To help promote the upcoming Elsewhens by Melanie Rawn, the sequel to Touchstone (Canada, USA, Europe), here's a little teaser excerpt, courtesy of the author herself. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.
Touchstone, the magical theater troupe, continues to build audiences. But Cayden is increasingly troubled by his “elsewhens,” the uncontrolled moments when he is plunged into visions of the possible futures. He fears that his Fae gift will forever taint his friendships; his friends fear that his increasing distance will destroy him.
But worldly success follows them—an apparent loss in the Trials leads to Touchstone being selected to travel to the Continent with a Royal Embassy to collect Prince Ashgar’s new bride. They are the first theater artists to appear outside Albeyn for at least seventy years—for magic is suspect and forbidden elsewhere, and the Kingdom’s easy race mixing and magic use horrifies the people they are to travel among.
The shops in this strange country were a fascinating, if frustrating, experience. Mieka found a million things he wanted, and many things he bought for his family, but nothing that suited his needs. Trouble was, he wouldn’t know what those needs were until he found out what she wanted. He’d planned to bring home pocketfuls of gemstones and silver and gold and let her take her choice, and now he wasn’t even sure if she’d choose him. He fingered the letter he kept in his pocket as a talisman, and could almost taste her scent on his fingers. Renewed despair sent him into a tavern—with the woolen cap pulled firmly down over his Elfen ears.
Several drinks later, he emerged blinking owlishly into the bright summer sunlight. He hadn’t gone ten paces down the street, looking morosely for more jewelry shops, when a hand tugged at his elbow.
“Please,” whispered a voice. “Please, talk?”
“About what?” he snarled, yanking his arm away.
A boy of about fifteen stood before him, three friends of about the same age huddling nearby, staring anxiously. “Please—”
“What is it?” he asked more gently.
“I want to doing as you doing.”
“You’re too young to drink,” he said, conveniently forgetting that he’d first got into a keg of beer at fourteen and a half. His father had been cross, but agreed not to tell his mother—he’d pleaded for hours, for it had been Jed and Jez’s keg, and he’d convinced Fa that he didn’t want his brothers to get into trouble for leaving it where he could find it. Well, more accurately, leaving it locked in a cupboard barely two days after Jez had taught him how to pick locks.
“Not drinking.” Leaning closer, in a whisper: “Magicking.”
He glanced round. Nobody on the street but casual shoppers—men and women of all ages, children, everything perfectly innocent. Still . . .
He crooked a finger at the boys, and they followed him around a corner into an alley that served the shops. He could see the street, but they were effectively isolated from passersby.
“I can’t teach you magic,” he said abruptly. “You have it or you don’t, understand?”
Another of the boys stepped forward. “I have!” he announced, and from beneath his jacket produced one of Touchstone’s own withies, six inches long and tinged a faint purple.
“Where the fuck did you get that? Never mind—give it here!” He snatched it and stowed it up one sleeve. “Thought you’d steal some magic, did you?” he demanded, part of him panicking that he and Cade had got so casual about counting up withies at the end of a show. “Waving one of these about don’t make you an Elf, nor a Wizard, neither—nor a player. It’s got to be in here.” He tapped his own temple. “And in here,” he added touching his chest. “Understand?”
“But—we were seeing, yesternight—”
How did he explain it to these boys? He could scarcely explain it to himself. All he really knew was that for them, lacking the magic, it was hopeless. They could never be what they wanted so much to be. It wasn’t in them. And even if it was, they’d never be allowed to use it. Not here.
He understood Cayden’s anger now. His sadness.
It occurred to him that even lacking a withie, he could influence them with a bit of magic to give up their dreams. He’d worked a gentle easing of Blye’s grief last year, the sort of manipulation he didn’t use very often anymore. But their longing would only come back. There was nothing he could do to make it clear to them how hopeless it was, except to tell them the brutal truth.
So he pulled off his cap to show them his pointed ears.
They blanched, and stared, and two of them turned tail and ran.
“This is what you need to be,” he said to the pair who were left. “And you’re not. It ain’t inside you. So forget about it, eh?”
The boy who’d stolen the withie looked defiant; the other one looked crushed.
“You can’t!” Mieka snapped, frustrated, regretting the cruelty, knowing how he would have felt if someone had said the same things to him. “Go be merchants or hack drivers or anything else you like, because you can’t be this!”
He left them there in the alleyway. He returned to the ship, and wouldn’t tell Cade why he was so upset. He let him think it was because he’d found nothing in any of the jewelry shops. And he didn’t share his redthorn after their show that night, because he needed the oblivion of sleep.