“Twaddle and nonsense, Fenn Foster. Grubs are no more demonic than gnomes.”
“You lied to me?” Fenn’s voice cracked.
He stared at the gaping, dirt hole in the wall. In Father Treacher’s lantern light, only a few feet inside were visible, like a mouth that would swallow him down a dark, monstrous throat. The dankness of the earth and the smell of mud sent a shiver of fear through Fenn. He was not allowed in the tunnel.
“It’s not as if I’m the only adult in the Ruud who told children about grub demons. Besides, if I had not told you about them, would you have stayed out of the tunnel?”
Before Fenn could answer, Father said, “Of course not.”
“But you never lie. If you said there were grub demons, there must be grub demons. Maybe you’re lying now just to get me to go into the tunnel? But you don’t lie.”
“Stop babbling, boy.” Father shoved his knapsack at him. “Listen to me. This is important.”
Fenn held his breath and stared at Father’s weathered, lined face and mossy green eyes aglow in the yellow lamp light. His wild gray hair dangled carelessly across his mouth and poofed out with each breath as he spoke.
“Keep your birthmark secret–show no one. Never return to Path. Never, do you hear me?”
Fenn nodded, dumbstruck. Yanked unceremoniously out of bed before dawn, his short boots barely laced, dragged into the musty storage room below the cellar of the wissenry, told to get into the forbidden tunnel and never return home–Fenn could only hope he was dreaming.
“The tunnel will take you to the high crossing at the river. Get into Aaronland and make your way south through the divide wood to the Cold Sea wissenry and Father Britt. He will know what to do.”
“But what about the grub demons?”
Father grabbed Fenn’s shoulders and gave him a bit of a shake.
“There are no such things, I tell you. Everything you will need is in your knapsack. And most of all, remember the night curse and be cautious of it. Remember that it isn’t real; the visions are not real.”
Father’s face softened and Fenn let out a breath.
“Can you remember all of that?”
“Yes, sir.” His voice was small, like the squeak of a mouse–Fenn hardly recognized it as his own.
Father smiled. “Good boy. Now, find your way to Father Britt. Use your head. Keep hidden.”
Handing him the small lantern, Father motioned for him to enter the monster’s throat.
“Luck be with you, boy.”
Fenn paused, worrying about the grub demons, before obeying and climbing in.
“Fenn,” Father said and Fenn turned back to him.
Father looked worn and defeated, but he smiled.
“You would have made a fine wissende.”
“I will miss you, Fenn Foster.”
“I’ll see you again, Father,” Fenn said. “You can come visit me at Cold Sea Port.”
Father looked at him sadly for a moment too long.
“One last thing,” he sucked in a breath as if for courage. “The kell stone. Promise me you won’t go near it.”
“Whatever you hear, whatever you learn, Fenn, don’t go out looking for it.”
Noises erupted upstairs, muted and distorted through the earthen walls. “Keep your head.” Father said, and the door swung shut over the entrance to the forbidden tunnel and Fenn was left alone in the dark, cold earth, listening to Father stack potato bins against his retreat.
Excerpted from "Children of Path (The Kell Stone Prophecy)" by Dana Trantham. Copyright © 2012 by Dana Trantham. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.