Lily is back in her own universe, and she's ready to relax with Rowan. True, she almost died in the Pyre that fueled their escape, and must hide her magic for the safety of the world, but compared to fighting the monstrous Woven and leading armies in the alternate Salem, life is looking good.
Unfortunately, Lillian, ruthless ruler of the 13 Cities, is not willing to let Lily go that easily. If she can't persuade Lily to return to her world, she'll have to find a way to make her come back.
Picking up right where Trial By Fire left off, Firewalker is another sexy, fast-paced, heartbreaking thrill ride from internationally bestselling author Josephine Angelini!
"A Must Read Romance. This is one of the best books I've read this year. It has everything a book should have: action, adventure, violence, a butt-kicking heroine and one hot hero." -USA Today on Trial by Fire
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Book Two of the Worldwide Trilogy
By Josephine Angelini
Feiwel and FriendsCopyright © 2015 Josephine Angelini
All rights reserved.
Lily lay floating on a raft of pain. Terror kept her clinging to it. If she slipped off the side, she knew she'd drown in the smothering darkness that swelled like an ocean under the sparking surface of life. She wanted to let go, but fear wouldn't let her. When the pain became too much to bear, she hoped that at least the fear would end so she could allow herself to slip weightlessly into the hushed waters of death.
But the fear didn't end. And Lily knew she couldn't let go. She was a witch. Witches don't die quietly in the cold, muffled silence of water. Witches die screaming in the roaring mouths of fire.
"Open your eyes," Rowan pleaded desperately. Wading her way back to the sound of his voice, Lily forced herself to do as he said. She saw his soot-smeared face, smiling down on hers. "There you are," he whispered.
She tried to smile back at him, but her skin was tight and raw and her face wouldn't move. All she could taste was blood.
"Do you recognize this place?" he asked, looking around anxiously. "I've never seen anything like it." He tilted her up in his arms so she could glance around.
It was nighttime. Lily felt pavement under her hand and realized they were lying in the middle of the road. She heard a jingling sound when she moved. The shackles and chains from the pyre were still bound to her wrists, the weight of them dragging down her arms. She focused her eyes and looked up the street. It was snowing. The streetlamps were few and far between. Woods surrounded them, but not the impossibly dense, old woods of Rowan's world. These were young woods. Her woods.
The winding road and rolling hills were familiar. Lily knew this place. They were two towns away from Salem in Wenham, Massachusetts. She hadn't realized her pyre had been that far from the walls of Salem. The battlefield in the other Salem must have been enormous, and she had filled it with blood.
"I think we're on Topsfield Road," Lily croaked. "There's a farm up ahead."
"A farm?" Rowan said, squinting his eyes as he tried to peer through the trees. There was a flash of light and Rowan's head snapped around.
"Headlights," Lily rasped, her voice failing. "We have to get out of the road."
"You're badly burned," Rowan began hesitantly.
"Have to. We'll get hit."
Rowan reluctantly started gathering her up in his arms, but Lily screamed before he could pick her up. It felt like he was tearing off her skin.
The raft of pain rose up again, lifting Lily up and out of herself. The headlights grew closer, blinding her. Tires squealed. Car doors slammed. As she drifted away from it all on her raft, she heard a familiar voice.
"Go help him, Juliet," the voice commanded. "Careful! She's burnt to a cinder."
"Mom?" Lily whispered, and then gave herself to the wet darkness.
* * *
Juliet stared at the charred girl lying in the middle of the road, momentarily unable to accept that she was looking at her little sister. The skinny girl was burned and bloody all over, but her raspy voice was unmistakable. It was Lily.
A frantic young man clutched her to his chest. Juliet had never seen anyone quite like him before. His hands and forearms were burned as well, but the rest of his leather-clad body was drenched in blood. Juliet got the sickening feeling that the blood was not his own. He was carrying two gore-tipped short swords strapped across his back and his sooty hands looked as if they knew how to use them. At his waist was what seemed to be a whole kit of silver knives arrayed from his belt and strapped down the side of his right thigh. He looked like an utter savage.
"Go, Juliet!" Samantha ordered. Her mother's voice, strangely calm and in control for the first time in ages, was what snapped Juliet out of her shock. She strode forward and knelt down next to the stranger and saw a flash of silver around her sister's wrists.
"Why is Lily wearing chains?" she asked accusingly, her voice pitched low to keep it from shaking. When she lifted her eyes to meet the stranger's, her gaze was caught by something at his throat. It was a large jewel that seemed to throb with dark light — if there was such a thing as dark light, Juliet thought. She blinked her eyes and looked away, both disturbed and drawn to the odd jewel at the same time.
"Samantha, do you know me?" the savage asked. Juliet stiffened in fear. Who was this guy?
"How do you know my mother's name?" she asked, certain that it hadn't been said in his presence.
"Yes, I know you, Rowan," Samantha answered, waving an impatient hand in Juliet's direction to keep her quiet. "What do we need to do?"
"We need to get her by a fire so I can start to heal her," Rowan said. He started to lift Lily, and she moaned in pain.
"What? We need to call 911 and get an ambulance," Juliet yelled. She reached out a hand to restrain Rowan from moving her. "You're hurting her!"
"I know that," he shouted back, his expression desperate. "But we have to move her. I can't heal her here."
"Mom!" Juliet screamed. "For all we know, he did this to her."
"No, he didn't. Listen to him, Juliet. He's the only one who can help her now," Samantha said sternly.
Juliet searched for any sign in her mother's eyes that she had lost it, but all she saw was cold, hard sanity — something Juliet hadn't seen in her mother in a long time.
Samantha knew exactly what was going on, even if Juliet didn't, and it was Samantha who had said she knew where to find Lily and she'd forced Juliet to take her to this stretch of road in the middle of the night. Juliet had no idea how her mother could know where to find Lily after three months of her being missing, but right now there were more pressing matters, like saving Lily's life. And at the moment that seemed doubtful. Juliet had candy-striped in hospitals and trained as an EMT. She was going to med school at Boston University and she'd seen enough to know when someone was dying. Although Juliet said under her breath that they should be taking Lily to an emergency room, she knew it would make no difference at this point. Her little sister was going to die whether they got her to an ICU or not.
Rowan kept Lily on his lap in the backseat of the car while Juliet drove as quickly as she dared through the falling snow. She gripped the wheel as if she were trying to wring it dry in order to keep her hands from shaking. Her sister, missing and thought to be dead, was back. And she was dying in the backseat of Juliet's car.
Juliet's eyes kept bouncing up to the rearview mirror as she drove. She watched this Rowan character cradling Lily in his lap, trying to soothe her. He spoke to her gently to keep her conscious, saying anything that popped into his head — outrageous things, like how Lily wouldn't dare leave him alone. How he needed her. How lost he would be without her. But Juliet's suspicion was not as easily quenched as her mother's. Lily had been kidnapped three months ago, and Rowan must have had some part in it, no matter how tenderly he seemed to hold her and speak to her.
Lily was delirious by the time they got her home, humming and whispering to herself in a singsong way as if she were soothing a child. Rowan carried her inside and laid her in front of the fireplace.
"Fill a cauldron with water and bring it to me," he ordered as he unstrapped his weapons and started laying his knives out on the floor around Lily. Juliet stared at him, rooted to the spot. "Move, Juliet," he barked.
Spurred into action, Juliet began opening up cabinets even though she was quite sure they were fresh out of cauldrons. She ended up grabbing her mom's biggest copper-bottomed stockpot and filling it while Rowan listed more things he needed to Samantha. It was mostly herbs. Juliet hauled the pot of water into the living room where Rowan had a small fire going in the fireplace. He glanced at the pot dubiously.
"It's all we have," Juliet said with a defensive shrug.
"Then it'll have to do. Put it on the fire and open all the windows," he directed, scowling, as he stripped off his blood-soaked shirt.
"This is insane," Juliet said, but did as he instructed. As she pushed open the last window, Juliet saw an eerie pulse of light swell inside the room like an expanding bubble and turned to face the source of the light. Her skin tingled as it passed over her, membrane-like, and all sound in the room was muffled as if someone had stuffed cotton in her ears. At the center of the bubble was Rowan's odd amulet. Juliet looked down and saw three jewels like Rowan's winking at her sister's throat.
"She's so weak," Rowan whispered. He knelt down beside Lily and began cutting away what was left of her clothes. "Samantha, burn the sage and walk around the room counterclockwise," he said. "Juliet, start rubbing this salve on some of the lesser blisters. See if it helps."
Rowan took a tiny glass jar of greenish salve out of a pouch on his belt and put it into Juliet's hands. She started dabbing the stuff hopelessly on her sister's skin.
"This isn't going to —" she began, and stopped. She sat back on her heels. "Impossible," she breathed. Where Juliet had put the salve, Lily's blisters had shrunk away to nothing. Before her eyes, the broken skin was healed. Juliet looked up at Rowan, her mouth hanging open.
"It won't do anything for the really bad burns, but it will soothe some of the pain," he explained.
"How did you —?"
"Magic," Rowan answered automatically. "We need to make a tent. Lily's lungs are scalded raw and they're filling with blood. She'll drown if we don't stop it. Do you have large sheets and a way to prop them over her?"
"Yes," Juliet replied, and stumbled out of the room to the linen closet, dumbfounded by what she had just seen. No medicine worked that fast. Burned skin did not heal in a few seconds — if it ever really healed at all.
Juliet returned with the sheets and saw Rowan leaning over Lily. Tendrils of reddish-purple light emanated from the dark jewel at his throat and danced across Lily's face. One of the tendrils snaked down Lily's throat, and she gasped and sputtered. Rowan turned her head to the side and blood oozed out of Lily's mouth. Juliet took a step forward to stop him. When he looked up at her his face was pale and strained with effort and his eyes were so frantic that Juliet checked herself.
"Hold that sheet over us. Keep the steam in," he said weakly.
Juliet's arms shook with fear, and the hair on her arms stood up at an uncanny frisson when she came near Rowan's strange bubble of dark light. She threw the sheet over the three of them, including an edge of the now-steaming pot as she wrestled with herself. Juliet was a rational, sensible woman. She knew there was no such thing as magic — except she also knew, on some deep level, that what she was witnessing had no other explanation.
"Magic," Juliet muttered, half out of her wits with anxiety and disbelief.
"Yes," Rowan replied. "I've got to ease the blood out of her lungs before I mend the damaged tissue, but if I do it too quickly I could choke her." He suddenly leaned forward, tilting his ear close to Lily's mouth. "What? What are you saying?" Rowan whispered to Lily.
"Water, water everywhere ...," she replied, and then her eyes relaxed, half open and half closed, and her body went slack.
"Lily? Lily!" Juliet gasped, her voice quickly rising in panic.
"She's not dead," Rowan said. "She's spirit walking. We can't reach her now."
Juliet saw Lily's lips moving slightly. "Who is she talking to?"
"I don't know," Rowan replied. "Whoever it is, I hope they give her some comfort." He sat up and took a shuddering breath, his fierce gaze meeting Juliet's. "Now we really get to work. I know you don't have a weak stomach, so I'm going to count on you, Juliet. This won't be easy or pretty."
"Don't worry about me," Juliet replied. He looked at her like he knew her. It puzzled Juliet because something in her whispered that she did know this young man, even though she'd never laid eyes on him before. "Just tell me what to do."
* * *
Lily saw her sister and her mother. She saw Rowan. She saw her home. All of the things she loved were inches away from her, but they drifted by like hawks soaring on an updraft. They kept falling away from her until all she saw was mist.
She was floating on a misty ocean. Across from her was herself. Lily and Lillian sat across from each other in identical poses — their legs drawn up close, chins resting on their knees, arms wrapped around their shins. Lily spoke first, and Lillian answered. Mindspeak was all they needed here on the raft.
"Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink."
That's quite fitting, Lily. I'm so thirsty.
Are you burned, too, Lillian?
Of course. You and I are in the same boat — or raft, as you imagine it. The pyre gives more than it takes, but it always seems to take more than you can bear.
Where are we?
I call it the Mist. It's neither here nor there, neither living nor dead. Can you remember the rest of that poem, Lily?
No. I read it before I had a willstone. My memory wasn't perfect then like it is now — unfortunately, because I wish I could forget this. I know I won't, though. I remember every second of my life now that I have a willstone.
I've had a willstone since I was six and haven't forgotten anything since. There are things I would give anything to forget. But I can't.
I saw Rowan reading an old math textbook once. Tristan told me Rowan had to relearn nearly everything because he smashed his first willstone and those memories were no longer stored for him. I wonder how many memories Rowan entrusted to his first willstone that are lost to him now.
He's lucky, actually. I remember every second he and I spent together and it kills me.
I don't want to pity you, Lillian.
Then don't. All I'm asking is for you to let me show you some of my memories. We're both unconscious and barely alive. There's no easier time to communicate across the worlds than now. I thought you might like to know more about me. And maybe I want one person to understand me in case I die.
Okay, Lillian, but only because I need someone, too. Pain is lonely, isn't it?
It is, Lily. It really is. But fear is even lonelier.
Show me your fear then, Lillian, and let's be lonely together.
Lily was no longer on the raft. Nor was she herself. In joining Lillian's memory she became Lillian. She wasn't simply recalling what had happened to Lillian, she was reliving it. The first thing she felt was terror ...
... The air is wrong. It's choking me and burning the back of my throat. Ash is floating fat as snowflakes. Did I even worldjump?
I had Captain Leto's men build my pyre far from the walls of Salem. In the world I am trying to get to there is no need for the wall anymore, and from my spirit walks with the shaman I have seen this other Salem is substantially different from the one I live in. I've learned that when I worldjump I end up in the exact location I left — only in a different universe — and if I were to worldjump from the top of the wall or from the fireplace in my rooms at the Citadel, I might appear inside a piece of furniture or forty feet in the air. The only safe place to worldjump is from the ground, and even then it's still dangerous. You never really know what dangers await when you cross the worldfoam.
Leto had been reluctant to set my pyre so far outside of Salem. He worried about the Woven, but what I couldn't tell him is that where I was going, there would be no Woven in the woods to fear. I didn't want to promise too much in case the shaman was wrong. Leto and his soldiers are from Walltop. From their vantage, they've seen more of the evils of the Woven than have any other citizens of the Thirteen Cities and have more reason to want them eradicated. More reason to fear them.
I sit up. There's no flame under me. That means I'm not on the pyre anymore. I look around. There's nothing but charred ground and blasted trees as far as I can see into the murky distance. The air isn't just acrid. On the elemental level it roils with huge particles. Damaging ones. They tear through my cells, wreaking havoc.
I'm in the wrong world. One of the cinder worlds. I knew it would be dangerous to worldjump without a lighthouse, but I did it anyway. Rowan says I never listen to anyone, but what choice did I have?
Excerpted from Firewalker by Josephine Angelini. Copyright © 2015 Josephine Angelini. Excerpted by permission of Feiwel and Friends.
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