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For A Song
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ISBN-10: 1-77115-160-9
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Fantasy/SF/Fiction/Adventure
eBook Length: 235 Pages
Published: February 2014



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Total Readers: 1

From inside the flap

Blat (an unfortunate name for a singer) is a young farmer boy recruited by the Minstrels’ Guild. Fourteen years later, he has completed his studies and been a Touring Minstrel ever since. Blat needs material for a new song and follows clues in an ancient text. While travelling near Whitecap Island’s glacier, silent assailants herd him into a cavern within a mountain. He stares at the colossal cylinder of rock occupying one end. Their leader, Quirindi, explains that her people maintain the machines which invigorate the cylinder. The cylinder in turn gives them long life, mind-to-mind speech, and brings light to Station One, the name of their home. But they are failing at their task and her people are dying.

He recruits Crag Bithoone, a brilliant but unstable scientist. In their search for answers, Blat is captured by the Brothers of the Watch, a sinister cult that uses telepathic power to control and punish. His mind is brutally tortured forcing his consciousness to flee into a tiny part of his brain where he cocoons himself within layers of music. When he revives, a woman encased in stone ensorcels him into destroying the cylinders which hold her captive. Blat struggles to resist - the cylinders are what the Stationers need to survive - but she is too strong. While the Station crumbles around them, she touches a map of Whitecap Island and disappears. Blat puts his finger on the same place… and is transported to a desert. He is once again taken by the Brothers and forced through an invisible barrier concealing a vast stronghold and joins hundreds of prisoners compelled to polish cylinders. On a gallery at one end of the underground cavern stands the stone woman, Mir.

Blat believes that music can block the Brothers’ mind control and composes a simple song to teach his fellow captives. If the song does not work, the Brothers’ plan to subjugate Whitecap Island will be unleashed at the dark of the moon. And where was Crag?

Reviews and Awards

In 2011, For a Song was awarded second prize in the 34th Atlantic Writing Competition.

• “For a Song imaginatively created an alternate reality, but one in which, like our own world, pure ideology takes those hungriest for power far from their good intentions, with disastrous consequences for everyone. The plot was suspenseful, funny, and was carried along with a beautiful sense of wonder from page one.”

• “… I found this to be a fresh and original story that was told with confidence, subtlety, and humour. I was engrossed. Great job.”

For A Song (Excerpt)


CHAPTER 01

Blat (an unfortunate name for a singer) sang one of his favourite ballads as he led the plough horse around and around the field.

The song began with the story of a poor orphan boy mistreated by his so-called caretakers. This part always made Blat cry a little and he let the emotion help his voice warble at the end of each line. One day the boy was adopted by an old wizard who claimed he needed an apprentice. The boy soon learned that he had traded one type of misery for another. Invoking the despair of shattered hope, Blat transformed his voice from the relief that the boy had finally found a home into the horrible realisation that he was worse off than before. In the final and triumphant verse, the boy realised that he understood the language of the arcane spells that the wizard invoked to keep him docile and subservient. His newfound power burst forth and he hurled a vengeful spell at his abusive master. Aflame with righteous anger, Blat let his voice ring with indignation.

With a secret smile, Blat launched into a fourth verse, one that he had added to the song himself. He felt in his heart that the orphan boy was capable of forgiveness. Instead of crushing the old wizard as he lay helpless on the ground, the boy relented and to his amazement, the wizard was reduced to tears, only then realising that the boy was his long lost son. Whenever Blat sang this verse to his younger brothers, they rolled their eyes and groaned. Blat didn't care - he loved happy endings. He brought the ballad to a close with a flourish of joyous notes.

Slow steady applause startled Blat and he felt himself blush. He shaded his eyes and looked up. Dusty boots dangled from beneath a dusty cloak. The sun was behind whoever it was that straddled the fence and he couldn't make out any features.

"Boy, you are wasted, wasted, wasted at this menial labour! Come closer." It was the voice of a woman, with a tone as imperious as the village head-man when he got himself into a snit. She impatiently tapped her heel against a fence post as Blat dropped the horse's reins and shuffled over to where she sat. She leaned over and rudely took his chin in her hand and turned his head this way and that.

Blat was stunned. He had been taught to respect his elders, but did that mean that he had to put up with this kind of handling? From a stranger?

A small smile curved her lips. "That last verse. That was yours?"

Does she also mock me?thought Blat. A flare of anger blazed in his green eyes.

Her smile widened. "Take me to your parents, boy."

He considered refusing. Who was this not-very-polite woman anyway? It was a warm day; perhaps a few hours on that hard wooden seat would teach her some manners.

"I have to finish ploughing this field," he declared with what he hoped was authority.

She shrugged and promptly stretched out on the sun-warmed top rail. It was barely wide enough for her, but she didn't seem to care. She clasped her hands at her waist, crossed her ankles, and was snoring softly before Blat had retrieved the slack lead rope.

So much for his moment of defiance.

The sun was low in the sky when Blat nudged the woman awake. She came instantly alert, vaulted from her perch, and landed nimbly beside him. She gathered her things and they walked down the lane in silence.

Their boots kicked up a choking dust and Blat stifled a sneeze. The earth was baked hard this year, harder than Blat could remember. Of course, at fourteen, there weren't that many years to remember. From the talk, this was the worst one ever, but then again, every year had been declared the worst one ever. His father was worried, though, and Blat hated to see him fret.

Just before they reached the path that would take him home, Blat stopped. "Who are you and why do you want to talk to my father?" His anxiety made him speak a little sharper that he intended and he also knew that he was out of line; grown-up business was for grown-ups. But this woman bothered him.

She turned to him in surprise. "You don't know what I am?" She shook her head at his blank stare and muttered to herself saying something about how everybody should know and what was the world coming to anyway.

"Come." She took his arm. "I'll tell the tale but once to both you and your parents."

Blat let her propel him towards the house that was visible through a gap in the hedgerow. "I should tell you," he said, "that my mother is dead these past six years."

She squeezed his shoulder.

He did not want her sympathy and shrugged her hand off. He climbed the pair of stairs to the porch, pushed the door open, and walked in, leaving it ajar for her to come in or not. He didn't care.

Blat's father was an ordinary man - average height, average build, brown hair, and brown eyes - with the look of farmers everywhere in his thickly muscled forearms and deeply tanned face. He was in the midst of ladling out bowls of stew to a small tribe of children. "Ah, Blat. Did you finish the... " He stumbled to a halt. The boys had gone quiet - a marvel in itself - but it was the stranger in the doorway, a female stranger, a minstrel female stranger, that had brought the interrogation to an abrupt end.

"Good evening, sir. My name is Sarah Tucana. Please excuse my intrusion during your mealtime; I'll come back later." She turned to go.

Blat's father remembered his manners. "No, no. Please join us. We would be honoured."

Blat's brothers had not moved, some with spoons halfway to their mouths. Their father turned his attention back to his brood. "Alvin, Michael, Stuart. Slide down to the end of the bench, there's good lads. Robert, Raymond," Tomias Raike continued his orders, "fetch another bowl and spoon, clean ones mind." With that, Blat's father unburdened their guest of her pack and cloak, and gestured for Sarah to seat herself.

Blat took the momentary shuffle to step out to the rain barrel and splash some water on his face and hands. Robert and Raymond had manoeuvred themselves next to Sarah leaving him at the far end of the table. His twin brothers quickly lost their shyness and plied Sarah with question after question. Who was she? Where did she come from? How come they had never seen her before? What was she doing with their stupid brother Blat?

Sarah calmly ate her stew and smiled at them. Tomias eyed his two youngest boys but knew it would be worse if he tried to quiet them. His other boys contented themselves with staring at her between gulps of food.

When supper had been devoured - and that was exactly the right word for the voracious appetites of this many growing boys - Tomias meted out instructions for the clean-up of both the supper dishes and of the hands, faces, and teeth of his sons. With the usual grumbling, they trooped off to their duties while he invited Sarah to sit by the hearth for a cup of tea which Blat quietly prepared and served. Tomias joined her when he was fairly certain that his orders would be carried out. He sat with a sigh and closed his eyes for a brief moment. "Ah, but it's a good thing that I love them.