There are Great Things Afoot about Peter’s work, and I should have an IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT* to this effect some time before the end of the month. Mwa hahahahaha.**
Meanwhile I promised another snippet or two from EARTH AND AIR. Everybody out there has already bought it though, right? http://smallbeerpress.com/ Well, maybe you need reminding to get it out of the TBR pile and into your hands.*** So here’s a snippet from WIZAND.
Apologies for the weird spacing of the extract. I have no idea. I thought I copied and pasted as I have done before.
. . . As the first axe bit ringingly into the ash tree the wizand woke
and glided down into the base of the bole, just below ground level.
Next spring a ring of young shoots sprang from the still living
sapwood beneath the bark. They grew to wands, then poles. When
they were an inch or so thick the wizand slid back up into one and
Seven times, at twenty year intervals, the wood was fresh
coppiced, but only for two or three years in each cycle were the
saplings right for the wizand’s needs, and no possible host came
near while that was so. By the time the timber was carted away it
was long poles, thicker than a man’s calf, and the wizand, safe in
the bole, waited without impatience for the next regrowth.
The economics of forestry changed again, and the coppicing
ceased. It was another hundred and ten years before the ash tree
was once more felled. This time it happened with the clamour of
an engine, and hooked teeth on a chain that clawed so fast into the
trunk that the wizand needed to wake almost fully from its torpor
and hurry past before it was trapped above the cut. More engines
dragged the timber away and the shattered wood was left in peace.
Next spring, as always, fresh shoots sprang up, ringing the severed
* * *
A man’s voice.
“These look about the right size. Which one do you want,
Another voice, petulant with boredom.
“I don’t know.”
The second voice triggered the change. Instantly the wizand
was fully alert, waiting, knowing its own needs, just as a returning
salmon knows the stream that spawned it. It guided the reaching
arm. Through the young bark of the sapling it welcomed palm
and fingers. The hand was very small, a child’s, about seven years
old, but now that the wizand was properly awake it saw how time
was running out. There was little chance of another possible host
coming by, and none of the ash tree being coppiced again, before
the appointed hour.
“This one,” said the child’s voice, firmly.
A light saw bit sweetly in. The wizand stayed above the cut.
“I’ll carry it,” said the child.
“If you like. Just don’t get it between your legs. Or mine. Now
what we want next is a birch tree, and some good hemp cord. None
of your nasty nylon—not for a witch’s broom.”
When the children came in from their trick-or-treating the
several witches piled their brooms together. As they were leaving, a
child happened to pick out the wrong one. She let go and snatched
her hand back with a yelp.
“It bit me,” she said, and started to cry, more frightened than
“Of course it did,” said Sophie Winner. “That’s my broom. It
won’t let anyone else touch it.”
They thought she was joking, of course, and later that evening
Simon and Joanne Winner found it gratifying that Sophie was so
pleased with her new broom that she took it up to bed with her,
and went upstairs without any of the usual sulkings and dallyings.
Sophie dreamed that night about flying. It was a dream she’d
had before, so often that she thought she’d been born with it.
The wizand was always cautious with a fresh symbiote. The
revelation, when it came, was likely to be a double shock, with the
discovery both of the wizand’s existence, and of the symbiote’s true
self. But hitherto the girl had always been around puberty. It had
never dealt with a child as young as Sophie, with her preconceptions
unhardened. If anything, it was she who surprised the wizand.
A fortnight after Halloween she took her broom into the back
garden, saying that she was going to sweep the leaves off the lawn.
“If you like,” said her father, laughing. “They’ll blow around a
bit in this wind, but give it a go.”
He went to fetch his video camera.
The wizand could have swept the lawn on its own, but with her
parents watching through the patio window Sophie kept firm hold
of it, following its movements like a dancing partner, while it used
the wind to gather the leaves into three neat piles in places where
they would no longer blow around.
“It’s wonderful what a kid can do by way of work, provided
she thinks she’s playing,” said her father. He was the sort of parent
that hides from himself the knowledge that his relationship with
his own child is not what it should be by theorising about the
behaviour of children in general.
When she’d finished, Sophie went up to her room and sat
cross-legged and straight-backed in the middle of the floor, with
the broom across her thighs and her hands grasping the stick at
either end. She waited.
“Yes?” said the wizand.
Sophie heard the toneless syllable as clearly as if it had been
spoken aloud, but knew that it hadn’t come to her through her
ears. She answered in the same manner, inside her head.
“I knew you were there. The moment I touched the tree. I felt
“What are you? A demon or something?”
Sophie accepted the unfamiliar word without query.
“Am I a witch?”
“I thought so. Can we fly?”
“We’d need to be invisible.”
“But . . . Oh, you mean you can’t do that? Couldn’t I?”
“You can fly, and you can sweep. Anything else?”
“Oh . . . ”
Sophie felt relieved. She didn’t know why.
“We’d better wait for a dark night,” she said.
Sophie chose a Friday, so that she could lie in on Saturday
morning. She went to bed early and waited for her parents to come
in and say goodnight. As soon as the door closed behind them she
fetched her broom from the corner beside the wardrobe.
“They won’t come back,” she told it. “Let’s go.”
“Sleep,” said the wizand.
“Oh. It won’t be just dreaming again? We’re really going to do
Sophie climbed into bed with the broom on the duvet beside
her, closed her eyes and was instantly asleep. The wizand waited
until it sensed that the parents were also sleeping, then woke her
by sending a trembling warm sensation into her forearm where it
lay against the ash wood. She sat up, fully aware. . . .
* * *
* That’s IMPORTANT. ANNOUNCEMENT.
** More mwa hahahahaha. I will do a round-up of KES comments some day soon.
*** Or maybe I’m just lazy. Hmm. No, there are a lot of bad names you can call me–disorganised, procrastinating and easily distracted among them–but not lazy.
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