It’s exactly ONE MONTH until the release of The Secret Source! I can’t wait. I mean, I actually can’t wait. So I’m giving you a little piece of it today! This is a scene from the original draft of The Secret Source. In the editing process, we took it out of the final book because it interrupted the flow of the story, but I loved it so much, I saved it for you. So here you go, a little taste of things to come:
Adam always felt happier in the Gylf forest. The second he walked under the spreading branches and felt the soft give of leaves and rotted wood underfoot, he relaxed. Taking a deep breath of damp forest air, he let his worry about Alex’s dad slip out away for a while.
He had gotten ahead of the others, so he turned to wait as they left their bikes at the edge of the trees. Alex was hanging back a bit, but Dominic stayed by her until she came up to join the others. No one said anything. They just turned toward the Gylf home and walked quietly in single file.
Adam led the way, feeling suddenly confident. Logan’s idea was a good one. The Gylf had a funny way of talking about the world that somehow always helped things make sense.
They were halfway to the clearing where the Gylf lived when Adam heard a sound off to their left through the trees. He stopped and cocked his head, listening. In a minute it came again, a weird high-pitched keening noise that Adam had never heard before.
“What is that?” asked Logan.
“It’s an animal,” said Eve. “And it’s in pain.” Without further warning, she took off through the trees, crashing through the brush where there was no way through, straight toward the sound.
Logan followed her immediately. Adam looked at Alex and then Dominic behind her. Alex shrugged and headed off after the others.
The wailing started again. Adam and Dom left the path together.
The cry sounded three more times before they got to the spot it was coming from. The last cry was right overhead when Adam pushed through a tangle of branches and found the rest of his friends gathered around the trunk of a huge tree. Unsurprisingly, several Gylf were sitting on its lowest branches. There were maybe ten of the little people, most wearing the dark browns and greens that made them blend in perfectly with the trees.
“…only found it just this morning,” a dark-haired Gylf woman was saying. “It is terrified and it fights even our most skilled handlers.”
“We would not be able to free it even were it to cooperate fully,” said a golden-haired male that Adam thought was called Wen. “It is too large for us to lift, even working together, and it no longer has use of its own limbs.”
“We can help,” said Eve. “We’re…you know…a lot bigger.”
“That is where the problem lies,” said Wen. “You are too large to reach the upper branches where it is trapped.”
Eve snorted. “I’m great at climbing trees. Don’t worry, I won’t be afraid of the height.”
“It is not your fear that is the concern,” said Wen. “The branches can only sustain so much.”
“I’m sure there’s a fat joke in there somewhere,” said Eve, “but I’m going to ignore it. You have to let us try.” A heart-breaking sound came from high above again. “Listen to that! We can’t just leave it there.”
“I do not think…” began Wen.
“If they are willing, Wen, it is not for us to stop them,” said the dark-haired woman. “Sometimes a great deed must be attempted, even if it is doomed to failure.”
Eve looked up sharply and caught Adam’s eye. They stared at each other for a moment, then another cry caused Eve to choke. “We need to hurry!”
“Eve and I are the smallest,” said Alex. “We can be the ones who climb.”
Since she immediately grabbed the lowest branch and started scrambling up, no one argued. Eve was a little shorter than Alex, so Logan boosted her up, and both girls had soon climbed out of sight among the thickly tangled branches.
Adam peered up from the base of the tree as an even louder wail drifted down. “What is that up there, anyway?”
The Gylf had all climbed up to help guide the girls, so it was Logan who answered. “They said it was a bear cub.”
Adam turned to him in disbelief, “A bear?! How would a bear be down here? Don’t they stick to the mountains? And how would it get stuck in a tree?”
“They said it wandered into their woods alone a few days ago. There wasn’t time to get any of the details. I have no idea why it’s up there or why it can’t get down.”
“That is so weird,” Adam said. “I’ve never heard of any bears around here.”
“They come down out of the mountains sometimes,” said Dominic. “My grandfather found one in his garden once. It ran off when it saw him.”
“I hope this one is that cowardly,” said Adam. “Do you think the girls are safe up there with it?”
“Cubs are pretty small, right?” said Logan as another howl came from above.
“I’m going to climb up part of the way just in case they need help,” Adam said.
The other boys agreed, and they all pulled themselves up onto the lower branches. Climbing was not as easy as the girls had made it look. The branches were too close together, making it necessary to push through tangles of them that scraped and poked every part of Adam’s body. It thinned out a little as they got higher, but the larger limbs were also farther apart, and it became necessary to hang one-handed from time to time. Adam had never been particularly afraid of heights, but he didn’t like how shaky some of his footholds were, and he slowed way down.
Now that the branches were more open, he could see the girls up near the top of the tree. The Gylf had been right; none of the branches above them looked strong enough to hold them. They were stopped just below the brown lump that must have been the bear. Logan came up next to Adam and stopped. Dominic passed them and climbed up a few more levels, hands and feet both moving with expert surety, until finally one the branches snapped when he stepped on it, and he stayed put.
They watched as the little bear cried out again and twisted its body, causing the whole treetop to sway back and forth. Eve made a desperate attempt to climb higher, but the limb gave way, and she slid back down. Alex stretched herself out to pull on the branches tangled around the cubs fur. She could just tug on the bottom of some of them, but she, too, slipped and had to grab for Eve to keep from falling.
Dominic muttered something in Spanish, and Adam remembered that Alex was afraid of heights. He wished they had some of those bubble flowers now. He had never seen them here in these woods, but maybe the Gylf knew where some were.
He called out, and the little dark-haired woman, who had been invisible among the branches and leaves, skipped and jumped lightly down beside him. He described the flowers to her, but she had never heard of them.
“We could go get some from the Redoubt,” said Logan, his eyes still on the girls where they were making another attempt to reach the struggling bear.
“I don’t think there’s time for that,” said Dominic as the bear twisted again and yelped when a branch jabbed into its side. “That thing is going to be seriously hurt if we don’t get it out of there soon.”
“Well, we’re never going to get it out if we can’t reach it, either,” said Adam.
“We need to bring it down to us,” said Dom.
“That would be great, except it’s stuck, which is the problem in the first place.”
“No, we bring the whole thing down,” said Dom. “if it can’t get out of the branches, we bring those down, too.”
“You want to chop down the tree?” gaped Adam. “How is that a solution?”
“Not the whole tree,” snapped Dominic, “just the top part there. Climb as high as we can and cut down the rest.”
“Won’t the bear fall, then?” said Adam. “As in, down will come branches, bear cub and all.”
“I think if we all work together and use the rope we can keep it from falling.”
Adam looked up and tried to consider the idea seriously. “What would we use to cut it with? I didn’t bring any axes in my backpack today.”
“I have a saw in mine,” said Logan.
Adam stared at him. “You have a saw in your backpack? Seriously?”
Logan shrugged. “I got it at Maddie’s house when we dropped off the kids. She wanted me to take it and cut out all the poison ivy growing out behind those new kids’ trailer.”
“How does it fit in your backpack?”
“I’ll show you,” Logan said, already climbing down. A few minutes later, he was back, carrying what looked like a giant pocket knife, but sure enough, when he unfolded it, a long, serrated blade gleamed.
By this point, the bear’s howls had become constant, and Eve had nearly killed herself twice trying to climb up to him. The Gylf were working more urgently now, climbing over the bear, avoiding his flailing claws, offering him some kind of berries in an attempt to calm him. Even they could not get close enough, and from time to time a handful of berries rained down on the boys’ heads.
Dominic called up to the girls. “I think we have a plan. Come down for a minute.”
Alex had to tug Eve away, but they came. As they got closer, Adam could see that Eve’s face was streaked with dirt and tears. Alex’s face was also dirty, but she wasn’t crying. She looked pale and determined.
When Dominic outlined his plan, Eve refused point blank. “He’ll fall! You’ll kill him that way!”
Alex shook her head. “I don’t think so, Eve. I think this could work. Anyway, what else are we going to do? There isn’t any way to get to him.”
“We have rope,” explained Logan. “And Maddie just gave me this saw this morning.”
“It’s like destiny,” said Adam, only half joking.
Eve bit her lip and looked up at the thrashing cub. “Are you sure he won’t fall?”
“No one’s sure of anything,” said Dominic, “but we have to try something.”
For some reason this made Eve laugh. “I really need to remember not to ask you for comfort, Dom,” she said. “Okay, let’s do it. He needs to get down from there before he seriously hurts himself.”
Dom was down and back with rope in two minutes. Adam wondered where he had learned to climb trees so well. Somehow in all their other adventures, it had never come up.
The girls took the rope up higher and explained things to the Gylf as they tied off to several different branches. The Gylf came climbing down to where the boys were discussing the best place to cut.
“This plan is a good one,” said Wen, “but you will need to act with great care. The tree will be damaged enough by the bear’s panic. We must not hurt it more than is necessary.”
“Of course,” said Dominic seriously. He showed the Gylf where they were thinking of beginning to saw. Wen suggested a place a bit further up. It was harder to reach, but Dominic thought he could get to it if he stepped carefully. Adam didn’t envy him the job, even if he was a good climber.
Slowly, Dominic eased himself up into position as the girls climbed back down holding the rope. They all ranged themselves around the tree, trying to be prepared for whatever may fall down. Logan had taken the rope, looped it over a nearby branch, and sat holding the end steady.
“Here goes nothing,” said Dominic from above, setting the saw against the tree trunk.
It wasn’t very thick that high up, but it still took Dominic a good fifteen minutes to saw far enough through.
Eve cried out as it started to fall, and Adam saw Logan brace himself on the rope. The entire treetop tilted sideways, and then came crashing toward them, tip first, weighed down by the baby bear still tangled in its thinnest branches. If it hadn’t been for the rope, the whole thing would have ended in disaster. Not only would the bear have fallen all the way to the ground, but the whipping branches would have taken one or two of them with it.
Adam was in its direct path and had just registered his imminent doom when it was pulled up short by Logan’s grip on the rope. Logan cried out as the rope burned his hands. He was hanging on, but the weight was too much for him. Quick as they could, both girls crawled toward him and, seated on branches just above, took hold of the rope.
Adam could see the cub swinging in its leafy trap just a few feet away. He reached out and grabbed the sturdiest looking branch he could find on the swinging treetop. A ways above, he saw Dom do the same.
“I think we can steady it,” said Dom. “Slowly lower the rope. Slowly!” he yelled as it dropped a few feet, jerking the branch out of his hands.
Somehow Adam managed to climb down one level, gripping the tree trunk with one hand and keeping hold of the cut branches with the other. It took all his concentration to hold on and keep slowly moving down, a step here, a shift of grip there, steadying the swaying branches as the bear cub writhed and howled. In some part of his consciousness, he was aware of Dominic calling out orders, of the others moving around the tree. Soon Alex joined him in steadying the treetop as Dom took over her spot on the rope. The three up above held all the weight as they let it down hand by hand, but still Adam had no energy for anything but holding on and inching downward. He didn’t remember the tree being so tall. It felt like they would never reach the ground.
It wasn’t until Alex suddenly disappeared from sight that he realized he was stepping onto the lowest branch. Alex called up to the others. Adam let go of the treetop and watched as it lowered freely now onto the ground.
No sooner had it touched down than the bear cub began thrashing with renewed energy. Alex immediately leaped onto the tangle of branches and began to peel back the ones that kept the small animal trapped.
“Hey there, easy,” she crooned, as it swiped its small but sharp claws at her. She gave a final hard tug that made the branches snap.
In a blur of brown fur, the bear cub jumped away from its former prison. Adam saw it crouch and he yelled, but not before the little animal had raked its claws across Alex’s bare leg. Alex screamed, and the cub turned and shot away through the trees.
The other three kids were dropping to the ground around them as Adam bent over Alex. She was lying on her side, clutching her leg, her face white and set, her jaw tightly clenched. Adam saw blood between her fingers. His mind raced but didn’t get anywhere. He didn’t know what to do.
“Alex? What happened?” said Eve, nudging Adam aside. “You’re bleeding. Did he scratch you?”
“It was a little more than scratching, Eve,” said Adam. “It full on attacked her. The second it was free, it just…”
“It was terrified,” said Wen in a voice that was calm but full of concern. He and several other Gylf had now gathered around, too. A female with long blonde hair was quickly smashing red berries between two flat rocks.
“Sanberries, Alex,” said Dominic softly. “Move your hands away so they can help you.”
Alex swallowed hard and closed her eyes. She let go, screwing up her face as new pain struck her.
Adam had to look away. The sight of the four long slashes made him feel sick. He cursed himself. Why didn’t he warn Alex to leave it alone until the Gylf could help calm it? He was right there. He should have done something.
“These will heal nicely,” the Gylf woman was saying. “They are not very deep.”
“Can I help?” asked Eve anxiously.
“Perhaps a few more of these leaves,” the Gylf answered.
The light-haired Wen came around to Adam’s side. “Did you see where the creature ran? He may hurt himself in his panic. I should follow his trail and see him safe.”
Adam pointed the way through the trees. The little Gylf nodded his thanks and took off at once. Adam watched him disappear, and when he turned back to the others, Alex was sitting up. Her leg was wrapped in large green leaves held on by a pinkish paste. She seemed to be in less pain, and Adam knew it was because of the sanberries. They would take away the worst of the hurt and they would help the cuts to heal without leaving scars. Alex was going to be okay. He relaxed just a little.
“Okay, so bears are not much for gratitude,” said Alex. “Something to remember for next time.”
Eve gave a hysterical little laugh and hugged her friend. “Oh my…, Alex, I’m so sorry. It’s all my fault we even got into this, and now your leg. I should have known it would be dangerous. I should have told you to let me get him out.”
“It’s okay,” said Alex. “I wanted to help him. My leg will be okay.”
Eve looked at her for a long minute. “You should tell your dad tonight.”
And there’s so, so much more to come! Which brings me to the announcement:
You can PRE–ORDER The Secret Source over at Madison House Publishing, starting today! Put in your order now, and the book will be shipped out to you September 8. You can even request a free autograph or special message. If you’ve never purchased the first two books, there’s also a special deal to get all three at a discount price. We’ll send you the first two right away, so you can be all caught up by the time The Secret Source is released. Check it out!