Today I’m hosting author Karen McCreedy as part of the blog tour for her new book, Unreachable Skies.
“The heir is hatching. Vizan must come at once.”
Morel had not bothered to knock before he flung open our dwelling door to make his announcement – crass behaviour for a First Herald, I thought, even if he did have urgent news. His sudden appearance had made me spill the herbal drink I’d just mixed, and I took a moment to ladle more from the pot over the fire into the beaker in my paw. It gave me something to do that didn’t involve thinking about the problems and complications that Morel’s news brought.
As he folded his wings and stepped over the threshold in response to my nod, I voiced the most immediate concern: “Vizan can’t come. You know he’s ill.”
“But he must.” Morel’s dark mane was sticking up in alarm, and I didn’t envy him telling Kalis that Vizan wouldn’t be there. “The Fate-seer has to be present at the hatching of a Prime’s egg. Especially—”
He snapped his jaw shut on further comment, but it was easy enough to guess what he hadn’t said: Especially now, when the egg had been laid by a female who had had the Sickness.
I could have told Morel that having a Fate-seer present for a hatching had made no difference to Carma or Lisha or to nines of other females. In every case they had counted themselves fortunate to survive the Sickness, and in every case the eggs they’d laid had produced…I pulled my thoughts from those poor crippled hatchlings, and snapped at Morel to close the door. “The last thing Vizan needs is a cold draught ruffling his fur.”
The faint salt tang of an onshore breeze vanished along with the draught as he did as he was bid, but it was clear from the way he wrinkled his snout and flattened his ears that he thought he might catch something by coming further inside.
I had felt that way too seven moons before, on the day I had first become Vizan’s apprentice. When he’d ushered me through the door – a Trader’s youngling who had expected to spend her life flying from cluster to cluster with goods and provisions – I had half-expected to find decaying piles of sacrificial bones under the table. But the Fate-seer’s dwelling was much the same as any other: the wall stones set one on another to spiral upward and inward, a fire glowing in the hearth to one side, a well-scrubbed vinebark table, upholstered sitting-stools, zaxel stems scattered across the floor, and a woven-reed screen in front of the nests. However, only this dwelling had bunches of healing herbs hanging from the roof-stones, and jars of ointments and salves lining the shelves. Only this dwelling had baskets of dried camyl leaves, twists of zenox powder, and handfuls of chalkmoss scattered across the workbench, waiting to be sorted beneath the light that streamed through the see-shell.
It also had a sticky patch on the floor where the herbal mix had just spilled, and I heard Morel’s grunt of disgust as he stepped in it.
“Vizan’s over here.” I ushered Morel around the screen, and saw his nose and whiskers twitch as he caught the scent of the drink I had mixed – a smell which did not quite mask the sickly odour emanating from the Fate-seer’s nest. “Now do you see why he can’t come?” I crouched low to hold the beaker under Vizan’s black-striped snout. His nose barely twitched, but he opened one eye and managed to sip a little of the hot liquid. It was hard to bear the sight of his once-imposing body lying helplessly in a soiled nest. His greying fur was matted, because brushing it made it fall out; he couldn’t even summon the energy to tuck his tail around his legs and it hung limply over the edge of the nest. His breathing rattled wetly, with a noise like wavedriven pebbles and, as I placed a paw on his shoulder to help him change position, I could feel the bones beneath the skin.
I looked up to find Morel spiralling a paw across the front of his grey tunic in the age-old gesture of prayer, his ears dipped to the correct angle of respect. “May the Spiral watch over him.”