A Taste of “Atterwald,” Part 2

Here is another excerpt from Atterwald, introducing the story’s second major point-of-view character.

1843

Meinrad lay in bed, his coverlet drawn up to his chin. To ease his racking pain, he was trying to turn himself to stone after the fashion of Grave Limring in The Golden Prophecy.

He drew a deep breath up from his toes, then centered his mind on them, willing them to numbness. He felt them freeze and harden and he managed a tiny smile. He coaxed the stone upward into his soles, his heels, his ankles. Soon he could feel only heavy rocks where his feet had been. Pain had no power over rock.

Into his calves, up to his knees the brittle numbness spread. As well as the trick was working this morning, he might succeed, as Limring had done, in suspending his breath. When Leoda arrived with her wash-basin and her mirror, she might believe he’d died during the night. She would hold the mirror to his lips, but no fog would mar it. When she lifted the blanket to cover his face he would spring into motion. She would drop her basin and fly from the room, shrieking.

When the stone had gained his neck the door opened, and a portly figure appeared, wheeling a tray topped with a basin and a lit candle. “Good mo-o-orning, Master Meinra-a-ad!” the figure called in a chirpy sing-song. The stone in his limbs gave way to a tingle of longing to throw something breakable.

“Did you sleep well last night, Master Meinrad?” Leoda asked as she wheeled the cart to his bedside.

“I slept as I always do,” Meinrad grunted, forcing himself to look the housekeeper in the face. A wave of revulsion broke in his stomach at the broad smile, the sparkling dark eyes, the gray hair knotted and drawn back to fit under a white lace cap. She always beamed, as if her visits to his sick-chamber were the greatest pleasure life afforded her.

“Today is a big day for you, Master Meinrad,” she announced, lifting him by his shoulders and adjusting his pillows to prop him up. “You’re to have a visitor.”

“Lovely,” he mumbled while his heartbeat quickened.

She dipped a cloth in the wash-basin, then gently wiped his face. “Master Heinemach. You may have read about him. He’s quite famous.”

“Who is he?”

“Is that all?” he returned with a lazy yawn.

Leoda continued her work, turning him from his side to his stomach as she soaped him down. “He’s coming at your father’s request to have a look at you,” she said.

“So he can say how much longer I’ve got to live?”

“So he can say what might be done to make you well.”

“I would have thought that would be obvious by now,” he grumbled as the cold damp raised goose-flesh. “Nothing.”

Meinrad for Kelley AWA 09_small“Meinrad,” by Kaysha Siemens.

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