lantern.”

Meralda thought about the long, long climb to the Wizard’s Flat, and the locked door at the top.

“These were clever, determined children,” said Shingvere. “Aye, one might even say brilliant, since the Tower, that evening, was locked, sealed with wards, and under heavy guard by no fewer than two dozen watchmen.” Shingvere assumed a pose of mock concentration. “In fact, I recall someone, I’m not sure who, making a grand proclamation early that very evening that no human being could possibly enter the Tower, that night. Who was that, I wonder?”

Fromarch emptied his bottle and put it down with a thump. “Lights at a window do not prove the existence of haunts,” he said. “Neither did you, I recall, despite a whole three months of fussing about with magnetometers and radial thaumeters and that bloody heavy wide-band scrying mirror,” he added. “My back still aches, some days, from carrying that thing up and down those stairs while you pretended to fiddle with the holdstones.”

Shingvere held up his hand. “Aye. You’re correct,” he said. “I found nothing.” The little wizard fixed his eyes on Meralda’s. “Perhaps, though, I just wasn’t looking with the right pair of eyes.”

“Bah,” snorted Fromarch. He waved a finger at the Eryan. “We both know that the lights, if they weren’t reflections off the window glass, were nothing but a residual discharge from some old structural spell.”
Shingvere shrugged. Meralda remembered the laughter on the stair and shivered and took another cold draught of Fromarch’s beer.

“Bah,” said Fromarch again. “So how are you going to go about moving the Tower shadow, Thaumaturge?” he asked.

Meralda wiped her lips. “Directed refraction,” she said. Shingvere slapped his knee.

“Told you!” he crowed. Fromarch scowled.

“He thought you’d hang those spark lights of yours from scaffolds and aim them at the ground,” said Shingvere. “I told him they weren’t bright enough, and if they were they’d be too hot.”

Meralda nodded. “I’m working on cooler, brighter lights,” she said. “But that could take months. Months I won’t get, with Yvin wasting my time at every turn.”

“Spoken like a mage, lass!” said Shingvere. The Eryan donned a wicked smile. “Now you see why I spend so much time away from Erya and that blatherskite queen. She’d have me whiling away the hours as a magic carpet cleaner, you mark my words.”

Fromarch snorted. “So instead you come to Tirlin and chase ghosts,” he said, lifting his bottle. “Another college education, gone sadly to waste.”

Shingvere grinned. “Will you be latching your refraction spell to the Tower itself?” he asked.

“Of course,” said Meralda. “The focal volume will be just below the ceiling of the Wizard’s Flat.” She tilted her head. “If, that is, your ghosts won’t mind.”

Shingvere nodded gravely. “Oh, I don’t think they will,” he said. “But I’d ask them nicely first, all the same. No harm in being polite, is there?”

“No harm in being a soft-headed old fool, either,” muttered Fromarch. He leaned back into the shadows. “But do have a care latching spells to the Tower,” he said. “We had a devil of a time, way back when.”

“Aye,” Shingvere said. “The structural spellworks left a residual charge. New spells tend to unlatch, after a short time. Even old skinny there had trouble working around it.”

Fromarch began to snore. Shingvere yawned and rose from his settee, padding quickly across the dimly lit room toward Meralda. “Well,” he said, smiling. “Just like old times. Seems we young folks need to put the oldsters to bed.”

Shingvere offered his hand, and Meralda took it, and rose. “It’s good to have you two back,” she said, in a whisper. “I’ve been worried about him, since he retired. He used to come around, but lately...”

“He doesn’t want you to feel like you’re still working in his shadow,” replied Shingvere. “He’s really not such a bad old fellow, once you get to know him. And I’m sure he wouldn’t mind a bit of company here, now and then.”

Meralda nodded. I’ll make the time, she vowed. Yvin can deal with it in any way he pleases.

Shingvere grinned. “That’s my ’prentice,” he said. Fromarch began to mumble restlessly.

“I’ll see you at court, I’m sure,” said Shingvere. “Tomorrow. But for now, we should all get some sleep. News of the Hang will break tomorrow, and that will make for a very long day of hand-wringing and useless conjecture.”

Meralda groaned softly and rose. Shingvere took her hand, and the pair tip-toed, giggling and stumbling, through Fromarch’s darkened sitting room.

Meralda gathered her light cloak from the rack on the wall and stepped outside. Angis and his coach sat in the dim red glow of a gas lamp. Angis’ cabman’s hat slumped over his eyes, and his chest rose and fell in perfect time with Fromarch’s snores.

Shingvere laughed. “Looks like we’re the only ones left awake,” he said.

“Good night,” said Meralda, struggling to regain her composure. “It’s been a lovely evening.” She shook her head to clear it, letting the cool night air wash over her face.

Shingvere bowed. “Aye, lass, that it has,” he said. “Would that I were thirty years younger.”

Meralda returned his bow. “You’ve been an old bachelor all your life,” she said. “But I love you anyway, you rascal of an Eryan wand-waver.”

Then she darted for the cab. Shingvere laughed and bowed and watched her go. He waved once to Angis as the cabman snapped his reins. Then he turned back to the door and Fromarch’s lightless sitting room.

Inside, Fromarch stirred. “She gone?” he asked.

“Gone,” said Shingvere, settling into a chair and fumbling in the dark for his pipe pouch.

Fromarch muttered a word, and a light blazed, slow and gentle, from a point below the center of the ceiling.

“Thank you,” said Shingvere, filling the bowl of a blackened, ancient Phendelit wood pipe. “May I?”

“Please do,” said Fromarch. A flame appeared at Shingvere’s fingertip, and he lit his pipe with it.

“She’s in for a bad summer,” said Shingvere, after a moment of sucking at the pipe stem. “The Hang. The Tower. The Vonats.”

Fromarch nodded. “Vonats are sending that new wizard of theirs. Humindorus Nam. Mean piece of work.”
“So I hear,” said Shingvere. “Think the stories are true?”

Fromarch snorted. “Every other word, if that,” he said. Then he frowned. “Still. Met him once, years ago, outside Volot. Don’t ask what I was doing there.”

“I won’t,” said Shingvere. “Mainly because I’ve known for years, but go ahead.”

“Met him then,” said Fromarch, squinting back as if across the years. “Called himself just Dorus, then. Mad, he was. Twisted up inside. Didn’t figure he’d last long enough to be a danger to anybody but himself.”

Shingvere pulled his pipe from between his lips. “He’s still a danger to himself, I’ll wager,” he said. “Pity is, he might be a danger to Mage Ovis, too. We can always hope a manure cart runs over him first, but I don’t think that’s likely.”

Fromarch grunted. “She’s smarter than both of us put together,” he said, gruffly. “She can take care of herself. And Nam too, if need be.”

Shingvere nodded. “Of course, of course,” he said. “After all, it’s bad form for one wizard to interfere in the matters of another. She’d be furious, and rightly so.”

“Simply isn’t done,” said Fromarch, shaking his finger. “Breech of professional etiquette. Runs counter to everything we taught her.”

Shingvere wedged his pipe in the corner of his mouth and settled deeper into his chair. “Glad that’s settled, then,” he said. “So, which lot do you want to interfere with? The Vonat or the Hang?”

Fromarch dimmed the foxfire, conjured up a fresh-rolled Alon cigar, and broke into a sudden, awful grin.

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