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Authors: Marianne de Pierres

Tags: #young adult fiction

Angel Arias

BOOK: Angel Arias
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Retra – now called Naif – has escaped from Ixion, the island of ever-night. She doesn’t know if her friends on the island survived the battle between the Ripers and the rebels. But she does know that she must return home, behind the sealed walls of Grave, to find out why the Ripers have been seen there talking to the councillors. What links the two worlds?

First she must convince Ruzalia to help her. The fierce pirate captain saves those who face terrible fates on Ixion, but that doesn’t guarantee their gratitude. Instead, Ruzalia is confronted by a revolt – and Naif is caught in the middle.

Naif will need all her courage to survive. For Lenoir, who wants to keep her safe, for her friends Suki and Rollo, if they live, for Markes, who has secrets of his own, and for the new friends she will make on this journey.

The fate of worlds depends on it.

 

In memory of Deen Hands, beloved friend of my parents and our family. RIP.

 

L
enoir backed slowly away to the edge of the circle of light. His carriage crouched there, awaiting activation. It would be so easy to leave and abandon Dark Eve, Clash and Rollo to their fate.

In the darkness beyond, the Night Creatures called to him, confused by his actions and wanting answers. They’d seen him rescue Naif and her friends; seen him help her escape to the airship which floated above them. How could he do that when he knew they wanted her blood? One of their own, Leyste, had told them that Naif was the one to taste above all others, and Leyste had died trying to get her. Now they wanted to avenge him.

Lenoir knew that and shunned them.

The airship began to shift higher into the dark sky, taking Naif and the circle of light with it. Her leaving was a painful twist inside Lenoir. Their bonding had been deep, more intimate than any of the others before her. The taste of her blood lingered in his mouth still, potent and addictive.

And yet he was relieved to see her vanish into the belly of Ruzalia’s ship. He couldn’t protect her here. Not now. The Night Creatures were too hungry and urgent in their need. And he
must
protect her. He would die to do that.

Close by, he knew, the Night Creatures seethed. It was not just Naif’s escape that angered them. Something had been awakened in them and would not be put back to sleep. They wanted to choose their time to hatch and not be herded anymore.

Lenoir understood their desire. He’d had the same feeling once. But now that he was in his tri-stage, things were not simple. There was only so much room for their kind in this world. Too many of them at once in tri-stage would exhaust their supplies. The Night Creatures’ development had to be controlled; the balance had to be kept.

‘Where are you going?’ shouted Naif’s brother, Clash. ‘What have you done to my sister?’ The tall boy stalked towards Lenoir, his weapon raised. Behind him Dark Eve and Rollo stood back to back, protecting each other.

‘She’s safe but you are not. Climb inside my vehicle or perish. I’ll transport you to safety.’

Clash glared at him, shoulders squared, leather tunic dark with Night Creature blood.

His hostility was plain, yet Lenoir had to help him. Naif’s brother must be saved. The pool of light from the airship shrank by the moment.

‘Why would I go anywhere with you?’ said Clash.

Lenoir opened the door of his carriage. ‘You shouldn’t. But you will. There is no choice.’

As if to prove his point, a tentacle lashed at them from the darkness, curling just short of Clash’s feet and then retracting.

If the light cast from the belly of the departing airship dwindled any more, it would be too late to help them. And it would. The ship would be gone from sight in a matter of moments.

‘Clash, they’re closing in,’ cried Rollo. ‘We have to trust him. He saved Naif.’

But it was Dark Eve who made the decision for them, striding past Clash and folding her large body into Lenoir’s carriage.

Rollo scrambled after her without being asked.

Lenoir admired their survival instinct. Clash was different though; made stubborn by his principles. How like his sister. ‘And you?’ Lenoir asked.

Clash swung his sword in an arc, slicing at the edge of the light.

A howl went up as the blade cut a Night Creature’s flesh.

Clash raised the dripping weapon and thrust it at Lenoir’s chest, stopping just short of touching him. Keeping the sword at that point, he stepped around Lenoir and into the carriage.

‘I will not bargain with you, Riper,’ said Clash through clenched teeth. ‘And I do not trust you.’

Lenoir held tight to the beast inside him that wanted to tear at the young man’s flesh. ‘And
you
should be under no illusions,’ he replied softly. ‘I’m not doing this for you.’

 

N
aif stood on the balcony outside her new room and tried not to shiver. Her gaze drifted over the slope of the mountain that rose behind La Galatea, the once-grand resort in which Ruzalia lived. The slope was littered with tiny white crosses, set in crooked rows like broken and scattered teeth.

‘So many of them,’ she breathed.

‘They died when their badges expired,’ said Charlonge, who stood next to her.

‘Burn bright, burn out,’ said Markes. He was at the other end of the balcony, elbows resting on the balustrade, his chin on his hands.

‘How long have we got?’ asked Naif.

‘I talked to some of the others. They say it’s impossible to know, but none of them has been here longer than a few years. Once their badge goes red . . .’

Naif glanced at the dull mark on her hand. They’d all had badges fitted when they arrived on Ixion but hers was
faux
– not permanent. And Lenoir had told her that her bonding with him meant she would live while he lived.

‘Yours is different, Naif. You might be spared but Char and I’ll be out there soon,’ said Markes, as though reading her mind. ‘On the mountain side.’

Naif felt a surge of defiance. ‘No, you won’t! We’ll find answers before then. We’ll find a way to reverse the effects of the badge.’

‘Ruzalia has been trying,’ said Charlonge. ‘That girl Riss says she works on it every night in her apartments, attempting to build a replica of the Register.’

Naif hugged herself as she watched the damp stealing in. The island’s ready mists were like the ghosts of the young dead roaming the slopes.

Below ground was a maze of tunnels and caves. Some led to the mountain top, while a different set ran along the beach. In one of the latter Ruzalia moored her sleek stingray-styled boat. At this time of day she would be down there, preparing it for her next raid.

‘I’m going to find Ruzalia.’

‘At the boat?’

‘It’s the only way to speak to her alone.’ She gave her friends a reassuring smile and left them.

The corridor outside her room led to another, and then on to a large landing and the wide, marble stairway that dominated the centre of the resort. As she ran down the flights of stairs to the bottom she passed other young people like her, all here because Ruzalia had saved them from Ixion.

No one smiled or greeted her; a pall of gloominess hung over La Galatea. Their haunted faces set off a terrible urgency in Naif. Not only were her friends on Ixion in danger, but all these young people faced premature death.

She ran out through the resort’s wide, pillared doors, down another set of steps and along a path to the beach. Shells crunched underfoot and wet sand leaked into her shoes as she headed towards the rocky headland at one end.

On the horizon, she could see the dark blur of the Golden Spiral. From here, on the island that Ruzalia called Sanctus, the strange anomaly that harboured Ixion could be mistaken for a distant storm. They’d only arrived here a few days ago in the pirate’s airship but already it seemed an age.

By the time she reached the entrance to the tunnels she was panting. As she paused to catch her breath, a rush of thoughts overcame her. How long did Charlonge and Markes have to live? Was Suki still alive? Had the Night Creatures overrun Ixion? What if Brand and Modai had overthrown Lenoir?

Somehow she must convince Ruzalia to take her back to Grave so she could find the connection between the two islands. She knew instinctively that the solutions to all her questions lay in that knowledge.

With even stronger resolve, she entered the cave. Sleeping bats hung from tangled roots along the roof, quivering as they dreamed. Even on Ixion they hadn’t gathered in one place in such numbers, and their twitching sleep unnerved her.

Picking her way down a worn rock ledge, she saw a small jetty protruding into the tunnel that led out to the open bay. At that moment the ocean was calm, the tide low, and she was able to step down without slipping. When the sea was ruffled and the tide rising, it would be much more hazardous getting to the jetty.

According to whispers among the island’s refugees, Ruzalia had lost crew by choosing to moor her boat in this dangerous tunnel instead of the secluded bay outside – events she was rumoured to have accepted without a flicker of emotion.

Naif could see Ruzalia now, at the bow of her ship, rubbing a cloth across one side, her red hair tied back and an expression of fierce concentration on her face.

She stopped at the foot of the jetty.

‘What brings you down here?’ Ruzalia asked without lifting her head from her task.

‘I want you to take me back to Grave.’

Ruzalia paused. ‘Have I not told you that’s a foolish notion?’

‘I don’t believe it to be.’

The tall woman stiffened, and then straightened. She dropped her cloth onto the deck and vaulted lightly onto the jetty, covering the distance to Naif in quick strides.

Naif retreated to the rock wall and found herself pinned there.

‘I didn’t risk my life bringing you and yours here to put up with such impudence,’ said the pirate.

Naif drew a shallow breath and steeled herself against the woman’s ferociousness. She had come to provoke an answer, and she wouldn’t waver. ‘You’ve been taking that risk for some years. You didn’t do it for me alone.’

‘What would you know of my reasons?’

‘I’ve talked to some who’ve been here a while.’

She snorted. ‘None of
them
would ruin a story for a pinch of the truth.’

‘Please, Ruzalia, take me back to Grave. If I can find out the connection between the Ripers and Grave then maybe I can find out how to reverse the effect of the badges as well.’

The pirate leaned in so close that Naif could feel the hot moisture of her breath.

‘No.’ The word was said quietly but with intensity. ‘Now leave me to my work.’

The pirate’s expression was uncompromising. There would be no changing her mind.

Dismayed, Naif stepped out from under Ruzalia’s arms and retraced her way to the top of the cave. When she reached the high spot where the bats rested, she glanced back. Ruzalia had returned to tinkering with her sleek ocean racer.

As she stood there her dejection was swamped by a sense of surging relief.

Not her own.
Lenoir’s.

Even here on the island of Sanctus, Naif could feel him; a thick presence in her mind that was both a weight and a strange comfort.

Sometimes, usually when she was resting, she’d feel a tug, low down in her groin, and a tingling at the tips of her breasts. In those moments she cursed the fact that the Riper had saved her life. For now they were bonded by blood.

How deep that bond extended, she didn’t know. Did he
hear
everything that was said to her, or was his sense of her similar to her sense of him – a sense of his presence with flares of emotion that were impossible to ignore?

Fighting back Lenoir’s presence, she turned and continued along the path through the cave to the beach.

BOOK: Angel Arias
7.57Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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