Book Tour: On the Isle of Sound and Wonder by Alyson Grauer (Character Interview)

Neapolis, 1854

I am not a courtier, by any means, and so you can well imagine my desire to serve my king well when he gave me such a critical commission. He came to me in the nursery late one evening, when all the children were abed. I never retire early; Mira betimes stirs in the night, tormented with strange and curious dreams. Not until she is well and truly settled do I myself seek my humble repose.

Often times, when King Alanno Civitelli has come to the nursery to check the children before he himself retires, we have shared a quiet word, a cup of tea, a bit of consultation. I know he loves his children dearly, especially his son and heir, Ferran. It warms the heart to see a father so devoted, especially one so powerful as he, especially as he is so beset with the troubles of rule.

Perhaps this explains his choice of ambassador. Secrets never stay long at court, and I fear His Majesty knows not whom to trust in this affair, the matter of utmost delicacy. Who would suspect a lowly governess conducting important matters of state?

Thus, it breaks my heart to have failed him. I had hoped to find the answers he sought, but instead, I return empty-handed, my quest a failure. I could not find Psychoraxx. She has simply vanished, probably drowned with the rest of the ship upon which she was last seen.

Probably, but I cannot be certain, for my own dream continues to plague me. I have told no one lest they think me mad. Indeed, I cannot, for once or twice I have attempted to tell the king, but the words will not come. As if by some enchantment, I find myself back in the nursery without knowing why, having never uttered a word to His Majesty. Perhaps if I commit it to paper, it may purge my torment.

It begins with a mighty storm. I am at sea, alone in a skiff, tossed about on tumultuous waves. I know not how I came to be there, but only violent strikes of lightning illuminate the night. I believe I see the silhouette of an island on the horizon, but it is too far and I have no way to navigate my craft. Without hope, I am certain I am lost. I cross myself and finger my rosary in fervent prayer. I am about to meet my Maker.

Then, for some inexplicable reason, in a brilliant flash of lightning, I find myself in the warmth of a cave, in the company of Psychoraxx herself―Corvina her true name. Somehow, I know herself the source of my rescue, but I cannot recall it. We chat like two women over a garden gate. The conversation is always the same.

Myself: Thank you for guiding me safely ashore, Mistress Corvina. I despaired of any rescue out there on the shoals.

Corvina: You are welcome here, traveler, though only for a short time. The island does not tolerate too much of a crowd, I’m afraid. There are questions you would ask of me, I think.

M: You seem to have comfortable accommodations for all your isolation. Did you create all of this yourself?

C: This cave was a natural occurrence of the isle, but I have made it somewhat bigger to house me safely from the elements. It is not… ideal, but it is certainly not the worst home I’ve ever had. I rely on the island for all other things―food, tools, mending my clothing, and so on. I had not intended to retire myself here, but it provides as well as any host in any inn, and for that I am grateful.

M. Fascinating. Perhaps a cup of―oh my. Is that how it works? Just ask and it appears?

C. You see? And people are so hesitant to trust in the forces of nature.
M. Funny you should mention that―the forces of nature―as that is exactly what I came to speak with you about; specifically, the mysterious occurrences surrounding the birth of Lady Mira, daughter of Duke Dante. That storm lives on in the memory of us all. Do you recall it?

C. I cannot remove it from memory. There are few who have that power, and I would not wish it even so. I remember the night you speak of, and I remember that woman, and that child, as I remember each woman and each child whom I have helped in my life.

M. But this child. She is . . . peculiar. I have met her, you see, in the court of King Alanno. Pretty, lively little girls there are a’plenty, but Mira seems so much . . . more―a force of nature, if you will. Did you not note it?

C. . . . She is young . . .

M. I have heard it whispered amongst the menials that her soul was too strong for the woman who bore her, and thus, she is motherless.

C. That . . . is one way of seeing things. I would not say, however, that her mother was weak. What I would say . . . I would say that it is not our place to say what souls are stronger than others.

M. You hesitate. You choose your words with care.

C. We all must choose with care. Worlds are built and destroyed on words, you know. And besides that, the island listens.

M. <glances about nervously> Rumors would have you here on the island alone. . . . Are there others here?

C. There are many beasts, bugs, and birds that call this island home. And things unseen that fill the night air with sounds and strange songs. But yes, it is true I am not alone. My son lives here with me. I’d ask you to remain quiet, if you will―he sleeps a little further on in the cave. He is very young still and sleeps a great deal.

M. Forgive me, madam. I would not intrude into your personal affairs. To return to that other child―Mira―some say the storm brought her. Otherwise say she brought the storm. I, of myself, have seen something akin to lightning in her eyes, a manner of divine spark, as if some sort of magic lit the child’s soul. You left quite abruptly after her birth. In your short time with her, did you notice such as this?

C. Listen, traveler. The child is young. This spark, this lightning may pass, if she grows healthy and does not trouble the waters of her spirit and mind. But her father is a powerful man. . . . He may surely spot it before it has gone, and if he uncovers that . . . I cannot pretend to predict what he might do. But the girl is strong and there are no singular factors to have caused that strength―some is her own self, some from the storm, some from her mother, some from her father, and yes, perhaps some from me. But she is who she is now, and she will grow and become her own self. What she does with that strength is her path to choose.

M. Again, you anticipate my questions, as if you had some sort of prescience. Or, perhaps, considering the subject, it is to be expected. It is all one, is it not? Of a truth, I must confess. I am not merely an idle traveler seeking safe harbor from a storm. I came here seeking you out, following every rumor, every waft of Psychorrax on the breeze. King Alanno begs whatever information you might have on Duke Dante. His concerns grow by the day. But, again, I would not overstay my welcome. May I proceed?

C. You may ask, but I can only tell you what I know, not what I do not have to give you.

M. Dante abandons his lordly duties. Since the death of his wife, he shuns all companionship, even that of his toddling daughter. He bars himself behind the doors of his chambers and scarcely emerges for the necessities to sustain life. 

The child to whom he professes his devotion languishes in the nursery. Her attendants are devoted, to be sure, and the young prince proves a congenial playmate, but with her father so near, she lives as a foundling. And the king takes his children away betimes, excluding the little girl. I fear only that child’s fire prevents her from becoming a cipher. Can you shed any light into this dire situation? What drives the duke so?

C. <a slow, deep frown forms on her face> Ambition, as it is with all men of his kind. Ambition to be greater than he already is, to seek what must be kept hidden, and to overcome the trappings of his mortal mind. Dante seeks to own what is not his to even dream upon, and if he does not come to that realization himself, it will be his downfall.

M. What is to be done? Is he . . . dangerous? to the king? to his daughter?

C. If Dante does not cease this journey, the king will try to derail him. He might not succeed in that, but the king’s decision will forge a new path for Dante and his child. I cannot see the future. But Dante’s passion will quickly turn to madness if the love of his friends and family do not bring him to a halt.

M. <brooding silence> . . . It sounds to me . . . As much as he neglects the child, she seems to have the greatest hold on him. She draws him out when nothing else can. She is his only hope?

C. Most assuredly. Not the only factor of this equation, but must assuredly, she could be his salvation.

M. It seems a heavy burden for anyone to bear, let alone a lisping child.

C. <faint smile> Does she lisp? Sweet girl.

M. A lisp indeed, which she will certainly outgrow. But, truly I have not ever a brighter, more erudite child. Her wisdom seems well beyond her years. I begin to see the truth in your own words. She has the strength of soul to accomplish this task.

C. May it be so. I hope . . . I hope the love of a daughter for her father reminds the father of his love for his daughter.

M. I thank you, mistress, for granting me safe harbor, or calming the storm. Indeed, the waves did cease their rambunctiousness when you did appear on the shore. I shall return with my report to His Majesty, the King. Mayhap there still be hope for the duke. Would you travel with me?

C. I cannot go apart with you from this place, traveler. It is not the way of this story to return me to Neapolis. I ask that you do not tell the king whose lips these words came from, and speak not of how you found this island. Let this island become a single cloud in a field of sky―let it drift away in the empty space of your memory and be hidden from maps and minds when you return home.

M. Indeed, good lady. For your graciousness and patience in the face of my coarse and bumbling manner, this is the smallest of favors to grant you. I shall entrust your care to this enchanted place, then, and bid you with all fondness, adieu.

C. Travel with safety and haste, friend, but forget me when you are home. Remember not this place or my voice, and let your own paths take you forward.

Author Alyson Grauer
My memories of that voyage are hazy, at best. I am told the vessel on which I embarked upon my journey was lost in a mighty gale. I was rescued by a passing merchant ship, found unconscious and fevered, just clinging to life. The physicians tell me the illness and trauma account for my loss of memory, but I am not convinced.

I have proven of no use to the king, and what will become of Duke Dante I cannot say. I pray that sweet Mira is not caught up in the maelstrom that seems to surround that man, but I fear it may not be so. May God and all the Forces of Nature see her a woman grown.

Corvina: Alyson Grauer
Governess: Penny Freeman
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