No Ordinary Fairy TaleThe last time Timothy broke a rule, he got suspended. But when he defies the faery empress, it might well get him killed.
Timothy Sinclair doesn't believe in faeries - after all the hardships he's suffered since his missionary parents sent him away to boarding school, he's not even sure he still believes in God. But when a tiny winged girl named Linden bursts into his life and begs him to help save her people, the skeptical Timothy finds himself drawn into a struggle against a potent evil that threatens humans and faeries alike.
With a deadly pair of hunters on their trail, Timothy and Linden flee across country, drawn by the legend of a white stone that could be the faeries' salvation. But the dangers that await them test their courage and resolve to the limit, threatening to tear their unlikely partnership apart. And when it comes down to one last desperate battle, they and all the people they love will be doomed unless Linden and Timothy can find the faith to overcome...
Book two of the No Ordinary Fairy Tale series. Previously published in the US under the title Wayfarer.
About the Author
Nebula Award-shortlisted, bestselling author R.J. Anderson writes novels about faeries, weird science, and the numinous in the modern world. She lives in Ontario, Canada. To learn more about her writing, visit www.rj-anderson.com.
Read an Excerpt
"I expected more of a missionary's son."
The Dean's parting words still nagged at Timothy as he stepped off the train. He crossed the platform, pushed his way into the little station, and looked around the waiting room for a familiar face. But all he saw were strangers, so he dropped his bags on the floor and slumped onto one of the benches.
Suspended from school for two weeks – that much he'd expected, even counted on. And of course he'd known the Dean would give him a lecture beforehand, full of mournful reproaches like You were such a fine student and Why did you do it, Sinclair?
But bringing his parents into it ... that was low. Timothy swiped the dark wing of hair away from his eyes and sank down in his seat, scowling.
A woman in a long winter coat swished past, and the guitar case he'd propped against the wall began to topple. Hastily he grabbed the instrument and steadied it. Then his eyes fell to the sticker pasted on the lid: GREENHILL CHRISTIAN BOYS' SCHOOL, EST. 1956. LET YOUR LIGHT SO SHINE BEFORE MEN.
With sudden savagery Timothy dug a thumbnail under the sticker and began ripping it off piece by piece, until nothing remained but a gummy wad of paper in his hand. He shook it off into the nearby bin and slouched down again.
Minutes ticked by as he sat: five, ten, twenty. All the while people marched in and out of the station, most of them white-skinned and thin-lipped and walking as though they were in a hurry. Timothy studied their faces as they passed, but none looked familiar. Had his cousin forgotten him?
An icy gust swirled through the open door, and Timothy pulled his jacket closer. Six months in this country, and he hadn't got used to the cold. He might look like an English boy, but he still felt Ugandan inside ...
"There you are!"
He started and looked around to see Peri, his cousin's wife, striding towards him.
"You've grown," she remarked, scooping his rucksack from the floor and slinging it over her shoulder before bending to pick up Timothy's suitcase as well. "I almost didn't recognize you. Nice lip, by the way," and with that she headed for the door, her long legs carrying her down the steps with ease.
Was it that obvious? Timothy touched his swollen mouth and winced. He grabbed his guitar and hurried out after Peri, arriving at the car park to see her fling open the back door of a small red car and toss the suitcase inside as though it weighed nothing whatsoever.
"Get in," she said.
Was she angry with him, or just being her usual no-nonsense self? It was probably better not to ask. Timothy slid his guitar onto the back seat and climbed in.
* * *
As they drove away from the station, Timothy watched Peri closely. On the surface she looked much the same as she had on his last visit three years ago: still lean as a cheetah, with hair as pale as her eyes were dark and an unconventional, almost feral beauty. But there was no expression in her features, and she kept her gaze fixed on the road, not even glancing at him.
"So tell me," she said as she swung the car into a roundabout. "What brings you here? I thought Paul's parents were supposed to look after you if anything happened."
"They are," said Timothy, "but they've gone to Majorca. They won't be back until the end of the month."
"I see. So Paul's agreed to take you for – what? Two weeks?"
"Three, actually," said Timothy. "I've got half-term right after the suspension."
"There's a week of holidays after ..." he began in a louder voice, but she cut him off.
"I'm not deaf. I'm asking, what's a suspension?"
For an intelligent woman, Peri had some surprising gaps in her knowledge. "I got sent away from school," he said. "For hitting another boy."
Her brows flicked upwards. "That's an odd sort of punishment."
"Not really," said Timothy, thinking of the schoolbooks stuffed into his rucksack. Not to mention the thousand-word essay on the Beatitudes the Dean had assigned him as penance. Blessed are the peacemakers ...
"Did he deserve it? The boy you hit?"
Timothy shifted in his seat. "Sort of. Not really. I just ..." He hesitated, wondering whether to tell her the truth, then suppressed the impulse and went on, "I guess I lost my temper."
Peri looked skeptical, but made no further comment. Timothy glanced out the side window. They'd driven out of Aynsbridge now, and were speeding along a narrow road lined with hedgerows. At first the route seemed unfamiliar, but then he started to see landmarks he recognized: there on the left was the wood where he'd happily lost himself on his first visit, and further down lay the pond he'd fallen into the last time, trying to catch the biggest frog he'd ever seen.
"I suppose you've been wondering why we haven't had you come and stay with us before," said Peri suddenly. "You probably thought we were ignoring you, but ..." Her hands lifted briefly from the wheel, shaping an apologetic gesture. "We've had a lot to deal with these past few months. It's nothing to do with you. I'm sorry we haven't been able to make you more welcome."
Timothy watched his own reflection in the window. He wished she hadn't brought that up: it just fired his resentment all over again. He'd expected to see a lot of Paul and Peri once he came to school in England, and visit them often at their big house in the countryside. But instead he'd spent all his holidays at his aunt and uncle's cottage in Tunbridge Wells, with neither cousin nor friend in sight. How long would it have taken Paul and Peri to acknowledge his existence, if he hadn't practically forced them to take him in?
"It's OK," he said, trying to sound like he meant it. "I'm here now."
"Yes," said Peri with an odd note in her voice, "you certainly are." She slowed the car as they reached the bridge, driving carefully over the ancient stones. The wood dropped behind them, bare trees yielding to a swath of brown meadow, and now Timothy could see Paul and Peri's house at last.
Oakhaven was nothing like the snug, whitewashed bungalow he'd left behind with his parents and sister in Kampala, and yet the sight of the old house gave him a sense of belonging he hadn't felt in months. He knew this place, from its foundations of warm grey stone to its ornamented gables, and everything about it said home to him in a way that no other place in England could.
Peri pulled the car into the drive and jumped out almost before it had stopped; by the time Timothy climbed out of the passenger seat, she was already hauling his luggage out of the back. "I can take that," he protested, but she strode past him, leaping up the ramp to the front door with his guitar in one hand and his suitcase in the other.
"Of course you can," her voice floated back, "but why should you? I'll just see if Paul's got dinner ready ..." and with that she disappeared inside.
Timothy shut the car door and slung his rucksack over his shoulder, looking up at the house. From the outside it hadn't changed at all: a tall Victorian design with arched windows and a neat box of front garden. Nothing special, in itself. But over its peaked roof he could see the topmost branches of the oak that had given the house its name, and his swollen mouth tugged into an involuntary smile. He tossed his pack onto the front step and headed for the garden gate.
The first time he'd seen the old oak, Timothy had been seven years old. His parents had brought him with them to England on furlough – not a holiday, but a busy, exhausting time as they drove all over the country, visiting churches to report on their missionary work. And since his mother thought it wasn't fair to expect a child to do so much travelling, she'd brought Timothy to stay with her relatives at Oakhaven.
Timothy had been glad of the reprieve, but he was also disappointed. England was so different from Uganda, and though his aunt and uncle seemed kind, they were also very grown-up. Even his cousin, Paul, was too old for him to play with – and besides, he used a wheelchair, which in any case would have made it difficult for them to go swimming or explore the woods together. What was there, in this strange place, for a boy like Timothy to do?
But then his aunt had called him into the back garden, and he saw the tree.
It wasn't just huge, it was monumental. Its trunk could have held twenty boys his size, and its leafy arms stretched almost as wide as the house. Eagerly Timothy sized up the distance to the lowest branch, fingers clenched and toes curled with anticipation. He scrambled across the lawn and was just about to leap onto it when Paul's fiancée, Peri, grabbed him and hauled him back.
He'd cringed, expecting a tongue-lashing and a humiliating march back to the house. But Peri didn't seem angry; she'd only told him the old oak wasn't safe. Then she'd led him to the nearby wood, and shown him some trees he could climb there instead.
That was the beginning of a wonderful friendship, and for the next few weeks Timothy followed Peri everywhere. She knew all the local plants by name, and could tell him which berries and mushrooms were safe to eat and which were poisonous. She'd even taught Timothy how to snare a rabbit, skin it and tan its soft hide. Thanks to Peri there were plenty of exciting things to do at Oakhaven – but she still wouldn't let him near the great tree, and he went back to Uganda with his urge to climb it unsatisfied.
But five years later came another furlough to England – and another chance. This time Timothy had known better than to let Peri guess that he was still interested in the tree. One night he'd waited until everyone in the house was asleep, then sneaked out and climbed the oak as high as its branches would take him. It hadn't been unsafe at all, and he'd come back down with a deep and private satisfaction glowing in his heart ...
The touch of cold iron against his palm brought Timothy back to the present. He worked the gate open and slipped through into the garden.
Until now he'd been picturing the oak as he'd last seen it, in its full summer glory. But it was too early in the year for that. The ground beneath his feet was black, wormed with roots and littered with the skeletons of dead leaves. Buds were forming on the tree's lower branches, but it would be weeks before they opened, and in the dim afternoon light the oak looked naked, a lonely titan shivering in the cold.
Timothy squelched across the lawn, skirting the empty flowerbeds, and stopped at the foot of the tree. How many times had he lain daydreaming under those branches? Sometimes it had even seemed natural to talk to the old oak, when no one else was around. It wasn't like any other tree he'd ever seen: it didn't just have size, it had personality.
Of course, he was fifteen now and too old to be hugging trees, even this one. But it still seemed to deserve some kind of greeting. Timothy reached out and laid his hand against the oak's gnarled trunk, patting it gently. At first the bark felt rough and unyielding, the wood beneath it solid as ever. But then something shifted beneath his fingers, and he snatched his hand back in alarm.
A crack had appeared in the surface of the tree.
Timothy's heart gave a queer, uncertain beat. As a boy he'd liked to imagine that the oak tree held a secret door, and that it would open to him if only he pressed the right spot. But he was too old for such childish ideas now. If the black hole in front of him looked oddly neat and symmetrical, it could only be by accident.
But for the trunk to just give like that ... it had to be rotting, dying from the inside out. And he'd just made matters worse by touching it. Shaken, Timothy stepped back, wiping his bark-crumbed fingers on his jeans.
"Timothy!" called Peri from the house. "What are you doing?" Her voice sounded sharp, even angry. Timothy was just about to answer when all at once his eyes stung and watered, as though someone had blown smoke in them. When his vision cleared, the crack in the oak's surface had vanished. Disbelieving, he reached out to touch the place where the hole had been ...
Don't be stupid. It's just an old tree. And why are you hanging about outside, when you should be in there saying hello to your cousin?
A prickling discomfort came over him, and suddenly Timothy didn't want to be near the oak any more. He pulled his hand away and was turning to leave when he heard a rasping croak from above. Two crows flapped out of the oak's branches, their silhouettes stark against the ashen sky.
Timothy shivered, stuffing his cold hands into his pockets, and began picking his way back through the garden towards the house. Yet even as he walked he felt his spine tingle, as though something–or someone–was watching him.CHAPTER 2
The feeling of being watched followed Timothy all the way to the house, but once he'd made his way inside and shut the door, it soon faded. Inside Oakhaven was all light and warmth, wooden floors glossy with age and walls painted rich, spicy hues; modern design shook hands with classic architecture, and the furniture looked comfortable enough to sleep on. The place had definitely changed since his aunt and uncle moved out, but to Timothy's mind it was all for the better. He dropped his rucksack by the staircase and headed down the corridor.
He found Paul sitting at the kitchen table, chopping onions. "There you are!" he said as Timothy entered, putting down the knife and pivoting his wheelchair to greet him. "Good to see you, though I suppose we could wish for better circumstances. Have a seat." He plucked a chair from beside him and sent it skidding across the tiles towards Timothy. "Now what's this about getting suspended?"
"It was nothing," said Timothy, squirming a little under his cousin's level gaze. "I was just being stupid."
"He says," came Peri's voice from the open refrigerator, "that he lost his temper." She sounded perfectly calm now, as though she'd forgotten she'd ever snapped at him. "Paul, have we used up all the mayonnaise again?"
"Look in the door," said Paul, then returned his attention to Timothy. "So was the other boy hurt? Worse than you, I mean."
Timothy ran his tongue across his split lip. "Not really. I just knocked the wind out of him. But fighting's against school rules no matter what, so ... I guess I got what I deserved."
"Hmm," said Paul. "Do your parents know?"
"Not yet. I was supposed to call them when I got here. Only they'll be in bed now, so I thought ... maybe I could send them an email." Or pretend to, anyway. It wouldn't take long to fake an apologetic message and send a copy to the Dean, but what he really needed to say to his parents would take more time to figure out. A lot more time.
Paul looked skeptical, and Timothy held his breath. But in the end his cousin only said, "All right," then picked up the knife and began chopping again.
That had been far too easy. It wasn't like Paul – or Peri either; they'd always been patient with Timothy's mistakes, but when he broke the rules they'd given him no quarter until he put things right. Maybe they'd decided he was old enough to take responsibility for his own actions, but he couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong here ...
The telephone warbled.
"Excuse me," said Paul, wheeling to answer. "Hello, Paul McCormick speaking." He glanced at Timothy. "Yes, he's here. Did you want to speak to him?"
Timothy's stomach did a swan dive. It had to be his parents. The Dean had called them and told them what he'd done, and he wasn't ready. What was he going to say?
"I see," Paul said. "All right then. Goodbye." He put the phone back down. "Just the secretary at your school, making sure you'd arrived."
"Oh, right," said Timothy, his voice cracking with relief. "They said they'd do that. So ... what are you cooking?"
They ate right there in the kitchen, which made Timothy feel a little more at ease: it meant Paul and Peri were treating him as family, instead of making an awkward fuss on his account. But even so, he couldn't shake the feeling that they were putting an effort into appearing relaxed and friendly with him, instead of just being that way.
"So," said Paul as he passed Timothy the salad,. "how's your family?"
"Fine, I guess," said Timothy.
"Uncle Neil still running that clinic for the poor, or whatever?"
"Yeah." Kampala itself had good medical facilities, but his father often travelled to the nearby village of Luweero to offer his services. He also preached at the chapel and led Bible studies in their home, but Paul probably wasn't interested in that. "He keeps pretty busy."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Rebel"
Copyright © 2015 R.J. Anderson.
Excerpted by permission of Third Day Books, LLC.
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