With only the crash of waves for company, Elena stood by the
cliff's edge and stared out across the blue seas. At the horizon, the sun
was just dawning, crowning the distant islands of the Archipelago with
rosy halos of mist. Closer to the coast, a single-masted fishing trawler
fought the tide to ply its trade among the many isles and reefs. Over its
sails, gulls and terns argued while hunting the same generous waters.
Nearer still, at the base of the steep bluff, the rocky shore was already
occupied by the lounging bodies of camping sea lions. The scolding barks
of mothers to their pups and the occasional huffing roar of a territorial
bull echoed up to her.
Sighing, Elena turned her back on the sight. Since the seadragons of the
mer'ai had left fifteen days ago, the routines of the coastline were
already returning to normal. Such was the resiliency of nature.
As if to remind her further of the natural world's strength, a stiff
morning breeze tugged at her hair, blowing it into her eyes. Irritated,
she pushed back the waving strands with gloved fingers and attempted to
trap the stray locks behind her ears, but the winds fought her efforts. It
had been over two moons since Er'ril had last cropped her hair, and the
length had grown to be a nuisance--too short to fix with ribbons and pins,
yet too long to easily manage, especially with her hair beginning to show
its curl again. Still, she kept her complaints to herself, fearing Er'ril
might take the shears to her once again.
She frowned at the thought. She was tired of looking like a boy.
Though she had readily accepted the necessity of the disguise while
traveling the lands of Alasea, out here in the lonely wilds of the
Blisterberry bluffs, there were no eyes to spy upon her and no need to
continue the ruse as Er'ril's son--or so she kept telling herself. Yet she
was not so sure her guardian held these same assumptions.
As a caution, Elena had gone to wearing caps and hats when around Er'ril,
hoping he wouldn't notice the growing length of her locks or the fading
black dye that had camouflaged her hair. The deep fire of her natural
color was finally beginning to reappear at the roots.
She pulled out her cap from her belt and corralled her hair under it
before hiking back up the coastal trail to the cottage. Why the appearance
of her hair should matter so much to her she could not put into words. It
was not mere vanity, though she could not deny that a pinch of pride did
play a small role in her subterfuge with Er'ril. She was a young woman,
after all, and why wouldn't she balk at appearing as a boy?
But there was more to it than that. And the true reason was marching down
the path toward her with a deep frown. Dressed in a wool sweater against
the morning's chill, her brother wore his fiery red hair pulled back from
his face with a black leather strap. Reminded of her family by Joach's
presence, Elena was ashamed to hide her own heritage under dyes any
longer. It was like denying her own parents.
As Joach closed the distance between them, Elena recognized the character
of the young man's exasperated grimace and his pained green eyes. She had
seen it often enough on her father's face.
"Aunt My has been looking all over for you," he said as greeting.
"My lessons!" Elena darted forward, closing the distance with her brother.
"I'd almost forgotten."
"Almost?" he teased as she joined him.
She scowled at her brother but could not argue against his accusation. In
fact, she had completely forgotten about this morning's lesson. It was to
be her last instruction on the art of swordplay before Aunt Mycelle left
for Port Rawl to rendezvous with the other half of their party. Kral,
Tol'chuk, Mogweed, and Meric were due to meet with Mycelle there in two
days' time. Elena wondered for the hundredth time how they had fared in
Shadowbrook. She prayed they were all well.
As she and her brother marched back up the trail toward the cottage, Joach
mumbled, "El, your head's always in the clouds."
She turned in irritation, then saw her brother's quirked smile. Those were
the same words her father had used so often to scold Elena when time had
slipped away from her. She took her brother's hand in her own. Here was
all that was left of her family now.
Joach squeezed her gloved hand, and they walked in silence through the
fringe forest of wind-whipped cypress and pine. As Flint's cottage
appeared on the bluffs ahead, Joach cleared his throat. "El, there's
something I've been meaning to ask you."
"When you go to the island . . ." he started.
Elena inwardly groaned. She did not want to think of the last leg of their
journey to retrieve the Blood Diary from the island of A'loa
Glen--especially given Joach's own accounting of the horrors that lay in
"I'd like to go back with you. To the island."
Elena stumbled a step. "You know that's not possible. You heard Er'ril's
"Yes, but a word from you--"
"No," she said. "There's no reason for you to go."
With a touch on her arm, Joach pulled her to a stop. "El, I know you want
to keep me from further danger, but I have to go back."
Shaking free of his hand, she stared him in the eye. "Why? Why do you
think you need to go? To protect me?"
"No, I'm no fool." Joach stared at his feet. He still would not meet her
gaze. "But I had a dream," he whispered. "A dream that has repeated twice
over the past half moon since you arrived from the swamps."
She stared at her brother. "You think it's one of your weavings?"
"I think so." He finally raised his eyes to hers, a slight blush on his
cheeks. Joach had discovered he shared their family's heritage of
elemental magicks. His skill was dreamweaving, a lost art preserved by
only a select few of the Brotherhood. It was the ability to glimpse
snatches of future events in the dream plane. Brother Flint and Brother
Moris had been working with Joach on testing the level of his magick.
Joach nodded toward the cottage ahead. "I haven't told anyone else."
"Maybe it's just an ordinary dream," Elena offered. But the part of her
that was a wit'ch stirred with her brother's words. Magick. Even the mere
mention of it fired her blood. With both her fists fresh to the Rose, the
magick all but sang in her heart. Swallowing hard, she closed her spirit
against the call of the wit'ch. "What made you think it was a weaving?"
Joach scrunched up his face. "I . . . I get this feeling when I'm in a
weaving. It's like a thrill in my veins, like my very being is afire with
an inner storm. I felt it during this dream."
An inner storm, Elena thought. She knew that sensation when she touched
her own wild magick--a raging tempest trapped in her heart screaming with
pent-up energy. She found her two hands wringing together with just the
remembrance of past flows of raw magick. She forced her hands apart. "Tell
me about your dream."
Joach bit his lower lip, suddenly reluctant.
"Go on," Elena persisted.
His voice lowered. "I saw you at the top of a tall spire in A'loa Glen. A
black winged beast circled the parapets nearby--"
Excerpted from Wit'ch War by James Clemens. . Excerpted by permission of Del Rey, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.