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Bone Walker

Bone Walker

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Bone Walker

ratings:
4/5 (1 rating)
Length:
326 pages
3 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Feb 3, 2015
ISBN:
9780986421716
Format:
Book

Description

Two months should be long enough for a girl to learn to cope when she finds out she’s half-Sidhe, or so Kendis Thompson has convinced herself. She wants nothing more than as normal a life as possible, playing her violin and pursuing her growing relationship with Christopher, Warder Second of Seattle. But when the Unseelie bard Elessir falls through a portal out of Faerie, bringing with him a ghostly peril that puts her best friend Jude’s life and sanity in danger, Kendis must test the strength of her new magic. And when the bone walker Melorite threatens all of the Emerald City, Kendis must fight to save everyone she loves—even if it means succumbing to the dominion of the Unseelie Court.

Publisher:
Released:
Feb 3, 2015
ISBN:
9780986421716
Format:
Book

About the author

The very first thing Angela Korra’ti ever wrote, at age 8, was a short story about a girl spirited away to rule over the leprechauns for a day. She progressed rapidly to pretending to take notes in class when she was actually writing novels, and writing fanfic before she had any idea what fanfic was! Music has been a part of her life almost as long, thanks to six years playing flute and piccolo in school band and an adulthood dabbling in flute, guitar, bouzouki, and mandolin. Music is likely to make an appearance in anything she writes. Particularly music that involves Elvis, bouzouki-playing Newfoundlanders, or Quebecois trad. Angela (Anna the Piper to her friends) lives in Kenmore, Washington, along with her wife and their housemate, two cats, and a whole heck of a lot of computers and musical instruments. Despite the fact that she is a mild-mannered former employee of a major metropolitan newspaper, rumors that she is a superhero are exaggerated. (Even if she did pull the door off a refrigerator.) As Angela Korra’ti, she writes the Free Court of Seattle series and other works in the Warder universe. As Angela Highland, she writes the Rebels of Adalonia trilogy for Carina Press. You can find out more about all of her works under either name at angelahighland.com.


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Bone Walker - Angela Korra'ti

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Prelude

In the end, locked away where the wind couldn’t reach his face and his eyes could not see stars, he had nothing left but his voice. The Queen of Air and Darkness being who she was, he was terrified she’d take even that. So he sang, hurling broken snatches of melody to his prison walls. He sang to remind himself what it could sound like, and of the words to songs that he loved. He sang in as many mortal languages as he could remember, for his love of human music had always set him apart. This was his last defiance, the last affirmation of his innermost self that he could muster.

In the end, though, it wasn’t enough to chase the invading cold from his chest. Melorite was supposed to be dead; he’d seen her slain with his own eyes. But now he could taste her with each shuddering breath. Her laughter rippled across his mind, and if he let his guard slip for even an instant, he could feel her caressing his every thought.

Didn’t you miss me, my sweet love? Aren’t you happy we’re together again?

At first he tried to ignore that silken voice insinuating itself through his head, drowning it out with every last song he could bring to mind. But hunger, thirst, and exhaustion meant he couldn’t sing forever—and when his attention wavered, he felt her frost spread further and further through his flesh. He didn’t dare risk moving by her will rather than his own. Soon, this meant that he barely moved at all, and that he had no strength left for anything but singing.

Soon, though, Melorite commanded even that.

Sing for me, pretty bard. You know I always loved to hear you sing for the mortals. Not to mention for me.

When he heard his own voice sliding where that inner urging willed, when each clear, sweet note came at the cost of her hold upon him growing, he began to despair.

Physical torture alone he could have borne. But Luciriel in her august wisdom had never been one to break a body when she could break a spirit instead. And he was certain now that the Queen had crafted for him the most diabolical punishment possible.

If left unchecked, that punishment was going to kill him.

Laughter bubbled across his awareness at that certainty. Oh, but I don’t want to kill you yet. It’s been too long since I last had your body. And since I can’t have it the way I did before, I will have it this way now!

His world went blank, all his thoughts white and empty and cold, and in that moment she was the absolute center of his universe.

When he came back—not all the way, but enough to know who he was once more—he could think of nothing but escape. All his senses craved the light of the stars upon his face, and the taste of fresh air pulled into his lungs.

Find it, my sweet! Take your chance!

He could no longer tell whether the urge to flee was his in truth or born out of the cold that had taken up residence inside him. But it no longer mattered. Huddling against the wall of his cell, he waited. All the while, her voice murmured its encouragement, keeping him poised, ready to strike.

Opportunity rose when the wards on his prison went down, and one of the Court’s servant goblins came through an opening portal to bring him a meager dinner. He’d lost track of his command upon his magic, but the instant the goblin appeared in the portal, his hands whipped up of their own accord. Lightning flared. The goblin screamed.

Head spinning, limbs trembling, the prisoner hurled himself through the portal just before it closed.

With the last few scraps of his consciousness, he flailed out blindly to seize control of the magic, to make it take him somewhere, anywhere else. He had nothing left in him to decide when or where with any cogent thought.

But an image of rain-washed skyscrapers, hills, and lakes seized him with almost as much strength as the cold that commanded him now. With it, like a flash of sunlight, came a memory of golden eyes in a brown face.

He remembered those eyes. He’d be safe with them.

The portal latched upon that memory and took him where he needed to go.

Chapter One

"A-ha me boys a-riddle-aye-day!"

Three thousand voices roared out the chorus, a tidal wave of melody that surged forward to crash against the four musicians up on the stage—and in instant reaction, like master mariners guiding their vessel through a storm, the quartet ripped into the bridge. Bouzouki chords bounced all over a driving bass line and the machine-gun rhythm from the bodhran, while unabashed delight resounded through every note of the reel in the accordion solo. The crowd picked up on that joy and returned it a hundredfold. All around me a sea of faces shone, hands clapped out the beat, and heads bobbed up and down as the music engulfed us all.

Christopher’s favorite band had come to town, and the audience was having the time of its life.

And I had to admit, so was I. The good humor and boisterous energy of the performers were infectious, and the music, irrepressible. I didn’t know the words to most of the songs, but on the strength of rhythm and melody alone, I was thrilled to clap and bounce along with everyone else. I didn’t even mind that mine was the only brown face in sight, or that half of the white girls in range were paying more attention to the man at my side than they were to the stage. Not that I could blame them. At six-two, clad in a black T-shirt emblazoned with the blue, red, gold, and white of the Newfoundland flag and cheerfully bellowing lyrics he knew far better than I did, Christopher MacSimidh was difficult to miss. He’d spruced up for the concert with a new shorter haircut that traded off his ponytail for front locks that dangled along his brow. For once he’d even shaved properly, baring an intriguing little dent in the line of his chin that I was certain was drawing the gaze of every straight woman and gay man at the show. It certainly kept drawing mine.

All of this was incidental, though, to the energy my beau was pouring forth. Have you ever stood next to a Warder at the height of his elation, surrounded by equally delighted denizens of his bonded city? You’d know it if you did. Warder magic is life magic, and when it runs high, hearts and spirits lift, and limbs and voices find new vigor. That night at this concert, out in the open air of the Seattle Center with the living earth under our feet, it meant that every last person in earshot of Christopher’s baritone was finding the breath to sing and bounce at the same time. More than a few were singing not only on key, but also in harmony. The designated dancing area by the stage had overflowed three bars into the second song of the night, and no one was left on the blankets and lawn chairs spread across the gently sloping hill behind us.

Me, I drank up that energy of Christopher’s like champagne, and it went to my head just as quickly. I wasn’t a Warder, but I was half Sidhe, with fey blood and magic that had awakened a scant two months ago. Christopher’s magic had come online along with mine when he’d been injured defending me and his blood had touched my skin along with Seattle earth. I could sense other fey, other sources of magic—but nothing filled my senses with sunlight quite like Christopher. Now we were a mixed-race couple in more ways than one: black girl and white boy, Sidhe and Warder, fey and human. Tonight, though, we were doing our best to be nothing more what we seemed: two people out to enjoy some damn fine music.

For the most part, we pulled it off. Millicent, the senior Warder of Seattle and Christopher’s teacher—and by extension, mine—had flat out refused to let us loose at a public event until she was convinced we’d be able to keep enough of a lid on our magic that nothing much would spill out onto those around us. We’d practiced for three straight weeks to satisfy her, me even more than Christopher. The first time he’d kissed me, he’d promised to introduce me to the music of his home province of Newfoundland, and come hell or high water, I wasn’t going to ruin his chance to make good on his pledge. If the rest of the audience got a little more exuberant than they would have done without us around, I considered that a fair trade-off for the pleasure of dancing with Christopher to the music from the place of his birth.

Which is why, when a pulse of ragged, unsteady power shot through my nerves, I almost tripped over his feet in shock.

Christopher caught me before I bumped into the knot of teenage girls in front of us, and I could tell from the sudden rigidity of his hands that he’d felt that pulse too. Up on the stage, while the audience thundered its approval, the band closed out the current song on a perfect four-part chord. I paid none of them any attention. Instead I pulled Christopher close, stood on my toes, and whispered up into his ear, What was that?

Wasn’t me.

Me neither. As Millicent had drilled into both of us, I looked for any traces of stray energy threatening to escape me, just so I could lock them down. It didn’t help. I still felt something prickling in the air, pushing as if trying to break through from the other side of a wall. Should we go find it?

I hated to ask; Christopher’s face fell the moment the words left my mouth. He threw a glance at the stage, where one of the singers was launching into the first verse of an unaccompanied sea shanty, and then he looked in all directions around us. But despite his hangdog expression his voice was firm as he said, We’d better. C’mon, Kenna-lass.

He took my hand and guided us out through the crowd, begging the pardon of those we passed as politely as only a Canadian can. I followed, more than willing to let him lead. If something nearby was summoning power, that made it Warder business. Since Millicent wasn’t with us, Christopher was on tap. Daughter of a powerful Seelie mage I might have been, but when it came to Warder doings, I was more or less along for the ride. As the immediate noise of the crowd and the harmony from the band members faded a little behind us, the magic spiked up again, sharper than before, a clear beacon for us to follow.

Nobody in immediate range looked out of the ordinary. In addition to the teenage girls, I saw any number of software geek types, several parents with young children cavorting around them, and a pair of enthusiastic dykes in matching brimmed caps, waving a sizable Cascadian flag between them. When it came down to it, I was the strangest-looking thing in the vicinity, and not only because of my brown skin. Fortunately, nobody nearby was likely to notice the pointed ears hiding under my hair or my topaz-yellow eyes. People had a way of failing to notice those, and I hadn’t even had to practice that.

No one noticed, either, that I wasn’t the only fey-blooded member of the audience. Suspicious, sparkling flutters in the branches of the trees around us betrayed the presence of fairies attracted to the music, singing high and sweet along with us all. On the way into the show I’d spotted at least two more of the humanoid fey Millicent had allowed into Seattle. One was an older woman of whom Millie had told me nothing except that she had a vested interest in straying no farther than absolutely necessary from Puget Sound, and the other was a little fellow barely four feet high yet possessed of so much shaggy white beard that I couldn’t see anything of his face except a pointed nose. Neither had magic above and beyond that of a fey creature’s basic existence, at least nothing my own could sense.

Come to think of it, I had my doubts that the band’s lead singer was completely vanilla human. There was a jewel-like gleam to his merry eyes and a certain compelling resonance to the tenor he let loose on us even as he sang backup for his compatriot. But then, stage charisma itself was a powerful magic, and both of those singers had it in spades.

Stage charisma, though, wasn’t causing the power surge. Nobody around us could possibly have been its source—nobody looked distressed enough. Whatever this magic was, it felt strained, rising and then ebbing again, but with each pulse gathering an almost wild kind of strength. Nor were we the only ones to have sensed something, for some of the fairies in the trees reacted as we passed. A small flock of them trailed after us in curiosity, but held their distance. They vanished right back into the nearest protective branches whenever I looked their way. With as much magic as I was packing, I tended to make fairies and other tiny fey nervous. Tonight, though, they seemed even more unsettled by the raw power roiling through the air.

Seattle Center is full of distinctive buildings and landmarks, the most famous being, of course, the Space Needle. We wound our way past a few of them to follow where the magic led, away from the Mural Amphitheater and the Space Needle’s shadow, and north past the massive International Fountain. Even at this hour the fountain was running, and the rush of its spray almost drowned out the echo of music from the concert we’d abandoned. It could not, however, drown out the magic. Christopher picked up the pace as we went by, his face tensing further with every step. As I broke into a trot to keep up with his longer stride, I began to worry. The last time we’d felt magic this strong, my mad uncle Malandor had almost sacrificed us both to a fertility demon. And here I was, trying to be a normal girl out with her normal boyfriend seeing a perfectly normal show. Magic and demons? Not part of the plan.

There were others out and about on the Center grounds, coming into or out of the concert, or just part of the active nightlife of Seattle. But no one got close enough to us that we had to care. No one at all was nearby as we skidded to a halt at one end of a narrow service alley, which was a relief. Less of one was the sheen of brightness floating before us, an illumination that had nothing to do with the lighting from the manmade sources all over the grounds. If light could be said to writhe, then this light did. The formless shape of it twisted five feet up from the asphalt, coruscating through eldritch shades of blue, from pale to dark and back again.

Something’s coming through, Christopher breathed.

Only then did I realize what I was looking at: a portal.

I’d seen portals before, opening and closing between our world and Faerie—and in the case of the aforementioned demon, between our world and some other place I did my best not to think about. But each of those had been magic wielded by adepts, cleanly defined, solidly controlled. This was something else entirely, a fraying of the walls between the worlds, growing wider and clearer with each moment.

Whatever it is, it’s not very good at it. Easy for me to say, when I barely had down how not to look conspicuous in front of strangers, much less opening doors out of nothing. Still I let the point stand.

Or it doesn’t know what it’s doing. It could be hurt or out of its head. Either way I’m on it. Christopher took a step forward and then looked down at me. All traces of the boyish glee he’d shown among the concertgoers had vanished from his face, replaced by a look of stern and earnest business. Are you up for it, then?

In the glow before us his hazel eyes had gone golden-green, sparking with a light of their own. No matter how normal we’d been trying to be that night, the fact remained that my boy was a Warder, the Warder Second of Seattle. With that set to his jaw and his magic drawing upon the ground beneath us, adding to the rising crackle of power, he looked the part.

I wasn’t about to go anywhere. Bring it. What do you want me to do?

Get your phone out and call Millicent. But stay ready. I may need your help.

He didn’t have to ask twice. I whipped my new smartphone out of the patchwork tote bag slung off my shoulder, unlocked it, and tapped my speed dial for Millicent’s number while Christopher eased closer to the twisting light. His stance didn’t change as he lifted a hand towards the electric radiance. The power thrumming through the earth coursed up to his fingers, a wellspring born out of the wealth of life patterns in a thriving city, ready to let him steady the portal. Or close it, if that was what he needed to do. No passerby would have seen anything remarkable, just a tall young man reaching out for nothing. To my eyes, though, he shone.

I am Christopher MacSimidh, he announced all at once, not loudly, but with a resonance that made each syllable ring out above the distant pounding rhythm from the concert. The lilt of his Newfoundland accent, thicker than usual after singing along with the band, lent music to the rhythm of his speech. By the Pact between Warder and Sidhe, I bid you, show yourself in peace.

Just beside my ear Millicent’s number kicked over to her voice mail. Millie, this is Kendis, I said into the phone, never taking my eyes off Christopher. We’re at the concert and there’s a portal opening up, call us as soon as you get this!

On my very last word, as if provoked by Christopher’s cautious tendril of power, the portal abruptly expanded. Blue fire stretched across the entire width of the alley, still uneven in shape, but now a broad rent torn open out of the dark. A man-shaped form dropped through it and landed hard on its hands and knees, swift enough that I yelped in surprise. Christopher’s reaction time was better than mine. He let loose some of the magic he’d called out of the earth, stabilizing the hole in the air and easing it closed. It was impressive, really—he’d been doing plenty of practicing of his own under old Millie’s guidance—but truth be told, I barely noticed. I was too busy being thunderstruck by what had just fallen out of the portal.

Or rather, who.

Oh God, no way, I burst out. "No fucking way!"

The figure on the ground had no shirt or shoes, and the form-fitting pants that were his only clothing had seen far better days. A long tear down one leg showed bruises and streaks of blood beneath, and what flesh the trousers didn’t cover was in similarly dire straits. Half-healed scars crisscrossed his back, and skin that should have gleamed with the translucence of moonlight looked bone-pale with fatigue and cold. Black hair that I’d last seen styled into quite the retro pompadour was reduced to an unkempt mop. For an instant I hesitated, stunned by this piteous appearance; was I really seeing who I thought I was?

When he looked up at me, though, I was sure. So was Christopher, who swore as he and I both charged forward in a rush of reaction. But the newcomer’s large, wavering smile stopped me in my tracks, a smile that clued me in that nobody was home behind his eyes. He tried to rise, to push up to his knees in a ghost of his normal grace. Maybe he was trying to bow? I couldn’t tell and didn’t care, and yet I couldn’t help wincing as he promptly pitched forward onto his face.

My dear Miss Thompson, he said on the way down, in a Tennessee drawl I knew to be as false as a six-dollar bill, we’ve jes’ gotta stop meetin’ this way.

Oh yeah, I knew him. He was a bard of the Unseelie Court, a singer who shamelessly exploited his coincidental resemblance to a young Elvis Presley, modulo tapered ears, and eyes that gleamed like sapphires—or would have, at least, in proper health. Like me, he was a mage, though he was many centuries my senior and had had much more time to master his power.

His name was Elessir a’Natharion.

And he’d tried to kill me.

Chapter Two

He’d made it. No sun shone, not in a night sky streaked with autumn clouds. But mortal-crafted lights pierced the darkness, providing almost too much brightness for his dazzled eyes. The breeze carried the scents of water and a nearby gathering of a great many people, and that too pushed his overloaded senses almost past bearing. Chill air struck his skin even as his hands and knees slammed into unforgiving pavement, leaving him trembling and breathless.

And there was music, unrestrained in its ebullience, somewhere close. He might almost have giggled at that if not for the voice purring up from somewhere deep within him, or the cold lodged in his chest—against which the rising heat everywhere else in his flesh seemed all the fiercer.

Well done, my sweet, oh well done. She’s a pretty one, isn’t she?

There were two faces before him. The pale one blurred in and out of his sight as he collapsed, but the dark one, the one with the golden eyes, he saw clearly. You can’t have her, he wanted to tell the voice inside him, though he couldn’t quite make the thought coalesce. It was too hard to find it amidst Melorite’s laughter, or in the unexpected rush of relief that swamped him as he babbled a greeting to those eyes. What words he uttered, he had no idea. Yet it seemed critical somehow that he address them, and hold fast to the name that fueled their astonished gaze.

Miss Thompson.


Jesus thundering Christ! Christopher erupted. His accent surged up even stronger in the rush of his anger, turning the words to Jaysus t’underin’ Christ. "We’re missing the show for him?"

We’d wound up on either side of the fallen Sidhe, looking at each other in consternation, and I scowled down at the figure at our feet. Elessir had much to answer for, teaming up as he’d done with my uncle and his lackeys and helping them kidnap Christopher and me. Tonight gave me new offenses to add to his list—not only my interrupted date, but also the disappointment brimming underneath Christopher’s ire. He tamped it down, but I spotted the brief liquid glimmer in his eyes nonetheless. For making Christopher miss music from fellow Newfoundlanders, I wanted to kick the Unseelie singer right in the ribs.

Problem was, he looked like somebody had beaten me to it.

All at once I remembered what else Elessir had done when Malandor had turned on him and doomed him to be sacrificed with Christopher and me to the demon Azganaroth. Though he’d taken a literal knife in the back along with the figurative, Elessir had thrown his lot in with us and helped us break out of the chains that bound us within a circle of power. Not long after the dust had settled, his angry Queen had caught up with him and hauled him back to Faerie, ready to unleash upon him whatever punishment she’d find warranted for conspiring against her with members of the Seelie Court.

I hadn’t said anything to stop Luciriel then; I hadn’t known what to say. The guilt of that had never quite subsided, and it rose up now, fighting with the guilt Christopher’s expression threw me. From all the way back to the amphitheater I heard the band gearing up into a still livelier number, full of fiery fiddle playing that made me want to moan with admiration and envy. Christopher and I both glanced back the way we’d come. I’ll stay, I blurted. I’ll wait for Millie if you want to go back.

He clearly did, but with a palpable effort Christopher hauled his gaze back to me. It wouldn’t be the same without you, and security probably won’t let me back in. Then his gaze dropped back down to the Unseelie, and his crooked wisp of a smile faded. And even if they would, this one’s Warder business.

I blew out a breath and bobbed my head. Let’s get him up.

For no good reason I could name, save for a fleeting thought that I was less physically intimidating than Christopher, I kneeled first. It wasn’t exactly sound planning. Elessir was obviously ill—his glance up to me had been glazed with delirium, and lurid flushes of color heightened his otherwise haggard complexion, punctuation for the febrile heat that radiated off his skin. I had only a couple months of magical training under my belt, but even I could guess that a delirious mage was a dangerous mage. There was no telling how Elessir would react to us.

He’d recognized me, though. Thinking I could use that, I leaned down and tried to roll him towards me, as gently as I could. Elessir, I said. Wake up. It’s Kendis. Come on.

Elessir convulsed at my touch, a wild thrashing of motion that more or less got him slumping in my arms. I grimaced and fought to catch my breath at how he reeked. My senses had grown significantly keener over the last couple of months, and up close, I almost choked on the stench of sweat and blood and sickness. W-what? he stammered. Where am—did I—

You’re safe. You’re in Seattle. Do you know who I am?

His eyes, dulled to nearly black, focused on my face. Miss Thompson, he said after a moment, his voice thin and small.

That name would do as well as any; I wasn’t feeling anywhere near charitable enough to let him call me Kendis. "It’s me. Can you walk? Christopher and

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  • (4/5)
    Excellent again. Slightly darker, and with higher stakes, than the first book; we learn a lot more about some of the secondary characters - their motivations and their pasts. Kendis is still the central character, but (as the author points out in the afterword) this book has some scenes from others' POVs. Tiny gripe - I wish those scenes were set off some way, with spacers of some sort. It's disconcerting to have the next paragraph be a different person. But I was never confused for more than a sentence about whose POV it was. Nasty villain, and some long-term effects from dealing with her - but there's lots more story before that comes into effect.