The Green Ember
by S. D. Smith
THE GREEN EMBER — INTRODUCTION
Heather and Picket are extraordinary rabbits with ordinary lives until calamitous events overtake them, spilling them into a cauldron of misadventures. They discover that their own story is bound up in the tumult threatening to overwhelm the wider world.
Kings fall and kingdoms totter. Tyrants ascend and terrors threaten. Betrayal beckons, and loyalty is a broken road with peril around every bend.
Where will Heather and Picket land? How will they make their stand?
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I don’t usually tell people that there is a book they absolutely-must-no-questions-HAVE-TO-without-a-doubt read. But this one? How shall I put this? If I could choose only one book for my kids to read this year, this would be it. How’s that for a recommendation? Go get it! Officially our favorite read-aloud ever. I’m recommending this to everyone who happens to lend me their ear for 5 seconds. From the Read-Aloud Revival to S.D. Smith: thank you for giving us this beautiful gem! –Sarah Mackenzie, Author of Teaching From Rest, Host of The Read-Aloud Revival Podcast (via Amazon)
THE GREEN EMBER — EXCERPT
Two soaked and battered rabbits washed up on the shore of Ayman Lake. Gasping, Fleck crawled onto the stony beach, rolled over, and tried to clear his mind. Galt was already standing. “We have to go, Fleck,” he said, eyes darting from the lake to the tree line.
“I’m no traitor,” Fleck managed to say through ragged breaths.
“Traitor?” Galt cried. “The winning side gets to decide who the traitors were. We’ve lost, Fleck. It’s over. Eve you, Captain Blackstar, can do nothing this time. We have o chance.”
“We? We have no chance?”
“He has no chance,” Galt said, head down, edging toward the forest.
Fleck stood slowly, staggering. The usual grey fur of his arm was blotched with dark scarlet. One eye was swollen shut. “He can be saved,” Fleck said, reaching for his sword. His hand closed on air. His scabbard was empty.
“Nothing,” Galt said. “There’s nothing we can do. It’s the end of the world.”
“But the oath, Galt. Remember? We can still turn this. King Whitson needs us. Prince Lander needs us,” he said, pointing to the burning ship. “I’ll never turn traitor.”
“You’re only a traitor if you betray yourself,” Galt said. He sprinted off, disappearing into the trees.
Fleck struggled to stay upright. Swaying, he turned from the fleeing rabbit to face the lake. Charcoal smoke corkscrewed into the sky. The blackened boat teemed with enemies. Flames snapped at the red diamond standard as the last kingsbucks grappled with the invaders on the deck. Whitson Mariner stood among them, his sword poised and his harried shouts echoing over the lake. Fleck straightened and stretched his arm. Pain flared. Unbearable agony. He bent, wincing. He opened his eyes and saw King Whitson, fighting desperately to protect Prince Lander. Fleck rose, ignoring the pain, and shouted across the water.
“My place beside you, my blood for yours! Till the Green Ember rises, or the end of the world!”
Swordless, Fleck Blackstar hobbled to the water’s edge and plunged in.
Chapter One – Heather And Picket Catch A Star
Heather had invented the game, but Picket made it magic. She remembered the day it began. She had been out in the meadow behind their elm-tree home, lying on a blanket in the sun. Heather was little then. Her long furry ears bent slightly in the wind, and the bow she invariably wore over one ear was starting to come undone. That day Mother had done a carnation bow, an intricate weave of one long ribbon made to look like a large flower, and pinned it to one ear. Picket was little more than a baby then, sleeping in his crib.
Heather had gathered several sticks and was thinking hard about them when a powerful gust of wind almost knocked her over. The gust finally loosened her bow, which came down in a tangle of scarlet ribbon, draping over the sticks she held. She was unaware that she held the ingredients for the game that would later give them endless hours of fun.
She had crossed two short sticks and made an X shape. Then she added another, giving it six points. She tied them together with the long scarlet ribbon. Heather smiled. It was pretty, like a star. The end of the ribbon trailed back a few feet, and she considered wrapping all of it around the bound pointed sticks. But she stopped suddenly, and then the wind picked up again as she tied off the ribbon around the star at its center, leaving its long scarlet train to flap in the breeze. She stood, holding her small invention aloft, smiling wide. With barely a thought of why, she flung the toy as hard as she could. It sailed through the air like a shooting star, the ribbon trailing a scarlet wake. It disappeared into the tall grass. She frowned, afraid it would take forever to find it.
That’s when the game came to her. When Picket woke up, she explained it to him, hoping he would crawl out and play. But he was too little then.
“It’s called Starseek,” she said, “and this is the star.”
“is it a real star?” Picket asked, his head cocked sideways and his whiskers twitching.
“No, little one,” Heather said, “a real star hangs in the sky at night, along with a million others. This is just a game.”
“A game?” Picket said. “Maybe they’re all for games.”
Now that they were both older, Heather near maturity and Picket not too far behind, the two of them had played Starseek hundreds of times. It had been fun to play alone for a little while, but that got old pretty quickly. So Picket had played, with Heather’s patient instruction, from the time he could walk. Now he was older and, as much as Heather hated to admit it, getting as good as her at the game she had invented. He had a keen eye and was agile on the ground. She was faster, She could still beat him at a straight-run race, but he was quick.
Today she was in danger of losing every match. But it wasn’t over yet.
S. D. Smith — AUTHOR BIO
S. D. Smith lives with his wife and four kids in West Virginia. Sam is the author of the middle grade adventure fantasy, The Green Ember, as well as its prequel, The Black Star of Kingston.
Ember Falls, the highly-anticipated follow-up to The Green Ember, is available now.