Chantress Fury - Amy Butler Greenfield



I heard the mist before I saw it, a shimmering tune that crept in with the dawn. Rising, I wrapped my mud-stained cloak around me and went to the cracked window. Sure enough, the mid-September sunrise was veiled by wreaths of fog. From the sound of it, it would burn off within the hour—which was just as well, given what we needed to do today.

I turned back to the room. Though it was tiny and dilapidated, its roof hadn’t leaked in last night’s hard rain, and its mattress had been softer than most. I’d slept well—perhaps too well, for I’d been dreaming when the mist song had woken me, dreaming of Nat. Awake now in this shabby room, I suffered the loss of him all over again.

A gruff call came from the other side of the door. “Chantress?”

I was always called Chantress these days, never Lucy. But if the greeting was formal, the grizzled voice was nevertheless one I knew well. It belonged to Rowan Knollys, former leader of the King’s guard, now the trustworthy captain of my own men. I shook my head free of troublesome dreams and lifted the latch.

As always, Knollys’s ruddy face gave little away. Only his voice betrayed any sign of strain. “Time we were off.”

“I’ll meet you outside.” I shoved my belongings into my bag, swallowed a quick breakfast of cheese and day-old bread, then made my way down the rickety inn staircase to the stable yard outside.

Most of my men were already there, checking their muskets and saddling their mounts. After more than a year in their company, I knew their moods almost as well as my own. As I strode over to my horse, I could feel tension in the air, as real and thick as the mist. Everyone was all too aware of what lay before us.

Our newest recruit, Barrington, waved at the mist, wide-eyed. “Did you sing that up, Chantress?”

“No,” I said. “It came on its own.”

Barrington nodded, but I could tell he was disappointed. This was his first journey with us. Unwilling to miss anything, he kept hopeful eyes on me always, even if I was only eating my dinner. Evidently he’d been expecting more magic than he’d gotten so far.

Knollys clapped him on the back. “Never mind, boy. If Lord Charlton doesn’t surrender, I warrant you’ll hear plenty of Chantress singing before the day’s out. Now get on your horse.”

That morning’s ride pushed me to my limits. Constant practice had made me a skilled horsewoman, but today we were driving ourselves hard. As the mist rose and the footing became clearer, we raced through fields and woods alike.

I had just begun to worry that perhaps we’d lost our way, when Knollys swerved right, going uphill through the woods. Moments later we saw what had brought us here: the wall.

Higher than a man’s head, it ran as far as the eye could see, a line of tight-packed gray stone imprisoning a forest of ash and oak. It had been built to intimidate, and even viewed from horseback it was a daunting sight.

I sidled my mare next to it, listening for what I could get, which wasn’t much. Stones never wanted to sing to me. But there had been heavy rains this week, so the wall was damp, and water was something I understood. I could hear it humming in the gaps and on the wet surface of the stones themselves.

“So this is Charlton’s new park,” one of the soldiers said behind me.

“Part of it, anyway,” Knollys said. “He’s taken the best pasture and meadowlands, too, and a long stretch of the river. The village is in a dire state.”

It was an old story, repeated time and again in England: Powerful lords fenced in common lands and called them their own, depriving villagers of their time-honored rights. No longer able to graze a cow or catch eels or cull deadwood for fires, poor villagers starved and froze.

Determined to put an end to these landgrabs, King Henry had outlawed the practice of enclosure a year and a half ago. But Lord Charlton was a great power in this county. He’d continued to build his wall regardless—partly in stone, partly in timber—and he’d repeatedly refused to take it down.

Our assignment was to demolish the wall, by whatever means necessary. First, however, we were supposed to give Charlton one last chance to take it down himself. The King had no desire to appear a tyrant. He had impressed upon us that Charlton must