Sarah Micklem Wildfire: A Novel

ISBN 13 : 9781451646481

Wildfire: A Novel

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9781451646481: Wildfire: A Novel

Sire Galan has forbidden his servant and lover Firethorn to follow him to war, but she disobeys. When the army of Corymb sets sail for Incus, she is aboard a ship of the fleet, gambling on Galan's welcome. But the gods are as apt to meddle with the schemes of a lowborn mudwoman as the best-laid plans of her betters. The searing touch of Wildfire leaves Firethorn shattered, haunted, estranged from herself, and set apart from others. She feels cursed, but others see her as blessed. Whores come to her for healing, and soldiers search her every utterance for hidden prophecies. Is she a charlatan or a true seer? Even Firethorn cannot answer that question. And Galan is wary of what Wildfire has made of her. Sarah Micklem brings lush prose and rich imagination to the highly anticipated second book in the trilogy that began with her acclaimed debut, Firethorn. The enthralling combination of the mythic, the historical, and the deeply human confirms Micklem's place among the great storytellers of imaginative fiction.

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About the Author :

Sarah Micklem had jobs in a restaurant, printing plant, sign shop, and refugee resettlement agency before discovering that graphic design was an enjoyable way to make a living. She wrote Firethorn while working as an art director for children's magazines in New York City. She lives with her husband, poet and playwright Cornelius Eady, in Washington, D.C. where she is writing the second book of the Firethorn trilogy.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved. :

PROLOGUE

Wildfire

I disobeyed. I followed Sire Galan to war, though he had commanded me to go home. He'd been generous, granting me the use of a stone house on a mountainside for all of my days to come. But how could I call it home, a place I'd never seen? A blanket and the ground to lie on with Galan beside me, that was the home I claimed. It didn't suit me to be put aside, judged too weak to endure what lay ahead. I set my will against Sire Galan's, hazarding that if I did as I pleased, I might also please him.

He'd charged his horsemaster, Flykiller, with the duty of herding me home, along with the warhorses Galan had won in mortal tourney and was forbidden to ride -- all of us to be turned out to pasture. But I gave Flykiller the slip during the army's embarkation: two days of shouting and cursing, mules balking on gangways and men falling overboard, baggage and soldiers gone missing. In such confusion only thieves had been sure of their duties. I took refuge with my friend Mai, and set sail under the copper banners of the clan of Delve.

So I found myself now aboard a ship crossing a sullen green sea. Wretched, queasy, beset by misgivings. I lay curled up on deck, one leg heavy on the other, the bones bruising the flesh. My sheepskin cloak was sodden, and from time to time a drop of seawater crawled down my back. The ship creaked under us like an old alewife's hip joints, and stank of bilgewater, dung, salted fish, and the pungent pitch that coated the planks and rigging.

Before we left Corymb, the priests had prayed for a wind from north-ofeast, the domain of Rift, and the god of war had been pleased to send it. For four days this strong cold wind had driven the fleet apace toward the kingdom of Incus. The ships went heavy laden, but we rode no lower in the water for bearing the weightiest cargo of all, Rift's banes: war, dread, and death.

Yet the war had commenced without us. A tennight ago King Thyrse in his wisdom had sent a small force of men ahead across the Inward Sea to make landfall at the port of Lanx; Sire Galan and his clansmen of Crux were among them. The king had called them a dagger. A dagger is your best weapon for treachery, and by treachery they were to pass the city's gates, for the king's sister, Queenmother Caelum, had allies to let them in. By now they'd taken Lanx or failed in their purpose. In two or three days, if the wind stayed willing, we'd know their fate, and therefore our own, whether we would face a sea battle and siege, or the grudging welcome owed to conquerors.

The ship was crowded. Idle foot soldiers sat on the rowing benches, dicing and quarreling for amusement. Mai and I had laid claim to a small space behind the mainmast, between great baggage chests fastened to the deck, and we'd stretched a canvas overhead to make a shelter. Two of her nine children accompanied her on this campaign: her only son, Tobe, and third-daughter Sunup to look after him. We all suffered from Torrent's hex, seasickness, which made Sunup listless, and Tobe fretful, and gave me a qualmish stomach. Mai suffered the most. She'd always seemed to me as strong as she was stout, and she was stout indeed. But her strength had dwindled quickly at sea, and I was more troubled than I was willing to show.

I sat up beside Mai and leaned against a baggage chest. She was white about the nostrils and her round cheeks had turned yellow as an old bruise. There was sweat on her brow despite the wintry chill in the air. She had her arms clasped over her midriff. She grimaced at me and said, "I think Mouse is trying to thump his way out."

I put my palm against the hard hill of her belly and felt the kicks of the child she carried within. A boy, Mai claimed, for the way he rode high, and she thought he'd come about the time of Longest Night, nearly a month away. She'd named him Mouse because she swore he had too much Mischief in him -- Mischief, the boy avatar of the god Lynx, who goes everywhere accompanied by a scurry of mice. I knew she dreaded this birth, for her last child had been stillborn after a long and dangerous travail, and it seemed to me the name was a poor jest and an ill omen. But Mai's wit was ever on the sharp side.

I leaned over and whispered to Mouse, "Too soon, little one. Have patience."

"Let him come, I don't care," Mai said. "He'll split me in two if he gets any bigger. Besides, sick as I am, I couldn't feel worse."

"Hush." I nodded toward Sunup, who lay next to me with her head under a blanket. She was not yet eleven years of age, and such talk might frighten her.

"She'll know a woman's travail soon herself. Time she learned about it."

Tobe was cradled in a coil of tarry rope covered with old grain sacks, with Mai's old piebald dog dozing beside him. Now the boy sat up and began to wail. I took him on my lap and wrapped his cold feet in a fold of my kirtle. Mai had suckled him for two years and only just weaned him, and he still clamored for the tit. I gave him a bit of dried apple to chew, and hugged him. Spoiled or not, he was sweet enough to nibble on.

Sire Torosus came to see Mai, walking along the narrow gangway where whiphands paced to make the oarsmen keep the beat when the winds were not so obliging. He jumped down beside us, and the piebald hound bowed before him and wagged his mangy tail back and forth. Sunup and I moved over so that Sire Torosus could sit beside Mai. He was narrow where Mai was broad, and she was taller by a forehead. But if a man dared say to Mai's face that they were mismatched, she would wink, saying Sire Torosus was big where it counted. And when the man made some lewd boastful answer, as he always did, she'd chase him away with her raucous laugh, saying, "It's his heart that's big, lad -- I wager yours is the size of a filbert, and just as hard!"

Sire Torosus put his hand on Mai's leg. She kept her face averted and said, "I beg you, go away. I'm not fit to be seen."

"You're too vain." He gave her a buss on the cheek, and she flapped her hand at him.

Tobe squirmed in my lap and reached out for Sire Torosus, who let him stand upright on his knees and use his beard as a handhold.

Sire Torosus said to me, "Is there nothing you can do for Mai?"

It pained me to have to show him my palms, empty of comfort. All my remedies, all my herb lore, had failed. I could cool a fever with my hands, but the hex of Torrent Waters was a cold, wet malady, and I was powerless to draw out the chill that had settled deep inside Mai.

Sunup asked her father, "Is she going to die?" She had the pinched look of fear.

"Of course not," he said, and I met his eyes for a moment.

I said, "I never heard seasickness was mortal, only that it made folks wish they were dead."

Sire Torosus said to Mai, "Won't you come to the cabin, my dumpling, and lie on the featherbed?"

He had a berth in the sterncastle with the other cataphracts and armigers of the Blood. Mai had told me she was made to feel unwelcome when she tried to stay there with the children. She touched his arm, but still she wouldn't look at him. "It's stifling inside. Not a breath of air that doesn't stink."

He sighed and gave Tobe back to me.

Fifteen years they'd been together, Sire Torosus and Mai. He had a wife, of course, and an heir of his Blood -- just as Sire Galan did, who had married a year ago and promptly sired a son. But Sire Torosus was never long from Mai's bed, and they had nine living children to prove it. She was his sheath, and I daresay a truer wife to him than the one he'd left at home.

Sheath had a filthy sound in men's mouths, being another byname for a woman's quim, like mudhole or honeypot. But that was the name we went by, those of us who had taken up with a warrior of the Blood or a mudborn soldier and followed him to war, each of us sheath to a blade. From sheath to whore was but a little slip. Often it happened that a woman took a chance on some likely man who lured her with fine promises and caresses, only to find herself at his mercy, lent or sold to his companions. I'd taken such a chance, and it was my good fortune that Sire Galan had proved jealous rather than generous when it came to sharing my favors.

A two-copper whore, without even a blanket of her own, envies a harlot who serves only men of the Blood, who in turn envies a sheath who must please one man only, and above all the sheath of a cataphract such as Sire Galan, the most admired hotspur among the hotspurs of the army. I had merely to stand near him to shine by reflection. I didn't pride myself on this -- to be eminent among the despised was still to be despised. But I'd chosen to be Galan's sheath and I would do the same if it were mine to do over; I ought to be brazen, and wear the word sheath proudly, and never flinch at it.

Why then did I suffer a pang of envy to see Mai with Sire Torosus, to think of their many years together, when my time with Sire Galan could be measured by the month? It was foolish of me. She might hoard in her memory years gone by, to be sure, but no more than I, no more than any sheath, could she store up years that might not come to pass. A warrior is a prodigal spender of his days, and not a miser of them.

I knew this, yet I went on as if Galan would live forever. He might be dead already.

But that thought was dangerous, it could not be borne or believed. I felt the bond stretched taut between Galan and me, anchored by a hard knot under my breastbone. I would know if that bond were severed. Surely I would know.

That night we huddled together under our cloaks, Sunup and I with little Tobe between us. The dog put his head over my ankles. I was weary, my bones ached, and I drowsed and dreamed. When I woke, the dream was gone and there was nothing left of it but the sure knowledge that I'd lost something sweet.

Tobe squirmed in his sleep until he twisted my old sheepskin cloak about him and pulled it off my back. Greedy boy. Now he kicked as if he were too hot, and I gently tugged the sheepskin away from him and covered us again.

We'd dallied autumn away in the Marchfield, preparing for war, and already the Cr...

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Description du livre Scribner Book Company, United States, 2011. Paperback. État : New. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****. The highly anticipated second book in Sarah Micklem s liter- ary fantasy trilogy that began with the critically acclaimed debut, Firethorn. Sarah Micklem brings her lush prose and rich imagina- tion to the second installment of this epic trilogy, set in an imaginary world as real as history and as marvelous as legend.Sire Galan has forbidden his servant and lover Firethorn to follow him to war, but she disobeys, and sets sail with the army of Corymb to the land of Incus. During the crossing, Firethorn is struck by lightning. She regains consciousness to find her speech garbled and her memory in tatters. Despite her injuries, others see her as blessed, for she has survived the touch of a god, Wildfire. Priests and soldiers search her nonsensical utterances for hidden prophecies.In the aftermath of battle, Firethorn is captured by the defeated king of Incus. He takes refuge in the kingdom where Firethorn was born, a place she remembered only in dreams. There, a world away from Galan, she discovers not only the land and language she was born to, but a life of unexpected luxury and power. But this privilege has a high cost, one which Firethorn may not be able to bear. N° de réf. du libraire AAV9781451646481

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