Word count: 52,000
Genre: MG Historical
After Mamma leaves for Constantinople, a leather-bound book appears on the breakfast board. Twelve-year-old Bella of Arezzo can sing anything, but she can’t read the book’s strange, musical symbols. The smooth parchment against her cheek and the scent of the bookbinding, however, bring back snatches of her dead papa’s exquisite lullaby. This book is her past, but the music it contains may give her a future.
Before she glimpses more than a note or two, the book ends up in the hands of Papa’s old enemy, Nikodemos. With the keepsake as leverage, he pressures Bella to return a sealed bundle to the most powerful people in the East: the Patriarch and the Emperor of Constantinople. Nikodemos says the bundle contains tiny wrist bones stolen from St. John the Baptist’s arm, a valuable and highly-guarded relic touring in the West. If the bones are missed, the tiny cracks between East and West will split the Empire in two.
If she does what Nikodemos wants, she’ll frame Papa for theft and her family will pay the penalty, landing Bella in the orphanage. If she doesn’t, she’ll lose her only chance to know Papa’s world and to learn the secrets of THE WOUNDED BOOK.
First 250 words:
Bella crouched on the stone window sill of her chamber and stared down into the shadowy street. Just as the morning star rose over Arezzo's city wall, the woolman's cart rattled around the corner. When it passed underneath, she dropped into the back. The cart shuddered. The woolman swore at his donkey, but drove on. Wriggling between two firm sacks of wool, Bella pulled her knees up to her chin. The steep descent pressed her against the woolsacks in front and the herringbone bricks under the wheels jostled her up and down.
She looked up, between the sacks, at the stars. It had been easy enough to leap out the window of Uncle’s house. Had Papa passed as easily through Heaven's gate?
The old question made the place between her neck and shoulder pinch. She didn’t like to think about death. And now Papa’s music, written in his own hand, was gone too. Uncle had sold it. He’d had no right. She’d held Papa’s book for a moment and almost remembered how it felt to hear his voice. She shook her head.
A tuft of wool tickled her nose and she sneezed. Had the driver heard? She pressed her hands over her mouth and nose.
The cart slowed.
She held her breath.
The cart stopped.
If he threw her out here, she would never get home before Uncle noticed. If Uncle noticed, there would be trouble. She forced her head between her knees.
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