Authors: Honor Raconteur
Tags: #mystery, #curse, #Magic, #YA, #Artifactor, #Fantasy, #Honor Raconteur, #Young Adult, #the artifactor, #adventure, #female protagonist, #Fiction
Published by Raconteur House
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and
incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously,
and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments,
events or locales is entirely coincidental.
THE DREAMER’S CURSE: BOOK TWO OF THE ARTIFACTOR
A Raconteur House book/ published by arrangement with the
Raconteur House mass-market
Copyright © 2014 by Honor
Cover Illustration by Honor
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be
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permission. Please do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of
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Purchase only authorized
For information address:
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If you purchased this book
without a cover, you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was
reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher, and neither the author nor
the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”
Other books by Honor
THE ADVENT MAGE CYCLE
The Dragon’s Mage
Special Forces 01
The Midnight Quest
THE ARTIFACTOR SERIES
The Child Prince
The Dreamer’s Curse
Sometimes, the strength to get back on one’s feet
after defeat is more important than
the strength that makes one invincible.
- Kyou Shirodaira, Spiral: Suiri no Kizuna
Sevana had both hands entwined in a particularly hairy trap
mechanism for zippels when Big announced,
Two? Sevana had thieves show up here every now and again,
lured by the idea of raiding her storerooms and selling her magical items on
the black market for a pretty price. But they usually showed up in large groups
or all alone. She rarely had small parties. “Are they inside?”
“Well, you know what to do. Is Baby helping this time?”
Sometimes when they had intruders, Baby and Big would tag team so that Big
would create tunnels that infinitely looped and Baby would happily chase them
until they miraculously stumbled across an exit.
Big denied, sounding a little glum.
Well, the cat might be out hunting, or even napping,
considering it was still early in the day. Well, early for Sevana at least.
With a shrug, she refocused on her work and didn’t spare another thought for
the hapless intruders inside of her mountain.
It had been a peaceful almost-three months since Bel and
company finally left. In that time, the government had slowly stabilized with
Aren back in control. She’d gone back to her normal routine now that she didn’t
have a dozen people trying to claim her attention. Her eternal Artifactor’s
License had arrived not a month after the victorious return to Lockbright
Palace, and she had framed it and displayed it prominently in her workroom.
(The better to gloat about, of course.)
The trap nearly sprung itself twice as she set it, which
made her think that her design for this really needed to be simplified before
she accidentally lost a hand. Frustrated, she tossed it into a corner, where it
made a very satisfying
, and lifted her arms above her head in a
long stretch. Alright. Maybe she should go look at that task list Kip had written
up for her yesterday. Who knew? There might be something urgent written on it.
But as she rose from her chair and headed for her research
room, she noticed that the floor had risen a few inches, blocking the door. Big
had developed this simple way of alerting her to danger and to keep people from
carelessly entering the hallways while he played with the stupid intruders.
“Big? Are the intruders still here?”
Big rumbled, agitated.
Outside main door.
Outside the main door? Her head canted to the side. She’d
had a variety of overly ambitious and stupid thieves visit here over the years,
but she hadn’t yet met one brazen enough to sit outside of her main door in
. Hmmm. Maybe Big had jumped to conclusions too quickly about the
nature of their guests. Perhaps these were not thieves at all.
“Let me out.”
Big moved the floor back to its normal position so she could
open the door. Beyond curious, she headed up to the top level, snagging her
sword and a shielding wand on the way. When she exited out onto the clearing at
the very top of Big, she closed the door firmly before walking down a side
trail that meandered toward the bottom of the mountain. She’d actually worn
this trail herself, as she found it necessary on a regular basis to come out
and see for herself who stood in front of her door. The trail abruptly ended at
a rather large tree growing out the side of the mountain, right above the door,
and it gave her the perfect way of perusing her guests without them seeing her.
The air still felt nippy, even though winter had more or
less passed. She saw signs of spring as she walked through the trees: blossoms
starting to bud, leaves regaining their strength under the pale warmth of the
sun. It took some care on her part to avoid the leftover leaves of fall. They
were perfectly dry and brittle, ready to give away her position if she put a
careless foot down. In fact, she had to focus on the trail so much that she
couldn’t spare more than a glance upwards now and again toward her destination,
and so didn’t see her visitor until she finally reached the thick oak tree.
With her hands against the rough bark, she leaned into the
solid trunk and put her head around it just enough to get a good look.
A man in his early twenties sat directly in front of the
door, legs crossed comfortably, hands on his knees. His straight dark hair had
been closely shaven on the lower half of his head, the top layer grown out to
collect in a ponytail high at the crown. He possessed the strong nose, jaw, and
cheekbones of a Kindin, but his white shirt, simple leather vest, and dark
pants said Windamere. At his waist, strapped to his back, and in his boot, he carried
a variety of daggers; one sword; and a bow lying on the ground beside him. She
didn’t need clairvoyance to know this man’s occupation: hunter.
At his other side sat one of the largest wolves known in
Mander. His fur was black as midnight, eyes a golden topaz that shone like old
gold. He wore an earring in one ear, and the way he sat scanning the area
around him with eyes and nose, spoke of high intelligence.
A hunter and a wolf. What a fascinating combination to find
on one’s doorstep.
The wolf’s nose twitched, several times, then his head came
up and around as if homing in on her location. She knew the instant he spotted
her for he shifted into a standing position and gave a soft huff.
His master took instant notice and also looked up, his dark
eyes finding her with unerring accuracy. These two had clearly spent too much
Spotted, she gave up on hiding and came around the tree into
full view, moving down three steps so that she stood directly above her own
“You are not a thief,” she observed.
“I am not,” he responded, voice deep enough to vibrate
rocks. “Are you an Artifactor?”
So, he had indeed come to see her, and wasn’t here because
of some silly mistake in directions. “I am.”
“Good.” He gained his feet effortlessly, gathering up his
bow as he stood and settling it over his shoulder with the ease of long habit.
“My name is Decker. I’m here with a job request for Artifactor Sevana Warran.
You match her description. Do I have the right person?”
“You do.” She cocked her head, still studying him from head
to toe. She knew that accent. She’d heard it before—on the very edge of
Windamere’s borders, to be precise. The clothes and looks fit, too. She’d bet
her eye teeth he came from the Kindin-Windamere border. “Most people, you know,
go to my business manager with job requests.”
“He’s a mite difficult to track down at the moment and I
didn’t have time to chase after him,” Decker responded. His tone remained level
as he spoke, but lines of strain and fatigue deepened around his eyes.
This man had come a very long way to speak to her directly.
Whatever had sent him here wasn’t trivial. “You’ve succeeded in getting my
attention, Hunter.” With a casual hop, she jumped the seven feet to the ground
and landed easily. “First thing—is that an Illeyanic wolf?”
Decker blinked, the first sign of surprise he’d shown in
front of her. “He is. Most people aren’t familiar enough with the breed to
recognize him on sight.”
She didn’t bother to explain that Master had a wolf of the
same breed and that she had spent enough time around him to know that this
breed of wolves had more intelligence than most people. She just turned and
addressed the wolf directly. “Wolf.” When he looked at her, she continued, “I
have a mountain lion that claims this place as his territory. I’d take it
kindly if you didn’t start a fight with him.”
The wolf cocked an ear at her and gave a soft whine of
“Well enough.” To Decker, she waved a hand toward the door.
“Come inside. I’ll hear your request.”
He hadn’t lost his tense posture, but he let out a short
breath of relief. “Thank you.”
Sevana led the way inside, shutting the door behind them.
These two moved well—if not for the slight scuff of boot heels on stone floors,
she would not have known they were there. They didn’t ask her anything as she
escorted them into the main room. “Take a seat.”
Decker took the love-seat, not sitting so much as dropping
into it. She hadn’t seen a horse, but he might very well have left it in the
village before making his way up here. The way he sank into the couch made her
think he’d ridden hard and long to get here quickly.
She paused long enough to throw another two logs on the fire
before folding herself into her favorite armchair. The wolf chose to lie down
at his master’s feet, but he watched her every bit as carefully as she did him.
Yes, a very interesting pair. This man had to be very successful to dress as
well as he did, not to mention own a wolf as expensive as this one. But
successful or not, why would he come here with a job request? Hunters dealt
with their own business, usually, and didn’t look for outside help.
“Alright, Hunter, what’s the request?”
“I come here on behalf of my village.” The way he started
made it sound as if he had rehearsed this a hundred times in his head. “We are
under a curse.”
She put up a hand to stop him. “Wait, wait, the
village is cursed? You’re not speaking of the majority?”
“All of us, except four men,” he answered grimly. “And I’m
included among those four. Only the hunters are unaffected, although I’m not
sure how long that will last.”
Why only the hunters…? She waved him on, eager to hear the
“The curse has been in effect roughly four months, although
we didn’t realize it was a curse at first. The curse is this: whenever someone
dreams of a place, they wake up in that actual place. They are physically
Sevana blinked at him, her mind not quite able to accept
what her ears had just heard. “So if a person lies down to sleep, and dreamed
of being in the middle of the ocean—”
“Then he would wake up in the middle of the ocean come
morning,” Decker finished, expression tight. “Every single person in the
village, from the youngest child to the oldest elder, has experienced this at
least once. Most of them, multiple times.”
“How far are they transported?”
“The range is increasing. At first, it was just a mile or
so. We thought it nothing more than a case of sleepwalking and took measures
against it. But then it became obvious it was more than that—that some other
power had to be at work. The current record is seventy-five miles.”
?! Sevana’s mouth dropped open,
eyes bulging. The man must be pulling her leg. Transporting someone that far
took an insane amount of magical energy! “How long ago was this?”
“The morning I left.” Decker grimaced in a humorless smile.
“Actually, that was the catalyst that made me leave. I knew that if we didn’t
get an expert soon, someone that could truly help us, the situation would only
get worse. And I don’t want to see how bad it can get.”
She steepled both hands in front of her mouth, mind
whirling. A transportation spell that could take someone seventy-five miles
away, one that grew with every passing day, that could affect an entire
village. She had never heard of such a thing. Even during the days of the great
magic, spells like that were only used very rarely, and never on such a scale.
“Where is your village precisely?”
“It’s called Chastain. It’s near—”
“The Kindin-Windamere border,” she finished his sentence
this time with a quirk of her brows. “Some ten miles from Vanorman, isn’t it?”
He sat back and gave her a slow, acknowledging nod of
approval. “You know your geography.”
“Not really. But I do know Chastain. They are the best and
most consistent suppliers of pelts in Windamere. I am a faithful customer of
your village.” Not that she had ever been there personally, but she regularly
had things shipped to her from there. “But if someone was transported from
Chastain 75 miles out, then where did they end up?”
“Ence,” he replied. “Fortunately. If they had landed in
Kindin, it would have been very troublesome to get them back. So far, everyone
has been taken to some part in Windamere or just along its borders. I don’t
expect our luck to hold in that regard.”
As he shouldn’t.
“We hunters have spent day after day hunting our missing
people down and bringing them back. It’s getting harder to find them, so much
so that we’ve had to hire magicians to help us. But no one could do more than
trace their whereabouts. They couldn’t tell us what caused the curse, or how to
stop it, or even how to contain it. The last magician we spoke to suggested
hiring an Artifactor, as you would be better suited to solve the puzzle. Then I
heard of what you did in the Child Prince’s case—he had been abandoned as a
lost cause too, but you broke his curse.” Decker leaned forward, eyes and voice
intense. “Help us. Please.”
Sevana felt inclined to take on the job just because it
sounded like a marvelous challenge. After Bel’s case, she hadn’t had any fun
riddles to unravel at all. She would probably do it for free just for the sheer
intellectual excitement. But Kip had drilled it into her to never say such a
thing and always get a price upfront. “What’s your price?”