Authors: Christopher Pike
Also by Christopher Pike
PUBLISHED BY TOR BOOKS
The Blind Mirror
The Cold One
The Season of Passage
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This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this novel
are either fictitious or are used fictitiously.
Copyright Â© 2004 by Christopher Pike
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book
or portions thereof, in any form.
This book is printed on acid-free paper.
Book design by Kathryn Parise
A Tor Book
Published by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC
175 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10010
is a registered trademark of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Alosha / Christopher Pike.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â p. cm.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â “A Tom Doherty Associates book.”
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â ISBN 0-765-31098-8
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â EAN 978-0765-31098-9
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 1. Quests (Expeditions)âFiction. 2. California, SouthernâFiction. 3. Young
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â womenâFiction. 4. FairiesâFiction. 5. QueensâFiction. I. Title.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â PS3566.I486A78 2004
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 813'.54âdc22
First Edition: July 2004
Printed in the United States of America
0Â Â Â 9Â Â Â 8Â Â Â 7Â Â Â 6Â Â Â 5Â Â Â 4Â Â Â 3Â Â Â 2Â Â Â 1
t was the beginning of summer, early morning, and Alison Warner had big plans for the day. A group of lumberjacks were planning to chop down a bunch of trees on the mountains that stretched behind her house, and she was hoping to stop them.
Of course, at thirteen, Ali was old enough to realize she was not going to save a single tree. Her intentions for going were more symbolic. She wanted to make the men who cut down the trees feel bad about what they were doing and, hopefully, force them to think twice about doing it next time. They all knew her. She had been to the site twice to call them barbarians. They had just laughed; they thought she was funny.
Ali hoped to bring her best friend, Cindy Franken, with her on the long
road to the logging site. But the problem with Cindy, especially during summer vacation, was getting her out of bed before noon.
Ali braced herself for a struggle as she left her house.
It looked like it was going to rain, she thought, as she stood on her front porch. Gray clouds had blown in from far out at sea. They gathered overhead like a fog bank, filled with menace. Although it was mid June, there was still a chill in the air, a shadow even; it was as if nature herself brooded over what was about to happen to the forest.
Ali had on a sweater her mother had made for her two years ago, and carried an olive-colored waterproof poncho in her daypack. Before she jumped on her bike, she slipped on a pair of black leather gloves. From experience, she knew how the cold air could sting her fingers once she built up speed.
Cindy Franken lived only six blocks away. Ali had known her since kindergarten. They had met over finger paints and sand castles. They told each other everythingâwell, almostâand always stood up for each other. However, they had completely different personalities. Cindy's mouth was directly tied to her brain. She usually said exactly what was on her mind, which annoyed people. Ali was forever getting her out of trouble. Ali herself seldom spoke without careful consideration. People her ageâeven two teachers at schoolâhad told her she was more an adult than a kid. That might have been true, but she was still young enough to wonder if that was an insult or a compliment.
Ali did not bother knocking on Cindy's front door, but snuck around the side and poked her head in her friend's window. They had set their plan to ride into the mountains only the night before, but Cindy was fast asleep on her back with her mouth wide open. Watching, Ali saw her closed eyelids twitch, and wondered if her friend dreamed, and if she was there with her in the dreams.
“Wake up sleepyhead,” Ali said.
Cindy opened her eyes. “I'm awake,” she mumbled.
“Can I come in?”
Cindy rolled over. “You're not a vampire. I don't have to invite you in.”
Cindy was shorter than Ali, with long blond hair and a hundred curls the size of gold coins. Her face was more
, but she managed
to stay tan even in the dead of winter, and she laughed so easily and often that she had more friends than Ali. Her eyes were a dark blue, quick and bright, and she was a lot smarter than she acted.
Ali climbed inside and sat beside Cindy on the bed. Her friend had closed her eyes again and was threatening to pass out. Ali shook her gently.
“You know the lumberjacks get up before dawn. They're probably already sawing down the pines and firs on Castle Ridge,” Ali said.
Cindy kept her eyes shut. “We're not going to stop them by tying yellow ribbons around the trees.”
“I brought red this time.”
Ali hesitated to explain that she had another reason for visiting the logging site. She wanted to say goodbye to some of her favorite trees. Many of the pines and firs that stood behind their town were the same age as she. They had grown up together; they were like old friends. Even her father did not realize how often she rode her bike into the forest. Since her mother had died in a car accident a year agoâon her twelfth birthday, no lessâit had become more home to her than the city.
Being in nature did not allow her to completely escape her loss, yet she often felt at peace as she walked beneath the swaying trees. There she could sing, there she could cry. The trees did not judge, they did not speak back. They only listened.
“We have to try,” Ali told Cindy.
Her friend opened her eyes and hugged her pillow. “Write a letter to a senator or something,” she mumbled.
“I did that already, to both of them. They didn't write back.”
“Write the president.”
“I heard the guy can't read.”
Cindy yawned. “Do you know what time I went to bed?”
“I don't want to know. You said you'd go with me. You promised.”
“I was forced into promising.” Cindy suddenly grinned mischievously. “Take Karl with you.”
“Don't start that,” Ali warned.
“You know you like him.”
“I don't like him.”
“You don't hate him,” Cindy said, as if that were a huge plus.
“Why are you in such a hurry to set me up? We're not even in eighth grade yet.”
“Because by high school every guy who is not a total nerd is taken.”
“I like nerds. Why do you think you're my best friend?” Ali asked.
Cindy smiled. “Why is it so hard to admit you like him?”
“Okay, I like him! I just don't want to marry him is all.”
“It could be romantic staring down the lumberjacks and their chain saws with the boy you love by your side.”
Ali sighed. “You know what your problem is?”
“I watch too much TV?”
“Yes. Are you coming or not?”
“Will you go if I don't go?”
Cindy closed her eyes and smiled sleepily. “Have fun.”
Ali left the house in disgust.
Breakfast was not a big deal to herâshe usually skipped itâbut she had a hard climb before her and knew she would be starving by the time she reached the logging site. Before heading out, she decided to stop by Sam's Subs, which had the best sandwiches in town.
Breakwater, the city where she lived, was small, population a measly three thousand, maybe twice that at the height of the tourist season. Its only landmark was a turn-of-the-century steeple church that had recently been painted a tacky green by the new mayor. An article in the local paper said the guy was color-blind.
It was the Interstateâand the cheap motels and all-night diners that lined itâthat fed Breakwater. There weren't many jobs in town, and most of them were lousy. That was why her father had to leave the city in his truck to keep a roof over their heads.
Ali rode to the sandwich shop with her hair tied back; it was a good thing. Her maroon hairâher mother used to say it was fine as wine and exactly the same colorâreached all the way to her butt. A favorite silver clasp kept it from her eyes. Later in the day, though, on the mad dash down the mountain, she would let it fly like a witch's cape over her shoulders.
Sam Carterâowner and manager of Sam's Subsâlooked like one of his sandwiches. A six-foot-long ham and cheese, Cindy called him, although Ali thought he was more of a steak man. The guy was nice and everythingâespecially to kidsâbut he ate up all his profits. He weighed four hundred pounds.
Ali ordered a medium-sized turkey, with lettuce, tomato and cheeseâand asked for a can of Coke. She would eat it when she was high up on the mountain, and could see up and down the coast, and far out over the ocean. Sam threw in a bag of chips free.
“You don't have to do that,” Ali said.
Sam waved his hand. “Your mother always bought you chips.”