WE RUN. THROUGH THE NIGHT. THE FIVE OF US. THROUGH the white night-time woods of New Eden. Lugh an Tommo an Ash an Creed an me. The five of us. We run.
Dry tree litter cushions the ground. Hushes the pound of our boots. Our breath puffs steam in the chill. We’re all sharp, tight with intent.
Lugh’s got the rope, slung around his chest. I carry the blastpack. Swaddled in cloth, tucked in my sack, along with my meagre gear.
Long-looker. Sleepkit. Flint. Waterskin. Salt twist. Cooktin. Shirt. Medicine bag. Knife in my boot sheath. Bolt shooter. Ammo belt. My whiteoak bow an a full quiver. An the heartstone hangs at my neck. Cool in the hollow of my throat. That’s pretty well it. It ain’t much.
Guerillas travel light. An fast. An that’s what we are. We’re the Free Hawks, reborn. Set to fight fer the right to live in New Eden. Good land an clean water’s scarce in this world. But it’s here in New Eden. An it’s the birthright of all. Weak an strong. Old an young. People an beasts an all that share the earth. Not jest him an his Chosen ones.
Him. DeMalo. The Pathfinder. His Chosen ones, the Stewards of the Earth. Pure young people. Strong an healthy. Breeders, workers fer his shiny new world. Forced to his service at gunpoint. To be flattered an wooed by him. Convinced an overcome an bent to his will. Kept in line by his Tonton militia.
Tonight we thread through the trees. We each map our own course. We leap over streams. Over rocks. Then a sudden slowdown to pick-pick safe passage through a gangle of overground roots. We cain’t afford no injury. No slips or twists or breaks.
We’re at the dreg edge of New Eden. In the far southeast corner, where it bleeds to the bleak of the Raze. This is deadbone country. No settlement or farms. It’s ridges an hollows an hills. Here the land holds itself close. The earth spreads thin over rock. The trees root wily an tough.
As much as we can, we keep to the high ground. Our forest world’s clear-lit. Washed cold white by the moon. We move outta the shadows. Into the light. Then back to the shadows agin. In an out, over an over. We’re silvered. Whitewashed. Ghosts on the run.
An Tracker’s my ghostly wolfdog. Rough-haired lord of the woods, his great body skims at my side. High above, Nero crow-surfs the night. Ridin the wind on a sea of stars. A sea of restless stars.
It’s star time. Star season. In these short days of the year when the light fails early an things perish, the stars streak through the night. They’re the unquiet souls of the dead. Returnin to earth on unfinished business.
I run at the front fer the most part. But I slip back now an then to save my breath. East, that’s our course, due east by the Plough. It warn’t my plan we should run all the way. It’s jest what we did, what happened. As we left the cave where we’d stopped to rest, I started off a quick walk pace. A few strides later, we was runnin. We’re too wired, too buzzed to go slower.
I keep sharp-eyed from the off. I’m lookin fer Jack’s first waymark. The start of his white spruce trail. White spruce, a tree like no other. Stunted an twisted. Easy to spot, night or day. When I clock the first tree, his first mark, I smile. He’s done jest like we said. On the tree’s north side, on a shoulder-height branch, he’s hung a twist of root. He’s tagged me this shortcut every half-league. It’s our secret. His an mine.
An Jack’s my secret. Everybody else believes him to be dead. They think he got killed a month ago. When we blasted the Tonton stronghold, Resurrection. An that’s how it must be. He’s gotta stay dead. Jack has few friends among us. Them I run with tonight in these woods ain’t his friends.
Ash an Creed hate him fer his time in the Tonton. Jack joined the enemy, sure. To work aginst them, though, not with ’em. But he got tainted by blood. He was there that night, at the Darktrees slaughter when the Tonton killed our friends. The Free Hawks an the Raiders. He took no part in that bloody deed. In fact, he saved their lives. Creed an Ash, that is. Maev too. An he helped us at Resurrection. He was the one who blew the place up. His quick thinkin spared Emmi’s life.
None of that stands to his credit. Not with Ash an Creed. They lost their tribes at Darktrees that night. Their souls was cut deep an fer always. Jack rode with the killers, that’s enough to damn him. If they know he’s alive, they’ll betray him fer sure.
Lugh’s got the biggest hate fer Jack. Tommo comes a close second. Both of ’em fer reasons to do with me. Slim don’t know Jack. Molly an Emmi love him. As always with Jack, it ain’t simple. So we decided, him an me. We cain’t trust all of ’em, so it’s safest we tell none. To them, he has to be dead.
If only they knew. Jack’s on our side. He’s my scout, my spy. Busy workin his tiny network of New Eden rebels. He’s got a few insiders, clear-eyed Stewards who share our aims. An some outcasts. So-called Treedogs, becuz they went to ground in the woods. When DeMalo seized their land, they chose to stay. To stay hidden an cause him trouble.
Jack’s helped me plan this first action. He scratched maps in the dirt. We talked tactics an ammo. He tagged our trail all the way, jest over two leagues from the cave to the bridge. The bridge that spans the Eastern Defile, to join New Eden to the Raze. The bridge that we’re set to blow.
It’s bin newly built by slave labour. DeMalo’s a builder of roads an bridges. Faster travel fer the Tonton. Easier passage fer his Stewards of the Earth as they work their stolen farmland. We aim to smash all of ’em, bit by bit. Way out here’s a good place to start. We’ll test our drill, our discipline, our method. Without no fear of disturbance.
Good thing Jack marked the way fer us. We know New Eden pretty good by now. But till they built this bridge, there warn’t nuthin in this lonely corner. We know it in general, not particular.
I slipped to the rear a while back. Keepin my eyes peeled fer Jack’s final waymark. There’s a white spruce ahead. This one hunches alone an apart. As I come up on it, I slow a bit. Yes, there it is. The twist of root on a branch. The Defile an the bridge lie jest ahead. Hot excitement kicks in me. Now I’ll lead the way agin. As I surge forwards, Tracker keeps pace.
Creed’s a little off to my left. He’s shirtless, like always, tattooed neck to waist. An he’s bootless, also like always. He says his feet map the land as they touch it. The chill’s nudged him into a dandyboy frock coat. Its shabby swallowtails stream in his wake. As I pass him, he flashes a wide, white grin. Silver rings gleam in his ears.
Ash stretches out in a casual lope. Long legs easy. Shoulders low. Her hair flies behind, a waist-length banner of plaits. I nod as I shift past her. Almost there. Her square-jawed face cracks a rare smile. Ash ain’t no misery, not by a long shot. But she ain’t cheerful by a long shot neether. Unless there’s trouble or danger or a fight ahead. Which is what she’ll be hopin. But not in a bad way.
I press on to Tommo. Come right up, close up to him. He shuns me. Ducks his head so’s his hair hides his eyes. But I know what I’d see if I could see ’em. Hurt. An anger. I touch his arm to let him know we’re near the bridge. He shrugs me off. Quick. A bit rough.
Tommo hates me fierce right now. An he’s justified. Steppin on his heart like I did. Heedless, careless of the fallout. At fifteen summers, he tips between boyhood an manhood. An I played them both false, man an boy, with a kiss. A lover’s kiss that was a lie. Now he nurses the bruise of my deceit.
Me an Tracker forge ahead, closin in on Lugh. He’s bin holdin fast as leader fer some time. I noticed he wouldn’t yield to Tommo a little while back. I s’pose he’s makin some kinda point. What that might be, I ain’t got time to consider.
Lugh! I keep my voice low as I pull alongside him. We’re nearly there, I says. I’ll take it from here.
He throws me a glance. His beauty’s whitewashed by the moon. His birthmoon tattoo stands out darkly sharp. High on his right cheekbone, jest like mine. Put there by Pa to mark us as special. We two, rare Midwinter twins. The boy made of daylight, gold as the sun, child of our mother’s heart. The girl, me, dark as the night-time, bein in her brother’s shadow. You’d hardly take us fer kin, Lugh an me, let alone think we shared our mother’s womb.
Fall back, I tell him. I’m leadin us in, you know that.
He don’t acknowledge me. Jest stares straight ahead, with his chin set to mulish. He starts to speed up. So I do too. Before I know it, we’re racin each other. Neck an neck. I glare disbelief at him. Cut it out, I says. C’mon Lugh.
He makes no answer. He’s pushin hisself. Breathin hard. Nostrils flared. Jaw clenched. But he’s bin flat out runnin too long.
With a shake of my head, I kick up my speed. Fine! I says. Be like that!
I pull away easy. We leave him behind, me an Tracker. I glance back. He’s stopped. Bent double with his hands on his knees. His chest heaves as he pulls in air. Ash, Creed an Tommo hafta swerve around him.
What a time he picks to lock antlers. I’ll hafta have speech with him later. Fer now, that problem’s parked. Now, we got a bridge to blow.
† † †
We crouch behind a cluster of rocks, well up the hill above the bridge. We git our breath back as we take in the lie of the land. Tracker flops between me an Ash, his tongue hung out to cool.
Nero sails down onto my head. His claws needle my scalp. As I pick him off, I see the tiny scroll of cherrybark tied to his right leg. It’s a message from Jack. Outta sight of th’others, I untie it. It might be somethin I need to know right away. He’s scratched a pyramid on the bark. No, not urgent. He’s changed our meet place fer tonight. He’ll see me at Irontree. I tuck the scroll in the small leather bag at my waist.
I train my long-looker on the bridge an terrain all around. It’s jest like Jack drew fer me, with a stick in the dirt. An how I drew it fer my crew as we stepped through this op. To a tee it’s how he said it ’ud be. He’s a good detail man, Jack, that’s fer sure.
They’ve built on the iron remains of a old Wrecker bridge. Added some wood support struts an a new bridge deck an beams. Plain an sturdy, forty foot from start to finish, it spans the steep gash of a rocky ravine. The Eastern Defile. It’s a savage axe-slash in the body of the earth. In its belly, far below, runs the wrath of fast water. A thread of river, silver in the night, fumes an foams as it bucks its way downhill.
Ash gives a low whistle. Hope you got a head fer heights, she says to Lugh. If you wanna trade jobs, my offer’s still open.
What? You don’t think I’m up to it? he says.
She blinks at his chippy tone. Don’t git the hump, she says. You know I jest like blastin things.
Specially if it’s built by the Tonton, says Creed.
Slaves, you mean, she says. They’re the ones buildin New Eden.
Okay, I says, let’s run through this one more time. I tap Tommo’s arm. Jest barely touch him. He looks at me. Tommo, I says, advantages.
His dark eyes glitter, unreadable in the night. There’s a mocky little smile on his lips. No cloud, he says. Sharp moon. Small bridge. Quick job. Okay? His rough voice lays down each word over-slow, over-clear.
Heat scorches my cheeks. Of late, he’s bin makin like I talk down to him. Which I most absolutely do not. Maybe a deaf boy shouldn’t fight from the front. Ike used to worry about that. But Tommo don’t ask fer no quarter fer his deafness. He don’t need none. We fought our way outta some real tight spots an Tommo ain’t never let us down. Not once have I treated him special. So it stings that he makes like I do. He knows it irks me. That’s why he does it.
Good, I tell him. Okay, disadvantages. Creed?
He scans the road. That’s our main problem right there, he says.
While he talks, I start takin what I need from my sack. A shrill tin whistle on a cord that I hang around my neck. Our emergency signal. Two blows means split up, run, meet at the rendezvous. Next, the blastpack. Like a brick in size an weight. Wrapped in oiled cloth, the long nettle fusecord in a tidy bundle.
Our sightlines ain’t good, says Creed. Tommo an me’s only gonna have a clear view a hunnerd foot this side, not more’n seventy on the far side. Eh, Tommo? Tommo nods agreement. If anybody was to come around these hills, says Creed, they’d be right on top of us an that means quick decision time. Shoot or don’t shoot.
The narrow dirt road runs from west to east. It hugs the curve of the hills an sweeps into our view at the last minute. Jest like Creed called it.
Yer informant, says Lugh. They’re absolutely sure the Tonton don’t patrol this far out?
Positive, I says. But we stay alert an keep cool heads. An that means all of us, Creed.
What? he says. I’m some kinda hothead? I’m like ice.
Ash, I says, you an Tracker’s our early warnin system. Where you gonna stand lookout?
She’s usin her own long-looker to con the hills all around. She points to the scrubby hogback ridge that runs along, high behind us. There, she says, no question. It’s the highest point around.
Okay, Tracker’s with you, I says. Good luck. Go on, boy, go with Ash.
He hesitates. Obedient, but torn. He’s a one-woman wolfdog. Mercy’s dog when I met him. Then somehow—many days distant from his home—I found him. Rather, he found me. An he claimed me fer his.
Tracker, go, I says.
As he sprints off with Ash, Creed an Tommo take their position behind the rocks. Advantages, disadvantages, the best spot fer lookout, we knew it all before. We talked an walked this entire op agin an agin, but this is the real thing. To repeat everythin now that we’re here sets it in our eyes an minds. I shove three small birch torches in the back of my belt an tuck the blastpack unner my arm.
You sure that thing packs enough power? says Lugh.
I’m sure, I says. Slim knows what he’s doin. Okay, this is it. We’ll work fast as we can.
We gotcha covered, says Creed. He’s all business now, hard-faced an sharp-eyed as him an Tommo load their bows.
Lugh an me hurry down the slope. Nero flies ahead of us. We hit the road, run the few foot to the bridge an scramble down the rocks. It’s dark unnerneath the bridge. A strong smell of fresh-cut wood. As Lugh shrugs off the rope he’s bin carryin, I lay down the blastpack an light a torch with a spark from my flint an steel. I hold it high so’s we can see the structure.
It’s simple. Like a flat roof held up by a peaked roof. The two main girders left from Wrecker days—iron, dead straight, a foot wide—they ram deep into the sides of the Defile. From there, they rise at a angle to meet at the middle of the bridge deck. There’s one vee of new wood struts on each girder. No surprises. It’s all jest as we espected.
I dare a glance at the canyon below. An I wish I hadn’t of. I look away quick. The Defile plunges dizzily, steeply down to the deathly rage of the river. I light Lugh with the torch as he loops his rope around the girder, jest at the point where it spears into the side of the ravine. He ties it off with a slipknot. I light th’other two torches from the first. Then I stick all three into the rocks so’s the unnerside of the bridge is lit.
Meantime, Lugh’s passed th’other end of the rope around his chest. Another slipknot to secure him an he’s ready to go. He straddles the girder. I hand him the blastpack. He tucks it snugly in his coat an starts to hitch along. Up up up towards the middle of the bridge. I pay out the rope as he goes.
Easy now, no hurry, I tell him.
I ain’t got it in mind to run, he says.
He reaches the vee of the new wooden struts. Now he’s gotta pick his way past ’em. Gimme some play on the rope, he says.
Usin the first strut to help him, he gits into a crouch. Then he stands up on the girder. My breath stalls as he makes his way around, over an between the two struts, huggin ’em as he goes. It’s awkward. He places his feet with care. I make sure the rope don’t hamper him.
Then he’s done it. He smiles. Slippy fer the feet, he says. His teeth gleam white in the gloom.
Once agin, he straddles the girder. Once agin, he inches hisself along. Along an up towards the centre of the bridge as I pay out the rope. Unease pricks my skin. Don’t listen to the roar of the river below. Don’t think about the sharpness of the rocks. He slides the blastpack from his coat.
Make sure you wedge it tight, I says. Go slow, Lugh, be careful.
Would you hush, he says.
A wolfdog howl shivers the air. It’s Tracker. It’s the signal.
Someone’s comin, I says.
Git the lights, he says.
But the rope—
Douse the lights!
Don’t move, stay there, I order you! I drop the rope an rush to snatch the torches. I shove ’em flame first in the rocks to douse ’em. As I grab the last one, as I turn to make sure Lugh’s okay, I see him reach out. Reach to jam the blastpack into place.
Lose his balance.
I scramble down the rocks. Leap to grab the rope. With a rush, it snaps taut. Reefed to full length by the weight of Lugh’s body, it catches on the vee of the struts.
Lugh hangs in thin air, high above the river. Held by nuthin but the rope around his chest. In one hand, he clutches the fuse cord by its end. The blastpack dangles far below him.
I fling myself onto the girder. Scrabble along it as fast as I can. Nero swoops an screeches in a panic. Shut up, I hiss.
I clamber into the vee. Wedge myself in. Reach down. Grab hold of the rope. To do what, I dunno. The blood’s poundin in my ears. My gut’s like water.
Lugh stares up at me. His face tight with terror. He twists an swings. The rope creaks.
Then we hear it. Faint at first. The beat of hoofs on the road. Comin at us from the west. A horse snorts. Bridle jingles. Metal. That means primo gear. Two riders. Not in a hurry but not laggin neether. Then they’re upon us. I don’t dare breathe as, not five foot above me, iron-shod hoofs clatter over the bridge. As Lugh hangs from it below. As he twists. An creaks. One rider says somethin. The second one laughs. Two men.
They pass onto the road. I breathe agin. The sounds of ’em start to fade. As the road curves around the hill to the east, I git a clear sight of their backs.
They ride well-groomed mounts with polished kit. Their leather knee boots gleam. They’re turned out neat, with short cropped hair. Dressed head to toe in black. Long black robes. It’s the Tonton. DeMalo’s militia men. In the middle of the night. At the edge of nowhere. What the hell’re they doin out here? They disappear around the bend.
Tonton, I tell Lugh.
Swing me, he says.
Swing me to the side!
I git what he means right away. There’s bushes an tough little trees rooted in the steep sides of the Defile. If I can swing him—some ten foot or so—he can try to grab hold of one an climb to safety. I start workin at the rope. Towards the rocks, then back agin. I’m strong, but I’m crammed an cramped an Lugh’s a dead weight. He hardly moves.
Keep goin, he says. Harder.
I pull. Let go. Pull. Let go. My muscles burn. My shoulders scream. Inch by inch, I labour. I rage the red hot. Make it forge my strength.
Work with me, I gasp. Breathe with me. Out on the out. In on the in. An lean yer weight.
Our eyes fix on each other. We start to work together. Breathe together. Out as I pull. In as I let go. An he leans his weight . . . on the out . . . an the in. Bit by bit, it goes more easy. We swing him out. We swing him back. He goes a little further with every breath.
There’s a rush of feet an Tommo hustles down the side of the bridge. Sent by Creed to see what’s wrong. He takes in our plight at a glance, with a curse. He scrambles down the rocks, further into the gash of the Defile. He finds a handhold on a sturdy scrub tree. He gits in position to grab Lugh the moment he swings close enough.
We swing once, twice, an—
Now! says Lugh.
His arm reaches out as he sails towards Tommo. Tommo stretches to meet him. They grab hands. The force of Lugh’s backswing sweeps Tommo off his feet. They let go. Rocks shower as Tommo scrabbles back from his death. He braces hisself more firmly.
Ready, he says.
This time, as their hands grasp, Lugh’s that much closer. Tommo gives a mighty tug. Lugh grabs the tree an they tumble on top of each other. But he’s safe. Lugh’s safe. They both are. I let go a gasp of relief.
While Lugh clings to the tree an recovers his wits, Tommo hauls up the blastpack with care. I motion him to bring it to me quick. He clambers to the bridge an hitches along the girder to where I’m wedged between the struts.
We should abort, he says.
Hand me the pack, I says. Go help Lugh.
I don’t like the feel of this, he says.
Tommo, do as I say! I tuck the pack safe inside my shirt. I git myself around the struts an then, not lettin myself think, not lookin down, I start to move. Along the girder, inch by inch, in the pitch dark unner the bridge, till I feel my head touch the deck. Then, movin slow, oh so careful, I slide the pack out an, with one hand, I feel it into place. I make sure it’s jammed in tight, then I hitch myself backwards, payin out the fusecord as I go.
Then I’m back on solid ground. It’s done. Lugh an Tommo help me down. As we hurry up the hill, a bank of low cloud tumbles in. Damp an white an thick as woodsmoke. I cain’t hardly see my own feet. We run the fuse as straight as we can. Over boulders, between bushes an trees. By the time we reach Creed, there’s a foot or so to spare.
He’s got a lit spill ready. What the hell happened? he says.
Later, I says. Light it, we bin here too long.
The fuse don’t catch right off. Damp, says Creed. It’s this damn cloud. You know what this means? Ash won’t be able to see nuthin. She won’t hear so good neether.
Lugh’s shiverin with shock. I hug his shoulders. Okay? I says.
Thanks to you, he says. An you, Tommo. He grabs Tommo’s hand. Thanks, man. You saved my life.
I dare to take Tommo’s other hand. To my surprise, he don’t pull away. I couldn’t of done it without you, I says. He gives me the tiniest of smiles.
C’mon, c’mon, Creed mutters. The fuse catches. There’s a hiss. It starts to sizzle. But it’s sluggish. C’mon, he says, burn you beauty, gawdamnmit.
Jest then, Tracker’s wail shudders the cloud. Our heads shoot up.
Tommo mouths, What? at me.
It’s Tracker, I says.
But if Tracker’s wailin agin, that means—
My thought dies. The wall of cloud splits an rolls open, like a door. Down below, three Tonton ride into view. Comin from the west, jest like the other two. Behind ’em, two horse-drawn carts rattle along. Creed curses. I snatch my looker.
In the first cart, straight-backed on the driver’s bench, a boy an a girl sit side by side. In the white cloudlight, the quarter circle brand stands out starkly on their foreheads. Stewards of the Earth. DeMalo’s Chosen ones.
There’s a spotted kercheef tied round her neck. Her hair ripples loose down her back. She ain’t seen more’n fourteen summers. Him, the boy, about the same. Strong an shinin with health, like all Stewards. So young, they’re probly newly paired outta Edenhome. Chosen fer each other by DeMalo, like the top breedin stock they are. The cart’s piled high with table, chairs, tools an other necessaries fer a life on the land. A life where, though? Surely not the Raze. It’s a wasted, desolate place.
But it’s the second cart that stops my heart.
One Tonton drives. Another sits facin backwards, firestick at the ready, keepin watch over their load. It’s slave workers. Maybe ten, maybe twelve of ’em. Men an women, crammed tight together. Sittin on the floor of the open cart. Shaved heads. Iron collars around their necks. Chained together, like slaves always is here. By the ankles when they’re workin, by the ankles an hands an necks fer transport.
Eight more mounted Tonton bring up the rear. Two great hounds pace beside them. Smooth white skin. Raw pink eyes. Massive heads with powerful jaws.
Ghosthounds, says Creed. Dogs of war.
My eyes flick to the fuse. It’s burnin, still sluggish but steady. Headed fer the bridge an the blastpack. Slaves. Innocent blood. I’m on the move. Throwin down the looker, snatchin my knife from its boot sheath.
Tommo grabs my sleeve. Too late, he says.
I fling him off an I run.
Saba, come back! says Lugh.
I pelt downhill, keepin low, chasin the lit fuse. Gotta beat it. Gotta stop it. Lucky it’s damp. I’m gainin on it. I pass it. Do a quick swing about. Snatch at the unlit fusecord, sweepin my knife in, ready to cut, to kill it.
My feet hit some scree. I slip. I’m fallin. I slam to the ground an I’m gone. I slide on my back, boots first, down the hill. Now the fuse burns brisk, hissin past me, racin home. I wing offa trees, crash into bushes. I flail with a wild hand, reachin fer somethin, anythin at all to stop me. I grab a thick root. Sharp jolt, wrist to socket. I jerk to a sudden halt.
I am. Too late.
The first three Tonton ride onto the bridge. Their horses sound soft thunder. An right behind ’em, the Stewards’ cart, loaded high, rolls onto the boards. The sizzlin fuse nips outta sight. Now the slave cart’s about to hit the bridge. I throw myself face down. Arms around my head, cramped tight to my ears.
It blows. A thick boom shakes the earth. I’m thrown in the air. I land with a thump. Stones an dirt shower down. On top of me. Around me. The sound of the world’s gone dull. Like listenin from deep down in water.
I raise my head. My throat’s choked by a warnin scream. A scream I never gave voice to. I squint through the shift of the cloud. An as the boom starts to fade to heavy, shocked air, I see. In flashes. Like dream shards. Through the rain of debris, I catch glimpses of our work. An my skin shrinks to my bones.
Gone. The three Tonton. All gone. The Stewards in their cart. The blameless beasts. Animals an people, now bloody lumps of flesh. Flung like so much bad meat. On the rocks of the Eastern Defile. Bits of cart. Sticks that was chairs, a table. They smash, slide, tumble an crash. Head fer the river below.
No dream, this. A nightmare. The sight seared cold to my soul. I git to my feet. A cart wheel hurtles from the clouds straight at me. Vengeance slammin down from the sky. I scramble an duck. It hits the ground. Bounces wild. Strikes my shoulder an knocks me flyin.
Fire gobbles at the bridge. Orange flames score the night. Smoke billows an rages.
Then. Sounds fade in. Horses. People. Screams. Cries. Through the smoke an cloud an chaos. A Tonton’s bin crushed by his horse. It strains an thrashes as it struggles to its feet. The slave cart’s shattered. Bodies spilled, sprawled still on the road. Still chained at the wrists.
Somethin flutters down to land on my arm. I pick it off an stare. It’s a tatter of spotted cloth. The Steward’s kercheef, the long-haired girl. It’s wet. Dark wet with her blood.
With a clatter of scree, Lugh skids in. C’mon! He hauls me to my feet. Starts draggin me uphill. What the hell, Saba, what was you thinkin?
The words stick to my lips. I tried to stop it, I says.
There’s a shout from below. We glance back to the road. Tonton. Gittin to their feet. Dazed. They’ve seen us. One points at us. Shouts. Gives orders. Six start to run in our direction. The ghosthounds come with ’em, howlin pursuit. A high-pitched wail, like a winter north wind.
Hurry! Creed an Tommo speed us on with anxious hands.
I grab the whistle. Blow two long blasts. Run! I yell. Go! Run!
Creed grabs Tommo an they’re gone. Scattered to the woods above. Ash’ll hear it too, wherever she is. She’ll head right away fer the meet point.
Go! I tell Lugh.
No, I ain’t leavin you!
We meet at the rendezvous. Dammit, Lugh, go. Go!
I shove him in the chest. With a curse, he scrambles off over the hill. I head the opposite way.
† † †
The red hot’s wild in me. Floods me. Speeds me. It flies my feet as I flee through the woods. As I leap felled trees. Vault over rocks. Nero flees with me. He’s silent. Smart bird. Don’t caw, not a peep, or they’ll find us.
Sounds of pursuit. Shouts. The Tonton. Headed away from me. Good, oh good. No, they could be chasin one of th’others. Maybe Lugh. No, not Lugh, please oh please. They’ll hurt him if they find him
Saba is ready to seize her destiny and defeat DeMalo...until she meets him and he confounds all her expectations with his seductive vision of a healed earth, a New Eden. DeMalo wants Saba to join him, in life and work, to create and build a healthy, stable, sustainable world…for the chosen few. The young and healthy. Under his control.
Jack’s choice is clear: to fight DeMalo and try to stop New Eden. Presumed dead, he’s gone undercover, feeding Saba crucial information in secret meetings. Saba commits herself to the fight—and hides her connection with DeMalo. Joined by her brother, Lugh, and her sister, Emmi, Saba leads a small guerilla band against the settlers and the Tonton militia. But the odds are overwhelming. Saba knows how to fight—she’s not called the Angel of Death for nothing. But what if the fight cannot be won? Then DeMalo offers her a seductive chance she may not be able to refuse. How much will she sacrifice to save the people she loves?
Betrayal lurks in unexpected places in the breathtaking conclusion to the Dust Lands Trilogy.
- Margaret K. McElderry Books |
- 448 pages |
- ISBN 9781442430037 |
- May 2015 |
- Grades 9 and up |
- Lexile HL450L