Holly Bennett is the author of six teen novels: Redwing, The Bonemender fantasy series (The Bonemender, The Bonemender’s Oath, and The Bonemender’s Choice) and two novels inspired by Irish mythology: The Warrior’s Daughter and Shapeshifter.
Holly is also a freelance writer/editor and editor of Education Canada magazine.
Holly will be signing copies of Redwing, along with copies of her other teen novels, at Chapters (873 Lansdowne St., Peterborough) on Sunday, November 18, from 1 – 4 p.m.
An excerpt from Redwing by Holly Bennett (Orca Book Publishers, 2012)
The silence stretched out, as Rowan stared into the red innards of the stove, trapped in his memories.
Aydin’s next question pulled him back.
“So. I guess that girl is your sister, then?”
Rowan tried to make sense of the question. He looked around the walls of the caravan, looking for a picture he knew did not exist. Aydin sipped his tea and waited calmly, his pale eyes unblinking.
Finally Rowan gave up. “What are you talking about? What girl?”
“The girl who hovers about you.” Aydin shrugged, unconcerned. “Perhaps you do not see her.” He gave one of his superior smiles. “It would not surprise me.”
Rowan’s reaction was so violent and confused he couldn’t speak. Rage at Aydin’s callousness, to toy with him so. Grief like a black ocean for the little girl who had tagged at his heels. And beneath it all whispered a superstitious, hair-prickling dread, as his traitor mind babbled but what if …
“What’s wrong with you?” The words burst out of him like a curse. “Why would you say a thing like that? Can you not even respect the dead?”
Aydin took a sip of tea, as though nothing had been said. The smile — a smile Rowan was very close to wiping from his face, dog or no dog — did not falter. And when Rowan sputtered into silence, Aydin put his tea down, sat back in his chair, and looked him straight in the eye.
“She’s small, about up to your chest. She has fair hair — not as light as mine, but blonde — in two long plaits. She has a round face, round cheeks.”
That means nothing, thought Rowan, though shivery chills were crawling up and down his spine. Lots of girls have braids. He’s bluffing.
“She wears a purple gemstone at her neck.”
Ettie. Sweet gods of earth and air, it was Ettie. Rowan had won that lump of amethyst for her at a fair, and she had loved it so much that their father had paid to have a silversmith fix it to a small loop so she could string it around her neck. She had worn that stone for the last three years. She had died wearing it.
Rowan’s mind seethed with questions he didn’t seem to be able to ask. He gazed down the dark length of the caravan, fighting the shivers crawling up his spine, trying to compose himself enough to say something that didn’t sound absurd. He couldn’t.
“You seem astonished,” Aydin remarked.
“Of course I’m astonished! What else would I be?!” Rowan heard the husky crack in his voice and for once didn’t care.
Aydin shrugged, a languid ripple quite unlike the gesture Rowan thought of as “a shrug.”
“You’ve never heard of a ghost? Your language has the word —there must be a concept to match.”
Of course he had heard of ghosts. But ghosts weren’t here — they were denizens of the deadlands. Only in rare dreams did Somos open a connection to allow the dead and the living to make contact.
Was she here, now?
It was more than he could deal with. He had heard her, he realized, that night in the caravan. Rowan, she had called. Rowan. It wasn’t a dream — he had heard her. She had saved him from the fire. Ettie.
Abruptly, Rowan pushed back the stool and stood up. “It’s late. I’m going to bed.”
Aydin raised an eyebrow but said nothing. He unfolded himself slowly from his seat and made for the door. “Then I’ll thank you for dinner, and be on my way.”
A cool breath on his neck made Rowan turn up his collar. It was colder even a few steps away from the stove. Much colder outside, no doubt.
Another gust, short and sharp, like a push. No draft he had ever felt had given him such a feeling. Nerves, no doubt — that spooky Tarzine had given him the willies.
Still he found himself clearing his throat and asking, brusquely, “You have a place to stay?”
“I will find one. It’s not your concern.”
Great. For the first time since his family’s death, Rowan really wanted to be alone. But he could imagine all too well how it would feel to be turned out of a caravan, however chilly, into a winter’s night.
“Look, you can stay here if you want. It won’t be that comfortable, but there’s lots of room.”
Aydin gazed at him appraisingly, as if to divine whether the offer was genuine. He accepted with another shrug.
Rowan piled blankets into Aydin’s arms, the busy work of hosting a welcome distraction. The tall boy cast an uncertain look around the caravan.
“That one.” Rowan pointed to the broad platform at the far end of the caravan — his parents’ bed. Ettie’s was too close and besides … Rowan gave himself a mental shake, but the thought persisted. If she was here — and he couldn’t imagine how or why she could be, but if she was — well, he wasn’t about to let anybody else sleep in her bed. If that was crazy, so be it.
“It’s really cold down here,” said Aydin.
“Good thing you have a big dog.”
And as if he understood, the great beast heaved himself from the floor, padded down the caravan, and flopped sideways across the blanket Aydin had just laid down for a mattress.
“His name is K’waaf.” A snort of derisive amusement. “But in keeping with local tradition, in the prosperous land of Prosper I call him Wolf.”