Read Blightborn Online

Authors: Chuck Wendig

Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #General, #Science Fiction, #Dystopian

Blightborn

BOOK: Blightborn
10.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

Text copyright © 2014 Chuck Wendig

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.

Published by Skyscape, New York

www.apub.com

Amazon, the Amazon logo, and Skyscape are trademarks of
Amazon.com
, Inc., or its affiliates.

ISBN-13: 9781477847701 (hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1477847707 (hardcover)
ISBN-13: 9781477847886 (paperback)
ISBN-10: 147784788X (paperback)

Book design by Sammy Yuen and Susan Gerber
Editor: Marilyn Brigham
Jacket art by Shane Rebenscheid
Jacket design by Katrina Damkoehler

For my father, long gone from the Heartland. And for my mother, who remains

CONTENTS

PROLOGUE THE POSSE
PART ONE BLOOD AND CORN
1 CORN-CATCHER
2 RAIL RIDERS
3 THE PEGASUS GIRL
4 THE RIVER SLURRY
5 THE PAINTED LADY
6 THE REMITTANCE MAN
7 HATING LIFE ON THE HALCYON BALCONY
8 THREE BLIND MICE
9 LOST AT SEA
10 THE JAW TRAP
11 THE PRAETOR AND THE PEREGRINE
12 THIRSTY STALKS
13 THE MANY WORDS FOR DRUNK
14 NOURISHMENT OF ANGELS
PART TWO BLACK MIRRORS, BROKEN KEYS
15 THE MAN FROM WHEATLEY
16 RATS IN THE CORN
17 SCRATCHING AT THE DOOR
18 AN UNSCHEDULED VISIT
19 THE KEY
20 LEAPS OF FAITH
21 THE OUTLAWS MCAVOY & MOREAU
22 THE WIDE-OPEN NOWHERE
23 THE ATTACK
24 THE DESCENT
25 CIRCLE OF DOGS
26 THE CHOICE AND THE OFFER
PART THREE WOLVES AT THE DOOR
27 RETRIBUTION AND RECOMPENSE
28 KNIVES OUT
29 SHINING THE HORSE APPLE
30 A JORUM OF SKEE
31 OBLIGATED
32 TO LIE DOWN WITH DOGS
33 THE CAPTIVE SEA
34 CHOKING LAUREL
35 THE TIDINGS OF SARANYU
36 THE OPEN DOOR
37 BLOOD CHOKE AND BROKEN STICKS
38 THE GILDED CAGE
39 TOGETHER, AT A DISTANCE
PART FOUR THROUGH DARK TERRITORY
40 THUNDERPISSER
41 ASUNDER
42 THE TIES THAT BIND
43 LAST RITES
44 GUNBREAKER
45 SCAR TISSUE
46 THE DEATH AND RESURRECTION OF BALASTAIR HARRINGTON
47 THE PATH OPENS
PART FIVE HEAVEN’S FALL
48 THE INITIATIVE
49 OFF TO SEE A MAN ABOUT A FLYING HORSE
50 LAMBS LED TO SLAUGHTER
51 TUTTLE’S CHURCH
52 THE WITCH’S GARDEN
53 THE BUTCHERS
54 PLANKWALKERS
55 SCREAMS AND STEEL
56 FLYTRAP
57 EDGE OF THE WORLD
58 EXPOSED
59 THE BLACK HORSE
60 PREDATOR AND PREY
61 THE CAPTAIN CONFESSES
62 CONTROL
63 THE IMPROBABLE DYAD
64 MY FAIR LADY
65 THE FALLEN CITY
66 TITAN FALL
67 ABOVE TO BELOW
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

PROLOGUE

THE POSSE

IT’S BEEN DAYS,
and she hasn’t heard a damn thing. Proctor Simone Agrasanto sits at Mayor Barnes’s old desk, running her hands along the cold wood. She picks up a frame showing a digital photo of his wife and son—the wife a fat dumpling and the son a dull clod. As she lifts it, another, smaller photo—this one on curled paper—drops out of the bottom. Filomena McAvoy. Long, cascading hair. A pretty, if pale, face. A long, strong nose—elegant, graceful.
An Empyrean nose,
Simone thinks.

Or, at least, that’s what she sees with her one good eye.

The other eye is . . .

Well, she dares not think about it. The doctors aren’t sure they can do anything for her. She’s heard mumbles about an
experimental
fix, but for now, the ruined eye sits in the puckered socket behind a black patch.

She opens the bottom desk drawer and finds a bottle of Jack Kenny whiskey. She takes a pull.

Events have escaped her control. But she’s reclaiming power. Slowly. The first order of business was to storm the McAvoy farm and take the father. The proctor should have figured that would be a no-go. He and his wife were nowhere to be found. The house and barn were burned to the ground. The only items left unburned were the corpses remaining in the driveway: the faceless Grey Franklin, the trachea-collapsed Pally Varrin, and—this one, quite a surprise—a bullet-in-the-head Mayor Barnes.

That meant Arthur McAvoy was armed.

McAvoy is one mean sonofabitch. Though he
had
left that note staked to the ground. It read: “See that these three get a proper burial up Cemetery Road.”

Seems even terrorists have some semblance of honor in their black hearts.

She takes another sip of whiskey. Warm, smooth, a drink too good for a Heartlander.

There’s a knock at the door.

“Enter.”

Devon Miles, her awful attaché, sneaks in through the doorway. He holds the door open with his one good arm. His other sits in a fabric sling, broken. She knows it’s broken because she’s the one who broke it. When she’d found him, after he’d ran and abandoned her, she pressed him against the wall of Busser’s Tavern—face-first—and bent his arm behind his back until she heard a not-so-gentle
snap
. A snap heard above his cries.

“Your guests,” he says, waving in three visitors.

“I’m glad you came when I called,” she says, looking upon the three miscreants. The mayor’s son. The fat boy’s drunken father. And Cael McAvoy’s spurned bride. Boyland, Jorge, and Wanda. A motley crew, no doubt, but still, she thinks, it just might work.

“Hell do you want?” Jorge asks.

“I’ve got my people looking for the McAvoy family and a few of their friends. Lane Moreau. Rodrigo Cozido. And Burt and Bessie Greene. But my people don’t know the Heartland very well, and, for them, this isn’t personal. But for you three, this is
real
personal.”

“I hate you,” Boyland says. He looks drunk. No surprise. He is perhaps already becoming his father, assuming the mantle of lugubrious, inebriated blowhard. “You stole my girl.”

Simone shrugs. “Oh, quit your mewling. I’ll tell you what: if you do what I want, I will get you your girl back. Is that acceptable?”

He searches her face. “You . . . you mean it?”

“I mean it.”

She doesn’t mean it. It’s a lie. The girl is beyond her reach. Beyond anybody’s reach now.

“Okay,” the mayor’s son says. “I’m in.”

“I want my Obligated back, too,” Wanda says. Her head, Simone notes, looks too big for her body. It bobbles like a buzzard skull on a broomstick.

“Can you get me my son?” Jorge says. “He belongs to
me
.”


You’ll
get your son back yourself,” the proctor says. “I’m forming a posse, and you three are in it. Plus anybody else you
feel will help you in this endeavor. You’ll be paid. You’ll have a boat. Any resources I can offer you, you’ll have. But there’d better be results.”

“You’ll have your results,” Boyland Jr. says. “I’m not king of the scavengers for nothing.”

PART ONE

BLOOD AND CORN

CORN-CATCHER

CAEL MCAVOY DREAMS OF FLYING
.

His arms are wings. Stretched out. Palms flat to the earth. Air sliding beneath them. His mouth dry. His eyes wet with wind-stung tears.

Blue sky above. Green stalks and yellow corn below.

A pair of toothy motorvators churns through the field. Carving a set of parallel lines. White smoke drifts in lazy coils above them.

Cael flies for the horizon line.

Again and ever more he thinks,
I can go higher,
and there above he sees one of the flotillas drifting. The sun behind it frames the floating city with lines of searing white, gleaming off fluted towers and scalloped edges. White brick and black tile. Starbursts and zigzags. A city of many levels strung together: platforms and chains and billowing pocket-bladders of air. The
hum of hover-panels. The growl of engines. The
whiff whiff whiff
of tower-topper propellers chopping the air.

He lifts his head. Tilts his arms back. Cael moves higher.

Toward the flotilla. Toward the sky.

Then he sees something. No—some
one
. Standing on a gangplank extending outward like an unfurling tongue, a woman on the edge of it, a girl with strawberry hair done up in an Empyrean braid that forms a collar around her neck and—

It’s Gwennie.

He calls out to her, tells her he loves her, but the wind swallows his words in a great, gusting gulp, and he sees her pointing something at him. A rifle. Light pooling in the blue-steel receiver.

But then—a white flash behind her. It consumes everything. She’s gone in a searing hot burst, and so is the flotilla, and the concussion hits him at the same time as a thunderclap booms in his ears and his throat and his chest, and suddenly he’s tumbling ass over teakettle, falling down out of the sky—blue, then green, then blue, then green—

He hears someone calling for him. Gwennie?

No. Wanda.

The ground rushes up. The corn reaches for him. Stalks stretch. Leaves like tentacles curl and coil. They meet him as he falls, catching him, stopping his descent. He thinks,
I’m alive. I’m alive!
The corn begins to lower him back toward the earth, and he scans the sky above for the flotilla or for Gwennie—but it’s all gone, just an empty space.

A leaf of corn crawls its way under his shirt—

A pain cuts through him as it slices into the flesh above his heart.

He feels it slide under the skin, seeking entry. Over the breastbone. Around a rib. It burns like a saw cut. Feels like paper sliding under flesh. It finds his heart. It cradles it. It bores into it like a finger pushing its way into a pie. Cael screams. A voice whispers in his ear—

BOOK: Blightborn
10.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

At Your Service by Jen Malone
When an Alpha Purrs by Eve Langlais
Water to Burn by Kerr, Katharine
Dragon Blood-Hurog 2 by Patricia Briggs
Wild Ones: Prowl by Zoey Daniels
A Needful Heart by J.M. Madden
Through the Fire by Serenity King
First Time by Meg Tilly