The gateways linking the great libraries of the world don’t require a library card, but they do harbor incredible dangers.
And it’s not your normal bump-in-the- night kind. The threats Gia Kearns faces are the kind with sharp teeth and knifelike claws. The kind that include an evil wizard hell-bent on taking her down.
Gia can end his devious plan, but only if she recovers seven keys hidden throughout the world’s most beautiful libraries. And then figures out exactly what to do with them.
The last thing she needs is a distraction in the form of falling in love. But when an impossible evil is unleashed, love might be the only thing left to help Gia save the world.
The Library Jumpers series is best enjoyed in order.
Book #1 Thief of Lies
Book #2 Guardian of Secrets
Book #3 Assassin of Truths
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There were moments when I wanted to scream. When I just wanted the world to fall away and leave me behind in the quiet rolling hills of my new home.
Home? Right. It was nothing like Boston.
If a person had to hide out somewhere, I couldn't think of a better place than Ireland. I adjusted on the rock wall that'd become my escape from everyone in the large farmhouse just down the hill. Vines crawled over the two-story building and many of the retaining walls cutting through the green hills that surrounded it. The wall I sat on had a smooth top and a rock that stuck out just at the right height for a footrest.
Even though it was barely autumn, I couldn't seem to get warm. The ground was always wet and muddy, and the scent of manure hung in the chilly air. The view was beautiful, though. The Irish hills were dressed in shades of green mixed with shocks of purple flowers. Afton would love to paint a landscape like this. My heart sank at the thought of my best friend. Leaving her, plus Pop, Nana, and Uncle Philip, had been like tearing away a piece of me. It was as if I'd left half my heart behind.
I wasn't me anymore, just some ghost walking among the living, trying to remember who I used to be. Gia Kearns — even the name sounded foreign to me. Somewhere along the way, I'd become Gianna Bianchi McCabe, Sentinel — a magical knight protecting the libraries and the human race from dangerous creatures. Bianchi was my mom's last name, and McCabe belonged to my birth father, Carrig.
Separated from Pop, I was more afraid of being alone than wielding a sword. Though he was my stepfather, he was the only parent I'd ever known. And he was a damn good one, at that.
We'd been in hiding for nearly two months already, and I was getting anxious. My days were filled doing battle drills and chores with the other Sentinels. During my downtime, I'd think about my best friend and cousin, Nick. It was the first time he hadn't celebrated my birthday with me. Seventeen years. We'd known each other since birth. Things felt off without him around.
Then the dark thoughts would come. Was Conemar torturing Nick? What evil plan did Nick's biological father — the most dangerous wizard of the Mystik world — have for him?
Momo raced in and out of cracks in the wall, her furry body squeezing into the tiniest of places. I never thought I'd love a ferret so much. She'd been my alarm while trapped in the wastelands of the Somnium, alerting me when one of the frightening beasts was around. I couldn't leave her behind in that magical void.
Normally, her playfulness would be a distraction for me, but my mind kept replaying Nick's kidnapping. Conemar's Sentinels shoving him into the back seat of Miss Bagley's Subaru. The look of despair on Nick's face as the vehicle disappeared around a corner.
I'm sorry, he had mouthed.
He was sorry, when I was the one who had failed him. I shouldn't have hesitated. There was so much going on in the battle around me that I'd lost focus. Pop would've been killed if Faith hadn't rushed in front of him and taken the dagger meant for him. But I had hesitated, not knowing what to do. Everyone I loved had been in that fight.
I swore never to falter again, but it was too late for Faith and Nick.
And for Kale and Gian. Both had died that day with Faith.
I'd let all my friends down.
Faith. I touched her gothic-style pendant with thorny, silver-stemmed roses encircling a bloodred crystal. She'd become a good friend and protector, and missing her hurt so badly that sometimes thinking of her made it hard to breathe.
Flipping through Gian's leather-bound journal, I inhaled the scent of aged pages. My great-grandfather wrote this for me to find. He was a powerful wizard, and Gian had given up his life to save mine. I knew there was something important in the pages but couldn't figure out what. He'd also left a poem containing clues to finding the Chiavi — seven keys hidden as objects within the libraries. Each one held a special power. In their original forms, the keys would unlock a prison containing an apocalyptic beast called the Tetrad. Whoever released the creature could control it and bring both the Mystik and human worlds to their knees.
I tapped against my lips the laminated prayer card he'd used as a bookmark in the journal and reread the poem titled Libero il Tesoro, which meant "Free the Treasure." It was a spell to release a Chiave from its hiding place. The poem was a list and held clues to artifacts in the libraries where Gian had hidden the keys.
A religious man's charm hangs from his vest. The first line. It was a necklace with a cross pendant Gian had found in the Vatican Library.
A school of putti, one of which sees farther than the rest. A telescope Nick and I had recovered in the Abbey Library of Saint Gall.
Strong women flank the ceiling; the one in Sentinel dress holds an enchanted point, small in size — which I found totally by accident after a battle in the Senate Library in Paris.
Behind Leopold he stands, one hand resting on a crown and the other holding a rolled prize. Nick and I discovered it in the National Library of Austria.
With numbers in her mind and knowledge in her hands, on her brow a crown does rest. We stumbled on it in the Monastic Library in Ulm, Germany, while looking for another Chiave.
I read the final part of the poem, hoping for something to stand out.
In front of the world, he wears his honor on his chest.
Beneath destruction and rapine, he scribes the word, while time falls.
All these things are within the library walls.
After circling the last two clues to the missing Chiavi, I folded the paper and slipped it into my pocket.
Gian's journal was just a log of slips into the Somnium, which were pockets of wastelands created when the wizards shielded the Mystik realm from the human world. They were like glitches in a computer program, the trapdoors blinking in and out of the libraries.
His notes went into detail about the areas surrounding the traps. But nothing really stood out ... except for one. I turned the page. In black marker, he'd written "can figs" at the top.
"Why would he want a can of figs, Momo?" Her pink nose sniffed the air. "Did he start a grocery list? Do figs even come in a can? No, it has to be another clue. An acronym, maybe?"
Deidre's squeal rolled up the hill to me. My Changeling had morphed into her own person. From bleached hair to the clothes she wore, she was nothing like me. And who could blame her? The Fey had grown her in the Garden of Life to be me. To take over my life after I was born, when my parent faery would have come to switch us and take me away so I could become a Sentinel. That is, if I hadn't disappeared with my mom.
Royston chased Deidre around with a bucket, water sloshing over the rim. I used to have fun like her, but the survival of both worlds wasn't on her shoulders. And I guess it was on Royston's, too. He was the chosen one. The one who could bring down the Tetrad.
Though Royston looked nineteen or twenty, he'd been alive for hundreds of years. Stuck in the Somnium, where time was frozen, he had remained the age he was when he'd fallen into the trap. With his long, light brown hair and thick shoulders, he was like a feral god.
Cadby's bat-like wings twitched on his back as his eyes followed Royston and Deirdre. He'd been Royston's guard since he was a boy. Mailes never expressed any emotions — it wasn't in their DNA. Cadby had said his people were fiercely loyal. The way he watched over Royston proved that statement.
Cadby ran a hand across his bald head, his pale skin nearly matching the yellow paint on the house. The straight line of his mouth and those alert eyes, the color and shape of black pebbles, definitely masked his emotions. If there were any to mask.
Sinead and Carrig prepared breakfast in the kitchen, the sheer curtains fluttering with the breeze entering through the open window. Carrig lifted a spoon to Sinead's lips for her to taste something he'd cooked. My biological father and his wife were cute together. I'd be lucky to have such a loving relationship as theirs one day.
The other Sentinels on my team kept busy. Demos and Lei sharpened their swords. Though we hadn't used them in months, Carrig insisted we clean and hone them weekly. He said it was a Sentinel's duty to have presentable weapons at all times. Jaran carried a basket of vegetables from the garden to the house and glanced in my direction before entering. He was checking on me again, worried I'd have a breakdown. What he didn't know was that I was too numb to have one.
Unlike Jaran, Arik — our leader and my ex — avoided eye contact with me as he fed a bottle to an orphaned baby goat. Since our breakup and his claim that he still loved me, we'd barely spoken about where we stood with each other, or about my feelings for Bastien. I supposed there wasn't anything else to say. Relationships were the last thing I needed to worry about with Nick gone and the recent deaths crushing my heart.
Cadby climbed the hill, heading in my direction. I returned my attention to the journal, hoping he'd get the hint and leave me alone.
"Breakfast is almost ready," he said, stopping in front of me.
"Hopefully it isn't figs."
"I'm not certain what the meal is. I don't believe it's figs. I enjoyed figs. They were a treat when I was a boy."
I pointed at the page. "This acronym spells out CAN FIGS."
"What are you reading?"
"Gian's journal," I said, not bothering to look up. "It has a list of libraries and the trapdoors he found in them. Then this random notation."
"The initials stand for something?"
"I think it's an acronym." I frowned.
A look of concern crossed his face. "What's the matter?"
"I thought he might have some clues in here. Something that said what I needed to do. I have no idea what it means to be Royston's protector or guardian or whatever I am."
His wings hugged his back as he rubbed his bald head. "You are a warrior. Follow your instincts. In time, you will know what to do."
"I'm glad you have faith in me." The sarcastic tone of my voice suggested I didn't. I needed to get out of my own brain, stop the insistent fear from freaking me out. I placed the prayer card into the journal and closed it.
"May I see that?"
I gave him a quizzical look before removing the card.
"You mean this?"
"Yes," he said.
"It's just a prayer card." I offered it to him. "There's some writing on it. I can't figure out what it means." Cadby flipped it over as he studied it. "The church on this directs to the clue you seek?"
"I think so."
"In older times," he said, "people would hide love letters and notes of treason in or around prayer candles. They'd write the whereabouts of such secrets on handkerchiefs and other items to pass the clue to the intended receiver. This" — he pointed out the handwriting on the backside of the card, and I followed along as he read it — "prayer candle, seventh row, three in. It's directions to the candle in this chapel." He handed it back to me.
"That's clever," I said, taking the card.
If it's still there.
My eyes went to his. "Listen, don't tell anyone about this, okay? I'm not sure who's trustworthy anymore, and I have to keep Royston safe. With my luck, you're probably on the wrong side."
"I assure you, I am on your side, Gianna. We must think of Royston's safety before all else." Cadby glanced over his shoulder at the others down the hill. "But your safety matters, as well. Without you, he hasn't a chance against the Tetrad. You have inherited a great responsibility. It's best you stop acting on your emotions and use your head. Let others help you."
Even though he was right, I started to protest. "I don't act —"
His hand went up to stop me. "I don't mean that as an insult. We all let our emotions direct us. Remove the heart so the head can think." He turned and plodded back down the hill, not waiting for a response from me. His injured wing lay flat against his back while his good one twitched and moved as he walked. He'd broken it while saving me right before I'd crashed Nick's motorcycle. The wing had almost healed, and he was able to do short-distance flights now.
The Tetrad. Hearing him say the name scraped at my thoughts. A high wizard back in medieval times had created the beasts by sewing animal parts to four slain warriors and connecting them with one soul. The beings were frightening and haunted my dreams. One creature resembled a lion with a cleft lip and claw-like hands. Another had a boar's head with sharp tusks sticking out of its jaw. The third had two large ram horns coming out of its forehead, which pulled and distorted its face. And the final one was part lizard, with razor-sharp teeth and scales. Each could command one of the elements, but they could never separate from one another or they'd die. The creatures were a myth to me, yet I was key to their destruction.
All I had to do was find the seven Chiavi, which, when combined, would unlock the beast from its prison, buried in some elusive mountain somewhere in a world full of mystical creatures. Simple. I rolled my eyes before returning my attention to Gian's journal.
It must be a puzzle.
There were seven letters in the clue. There were seven Chiavi.
I sat up straighter.
Which meant there were seven libraries.
We had retrieved five of the keys. I wrote down the names of the libraries where we'd found them, but none of the initials matched the letters in the acronym.
It's not the names of the libraries. What am I missing? I stared at the page. Maybe it's the location of the libraries. I printed them next to the libraries. No matches.
I scribbled on the page — Austria, France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland.
That has to be it. I just need two more letters. One starts with a "C" and the other an "N."
I removed the list of libraries with artwork that could be a Chiave. Nick and I had assembled it with Uncle Philip's help. I compared the clues for the final two Chiavi with our notes and circled the Czech Republic. Uncle Philip had suggested a painting in that library for In front of the world; he wears his honor on his chest. It was a portrait of some royal guy from the eighteenth century. He wore a uniform with a badge on his chest. It was the only library that could represent the C in the acronym.
We'd already figured out the final clue — Beneath destruction and rapine, he scribes the word, while time falls — or actually, Nick had. The thought of him made my heart tighten again.
Conemar won't hurt him. Nick's his son. I tried to reassure myself.
Nick believed the final clue described a mural named The Medieval Scribe in the McGraw Rotunda of the New York Public Library's main branch. He'd gone there with his family a few years back. The image stayed with him only because he'd pretended to like it for nearly twenty minutes to impress some girl.
A smile tightened my lips as I imagined how silly he probably acted around the girl. Nick was a goofball at times. It was what I liked most about him.
But the other letters represented countries. I scanned the list of possible libraries.
A light went on in my head, illuminating the answer. He couldn't put America down. There were too many states. He'd narrow it down to one of them. That's what I'd do. I couldn't explain it, but I knew that's what he'd do, too.
So "C" for Czech Republic and "N" for New York. I had solved can figs. And I had the locations of the final Chiavi.
Arik passed Cadby on his way up to me.
I slipped the list back into my pocket and put my notebook on top of Gian's journal, opened it to a page, and pretended to read. When he stopped in front of me, I kept my head down, acting too engrossed in what I was reading to notice him.
But I had noticed him. I noticed everything about Arik. The way he fought in practice with hardly any effort. The way he cared for the animals on the farm. And the way he would look at me with his hopeful, dark eyes. There always seemed to be an unanswered question between us. One I didn't want to answer and he didn't want to ask.
"What are you doing up here by yourself?" he asked, his English accent lacing his words, and he flashed that smile he used only around me. It was sort of forced and held a hint of uncertainty.
Excerpted from "Assassin of Truths"
Copyright © 2018 Brenda Drake.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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