13 October 2011

Excerpt Thursday: The Unhewn Stone by Wendy Laharnar

This week on Excerpt Thursday we're welcoming author Wendy Laharnar, who is celebrating the release of her debut title, The Unhewn Stone, set in medieval Switzerland. Join us Sunday when Wendy will be here to talk about the novel, answer questions and give away a copy. Here's the blurb:

Life in the Middle Ages is a dangerous game, even for Üserwäälti, the Chosen One.

When modern day Swiss teen, Stefan Gessler, answers the call to restore his family's honour, he discovers it takes more than superior education and pride to equip him for life in the Middle Ages. His dangerous adventures test his courage and challenge his beliefs.
Immersed in the turbulent events of the Wilhelm Tell legend, Stefan pretends to be a wizard when an avaricious sibyl mistakes him for an alchemist. The shape-shifting sibyl and an evil knight have diabolical reasons to want the wizard dead. So, faced with his own demons and those of medieval Switzerland, how will Stefan complete his mission and escape the fourteenth century...alive?

**An Excerpt from The Unhewn Stone**

Bürglen, Central Switzerland

December, Present day

Ääni’s cerulean eyes locked onto Stefan’s and glistened with the moistness of age. His lips tightened in a wry smile. He didn’t speak, but Stefan heard his voice, ‘Be careful what you wish for. You might get it.’

“Ääni, you read my mind. Hey,” Stefan said lightly, “maybe, one minute you’ll see me,” he snapped his fingers, “the next I’ll be gone.”

“Will you take poor old Spindel with you?” Ääni asked. He rose and patted the Saint Bernard.

“You know I call him Spitz, and no, I don’t think he wants to leave here.” A twinge of guilt niggled at Stefan. He’d disregarded Spitz in future plans. He finished the beer and placed the bottle next to the other empties on the desk.

“Ääni, your beard needs a trim.”

‘Tut, tut.” The old man swept his arm in a flourish across Stefan’s desk. “Lahabiel, Lahabiel,” he whispered. The empty beer bottles changed into stacks of coins.

Stefan held one of the coins to the light. “Das isch en Schwindel. Why don’t you work your magic on my face and leg?” He threw the fake coin to his grandfather, but it dropped on the floor, rolled under the bed and disturbed the small hamster in the pile of dirty clothes. He dived for the animal.

With another sweep of his hand, Ääni changed the coins back into bottles. “Ah, Spindel, Schwindel, only you can fix that.” He moved to the back of the room where shelves bowed under the weight of old science books and magazines.

“I see you kept my books.” He leafed through a magazine. “Do you trust me?”

“What a question? Of course I trust you.” Stefan caught the hamster and locked it in its cage, just in case. Once, Ääni had changed it into a double-headed snake that flicked its tongues at Stefan. It took the old man two days to change it back.

On the far wall, where the ceiling sagged least, Ääni opened the wardrobe door. “Remove this floor board for me, bitte?”

Stefan knelt on the shabby rose patterned rug, turned back the embroidered sleeve of his festive costume, and leaned into the wardrobe. He found the small knothole at the end of the middle board, slipped his finger in, and lifted out the panel.

“I discovered your secret panel years ago,” he said smugly. “See, I found your magic cards and knotted string, a few silk scarves and…” Stefan tugged at a bunch of magician’s flowers clamped between Spitz’s teeth. “Bad dog. Drop it!”

“Now open the real secret panel.” Ääni sounded equally self-satisfied.


“You should feel a knob. It’s a slide lever, quite small. Drag it hard to the left.”

With a frown, because he’d examined this recess many times over the years, Stefan ran his fingers under the ledge and against the back wall. His hand brushed a lump of rough wood full of splinters. Nothing else resembled a lever. He closed his hand over it and pulled sideways. A panel in the back wall of the closet fell forward. It exposed a storage area two hands deep. Inside, a square tin box, its side the length of a man’s forearm, rested on its edge.

Ääni chuckled. “Things aren’t always what they seem. You looked no further when you found the first secret panel. It pays to look beyond the finish line.”

“Good one, Ääni,” Stefan called over his shoulder. “What’s in it?” As he reached for the box, the air in the secret panel crackled with tiny blue sparks. An invisible force drew his arms forward and clamped his hands around the cold tin. He lifted the box and held the treasure close to his chest. A pleasant sensation fizzed through his arms. Reluctantly, he passed the box to Ääni.

On its rough cut lid, two S’s intertwined on a rod, like snakes hissing at each other. A single red stone in the eye of one snake flashed in the light. Stefan tried to lift the lid, but Ääni stopped him with pressure on his hand and placed the box on the bed.

“You’ll need more than brute strength to get it off. I could give you a magic incantation, but why use magic if a physical means is at hand? Use this.”

From his trouser pocket, he withdrew a short screwdriver and prised the lid on either side to loosen it.

Stefan bent over the box. A musty odour rose on the air. “It’s a book. Magic tricks?”

“No. Lift it out.” Ääni’s grin reminded Stefan of the jester above the bed.

Stefan carried the book to his desk. The potent energy in his arms progressed to his neck and tingled down his spine. He swept the Tarot cards aside to make space in front of the computer. Lamplight spilled a yellow glow across the stained cover to reveal the same graceful S pattern cut deep into the leather. He liked the old smell and brought his face closer. He gasped at the title.

Opus Magnum
Stefan Gessler

“That’s my name!”

“Yes, and you share his birthday, December 23rd, the day known as the Secret of the Unhewn Stone.

Wendy's e-book, The Unhewn Stone, is available from the MuseItUp Bookstore, Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook Book  and   Smashwords

Her blog is Wendy L .