Identity formation can come from a wide variety of sources. Some days, we find ourselves particularly gripped by a lofty theological work. Other days, a work of fiction may leave us different then it found us. Today we highlight the latter. Andrew Peterson is a singer, songwriter, and author of the popular Wingfeather Saga. We are excited to share a brief excerpt from the fourth volume in the Saga, The Warden and the Wolf King, which was released in hardcover on October 6th.
The white sky, visible beyond the gray skeletal trees, was brightening in the east, but the sun hadn’t yet broken the horizon. Frost covered Janner’s blanket, and the wind had blown a little drift of snow against his pack. He sat up and shook his head, trying to remember how he had come to be there. As the previous night came back to him, he realized how terribly cold he was. A violent shiver began in his stomach and coursed outward to the tips of his fingers and toes. Thankfully, there were enough stray branches that Janner was able to resurrect the fire. He pulled off his gloves and warmed his hands, but he knew that unless he found more wood the little fire would weaken again.
He studied his surroundings, still trying to piece together the strange ending to his birthday party. The fire crackled at the center of a clearing no bigger than a tent. He was glad to be in the trees because he could hear the frigid wind and see it raking the treetops. But the more he woke, the more annoyed he felt that his friends and family had left him alone in the wilderness. Someone had said it was a Durgan tradition—well, what a ridiculous tradition! Not only did Clout—he remembered now that it was Guildmaster Clout who brought him here on horseback—abandon him, but he had somehow covered his tracks to make it even more difficult for Janner to find his way home. Clout, a master of sneakery, would have had no problem disguising his tracks, had he left any in the first place. Now, you should probably know that when a guildling is blindplopped, as you have been, there is no guardian. No one is watching over you, ready to rescue you as soon as things get difficult. That means you’re on your own. Click To Tweet
Janner spent several minutes collecting firewood and soon had a healthy blaze to warm his bones. When his body stopped trembling, he set his attention to his supplies. He found an unstrung bow and a quiver of exactly thirteen arrows beside his pallet and pack. “Ha ha,” he grumbled. The bow was lashed to a sword and a dagger, comforting weapons for a boy alone in the woods.
The sword. Janner unwrapped it and drew it from the scabbard. He admired the stout blade, nicked but sharp and gleaming in the early light. The leather of the hilt was dark and smooth with years of use, and it fit his hand perfectly.
His backpack, the same one his mother had made for him in Skree before they had escaped Uncle Artham’s tree house, was bursting at the seams. He felt a familiar satisfaction at the way the worn leather had lost its stiffness. He and this pack had survived a gargan rockroach, the Stranders of the East Bend, and even a voyage across the Dark Sea of Darkness—and they both had scars to prove it. He unbuckled the flap and several little bundles of rations wrapped with paper and twine tumbled out, along with an envelope bearing his name. Janner tore open the envelope and unfolded a letter.
Your mother tells me that you escaped a factory full of slaves, traveled alone across Fang territory, and found your family in a city built under the ice. You should have no problem with this little test of your Durgan abilities. Every guildling undergoes a similar trial of skill and strength, though it must be said: not every guildling’s birthday is in the dead of winter, and some aren’t ready for blindplopping until their fourteenth or fifteenth year. But you’re more than ready. Too bad for you. You’ve been taught sneakery, hunting, tracking, orienteering, and combat. There’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to figure out where you are, find food, and make your way home—unless of course you encounter a toothy cow, of which there are few in the Hollows. Also, keep an eye out for grobblins, especially in the winter. But you’ll be fine.
I have full confidence that you’ll make it home without incident. Unless you see the ridgerunners. I forgot about them. They’re getting braver these days, coming into the Hollows in little bands—likely scouting for the Fangs. But don’t worry about them. They probably won’t kidnap you.
Now, you should probably know that when a guildling is blindplopped, as you have been, there is no guardian. No one is watching over you, ready to rescue you as soon as things get difficult. That means you’re on your own. Of course, if you don’t show up at Ban Rona for a week or so, we’ll send out a search party to bring you home, though there probably won’t be much of you left. Your mother grew up here; she knows how it works, and she’s given me her full permission. I expected to have to talk her into the blindplop, but she agreed without hesitation. That should make you feel some pride, boy.
One last thing you should know. By the time you read this, you’ll be feeling hungry. That’s because you’ve been sleeping for two days. It may seem like your birthday party was last night, but it wasn’t. You’re farther from home than you know. A two-day ride could put you pretty much anywhere in the Green Hollows. Have fun!
P.P.S. Also, I noticed a thork nest in the stand of trees near where I left you. They’re usually docile, except at sunrise. And don’t build the fire too high! That just makes them angry.
Janner slipped the letter back into his pack and held very still. He heard a snap but wasn’t sure whether it was the fire or a thork in the trees. Clout had taught him that ears work best when eyes are shut, so he closed them and held his breath, listening so hard that he could hear his own heart. Then he had the awful realization that there was something breathing in the trees. And it was behind him.
**Excerpted from The Warden and the Wolf King. Copyright © 2020 by Andrew Peterson. Used by permission of WaterBrook, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.**