GENRE: YA Fantasy
There is a god at the bottom of the river.
Some folks will tell you that’s not real magic. But us wherrymen know different. When the reeds along the banks whisper that a squall is rushing across the marshland, we listen. When the tide flows up from the sea and floods the river with muddy brown water, we know enough to watch.
The god in the river speaks to us in the language of small things.
That’s how Dad knew something was wrong even before we rounded the bend into Venkirk and smelled the smoke on the late afternoon air.
“Caro, take the tiller.” Dad leaned over the stern.
He dipped his hand in the river. The Cormorant was loaded up with timber for the lumberyard in Siscema, so we rode low in the water. He had no trouble reaching. A tiny wake curled after his fingers, forming a wobbly line of bubbles on the surface. The sun had disappeared below the moss-draped trees, and the river grew stiller by the minute.
He pulled his hand back as if it had been burnt.
“What?” I sat up straight. “What was that?”
“I don’t rightly know.” He looked as if he wanted to say more. But all he said was, “He’s unsettled tonight.”
He meant the god in the river, but everyone knows it is bad luck, even dangerous, to speak of a god by name.
“Fire,” whispered Fee. The frogmen aren’t a people of many words.