Title: THICK AS THIEVES
Genre: MG Fantasy
Word Count: 74,000
Fourteen-year-old Farne would be thieving his way to the Capital by now if not for Lidi. Her friendship, plus working in her father’s stable, keeps him in their mountain village.
With Lidi bound for boarding school, Farne thinks he's back to a career as a pickpocket. It's not like he can hide in her suitcase. Lidi, not any fonder of leaving than Farne is of her going, convinces their parents that Farne must come, too. The school, nestled in a valley of parched soil and dust, has only one neighbor: a recently reoccupied military base. Soldiers hunt the waste for vicious beasts long thought extinct. Lidi sees one of the creatures shot down and saves its cub… chick. She and Farne can't hide the gryphon, and it's too young to survive alone. Aided by a little thievery, they sneak out of school and search for the cubchick's family. Maybe their plan is reckless, but how dangerous are gryphons as long as you don't shoot at them?
They aren’t sure until one carries Lidi away. Taken in by gryphon-tamers, Farne and Lidi realize that the military is threatening more than a dwindling species. To protect their new friends and themselves, they must stop the soldiers from finding the gryphon's caves.
Perhaps by coincidence, perhaps by design, neither of Farne's friends knew about the rumor. In a village as small as Mernick, a good rumor spread quick as a flash flood and was just as hard to stop. Farne had been a suspected changeling, a fae doppelganger switched for his mother's real child, since the cradle. Even after fourteen years, every once in a while someone rehashed the story with new evidence.
First it was his sawdust colored eyes, much lighter than the brown eyes of his parents and most of the people in Mernick. Many blamed his mother's declining health on a changeling taint. Farne was too young to remember her death during the birth of his sister, Melder. He wondered if any credulous neighbors had told his father to abandon him. If Da had ever looked with doubt toward his toddling son, Farne didn't recall.
The thing about being a suspected changeling is after the idea has been planted, one can do nothing to escape it. As a boy he was wild and troublesome: clearly influenced by fae mischief. When he grew wary of the village's opinion and acted more carefully, they claimed him secretive and reticent to associate with those "not of his kind." He could never admit his ambition to leave Mernick, never spoke of wanderlust for fear of arousing yet more suspicion. Lucky for him, Melder was an unrestrainable gossip. Though he'd rather his sister had never known of the rumors, she was at least willing to dispel them.