I promised that I'd post an excerpt if I hit 20 book sales yesterday and I did. As of typing this I'm at 23 sales wish is more than enough to make me happy. Thanks to everyone who's helped so far and… well that's it. Don't want to keep you reading too much before the preview arrives :)
Retara’s information had proven to be quite helpful in the sense that they only lost two soldiers and five peasants. Without her, at least half the party might have perished. It was never good to lose people, but grieving was something they didn’t have time to do. They had made it to the beginning of fall and were just approaching the Wood of Children. Leo was feeling a little odd. He hadn’t been to the place of his birth in seven years. The emotions were slowly building up in him. He was starting to wonder if he could handle it.
Danais was eager. This was a place rich with magic of children past either left by hate or in the hopes that someone would find them. Magicians who could not have children even by magical means frequently came through the forest, and those who were just looking to save a child—but not all of them could be saved. When left to the elements, it was only a matter of time before a child died.
Retara and Altar were also excited. She had her heart set on saving a child, and if she wanted a child, Altar wanted one with her. She did want her own, but Retara felt that after losing so many, saving just one would fill that space of emptiness inside her. Altar agreed.
There was no real transition into the Forest of Children. The trees just became less filled with exotic plants and the forest was just a forest, full of tall grey-brown trees with deep green leaves.
“We are here,” Lady Vardon said. The trees were so tall they could dwarf a giant. She and her Betave, in full, intimidating panther form, walked to the front of everyone. This place brought back memories for her as well. It was she that was here that day with Leo’s teacher and her husband when his teacher found Leo. The three of them watched Leo come out of the ground together. Xan was first to spot the burial site before they arrived. She was glad that Xan was here with her, someone who had been there that day as well. Anyone could’ve married her husband. It didn’t have to be her, but she did and inherited his task of raising Leo.
“Are you okay, mother?” Leo asked, suddenly feeling okay and more concerned for her.
“No. I’m not. So many things began that day. If you knew what being able to raise you means. If you knew—” She had to stop before she said anything that revealed who he was. It wouldn’t do to say something wrong during a state of exaggerated emotion.
“No. You don’t,” Xan said. He, too, seemed to be in an odd state of emotion. Leo couldn’t help but wonder just who he was at that moment. Who could Leo be that being part of raising him could invoke such pride.
Retara was seeing the moment for much more than Leo could. She was unsure how she felt about such knowledge as a newcomer, but she needed to know. She could understand exactly why they felt so good, though they were overwhelmed that fate had handed them such a task. She reasoned that Danais’ uncle must’ve felt the same way. Everyone stood back and let Xan and Lady Vardon lead the way. It was a winding path weaving in and out the trees, but soon they came to a spot that didn’t look any different from any other spot. The only thing that made this particular spot special was the fact that Leo had his second birth here.
“So this is where they found you?” Danais asked.
“Yes, just a random spot. No special tree. No open glade. Just a regular spot, like those of most children who get left here. This is why it’s so hard to find them. It’s almost as if the forest hides them. Your heart has to really want a child or you just get lucky and stumble across one. Even the crying doesn’t seem to help. The forest is filled with the cries of children, both dead and alive. Listen.”
Everyone did as Leo commanded and listened. At first there was nothing, but then a sound rose—a sound of joy and hurt. Not all the children were left by loving parents. It was beautiful and heart- wrenching. Lady Vardon began to sing the song of the children and voice the words of their cries, the words they could not speak for themselves. It was a call to be saved, a thank you to the parents that loved them and took a chance on the wood. This song was in the Dani tongue, and it was one everyone besides Retara knew. She listened as they all joined in. The emotional power was overwhelming. She could feel the meaning in the words even without fully understanding them. The children’s cries even seemed to subside for a while to listen to the music. Soon the song was done and a moment of silence was given. Then they started out of the forest.
It was more than obvious that there were children, yet they saw none. One could only find a child if drawn to it no matter how hard one tried. And if someone passed a dead child, it was their duty to bury it. Retara was feeling rather disheartened. Why wasn’t she feeling a pull in any direction? Surely, a child must need to be saved.
“Why must I listen to the cries if I cannot help?”
“It just isn’t your time. Keep coming back. One day you may leave with more than one child. For now, maybe the gods have another way for you to receive your first child,” Altar said to her.
“So I should just not be mad? I should just accept it and trust in the gods—is that the answer for everything.”
“Not entirely. It is okay to be mad, to cry an curse the Gods. They understand we are emotional creatures. I’m only saying it’s not your time. So cry—shed a tear be tortured by the music of babies’ tears. Just know that it is meant for you to be a mother of many. If that’s what you feel, and if that’s what your heart pulls you to, then it will be.”
“That I can live with. I guess I will be blaming the gods for a lot of things.”
“Yes. I’m sure you will be.”