Wednesday Sampler: Song of the Sending by Corinne O’Flynn

Going home isn’t the same as being safe, and trust is everything.

They told him his world was destroyed.

And they were the last to escape.

They thought he was safe.

They were wrong.

Jim Wales can communicate with animals, but that’s not why he lives with a traveling carnival. Turns out his family’s been hiding him there since he was little, since someone started hunting all the scholars. Jim is a scholar—someone who can manipulate energy using magic—and he has no idea.

When a message arrives from Jim’s supposedly-dead father, Jim’s whereabouts are discovered, their carnival is attacked, and his mother is kidnapped. On the run with a strange glass map and a single coin, Jim finds himself racing to reclaim the father he thought he’d lost, plotting to save his mother, and discovering the truth about who he is.

But going home isn’t the same as being safe, and trust is everything.

Corinne O’Flynn

Sampler

I dodged Sam’s sword by dropping to the ground and rolling away, then waited for the tiger to do the same. My best friend’s blade fell in a wide arc beside me, but Cotton stood still, the spotlight overhead making his white fur like frosted glass. I got to my feet and glared at the tiger as if I could guilt him into complying. The walls of the old big top puffed in, then out as if the tent were sighing my frustration. Cotton watched me for another moment before he crouched and rolled, a belated mirror of my movements.

“He’s too slow, man.” Sam pointed out the obvious. Always had, since we were kids. He rubbed the sweat off his face, leaving light dusty stripes on his brown skin. I tried not to laugh as he leaned on his sword. The blunted point pried a triangle of packed dirt from the ground.

“I know.” I let my sword fall and pulled off my gloves. The tang of diesel fumes choked the still air inside the tent.

“He’s not in sync.” Sam wrinkled his nose. “Can’t you make him do it like Bak?”

“It’s not the same, and you know it. Bak doesn’t need me to teach him.” I stepped over to Bak and scratched the fur between my tiger’s ears.

I slipped my mind into his.

You don’t need me, do you, boy?

Bak pressed himself into my side. Bak need Jim. My tiger’s thought whispered through my head like the swish of canvas moving in the stifling summer breeze, and the sun wasn’t even up yet. Way too hot.

I need you, too, Bak. Me too.

Sam loosened the straps of his dented chest plate and plopped on the ground next to Cotton. “He’s gonna make us look stupid. We should scrap the new stuff.” He tilted his head to indicate Cotton. “Maybe it’s time we really change the show. You know, leave him out of it.” He lifted his dark hair off his neck. “Freaking hot in here.”

“Yeah, you try selling that to my Uncle. What would Sweetwater’s be without the Dueling Knights of Mysteria?” I pictured the carnival without its signature event. With makeup and armor, nobody would ever guess a sixteen- and a seventeen-year-old played the two knights beholden to the powers of Heaven and Hell. Along with our trusty tigers, Light and Shadow, we settled the eternal fight over good and evil—nightly at 8:00 PM and 10:30 PM.

Sam snorted. “A monkey might do better as my sidekick.”

I ran my hand down Cotton’s shoulder and wondered if the animal could tell Sam was ripping on him. “Don’t talk about him like that. You’re supposed to be the good guy. The white knight.”

The big cat sat there, licking his paw.

“Dude. Then let’s switch and you be the good guy. Besides, if Cotton knows what’s going on, then he should be able to keep up. Right?” My friend turned to the tiger as if waiting for a reply.

“Give him a break. It’s a new move. He’ll get it.” I connected with Cotton. Watch me and Bak, boy. You know what to do.

The tiger stopped licking his paw and locked his pale eyes with mine.

That’s right. Good boy.

“Come on, Bak, let’s show him how it’s done.” I pulled on my gloves and picked up my sword and turned to face Sam and Cotton. Bak took his place next to me. I mind-tapped my tiger.

Get down low. Sword right. I bent my knees and raised my sword over my right shoulder. Bak lowered his body and tensed as he lifted his right paw, claws extended.

Slice. My sword flew toward my invisible opponent. Bak raked the air in front of him with his paw. His tail whipped out behind him to compensate for the shift in his balance.

Down. Roll right. I dropped and rolled, pretending to dodge Sam’s blade as I rose to my knees. Bak moved in perfect sync, coming to rest on his belly, paws on the ground.

Up and—I got to my feet, feeling like I’d been punched in the side of my head. My connection to Bak broke. I looked at my tiger, a little dazed and unsure what had happened. Bak’s attention went upward, near the roof of the big top. But aside from the lights and the normal rigging, there wasn’t anything to see.

“What’s wrong?” Sam said.

“Don’t know.” I tapped Bak again.

A siren screamed through my head. I covered my ears, but it did nothing to ease the pain. It felt like my brain was trying to fly out of my skull. The pressure was unbearable. Bak rolled on the ground, swatting at his nose and shaking his head as if a swarm of hornets had attacked him.

Bak. You okay? I sent the thought to my tiger—but I couldn’t get through to him. He lay on the ground, writhing.

Please click HERE to find Song of the Sending on Amazon.

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