But something goes terribly wrong. The Phoenix is in danger and charges Nashua with protecting its magic from those who would steal it. To save her world and all those she holds dear, Nashua must make an impossible choice.
The novella Nashua’s Choice is the first installment of the prequel to Donna Cook’s full-length fantasy Gift of The Phoenix. You can read Gift of the Phoenix and Nashua’s Choice in any order.
Below is an excerpt from the beginning of the story. Enjoy!
The stone amphitheater, draped in magical vines and drenched in sunshine, reverberates with the Song of Strength. Few citizens have come for the song today. Nashua finds it difficult to sing with her usual care, distracted by anticipation. There will be no evening songs today, just this last midday song. They will spend the rest of the day gathering, preparing, expecting, celebrating. After centuries of waiting, there are only a few hours to go. The Phoenix is coming at last.
Her enchanted pewter horn necklace offers its last as Nashua finishes the song. The vibrating pulse of the amphitheater stills and the magic disappears into the air like a feathered whiff of smoke. It lingers in the heart of the listeners though. They slowly gather themselves and filter out of the opening to the rear. Nashua follows them into the cobbled courtyard. Citizens are filing out of the amphitheaters for the Song of Comfort, the Song of Patience, the Song of Openness, and all the rest. Nashua, like the other Chanters, stays by the entrance to her amphitheater while she waits for the courtyard to clear.
People slowly make their way through the Great Gate, on their way back to their homes in the city or perhaps in the nearby hills. A few recognize one another and stop to visit quietly. Fountains and flowering bushes lend to the tranquility of this place. Nashua usually enjoys this moment, watching the faces of their patrons and seeing the inner glow that comes from what they’ve just experienced. So unlike the heavy expressions frequently seen before the songs begin. This day is different however. This day Nashua is in a hurry. She checks the sky. The sun is still rising but nearing its crest. How long this day has been! It seems the sun will never set. Perhaps she needs the Song of Patience herself.
Villaciti Cantori is a sprawling, walled compound which the city people call “little village of songbirds.” The Chanters themselves are fond of this nickname. Visitors to the little village enter through the Great Gate which opens directly onto the Courtyard of Songs and its magical amphitheaters. Some visitors have cause to go through the Courtyard and up the broad steps to Marion Hall where they find their business in one of the offices or the library or perhaps the Assembly Room where the Chanters gather morning and night. The Courtyard of Songs and, to a lesser degree, Marion Hall, are the public venues of the little village. The rear entrance of Marion Hall opens to the rest, the private part. Here are smaller courtyards, community gardens, many modest residences, and the slightly larger residences of the Head of the Cantori Branch and his Apprentices. Within the grounds they have a granary, a mill, a poultry shed, and a small pottery house. A few minor gates along the side and rear of the compound lead to the city or to the mountain road or to the Realm of the Phoenix.
Only a few people remain in the Courtyard of Songs. Nashua is tempted to hurry them along, but she stays in position, waiting like everyone else.
Apprentice Terridon comes down the front steps of Marion Hall and stands still. He meets her eyes, but instead of giving her the usual playful expression, he is sober. She gives him a questioning look. He shakes his head, Not now, and fixes his attention on the Courtyard. He is waiting for their guests to leave as well, but for a different reason. Something is wrong.