Steward of Song

Steward of Song

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by Adam Stemple
     
 

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In Singer of Souls, young Douglas fled his American life of drugs and petty crime, arriving in Scotland to be taken in by his stern but fair-minded grandmother. Unfortunately, his career as a busker was interrupted by the fey folk who invisibly share Edinburgh's streets, who dragged him into their own internecine wars.

Now Douglas, usurper, sits on the

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Overview

In Singer of Souls, young Douglas fled his American life of drugs and petty crime, arriving in Scotland to be taken in by his stern but fair-minded grandmother. Unfortunately, his career as a busker was interrupted by the fey folk who invisibly share Edinburgh's streets, who dragged him into their own internecine wars.

Now Douglas, usurper, sits on the throne of Faery--holding the Queen and the land hostage with his all-powerful magic and his unflinchingly loyal lieutenant, Martes.

Meanwhile, in Western Massachusetts, a strange infant is left on the doorstep of an ex-marine who may have the second sight.

And in Scotland, the granddaughter of a murdered woman sifts through clues trying to prove her brother isn't the killer…

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

When ex-marine and trauma victim Scott Stewart finds an infant on his doorstep, his psychic visions reveal that the child's safety depends upon his actions. Enemies from the world of Faerie, who already claimed his brother Douglas, lead him to cross between the worlds, accompanied by his sister Bridie, an ex-cop with a taste for killing, particularly when her quarry deserves it. Stemple's sequel to Singer of Souls tells the tale of a unique trio of siblings and their magical heritage. Fans of urban fantasy with Celtic and Native American trappings will enjoy the references to song charms and true names. A good addition to most fantasy collections. [Stemple is the son of fantasy author Jane Yolen.-Ed.]
—Jackie Cassada

Kirkus Reviews
Second entry in the series begun with Singer of Souls (2005), where former drug addict Douglas Stewart fled to Scotland and, thanks to his extraordinary song-magic and ability to know everybody's true name, became the cruel and tyrannical Lord of the Faerie Realm. This time, ex-cop Bridie, Douglas's sister, arrives in Edinburgh to quiz the local constabulary regarding the murder of her grandmother. Problem is, the cops think Douglas committed the crime, along with the murder of a priest. In Massachusetts, meanwhile, the third Stewart sibling, Scott, who was removed from the marines for psychiatric problems (in fact, he has the gift of second sight), finds a baby deposited on his doorstep. Scott can see and choose among various futures, so he knows the baby's name is/will be Fletcher, Douglas's son by Aine, the deposed Queen of the Realm. Martes, Douglas's majordomo, whisked the babe away from his malevolent father and left him for Scott to raise, because a prophesy predicts that Fletcher will destroy Douglas. Unfortunately, all the bad-fairy types in Massachusetts want a piece of Fletcher, and Scott will have his work cut out defending the little tyke. Back in Edinburgh, meanwhile, Bridie-also blessed with second sight-gets a lead on grandma McLaren's real killers. And what happens when Douglas learns where Fletcher is?Douglas's behavior makes little sense-none at all unless you've read the previous volume-so once again the appeal is local color, a high gore/spatter index and a vivid narrative.
From the Publisher
“One of the best first novels I have ever read.” —Anne McCaffrey on Singer of Souls

“Wonderful. Fans of Charles de Lint and Clive Barker will find much to like.” —Publishers Weekly on Singer of Souls

"Singer of Souls glows with magic and folklore, realistic characters and vivid language, and has the grit, blood, and tension of good film noir." —Emma Bull

"A really splendid story." —Steven Brust on Singer of Souls

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781466857520
Publisher:
Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date:
11/19/2013
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
863,910
File size:
295 KB

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Read an Excerpt

Steward of Song


By Adam Stemple

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2008 Adam Stemple
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-5752-0


CHAPTER 1

It was still dark when Scott Stewart woke up. He wasn't sure where he was. But he knew what time it was. He always knew what time it was.

Four-twelve A.M., he thought. Why am I awake?

He went to roll out of his cot, but ran into more bed than he expected.

Oh yeah, they let me out. He fumbled around until he found a bedside lamp. Light flooded the room. His room. Much bigger than he was used to, but still sparsely decorated: ratty dresser, a few posters of pastoral scenes tacked to the walls, a bedside table holding an unplugged alarm clock and a tear-away calendar with cartoons he didn't get that always seemed to feature a lot of poorly drawn chickens. His sister, Bridie, had helped him, pulled some strings, got him out of the halfway house early and into this nice little cottage in Leverett. Out in the woods, away from the lights and the people. She knew he couldn't take living with other people.

How long have I been here? His sense of time was screwy. He always knew what time it was, but couldn't seem to remember how much had passed. Couple of weeks maybe? He tore a page off the calendar. It claimed to be early September and showed the chickens hijacking two cows and a farm cat for some nefarious purpose Scott couldn't quite comprehend.

Spotting a pack of smokes, he went for them hungrily. Oughta take my pills. Promised Bridie I would. But I feel pretty good today. Might skip them.

He thought maybe he'd said that to himself a lot since leaving the halfway house. He may not have taken his pills in some time.

"Doesn't matter," he said aloud. "Nothing bad's going to happen today."

He knew this. Just like he always knew the time. Because if something bad was going to happen to him, Scott would know. He could sense it, see it coming. He might be as crazy as they said. But he was never wrong. Not about the bad things anyway.

"Now, let's see what woke me up." He stood and worked himself into some jeans that lay next to the bed. Grabbed a T-shirt from the floor, as well. Thought about a jacket but didn't look for one. It might be early September, but it still felt quite warm. Fall would come to the western Massachusetts hills, but it would do so at its own leisurely pace.

Lit cigarette now dangling from his mouth, Scott pushed open the door to his bedroom. Outside the bedroom, there wasn't much more to his house. It was one story, one bedroom, the bathroom a stall, the kitchen little more than a sink and a stove tucked in the corner. But the openness of the main living area appealed to him and the rent was cheap enough that he could pay for it with his disability checks. And there were no neighbors to bug him, no electric lights shining in his windows to keep him awake. A nice quiet little hut in the country.

Except tonight, something had woken him.

"Hello?" Scott called to the empty living room. "Anybody there?" to the lonely Salvation Army couch. "Hello?" again to the tiny TV and its three static-filled channels.

He tried to think back to what had disturbed his sleep. A sound? A feeling? He couldn't discount the fact that a fair number of doctors considered him crazy — it may have been the whirring of his own mind jarring him awake. Certainly wouldn't have been the first time. But he was pretty sure he'd heard something. Something that didn't belong.

A cursory check of the bathroom turned up nothing. One small closet, the same. Scott made himself look out the windows, but couldn't really see anything. Maybe some amorphous shapes moving ominously among the trees, or floating darker black against the night sky. But that was hardly an unusual sight for him. He pushed the curtains back in place and sat down on his one ragged couch.

"Guess I'd better check outside."

But he didn't move from his seat. He sat and smoked and picked at the fraying edges of the plaid upholstery. Took the pulse in his neck. It seemed fast.

He thought, Four twenty-one A.M. Not so long till daylight. I'll check outside then.

That thought calmed him, and he took his pulse again. His heartbeat was slowing.

Until he heard the noise.

It was a wild screeching, like he'd heard the local farm cats making when they fought. Or fucked. It was hard to tell with them sometimes.

But this was no cat. He knew. He knew because suddenly, he could see all the bad things that would happen if he didn't go outside. Not to him. But to the thing screaming.

Crushing his cigarette out in a full ashtray by his right hand, Scott stood. He didn't understand it. He'd never sensed anything about anyone but himself. And he'd never had so many visions, either. He'd always seen just one bad thing after another. Unavoidable bad things. He'd told a number of therapists about his visions since coming back from the desert, but they'd called them self-fulfilling prophecies. Tried to teach him "positive visualization." He'd made the attempt. He was always willing to make the attempt. But it was only ever the bad visions that came to pass. Eventually, he'd come to welcome them. He couldn't avoid anything, but at least he was never surprised.

Not this time though. Starvation, disease, chills, coyotes, bobcats, bears, great horned owls — all could be warded off by the simple expedient of opening his front door. He knew this.

Because there was a baby out there. And it was screaming its head off.

* * *

THE BABY LAY in a basket woven out of twigs. It was wearing only a large cloth diaper, tied at the sides — no pins. Small, it couldn't have been more than a week or two old, but already sported a thick head of curly black hair. Scott couldn't tell what color its eyes were — they were screwed shut for better screaming.

"Um ... there, there?" said Scott, stooping to pick the baby up. This had very little effect, and the baby redoubled its howling as he grabbed it. Still, Scott smiled.

The visions were fading.

Let's see ... hand under head? Yes, that's right. Now, let's check the diaper. Ah, a little boy.

"Settle down, little fella. Uncle Scott's got you." Scott carried the baby inside, cooing to him softly. "Course, I don't know what I'm going to do with you."

Child services, he thought. I bet Bridie knows someone ...

As soon as he thought this, new visions hit him: the baby — but maybe a year old, now — covered in its own excrement, staring blankly at the wall of a dingy closet while a police officer handcuffed a bearded man in the background; a woman with greasy hair and wild eyes, shaking the baby till its head flopped back and forth loosely; the baby sleeping peacefully in a crib, while a teenage boy crept into the room pawing at his crotch ...

"Jesus!" Scott staggered at the horrific scenes in his head. "All right, I'll keep him!"

And once again, the visions faded.

The screaming didn't, however. Scott cooed some more, and tickled the baby's little feet, to no avail.

"What's wrong, little fella?"

What had Bridie always said about babies? Bridie was eight years older than Scott, and ten years older than Douglas. She'd helped raise both of them, and never let them forget it. But she had summed up the caring of babies into one succinct sentence. Oh yeah, "feed them, change them, and don't drop them."

Scott peeked into the diaper. Clean. "So far, so good. Since I haven't dropped you." He carried the screaming infant into his tiny kitchen. "But what do we have to eat?"

He toed open the fridge and peered inside. Hot dogs, cheap beer, government cheese. It didn't look good. He was going to need supplies. Lots of supplies.

Four thirty-nine A.M. But I can't wait for daylight.

Scott was going to have drive through the hills in the dark.

Boo-yah.

* * *

BALANCING THE SQUALLING baby in his left arm, Scott fiddled his keys out of his pocket with the other. It was tough to work the lock. His hand was shaking pretty bad, and he kept glancing up at the dark forest.

Things come out of the night. If you don't watch the treeline, the horizon, the windows ...

Eventually he got the door open and plopped into the front seat of his ancient Honda Prelude. The dim interior light was comforting. Keeping the baby in his lap, he stretched the seatbelt across both of them, trying to ignore the baby's protests. Surprisingly, the car turned over on the first try. He put it in gear and moved slowly out of the driveway, gravel crunching beneath the tires.Stopped at the end of the short drive for nearly two minutes, waiting for visions of violent crashes to come and checking and rechecking each direction, makingsure no cars were coming. No visions came, and no cars either — not unusual for this two-mile stretch of cracked pavement Scott shared with only two other homes. Eventually he pulled out of the driveway and onto the road. He'd only gone ten yards when he slammed on the brakes.

There was someone in the road.

The someone stood only about three feet high, and for a moment Scott thought it was a child.

"Is everyone dropping their kids off with me today?" he said, though it was barely audible over the baby's cries.

Then he saw the beard. The beard started at the small man's chin and stretched, curly and dark, all the way to his waist, where it was wrapped into an impromptu loincloth. He wore nothing else. Shading his eyes from the light, the small man took a step closer, and his face curled into a malicious grin as he squinted into the car at Scott.

No, he's not looking at me.

"Hey!" Scott shouted. "Stop looking at my baby!" And he leaned on the horn.

The small man jerked at the noise, looked rapidly left and right, then took three running steps into the woods and was gone.

Scott sat in the car and shook. He looked down at the screaming baby.

"Well," he said. "That was one of my more lucid ones. Remind me to take my medication when we get home."

The baby didn't answer.

As soon as his hands were steady, Scott stomped on the gas and the old car chugged toward town.

* * *

HE DROVE DOWN Chestnut Hill then up over Cave Hill, the darkness seeming to press against the windows of the car, trying to find a way in. As he passed Leverett Pond, premorning fog was lifting from its waters and creeping toward the road. There was no moon, no streetlights, and the thin beam of the Prelude's only working headlight barely pierced the darkness, let alone the fog. Not for the first time, Scott wished the roads had lines painted on them out here in the boondocks.

"White lines would give me something to aim at," he said. He could actually hear himself speak now; the baby had quieted some. Scott didn't believe the baby was calmer, though. Just out of breath. He tried to think of some comforting words to say, but all that came out was, "something to aim at," again.

Scott glanced down. The baby did not look reassured. In fact, it looked about ready to start screaming again.

"Never mind," Scott said quickly. "Nothing's bad going to happen. Really." The baby sniffled. "I know it. I just don't like driving at night. I see things. They aren't really there. They just ..." He was babbling. He hated when he did that. But the baby seemed to like it when he talked, so he kept going. "It's tough, little guy. 'Cause some stuff comes true and some stuff isn't there, and no one believes either one, and sometimes I'm not so sure myself." He checked all his mirrors reflexively. Rear, side, side, then rear again. "I guess I'm crazy," he said, smiling down at the baby, "but that doesn't mean they're not out to get me, right?"

The baby didn't smile back. But it didn't cry either. Scott put one hand on its tiny belly and drove on.

Several harrowing minutes later and Scott was turning onto the well-lit and aptly named Pleasant Street, and heading right into Amherst proper. Scott sighed. He'd made it through the hills and darkness. He was in civilization.

* * *

TWENTY-FOUR-HOUR SHOPPING CHOICES in the town of Amherst were few and far between. There was a Cumberland Farms convenience store nearby, or Scott could go through town and hit the Stop and Shop on Route 9. The Stop and Shop was a big grocery store, but was only open all night from Monday to Friday. Scott wasn't sure what day it was, and he didn't want to go all the way there and find it closed. The Cumberland Farms might not have what he needed, but at least it was nearby.

"And what do I need?" Scott asked the baby as he pulled into the Cumberland Farms parking lot. Scooping the baby up with one hand, he bumped the door shut with his hip. He didn't bother locking it. Figured someone could go ahead and steal it if they could start it. He had a hard enough time — and he had the keys.

The girl behind the counter looked at him suspiciously as he came in. She had the pale unhealthy complexion of most night-shift workers and hair that had obviously been permed at the nearby mall.

"Can I help you?" she asked, not sounding like she meant it.

Scott held the baby up. Surprisingly, he didn't scream, just burped softly at the girl. Her face immediately softened.

"Need supplies," Scott mumbled.

"Oh, isn't he a cute one!" She leaned over the counter to get a better look. Her shirt came open a little and Scott blushed. If she was out of high school, she hadn't been for long. He forced himself to look at her name tag. Traci. With an 'I.'

"Yeah." Maybe I should put a whole sentence together.

Traci wrinkled her forehead as she peered at the baby. "What's he wearing?"

"Cloth."

"Yeesh. Mom out of town?"

"She died." Oh, perfect, Scott thought. Why did I say that? He knew how he looked, what most people thought of him. Crazy. Now she's going to think I killed my wife. "In childbirth," he added, hoping the baby was young enough for that to seem plausible.

Luckily, Traci looked at him kindly, told him, "You poor thing," and came out from behind the counter. "Let me see him."

Scott stood transfixed as she pulled the baby expertly from his grasp.

"I have four younger brothers," she said, as if that explained everything. "Follow me."

He did and she loaded his arms with supplies: diapers, bottles, formula — "Baby this young should really still be on the boob. But that isn't possible in your case" — diaper rash creams, a pacifier — "Go ahead and use it; I don't believe in nipple confusion."

Scott nodded as if he knew exactly what nipple confusion was.

"Oh, sorry." Traci blushed. "I guess that won't be a problem for you anyway."

Scott just kept nodding, pretty much completely lost now.

"Let's see ..." Traci stood with the baby on one hip and her hand on the other, surveying the store. "What else?"

"Um," Scott said, "How does it all work?"

Traci frowned, but not unpleasantly. "You better sit down. We may be a while."

Scott crossed his legs and sat right there on the floor. Reached his arms up for the baby. Traci peered at him oddly for a second then shrugged and handed him the baby. Scott looked at the little thing's scrunched-up face and traced a small line through its thick black hair. Then he looked up at Traci.

"I'm ready."

CHAPTER 2

Christ, Bridie Stewart thought. I hate Edinburgh.

She stood outside a run-down chip shop staring at the wet mass of dough and newspaper that the Pakistani behind the counter had just sold her.

Next person who tells me I'm named after a pastry goes home with less teeth than they woke up with. Sighing, she tossed her lunch into a nearby bin and started walking. It's an Irish name. Means strong. Now, where's this fucking cop shop?

The directions from the train station were pretty straightforward. But the streets changed names so many times, Bridie had maybe gotten a little confused. Okay, a lot confused. All right, she was completely lost, and although she supposedly shared the same language with these people, she was beginning to suspect they didn't share the same sense of direction. Every time she asked a local for help, she got sent farther off course, ending up deeper in the drab gray bowels of this stone city than she'd started that morning.

And it seems like I've been walking uphill forever, she thought, cursing her choice of footwear. Tomorrow, I pull the sensible shoes out of the luggage.

She'd wanted to make a favorable impression on the police. Cops were the same everywhere. If she looked hot, maybe show a little leg, a little cleavage, they'd never suspect she was pumping them for information.

But now she was pissed off and tired and her feet hurt, and she knew if she ever did find the station, there was no way she was going to pull off charming. No, she'd just end up being herself: uber-bitch. And piss off everyone within a half-mile radius.

Bridie looked up as a fat wet raindrop hit her forehead.

"Oh, for God's sake," she said to the sky. "Why don't you rain on me now?"

And as the requested deluge started, she thought again, Christ, I hate Edinburgh.

* * *

MAYBE A HALF hour later, and Bridie had finally figured out that the street names were printed on white iron signs attached to buildings instead of on something sensible like a signpost near the road. Using this hard-won knowledge, she determined that she was on Leith Road, a four-lane street that seemed to appear out of nowhere. Big-block gray stone buildings housed shops and bars and restaurants, the stone invariably painted bright white if the restaurant was Italian. She stomped along till a giant roundabout interrupted her progress, then stopped to consider her options.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Steward of Song by Adam Stemple. Copyright © 2008 Adam Stemple. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

Adam Stemple is the author of Singer of Souls and, with his mother Jane Yolen, several other novels, including Pay the Piper and Troll Bridge. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife and children.


A working rock-and-roll guitarist in bands such as the Tim Malloys, Cats Laughing, and Boiled in Lead, Adam Stemple has collaborated with his mother Jane Yolen on several music books for children, including The Laptime Song and Play Book and Hark! A Christmas Sampler.

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Steward of Song 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Douglas Stewart went to Scotland and through a series of circumstances (see SINGER OF SOULS) becomes the ruler of Faerie. His magic puts the rightful queen Aine in a magical stasis. The prophecy says his son will kill him so he is prepared to kill the child but his loyal retainer Martes has him taken away and he is left at the door of Douglas¿ brother Scott.---------- Scott was injured and now sees visions of the future but he doesn¿t know the child he takes in is his nephew. He takes care of him and loves him and the brownies and hobs watch over the house because there are two magical beings who want the baby one to drink his blood and inhale his soul while the other wants to eat his flesh.----------- The third Stewart sibling Bridie is looking for Douglas who the police believed killed his grandmother and a priest. Bridie is positive he is innocent but when she crosses over into Fairie she finds a cruel Douglas who reigns with an iron fist. When the three siblings meet, the fates of the trio will be decided depending on the choices Douglas makes.----------- This sequel picks up where SINGER OF SOULS leaves off and concentrates mostly on Scott and Bridie with Douglas making only brief appearances. This fantasy is enchanting, spellbinding and readers will finish it in one sitting to find out what happens to the three siblings and the baby. The audience will admire Scott as he comes to recognize he is a precognitive and his love for his nephew heals his mind and lets him accept what he has became.------------ Harriet Klausner