The book should be available now so this is the last snippet.

Much Fall Of Blood — Snippet 80

Chapter 45

Dana found herself going up to feed the wyverns every day. She wasn’t quite sure how it had happened, just as she was not too sure how she had slipped into the life of the gypsies, or as they called themselves, the pack. She thought that name quite funny. True, Tante Silvia’s cart could pass for the home of a packrat. The old woman and her tinker husband collected nearly every form of junk. Some of it they turned into things that they might sell. Some of it just accumulated.

It was among this clutter that Dana found treasures that she entertained herself with, and, quite accidentally objects that delighted the Wyverns. They were mostly at an age when they were delighted by something that they could eat. Everything was tried for taste. Trees, rocks, pine needles. Dana had asked Angelo about that. “Surely it can’t be good for them?”

He had just laughed. He did that a lot when she asked him questions. Dana just asked them again. Sometimes she got answers. “They don’t like iron much. It won’t kill them the way that it does to some fey. But they say it stinks. I have seen them eat very nearly anything else. It doesn’t seem to do them any kind of harm. They are creatures of magic, not nature.”

But they had held back from eating Dana’s treasure. It was a glass prism. She could make rainbow-lights with it, and the two creatures loved chasing them, especially when she used a small mirror together with it. They liked to stand in the rainbow light and shift colors to match it too. They were rather like fast-growing kittens without the furry cuddliness. They seemed to have a fascination with the light pattern. She could keep them busy for an hour, chasing it, hiding in it.

At the same time Dana was having trouble with her mother . . . who was convinced that her new interest in early rising and the deep woods was something to do with male gypsies. Mother had even tried to follow her. Dana had had to lead her back to camp after she’d got herself lost. Dana had become a bit more wood-wise now . . . and yes, she did always go with a male gypsy . . . who was not quite with her. But near at hand. But she had no interest in men. Not like that, anyway. The ideas mother got.

“Your father’s mother said that the Valah always developed late. But did it have to be now?” said Mama, wringing her hands. “Dana . . . I have explained to you . . .”

“Mama, the dogs have more interest in me. They only marry their own kind, these people. And I have no more interest in them than they have in me. I just . . . like it up there.” She actually had been noticing boys lately. There were some here that were exceptionally handsome, if you looked beyond the ragged clothes and the dirt. But the wyvern’s watchers . . . they were old. Old men. Over twenty.

“You know Dana . . . men, men are, well some of them like young girls.”

“Like the Hungarian commander at Poeinari. He tried to touch me. I screamed, remember.”

“Oh Dana. We should go to the Danesti cousins. I will organize for our horses . . .”

Dana knew she had to stop that. “They won’t do it.”

“Then I must make a plan.”

Dana was still wondering just how she could distract her mother from a new flight, when Bertha took the matter out of her hands. She was actually trying to saddle their horses on her own late that night. Of course, as she had never saddled a horse in her life, and the camp only appeared to be asleep, things soon went awry. Dana, still half asleep, listened to her mother’s hysterical voice. “You can’t stop me. It’s not safe here for my daughter.”

Angelo’s voice: “It is safer here than anywhere else in Valahia, Lady. They still look for you.”

“I don’t believe you.”

Dana could almost hear the gypsies shrug. “It’s true, Lady. We can send messages . . . if there is anyone you trust enough to ask.”

“I could ask Cousin Alets.” There was doubt now in her voice. “But could you really get a letter to him?”

“In Klosovar? That one is easy.”

“But would you let me go, if she said it was safe?”

“Yes. But we have kept you safe so far, Lady. Why are you worried now? The Drac is coming. He comes south with his army.”

Dana wanted to ask about her brother. But she thought it might be a good idea to continue to pretend to be fast asleep. For now, anyway.

“It’s not me,” said her mother. “It’s my daughter. She’s . . .”

“She is as safe here as in her own home, lady. We watch her. She is the Drac’s sister. That is important to our people.”

“Yes . . . but she is not being properly . . . chaperoned.”

There was some laughter at that. “Lady. You do not understand. She is the Drac’s sister. No man here would touch her any more than if she was my own sister.”

“And there are not many that would have dared do that,” said Grigori, with a chuckle.

“He is married to my sister,” explained Angelo. “But that was her choice, and with my permission. Who here would dare to ask the Drac for such permission? Your son is a great and terrible man.”

“Vlad?” Her mother’s voice was troubled. “I am so afraid for him.”

“No need, lady.”

“But he was such a sensitive little boy. And he got sick very easily . . . I can’t think of him as a man.

Dana could hear the amusement in Angelo’s voice “He has grown up a little. He is much taller than I am. And I have not seen him show any signs of ever being sick.”

“Not even when the rest of us were sick from that bad meat,” said Grigori.

“Oh. Taller than you? My baby. I begged them not to take him. I think of him every day . . . pray for him. It . . . used to make me cry. It used to make my husband very angry. You say that you could send a message? Could you send a message to him? From me?”

“We could do that. We will bring you a reply.”

“But how would I know it came from him?”

“Ask him something only he would know. We can hope that he will also remember.”

“It has been ten years,” she said, doubtfully. “Does he remember me at all?”

“He does not forget very much. He was a prisoner and a hostage, and denied anyone to speak his own language to. He remembered enough to understand us. He used to sing songs to himself, he said.” There was a pause. “He needs to be very strong now, Lady.”

“He is the house of Valahia!” said Dana, quite forgetting that she was supposedly fast asleep.

“Well said, little one,” said Angelo. There was no surprise in his voice. He had known that she was there. They were almost like wild animals in their sensitivity to noises and things they could not possibly see. Dana wondered just how they did it. She suspected magic. More magic, they kept hidden from her. She’d searched the cart for talismans and magical paraphernalia. The trouble was: how could she tell it from the junk?