THE BEAST OF WEISSBURG is a Young Adult (YA) fantasy novel set in a fictional Germanic kingdom during the early medieval period. The manuscript is complete, with all preliminary revisions made; I am currently seeking agent representation. In the following excerpt, teenage heroine Anna von Esche remembers the bear-like Beast’s first appearance in the kingdom of Weissburg, seven years earlier. Her uncle has just returned from the royal city of Adlar, where Friedrich, crown prince of Weissburg, has announced his plan for the monster’s destruction.
Uncle Albrecht was gone all day. Not until the sun’s last rays had disappeared and darkness spread into every corner did Anna hear the crunch of cart wheels and the jingle of Tabbert’s harness as her uncle drove towards the barn.
She hurried to dip up a bowl of stew from the pot she’d kept warm on the embers. A few minutes later, she heard the clunk..scrape of the old man’s hobbled gait. She raced to the front door and flung it wide, the candle on the kitchen table behind her casting a dim, flickering glow across the stoop.
Uncle Albrecht stood in the doorway with his head bowed, looking older and more haggard than she had ever seen him before. His gray hair drooped listlessly past his shoulders like the ears of a dejected hound.
“Uncle!” she cried, jumping up to kiss his stubbled cheek. “What news? What did the prince have to say?”
He waved her questions away with a weary hand. “All in good time, Anna.” He limped into the kitchen and sank wearily onto his chair. “Supper’s ready? Good girl.”
He didn’t even bother to take off his boots or cloak, but instead reached hungrily for the bowl she set before him. Steam curled up from it, filling the room with the mingled scent of lamb, barley, and onion. He jerked his head down in a quick gesture of thanks, then began shoveling in mouthfuls of the fragrant broth.
Anna watched her uncle in silence for a moment. She knew it was wrong to pester, but questions danced inside her head. She couldn’t help but blurt them out.
“Uncle, has Prince Friedrich found the Bear? Does he have a plan to kill it? Were you close enough to see the prince’s face? What is he like?”
“The prince is a fool,” her uncle growled, stabbing at a chunk of meat. “He thinks he can fight the Beast singlehanded and overcome him.”
He bent his head back over his bowl, and Anna bit her tongue, knowing quite well that complaints would get her nowhere. She scraped her stool a little closer to her uncle’s chair, and waited for him to finish his meal and get on with the story.
“Prince Friedrich has discovered the Beast’s den, deep in the Grünwald,” Uncle Albrecht said at last, tilting the bowl up to his mouth to suck up the last bit of broth. “And he thinks he knows how to kill the creature, too, but it’s all some big secret, and has to be done by a single warrior—and of course the prince thinks he’s the one to do it. That’s why he called everyone together: to tell us why he had to go, and in the event of his death—which is likely,” he snorted, “to say goodbye.”
He picked up his spoon again and scraped it across the bottom of the bowl, chasing a stray bit of onion. “How those knights—or his father, for that matter, with all due respect—could be so chickenhearted as to stand by and let him do such a thing, is beyond me. The prince must be acting as stubborn as an ass, or they’re all scared out of their wits by that Beast. Or there is something else going on here that no one wants to talk about in plain, honest speech. Probably all three.”
He blew through his nose and gazed into the candle flame, rubbing his coarse beard with a thoughtful expression. “Prince Friedrich is a bold young man—the bravest I’ve ever seen—but…” The old man’s voice trailed away. He stared at the flickering candle, coughed, and rubbed his knuckles against his eyes.
“Drat this candle smoke,” he muttered.
“’But’—what, Uncle?” Anna prodded. “What were you going to say?”
Uncle Albrecht pushed back his chair and rose stiffly to his feet. “That it’s a lost cause from the start,” he said in a hard, bitter tone. “The prince can’t win this fight, and he’s a blasted fool to think he can. The king will lose his only son and heir, and the Beast will keep on doing his foul work until there’s nothing left of Weissburg but a sorry wreck.”
“Oh, Uncle, don’t be so dismal,” Anna consoled him.
Still, she couldn’t help but feel a prickle of foreboding. What if his dire words proved true?