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Unraveler

Unraveler

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Unraveler

Bewertungen:
5/5 (2 Bewertungen)
Länge:
294 Seiten
3 Stunden
Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Oct 15, 2016
ISBN:
9781943746095
Format:
Buch

Beschreibung

Little Scout, Little Scout... Time to Come out

The godlike Higher Order has decreed that Dee, and her new powers, are a threat.
For her own protection, she’s put into a deep slumber and hidden.
But when she wakes, she finds herself in a nightmare. Years have passed. Relentless monsters roam the Crescent. Her friends, what remains of them, are fighting for their lives—and losing.
To save them, Dee must traverse to worlds only dreamt of and confront her own terrifying power.
In doing so, she’ll finally be forced to ask the questions she’s most feared. Who is she? A human? A scout? Or... something else? And what happens when she lets the Unraveler out?

Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Oct 15, 2016
ISBN:
9781943746095
Format:
Buch

Über den Autor

a.m. yates collects pieces of souls. She meets with dead Russian writers in bamboo forests to discuss the color of the sunlight in the water. She seeks exceptions and similarities over generalities and differences. She feeds almost every stray the muse drops at her door and adopts out only the most demanding few. She suffers from two terrible addictions, both involving words. She has a life story, but it isn’t finished yet.


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Prologue

"Little scout, little scout, come out, come out."

Do you hear that? Dee asked Hunter, who lay on the bed behind her.

When he didn’t answer, she rolled over.

Normally, his complexion was golden, but now it was violet-gray, ashen. In his hand was a knife—her grandpa’s hunting knife. With it, he sawed at the silvery lacework of ghostly webs between them. The threads’ eerie luminescence deepened the purple shadows haunting his eyes.

The strands clung to her, vanishing and reappearing with her every movement, and yet she didn’t feel them, couldn’t grasp them the way he did.

I thought I heard something, she said to him.

No response. He didn’t even look at her; all his concentration on the knife, the threads, cutting and cutting. He was biting his lip. Blood dripped down his chin.

Turning away, she stood and peered out the window.

Snow. Gentle rolling drifts as far as she could see.

When she pressed her palm to the windowpane, cold bit at her skin. A film of moisture traced her hand onto the glass.

A tug on her arms drew her attention back to Hunter.

Desperately, he snatched the webs by the fistful. In his haste, he sliced his hand. Blood spattered the quilted white coverlet. He yanked on the strands. A reciprocal nauseous heave tugged in her gut.

She grimaced. That hurt.

He didn’t seem to hear.

She turned back to the window. Through the brume of snow, a pinprick of light, a flash.

Squinting, she searched for it again.

Nothing.

Then…

A green flare. Closer. Then another, closer still. A tiny beacon, like a firefly.

Knock, knock.

She flinched. It had been quiet for so long.

She hadn’t realized how quiet it had been… or how cold.

At the thought, a chill raced over her. Chafing her arms, her fingers slid through the webs. They were no more than phantoms. Yet Hunter kept cutting, kept bleeding.

Her voice scraping against her throat, like it had been unused, though she’d spoken to Hunter only moments before, she called, Hello?

Over here, little scout, the voice said from the opposite side of the room.

The webs fluttered as she turned.

Across the room, her white wicker vanity. On the other side of the mirror glass, a lean young man—a handsome stealer—eyes a surreal shade of lime chartreuse. His grin curled at the corners. The sides of his head were shaved; at the top, a shock of vivid green hair. Scrawling over his face, his chest, his sinewy arms, were glowing symbols, also green. They rose to the surface of his skin, sinking away a second later. The flux of light gave the appearance that he was in motion, like someone speeding along a city street at night, neon lights flickering over him.

She frowned. Who are you?

As she rounded the foot of the bed, the webs floated with her. Hunter rolled to his other side, slicing at them.

In front of the mirror, she stooped, looking the other stealer in the eye.

Leaning closer, she placed her hands on the wicker vanity. The painted cords were smooth, tightly woven, except for the small hole where the wood was broken.

The radiance of the other stealer’s eyes flashed a surreal, lambent hue. One she recognized.

She boggled. Nid?

Welcome back, he said.

Back? She reached up to touch his new, human face, but her fingers met only cool glass. What happened to you?

Yes, you’ve been gone, he said, answering her first question. Or so everyone thought.

What do you mean? Gone?

But even as she asked, memories began to return.

She had been shifting to the Crescent, but the pathway had vanished. And then she’d been attacked by Unravelers and Weavers… Nid and a Weaver had rescued her.

I’m sorry it took as long as it did, he said. It’s still dangerous, but I couldn’t wait any longer. You may not have much more time.

A throb seeded in her head, promising to flower into a headache soon. What happened to me?

You’ve been hidden here, he replied. I’d hoped the conditions would be safer before I woke you, but…

Her hands pressed harder against the vanity. The broken wicker splintered more, widening the hole. That Weaver wrapped me up in a… cocoon.

Yes, he said. "And now you need to return to the Crescent. But once there, you cannot shift. Else you’ll be destroyed, like the others."

Others? Anxiety roiled in the pit of her stomach. She picked at cords of painted-white wood, cracking them, like bones. The hole grew.

He glanced over his shoulder, as if fearful someone might be eavesdropping. The situation is different on your world than when you left it.

Different how?

You’ll see.

She let out a frustrated breath and punched the wicker.

The hole was gaping now. Big enough for her to climb through.

But that wasn’t right. The vanity wasn’t wide enough for such a huge hole… And that’s when it dawned on her.

This is a dream, she breathed.

Peering into the hole, she found not the plush white carpet of her bedroom, but a vast, empty darkness.

But it wasn’t empty. Not at all. A smile spread on her face.

The vibrations of the threads, the filaments that made up all creation, all the many worlds, all life, her family, her plexus, rushed back to her.

Her heart lurched, sputtering like an old engine, cranking, cranking, cranking, until… it caught, roaring back to life.

Her breath fled her for a moment. I’ve been gone?

Not just gone. Cut off. From everything and everyone.

Tears welled in her throat, choking her. The hums of all the people she’d left behind and hadn’t been able to feel flooded her, calling to her.

Her mom, her grandpa, Crystal, Quartz… Hunter. She hadn’t been able to feel any of them while she’d been trapped in this cocoon, lost in this… dreamworld.

Yes, little scout, Nid said, studying her with those intense, surreal green eyes. Time to go home. His cat-like smile returned. Don’t make too much trouble.

The vibrations pulled on her, each a unique hum, a singular set of threads connected to those she’d left behind.

She gripped the sides of the hole and climbed through, focusing on one hum in particular.

The one that led home.

Chapter 1

In the gilded violet shadows of twilight, Dee stumbled out onto a springy, dark road of paveglass.

The sultry warmth of the evening closed around her like a sweaty fist. Salt-laced air flooded her lungs. Perhaps it was because she’d been trapped in a cocoon or because the scents and colors of the Crescent always bordered on too-muchness. Either way, she staggered. Heel hitting the curb, she tripped and crashed onto her backside. Fortunately, the sidewalk cobblestones of the Crescent gave like rubber. Still, her tailbone throbbed.

A shout echoed, bounding through the architectural mishmash of the Lower Horn.

Hunter! Move! a voice cried.

Blinking, she looked up.

Frozen in the middle of the street, Hunter. He stared at her.

She blew out a heavy breath of relief. She’d been afraid she’d shifted to the wrong place. When she’d left Hunter, he’d been on the far side of the continent, not in the city.

Before she could wonder why or how he’d come to be there, a massive tentacle wrapped around his ankle, ripping him off his feet and slamming him onto the street.

Hunter! She scrambled to her feet. A wash of confusion and panic blasted through her, but she couldn’t tell if it was hers or Hunter’s.

Twisting onto his back, he swung a machete-like blade and struck the tentacle. Gelatinous goo splattered him, but the tentacle didn’t release.

A high-pitched shriek cut through the air. The sound reverberated painfully between her temples. She clapped her hands over her ears.

Another tentacle slithered up the street, and another. Translucent, wider than car tires, they snaked toward Hunter. Blue luminescence rippled along the underside of the one holding Hunter’s ankle.

Before the blue glow reached him, he lifted his weapon. With a furious roar, he severed the monstrous limb. A not-so-distant, ear-piercing cry assaulted her ears.

Run! People were shouting from the bridge at the top of the hill.

She backed up. Hunter pushed to his feet.

Behind him, a nightmare creature appeared. Lumbering on numerous squat legs, its massive body rolled with a bearlike gait. The beast was as wide and as long as a blue whale—bigger. No eyes were apparent amid the folds of flesh on its head, which swung this way and that. Around its bluish curved beak, tentacles. They crawled over the buildings, the streets, searchingly.

Dee backpedaled, gaping as the alien hum of the creature’s threads clanged against her stealer senses.

Whatever this thing was, it did not belong here.

Hunter raced to her, grabbing her arm. His thoughts slammed into her mind. "Run, Scout!"

He gave her a yank. They stumbled up the hill together.

A tentacle hooked his waist and tore him from her.

His weapon flew out of his hand and rolled into the street, clattering.

A second tentacle swiped at her. She ducked. A stinking shower of seawater rained off the creature’s skin, soaking her.

Hunter grappled with the appendage wrapped around his torso.

An electric-blue pulse shot up the tentacle. The blue flare reached the tip. A hooked barb popped out and drove into Hunter’s back.

An empathic stab of pain pierced her between the shoulder blades. Gasping, she lurched and fell to her knees.

Hunter’s dark eyes flooded with blue and rolled back. His emotions slipped from her grasp.

Stunned, all she could do was stare.

A little stealer kid appeared, banging a spear against the side of a building across the street.

Hey! Ugly! he shouted.

The tuber of the beast’s head swung, tentacles whipping in the kid’s direction. Meanwhile, a ragtag trio darted out of the alley, knives and swords and spears drawn. They raced past her to Hunter. His body was stiff, his complexion losing color. The tentacle holding him appeared temporarily immobilized as well.

Quick, one with black hair urged. Before it starts to feed.

They began to hack violently at the tentacle.

The black-haired one glanced at her and then blinked, his mouth dropping open. She knew him, but in her shock, his name escaped her.

I don’t believe it, he breathed.

Watch out! the stealer kid cried from across the street.

The monstrosity’s attention pivoted once more in their direction. The black-haired one… Atoll, yes, that was his name. The leader of the Scythe. He dropped to his stomach as a tentacle lashed at his head.

The other two raced away, ducking into the alley.

Atoll pushed up, but the tip of the alien beast’s agile appendage snagged his wrist. He tugged against it, fumbling to switch his blunt-tipped sword from one hand to the other.

Run! the stealer kid shouted at her before dashing away into another alley.

She didn’t know what this creature was or where it had come from. But she did know that it had attacked and hurt Hunter.

That was all she needed to know.

Reaching into her inner well was easy—the Unraveler within was always waiting, eager.

The creature’s threads were discordant compared to those around them. Their presence made the threads of the Crescent quiver.

She focused on the barb lodged in Hunter’s body. She could sense it pumping something into him, altering the hums of his body dangerously—poison.

A precarious lightness overtook her, as if she were filling with helium, as if her own threads were pulling apart from each other, as if she, too, were unraveling.

The beast froze, perhaps sensing what was about to happen. But if it had any notions of flight, it was too late.

Far too late.

Deep in the dark well, the world around her was rendered nothing but threads, all so easily grasped, all so easily undone.

She seized a knot of the creature’s essence and untied it. In a cascade, all of its knots began to come apart.

The creature screamed, ripping her out of the dark trance into which she had fallen.

Its barb retracted from Hunter as it reared back onto its hind legs.

Dee crouched over Hunter, grasping at his shirt, but was unable to tear her gaze from the beast. Even while they flailed, its tentacles dissolved into a fine dust.

The creature let out a scream, but soon its beak, its mouth, its head, were gone. Its body tottered, about to fall into the adjacent building. But before that could happen, the creature simply vanished.

A terrible energy tore through the threads of the world. A shock wave of searing agony that stole her breath and left her doubled over Hunter, anguish throbbing through her.

One last pulse of pain and dissonant energy rocked through the threads, and then the creature was utterly gone.

Tears blurring her eyes, she lifted her head. No sign of the creature, not a wisp or a whisper. As if it had never been. But its terror and pain continued to echo through her.

Hands quaking, she touched Hunter’s cheek.

His skin was cool, strangely firm, more like stone. Nothing came back to her. No thoughts. No emotions.

Her heart wrenched, her breath failing.

And yet, she could tell… he wasn’t dead. The beast had put him into some kind of catatonia.

A shadow fell over her.

Looking up, she found her leader, Quartz, gazing dispassionately down at her. A small, grubby group gathered, regarding Dee warily.

Dee only vaguely registered that Quartz was beautiful again. Although not in the same refined way she’d been before. Her edges were harder, the hollows of her cheeks and eyes deeper—evidence of deprivation, both of nourishment and sleep.

Quartz spun, barking at the others. Pick him up. Get him back to the base. The sun’s not down yet. There could be another.

A flurry of activity occurred around Dee. A plank of wood with handles—a stretcher—appeared. Hunter was hefted onto it.

Weak-kneed, Dee rose to her feet.

Confusion and disbelief and, perhaps more than anything, the phantoms of the beast’s anguish choked her. What was that? What did it…? Will he…?

Quartz swiveled away and charged after the others. They carried Hunter up the hill, toward a second group stationed at the top of the bridge.

Cap the slick before it hardens! Quartz shouted to them. Let’s move!

Atoll touched Dee’s arm. She flinched.

Though his smile was slow, weary, the glint in his black eyes was as keen as ever. Welcome home, stealer girl.

Chapter 2

The Lower Horn, or the Scythe as it was commonly known, appeared abandoned. No slug-drawn wagons rattled by, hauling goods to the market. No mincemen smoked outside their shops. No flamboyant seers sailed along the sidewalks, bejeweled shadows in tow. Not a single educer scurried past, brow furrowed in distracted thought. No painted-faced hunters leered at her as she hustled after the others.

And the only stealer she saw was the kid, a scrawny thing with short emerald-hued dreads and owlish, dark green eyes. He kept ahead of the group as they rushed through the deserted streets. When they reached a grimy, rusted door, he heaved it open and held it for them. Single file, they marched into a small concrete hut half-buried beneath a pile of rubble that stank of rotted wood.

Outside the door, Dee hesitated. Only she, the stealer kid, and Atoll remained in the alley.

Don’t worry, Atoll said softly.

Hugging herself, she tried to hide her trembling hands. What happened here? What was that thing? What did it do to Hunter? Will he…? Is he going to…?

Tears surged into her eyes again.

Atoll rested his hand lightly on her shoulder. Inside.

She nodded and slid past the stealer kid into the darkness. The tiny concrete room housed another rust-eaten metal door. Beyond that, a set of narrow stone stairs.

Through humid shadows, they wound around and down.

The air grew cooler and close. Condensation gathered on the walls. Little lizards skittered past, tongues flicking, claws clicking softly over the stone.

At the bottom, a tunnel, the ceiling low and barrel-vaulted. Tucked into shallow alcoves, Starburners—floating globes in silvery nets—radiated pale light. They passed numerous arched doorways, all of which were packed with onlookers, all of whom gaped at her. Uncomfortable as the attention was, Atoll kept her shuffling forward, his hand gentle on her elbow.

Their group filtered out into a large circular chamber. A motley assortment of tables and chairs was scattered around. Some ten feet above, Starburners drifted like balloons, their ropes tethered to hooks. But the ceiling stretched beyond their soft glows, lying somewhere higher, in shadow.

When she entered, a group of lean, hungry-looking hunters rose from their chairs, staring at her openly.

Quartz strode straight to a crude door—half-rotted planks bound together with rope—and pushed it open.

Motionless on the litter, Hunter was taken through. Dee made to follow, but Atoll’s grasp tightened on her arm, holding her back.

Her head pounded with worry. She couldn’t feel Hunter, and yet, he wasn’t dead, she knew that much. But she was struggling to pull her thoughts together. The tremors of the creature’s deathly anguish continued to shudder through her, keeping her off-kilter.

A crowd formed behind her, the people from the hall. A funky reek swelled off their collective bodies. Their eyes were all too deep in their sockets, their bodies too thin.

Quartz stalked over to another makeshift door and rapped sharply.

After a moment, the door opened. A skinny, sallow-faced young woman in a tattered blue dress stepped out. Her bony fingers swept a shag of dusty brown hair from her dull gray eyes.

Dee’s heart dropped. Dollface?

Her voice echoed brashly in the cavernous room.

Crystal’s eyes bulged. Dark Star… Dee?

This incited a murmur amongst the crowd.

Crystal slammed her eyes shut, shaking her head, as if she thought she were seeing things. When she opened them again, a teary sheen had appeared, giving their faded, gray hue that old silver gleam.

Dee edged closer, her voice a whisper. Dollface, what is happening?

Crystal opened her mouth, but Quartz stepped between them, her face hard as the cavern’s stone walls. Are you sure it’s her? she asked Crystal.

You saw what she did, Quartz, Atoll drawled, dragging forward a rickety wooden chair and dropping into it. "Unless you know any other stealers who can unravel an undaferre."

A gasp swirled around her. And then a flurry of conversation.

Dee’s inner translator didn’t offer an exact equivalent for the word Atoll had used. It sounded like under fear and meant something like the thing that shakes the water.

The fifty or so people whispered in excited tones.

Is that true? someone asked.

I saw it myself, another replied.

But—

It just vanished—

She’s the one—

Dee took another tentative step toward her leader and her educer. What happened to Hunter?

The room fell silent.

Will he be all right? she asked.

Quartz’s stony façade faltered. He was stung, Quartz reported to Crystal.

Fear shone in Crystal’s eyes. Not again.

A flicker of pain crossed Quartz’s face, and she turned away from Dee and the crowd.

Again? Dee asked. This has happened before? What was that thing?

"Undaferre," the little stealer offered. He’d found himself a chair and appeared to be gnawing on a bone.

Though Dee’s head was awash in confusion, she kept her focus on Hunter. What did it do to him?

Crystal looked as if she were about to respond, but Quartz cut in.

Where have you been? she demanded. Do you have any idea— She let out a growl, cutting off her own words. We waited. We thought… Hunter thought… As her color rose, she struggled to complete a sentence. But her glare said it all. She was furious.

You were dead, Crystal finished. At least, we thought you were dead. When you didn’t come back. She sighed, running her hands

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