Teaser Tuesday: Castle of Sighs by Jennifer Murgia
Some secrets cannot be kept—in life or in death.Months have passed since Rune has heard a single whisper from her long-dead mother, the great witch of Bavaria. But the absence of one evil has only made room for another.After rightfully inheriting her ancestral home, Pyrmont Castle, Rune settles into a quiet life taking care of two orphans left in the wake of the terrible witch hunt that claimed dozens of lives in the nearby village. As the days grow colder, the castle’s secrets beckon and Rune finds herself roaming where no one has set foot in a long time. In the bowels of the fortress is a locked room full of memories that hang like cobwebs—shelves stacked with jars, strange specimens, putrid liquids, and scrolls of spells. Rune is undeniably drawn to what she finds there, and she begins to dabble in the possibilities of magic, hoping to find a cure for the strangeness overwhelming the castle.As secrets unspool, the delicate thread of Rune’s world is threatened when she realizes the key may lie in the dark forest she once called home and the boy she thought she knew.
“He is magnificent.” She whispers when we have finished.
The child lies still upon the table. A composite of hair and skin and bones from the village boy—his heart now beats with magick. In time, the delicate stitches will heal and no one will question how, or why.
It was almost too much to bear the moment we began, and so I created a tonic of herbs and incense to fill the room while we worked. The woman’s nerves have now settled, and by the look upon her face she seems pleased with my work.
“Utterly magnificent,” she repeats, her finger tracing the delicate flesh of his arm, his collarbone, his jaw. She holds a lock of his hair between her finger and thumb, then reaches for her own, inches shorter in a place at the nape of her neck. “He looks just like my son.”
“He is your son,” I confirm.
She nods, her eyes still disbelieving yet accepting, all at once.
The boy yawns then wakes, as if he’d been asleep this whole time.
“Will he know me?”
“Your blood is his now.”
She approaches the child with caution and the moment he sees her, he smiles and holds his arms out to her. Tears of joy spill down her cheeks.
My heart clenches, for it too misses the love of a child.
“But . . .”
“You will tell your husband that you found the babe in the forest, crying and alone.” I hand her a small, muslin pouch. “Tonight, you will stir these herbs into his ale, and the rest into your tea. By dawn, it will be as if the boy has been born to you all along.”
I wait patiently for her to nod and agree with what must be done. “Have you a name for the boy?”
“After my father,” she tells me. “His name shall be Laurentz.”
Jennifer Murgia writes moody fiction for teens—from paranormal fantasy (ANGEL STAR, LEMNISCATE, THE BLISS), to contemporary gut-punchers (BETWEEN THESE LINES). Her latest, FOREST OF WHISPERS, a 17th century historical mystery (about witches!) was a School Library Journal Fall 2014 HOT TITLE, and a 2014 Moonbeam Children’s Literature Award Winner. The sequel, CASTLE OF SIGHS, releases October 27, 2015 from Spencer Hill Press. She is the co-founder and coordinator of YA FEST and currently resides in Pennsylvania.
Amanda Luedeke of MacGregor Literary Agency ~ firstname.lastname@example.org