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Half Wild (Half Bad Trilogy Series #2)

Half Wild (Half Bad Trilogy Series #2)

by Sally Green

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The powerful and riveting second book in the Half Bad trilogy.

In a modern-day England where two warring factions of witches live amongst humans, seventeen-year-old Nathan is an abomination, the illegitimate son of the world's most powerful and violent witch. Nathan is hunted from all sides: nowhere is safe and no one can be trusted. Now, Nathan has come into his own unique magical Gift, and he's on the run--but the Hunters are close behind, and they will stop at nothing until they have captured Nathan and destroyed his father.

The Half Bad trilogy has been translated into more than 50 languages. TIME Magazine calls it "highly entertaining and dangerously addictive." Kate Atkinson says it's "brilliant and utterly compelling." London's Daily Telegraph has named author Sally Green "the new J.K. Rowling." Discover the story that readers all over the world are raving about.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780698148857
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 03/24/2015
Series: Half Bad Trilogy Series , #2
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 217,132
Lexile: HL650L (what's this?)
File size: 3 MB
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Sally Green lives in north-west England. She has had various jobs and even a profession but in 2010 she discovered a love of writing and now just can’t stop. She used to keep chickens, makes decent jam, doesn't mind ironing, loves to walk in Wales even when it's raining, and will probably never jog again. She really ought to drink less coffee. Half Bad is her first novel. 

Read an Excerpt

A New Day

a crossbill calls

another bird replies, not a crossbill

the first bird takes over again

and again

the crossbill—

shit, it’s morning

i’ve been asleep

it’s morning, very early

shit, shit, shit

need to wake up              need to wake up

can’t believe i’ve been asl—

c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h


the noise is here. HERE!

c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h

that level of noise means, oh shit, someone with a mobile is close. very close. i can’t believe i’ve been asleep with hunters on my tail. and her. the fast one. she was close last night.

c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h


c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h

it’s a mobile phone, for sure it’s a mobile phone. the noise is in my head, not in my ears, it’s to the upper right side, inside, constant, like an electrical interference, pure hiss, mobile hiss, loud, three-or-four-meters-away loud.

c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h

ok, right, lots of people have mobiles. if it’s a hunter, that hunter, and she could see me, i’d be dead by now.

i’m not dead.

she can’t see me.

c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h

the noise isn’t getting louder. she’s not moving closer. but she’s not moving away either.

am i hidden by something?

i’m lying on my side, face pressed into the ground. totally still. can’t see anything but earth. got to move a little.

but not yet. think first.

stay calm and work it out.

c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h

there’s no breeze, no sun, just a faint light. it’s early. the sun must be behind the mountain still. the ground is cool but dry, no dew. there’s the smell of earth and pine and . . . there’s another smell.

what is that smell?

and there’s a taste.

a bad taste.

it tastes like . . . oh no—

don’t think about it

don’t think about it

don’t think about it

don’t think about it

think about something else

Think about where you are.

c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h

You’re lying on the ground, in the early morning, and the air is cool. You’re cold. You’re cold because . . . you’re naked. You’re naked and the top half of you is wet. Your chest, your arms . . . your face are wet.

And you move the fingers of your left hand, the tiniest of movements, and they’re sticky. Sticking together. Like they’re coated with drying, sugary juice. But it’s not juice—don’t think about it don’t think about it don’t think about it don’t think about it



c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h


You’ve got to move. The Hunters are on your tail. That fast one was close. She was very close last night. What happened last night?

what happened?


c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h



You can look, move your head a fraction to see more. The ground by your face is covered with pine needles. Brown pine needles. But the brown isn’t from the pine. It’s the color of dried blood. Your left arm is extended. It’s streaked in it. Crusted with dried brown. But your hand isn’t streaked in it, it’s thick with it.


c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h

You can find a stream and wash. Wash it all off.

c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h

You need to go. For your own safety you have to get out of here. You need to get moving. Get away.

c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h

The mobile phone is close, not changing. It won’t be coming closer.

But you have to look. You have to check.

Turn your head to the other side.

You can do it.

It looks a bit like a log. Please be a log please be a log please be a log please

It’s not a log . . . It’s black and red. Black boots. Black trousers. One bent leg, one straight. Black jacket. Her face is turned away.

She has short light-brown hair.

It’s sopping with blood.

She’s lying as still as a log.

Still wet.

Still oozing.

Not fast anymore.

The mobile phone is hers.

c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h c h

And as you raise your head you see the wound that is her throat, and it is jagged and bloody and deep and



I’m back in Switzerland, high in a remote valley—not the one where Mercury’s cottage is but close to there, half a day’s hike away.

I’ve been here a few weeks now and I’ve gone back to Mercury’s valley a couple of times. The first time I retraced my steps, looking for the stream where I lost the Fairborn, the magic knife I stole from the Hunters. That Rose stole. I found the stream easily enough, and it wasn’t too hard to spot blood and some yellow stains on the ground. No Fairborn, though. I trailed up and down the stream, and all around that stained central spot: peering into bushes, looking under stones. It was getting ridiculous—I mean, looking under stones! I had to stop myself after two days’ searching. I’d started questioning if I’d ever really had the Fairborn at all; if an animal could have run off with it; if it had magically disappeared. It was getting to me. I’ve not been back to look for it since.

I’m waiting here now, in this other valley, at the cave. That was what we agreed, me and Gabriel, so that’s what I’m doing: waiting for Gabriel. He brought me here one day and hid his tin of letters in the cave—they’re the love letters between his parents, his one possession. The tin is in my rucksack now. And I’m here. And I tell myself that at least we have a plan. Which is a good thing.

It’s not much of a plan, though: “If things go wrong wait at the cave.”

And things have gone wrong—big-time.

I didn’t think we’d ever need the plan. I never thought things would go this wrong without me actually being dead. But I’m alive. I’m seventeen, a fully fledged, received-three-gifts witch. But I’m not sure who else is alive. Rose . . . Rose is dead . . . I’m certain of that; shot by Hunters. Annalise is in a death-like sleep, a prisoner of Mercury, and I know that she shouldn’t be left in that state for long or the death-like will become just plain death. And Gabriel is missing, still, weeks after we stole the Fairborn—four weeks and four days. If he was alive he’d be here and if the Hunters have caught Gabriel they’ll torture him and—

But that’s one of the things I don’t allow myself to think about. That’s one of my rules while I wait: don’t think about negative stuff; stick to the positive. The trouble is all there is for me to do is sit here, wait, and think. So every day I make myself go through all my positive thoughts and I tell myself each time that when I’ve been through them Gabriel will return. And I have to tell myself that’s still possible. He could still make it. I just have to keep positive.

OK, so positive thoughts, one more time . . .

First off, noticing stuff around me. There’s positive stuff everywhere and I notice the same positive stuff every positive bloody day.

The trees. Trees are positive things. Most are tall and fairly straight and thick, but a few are fallen and moss-covered. Most trees here have needles, not leaves, and the greens range from almost black to lime, depending on sunlight and age of needle. I know the trees here so well that I can close my eyes and see each one but I try not to close my eyes too much—it’s easier to stay positive with your eyes open.

From trees, I move to the sky, which is positive too, usually bright blue during the day and light black at night. I like the sky that color. Sometimes there are clouds and from what I can see of them they are big and white, not often gray, not bringing rain. They mainly move to the east. There’s no wind here: it never gets down to the forest floor.

What’s next? Oh yes, birds. Birds are positive and greedy and noisy—always chattering or eating. Some eat seeds and some eat insects. There are crows flying high above the forest but they don’t come in, not down to my level anyway. They’re black. Sharp black. Like they’ve been cut out with scissors from a piece of black paper. I look out for an eagle but I’ve never seen one here, and I wonder about my father and if he really did disguise himself as one and follow me and that seems so long ago—


Thinking about my father does not belong here. I have to be careful when I’m thinking about him. I have to be strict with myself. It’s too easy to go negative otherwise.

So . . . back to the things around me. Where am I up to? I’ve done trees, sky, clouds, birds. Oh yes, we have silences . . . plenty of them. Huge silences. The silences at night could fill the Pacific Ocean. Silences, I love. There’s no buzzing here, no electrical interference. Nothing. My head is clear. I think I should be able to hear the river at the bottom of the valley but I can’t; the trees blot out the sound.

So that’s silences covered and then there are movements. Things that have moved so far: small deer, I’ve seen a few of them; they’re quiet and brown and sort of delicate and a bit nervous. Rabbits too, which are gray-brown, silent. And there are voles, gray-brown, and marmots, which are gray and quiet. Then there are spiders, black and silent; flies, black, silent until they’re close, then incredibly, hilariously noisy; one lost butterfly, cornflower blue, silent; falling pinecones, brown, not silent but making a gentle word as they land on the forest floor—“thu”; falling pine needles, brown, as noisy as snow.

So that’s positive: butterflies and trees and stuff.

I notice me too. I’m in my old boots. Heavy soles, flexible cos they’re so worn. The brown leather is scuffed and water gets in the right one through the ripped seam. My jeans are baggy, comfy, worn to threads, ripped at the left knee, frayed at the hems, blue once, gray now, stained by soil, some green streaks from climbing trees. Belt: thick black leather, brass buckle. It’s a good belt. T-shirt: white once, gray now, a hole at the right side, little holes on the sleeve like some fleas have nibbled at it. I don’t have fleas, I don’t think. I’m not itchy. I’m a bit dirty. But I wash some days, always if I wake up with blood on me. My clothes don’t have blood on them, which is something. I always wake up naked if I’ve—

Get back to thinking about clothes!

Where was I up to? T-shirt. And over my T-shirt is my shirt, which is warm and thick, wool—the plaid pattern still visible in green, black, and brown. There are three black buttons left on it. Hole on right side. Rip in left sleeve. I don’t have pants or socks. I had socks once; don’t know what happened to them. And I had gloves. My scarf is in my rucksack, I think. I haven’t looked in there for ages. I should do that. That’s something to do. I think my gloves are in there, maybe.

So now what?

More about me.

My hands are a mess. A real mess. They’re tanned, lined, rough; the scars on my right wrist are hideous, like melted skin; my nails are black and bitten to nothing, and there are the tattoos as well. Three tattoos on my right little finger and the large tattoo on the back of my left hand. B 0.5. A Half Code tattoo. Just so everyone knows what I am: half Black Witch. And in case they miss these tattoos there’s the one on my ankle and the one on my neck (my personal favorite).

But these are more than tattoos, more than brands: they’re some form of magic too. If the Hunters get me, if Mr. Wallend gets me, they’ll cut off my finger and put it in a witch’s bottle and then I’ll be in their power. They could use it to torture me or to kill me at any time by burning the bottle. That’s what I think they’d do. The tattoos are their way of having control over me. They’d use it to try to force me to kill my father.

Except I won’t ever kill my father. I couldn’t, even if I wanted to, because my father is still the most powerful Black Witch I’ve ever heard of and I’m nothing compared to him. I mean, I can fight OK and I can run OK but that’s not ever going to be enough against Marcus.

Shit! I’m thinking about him again.

I should go back to thinking about my body.

Sometimes my body does strange things. It changes. I need to think about that more. I need to try to work out how it changes, why it changes, and what the fuck it changes into.

I don’t ever remember it but I know it happens because I wake up naked and a little less hungry. Though sometimes I’m sick, vomiting up the night’s meal, then retching again and again. I don’t know if it’s cos my body can’t take what I’ve eaten. I eat small animals mainly, though I don’t remember catching them. But I know it’s happening cos there’re little bones in my vomit and rags of furry skin and blood. There was a tail once. A rat’s tail, I think. I know I change into some kind of animal. It’s the only explanation. I have the same Gift as my father. But I don’t remember any of it: not transforming, not being an animal, not transforming back. Nothing until I wake up after it all. I always sleep so I guess I must be exhausted by it.

I got a small deer last night. Woke up next to its half-eaten body. Haven’t puked that up. I think my stomach’s getting used to it. I’ve been hungry, dead hungry, but now I’m not. So I guess that goes to show you can get used to anything, even raw meat. Still, I could murder a proper meal. A burger, chips, stew, mash, roast beef, and Yorkshire pudding. Human stuff. A pie. Custard!


Best not to think about what I can’t have: that’s the route downhill. Must be careful with my thoughts. Mustn’t drift into the negative. And I’ve been good at staying positive today, so I can reward myself by thinking about other people, even my father, but I have to be extra careful with thoughts about him.

I met him. I met Marcus. He didn’t kill me, which I never really thought he would, but given his reputation it could have gone either way.

I went through most of my childhood believing Marcus didn’t care for me but it turns out he was thinking of me all the time, just as I was thinking of him. And he always planned to help me. He searched me out. Then he stopped time for me, which I’m guessing isn’t a simple thing to do, even for him. He performed my Giving ceremony: let me drink his blood and gave me three gifts. And the gold ring he gave me, his ring, is on my finger, and I rotate it and hold it to my lips and feel its heaviness and taste the metal. The bullet my father took out of me, the magical Hunter bullet, is in my pocket. I sometimes feel that too, though I’m not sure I even like having it as it’s a Hunter thing. And the third gift he gave me, my life, is still with me. I don’t know if that really counts as I’ve never heard of any gift not being a physical thing before but he’s Marcus and I guess he knows what he’s doing.

I’m alive because of my father. I have my Gift because of my father, and that Gift is the same as his. Most witches struggle to find their Gift, maybe taking a year or more to work out what it is, but I didn’t even have to look for mine. It found me. And I don’t know if that’s a good thing. Best to think of something else . . .

My family is a positive thing to think about. I don’t often go negative when I’m doing family. I still miss Arran but nowhere near as bad as when I was Celia’s prisoner. Those first weeks in my cage I missed my brother so much. But that was years ago . . . two years ago, I think. The Council took me just before my fifteenth birthday, just before Arran’s Giving. Yes, it’s over two years since then but I know he’s OK and Deborah too. Ellen, my Half Blood friend, contacted Arran, showed him a picture of me, and I saw a video of him, heard his message to me. But I know that they’re better off without me. I can never see them again but it’s OK because they know that I’m alive, I’ve escaped, and I’m free. Being positive is what I do and that is a positive thing because the longer I’m away from them the better it is for the people I care about.

Sometimes I sit in the cave entrance, maybe lie down and sleep there for a bit, but I’m not sleeping too well and generally I feel more comfortable waiting up here in my tree where I have a good view. The mountainside is steep here; no one’s going to come strolling by on a whim. But you never know. And Hunters are good at hunting. I try not to think about Hunters too much, although pretending they don’t exist isn’t sensible. So, anyway, I sit up in my tree and when it’s dark, like now, I allow myself to remember the old days, before I was taken by the Council, before Celia, before they kept me in my cage.

My favorite memory is of me and Arran playing in the wood near Gran’s house. I was hiding in a tree and when Arran finally spotted me he climbed up to join me, but I went further and further out on a thin limb. He begged me to stop so I moved back to sit with him, much like I am now, me leaning back on him, our legs astride the branch. And I’d give so much to sit with him like that again, to feel the warmth of his body supporting mine. To tell that he’s smiling from the movement of his chest, to feel his breath, his arm round me.

But it’s best not to think too much like that. Best not to think about what I can’t have.

I remember Gran too, with her bees, her boots and chickens, and the muddy kitchen floor. The last time I saw Gran was when they took me away. I was in the Council building and was told that Celia was going to be my “guardian and teacher.” That was the first time I saw Celia, the first time I heard her sound, her Gift that could stun me. It seems like a lifetime ago. Celia felled me with her noise and they carried me away and I had one last sight of Gran looking old and frightened, standing alone in the middle of the room where I had my Assessments. Now I look back, I think Gran knew she’d never see me again. Celia told me she died, and I know they drove Gran to kill herself like they did my mother.

I know now—

What’s that?

Footsteps! At night!

My adrenaline kicks in.

Control yourself! Listen!

Light footsteps. Light enough to be a Hunter.

I turn my head slowly. See nothing. The cloud cover is heavy and no moonlight gets through to me here in the forest.

More footsteps. More adrenaline.

Shit! That’s more than adrenaline—that’s the animal in me.

Then I see her. A small deer. Nervous.

And the animal adrenaline is ready to burst out, the animal in me wanting to take over.

Calm! Calm! Breathe slowly. Count the breaths.

One in slow and out slow.

Two in slow—and hold—and out slow.

Three in slow—and I can feel it in my blood, setting it on fire—and out slow.

Four in slow and it’s the animal in me, whatever it is that makes me change.

The deer moves away and is quickly lost in the gloom. But here I am, human, and the deer is not dead. I can control my Gift. Stop it anyway. And if I can stop it maybe I can allow it too.

I’m grinning. For the first time in weeks, I feel genuinely positive about something.

I’ve done well today, stuck to the lists, haven’t strayed too far onto the negative. I can reward myself with some good thoughts, things I reserve for special occasions. My favorite ones are of Annalise. And this is what I remember . . .

Me and Annalise

The two of us are sitting on the sandstone escarpment, our feet dangling over the edge. Annalise is fifteen; I’m still only fourteen. My leg is close to hers but not quite touching. It’s late autumn. We’ve met here once a week for the last two months. Since we’ve been meeting we’ve only touched once, the second time we were here. I held her hand and kissed it. I still can’t believe I did that. I was sort of carried away, I think. Now I think about it all the time, and I mean all the time, but I can’t seem to do it again. Annalise and I talk and climb and run around but even when we’re chasing each other I never catch her. I get close and then I can’t do it. I never let her catch me either.

She’s swinging her legs. Her gray school skirt is clean and pressed and neat. The skin on her legs is smooth and lightly tanned and the hairs on her legs above her knees are fine and blonde. And my leg is millimeters from hers but I know I can’t make it go any closer. I force myself to turn my head to look at something else.

The cliff is steep and the drop is long but doable as the landing is on sandy soil. The tops of the trees are moving and rustling, almost talking to each other, gossiping, and leaves fall in little gangs. A cluster descends toward us and even before she moves I know Annalise will try to catch one. She stretches out her hand, her arm, and then her body over the edge of the cliff. She’s going too far but she won’t get hurt if she falls, although maybe I should grab her, hold her. But I don’t move. She laughs and reaches out even further and catches the leaf, taking hold of my sleeve at the same time, and still I don’t touch her. I pull my arm back so that she’s safe but I don’t touch her.

She’s got the leaf. A small brown triangle from a birch tree. She holds it by the stem and twirls it in front of my face.

“Got it. No thanks to you! I nearly fell.”

“I knew you’d be OK.”

“Did you now?” She pats the leaf against my nose once, her fingers close to my lips. I move my head back away from her.

“It’s for you. Here, take it.”

I say, “It’s just a leaf. There are plenty of them around.”

“Hold your hand out. This is a special leaf. It’s one I caught, at great personal risk, just for you.”

I hold out my hand; I want the leaf.

She drops it into my palm.

“You never say thank you, do you?”

I don’t know. I’ve never thought about it.

“And you never touch me.”

I shrug. I can’t tell her I think about every millimeter between us. I say, “I’ll keep the leaf.” And I push off from the cliff and drop to the ground below.

I’m at the bottom and I don’t know what to do now. I was hoping she’d jump down with me. I look up at her and say, “Can we talk about something else?”

“If you come back up here and ask nicely.”

I climb back up the cliff, fast as I can, showing off, but when I get near the top I stop. She’s moved to the place where I normally climb over. She’s blocking my way. There’s a different route to the left that’s harder and I go down a couple of holds and then back up and she’s shuffled along to be sitting there now.

“Hi,” she says, leaning forward and smiling at me.

The only way I can get up is by climbing over Annalise. “Excuse me,” I say. “Can you let me pass?”

She shakes her head.

“If I say please?”

She shakes her head again and is smiling a huge smile. “For a badass Half Code, you really aren’t very badass.”

“Please, Annalise.” My hold isn’t good: my fingers are already cramping and my toehold is slipping. I won’t be able to stay here for much longer.

“I can’t understand how you were expelled from school. You seem such a timid boy.” She says that in a teacher-ish voice.

“I’m not timid.”

She leans toward me, grinning. “Prove it.”

I have to either jump down or climb over her and I have to do one or the other pretty soon as my right leg is starting to shudder with the strain. I think I can get over her if I put my hand to the right of her leg but I’ll have to somehow pull up over her lap and—

“I can’t wait to tell my brothers what a frightened little thing you are,” she teases. I look up at her face and, even though I know she’s joking, just the thought of her speaking to her brothers about anything makes me mad. I see her smile disappear in an instant. I let go of the rock, turn in the air, and drop to the ground. She calls out, “Nathan! I’m sorry! I shouldn’t have . . .” And she drops to the ground beside me, as graceful and light as ever. “I shouldn’t have said that. It was stupid.”

“If they ever find out we meet. If—”

“You know I won’t tell them anything. It was a stupid joke.”

I realize I’m overreacting and ruining the day, so I scuff around the sand with my boots and say, “I know.” And I smile at her and want to get back to having fun. “Just don’t tell anyone I’m really a wimp, will you? And I won’t tell them what a badass you are.”

“Me! Badass?” She’s grinning again and her feet scuff the ground too. Then she makes a long line in the sand and says, “On a scale from badass here”— she sticks her heel in one end—“to nice, polite, and timid over here”—she walks to the other end of the line, puts her heel down, and looks at me—“where am I?”

I mutter to myself, “Annalise, Annalise, Annalise,” and I move up and down the line. About three-quarters of the way to the timid end I stop and then shuffle a little nearer to the other end and then further and then further until I’m about a tenth of the way along the line from the badass end.

“Ha!” she says.

“You’re far too bad for me.”

She growls at me. “Well, most of my school friends would put me here.” And she jumps to a spot near the timid end.

“All your school friends are fains,” I say.

“But still capable of spotting a nice girl when they see one.”

“And where would they put me?”

I move out of the way as Annalise shuffles along the line almost to where I’d been standing, close to the complete- badass end.

“And your brothers? Where would they put me?”

She hesitates but then walks past the badass end as far as the cliff. She says, “The fain kids at school were scared of you cos you beat people up. You had a bad reputation for being wild but they saw you in class most days, sitting quietly, so they knew that if they left you alone you’d leave them alone.”

“But your brothers couldn’t quite work that out. To leave me alone, I mean.”

“No. But they were scared of you too.”

“They beat me up! Left me unconscious.”

“You beat them up first! But it’s more than that.” She hesitates and then says, “It’s who you are. Or who your father is. It all comes down to Marcus. They’re scared of him. Everyone’s scared of him.”

She’s right, of course, but it’s not as if he’s going to appear any minute and back me up in a fight.

Then she asks me, “Are you scared of him?”

I’m not sure: he’s my father. He’s dangerous and murderous but he’s still my father. And I want to meet him. I wouldn’t want that if I was scared of him. I say, “I trust you more than anyone, Annalise, but if the Council ever hears me talk about him, or my feelings about him, or anything . . . I just can’t talk about him. You know that.”

“Sorry, I shouldn’t have asked.”

“I’ll tell you who I am scared of, though: the Council. And your brothers. If . . .” But I don’t go on. We know that if they find out we’re meeting both of us are in big trouble.

Annalise says, “I know. I have the worst, most messed-up family ever.”

“I think mine is slightly more messed up than yours.”

“Not by much. At least you have Arran and Deborah. You’ve got nice people. I don’t have any nice people. I mean Connor’s OK if he isn’t with Naill or—”

You’re the nice people,” I say.

She smiles but it hits me then how sad and lonely she looks and how lucky I am to have Arran, Deborah, and Gran. And without even thinking I take her hand. I’m touching her! I’m surprised but it’s happening and I don’t want to overthink it. Our hands are similar sizes: mine’s wider; her fingers are longer and thinner. Her skin is soft and skin-colored—not dirt-colored.

“How do you keep your hands so clean?” I turn her hand over slowly and inspect it thoroughly. “I’m all covered in red dust but you and your hands haven’t even got a speck on them.”

“I’m a girl. We’re well known for being able to do amazing things, things that boys can only dream about.” Her voice is shaky; her hand is a little shaky too.

I’m scared now but I’m not going to stop. I trace my finger round the outside of her hand as she holds it in the air. Over the thumb, down between the thumb and forefinger, then up the finger and down between the next finger and up and then down and then up and down and finally along her little finger and down to her wrist.

She says, “You always surprise me with how gentle you are. You’re so far from the badass end of the line.”

I want to say something back but can’t think of anything that sounds right.

“You’ve gone quiet again,” she says.

“What’s so wrong with being quiet?”

“Nothing, I suppose. It suits you.” She moves her finger to trace round my hand like I did hers. “But sometimes it makes me wonder what you’re thinking.” She continues moving her finger round my hand. “What are you thinking?”

I’m thinking I like her doing that. It feels nice. Is that what I should say? I don’t know. I say, “I . . . you’re . . .”

She ducks her head down to look at me. “You’re trying to hide your face,” she complains. “Are you blushing?”


She puts her finger on the end of my chin and turns my head toward her.

I feel a bit hot but I wouldn’t say I was blushing.

She says, “You’re so sweet.”


I say, “I think I’m quite badass.”

She giggles and gets up. “You’re sweet and you’re slow. You never catch me.”

And she runs off and I run after her and that day, for the first time, I catch her.

Getting Darker

It must be past midnight. So that’s another day gone. Another day of thinking positively. Another day of thinking about Annalise but not getting any closer to helping her. Another day of sitting in a tree, waiting for Gabriel, and him not showing up. I should try to sleep but I’m not tired. I’m rarely tired at night. Instead I seem to come alive a little more, though I know I get a bit darker too.

I could do some lists or go back to stuff Celia taught me: how to kill with a knife; how to kill with my hands. That’s cheery. Or maybe facts. My family tree is a good one. Just recite the names over and over: Harrow, Titus, Gaunt, Darius, Leo, Castor, Maximilian, Massimo, Axel, Marcus, Nathan. Harrow, Titus, Gaunt, Darius . . .

Of course the list is a bit on the depressing side and I’m not supposed to do depressing but I can’t be blamed if they were all killed by Hunters or tortured to death by the Council. Though Marcus isn’t dead, or at least as far as I know he’s still alive and well and living no one knows where. And he was with me, and saved my life, and performed my Giving ceremony, but he left, left me on my own, again, like my whole life.

“You did well enough on your own,” he’d said. Classic cop-out!

Mustn’t be negative. Got to stay posi-bloody-tive.

Shit, I’m in a black mood.

I need to try more memory tests. Yeah, I could recite all the Gifts my father stole, one for each human heart he has eaten. And that man, that killer, that PSYCHOPATH, sat opposite me and talked with me and gave me three gifts. And I can’t hate him and I’m not even afraid of him. I’m . . . awestruck by him. That’s positive, isn’t it, to admire your father? Your father the psycho. Is he a psychopath? I don’t know. I don’t know what the definition is. Don’t know how far down the path of eating people you have to go before you officially become a psycho.

I’m biting my nails again, only there’s not much left to bite.

And here I am, sitting in a tree, biting my fingers—Nathan, son of Marcus, the kid who’s supposed to kill his father, the kid who tried to prove he wouldn’t hurt his father by returning the Fairborn to him but who cocked it up and lost the knife. And I know I wouldn’t even last a second in a fight against Marcus, but everyone thinks I can kill him; everyone wants me to kill him. I managed to escape Wallend and those White Witches who want me to do it and I ran to Mercury and guess what? She wants me to kill him too.

Shit! I need to think of something more positive.

I need to think about Annalise again. I used to think about her when I was in the cage. I fantasized about her, imagined touching her and having sex and stuff like that. Not that I’ve actually had any sex or even much stuff like that. And the last time I held her hand was when I was sitting next to her on Mercury’s roof, and then it all turned to shit and the wind was holding me back as Mercury lured Annalise onto the grass. I remember Annalise’s body lying there, her chest heaving, desperate for air, and that last gasp that looked so slow and so painful before she was still, and I hate it. I hate that last gasp.

And, while I’m thinking about hate, I can make a good list on that subject. There’s my sister, of course: darling Jessica. She has hated me from my birth with venom and I return the feeling in spades. There’s her boyfriend, Clay, leader of the Hunters, brutal and arrogant. What’s not to hate? And the other brute, Kieran O’Brien, Annalise’s oldest brother, who used to be top of my hate list but is now just hovering at number three most days. Number two on my hate list is Soul O’Brien, Council member. He told me he wanted to be the one to give me three gifts, which is, frankly, freakier than keeping me in a cage. He might well be some kind of psycho too. And, talking of psychos, numero uno on my hate list is Mr. Wallend. The White Witch who worked on me as if I was a lab rat. The man who gave me my tattoos, which are the things I hate more than anything.

So that was positive!

Celia isn’t on the list. I don’t hate Celia anymore, which is a good thing, I guess. After all, to not hate someone who kept you locked up in a cage for nearly two years is positive. Surely. On the other hand maybe it shows that I’m totally screwed up by that whole experience. I don’t know. But Celia’s not on the list.

Mercury isn’t either. Mercury doesn’t inspire hate. It would be like hating the weather.

Mercury said she would free Annalise in exchange for my father’s head or his heart. I won’t deliver either. Somehow I have to find a way to get back to Mercury, find Annalise, break the spell she’s under, and escape with her. Sounds difficult and dangerous but I have a plan, which is another positive thing. Except the plan is crap and stupid and won’t ever work. And Mercury will kill me for sure.

Still, I shouldn’t worry about that. After all, everyone dies sometime.

And at the moment I’ve got enough problems with the current plan. I’ve been here more than a month now and I’m struggling to imagine a positive scenario: a scenario where Gabriel can’t get here not because he’s dead or captured by Hunters but because he’s lying in a luxury king-size bed, reading a book and eating croissants.

If he had been captured they’d have tortured him and he would have told them everything. Everything about me, him, the Fairborn, Annalise, and most definitely where they could find me, about our meeting place here at the cave. I’d have told them under Retribution and so would he. There’s no shame in that. Retribution breaks everyone eventually and no one could hold out for a month. And yet the Hunters aren’t here. But neither is Gabriel. So that means he’s dead. Shot by Hunters that night when we took the Fairborn. Killed trying to save me. And here I am, sitting in a tree, trying to be positive.

Positive is pretty sick when you think about it.

Not Waiting

It’s getting light by the time I reach Mercury’s cottage. After my father gave me three gifts I fled from here, chased by Hunters. This is the third time I’ve been back since then. My chance to watch them for a change.

The first time I returned was two weeks ago, when I was absolutely sure that no Hunters were on my trail. I’d killed the fast one and lost the rest. I was fairly certain that they wouldn’t expect me to return. After all, there would be no point in me coming back and it would be stupidly dangerous. Given that logic I was expecting there wouldn’t be many Hunters at the cottage. Wrong! There were twelve. I think they were using it as a base from which to try to find Mercury. There was a magical cut in space that she used to travel to her real home. A cut like the one Gabriel and I used to get to the cottage from the apartment in Geneva. My father said that Hunters could detect cuts so I guess that by now either Mercury has destroyed the cut to her real home or the Hunters have found the way through and Mercury is dead too. And if Mercury is dead then I’ve no idea what will have happened to Annalise. But Mercury wouldn’t be careless, or slow, or weak. I think she’ll have destroyed the cut, covered her tracks well so this valley is a dead end for the Hunters as well as for me.

That first time I came back to the cottage Clay was here and in a foul mood, shouting a lot. Jessica was with him. She has a long scar from her forehead across her nose and cheek where I cut her—or rather where the Fairborn cut her. Clay didn’t seem to mind that, though; he and Jessica still seemed to be an item. He put his arm round her and kissed the tip of her nose. At one point he came close to the forest edge, hands on hips, legs apart. He seemed to be staring straight at me. I was well hidden and he couldn’t see me but it was as if he was waiting for me.

I came back to the cottage again a week ago. There were only six Hunters left and I expected Clay to be one of them: I thought he knew I’d come back but he wasn’t here. Instead I had the pleasure of seeing Kieran. And there was a different atmosphere this time. The remaining Hunters were sunbathing, laughing, messing around. It was almost like a holiday camp, except these are Hunters and they’re never on holiday. They definitely didn’t look as if they expected the son-of-you-know-who to turn up.

I studied Kieran: he was stripped to the waist, his hair was sun-bleached, his face ruddy brown, and his body huge and heavy with muscle. He’s almost as big as Clay. They’d set up an obstacle course of logs and climbing frames, ropes and a crawl net. Despite his size Kieran was always the fastest and he mocked the others for being slow. When it came to the sparring it was clear that the girls were beginners. Kieran’s partner was good; Kieran, excellent. Still, I reckon I could take him in a straight fight but his Gift makes it much trickier as he can become invisible. One of the girls seemed to be able to set things on fire and another could send out bolts of lightning but they were both pretty weak Gifts. I couldn’t work out what Kieran’s partner or the other girls could do.

Hunters are mainly women but there are a few skilled male witches. They only recruit the strongest and fittest, partnering males together and females together. I’ve never heard of Hunters being anything other than British before now but two of the girls weren’t. They spoke some English, but to each other and sometimes to Kieran’s partner they spoke in what I think was French. As far as I know the White Witch Councils in Europe have never trained Hunters and never hunted Black Witches like they do in Britain. Gabriel told me that here in Europe the Whites and the Blacks each kept to their own areas and ignored each other, and Hunters were only used in extreme circumstances to track specific witches, my father being one of them. If they’re recruiting local White Witches it seems to be a sign that Hunters are expanding their operations.

I watched them all day. I knew I shouldn’t have. I knew I should have been at the cave waiting for Gabriel but I couldn’t tear myself away. I watched Kieran shout at his partner and remembered the day he and his brothers caught me, cut me, tortured me. I’m more shocked now by what they did than I was at the time. I was fourteen, small, a kid. Kieran would have been twenty-one then, and he made his younger brothers join in, made Connor put the powder on my back, joked about it, joked at their weaknesses as much as mine. And he didn’t just cut and scar me but branded me too: B on the left side of my back and W on the right. And that’s what I am: a Half Code, half Black, half White, not belonging to either side.

And now I’m back a third time. I’ve approached the cottage from above, through the forest. The sun isn’t over the mountain peaks to my left but the sky is light. I’m not sure why I’m here but I won’t stay long. I just want to check on things one last time.

The cottage is built high on the steep valley wall, on the edge of the forest, with an open meadow of grass below. Most of the valley is covered in forest, though the high ridges and peaks are above the treeline and the gray rocks hold some snow in sheltered pockets even in summer. At the top of the valley there is permanent snow and the glacier, and from that runs the river. The river is far below the cottage and can’t be seen from there but still it can be heard: its roaring is constant.

I pad down to the edge of the trees. There are no sounds except for the buzzing in my head that their mobile phones set off. The buzzing is faint, though. Not many phones. Not six. Two, I guess. Both in the cottage. So they must have pretty much given up on Mercury and they think I’ve gone and am not dumb enough to come back. But guess what? Here I am.

It’s properly light now.

I really should go.

But I can’t face sitting at the cave, waiting for Gabriel, when he has to be dead. Yet I want to see Gabriel and I promised him I’d wait, as he promised me, and I know he’d wait more than a month and—

The latch of the cottage door rattles and a Hunter steps out.

I recognize his bulk immediately.

Kieran walks round the cottage, stretches, and yawns, rolls his head on his thick neck as if he’s about to start a boxing match. He goes to the woodpile, selects a large log, and places it end up on the sawn-off tree trunk that acts as a chopping block. He picks up the ax and steps into position. The wood doesn’t stand a chance.

He’s got his back to me. I slide my knife out of its sheath.

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"Highly entertaining and dangerously addictive."—Time Magazine
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"An epic journey."—D.J. MacHale, New York Times bestselling author of Pendragon and Sylo
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