Rhyn, a widowed Wolleni, depressed over the death in childbirth of his beloved half-Tslyddi wife, is ordered by the king to marry his dead wife’s sister. But the new wife becomes jealous of Rhyn’s children — two sets of twins, a girl and three boys — and plots to turn them into swans. The spell goes awry, and the children are only partially transformed. Worse, they must spent 900 years in their new shapes, in ever more wild and isolated places — and they have no guarantee that they will ever be normal again. But least they can still sing.
Based on the Irish tale of “The Fate of the Children of Lír,” SwanSong is the story of how Neeve, Kennet, Corwin and Kyl cope with their transformed bodies in a land where magic is dying.
Exclusive excerpt from SwanSong by Lynne Cantwell
“I am not leaving!”
The words came out as a shriek. They drilled through the closed door of the master bedchamber, screeched down the stairs, and landed with a thud amid the hopes of the children gathered in the drawing room.
Rhyn had been closeted with Eva in his old bedchamber for the last quarter of an hour. Both their voices had been increasing steadily in volume, but after this utterance, a shocked silence descended on the household, both upstairs and down. Neeve caught a movement in the shadows of the downstairs hallway; so the servants are listening, too, she thought. She could not blame them. Their fate was wrapped up with her family’s.
Now her father’s voice sailed down the stairs. “I will not shelter anyone who wishes my children harm!” he bellowed. “The ostler told me –”
“You would believe a servant’s word before mine?” she cried, aghast.
“Did he not speak the truth?” he returned. “And have a care when you answer, Eva. There were witnesses to your conversation.”
A pause. “The children,” she hissed.
Neeve glanced at the boys. Kennet was squirming in his chair.
“Yes, the children,” Da said loudly. “They have confirmed what Woody told me. And why would they not? You asked Woody to kill them!”
“I did not!” She was shrieking again. Neeve stifled a desire to cover her ears. “The question was hypothetical,” Eva said in a more reasonable voice. “I was merely testing his loyalty.”
“Bollocks!” Da roared. The children traded amused looks; Da almost never swore. “Well I know that you disliked my children – your own niece and nephews, I might remind you – that you disliked them well before you crossed this threshold as my wife. They had never done anything to earn your dislike. You hated them simply because you hated Eve, and they were her children.” An audible gasp. “Do you deny it? I thought not. Nor do you have any love for me.”
“No use in denying that, either,” Da said with a tinge of bitterness. “I am nothing to you but a trophy that you wrested from your dead sister’s arms.” Another gasp. “Oh, save your outrage, if you please,” he said wearily. “I am done. You are not losing my patronage or my protection, and you will still have my name. And you will have what you said you always wanted: a house of your own, where you can live unmolested by others and devote yourself to your magical studies. You gain everything and lose nothing.”
“Except the power to choose my own fate,” she said, bitterness dripping from her every word.
“Except that,” he agreed heavily.
“I shall go to the king!” she cried.
“I shall tell Red Robert everything you have said, everything you are planning to do. This match was his idea. Imagine his reaction when he learns that you have turned me out!”
“Uh-oh,” Win said.
The silence lengthened. Finally Da spoke. “All right. I will give you one more chance, Eva.”
“What?” the boys cried together.
But upstairs, their father had already plowed ahead. “You must stop plotting against the children. You must be pleasant to them, and to me, and to everyone at my rath. You must stop spending your days in hiding up here, and you must start acting as if you are mistress of this rath – as you are. Or I will go to Robert myself and have him order you to leave.”
Wide-eyed, the children stared at one another. Would their father jeopardize their safety to avoid a confrontation with the king? Would he go that far, in truth?
It seemed he would.
“All right,” Eva conceded finally. “But you must stop sleeping in the nursery. You must share this bed, in this room, with me. Every night. All night.”
Another long pause. “All right,” Da said.
Kennet pounded the arm of his chair and flung himself up out of it to pace around the room. Kyl seemed to shrink into his corner of the settee. Win shook his head.
Neeve felt the darkness begin to gather anew.