I’ve republished STARDANCER this week on Kindle, and published it anew on Nook. The new version (no new material inside the book, just some corrections of typos) includes a teaser for Book II, THE WISDOMFOLD PATH. Since there are readers who might be interested in this but who won’t want to repurchase the book — not that I’ll stop you! — I reproduce that teaser below.
Six months have passed since the Arrilori Visitors arrived on Xonareth. While they still work to find a way home, they are also becoming more and more accustomed to what they hope will be their temporary home. Even as winter settles over the two last cities of Xonareth, and even as the new King and Queen struggle with the fact that the cities’ sources of power will fail within a few years, they still find time and opportunity for celebration, in the form of a party for Princess Tariana’s seventeenth birthday. As they enjoy the festivities, little do they know that a new threat is arising….
“What now?” Margeth asked. “Are we staying to watch another game, or what?”
Tariana shrugged. “What do you want to do?”
“There’s dancing back that way,” Margeth replied.
“You know I’m not a good dancer!” Tariana laughed.
“Who said you had to be good?”
And in that way Margeth won that particular debate, and they headed off down another path toward another clearing. Ahead of them they could see light of shifting color through the trees, and they could hear music and feel the beat of its rhythm. In this clearing was a ring-shaped pond with four bridges leading to an island in the pond’s center. At the center of the island stood a wooden stage, and on that stage was a band which performed loud, fast-paced music. Their music was accompanied by a shimmering lightshow which strobed and pulsed in time with the rhythm.
Margeth was fascinated by the music, but Tariana’s attention was on the youths all around. They were so involved with the music, dancing and singing and holding hands and – Tariana tried not to stare at the number of couples scattered about, kissing – being together. This is what it is to be my age, Tariana thought.
“You should be careful here,” Corporal Brand said. “There are a lot of people around!”
“Don’t worry,” Tariana replied. “I’m sure we’ll be fine—oohhh!”
Suddenly she was splashed with water, which was thrown into the air by two teenage boys who had broken into a fight and ended up falling in the moat. Tariana ducked back as Corporal Brand and one of the Kingsguard guards moved in and broke up the fight, dragging the two ruffians out of the water. Both were glaring at each other, and one – the angrier, apparently – tried making another attack at the other, but he couldn’t break free from Brand’s grasp.
“Stop it!” Brand shouted. “Stop it now! Calm down! STOP!”
The fracas started to capture the attention of the teenagers on the dance island, and gradually they all turned to see what was going on. Even the band stopped playing after about a minute of watching their audience slowly swing the other way. Tariana stepped back, and she felt her cheeks turning red already. Luckily, it was fairly dark.
“Lights!” Brand barked. “Now!”
So much for that. The light fixtures for the band’s illumination show switched to full illumination, bathing the entire dance area with harsh white light.
“How dare you fight in the presence of the Arrilori!” Brand shook the one kid by his collar, and then he glared at the other as if to do the same thing to him, but with his eyes.
“Corporal!” Tariana protested. “They didn’t even know I was here.”
“It doesn’t matter! They know what this event is, and they know where they are!” He shook the kid again. “You are on the Council Island, and you are attending on the Arrilori Visitors! This is how you behave?”
“She’s not even your girlfriend anymore,” said the other boy. “You need to get past it!”
“Shut up!” Brand snarled. “When I need your input I’ll ask for it.”
“Whatever,” the other boy said.
Now Tariana recovered her wits and her dignity somewhat, and stepped forward.
“Corporal,” she said, laying a hand on his shoulder. “I think the fact that everyone is watching is embarrassment enough.” She looked at the boy in the Corporal’s grasp. His cheeks were still red, but not so much now from anger at the other boy. “You’re fighting over a girl?” she asked.
He looked down at the ground and said nothing.
“I’m just a person,” Tariana said. “You’re fighting over a girl?”
“Yeah,” the boy said. “He was kissing her.”
“I’m not sure I understand,” Tariana said. “If a girl you liked was kissing someone else…why are you mad at him, and not her?”
The boy’s expression turned comical as he tried to think, and apparently failed. He looked at Tariana as if she had addressed him in some unknown language.
“Go home and calm down,” she said. “It’s bad enough all of these people got to watch you do this, right?” She pointed to all the kids on the dancing island. The boy winced, and lowered his eyes again. “Corporal?”
Corporal Brand nodded and released the boy. “Take them home,” he said to the other Kingsguard.
“Yes sir,” the Kingsguard replied, and then escorted the two ruffians away.
“And don’t lose a friend over this!” Tariana called after them.
“That’s it?” Margeth asked.
“They’ll be humiliated at school,” Tariana said. “Believe me, it’ll be worse than anything Corporal Brand might have done to them.”
“Don’t be so sure about that,” Brand grumbled. “Now what?”
“Well,” Margeth said, “I was enjoying that music.” She called over to the island. “Excuse me! Could you start playing again?”
People turned and looked at the bandmembers, who then looked at each other and shrugged. The percussion player began pounding a beat again, and the music finally resumed. Tariana smiled at Brand. “You see? Now I’d like to see what a dance is like.”
“All right,” Brand replied, and he and the other Kingsguard remaining escorted Tariana and Margeth across the bridge and onto the dance island, where aside from the band playing, nothing was returning to normal. All the kids there were still standing in place, staring at the two Arrilori Visitors. The band segued into a ballad, but still no one returned to dancing.
“We’re not…bug-eyed aliens or anything,” Tariana said.
“Maybe if you dance, they’ll dance too,” Margeth offered.
“I’m not going to dance by myself!” Tariana said. “That would look stupid!”
Corporal Brand cleared his throat. “May I be of assistance, miss?” He offered his hand to Tariana, and her eyes widened.
“You can dance?”
“Not really,” Brand said. “But it’s a slow one, so I can fake it. I think.” He shrugged. “How hard can it be?”
Tariana smiled, and even as she felt a thousand pairs of eyes on her, she took his hand and began to dance with her Kingsguard protector, or at least attempt to dance with him, as she had little idea of how to do it, herself. It suddenly occurred to her how strange it was that Mother had never included this in her list of Skills Every Princess And Eventual Queen Must Know. It seemed to Tariana that dances at formal cotillions was a regular feature of royal life, but maybe that was just something she’d got from the storybooks.
Their dancing was awkward and uncomfortable and the Corporal stepped on Tariana’s toes as much as she stepped on his. But it had the desired effect, as the youths all gradually returned to dancing themselves. Wherever they danced, Tariana discovered that others were smiling at them and giving them – giving her – thumbs up. Soon the song ended, and the band switched to a higher-tempo song. At that point a thought occurred to Tariana, and she giggled.
“What is it?” Brand asked.
“Oh, nothing,” Tariana thought. “Just…I’m a Stardancer, but I can’t dance.”
He gave her a quizzical look, and she just shook her head. “It’s nothing.” She glanced at the band and the kids who were taking to the faster song. “Maybe we shouldn’t press our luck on this,” Tariana said.
“Oh, I entirely agree,” Corporal Brand replied. “It was my pleasure, miss.”
“I hope so!” Tariana said with a laugh. “Where’s Margeth – oh, there she is!”
Margeth was dancing away with Otona, whom she had somehow found in the midst of this entire crowd. Otona grinned and waved at Tariana, who waved back. “Otona’s here?” she said. “I wonder if–” She began to look around, although she didn’t really expect to see him standing right there.
“Can I help you look for someone?” Corporal Brand asked.
“No,” Tariana replied. “No, I…no.”
He nodded and stepped back to allow Tariana to start walking through the crowd of dancers. It didn’t take long to circulate through the entire dancing island – it wasn’t quite as big as it had looked from the other side of the moat – but Gharanas wasn’t here. He could be anywhere on the Council Island, and wherever she went she would find more hundreds of people. She could walk and walk and walk and never find anyone she knew.
But of course, she did.
“I don’t think he’s here,” Jorja said.
She had cut her hair short and colored it black, so it took Tariana a second to recognize her. Jorja had once been a girlfriend of Gharanas’s. She was the youngest daughter of Star House Crassa. Her mother, Lady Troyelle, was on the Starhollow Council and had a history with Lady Aafilia which had, as far as they could tell, not always been entirely pleasant.
Tariana blinked. “I’m sorry?”
“He isn’t here.” Jorja looked around at her three friends who were with her. Tariana had seen these girls before, but she knew none of them by name. “You all remember Lady Tariana of Star House Arrilori, don’t you?”
“We do,” said one of them.
“Oh yes!” said another.
“How nice to see you again, My Lady.”
“I’m sorry,” Tariana said. “I’m not sure what you meant before.”
“Gharanas,” Jorja said. “You’re looking for him, aren’t you? I don’t think he’s here.”
“How do you know that?”
“Because he told me he probably wasn’t coming tonight.”
This was one moment when Tariana was glad for all of Mother’s teachings on royal decorum. It was a very useful skill, being able to maintain her composure when she felt like she had been kicked in her stomach.
“Oh,” Tariana said.
“His mother and my mother had business this morning,” Jorja said. “He came over a little after his mother did, because he wanted to say goodbye before he left.”
“He went back to Chrodeliss?” Tariana asked. Every ounce of her energy was now devoted to keeping the fact that her heart was sinking like a rock dropped into a pond from showing on her face.
“He said he was,” Jorja replied. “He’s not much of a liar, so I believe him.”
“Oh.” Tariana bit her lip. She wasn’t going to be able to keep this up much longer. “Thank you, I guess.” She smiled. “I hope you’re enjoying yourselves.”
Jorja shrugged and looked at her friends. “I liked my birthdate party better,” she said. “That was last month.”
“I didn’t know,” Tariana said. Dignity…dignity….
“I just wanted a small party with a few friends,” Jorja said. “But this is nice, if you like this sort of thing. I’m sure you’re used to it.”
“Well,” Tariana said. “I hope you had a good time, but I think I should be moving on. Enjoy yourselves and thank you for coming.” She managed a smile. “I like your hair, by the way.”
“It was our pleasure!” Jorja said. “And thank you for noticing my hair.” Tariana thought she heard one of Jorja’s friends snigger, but she wasn’t sure. It might have been the music. Tariana thought that Jorja and her friends would leave, but then Jorja stepped forward and laid a hand on her shoulder. “I’m sorry, your…highness? What do we call you, anyway?”
“What is it?” Tariana asked.
“You do know why Gharanas didn’t come, don’t you?”
Tariana stared at Jorja for a long moment. Why was she saying this? Why did she care?
“Oh, you really don’t understand it, do you.” Jorja shook her head. “You were a Princess where you came from, so all this must be new to you. I should have been able to tell by your dancing.” She leaned in closer, so Tariana alone could hear. “Gharanas didn’t come because he’s who he is, and you’re who you are. Think about that.”
And then Jorja turned and walked away, rejoined by her friends. Tariana’s thoughts moved in what felt like a dozen different directions: sadness because Gharanas had not come. Anger, because he had not come and he’d said goodbye to Jorja and not to her. And confusion at Jorja’s words, which both made no sense and all the sense in the world.
“Your hair looks ghastly,” Tariana muttered.
“Miss?” It was Corporal Brand. “Did you still want to go somewhere else?”
“Yes,” Tariana said. “Someplace quiet.” I need to cry, and I don’t want to be seen doing it.
“Very well.” He motioned to the other Kingsguard, who came over and helped him escort Tariana toward one of the bridges across the moat. Margeth was still dancing with Otona, and had now made the acquaintance of a few others. Tariana stopped to look at her and wondered if she should bring her along. She’s having fun, she thought. No sense ruining that just because I’m not.
Tariana was halfway across the bridge when all the lights went out.
THE SONG OF FORGOTTEN STARS
THE WISDOMFOLD PATH
Coming November 2015!
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