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Authors: N. D. Wilson

The Drowned Vault

BOOK: The Drowned Vault
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By N
.
D. Wilson

Leepike Ridge

T
HE
B
OOKS OF THE 100
C
UPBOARDS
100 Cupboards
Dandelion Fire
The Chestnut King

A
SHTOWN
B
URIALS
I: The Dragon’s Tooth
II: The Drowned Vault

This is a work of fiction. All incidents and dialogue, and all characters with the exception of some well-known historical and public figures, are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Where real-life historical or public figures appear, the situations, incidents, and dialogues concerning those persons are fictional and are not intended to depict actual events or to change the fictional nature of the work. In all other respects, any resemblance to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.

Text copyright © 2012 by N. D. Wilson
Jacket art copyright © 2012 by Jeff Nentrup
Map art copyright © 2011 by Aaron Becker

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

Random House and the colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Wilson, Nathan D.
The drowned vault / N.D. Wilson. — 1st ed.
p. cm. — (Ashtown burials; bk. 2)
Summary: Cyrus and Antigone must track down Phoenix and the Dragon’s Tooth while facing a threat from the transmortals.
eISBN: 978-0-375-89573-9
[1. Secret societies—Fiction. 2. Supernatural—Fiction. 3. Brothers and sisters—Fiction. 4. Apprentices—Fiction. 5. Magic—Fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.W69744Dsm 2012 [Fic]—dc23 2011051618

Random House Children’s Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.

v3.1

For Lucia, Ameera, and Marisol
,
three parts to my laughter

Contents
PROLOGUE

T
HE MAN IN THE PINK SHIRT
stopped outside his house. Four steps forward and he could be out of the pouring Parisian rain, sheltered beneath his stone stoop. Instead, he took one step back. The wet paper grocery bag he carried was disintegrating in his hands. His shirt was plaster-pinking his shoulders. Miniature rivers burbled and swirled around the cobbles beneath his feet.

The man’s eyes slid up his front door, up the stone wall, up past the gargoyles spewing rainwater, and settled on an attic window built into the roof.

In front of the glass, a broad spiderweb was bouncing and shivering in the rain. It hadn’t been there when he’d left that morning. The spider had done her job—just like the girl had promised. Someone, some
thing
was inside his house.

Down one floor, a curtain moved.

For the past year, he’d been afraid of this moment. And now that it had come, he was frozen, weakly staring at the danger.

The man turned and tried to move casually up his street. Ten feet. Twenty. Then he dropped his grocery bag in the gutter and he ran.

Behind him, he heard his front door open.

For the first time in four centuries, Juan Ponce de León thought he might die.

He ran faster.

one
DASH

T
HERE IS ONLY ONE
B
EGINNING
. There is only one place and one moment where the world, life, and time itself began. There is only one Story. It began in the dark. It has many middles and many ends. You and I could chase it for lifetimes and only make it longer by our living. It is too sprawling for these pages and too big for this mouth.

We begin in a middle. We trace a smaller arc.

This is a story about darkness. About lightness. About blood, and about family. About losing, about finding, about danger and dying, about what happens when the world remembers the oldest of its secret things (and what happens when the world forgets).

This is a story about Cyrus and Antigone Smith.

The sun dumped golden heat onto the flat back of Lake Michigan. It baked unwatered grass and persecuted Wisconsin cows. It sent men cursing back indoors and blistered unprotected skin beside a thousand swimming
pools. Frogs, young and foolish, exploded while crossing sizzling asphalt streets. But the forests were happy.

Cyrus Smith was one year and one slice of summer taller than he had been when the Archer Motel had burned and he had first seen Ashtown’s green lawns, its piece of the Great Lake, its airstrip, its mazes, its Burials, and its occasional hot-air-balloon battles. To Cyrus, one year ago was a different reality. One year ago, he hadn’t known anything about the world. Now, well, he knew one or two things. But not enough for Rupert Greeves. Not enough to leave Ashtown on his own. Not even enough to travel with Rupert. He was stuck at Ashtown with hundreds of people who pretended they couldn’t see him, dozens who truly hated him, and a very few he could call friends—and they were mostly staff.

Cyrus stood two miles from Ashtown, behind a rope laid on the ground, beside an old moss-covered stone marker, beneath a canopy of maple trees. He was sweating in the shade, waiting for someone official to arrive with a stopwatch. He sighed and rolled his head slowly on his shoulders, trying to ignore the heat. He handled it better than some, but this was beyond even his threshold—the last roar of summer. Fruit was ripe. Insects were fat—ready to lay their eggs and die. Soon the leaves would bake and brighten, but for now, hidden in the glowing green canopy, cicadas whirred and whined like distant weed-eaters. All around him, miniature droplets rained
gently down from the maples as armies of gorging aphids ate and ate and ate. With his eyes closed, Cyrus could feel the sugary insect honeydew settling onto his face. With both hands, he swept it away in his sweat.

His bare arms were dark and lean from training. His bare feet curled impatiently in the grass. He’d shaved his head three weeks ago, but his thick hair was quickly shagging back in. In the center of his tight white tank top, a small black monkey was boxing inside a yellow shield. He reached up and felt the cool serpent body of Patricia, his patrik, the first of the strange creatures he had met in this new life. She was his invisible necklace, unseen whenever her tail was tucked firmly into her mouth, as it was now. Hanging from a ring around her body—made just as invisible as the snake—were two keys. Cyrus fingered them—one small and silver, one large and gold. Beside them on the ring was an empty silver sheath. Last year, when William Skelton had tossed the key ring to him, the sheath had held the Dragon’s Tooth.

When he and Antigone had arrived at Ashtown, they had been heirs to the outlaw William Skelton. They had been Smiths, the last two members of a long and troublesome line. They had been swept away, disliked, ignored.

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