Today on Paws 4 Thought we’re celebrating the release of a brand new novel by M.A. Ray, The High King’s Will. Want to read a preview? Of course you do!
The void in the side of his favorite mountain: the yawning hole that led down into the Worm’s cave. Four days ago, and a lifetime. He didn’t know why he’d come when he’d meant to visit Vercingetorix, when it was all so clear in his mind, written in red glow and gold flashes, darkness and fire. Shivering, he hugged himself, rubbing his upper arm. “Wormsbane” seemed so empty compared to that drowning, dragging fear.
He gazed at the cave mouth as he retreated; he wouldn’t put his back to it any more than he would to Beagar. When the night trees swallowed it, he turned and ran with the ancient reptile stench imagined in his nose. He would never forget it.
His desire for something good and clean and pure strengthened, took him down the mountain until he reached a glade. At the edge of it he stopped again, looking out over the grass spattered with the white spots of hallucinogenic moonflowers. And then he stepped over the boundary.
Vercingetorix was there in a twinkling, looming over Eagle in breath-stealing glory. “You were here just yesterday. One might almost think you love me.”
“I do,” Eagle said.
“Nevertheless. You shouldn’t be here.”
“I know it’s late. My father gave me leave.”
“And why have you come?” Vercingetorix stood tall and proud, with an iridescent horn that pierced the dark.
“I’m leaving. Tomorrow. I wanted to say good-bye to you.”
The unicorn tossed his great head, turning a black eye like the depths of night toward Eagle. “Oh, Eagle Eye,” he said. “Nobody says good-bye to me. It simply happens that one day they cannot return.” With a sigh deeper than the ocean, he went on, “It wouldn’t have been long anyhow. You’re much too old for a child’s dream, too far grown for a child’s pleasure. The love I bear for you could never be enough to live on.”
Eagle said nothing. He only feasted his eyes on Vercingetorix, splendid under the moon, for the last time. The unicorn surpassed beauty. So white he dazzled, like fresh snow blazing on a clear night. Thick with muscle, bigger by far and more powerful than any horse of the People, with hooves of brightest gold, and those star-field eyes, huge and lustrous and ancient. He was an old thing. A holy thing, and wise, and frivolous with it.
He whuffed, stirring Eagle’s hair. “Where are you going?”
“I don’t know. Father says— Father says we can’t come back,” he whispered.
“Ah.” The unicorn turned away. “The High King’s will crushes all before it. Fimberevell would be better served by Bearach’s hand, but she has Beagar, who seeks only to rule her. Fare well, Eagle Eye Wormsbane. If you can.”
“I’ll miss you.”
“And I you. More than you can know.” Vercingetorix’s head swung again, and his eye glittered fiercely. “Behave yourself.”
“I always behave.”
“It’s well or badly that’s in question, hmm?”
Laughter danced in the vast field of stars. “Good-bye, Eagle Eye.”
Vercingetorix flashed away into the glade that was bigger than it looked. He was a snowy blaze in high summer before he disappeared into the trees—down a rise, Eagle knew, that was inside a fold of the Real in the glade. The tall grass waved dark, and looked fathoms deep.
He stuck his hands in his pockets and went home.