I've been told I need an "attention-getting sentence" to sell my story, Atterwald, to an agent or editor. I have a draft of that sentence:
"Among the shape-shifting hal'ryth'kei, a sweet, sad story unfolds, of a heartless wizard, his invalid son, and the captive fiddler girl who must find a way to heal him -- or else."
If that doesn't sound anything like what I've been sharing with you, well, just wait. And now, without further delay, I present the second section.
He couldn't sleep. He had thought that a shape-change might help him relax, but in his mouse form his fur had stood on edge and his blood had run hot. His heart had felt several sizes too large for his body, as if it had refused to transform with the rest of him. After an hour of this discomfort, he'd given up, shifted back to human, and reached for a book he kept hidden under his pillow.
It was called Forms of Magic Among the Tribes. He'd found it tucked away in the back of a shelf of what served as a library in their village, and he'd checked it out and brought it home hidden under his coat. He'd been racing through it hungrily, but just now he cared to read only one particular section, the entry on owl-magic. An owl-magician was a useful friend and a deadly enemy. He could bless the villages of those who pleased him with the rains needed for a bountiful harvest, but he could send the mightiest of storms to obliterate the homes of those who angered him, or else curse their villages with a crippling drought.
As he read, he envisioned his Verina gliding over a little town, her wings stretched to their full span. As the wind passed through her feathers she cast a cool, gentle breeze down on the folk below. They never looked up -- never realized that an angel was blessing them.
He cast a glance toward his window and noted the blackness that preceded the coming of dawn. Verina would be settling down to sleep now. She would light upon the ground and stretch herself back into her human shape and rest her golden head upon her pillow. Unlike most tribes owls slept in human and not animal form. What treasured possessions did she surround herself with? And what thoughts drifted across her mind as she closed her eyes?
The lettering on the pages blurred, and his hands lost their hold on the book. Thinking he must be drifting off to sleep, he shifted shape, then wrapped his long tail about him, his usual slumbering posture.
His teeth chattered as if he were shivering, yet his fur and skin burned. His heart swelled to bursting. The scent of owl enveloped him. Her spirit permeated the very air he breathed.
The walls were changing, brightening to a soft, muted white. The straw-stuffed mattress beneath him was softening to moss, then to cloud. As he gazed at the vault in the strange ceiling above him, he floated upward to meet it. Closer he rose, until he thought he would collide with it -- and it dissipated like a curtain of mist. A bright blue day-sky stretched above him, dotted with voluminous clouds. His head spun with giddy delight, and his hands reached out to clasp the nearest cloud...
His hands, yet not his hands. They were woman's hands, with long and graceful fingers. This dizzy intoxication, this glory in the day-sky, was likewise not his own.
The white hands tore off a ball of cloud just large enough to hold; then the fingers began to shape it. Gently, carefully, they lengthened it, then smoothed and spread it, until at last it bore the semblance of a pair of great white wings: the wings of the Guider. The fingertips shook, spreading a glimmer-dust over the wings.
The hands drew back, and the cloud-wings began to beat, to rise until their glow filled the sky. His heart/not-heart grew fuller still, and he let out a laugh -- a girl's laugh. The part of him still himself tensed in recognition.
This is her dream. I am in her dream.
A thrill of horror racked him. He was trespassing where he had no right. Should she find out, she would loathe him forever.
How was he to extricate himself? A wave of queasiness swept through him as he floundered. Silver-white feet stumbled on the cloud where they were treading. He drew a breath through his teeth. If he tried too hard to pull himself down from the day-sky he might drag her with him, compounding his crime.
The feet halted. He -- no, she -- looked around, sensing something amiss. She's found me, his mind cried. Guider, your strength!
Her face rose before his eyes, yet he found no anger in it. Her gaze was bright but gentle, her mouth set in the familiar pensive smile. "Good morning," she said, with a nod.