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Stolen Songbird Read-Along > Extra #6 A Prequel Chapter from Pénélope's Point of View

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message 1: by Danielle (new)

Danielle Jensen | 359 comments Mod
So this is the beginning of a little something that's been sitting in my best drawer. It's a prequel scene from about two years prior to the events of STOLEN SONGBIRD, and it's from Pénélope's point of view.

Some background to the scene... Pénélope's hemophilia was revealed in a very dramatic fashion two weeks prior. Tristan and her sister were duelling in front of the court, and a blade broke, one of the splinters of metal injuring her in front of everyone.

Pénélope does not know about Tristan's plans to overthrow his father, and she believes his bad attitude towards half-bloods and humans is real (which is one of the reasons she doesn't like him). Tristan, Anais, Marc, and the twins have chosen to keep her in the dark to protect her from her father, the Duke.

After her affliction was revealed, the King broke off the betrothal between Anais and Tristan, and Pénélope blames herself for how much that hurt her sister. But, as you all know, Tristan knows nothing about that.

The sharp clang of steel against steel made my hand twitch and my paintbrush along with it, leaving a streak of black where none had been intended.

“Drat,” I muttered, accepting the proffered rag from the half-blood standing behind me and dabbing at the errant bit of paint.

The swords crashed together again and, despite having heard the sound countless times and knowing I’d hear it again, I flinched. I wondered if ever again I would not.

Sighing, I rested my wrist on my knee and shifted to watch my sister fight. Anaïs was harrying her opponent backwards across the yard, dulled practice blade flashing with the skill not of one trained since she was old enough to hold a sword – though she had been – but of one who had been born to battle. She fought as I imagined a viper would, so quick I scarce saw her move but she was there, her deadliness a matter of speed and agility rather than brute strength.

My eyes took in the whirl of motion, envisioning how I might capture it with paint, but my hands almost instinctively reached for my pencil and sketchbook, because nothing else would ever capture my sister’s exquisite beauty and strength better than the crisp lines of black against a plane of white. Anaïs needed no embellishments, and that’s all color would be.

She feinted left but struck right, her blow landing square against her opponent’s side with an audible crack. Tristan swore and stumbled back, his gloved hand pressing against ribs that were almost certainly fractured.

I swallowed hard, trying my best not to think of the bones knitting and reforming, bruises rising and fading within seconds. Or to think about what happened when they did not.

“I can’t recall the last time I bested you at this, Anaïs,” Tristan grumbled, hand dropping away from his side. “It’s not very sporting if I’ve no chance at winning. My pleasure in your company is diminished by the broken bones.”

Anaïs smiled and slapped the flat of her blade against the palm of her gloved hand. “Are you suggesting that I let you win, Your Highness?”

“Would that be so dreadful,” he asked, closing the distance between them, his cheek curving up with a smile as he gazed down at her.

For a handful of seconds, her face was filled with the naked adoration of a girl well and truly in love. And my heart broke, the sharp little pieces digging into my soul as I watched her bury the feelings behind a cocky smile, her blade flicking up to catch him beneath the chin with its tip.
“Yes, it would,” she said. “If you wish to beat me, you’ll merely have to try harder.”

The two stood silent and unmoving, and I knew that a conversation passed between them in the silent language of those who knew each other as well. It was beautiful and wretched, and my eyes moved involuntarily to the image on my canvas.

“Enough banter.” Marc stepped out of the shadows where he had been leaning against the wall, smacking the sword he held into both their ribs, driving them apart. “Tristan, I saw Anaïs’s feint plain as day, and you would have, too, if you’d been paying attention.”

My heart beat faster in my chest as he walked between them in my direction. Then he stopped, knocking a fist against an invisible barrier blocking his path. “Anaïs, let me through.”

She blanched. “Oh. Sorry, Marc. I–” Breaking off, her eyes went to mine, then away.

My stomach clenched. Bad enough that she’d been protecting me, but worse that she hadn’t wanted me to know she was doing it.

The guilt on Anaïs’s face. The pity on Tristan’s. I hated both sentiments, but the last thing I wanted was to make my sister feel worse, so I said nothing. Dipping my brush in a pale grey, I turned back to my work, hoping my expression wouldn’t betray me.

Marc stopped next to my easel, and though I did not take my attention away from my careful brushstrokes, I felt his presence keenly. My skin prickled, not unpleasantly, and I was sure that even if I had been blind and deaf, I still would have known it was him standing beside me. Tristan and Anaïs were not the only ones who had known each other for a long time.

“She’s only trying to protect you, Pénélope,” Marc said, his voice soft.

“And she is wise for it.” I added a touch more black to my grey. “Perhaps if she had always been so vigilant, circumstances would be different.”

The truth always outs… My father might not have cared to believe it so, but there had always been a certain inevitability of my secret – my affliction– being discovered. If only it had delayed its happening, its discovery might not have even mattered. And even if it had, certain things could not be undone. Like the bonding of two trolls.

“But she was not, and they are not,” he said. “And Anaïs blames herself for what happened. It was her blade that shattered.”

“And his that broke it,” I hissed, furious that my sister should feel guilt when Tristan did not.

“Do you think he doesn’t know that?”

I lowered my brush, not wanting to touch this particular piece with anger in my heart. “Can we please not discuss it. Already it weighs upon every aspect of my life, and I hoped to find some respite from it here.”

“Of course.”

The twins’ manor was the unspoken neutral ground between us all. The one place where we forgot the alliances and rivalries of family, blood, and rank, and where only our friendship mattered. I glanced up to where the two fifteen-year-old giants stood silently balanced on one foot on a wall far above us, faces bent in concentration as they carefully removed one block at a time from a tower puzzled together between them. Their mother had died in childbirth and their father days later from the shock of the loss, and the two had been raised by half-blood servants with only minimal interference from the crown. As such, their politics were very much based on their own unique views of our small world. Friendship mattered a great deal to them, and they had no tolerance for infighting between us six.

“May I see what you’re working on?” Marc asked.

My heart beat a little faster at the question, but if I hadn’t been ready for him to see, I wouldn’t have brought the canvas with me. “If you like.”

He came around the easel, and I held my breath, waiting for his reaction. I’d been working on it before the accident, but had only recently been able to complete the finishing touches.

He stiffened, and my heart sank. “You do not care for it?”

“No. It is wretched to look upon.”

His voice was strangled and strange in my ears, and mortification flooded through my veins. Always I was shy to show my work to others, but never in my wildest dreams had I thought that Marc would be the critic I’d draw harsh words from. I wanted to snatch up the canvas and run, but where would I go? Everywhere I went, everyone knew the truth about me. And rather than a haven, my home was now a hell bent on punishing me for my weaknesses.

“Of all the subjects you might have chosen, why did you paint me?”

The plea in his voice stole the breath from my chest. Rising to my feet, I let everything in my hands fall to the ground and caught gently hold of his sleeve. “Why should I not paint you?”

“Because no matter how good your work, it isn’t anything that anyone would want to look upon.”

“Why not?” I asked, hating his words. “I want to look upon my friends, always, but you make it so difficult, which makes this painting mean more. Because it’s made from the precious few glimpses I’ve been privileged enough to have. I paint those I care about.”

“Then paint Anaïs. Or the twins. Curses, Pénélope,” he snapped. “Paint Tristan. With your talent, they’d probably hang it in the gallery of the Kings.”

For weeks my chest had felt like a powder keg waiting for a spark so that it could explode. But this moment felt like the powder keg had been tossed on a bonfire.

“How dare you suggest I paint him? How dare you!” I screamed the words, but they felt like they’d come from someone else’s lips. Like some wild and maniacal girl had taken control of my body and my voice.

I let her.

Marc took a step back, his eyes wide with astonishment, but it wasn’t really him I was angry with. Turning on my heel, I stalked towards Tristan, his blank, unreadable Montigny face fueling my fury. “Of course I should paint you! Why should I, or anyone, paint anything else? Our world is cursed. Everyone is sick or twisted or dying from the iron and the darkness. Every last one of us, except for you!”

“Pénélope, stop.” Anaïs stepped between us, her face pale. “Don’t do this. Don’t say something you’ll regret.”

But what she meant was, please don’t say anything that would turn him against her. After everything, she still wanted to protect him. Still wanted to be with him. It had to end. “Move.”

She shook her head, and I knew I couldn’t force her. Anaïs was stronger than me in every possible way.

“Let her say what she wants to say.”

Anaïs hesitated, then reluctantly stepped aside. But she’d accomplished what she intended. My anger faltered, because I knew that dragging their broken betrothal out into the open wouldn’t matter to him. He was a black-hearted Montigny snake who cared nothing for anyone or anything but power. All I’d do was hurt the one person I cared about more than anything: Anaïs.

“Born perfect into a decaying and dying race,” I said, my voice dripping with sarcasm. “Gifted with the beauty and grace of the kings of old and a power not seen since Alexis himself. How can the broken ones like us compare with you and your…radiance?” I spit the word in his face.

Something flashed across his face, a hint of emotion. A trace of…guilt? Then he sighed. “I’m sorry that fate was not kinder to you, Pénélope. I’m sorry for the part I played in the hurt that was done to you. But I had no more control over how I was born than anyone else.”

“I know.” My lips felt numb, and I turned away from him. The twins had come down from the wall to stand next to Anaïs, but my eyes were all for Marc. Tristan was his cousin and closest friend, and I knew he was loyal to him to fault. All of them were, and I knew that what I intended to say would all but assure my eviction from our circle of friends.

But I said it anyway. “I’ll never paint you, Tristan. I paint those I love. Not those I hate.”

message 2: by Louisa (new)

Louisa (lpcoolgirl) | 14 comments Oh, this was a bit hard to read, but it's so wonderful! I want/need more! So fantastic!

message 3: by Ellie (new)

Ellie M (byelliem) | 28 comments Aaaw poor Pénélope. I want to see more of her too!

Eileen (BookCatPin) (eileenbookcatpin) | 0 comments I'm so sad for Pénélope! :'( Can we get more of her please?

message 5: by Nicole (new)

Nicole (nicole_t) | 43 comments Very interesting piece! It's interesting to see Tristan through the eyes of someone who doesn't like him. I feel really sorry for Pénélope :(

message 6: by Carol (new)

Carol | 1 comments So when are you going to write a prequel book?

message 7: by Melissa (new)

Melissa (thereaderandthechef) (melissarobles) Carol wrote: "So when are you going to write a prequel book?"

I second this!!! :D

message 8: by Perla (new)

Perla The IB Teen Book Blogger (ibteen) | 15 comments Melissa wrote: "Carol wrote: "So when are you going to write a prequel book?"

I second this!!! :D"

I second her second! Maybe it is her anger, but Pénélope is not what I had imagined, then again, she is Anaïs sister. What else could she possibly be like other than fierce?

message 9: by Danielle (new)

Danielle Jensen | 359 comments Mod
Perla wrote: "Melissa wrote: "Carol wrote: "So when are you going to write a prequel book?"

I second this!!! :D"

I second her second! Maybe it is her anger, but Pénélope is not what I had imagined, then again,..."

Hi Perla,
Pénélope is very quiet and even-tempered compared to her sister, so this was sort of a very rare moment where she has snapped. Pretty much everything has gone wrong for her, so she's really, really upset :(

message 10: by Perla (new)

Perla The IB Teen Book Blogger (ibteen) | 15 comments Danielle wrote: "Perla wrote: "Melissa wrote: "Carol wrote: "So when are you going to write a prequel book?"

I second this!!! :D"

I second her second! Maybe it is her anger, but Pénélope is not what I had imagine..."

Well that makes more sense to what I'd had in mind for Pénélope. But it was an awesome scene!

Jen ♥Star-Crossed Book Blog♥ (jenstar-crossedbookblog) This is fascinating and so different than I thought it would be! I love it, and thank you for sharing this!

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