Hailstone Mountain, Snippet One

A look at my sales figures suggests to me that I need to promote Hailstone Mountain, my new novel. So I’ll be doing some snippets. Here’s the first, actually the Prologue:

I sat in the darkness. The mountain-rats slept around me. I could see some of their forms in the firelight. My brown cat lay curled against my leg, purring soundlessly. They’d shared their supper with us—dried fish.

I felt no need of sleep just then. I’d slept a lot on my high stone bed.

“Are you awake, Outsider?” a voice asked. At first I thought it might be the cat speaking again, but then I saw it was a boy, one of the mountain-rats. Although I could not see him clearly, I thought I knew which one he was. Sixteen winters or so, with bright blue eyes.

“I’m awake, my son.”

“Why do you call me your son?”

“It’s what I call everyone. Son or daughter. It’s my business to be a father to people.”

“I never knew for sure who my father was.”

“That’s just why I’m here.”

“May I ask you a question, then, …Father?”

“Of course.”

“Have you been out in the great world?”

“Aye. And mean to be again.”

“Is it really there?”

“Of course it is. Why do you doubt?”

“I’ve never seen it.”

“You were born here in the mountain?”

“Yes.”

“Ah, lad, you’ve got to see it. Blue skies. Green meadows. Wide forests. The sun in the sky, so bright you can’t look at it—ʺ

“If it’s so bright you can’t look at it, how do you know it’s there?”

“Well, you can see it out of the corner of your eye, so to speak. It’s not safe to look directly on it. Most important, though, you see everything else by it. It’s where the light comes from, just as what we see in this cavern we see because of that fire.”

I saw the boy slump, his chin on his drawn-up knees. “I don’t believe in the sun,” he said. “I don’t believe in the great world at all.”

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