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NIGHT CALLS by Katharine Eliska Kimbriel is from Book View Cafe.

ISBN 978-1-61138-320-1 (e-book)
ISBN 978-1-61138-347-1 (Trade Paperback)

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Cover art and design by Atomic Fly Studios.

When you have the Gift,
your life is not your own...

I was born to a family that harnessed the winds and could read futures in fire and water. Yet my mother kept her secrets.

Then the werewolf came, sharing his madness.

Now it's my turn to keep secrets....


Descended from powerful magic-users, but ignorant of her heritage, young Alfreda Sorensson learns magic and wisdom from her extended family in an alternate early 1800s Michigan Territory.


Excerpt from NIGHT CALLS

      The sunrise was patched like a red n' gold quilt, but I didn't pay it no mind. I was up in the dark, collecting eggs by feel and setting the milk out to wait the cream rising. Momma shooed me away and said she'd get it—that was her way of apologizing for last night. She doesn't like things like wolves and bears; that sort of thing scares her. But she doesn't want to make me frightened for no reason—I heard her tell a neighbor that once.

      "Watch your step out there, Alfreda," she said by way of parting. "There's more between heaven and earth than any man knows, I'll tell you." I must have looked as confused as I felt, because she waved me off, her worn, pale face looking a little disgusted. "Get me some onions and garlic from the garden on your way back!"

      And so I was free. There was nothing like walking through the long yellow grass, following the golden shadow that was my father. People always said Dolph and I were like him, both in looks and manner, and it was a compliment. He was the smartest man in our village. Even smarter than Father John, I thought, although Momma was always running to the priest. I don't think Papa's family ever had any use for gods. But if gods helped Momma more than the oldest ways, that was all right with Papa. "Whatever works" —that's what he always said.
      "Do you think something ate the wolf, Papa?" I called as I tried to keep up.

      "Hope not, child. A wolf pelt is worth a lot. We should be in time, the sun's just rising." His deep voice carried easily through the underbrush, although I'd lost sight of him.

      "How much farther?" I asked, catching my cotton dress on an ash shoot.

      "Not f— Alfreda, stay where you are."

      I stopped tugging on my dress. His tone would have warned me that something was wrong, even if he hadn't used my full name. A bear? I waited, silent, for him to call, all the while carefully unhooking my clothes.

      There was a thunk as his ax bit into wood, and the sound of something heavy falling. The grunt surprised me—had he tried to break the wolf's fall? I crept toward the clearing.

      "Papa— " Before the word was out I froze, as motionless as a stone. The sweet smell of blood tickled my nose, and something queasy began churning in the depths of my stomach. Somewhere off in the distance was the sound of a beautiful birdsong, one I'd never heard before. Blood and song—it was almost more than I could bear without weeping.

      He looked up from the twisted carcass before him, his face set and gray. "I told you to wait." No anger; his very lack of emotion frightened me.

      "I…I heard you, like you needed help," I started, not sure if I should keep walking or hold my ground.

      He made an abrupt gesture that drew me to his side. We both stared down at the torn and bloody lump of flesh and black fur, slashed by dog and steel.

      It was a man. At least I thought it was...it certainly wasn't a wolf. But it was hairier than any man I'd ever seen, even the palms and soles of the feet; and the teeth seemed wrong. I was sure I'd never seen him before. For a moment I felt faint—how could my father have made such a mistake? It was a full moon last night, you could see for miles—

      Then I understood, and I started to tremble. I'd heard tales about wolves that weren't really wolves….
      I felt my father reach for me, his hands tightening on my arms as he pulled me away from the thing. "This goes no further, girl. Not to your mother, and certainly not to your brothers—not even Dolph."

      "But—" I started.

      "We don't know whom we can trust, child. Do you see? I know someone was bitten last night—maybe more than one—but we'll never be able to find out quickly if we announce it. He might even run, like this fellow did, and plague some other community." Papa broke off then and turned from me, surveying the bloody scene. I kept my face turned toward the sunrise; the werewolf looked too much like a man, and that worried me. Finally Papa fumbled in his pocket and pulled out his pipe. Sitting down on a fallen log, he worked his flint several times before the tobacco caught fire.

      We shared a long silence while the wind picked up and the sun crept through the undergrowth. I sat down beside him, grateful that we were upwind of the thing, and waited while he did his thinking. A man. That bloody mess had once been a man. Grandsir had died quietly in his bed—no blood, no pain that I could see. A man shouldn't die in a field far from home with an ash spear through his heart…. Shivering, grateful summer was not yet gone, I finally grew brave enough to ask a question.

      "Would…would the church be able to help?"

      Papa didn't answer at first, only chewed his pipe stem. After a while he said, "No, Allie. Exorcism's no good for werewolves. There are things both old and new that can help, though…" He reached for my collar and tugged on the chain around my neck. I wore the metal cross of Momma's god, a tiny silver thing, the most valuable possession I owned. "Good. Keep it with you always, even when you sleep. Now, I need you to go get me something. Garlic. Enough to fill a hole, oh, this big." He demonstrated, making a circle with his arms. "Be quick, now, and remember—this goes no further."

      Nodding, I practically flew to my mother's garden. I didn't know much about werewolves, but I did know you had to do special things when you buried them—or they didn't stay buried. Fortunately garlic masters night things; it both controls them and keeps them at bay. Momma devotes an entire plot to the stuff. I rooted busily in the rows, pulling up handfuls of bulbs and scooping them into my apron. Folks outside might've thought that night creatures were only bogey stories, but back here in the hills we knew better.

      As I turned to start back to the clearing, I heard Momma calling me. "I'm still helping Papa!" I hollered, not stopping to hear her question. There was no way to get back to him fast enough. I sure hoped he knew how to keep the werewolf from rising again at sunset. The thought of the walking dead froze my heart.

      He'd been busy while I was gone. I made sure not to look too close. The head was separate from the body, and Papa carefully stuffed some garlic in its mouth. He'd cut a piece from the ash copse, too, and driven it through the chest. Then we started to gather firewood.


      It takes a long time to burn a body. We covered half our faces with scarves and stayed the course, but I will remember that smell until I die. The sun rose high above us, and still the fire raged on. I tended it carefully, watching for stray cinders, while Papa cut several thick branches from the ash copse. By the time the reeking blaze had dwindled to coals, Papa had peeled and sharpened three good stakes. The sight made me shiver, so I concentrated on locating the wolf-man's ashes.

      Werewolves burn clean—there wasn't a single chip of bone left. That surprised me, since the fire hadn't been that hot, but Papa had left to get something, so I kept silent. Before long he returned with a wooden bucket and a shovel.

      We took every speck of those wolf ashes to the crossroads by Faxon's farm. I carried the rest of the garlic in my apron and dragged the stakes. Papa dug a real deep hole right down in the center of the road. He set the entire bucket inside it, and had me dump the garlic on top. It was a shame to see that fine bucket, garlic spilling down its sides into the dirt, because I knew Papa was going to bury it, too.

      "Only ash slat bucket I ever made, child. No better use for it," he remarked, as if reading my mind. After smoothing some dirt over it, we laid stones on top, and finally packed the rest of the dirt down tight, so the road looked clean once more. Papa took the stakes from me, and we started for the house.

      For once I appreciated those special looks Papa and Momma could exchange, because Momma never asked to see the wolf skin, and she didn't scold when I forgot the onions. Dolph and Josh asked, of course—Dolph told me he wanted to buy it from Papa for that girl he's sparking—but Papa told them it was too tore up to save, and they believed it. I don't think I ever heard Papa lie before or since that night. He did make the older boys scrub with sundew again, and stood over them to see they did it right. Him and me, too, though I never even touched the werewolf.

      We were ready for supper when one of the neighbors stopped by. Papa went outside to talk, and was shaking his head when he came back into the kitchen.

      "Eldon?" Momma said, and her voice quivered, as if she didn't really want him to answer.

      "Faxon's little girl died," he said quietly, sitting down at our big chestnut table.

      My mother gasped and put her hand to her breast. "The poor man! Both wife and child gone before the year's old."

      That's when I almost messed up everything.

      "It was a blessing." Like always, I was muttering; and like always, Momma heard me.

      "Alfreda, whatever do you mean?" Momma was both sharp and astonished. I saw the intense look Papa was giving me and tore through my head for something to say.

      "Isn't that what you always say, Momma? That God loves us; and that when bad things happen, there's a reason for it, even if we don't know it?" I feared it was awkward, but she seemed to accept my twisted reasoning. She was silent several moments before she told me not to say it in front of little Ben and Joe. Then the only sound was of Dolph drinking still another glass of water.

      I didn't eat much…all I could taste was iron and ashes.


[The previous text is a passage from the novel NIGHT CALLS. This text is © copyright 1996, 2013 by Katharine Eliska Kimbriel. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information address Jonathan Matson, Literary Agent, Harold Matson Company, Inc., Associate: McIntosh, McKee & Dobbs, Inc., 276 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10001 TEL: (212)679-4490, FAX: (212)545-1224, E-mail: hmatsco@aol.com]


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