My current work in progress is a companion novel to the Forged in Flames series. Within its pages, readers will discover an original short story. Keep reading for a sneak peek of Nethervale: The Land Between.
A very long time ago, there existed a land nestled between two large countries. It was called Nethervale, the land between lands, but to the citizens of its bordering countries, it was simply The Land Between. The land was separated from them by mountains on either side. It was a long journey from each country into The Land Between and since nothing was ever gained from venturing there, those peoples tended to leave it alone. With one exception. When there was born, in either country, a child whose form was not perfect or whose arrival was somehow inconvenient or in need of hiding, that child was brought to the Resting Place, a meadow high in the hills of The Land Between. From there the people would be alerted through a sign and the child would be brought to live in one of the clanhomes. This had been a very ancient practice of which the peoples of the land were honor bound.
On this particular spring day, Pen had been alerted that a child had been left in the Resting Place. Raven had been in the tall tree when Pen looked out the window that morning and as he glanced up at him, Raven had slowly turned his head to look directly into his eyes. Pen left immediately. It was a two-hour journey and, although babes had always experienced the blessing of safety in that place, it was expected that once Raven alerted, the foundling would be attended to as quickly as possible. At once, Pen left his place at the table, his steaming bowl of wildberry grain abandoned. Nodding his head gravely towards the window, he rose and kissed his wife goodbye. Pin watched her husband gather his bag and staff, put on his heavy boots and head down the path. She went to the window to wash her few dishes and as she looked up, she saw Raven leave his perch on wide black wings to fly alongside the Guardian. For, that, of course is what Pen was. He was the Guardian. He had been appointed when the last guardian of the people had passed. It was left to Pen to gather the foundlings when they arrived, to name them and place them in the clanhome he chose. Pin was proud of her husband and sang as she went about tidying the little cottage.
As he travelled down the well-trodden trail, Pen passed several other cottages. Smoke streamed from chimneys and children played at doorways. Whenever clansfolk saw him walking into the hills, they knew what he was about and sometimes young ones would follow for a time, peppering him with questions. This morning, Pen wasn’t surprised, when upon seeing him, two boys immediately left their game of sticks and ran after him. Pen knew them well. Curious they were and bright. Twins with mops of curly brown hair and the bronze skin of their clansmen. Kit and Kip were their names and they were relentless. “Where are you off to?” “Can we come?” “Is there a foundling?” “Who will raise it?” And even, in one voice, “Can we have it?” Finally, Pen stopped and with gentle scolding shooed them back to their home. Finally, alone again, he took out a cob pipe and lit it. The sweet smell drifted up into the trees as his path took him higher and higher into the hills.