Excerpt #23: Back to Wisherton

From the author:

Yavic has a gift, too. My son, who gave Yavic his name, also told me what his gift should be. There are a few subtle hints in the first book, but this scene from chapter 4 of Back to Wisherton is, I think, the first place where readers might start to guess the gift.  And readers who don't yet know the gift might prefer to read the books first.

From the book:

    Curiosity pulled the children in that direction without discussion. Yavic feared it would take them farther off course. He still couldn’t help moving towards the whiteness. As they got closer, the area appeared to shimmer with movement. It looked less like snow and more like something they needed to investigate.
    “It’s flowers,” Lolly said.
    It wasn’t flowers, not exactly. There were vines growing across the ground. They were white vines with delicate white leaves dancing in the breeze.
    Lolly bent down and plucked at the curly end of a vine to watch it spring back. “Wow,” she said.
    “I’m hungry,” Samtry said. She wasn’t hungry. She wanted an excuse to stay and play with the vines. She knew Yavic would tell her they had to keep walking. But he was always looking for an excuse to eat. He was always hungry.
    “All right.” Yavic was hungry.
    Sevra nodded and dropped her load to find a bag of food. She passed out some cheese and dried fruit. They’d run out of cookies, but no one complained about the cheese. It made them think of Peppo and his fewls who provided the milk to make it. It made them think of the home they wanted to return to, with their family whole again.
    Lolly kept tugging on the vines, trying to untangle sections. She stood and held the end of one over her head. “Look how long it is when I straighten it.”
    Yavic had finished eating. His sisters ate so slowly all the time, particularly Sevra, that he only partly suspected they were trying to delay having to walk again. He distracted himself with the vines. They snaked along the ground over and between and through each other. He picked one up and tried to follow it to the end. “This one ends all the way over here,” he called. He was at least ten feet from his sisters.
    “Really?” Lolly found a vine to follow as well. She skipped forward awhile then frowned at the ground. “I think I lost it.” She picked up a vine and tried to backtrack holding onto it rather than using only her eyes. She ended up farther from Samtry and Sevra on their other side. “These are so cool.”
    Sevra agreed. She put away the rest of the food and nibbled on her last piece of cheese while she traced a path with a vine near her.
    The vines themselves were very smooth, but the leaves had gentle fuzz on their backs. Samtry fingered the leaves, enjoying the softness before she too began to trace and follow individual vines around the field. The weight of the quest was set aside while the children played and lost track of time.
    They tried to find the longest vine and divided into teams. Sevra stood to mark the start of a vine while Lolly followed it to the end. Yavic was following Samtry’s vines. Then they compared lengths. The four of them were spread out, yelling to each other excitedly each time a new longest vine was discovered.
    Samtry was sure she and Yavic were ahead on total length. She found a good fat vine and stood at the base while Yavic tried to find the end. The sun had touched the horizon without anyone noticing. Samtry was about to celebrate how far Yavic had gone following the vine when she realized with a jolt how hard it was to see him.
    “It’s too dark,” she whispered to herself. She gave up her mark to retrieve a pair of candles. When she looked up to tell Yavic, however, she saw the shape of something moving near him. Whatever it was, it was way too big to be a leaf in the breeze.
    Yavic noticed that Samtry had moved. He was going to ask her why when she called out to him with unmistakable fear in her voice. He turned to see what had scared her. His heart jumped into his throat as his eyes fell on a terrifying creature. It might not have been a foot tall but was at least three feet long with a tail that rustled in the vines behind it. How had he not heard that sickening crinkle?
    The creature was distinctly lizard-like and waddled under its fat body. Yavic froze and the creature froze as well. But only for a moment. Then it opened wide its jaws with a shrieking sound. It lunged at Yavic, who didn’t think to run. It happened too fast. He simply threw his arms over his face and braced himself.
    The creature shrieked louder and snarled angrily. Yavic screamed as well before he realized that he didn’t actually feel any of those tiny sharp teeth on him. He lowered his arms enough to see that the creature had become tangled in the vines. It thrashed towards Yavic and snapped its jaws as it continued its ear-splitting shrieks.
    Yavic stepped backwards, unable to look away. Just as suddenly as it had lunged, the creature closed its mouth and began to struggle in the opposite direction. The vines that circled its legs became clearer as light came from somewhere.
    “Go away!” It was Samtry’s voice. She was running towards them with a candle in each hand. She reached Yavic’s side as the creature broke free and ran.
    Yavic looked down at his little sister. She was trembling from head to toe, clearly frightened, but she’d come to his aid anyway. He could have hugged her. The thought crossed his mind. Yavic wasn’t a hugger though. He only said, “Thanks.”
    Samtry smiled and handed him one of the candles. Together, they rejoined their siblings. Sevra and Lolly had lit candles as well.
    “Was that a night lizard?” Lolly asked.
    “I think so,” Yavic said.
    Lolly sounded impressed and almost jealous that he’d gotten to see one. Yavic had the weirdest impulse to throw his arms around her, too. Was it the brush with danger that made him want to go around hugging people or the escape from it? Either way, he was in trouble. Sevra seemed to read the situation and gave him a hug. Lolly wrapped her arms around both of them.

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