Lost Ones (Veil Series #3)

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Overview

Bestselling author Christopher Golden’s epic, innovative trilogy, the Veil, comes to an astonishing conclusion as the mythic realm of heroes and monsters becomes the site of humanity’s last—and greatest—showdown.

Even legends have legends and on the other side of the Veil, where humanity’s legends have hidden away for centuries, Oliver Bascombe has learned of a prophecy that many believe he and his sister, Collette, have come to the Two Kingdoms to fulfill. But first they must ...

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Lost Ones (Veil Series #3)

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Overview

Bestselling author Christopher Golden’s epic, innovative trilogy, the Veil, comes to an astonishing conclusion as the mythic realm of heroes and monsters becomes the site of humanity’s last—and greatest—showdown.

Even legends have legends and on the other side of the Veil, where humanity’s legends have hidden away for centuries, Oliver Bascombe has learned of a prophecy that many believe he and his sister, Collette, have come to the Two Kingdoms to fulfill. But first they must escape the dungeon where they are imprisoned to stop an apocalyptic war, unravel a conspiracy, and prevent a powerful sorcerer from severing the human world and legendary realm forever.

As old heroes and friends ally themselves for one last battle, even older enemies stand arrayed against them. Is humanity ready to face its legends head-on? For Oliver Bascombe, it may cost him more than he could ever imagine.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“[A] fast-paced dark fantasy adventure…[that] should appeal to fans of Neil Gaiman, Charles de Lint, and Robert Holdstock.” —Publishers Weekly

"Everything [Golden] writes glows with imagination."—Peter Straub

"Golden's storytelling is spellbinding." —Boston magazine

Publishers Weekly

Stoker-winner Golden concludes his Veil series (following 2007's The Borderkind) with a battle of mythic proportions between King Hunyadi of Euphrasia and the twisted Atlanteans, who have deliberately destroyed the ancient truce between Euphrasia and Yucatazca. After Oliver Bascombe is tricked into killing the king of Yucatazca with King Hunyadi's sword, he must free himself, his sister, Collette, and his fiancée, Julianna Whitney, from the royal dungeon. Collette and the myth-creature Frost head to Euphrasia, while Oliver and Julianna persuade legendary beings to fight for King Hunyadi. Before the final confrontation, however, Oliver realizes that he must make a daring and dangerous raid on Atlantis itself. The run-of-the-mill epic plot, fueled by Oliver and Collette's seemingly unlimited and mostly unexplained magical powers, leaves little doubt as to the outcome of their undertakings. (Apr.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553587807
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/30/2008
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 356,443
  • Product dimensions: 4.10 (w) x 6.60 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Christopher Golden is the award-winning, L.A. Times bestselling author of such novels as The Ferryman, Strangewood, The Gathering Dark, Of Saints and Shadows, Prowlers, and The Body of Evidence series of teen thrillers. Working with actress/writer/director Amber Benson, he co-created and co-wrote Ghosts of Albion, an animated supernatural drama for BBC online.Golden has also written or co-written a great many books and comic books related to the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, as well as the scripts for two Buffy video games, which he co-wrote with frequent collaborator Tom Sniegoski. His recent comic book work includes the creator-owned Nevermore and DC Comics' Doctor Fate: The Curse. As a pop culture journalist, he was the editor of the Bram Stoker Award-winning book of criticism, Cut!: Horror Writers on Horror Film, and co-author of both Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Watcher's Guide and The Stephen King Universe. Golden was born and raised in Massachusetts, where he still lives with his family. He graduated from Tufts University. There are more than eight million copies of his books in print. At present he is at work on his next novel for Bantam Books.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


Oliver Bascombe paced his dungeon cell, wondering when his captors would decide to kill him and how they would do it. Public execution? Swift murder? Torture? Or perhaps they would simply feed him to the Battle Swine and let those filthy porcine warriors bite off his head and strip the flesh from his bones.

In the two months and more since he had first been clapped into the crumbling stone cell with its iron-grated windows and heavy wooden door, he had come to understand that there were only three things a prisoner in the royal dungeon of Yucatazca could do to pass the time—imagine dying, imagine escaping, and work his body hard enough to hurt, just to remind him that he was alive. In all his life, Oliver had never been so strong. He could not escape the irony that despite all of his newly gained strength and discipline, he had also never been so powerless.

A stained sleeping mat was the room’s only comfort. Unless he was sleeping, he kept it rolled up in the center of the cell. With that out of the way, he could walk the perimeter of the room unimpeded by anything but the small sink and the hole beside it that was the closest thing he had to a toilet.

He didn’t have space to run; no way to get up any momentum in a cell twenty feet by twelve. The best he could do was walk and so he did that, swiftly and consistently, for at least an hour when he rose and another hour after dark. After dark, Oliver needed to keep his body occupied because his mind became busiest then, as well. Back in the ordinary world, he had always believed that there truly were things lurking in the dark, but now he knew for certain. In the world of the legendary, everything was possible.

No, more than that. Everything is real.

This morning, like every other, he knew the day had begun by the lightening of the cell from black to gloomy gray and from the passage of silent guards out in the corridor. The two small grated windows never received direct sunlight and offered no view of anything but stone and shadow. Beyond the outer wall of the dungeon was a slotted canyon built into the king’s palace by its architect. He supposed he ought to have been grateful for that little bit of light that allowed him to keep track of the passage of night and day, but Oliver had no gratitude in his heart.

Only ice.

In the absence of Frost—whom he suspected was alive, despite all evidence to the contrary—he had become a kind of winter man himself.

If not for the presence of his sister, Collette, and his fiancée, Julianna Whitney, in the cell across that stone corridor, he knew his heart would have become ice entirely. What saved him was the ability to hear their voices and catch glimpses of their faces through the grated windows in their parallel door. Instead of slamming his palms and fists against the stones, building callus, he might have rammed his skull into the wall and been done with life.

Instead, he lived.

In between his morning and evening walks, Oliver did sets of pushups and sit-ups. He’d built up the muscles in his arms and shoulders quite a bit, and his abdomen was tight as a drum. This development did not stem solely from his exercise regimen, but also from what he’d come to think of as the “dungeon diet.” He, Collette, and Julianna lived on pitiful meals of crusty bread, water, and a thin stew obviously made from whatever others in the palace had not cared to eat. He tried not to think about the origins of his food and never left a drop in the bowl. It would keep him alive.

“Oliver.”

He paused beneath one of the grated windows and glanced at the door to his cell. It seemed to him that the voice had come from the corridor, but he was keenly aware of the possibility that he’d imagined it. Claustrophobia had never been a problem for him, but it had crept into his head over the past two months, and sometimes the walls seemed to close in around him and he imagined shadows moving in the corners. Hallu- cinating voices seemed a likely addition to the menu.

“Oliver?” the voice said again.

He grinned, feeling like a fool. The voice belonged to his sister.

Silently, he crossed the cell and craned his neck to peer through the iron grate set high in the door. Collette and Julianna were in the opposite cell. Jules was tall enough that he could see the upper part of her face through the grate in their door, but Collette had to pull herself up to peer through, like a child trying to get a peek at the world of grownups. Even worn and filthy and half-starved, he thought they were both beautiful. His sister’s eyes had a mischievous light in them that had not been extinguished by their incarceration. And his fiancée’s gaze was unwavering.

“Morning, Coll,” he said. Then he locked eyes with Julianna. “Morning, sweetie.”

It ought to have felt odd to use such an endearment under the circumstances. But it didn’t. He didn’t love her any less after the time they’d spent imprisoned here. In a thousand ways, he loved her more. They’d had perfect, boring lives in the ordinary world as attorneys for the law firm their fathers had helped to found. Oliver had always lived in the shadow of his father and the life the old man had wanted for him.

As a boy, he’d wanted to be an actor, had believed in magic and imagination, but as he’d grown he’d slowly succumbed to his father’s efforts to stifle such dreams. When he and Julianna had gotten engaged it had been both the best and worst thing that had ever happened to him—the best because he loved her utterly, and the worst because their wedding would cement him forever into the role his father had laid out for him. Oliver had had his doubts, but they’d been fleeting. If Julianna would be his wife, that alone would provide enough magic for him to survive.

Or so he’d thought.

But that was before the magic he had always hoped to find had blown in through his window in a blizzard of ice and snow, on the night before his wedding, and torn his life apart. He’d traveled between worlds since then, met creatures of myth and legend from dozens of cultures—some of them allies and some enemies—and he and Collette had discovered that they themselves might have a bit of the legendary in their blood. Their father had been murdered and they had been hunted on both sides of the Veil that separated the fantastical from the mundane, drawn into a conspiracy to destroy an age-old peace between the Two Kingdoms. Men and Legends had died. Julianna had followed Oliver through the Veil and was now trapped here, in this world, unable to return.

And now they were prisoners in the bowels of the king’s palace in Palenque, capital of Yucatazca, accused of regicide. In truth, Oliver had murdered King Mahacuhta, but there had been . . . extenuating circumstances. At the time, he’d been under a glamour that had caused him to believe the man he stabbed was Ty’Lis, the Atlantean sorcerer who had engineered all of his and Collette’s misery, and so much more.

Ty’Lis had tricked him into murdering Mahacuhta—with the sword of Hunyadi, king of Euphrasia.

No news had trickled in to them from the outside, but he had no doubt that the Two Kingdoms must be in open war by now.

Yet in spite of all of that, he stood at the door of his cell and looked across at the eyes of the woman he’d loved since childhood, and somehow found the faith to believe they’d get out of this.

“Are you all right?” Julianna asked, brows knitted in concern.

“Fine. Why?”

“You were kind of muttering to yourself when you were walking.”

Oliver leaned his forehead against the bars, smiling. “Stir crazy. We’ll take turns, okay? Rotate breakdowns, so at least one of us is sane at all times.”

“That’s not funny, Oliver,” Julianna said.

He lifted his gaze to meet hers. For a moment, he felt strong enough to rip the doors away and tear down the walls that separated them.

“I’m sorry, Jules. You’re right. I’m just trying to keep my mind active, stay ready.”

Collette poked her head up beside Julianna again. Through the bars in the small window of their cell door, she looked so small and fragile. It was an illusion. Collette had survived as a prisoner in the castle of the Sandman. Compared to that horror, this was like a resort hotel.

“Ready for what?” she asked.

“We’ll know when the moment presents itself,” Oliver replied.

He had no idea when opportunity would arrive, but he had to have faith that it would. Otherwise, they might as well all curl up and die. The one thing they weren’t going to do was try something stupid like pretending to be sick to draw in the guards and catch them by surprise. That sort of thing worked well enough in the movies, but they’d agreed it was damned unlikely to work for real. And even if it did work, where would they go? In addition to the Atlantean instigators Ty’Lis had sewn into the fabric of the Yucatazcan military and court— soldiers, Hunters, giants, and sorcerers—there were the people of Yucatazca itself. As far as they knew, the monarch of Euphrasia had sent Oliver and his friends as assassins to slay their king. Even if they managed to get out of the dungeon and fight their way out of the palace, where would they go? Leaving the city of Palenque alive seemed a dubious prospect.

“Maybe you’re not the only one going a little stir crazy,” Collette replied.

As the words left her mouth, she and Julianna exchanged a worrisome glance. Oliver frowned.

“What are you talking about? Are you two okay?”

“We’re all right,” Julianna said quickly, staring at him again across the corridor between their cells. “It’s just . . . something weird.”

Oliver pulled his face as tightly against the bars as he could and looked left and right along the dungeon hallway. The guards would arrive soon with stale bread and water for breakfast, and perhaps some morning gruel.

“What is it?” he whispered, locking eyes with his sister now. “Don’t try anything. We’ll never get out of here without a plan.”

“I’m not sure about that,” Collette replied.

Panic hit Oliver. “What’ve you got in mind, Coll? If we’re going to act, we’ve got to work together.”

But Collette shook her head. “Nothing like that. Just listen.”

Now it was Julianna’s turn to peer up and down the corridor. When she was sure no guards were nearby, she took a breath. “A little while ago, we felt cold.”

Oliver frowned. “It always gets a little cold down here at night.”

“More than that,” Collette said. “The temperature must have dropped thirty degrees. There were ice crystals on the wall. And I thought I heard—”

“Whispering,” Julianna said.

Oliver stared at them for a second and then pushed away from the door. He paced the cell’s perimeter, running a hand over the thick beard that had grown over the past two months.

The only one of their allies not to escape after the assault on the king’s chambers and the accidental murders of King Mahacuhta himself had been Frost, who Oliver often thought of as “the winter man.” He had been the first creature from the world of the legendary that Oliver had met. Frost had interceded when a monstrosity called the Falconer had been sent to murder Oliver and Collette—though he had lied about the reasons for his presence there and about the Falconer’s target. Still, despite those lies, Frost had saved Oliver’s life many times over.

Magicians of a hundred cultures had gathered together and woven spells to create the Veil, crafting a barrier that would forever separate the legendary from the ordinary. From time to time, human beings slipped through the Veil into the world of the legendary, but once touched by the magic of the Veil, they could never return. There were Doors set into the Veil, few and far between and always under heavy guard, but only the legendary could pass through a Door.

But the Borderkind didn’t need Doors. They were creatures of legend who could travel back and forth through the Veil whenever they pleased. At the time of the barrier’s creation, human beings still had enough faith or fascination for them that they could continue to slip through. Sometimes Oliver thought there was more to it than that—that some of the legendary became Borderkind not because humanity loved them, but because they loved the human world too much to succumb completely to the spells that wove the Veil.

Ty’Lis and his Atlantean masters had sent the Myth Hunters out to exterminate the Borderkind and to murder Oliver and Collette. The sorcerer believed their mother had been a Ever since discovering that Frost had kept so much from him, Oliver had nursed resentment and anger. Had his supposed friend been truthful, things might have turned out quite differently.

“No,” Oliver said, shaking his head, gripping the grate. “If he’s still alive, and he’s found some way to communicate, how does that help? If he can’t get out—and get us out—then we’re no better off.”

“Oliver, I know you feel like he deceived you. Maybe he did,” Julianna said. “What’s his big sin, though, really? He didn’t trust a human being enough to take you into his confidence? Learning the truth at the wrong time might have cost your life anyway.”

“He lied,” Oliver whispered.

Collette banged the door with her palm. “So he played you a little. Treated you like a little kid, the way Dad always did. But Frost isn’t Dad. I didn’t travel with him the way you did, so I can’t know how you feel. All I know are the facts, and—”

“Stop,” Julianna said.

Brother and sister fell quiet, listening. Somewhere, water dripped loudly, echoing off the stones of the dungeon corridor.

“We don’t have time to argue this, Oliver,” Julianna went on. “All we wanted to do was tell you what happened, because it got us thinking.”

“All right. What’re you thinking?”

“That Frost is the opportunity we’ve been waiting for,” Collette said.

Julianna stared across at him. “The moment might never come for us to act, so we’re going to have to make our own moment. From what happened this morning, it seems pretty certain that Frost is still alive, and close. We don’t have to get out of the palace, Oliver. All we have to do is get out of these cells and get to Frost. If we can free him, then he’ll get us out of here.”

Oliver shook his head. “You don’t know—”

Collette shushed him. All three of them stopped again to listen, and this time they heard a clanking of metal as the upstairs door to the dungeon was unlocked and swung open. Heavy boots clomped down the stone steps.

The guards were arriving with breakfast. The conversation was over.

For now.

Which was fine. Oliver needed to think. Maybe they were right; maybe it was time to make their own opportunity. It seemed far more likely they would be able to free Frost than that they could escape from the palace themselves. It might be their one chance at survival.

If Frost could be trusted.

Dark clouds hung pregnant above the battlefield just north of Cliffordville, but the rain did not come. The past few days had been blisteringly hot; rain would have been a blessing. But the gods would never bless an abomination such as this.

Blue Jay flew above the clashing armies, the humid air heavy on his wings. He heard the clang of blades on armor and the cries of the wounded and dying. The blood of humans and legendary alike stained the ground. In the distance, he could see the smoke rising from the ruin that the Yucatazcan forces had made of Cliffordville. Most of the residents had been evacuated before the enemy had arrived. Those stubborn few who had remained were likely charred corpses now, adding to the black smoke that furled upward from the remains of the town.

Some amongst King Hunyadi’s forces had wanted to lay in wait in Cliffordville and set a trap for the invaders. Neither the king nor his chief adviser, Captain Damia Beck, would hear of it. There would be no honor in such close fighting, and it would mean spreading their troops out into small pockets. If one side achieved the upper hand in the battle, the others would not be able to see what was happening. Hunyadi wanted his enemies to see what they were up against, when the time came.

As a trickster, Blue Jay liked the idea of springing a trap on the invaders, but he saw the king’s point. There were too many variables. Not that it was up to him in the first place. After all, he and his fellow Borderkind were only volunteer soldiers in the army of Hunyadi. More than anything, he knew that the king wanted him and his kin to be visible in the battle. In the two months since the war had broken out they had made every effort to spread the word into the south that the Atlanteans were the true enemy, that Hunyadi had not had any hand in King Mahacuhta’s assassination.

And nothing would show the human troops the truth more clearly than the fact that nearly all of the surviving Borderkind were fighting on the side of the kingdom of Euphrasia. Even Yucatazcan Borderkind had joined the troops of King Hunyadi. That ought to be evidence enough that the whispers about Ty’Lis were true.

Blue Jay let a gust of wind take him higher, and then banked west, toward the ocean. He came around in a long arc, moving behind the invaders, then descending until he flew less than eighty feet above the battle.

The combat had begun shortly after dawn, with the Yucatazcan force marching out of the ruins of Cliffordville, up a long slope to the northeast that would take them to Boudreau and Hyacinth, and then to the small city of Dogwood. Hunyadi’s forces had come down out of the hills and waded into the invading force. The Yucatazcans had suffered enormous early casualties, but now the battle had become a bloody melee with new corpses falling on both sides.

The little blue bird darted over the battle lines. He saw perhaps two dozen Atlantean soldiers amidst the humans and the handful of legendary creatures fighting on the side of Yucatazca. There were Jaculi amongst them, tiny but savage winged serpents. A small cadre of Battle Swine—tusked boar-warriors whose hair was matted with fur and gore—held firm. Not one of them had fallen as yet. A single Atlantean giant still lived. Two others had stood with the greenish-white-skinned monstrosity, but they were dead now. Archers took cover behind them and loosed arrows at the enemy.

At the center of the area that had become the muddy, bloody battleground, a sphere of death radiated outward from a strangely silent, elegantly choreographed skirmish taking place amongst magicians. Seven Mazikeen—the Hebrew sorcerers who had allied themselves with the Borderkind—stood arrayed in a semicircle, electric golden light crackling in arcs from their fingers and eyes, lancing across the open space that separated them from a quartet of Atlantean sorcerers, whose own spells and hexes burned the air in black and blue tendrils. Not a single living soldier or warrior—human or legend—came nearer than twenty feet from this war-within-a-war.

Blue Jay thought it appeared, for the moment, to be a stalemate. That did not bode well.

Nagas slithered on serpent bodies through the battle. Their upper halves were humanoid and they swung swords and fired arrows, cutting down whatever human soldiers got in their way. The Lost Ones of Yucatazca were not their focus, however. They were slaying as many of the enemy legendary as they could.

More blood spilled.

Pointless. A dreadful bitterness welled up in Blue Jay. He had always been a trickster, a mischief maker, but this was different. The schemers of Atlantis had manipulated the Two Kingdoms into this war so that they could reap the rewards. The Lost Ones on both sides were dying because they did not know the truth. They were all humans, no matter what part of the ordinary world they—or their ancestors—had originated from. To see them massacring one another was an abomi- nation. To watch the legendary kill one another was even worse. There were only a few Borderkind still allied with the Yucatazcan forces, but what did that matter? Whether they could cross the border between worlds or not, legends were legends. Like the humans, they were all kin.

Taken together, the two armies had something less than a thousand sweating, stinking, exhausted soldiers remaining from the forces that had engaged in the battle of Cliffordville. Skirmishes had been taking place on the Isthmus of the Conquistadors—and on both sides of that thin strip of land that separated Euphrasia from Yucatazca—ever since the regicide in Palenque. But now the war had begun in earnest. Other Yucatazcan forces had already moved across the Isthmus and into Euphrasia, headed for locations to the far east and to the north, where they would find Euphrasian army detachments awaiting them under the command of Hunyadi’s top officers.

But this area had been the king’s focus. This attack route was the one whose path would take the enemy most directly toward Perinthia, Euphrasia’s capital. For symbolic purposes, this battle had to end in a decisive victory.

At the moment, that hardly seemed a foregone conclusion.

The Atlantean giant snatched a Naga from the ground, gripped the warrior by his serpent torso, and used him as a club to first sweep several Euphrasian soldiers aside, then to hammer at one of them, killing both the Naga and his human comrade in the process. Blood sprayed the giant’s face and the upturned, enraged countenances of the soldiers who attacked him.

Blue Jay flapped his wings quickly and rose into the sky. He scanned the dark clouds above him, still wishing for rain, but more important, wanting to be certain that none of the winged Atlantean hunters, the Perytons, would arrive as reinforcements. He also watched for Strigae, the black birds who acted as spies for Ty’Lis and his masters in Atlantis.

Atlanteans. Blue Jay’s feathers ruffled as he glided on air currents. The bastards are going to pay.

The smoke still rising from Cliffordville provided a dark backdrop for an odd phenomenon. The very fabric of the air began to tear, not in one place, but in a dozen, spreading out across the rear flank of the enemy troops. Long, shimmering slits appeared, starting from the ground and rising to varying heights, some only a few feet and others scraping the sky.

From the largest of the tears in the Veil there came a gigantic flying shape—a huge, white pachyderm with broad wings and tusks like ivory spears. Hua-Hu-Tiao had arrived, and many other Borderkind followed, flooding into the world, slipping from the ordinary realm into the land of their kin. Blue Jay saw so many that were familiar to him—monsters and giants, beasts and heroes. Chang Hao, the King of Snakes, slithered through and darted forward to snatch two Yucatazcan soldiers into his maw, swallowing them without chewing. Even from the sky, Blue Jay could hear them scream.

Blue Jay had friends amongst the newly arrived force. He saw Cheval Bayard, the kelpy, in her equine form. Her hooves thundered on the ground as she galloped toward her enemies, silver hair streaming. Leicester Grindylow sat astride her back, long ape-like arms wrapped around her neck. He looked gangly and foolish atop the kelpy, but Blue Jay knew that Grin would be deadly the moment he leaped into the fray. His strength and swiftness were well-tested, and his savagery in battle was only equaled by his quiet courtesy to his allies and friends.

Then there came Li, the Guardian of Fire. Once he had ridden a beautiful tiger. But when his tiger had been killed by the Myth Hunters, Li had been diminished in some way that Blue Jay still did not understand. The fire in him burned nearly as strong, but he could not control it the way he once had. His flesh had burned away so that now he existed as a walking pile of embers, forged in the shape of a man. Li would never be able to pass in the human world again. But he was Borderkind, and he wanted vengeance on those who had murdered so many of his kin and slain the tiger who had been one half of his spirit and his legend.

Blue Jay fluttered his wings, rising higher. The storm clouds seemed to hang lower than ever, yet still would not release the mercy of rain. He watched the warriors, gleaming with sweat and glistening with blood, as they became aware that the tide had turned. They were surrounded by their enemies. The Yucatazcans were filled with what they thought was righteous fury at the murder of their king, but they were not prepared for the Borderkind.

Without the legends that could cross the Veil, King Hunyadi’s troops might have driven the invaders back eventually. It would have been a near thing. Now the Yucatazcans had no chance. The Borderkind swarmed in from behind, burning and tearing and shattering the enemy, and the Euphrasian forces moved in from the front.

Only the killing remained.

Blue Jay wheeled away from the battle, turning back toward the top of the hill, where the tents of the commanders had been pitched in a sparse wood that had once overlooked the quaint little village of Cliffordville.

He scanned the tents and did not see the black cloak of Captain Beck. A tremor of anxiety went through him. Troubled, he flew quickly toward the hill and then spread his wings to slow himself. As he did, the trickster changed. Wings became a blue blur beneath outstretched arms. Blue Jay began to spin slowly, dancing on the air, and he alighted upon the ground with a soft tread, the bird replaced by the mischief man. The breeze rustled his long hair and the blue feathers he kept tied there.

Worried, he glanced around. Commander Torchio and two of his subordinates stood just inside the tree line, but there was no sign of Captain Beck. He started toward them, about to inquire, when the flap of the nearest tent opened and an ebony-skinned hand thrust out.

“Jay. Come in.”

A smile touched his lips as he stepped up and took her hand. The trickster slipped into the tent and into her arms. The thin cotton of her black tunic and trousers whispered as he pulled her against him. Her dark eyes widened but, before she could speak, he silenced her with a brush of his lips upon hers.

Then he whispered her name.

“Damia.”

Captain Beck grinned, her elegant ebony features alight with mischief that made him feel she was a kindred spirit, even though she was entirely human. She arched an eyebrow.

“It’s lovely to see you back in one piece, Jay. But perhaps you might hold your enthusiasm a few minutes.”

He blinked, and only then did he sense the presence of another inside the tent. Blue Jay turned, as sheepishly as a trickster could manage, and found the imposing presence of the wanderer, Wayland Smith, filling nearly all of the available space. That was one of the many puzzling things about Smith. He always seemed larger than he was. Most of the tricksters called him uncle, treated him as one of their own, an elder. And yet if he was a trickster, he was from an earlier age, an earlier kind of legend. There were many names for him. The Wayfarer. The Traveler. All Jay knew was that he was a journeyman, wandering the worlds, as well as a magician, and that he could forge weapons that always found their mark. Or so his legend claimed.

Smith had not removed his broad-brimmed hat, though he had set aside his walking stick, which was capped by a brass fox head. His rust-colored beard seemed to have gone more gray than Blue Jay recalled. From the shadows beneath the hat brim came the glint of stony eyes.

“Hello, Jay,” said Wayland Smith, inclining his head.

“Wayfarer,” Blue Jay replied. “We haven’t seen you in more than a week.”

“It could not be avoided,” the wanderer said. “I have been searching for questions.”

The trickster cocked his head. “For questions?”

“You cannot find an answer until you have discovered the question.”

“Of course,” Blue Jay replied, bowing his head in respect. “And did you find what you sought?”

“I have a great many questions and, indeed, some answers as well.”

Damia Beck slid up beside Blue Jay and put an affectionate hand at the small of his back. “He says it’s time.”

Blue Jay saw the excitement in her eyes, then turned back toward Wayland Smith. “Time for what?”

Even through his thick beard, the wanderer’s smile was unmistakable. In the shadows under his hat brim, Wayland Smith’s eyes kindled with a lightness of spirit Blue Jay had never seen in that face before.

“Why, time to rescue them, of course. Frost and the Bascombes, and Oliver’s fair lady. Now that the war has begun in earnest and the eyes of Atlantis are focused on Euphrasia, it’s time to retrieve your friends and draw together the skeins of fate. Then we’ll have begun it, Jay.”

Blue Jay frowned. “Begun what?”

“The beginning of the end.”

“Damia,” Blue Jay said, reaching down to take her rough, soldier’s fingers in his own. “Do you understand any of this?”

She nodded. “The magician says it’s time to get them out of Palenque. Hunyadi has been waiting for the Borderkind to do that ever since their capture. There will still be loyalists who believe anything that Ty’Lis says, but already the rumors have spread that Oliver and Collette are Legend-Born. If we have them in our camp, the Lost Ones on both sides of the war will at least have to listen to what they have to say.” Captain Beck put a hand on the grip of her sword. “All I want to know is, when do we leave?”

“Shit.” Blue Jay sighed and looked at Wayland Smith. “Apparently we’re going to Palenque?”

“You are.”

Blue Jay laughed and shook his head. “So you’re sending us off on a suicide mission, but you won’t be able to join us. That about right?”

“More or less. Hunyadi has plans for Damia, and I have other business, but I’ll see you to Palenque safely. I have an errand to take care of first, and then we’ll depart. But before I go let’s sit a few moments—I’ll share my pipe, if you like—and we’ll talk of palaces and kings, of heroes and legends, and of the Legend-Born.”

The trickster glanced at Captain Beck a moment, then turned once more, uneasily, to Wayland Smith.

“So you believe that story, then, about the Bascombes? You think their mother was a Borderkind?”

Smith nodded solemnly, drawing a pipe out from inside his jacket.

“Of course. Melisande was their mother. And their father was a human. She loved him fiercely until the day she died. She had to give up her essence, her magic, so that she could bear children to the man she loved.”

Blue Jay crossed his arms and could not prevent the dubious look that spread across his face.

“And just how the hell do you know all of that?”

The weight of grief and the past lay heavily upon the Wayfarer, leaving no trace of mischief behind.

“How do I know?” he asked, looking up at Blue Jay and Captain Beck. “I know because I brought them together.”

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    A reviewer

    Oliver Bascombe has learned so much about the creatures of legend since that night Jack Frost busted into his Maine home (see THE MYTH HUNTERS) and the Sandman abducted his sister Colette (see THE BORDERKIND). The American attorney has crossed the Veil several times to and from the Two-Kingdoms mostly to save his sister, but has learned of an interesting prophesy that vaguely implies earthlings saving this realm could the Bascombe siblings be the saviors? --- However, when the sly Atlantans destroy the peace between Euphrasia and Yucatazca, Oliver realizes he must prevent Armageddon. He blunders when he is fooled into using the sword of Euphrasia and kills the ruler of Yucatazca. As the doomsday clock ticks down, Oliver frees himself, Collette, and his fiancée Juliana Whitney from the Yucatazca royal dungeon. Whereas Collette and Frost journey to Euphrasia to reason with Hunyadito, Oliver and Juliana beg the indifferent legends of the Two-Kingdoms to save the realms as no one will remember them if they fail to act. However, no longer one to sit idly on the sidelines with cold feet, Oliver attacks Atlantis bringing the hostilities to the place that started the fiasco. --- Although like in most if not all (can¿t think of an exception) quest fantasies, readers know what to expect, but will still be enthralled by the conclusion to the Veil trilogy as this is a golden winner. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action as the Maine siblings use Yankee know-how and some magic to try to save the day. Fantasy fans will appreciate this fun finish to a fine saga. --- Harriet Klausner

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