Girls & Monsters
This is a special sneak peek of Book 2 and it may contain SPOILERS for Girls and Monsters. If you haven't finished the first book, please don't read this section, as it may give away parts of the ending. Thank you.
(Note: This section takes place early on in Book 2. Just before this scene, Brand had left the abbey to take Nel home.)
Brand made it back at around one o’clock. He went inside the abbey to get lunch. He hoped to run into Seri, but no such luck. She was in her bedroom, Gretchen told him, sleeping. Brand did, however, run into Gertrude, Seri’s grandmother--and, incidentally, the woman who had orchestrated the slaughter of his Castle. He was not all that happy to see her.
“Have you eaten yet?” she asked.
“I was about to,” he said.
“Good. I ordered you a hearty lunch. I expect you are depleted after using so much magic. You will need to keep up your strength.”
Half a day’s flight was not enough to drain him, though he was hungry. Brand suspected, however, that Gertrude’s concern over his health had little to do with compassion. She only cared about him to the extent that her granddaughter was bound to him. Brand went to the kitchen and got himself a plate.
He ate in the dining room. For a little while, he was alone. But Gertrude returned shortly thereafter, with a piece of paper in her hand. She put it next to him, and stood near his shoulder, hovering over him.
“What’s this?” he asked, indicating the paper.
“A detailed list and instructions of medicines which may help ease my granddaughter through her pain.”
“She’s in pain?” Brand said, looking up.
“The transformation is quite painful.”
“But the curse is broken now—”
“Reversed,” Gertrude said. “And the pain was never a part of the curse, merely a side effect. It is hard for the body to be turned into another state.”
“Yes, but I thought--” Brand said.
Gertrude looked at him.
Brand looked away. He hadn’t thought, not really. He knew that Seri was in pain, and he’d assumed, for some unfathomable reason, that since he had fixed the situation, at least partially, the pain would start to go away. Ignorant, wishful thinking on his part.
He looked over the list, folded it up, and put it in his pocket.
“I will see that she gets these,” he said.
“Has she been taking anything before?”
“No. She rarely complains,” Brand said. “I didn’t know it was so bad.”
“I think it might be getting worse,” Gertrude said.
“Worse?” Brand asked.
Gertrude nodded and sat down beside him. “How long did it take her to get in this state?”
“I don’t think it take as long to transform back,” Gertrude said. “The purpose of the spell was to secure a bride for the one who enacted it. The transformation from girl to dragon would be long and drawn out, giving the girl time to agree to the marriage. Once she did agree, though, there would be no reason to delay. The transformation would be sped up—and this would cause her pain to increase.”
“You seem to know more about the spell than I do,” Brand muttered, mostly to distract himself. He did not like thinking of Seri in pain.
“I’m a sorcerer’s wife,” Gertrude said. “I know how magic is created, its effects—and its limitations. There are few healing spells, and they are hard to master. I don’t suppose you know one?”
“No,” he said.
Gertrude nodded. “I know a little about medicine. And there is a monk here who specializes in it. I have consulted him, and he agrees. He will even give you some of his draughts, if you will make a small donation to the church.”
“I’ll see him after I eat,” Brand said. He picked at his meat. “I wonder, though, if it wouldn’t be better for Seri to stay here, at least until the transformation is complete. She’d have access to better physicians.”
“She will not be safe here,” Gertrude said. “You need to take her back to your tower, no later than tonight.”
“Tonight?” Brand said. “I wasn’t going to do any more traveling today. I had planned to take you home tomorrow morning and then--”
“You are not going to take me home,” Gertrude said. “Leave me the horse and carriage. I will make my way back on my own.”
“I just bought those,” Brand said. “I wasn’t planning to give them to you.”
“Well, you can’t take them back.”
“And why’s that?”
“Because, young Brandeis, you are being followed.”
His heart lurched. “Followed. You mean--?”
He looked around, suddenly paranoid. The hall was quite empty, but he heard the sound of a few monks passing by the window. Brand went very still. He leaned closer to Gertrude.
“Is Seri safe?” he whispered.
“They’re not after her,” Gertrude said. “And there’s no need to panic. The man they sent after you doesn’t have magic.”
“What man? Who sent him?”
Gertrude pressed her lips together. There was a look of mild contempt and disappointment in her eyes. Brand realized he had raised his voice, and while there was no one there, the windows were open and the doors were open. Anyone might overhear him.
“Is there a safe place we can talk?” Brand asked.
“The sanctuary. So long as no one else is there.”
“Let’s go then.”
Gertrude sighed. “Finish your lunch. I will meet you there.”
“I will meet you there,” she said. “Try to control your emotions, Brandeis. These outbursts will not help you. You need to stay calm and think.”