GENRE: YA fantasy
Robert Ferrald of Eschenburg had a good heart and very poor business sense. He also had three sons, children of the wife whom he had buried amid many a tear after the birth of the youngest. He had not remarried, a choice that was criticized almost as much as his business dealings, and for better or ill the sons had grown up motherless.
The oldest, after unofficially managing most of the complicated details of his father's trade, was now poised to become a partner in his business. The middle son spent much of his time courting several young ladies at once, and the youngest, hopeless at most everything and prone to waste his days in reading, would be sent off that autumn to the university, where he could at least acquire the title of scholar, whatever good it may do him.
Alain, the youngest, had no strong objections to this plan. He was reluctant to live so far from his family, at least a hundred miles west of Eschenburg, but he looked forward to discovering what sort of knowledge the professors could offer him that he hadn't already taught himself. When less than a month remained before he would depart for Delafontaine, he began counting down the days – so he’d know when he needed to start packing, if nothing else.
On the morning of the seventeenth day before his departure, Alain left his bedroom and came downstairs to discover that he was nearly alone in the house.