Heroes' Journeys

The Stones Are Hatching by Geraldine McCaughrean

It was naked, filthy, and demanding. Phelim Green had never known such a visitor. The black and greasey Domovoy, a kitchen spirit, left its perch behind the stove to warn him... and let in all the refugee field spirits. They clattered about the kitchen, wolfing down raw potatoes and spitting the peels into the stove door.

The huge stove was pushed away from the wall, and the furniture was piled up against the door to the outside. Prudence would have had a logical explanation for all of this. But Phelim's sister was out for the present, and his father had gone away long ago. Just as Phelim started to pull apart the barricade, something huge and angry began to hurl itself at the door.

"Black Dog!" cried a mud-caked glashan. Phelim Green made the mistake of leaning out the window for a better look. The glowing eyes of the black beast registered a cold intelligence and raw hatred as it snapped its dripping jaws. The Domovoy pelted the dog with marigolds. It reacted to the brilliant yellow flowers as though it were electrocuted, falling on all fours.

Somewhere out there the great Worm was waking. For centuries it had lain dormant, but the bombs and shooting of the Great War had roused it. As its body twisted in the ground that overlay it, thousands of eggs containing all the stuff of nightmares were warming and hatching. The Black Dog was one such beast, but more were roaming the countryside, wreaking devastation.

Marigolds were good magic, but, as the Domovoy helpfully pointed out, all the marigolds were gone. "Only you can save us now, Jack o' Green!" Phelim protested many times and loudly even as he was being pushed out his own door and into the lane that his name wasn't Jack o' Green, and his sister was going to be very, very angry when she returned.

But the door was bolted behind him, so he took off down the lane, Jack o' Green or no, to find help or be help, comforted not at all by the pillowcase filled with all manner of odd things that the Domovoy had shoved into his hands. Before his journey ends he'll befriend a fool, a maiden, and a magical horse, and at last delve into the darkness of his own heart.

The Wind Singer by William Nicholson

Legends are sometimes true, and schools may teach lies.

Kestrel Hath did not know this when she mouthed off to her teacher and was sent to the back of the class. She did not know it when she deliberately sat next to Mumpo, the class doofus who dribbled and smelled and said that he liked her very much.

All that morning, Dr. Batch kept it up. This is what he wrote on the board:

NAME THE TENSES
KESTREL LOVES MUMPO
KESTREL IS LOVED BY MUMPO
KESTREL WILL LOVE MUMPO
KESTREL HAS LOVED MUMPO
KESTREL SHALL HAVE LOVED MUMPO

As soon as they could, Kestrel and her twin brother, Bowman, cut class. This was Kestrel's idea. She was the one to do things; Bowman, on the other hand, could feel things. He felt his sister's anger, and he felt Mumpo's loneliness. Kestrel left the Orange district and headed to the central arena, where the wind singer stood. Stretching out from the central arena were the concentric rings of neighborhoods.

The Grey District lay furthest away. Here were huge apartment blocks filled with the people who kept the streets of Aramanth clean and performed other lesser duties. Next came Maroon District, a bit better with terraced apartments. After that was Orange-- this was Kestrel's home district. Not as bright as Scarlet, the next level up, but neither as dull as Maroon, and this was just, it was understood, for everyone had an equal chance of moving forward to achieve a better life.

In Aramanth, constant public examinations are at the heart of civilization. The tests begin at age two and never stop. A family's place depends on how well the father does at the tests, but each child's rank contributes to the family's rating. The central arena was in the White District, home to the city leaders and the Emperor himself. After the ratings system was introduced there was no longer any need to use the amphitheater for debates and elections.

Kestrel Hath loved the wind singer though it no longer sent chords of music through the land. Its key had gone missing long ago, but Kestrel loved it anyway. She came to a stop at the foot of the wind singer, knowing that this day, filled as she was with rage, she must do something or explode. Kestrel Hath began to climb.

The Wind Singer is Book One in the Wind on Fire Trilogy.