Finding out that she is the True Dream Walker hasn't gone at all the way Joshlyn Weaver would have expected it to. The only special gift she seems to have is an ability to create archways, which really isn't that special. In addition to her inability to connect with the Dream, she has also started having nightmares that are so terrible she can't tell anyone about them. Not even Will.
Just when Josh thought her life couldn't get any more complicated, the lost dream walker princess returns to claim her parents' right to the throne, right as the Lodestone party threatens to take control of the government during the upcoming Accordance Conclave.
With the clock running down, Josh must rely on not only her friends, but also her enemies, to stop the radicals from taking power and controlling the Dream. But how can she expect to save everyone else when she's struggling to pick up the pieces of her own shattered life?
Dreamfever will have you on the edge of your seat as Kit Alloway takes you even deeper into the world of the dream walkers, and will leave you begging for more!
About the Author
KIT ALLOWAY writes primarily for young adults, having always had an affection for teenagers. In addition to writing, she plays various musical instruments, decorates cakes, mixes essential oils, and studies East European languages. She lives in Louisville, KY with her family and four very tiny dogs. Dreamfever is the second novel in The Dream Walker Trilogy.
Read an Excerpt
By Kit Alloway
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2016 Kit Alloway
All rights reserved.
Josh Weaver shaded her eyes as she mounted a low dune, her heels digging deep into the hot sand with each step. Above her, an oversize sun the color of goldenrods roasted the landscape, and around her the desert stretched endlessly in all directions, like a dusty orange carpet that just kept unrolling.
"I'm getting sand in my shoes," Will Kansas, walking beside her, complained.
Josh glanced at his torn-up sneakers, one with a ripped heel and the other burdened with black tar, and smiled. Will could destroy a pair of shoes faster than anyone she knew.
Along with the shoes, he wore jeans — also in bad shape — and a navy-blue T-shirt with a Serena's Pizzeria logo on it. Unruly clumps of auburn hair stuck to his damp forehead, his blue eyes were screwed up against the light, and a pink streak was swelling across his cheek where he'd been hit by a shutter in an earlier nightmare, but he looked good to Josh. He always looked good to Josh.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him glance at his watch.
"You too tired for this?" she asked. Since they'd gotten the crap kicked out of them by a zombie and a deranged scientist four months earlier, they both wore out faster.
Will shrugged. "Nah, I'm okay."
"I could help with this one," she offered.
"No," he said firmly. "Stay here. Practice your merging."
Josh heard the anxiety in his voice but didn't know how to soothe him. His skin graft had healed, his stitches had come out, and he had the feeling back in his fingers, but emotionally he was far from recovered.
She put a hand on his arm. "If you need me, just give a shout."
"Don't worry," he said, checking his shoulder holster. "I won't."
The structure atop the dune didn't look quite like anything else Josh had ever seen. Long adobe walls stretched toward the open sky, reminding her of the Southwest, but the lack of roof meant the building offered little protection from the sun.
Closing her eyes, she carefully broke Stellanor's First Rule of dream walking: Never let the dreamer's fear become your own. She'd been breaking it for so many years that she didn't even pause to consider the wisdom of her action.
She allowed the dreamer's fear to touch her, just one fingertip, then two, and the taste of panic she felt wasn't the connection with the Dream that she wanted, but it told her what she needed to know.
"It's not a building," she said, her eyes flying open. "It's a labyrinth."
She and Will reached an opening into the structure and stopped walking.
"I was pretty sure this is a monster dream," Will told her. He had been the one who had chosen the nightmare back in the archroom. "And you know what monster lives in a labyrinth, right?"
"The Minotaur. Half bull, half man."
Will's blue eyes widened in surprise. "Yeah."
Josh frequently napped during world lit, which Will knew. Six months ago she might not have known the word "labyrinth," let alone been able to identify the Minotaur. But that had been before a madman with an extensive classical education had downloaded his memories into her brain. Now she not only knew the Minotaur, she could quote lines about him from both Ovid and Dante.
But Will didn't know that, and Josh had been biting her tongue pretty hard the last four months to make sure he didn't find out.
From inside the labyrinth came a deafening bellow. The ground shook so hard, Josh had to grab Will's shoulder to keep from falling over. She wasn't certain, but she thought she heard a word in the cry.
"Did it say 'spheres'?" she asked Will in a whisper.
"I thought it said 'deers.' Are you sure you want to try this now?"
Josh nodded. "Just keep it distracted."
Will unbuckled his shoulder holster and removed a .22 semiautomatic. "I should have brought a bigger gun."
Today was the first time Josh had let him bring any sort of gun into the Dream. He was not actually much good with them, despite having practiced more than most Olympic shooters. She tried to figure out a polite way of taking the .22 away from him and couldn't come up with one.
"Love you," was all she said.
He grinned, kissed her quickly, and headed into the labyrinth. "Love you back!" he called over his shoulder.
Josh sank to the ground until she could sit against the labyrinth wall. The heat captured in the adobe felt good against her back and shoulder blades, and she took a few long, deep breaths to settle her heart rate.
She was already losing interest in the nightmare — what she wanted was to merge with the Dream itself. She felt hungry for its ease and expansive freedom. She had felt it once, felt her mind blown open to contain all the World's dreams and nightmares at once, and she had been trying to recapture that sense of unity and connection ever since.
So far, she had been unsuccessful.
Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale.
She closed her eyes and focused on the air moving in and out of her lungs.
Inhale, exhale. Inhale ...
She stopped thinking, as much as she could. Instead she felt her body's weight on the sand, the relentless heat of the sun tightening her skin, and the dull ache in her right elbow that never fully went away. She focused completely on her physical self.
An image flashed in her mind. With a phantom's eyes, she saw the labyrinth as if from above. The walls were moving on tracks hidden beneath the sand, sliding from side to side, blocking off and opening up routes at random. Staying lost forever in such a maze would be easy.
Then the flash was over, and she was back in her body.
The night she and Will and Haley had almost died, she had felt the entirety of the Dream inside her, the whole universe filling her skin. This comparatively meager merger felt like being teased, but it was as close as Josh had been able to come.
More deep breaths, more focus ...
The next flash showed her Will, jumping out of the way just in time to avoid being crushed between the ends of two walls, and the dreamer, a little old Middle Eastern man in jean cutoffs and a red tank top that hardly covered his pot belly.
Finally she saw the Minotaur, and she understood for the first time why the Greeks had considered it a terrible monster. It stood taller and overall larger than she had ever expected, so large that its bull's head looked proportional, and its swarthy body rippled with muscle. It didn't even have a neck — its jaw just expanded into its shoulders, and its whole upper body twisted when it turned to look at something. Its horns were chiseled to needle points, each pointing forward and slightly out to the side.
But none of that made the Minotaur anything more than intimidating. What scared Josh was what the monster had done to itself: it was trying to become human, one body part at a time. Swaths of human skin in varying shades of pink and brown had been sewn over its fur. Its cow's eyes had been torn out and replaced with human eyes, one blue and one green, and they were too small to fully fill the Minotaur's cavernous eye sockets. Strangest of all, it had pulled out all its teeth and was wearing a pair of human dentures that filled only the front third of its bull's snout.
It released a roar, half bull's bellow and half human shout, and the word it shouted was neither "spheres" nor "deers" but "EARS!"
Gross, Josh thought.
Just before the flash ended, she caught a glimpse of someone else: a young woman, her face hidden by a curtain of dark red hair, collapsed at the end of one corridor. She appeared to be fast asleep.
Who is that? Josh wondered, the surprise jerking her back into her body. And how can she be sleeping?
From somewhere nearby came the sound of adobe being crushed. It sounded like the Minotaur had gotten tired of searching the maze and started tearing walls down instead.
Josh tried to settle back into her breathing, but she was distracted by the flash of the young woman sleeping in the sand. She didn't seem to fit in this nightmare, which meant she was probably a second dreamer.
More than one dreamer could participate in the same nightmare; sometimes people really did meet in their dreams. But multidreamer nightmares were usually more chaotic than this one thanks to the manifestations of multiple subconsciousnesses appearing simultaneously.
But a dreamer was what the redhead had to be, and since Will hadn't found her, that made her Josh's responsibility.
For the hundredth time since she'd woken up from her coma in February, she felt overcome by frustration. The power of the True Dream Walker that she had used to save Will, Haley, and herself had abandoned her. She had retained only one ability, and it was a small one.
It wouldn't help her now. She was going to have to do this the hard way.
As she jumped to her feet, gunshots echoed through the labyrinth. Josh counted three, and then she heard the Minotaur's inhuman roar: "SKIN!"
Sounds like a hit, she thought.
As Josh ran into the labyrinth, Will fired again, and the bullet must have hit home, because the Minotaur released a bellow more terrible than any he'd emitted before.
She ran toward the Minotaur, whose location was easy to identify because it stood taller than any of the walls around it.
Sooner than she'd expected, she saw the redhead collapsed at the far end of a corridor. She loped down the corridor while calling, "Come on! Let's get you out of here!"
The redhead didn't stir until Josh shook her. Then she opened bleary gray eyes, examined Josh briefly, and went back to sleep.
"You've got to come with me," Josh said.
"Go away please," the girl said.
For an instant, Josh considered opening an archway and waking the girl up. But two-dreamer nightmares didn't always play by the rules; if Josh woke the girl up, the nightmare might end, causing the Dream to shift and tossing Josh and Will into different nightmares. He'd never been in-Dream alone before.
"You can either run or I can drag you," Josh told the redhead, and when she got no immediate response, she grabbed the young woman's ankles.
"No, no!" the redhead protested. "I can walk. Just help me up."
Moments later, Josh began questioning whether or not she should have carried the redhead after all. The young woman could hardly stumble along at a fast walk, never mind run.
They made it to a clearing where the rubble of shattered walls covered the desert floor. "Stay here," Josh told the redhead, and helped her sit down behind a partially demolished wall. Two more shots went off.
From deeper within the labyrinth, the Minotaur bellowed, "UUUMMMS!"
Gums? Josh wondered, beginning to run again.
She headed for the bellow, into the passage of fallen walls it had created. She hadn't gone far when she caught sight of the Minotaur. It crashed through walls, head-butting one and punching through another, and the skin on its hands had been peeled back to reveal raw bone and muscle. Its thumbs were missing.
Oh, Josh thought, pulling the .32 from the holster at the small of her back. Not "Gums!" It meant "Thumbs!"
How Will had managed to shoot off both its thumbs was a mystery to her.
"Will!" she shouted, taking aim, and then she shot the Minotuar twice in the back of the head.
One bullet stuck in his flesh, but the other actually bounced off his scalp and fell onto the sand. Even before the creature turned and fixed a look of gross hatred on her, Josh was pretty sure that neither shot had penetrated the creature's skull.
"Josh?" Will called out incredulously. He peeked around a corner and — seeing that the Minotaur's back was turned — ducked into the corridor. His expression startled Josh: he looked almost as mad as the Minotaur. "What are you doing?"
"Come this way!" Josh called. "I'll cover you!"
He protested, and she fired three shots, this time into the beast's chest. Its breastbone was covered in a patchwork quilt of pieces of skin, each a different hue, but they all bled the same dark blood where the bullets pierced them.
"Go back!" Will called. Behind him, the little Middle Eastern dreamer peeked out at the Minotaur, which had dipped a finger in one of its wounds and was now sniffing its own blood.
"No, come this way. There's another dreamer."
"CHESSST!" it roared, throwing its head back.
Josh fired again. Will's expression grew even darker, but he grabbed the dreamer's hand and dragged him down the corridor toward Josh.
Clearly, the bullets were doing little to slow the Minotaur down. I should have brought an ax, Josh thought. Axes are always more useful than guns.
Suddenly she flashed back on the nightmare she'd had the night before. Feodor, and the war, and the strange devices. What would she have given at this moment to have the circlet and vambrace, to be able to reach out and change the Dream, to have whatever she needed to protect Will?
She would have given almost anything.
But she didn't have the circlet and vambrace, or even an ax, so she tried something new. Instead of aiming for vital organs, Josh shot at the Minotaur's knees. One shot went between its legs, but the other two hit their mark and blew the creature's kneecaps off like corks exploding from wine bottles full of blood and bone fragments.
Unfortunately, the shot that had gone wild had hit the dreamer's foot as he and Will tried to scramble past the Minotaur. "I'm hit! I'm hit!" the little old man cried out. Then, rather comically, he added, "Good-bye, cruel world!"
Josh and Will both rolled their eyes. Will dragged the dreamer toward Josh, who shot the Minotaur a few more times to distract it as they passed by. Then she slung one of the dreamer's arms around her neck, and she and Will carried him at a run back to the clearing.
Behind the partially demolished wall, she found the redhead asleep on the sand. Stunned, Josh stood with her mouth hanging open for a moment. Dreamers could dream that they were sleeping, but when they did, they inevitably began dreaming that they were having another dream.
"Wake up," Josh said, kneeling down. She shook the girl's shoulder through her windbreaker. "Come on, you have to wake up."
"Just leave me," the redhead murmured without opening her eyes.
"Nope, you're coming with me."
As Josh helped/forced her to her feet, the Minotaur emerged from the labyrinth. It appeared to have torn its lower legs off completely and was now walking on the ends of its thighbones. The method proved surprisingly speedy.
Josh didn't have time to open an archway to the World in the traditional fashion, by reflecting light into a doorway, so she closed her eyes and imagined an archway right in front of them, standing in the open air with no need for a doorframe to hold it up. With that image in mind, she opened her eyes and thrust her left arm out. A burst of dense air flew from her palm, shot ten feet forward, and then expanded with a ripple into a freestanding archway. Its surface glittered like a gossamer fabric, but when Josh and Will shoved the redhead through, no material held her back. Josh cast one more glance at the Minotaur — now only a dozen paces away — and she grabbed the other dreamer's hand and jumped.
Creating archways was the only True Dream Walker power Josh had retained. If not for that, she would have questioned her destiny entirely.
The burst of air conditioning that greeted her in the sterile white archroom was both soothing and refreshing. She inhaled, feeling satisfied, until she saw Will glaring at her.
"What the hell were you thinking back there?" he demanded.
His anger caught her off guard. "What?" she asked, more out of surprise than defiance.
"I could have dealt with that by myself. But what did you do? You — you, who was perfectly safe — decided to jump into the middle of danger for no reason at all!"
"I had to get the girl out," Josh protested, finding her voice again.
"No, you didn't! Who cares about the girl? She was just one dreamer!" And he must have known what Josh was thinking, because he added, "She sure as hell wasn't your responsibility!"
"And I'm not your responsibility!"
Josh didn't like the tone she was using. She knew it meant she had already lost her temper and all she could hope for now was that she wouldn't kick anybody or say anything she couldn't take back.
Will must have recognized her tone, too. He got that condescending look in his eye that meant he was retreating into psychoanalyst mode. Josh hated that look.
Both her tone and his look had become all too familiar recently.
"I told you that I don't want you to be reckless anymore, remember?" he said hotly. "I told you after that Titanic nightmare that it freaks me out when you take stupid risks."
"And you get to decide which risks are stupid? I'm supposed to check in with you before I do anything? You're the apprentice, Will, remem —"
A whimper interrupted Josh's rant. She and Will looked in the direction from which the sound had come.
The redheaded girl was huddled against the far wall of the archroom, her blue-green windbreaker sparkling with fairy dust.
Excerpted from Dreamfever by Kit Alloway. Copyright © 2016 Kit Alloway. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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