Lacey would have liked to stay longer in the hunter’s yard. But when Ella upended the entire bag of feathers she knew it was time to go. Better to bring Ella down to the river to play where she couldn’t embarrass Lacey any more.
“You are coming from the hunter’s yard I see?”
The voice startled Lacey. Envoy Yasmina was directly behind her, the coils of her hair sitting on top of her head like a mating-ball of blonde garter snakes. Lacey wondered where she had come from. It was not easy to sneak up on her bat ears.
“Envoy. Well met.” Lacey dipped her head awkwardly. She preferred it when the Envoy ignored her.
“You have been spending much of your time with the Hunters.” The Envoy’s eyes glittered like ice. “I think becoming a hunter is a good path for you, given your heritage.”
“Thank you, Envoy,” Lacey said, not sure what to make of the comment. The Envoy had never encouraged her in anything before. The Envoy usually avoided Lacey.
“You will need someone to sponsor you when you age out of school. Have you spoken to your mother?”
“No, Envoy. She wants me to choose the ovens.”
“Your sister is more suited to the ovens, I would think. Not much call for two bakers in a village this size.”
Ella was skipping along ahead; she hadn’t noticed that Lacey had stopped yet. Lacey wanted to call to her to wait, but the Envoy’s presence made her voice feel small, not nearly loud enough to call out to anyone.
“I could speak for you with the hunters. I could even talk to the schoolmistress about an early transition, like she did for that boy.”
Lacey’s eyes grew wide. She wasn’t sure what to think. Envoy Yasmina didn’t like her, or at least it had always seemed that way. “Thank you, Envoy!”
The imposing woman smiled and Lacey smiled back. She couldn’t believe this was happening. She was getting her dream. And she didn’t even have to broach the subject with Mama, or Riley. This day might turn out to be a happy one after all. She would have to put up with Devan as a brother hunter, but Riley and the other hunters wouldn’t let him make trouble. Maybe they would even kick him out, or he would run away. Then life would be perfect.
“Yes. I imagine you want to set your feet on the Explorer’s Trail, like your father. Fitting. You aren’t cut out for life in the Village, are you…monster?”
Black cold jumped from her belly and gripped her heart. Lacey looked around, but there was nobody near enough to hear. Ella had stopped up the road and was clutching a fence post, watching the encounter between Lacey and the Envoy. But she was too far away to hear the words. Words that had the sting of truth.
“Nothing good has ever come from that Wood.” The Envoy leaned down so that her face was directly in front of Lacey’s face. “Good people who enter go missing or insane—or come out with deviations masquerading as children. It is my duty to ensure that this Village keeps the Virtues Eridan was founded on. The Path does not have a place for a bat-beast. The Explorer’s Trail is the only place for you, far away from the good people here.”
Lacey could do nothing to stop the assault of the Envoys words. She couldn’t speak. Her voice was gone. She wanted to scratch and bite like she had this morning with Devan. But her body was frozen. Her arm was too heavy to rise. Her feet would not even turn and run.
The Envoy straightened and patted Lacey’s head, smiling sweetly. But as her fingers brushed the edge of Lacey’s ear they pinched, quick and cruel.
Lacey whimpered involuntarily, but kept from crying out. She did not want anyone to see—to know what the Envoy had just done. Some of the adults in Pine Ridge distrusted Lacey; sometimes she caught stares or whispers from them. But nothing that ever made her afraid.
The Envoy was respected. The Envoy interpreted the Path and the Virtues, in situations when it wasn’t clear. Lacey was a situation that was not clearly defined in the Path.
All of a sudden, she was very afraid.
YOU ARE READING
Lacey is a bat girl. Seven years ago, her mother wished at the well in the heart of the Wish Wood, transforming a young bat-ling into a human girl--mostly human. But Lacey is growing up, Mama has a real daughter now, the kids in town tug on her poin...