As the last echoes of their songs fade, Espen grows stronger as winter and summer come within the space of a day. Now she’s coming for the one she missed—a shy, untrained girl of fifteen named Brusenna.
Somehow, Brusenna has to succeed where every other Witch has failed. Find Espen. Fight her. Defeat her.
Or there won’t be anything left to save.
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Witch Song Reviews:
"In WITCH SONG, Amber Argyle makes a riveting debut, creating a fresh new world full of wonder, peril, and splendor. I found WITCH SONG to be positively engrossing from the first page to the last. I'm convinced that this is just the first book in what will be a long and prosperous career!" David Farland, NYT Bestselling
“It is rare to find books that immediately sweep you into their world, plunging you head first through a tale filled with intensity so real you can feel it. These are the books I crave - the stories I seek & find once in a blue moon; such is Witch Song.” ~Author Ashley Knight
“An engrossing story peopled with colorful races and far off places await you in Witch Song, an adventure that will sweep you from the daily grind and deposit you on the other side of your imagination . . . Those readers who love books by Shannon Hale and Aprilynne Pike will enjoy Witch Song.” Christy Dorrity, Syracuse Islander
“Witch Song is a debut with an engrossing world full of magic, adventure and romance. It's a story that fascinated me with its unique witch lore and rich world building, and introduced me to some great in-depth characters.” ~Katie, Mundie Moms
“Ms. Argyle’s story of a young witch’s journey through dangerous lands during even more dangerous times held me utterly mesmerized. Witch Song was Bewitchingly Beautiful and the tempo of the story sang to me long after I had finished it.” ~Kristi Stern, The Book Faery
“I can honestly say that I haven't gotten this lost in a fantasy world since the Harry Potter series. Witch Song was so unbelievably outstanding, that I'm having a hard time translating my thoughts and feelings into a sufficient review. Amber Argyle for me, has earned herself a rank equivalent to the best fantasy fiction authors of this decade.” ~Cory, Antidrug Reads
"Witch Song was a rich and compelling fairytale of magic and dark controlling forces, that gives a unique twist to witchcraft and witches, in general. It was powerful and interesting. Argyle's ability to create a world in which the power of song is used to create magic, is not only masterful but brilliantly clever." ~Suz, Soul Unsung
Brusenna’s straw-colored hair felt as hot as a sun-baked rock. She was sticky with sweat—sweat that trickled down her spine and made her simple dress cling to her. Her every instinct begged her to run from the glares sticking her like wasp stings. But she’d already put off her trip to the market for too long as it was.
The merchant finished wrapping the spools of thread in crinkling brown paper. “Twelve upice,” Bommer said sourly.
A ridiculous price—no doubt made worse by the drought. Had Brusenna been anyone else, she could’ve bartered it down to half that. But she wasn’t anyone else. And even though the villagers only suspected, it was enough. Careful not to touch her, the man’s hand swallowed the coins she dropped in it. She wondered what marvelous things he ate to flesh out his skin that way. Things like the honey-sweetened cakes she could still smell in her clothes long after she’d left the marketplace.
As Bommer mumbled and counted his money, Brusenna gathered the packages tightly to her chest and hurried away. She hadn’t gone five steps when a heavy hand clamped down on her shoulder. Fear shot through her veins like a thousand nettles.
Here, no one ever touched her.
With a wince, she craned her neck back to see the merchant looming over her. “You tryin’ to cheat me, chanter?”
This close, the smell of his stale body odor hit her hard. She swallowed the urge to gag. Her mind worked furiously. She’d counted twice. It’d been right. “I gave you twelve,” she managed.
He yanked her around, grabbing her other arm and bringing her face next to his. She cringed as his large paunch pressed against her. Somewhere, a baby squalled. “You think I can’t count? That it, huh?”
Brusenna tried to answer, but her mouth locked up. She should’ve been more careful. She should’ve stayed until he’d finished counting her coins. But she’d been too eager to escape. He shook her, his dirty nails digging into her skin. Her packages tumbled from her hands and hit the ground.
Taking shallow breathes and arching away from him, she squirmed, desperate to be free. “Please,” she said, finally finding her voice. “Let me go!”
He laughed, his eyes gleaming with pleasure. “No. I don’t think so. Not this time. You know what the punishment is for stealing?”
The stocks. Brusenna swallowed hard. Trapped for an entire day with the whole village taunting her. They’d throw things. Rotten food. And worse. She looked for help in the crowd that had eagerly gathered around them. Satisfaction shone plain on every face. She was suddenly angry with her mother for letting her face this alone. For refusing to come on the grounds that someone might recognize her.
“I didn’t steal,” she whispered, already knowing no one would listen.
“You callin’ me a liar?” Tobacco and spit splattered her face. He backhanded her. For a moment, her vision flashed white, then black with stars, then red. She tasted blood. Her eyes burned with tears. She clamped her teeth shut against the pain, refusing to cry out.
Bommer half-dragged her toward the center of the square, where two thin blocks of wood were connected with a hinge. Three holes, one for her neck and two for her wrists. Remnants of rotten food, manure, and even rocks littered the base.
The sight of the stocks shocked Brusenna into action. She squirmed and struggled.
His hand on the back of her neck, Bommer shoved her throat into the largest, center hole. She tried to rear back. He pushed harder. The wood cut into her windpipe. She couldn’t breathe.
“You let that child go, or you’ll sorely miss your brain, my friend,” said a feminine voice that somehow managed to be soft and commanding at the same time.
Brusenna felt Bommer freeze in place; his arm still pinning her neck down.
Brusenna strained against Bommer to see who’d spoken. In front of her, sitting astride a glossy black horse, a woman glared at Bommer down the barrel of an expensive-looking musket. The wind picked up and her gleaming hair shifted like a field of ripe wheat. For a brief moment, the woman’s cobalt eyes met Brusenna’s golden ones.
Brusenna gaped. She’d hoped for help, but never imagined it’d come from someone both rich and powerful.
“What’d you say to me?” he asked the stranger.
The woman cocked back the hammer. “You heard what I said.”
Bommer didn’t respond. Brusenna felt him shift positions uncertainly. When no one moved to support him, he growled deep in his throat. He pushed once more on Brusenna’s neck, hard. But then she was free. She collapsed, clutching her throat and coughing violently.
When the spots stopped dancing before her eyes, she glanced up at the woman. She was watching Brusenna, fury burning her eyes. The stranger let the barrel drop. “Where I come from, merchants ask for the missing coin before they accuse their customer’s of stealing. Especially against a child.”
A child? Brusenna bristled as she rose to her feet. She was nearly fifteen. Then, from the corner of her eye, she saw Sheriff Tomack pushing through the crowd. All thoughts of defiance flew out of her head. She tried to slip through an opening, but the press of bodies tightened into an impregnable wall. Arms roughly shoved her back to Bommer.
She shuddered as his hand clamped down on her shoulder again. “Sheriff, this girl stole from me and this”—he worked his tongue like he had a bad taste in his mouth—“woman is interfering.”
“I already heard it Bommer.” Sheriff Tomack looked Brusenna over with an unreadable expression. “You trying to cause trouble, girl?”
Digging her toenails into the packed dirt, she shook her head adamantly.
He grunted. “Well then, give Bommer his upice or spend your day in the stocks.”
A flicker of anger flared in her chest and then died like a candle flame in a windstorm. It didn’t matter that she’d already given Bommer twelve upice. It didn’t matter that he was lying. She couldn’t prove it, and to the villagers, her word meant nothing. Scrabbling in her money bag, she found an upice and held it out for Bommer.
The merchant slowly shook his head. “I don’t want her money. I want her time in the stocks.”
Brusenna’s hand automatically moved to her bruised throat. Tears stung her eyes. She quickly blinked them back.
“Why?” Sheriff Tomack asked.
Bommer snorted. “You know why.”
“You got proof?”
Bommer spit in the dirt. “None of us needs it. We all know what she is.”
No one said it, but the word still echoed in Brusenna’s head, Witch.
“Has the girl ever stolen from you before?” Sheriff Tomack asked cautiously.
Bommer took a deep breath. “Her punishment is my choice.”
With a click, the woman on the horse released the cock on her musket. Dismounting, she strode forward. The crowd parted before her, half in fear and half in awe. She threw a handful of coins at Bommer’s chest. They bounced off and scattered in gleaming silver bits across the ground. Brusenna’s eyes widened in disbelief. The woman hadn’t tossed a few dirty upices; the coins were silvers.
The woman straightened her shoulders, somehow managing to be both beautiful and terrible. “Take your money, merchant. And if you give this girl more trouble, I’ll see that no one ever buys from you again.”
Bommer spit a stream of tobacco juice dangerously close to the woman’s foot. “Who’re you to make threats?”
She smiled, a mere baring of her teeth. “Would you like to find out?”
Glaring, Bommer rolled his chaw around his mouth. Finally, his glower shifted to Brusenna. “You ain’t worth it, chanter.” Bending down, he scooped up the coins and stomped back to his booth.
Hate filled Brusenna. She hated that Bommer’s lies allowed him to abuse her without cause—had earned him ten times his due. She hated the crowd for the fact that they hated her. Still, it could’ve been much worse. She could be in the stocks. Grim relief washed through her, cooling her anger. It was past time to be heading home. She twisted to disappear in the crowd. But the strange woman gripped the back of her dress in with an iron fist.
Knowing better than to fight, Brusenna stifled a groan. Not again.
Sheriff Tomack gave the woman a small nod before moving away.
Brusenna turned a pain-filled glance to the marketplace. Though the crowd had grudgingly moved on, people still shot suspicious, hateful glances her way. Their tolerance of her had taken a steep dive since the drought had worsened. They blamed her and her mother for their dying crops, simply because they were Witches.
She forced herself to unclench her fists. The breeze felt cool against her sweaty palms. She turned to face the woman, though she dared not look in her face. “Thank you,” she murmured.
The woman cocked her head to the side. “Why do you buy from him?”
Brusenna shrugged. “The others won’t sell to me. And Bommer needs the money.”
“So he resents you for it,” she summated as she released her grip. “What’s your name, child?” Her voice was as sweet and lingering as the smell of the honeycakes.
“I’m not a child. My name is Brusenna.”
The woman took a deep breath in what sounded like relief. “Ah, Sacra’s daughter. I thought so.”
How could a woman like this know Brusenna’s name? The name of her mother? Her ears buzzed. She managed to bob her head once. She began gathering her scattered packages. The paper scraped loudly against the packed dirt.
The woman crouched beside her. Picking up the last package, she brushed it off and handed it to Brusenna. “My name is Coyel. Will you take me to your mother?”
Brusenna stomach clenched within her. There were two cast-in-iron rules: One: never let them hear your song. Two: never lead them home. She swallowed hard. “Thank you, Coyel, for helping me. But I’m not . . . I mean, I shouldn’t . . . I mean—”
Coyel cocked an eyebrow and pitched her voice so no one else would hear, “I’m the eldest of Four Sisters.”
Brusenna blinked in confusion. Coyel’s statement seemed to hold a deeper meaning, but for all her searching, she couldn’t understand it. “I . . . I’m an only child. My sister died before I was born.”
A look of disbelief crossed Coyel’s face, and Brusenna knew she’d missed the mark entirely. “Take me to your home. I must speak with your mother.”
She bit her bottom lip. Coyel had saved her from the stocks, so if she wanted to speak with her mother . . . well, Brusenna owed her at least that much. With a nervous glance at the townspeople, she nodded and then scurried through the streets. Almost as soon as the village thinned behind them, they crossed into fields flanked by deep forests—forests that drew over the gentle hills like a furry blanket over the sleeping forms of giants. Usually, those forests were deep green, but the drought had caused weaker patches to give up the season, trimming themselves in golds and reds.
Brusenna’s shoulders itched for the cool, comforting shadows of the trees. She felt naked out in the open like this, where anyone’s hate-filled stare could scrutinize her. She felt even more vulnerable with the echoing clop of the horses’ hooves to remind her of the woman and her cobalt eyes.
Nearly a league from the marketplace, Brusenna waited while Coyel to tied her horse to a nearby tree. The path wound through thickets as dense and tangled as matted cat fur. She and her mother made it this way to keep strangers out.
Just as she moved to enter the forest, Coyel placed a hand on her shoulder. “This is your home. You should be the one to sing the song.”
Brusenna’s eyes widened in disbelief. Another witch? It couldn’t be.
Coyel lifted an eyebrow. “Unless you’d prefer me to sing instead?”
Brusenna didn’t understand. Coyel was beautiful and powerful. Not skittish and weak. How could she be a witch? “At the marketplace, you-you knew what I was. How?”
Coyel shot a glare back in the direction of the village. “I heard someone saying the witch was finally going to the stocks.”
Brusenna folded her arms across her stomach. It made sense. Who else but another witch would’ve helped her?
Coyel must’ve sensed her hesitation. “Are you unable?” There was a simple curiosity in her gaze. As if she wanted to see if Brusenna could do it.
Of course she could sing the pathway clear. She’d been doing it for years. But Brusenna hesitated. It went against years of training to sing in front of a stranger. And she was suddenly nervous to perform in front of another witch—a witch who was everything Brusenna wasn’t.
Before she could change her mind, she squared her shoulders and started singing, “Plants of the forest make a path for me; for through this forest I must flee. After I pass hide my trail; for an enemy I must quell.”
The underbrush shivered and then parted like a wooden comb plaiting braids. As they started walking, Brusenna continued her song. As soon as their feet lifted, the plants wove behind them, tangling and knotting themselves into a formidable barrier nearly as tall as a man’s chest.
What was nearly impossible without the song was fairly easy with it. In no time, they abruptly left the last of the forest behind. Brusenna stepped aside, giving the woman full view of her home. Drought engulfed the whole countryside. And yet here, their lush gardens thrived. The house and barn were neat and well tended. The milk cow lazily munched her cud under the shade of a tree. With a fierce kind of pride, she watched for Coyel’s reaction.
Coyel took in the prolific gardens with a sweep of her gaze. But the woman didn’t seem impressed. As if she’d expected no less. And maybe she had.
Brusenna wanted to ask why Coyel had come, but her tongue dried in her mouth. Her mind shouted it instead, what do you want with us?
Bruke, Brusenna’s enormous wolfhound, noticed them from his position in the shade of the house and bounded forward; the scruff on the back of his neck stiff with distrust. They’d purchased him as a guard dog after someone had shot their old plow horse, Jigger. His wary eyes shifted to Brusenna in question.
Brusenna blinked rapidly. She suddenly wanted to explain why she’d broken the rule before a stranger simply breezed into their house. She darted past Coyel and up the worn path. “Bruke, heel.”
With one last glare at the stranger, Bruke glued himself to her side.
She pushed open the door to the house. “Mother!” she called, pulling some clinging hair off her sweaty forehead.
Sacra’s head popped up from the floor cellar. “What is it, Brusenna?”
“A woman named—”
“Coyel,” the woman finished as she stepped up behind her.
For the longest time, the two women stared at each other. The charge between them made the tiny hairs on Brusenna’s arms stand on end. Coyel stepped through the doorway and into their home. To Brusenna’s knowledge, she was the first outsider to ever do so.
“It’s been a long time, Sacra,” Coyel said.
Brusenna’s gaze flitted back and forth between her mother and Coyel. That they knew each other went beyond her comprehension. In her fifteen years, Brusenna had never seen her mother converse with anyone other than an occasional trouble-making villager—usually one of the adolescent boys who’d taken on the challenge to kill one of their animals as a dare.
Sacra stepped out of the cellar and lowered the door as gently as if it were glass. Slowly, she straightened her slender back. “Brusenna, leave the things on the table and go check the corn.”
Brusenna’s disbelief rose in her throat, nearly choking her. “But, Mother—” At her mother’s fierce glower, she swallowed her words, dropped her purchases on the table, and ducked out the door. Bruke followed. Careful to keep her stride even, she waited until she’d rounded the corner of the house before peeking back. The way was clear.
“Bruke, stay,” she whispered. With a disappointed whine, the dog sat on his haunches.
Hunched over, Brusenna retraced her steps. The soft grass felt cool under her hands and the sun was hot on her back as she knelt to one side of the doorway. There were no sounds from within. She waited until her knees were practically numb. She’d almost determined to chance a peek through the window when their voices halted her.
“What brings you, Coyel?” her mother asked warily.
“The Sisters need you, Sacra. There are precious few of us left and signs of the Dark Witch increase daily. The Circle of Sisters must be complete if we are to recapture her and stop the drought.”
Brusenna’s eyebrows flew up in wonder. It’d never occurred to her that Sacra could’ve been a different person before she became her mother. Mustering every ounce of bravery, she positioned one eye in the corner of the window.
“Calling Espen the Dark Witch only increases her power over us.” Sacra’s gaze remained fixed on the floor. “Find another Eighth.”
Coyel pressed her lips in a tight line. “The others are gone.”
Her mother’s head came slowly up; she blinked in surprise . . . and fear. “I have a daughter. You have only yourself.”
Coyel pointed toward Gonstower. “They call us Witches. But long before that, the Creators named us Keepers. It’s what we are. Keepers of the Four Sisters—Earth, Plants, water, and sunlight. And as a Keeper, you can’t deny that all are floundering. If we don’t act now, it’ll be too late.”
Sacra stood rigid and immovable. “No.”
Coyel’s voice flared, “You know what the Dark Witch will do if she succeeds? Your daughter is witchborne; even worse, she’s the child of a former Head of Earth.” She shook her head in disbelief. “She doesn’t even know our signs.”
Her mother turned away and stared blankly at the trees behind the house. “The less Brusenna knows, the safer she is.”
“Safer?” Coyel spat. “You haven’t taught her to protect herself. She’s absolutely terrified of those villagers.” The last word sounded like her mother’s voice after she’d found rats in their oats. “What chance do you think the girl will stand when Espen finds her?”
A moan escaped her mother’s lips. Her head rested heavily in her palms.
Coyel stepped forward and rested her hand on Sacra’s shoulder. “I’ve heard her. When she’s fully come into her own, I wouldn’t doubt she’ll be at least a Level Four. But right now, she’s . . . immature. And not just her song. Keeping her isolated will only make it worse. She needs to get out. Be around other Sisters her own age. Learn.”
Brusenna’s cheeks flamed with shame, partly because she suspected Coyel was right about her immaturity. Whenever she was around strangers, her tongue dried up in her mouth and her stomach seemed full of writhing snakes.
Her mother jerked away as if Coyel’s touch had suddenly burned her. “Coyel, no. Espen won’t find her. I’ve been careful. Gonstower is isolated. No one knows I’m here. And we’re not completely without friends.”
Friends? Brusenna mentally flipped through the faces of the villagers who would’ve gladly seen her in the stocks. What friends?
Coyel’s gentleness vanished, replaced by disbelief and anger. “I found you. And if you think those villagers will protect her identity, you’re deceiving yourself. The ignorant fools would gladly turn her over. Never understanding that the very Keepers they hate are all that stand between them and—”
“I said no!” Sacra shouted. The sound made Brusenna jump. She’d never heard her mother shout before. “Get out!”
Coyel backed away, her jaw working as if she might chew through Sacra’s resistance, and then her head dropped. “We’re gathering at Haven. I’ll wait in the village for three days.” Her fervent gaze meet Sacra’s smoldering one. “Please, Sacra. We can’t do it without you.”
Not daring to linger another moment, Brusenna scampered away from the door and pressed herself flat against the smooth boards on the other side of the house.
“Please, Sacra,” Coyel ask again. And then all Brusenna could hear was the sound of footsteps that grew fainter within moments.
She barely felt Bruke nudge her with his wet nose. Her chest rose and fell as her mind reeled with unfamiliar names. Circle of Sisters, Keepers, the Dark Witch? Surely her mother had no understanding of such things. Surely she’d lived here for generations.
Available Sept 1st, 2011.