Outraged by Rowan's seeming complacency with the new order and reeling from personal tragedy, Max McDaniels sets out on his own for escape, for information, and for revenge.
In his travels, he will be forced to become many things: prisoner, gladiator, assassin. But can he become the one thing mankind needs most—a hero?
The Tapestry series continues to weave threads of fantasy, mythology, science fiction, and mystery into a wholly original adventure with appeal to fans of everything from Harry Potter to Lord of the Rings to The X-Men. Genre-blending and fully illustrated, The Tapestry novels have caught the attention of middle-grade and young-adult readers alike.
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It was not the warm sun or the bleating lambs that woke Max McDaniels. Rather, it was the soft patter of little feetsly, terribly eager feetthat converged upon him as he lay amid the ripening corn. Max kept still while the first of his visitors hopped onto his chest. He did not stir at the second or third. But once the twelfth clambered up with an exasperated peep, Max cracked an eye and smiled.
Twelve goslings stood upon him. Downy heads bobbed; inscrutable eyes glistened like wet pebbles. With a sudden, triumphant honk, the boldest stepped forward and tapped its hard little beak on Max’s breastbone. The others followed suit, and soon Max writhed and chuckled beneath the Lilliputian assault.
“Ouch!” he exclaimed, shooing at them halfheartedly. “I’m awake!”
The pecking continued.
“MAX!” bellowed a shrill female voice.
Several crows took flight as a plump white goose crashed through the cornstalks and into Max’s row, looking frantically from side to side.
“There you are!” exclaimed the goose. “Sleeping away like a lazy bottom!”
“Bottoms can’t be lazy, Hannah,” murmured Max. He plucked the last of the marauding goslings off his stomach and placed it on the ground, where it promptly resumed its indiscriminate pecking.
“Like-a-lazy-bottom!” sang the goose, aspiring to an operatic tremolo.
“Bravo,” said Max, rising to his feet.
“Thank you,” replied Hannah, curtsying. She waddled forward and gave him a motherly once-over. “Max, there are a gazillion things to do, and you should know better than to sneak off for a handful of winks.”
“I’ve been working late every day for a month,” protested Max, emphasizing the point with a bleary yawn.
“Excuses, excuses,” retorted Hannah. “Stoop down a bit, dear.” Max bent over in silent resignation while the goose flicked bits of dirt and hay from his shirt and smoothed his dark hair into a respectable shape. She sighed. “You of all people should know how special tomorrow is. . . .”
“I do,” said Max. “I’ll do my part.”
“You’ll do your part now,” she said pointedly. “On the double!”
The matronly goose buffeted Max forward with her powerful wing and whistled for the goslings to fall in line. They did so dutifully, and the group now formed an orderly column as they marched through the cornfield. When they arrived at the Sanctuary’s main clearing, Hannah flapped her wings excitedly. “Nearly all back to normal and pretty as a picture,” she crowed, gesturing toward the rebuilt Warming Lodge.
The long, low building seemed almost to bask next to its small lagoon. Its timbered walls were clean and smooth. There was no trace of splintered wood or blackened stone, nothing to suggest that this very building had been recently reduced to embers.
“Hmmm,” said Max, privately thinking that Rowan Academy, while largely rebuilt, would never be “back to normal.” Only six months ago, Astaroth’s armies had rampaged across the school’s sprawling campus, burning its forests, razing its structures, and slaughtering its flocks as they marched upon Rowan’s final refuge in the cliffs. Many lives had been lost. It was Max who ultimately withstood them, fighting on alone until the only remaining option was to surrender the Book of Thoth to the Demon that coveted it. It had been a wrenching decision, but Astaroth had seemingly kept his word and fulfilled their bargain. The monstrous armies were spirited away, and Rowan had been left in peace, battered and broken, but free to rebuild at its own pace.
By any standard, that pace had been remarkable. Using magic and muscle, crops were planted, stone was quarried, forests were raised, and herds restocked. The Sanctuary’s broad plain was now thick with grain fields, lush orchards, and grazing herds that were hemmed by a broad forest that sloped up into the mountains. Max inhaled the September air and spied a family of shimmering pixies as they skimmed toward a yellowing oak.
It was not just the Demon’s peaceful withdrawal or recent glimpses of notoriously shy pixies that roused Max’s curiosity. There were other changes, too. Since Astaroth had claimed the Book, Max had felt the world thawingas though the Earth had clomped in from the cold, stamped snow from her boots, and settled by a comfortable fire.
“A new age is beginning,” he muttered.
“It sure is, honey,” remarked Hannah brightly, herding her goslings toward the Sanctuary gate. “And just like I predicted, Mother Nature was due for one.”
“Can you feel it, too?” he asked. At times he wondered if he was particularly sensitive to such things. Max McDaniels was a son of the Sidh, a hidden land where gods and monsters slumbered amid the hills. As the child of an earthly mother and an Irish deity, Max straddled a tenuous line between mortal and immortal. Within his blood coursed rare sparks of the Old Magic, primal forces that could make Max as wild and powerful as a storm. Hundreds of enemies had given way before Max during the Siege of Rowan.
“Of course I can feel it,” replied Hannah, her head bobbing in time with her step. “Things growing, the air brimming and crackling with magic. It’s like a ray of sunshine on my beak! You’d have to be a ninny not to feel it.”
“Do you believe Astaroth’s behind it all?” asked Max.
“Who knows?” The goose shrugged. “But I’d wager that once he got his hands on the Book, he’s been changing a thing or two. Can’t say it’s ruffling my feathers, either.”
“So you think things are better?” asked Max, feeling somewhat defensive. He had been expecting fire and brimstone following Astaroth’s victory, not a peaceful, bountiful summer. The quiet was unsettling.
“Around here they are,” Hannah concluded. She spread her wings and puffed out her chest to absorb the autumn sunshine. The goslings imitated their mother. “Anyway, I’ve done what I was supposed to do: find you and direct your lazy bottom back toward the Manse. So, you go mow lawns or weed gardens while this goose gets her groom on!”
“Excuse me?” asked Max.
“Deluxe feather tufting, Swedish beak massage, and a pedicure,” explained Hannah. “The dryads owe me big-time. Big-time! So be a dear and watch the goslings while you do your chores. You know they just love it when you babysit. Mind you, L’il Baby Ray’s been wheezy, so don’t let Honk play too rough. And Millie’s not allowed any sweets since she’s been a very naughty gosling, and . . .”
Max’s eyes glazed over while Hannah recited a litany of special instructions for each of her fidgeting, utterly indistinguishable children. Once Millie’s pesky skin irritation had been addressed, Hannah waddled away, greeting a nearby work crew with the amiable ease of a big-city mayor. As soon as she disappeared, Max felt a sharp peck on his shin. The goslings were jostling at his feet. Implacable stares met his own.
“Mind your beaks,” said Max, and with that he led them toward a mossy wall and the stout wooden door that separated the Sanctuary from the rest of Rowan Academy.