Indigo Springsby A. M. Dellamonica
Indigo Springs is a sleepy town where things seem pretty normal . . . until Astrid's father dies and she moves into his house. She discovers that for many years her father had been accessing the magic that flowed, literally, in a blue stream beneath the earth, leaking into his house. When she starts to use the liquid "vitagua" to enchant everyday items, the results
Indigo Springs is a sleepy town where things seem pretty normal . . . until Astrid's father dies and she moves into his house. She discovers that for many years her father had been accessing the magic that flowed, literally, in a blue stream beneath the earth, leaking into his house. When she starts to use the liquid "vitagua" to enchant everyday items, the results seem innocent enough: a "'chanted" watch becomes a charm that means you're always in the right place at the right time; a "'chanted" pendant enables the wearer to convince anyone of anything . . .
But as events in Indigo Springs unfold and the true potential of vitagua is revealed, Astrid and her friends unwittingly embark on a journey fraught with power, change, and a future too devastating to contemplate. Friends become enemies and enemies become friends as Astrid discovers secrets from her shrouded childhood that will lead her to a destiny stranger than she could have imagined . . .
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“Dellamonica has produced a well-written and original story, with a fascinatingly detailed world and a coherent magical system, reminiscent of Tim Powers' work. Compelling characterizations, engrossing plot, and a horrific look at the consequences of power used selfishly all kept me turning the pages.” Kage Baker
“This is an entertaining and terrifying tale of terrific characters who stumble into the practice of blue magic, and find that it is neither simple nor safe. Astrid, Jacks, and Sahara will enchant you, and lead you down unexpected paths of discovery and danger. A great read that will make you look for magic in everyday objects!” Toby Bishop, author of AIRS BENEATH THE MOON
“I loved this. An original and terrific apocalyptic fantasy set in the real world, Indigo Springs is terrifyingly insightful, sprinkled with bits of humor for leavening. Newcomer A. M. Dellamonica has deftly crafted a book that is both literary and a very good read. What a fine storyteller Tor has discovered.” Patricia Briggs, author of BONE CROSSED
“INDIGO SPRINGS is a complex and ambitious first novel with vivid characters and an absorbing plot. A.M. Dellamonica is a talent to watch!” Susan Palwick, author of SHELTER
“There is magic in the small town of Indigo Springs, magic lurking in the mysterious blue waters pooling under Astrid Lethewood's family home. And there is magic in INDIGO SPRINGS, the novel, magic that compels the reader to keep turning pages as the complex tale or ordinary people confronting centuries-old forces unfolds. A. M. Dellamonica has created a true "chantment" here.” Harry Turtledove, author of GIVE ME BACK MY LEGIONS!
“Alyx Dellamonica's first novel weaves images of empiricism and apocalypse, tells a story in which paradigms shatter and things fall apart. But that's not what Indigo Springs is about, not really. At its heart this is a story about people: in over their heads, reaping the whirlwind, doing the best they can and falling short. These are souls you have to care about, even as they break the world in half.” Peter Watts, author of BLINDSIGHT
Read an Excerpt
By A.M. Dellamonica, James Frenkel
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2009 Alyx Dellamonica
All rights reserved.
"You're going to fall in love today." It is the first thing Astrid Lethewood says to me. A heartbeat later Patience joins us in the foyer and I nearly believe her.
I've seen Patience — on TV, on security feeds — but nothing has prepared me for meeting a demi-goddess. My brain seizes up, my hands get damp, and my mouth dries. I smell popcorn, hear the distant music of a carousel. A tingle of arousal threatens to embarrass me, but that, at least, I am ready for. My jacket, folded over one arm, hangs discreetly over my groin.
Today Patience is curly haired and black, with breasts — I can't help looking — as firm and curvaceous as if they had been sculpted by Rodin. Her lips are full, her teeth straight, and her brown eyes are luminous and warm. Her skin has the seal-fat sleekness of youth, but she does not look young.
Soon she will look utterly different, if just as devastating.
"Who are you?" she asks, voice full of music.
"My name is Will Forest. I'm —"
"Another of Roche's inquisitors? When'll he give up?"
"Don't be naïve," I say.
She pops a candy into her mouth, crunching defiantly. "I got nothing to say to you."
I pull in a breath. The carousel music tinkles on, and my spirits ride along, taking my inner child to the circus. "I'm here to talk to Astrid."
"Great — another therapist type who thinks he can get through to her." She puts a protective hand out to Astrid, who is hiding in her shadow. Proximate invisibility, the doctors call it, as if naming the behavior gives them a measure of control. The everyday world of telecommunications and two-hour commutes is crumbling, so they crouch in the surveillance center, labeling Astrid's every twitch.
Even now she is shrinking against the wall. "Is this when the guards start shooting?"
I glance at the well-armed young women in the corridor. They frown back, probably annoyed that I'm blocking the threshold of the apartment entrance.
Astrid sobs into a clenched fist, and Patience strokes her hair, glaring at me. "Just leave us alone!"
"I'm not here to upset you, but I'm not going away either." To emphasize the point, I step inside and shut the white door. Steel bolts clunk into place behind it: a vault door sealing us inside. This prison is two hundred feet belowground and surrounded by bedrock. To get here, I have been X-rayed, frisked, fingerprinted, and DNA tested. My identity has been confirmed and reconfirmed so completely that I am almost beginning to doubt it.
"As I said, my name is Will Forest." I take care to speak to them both. "I'm here to interview Astrid about —"
"Please, Doc, go away." Patience locks her bewitching eyes on me. "She can't help you."
I want to give in, like the others before me, but I hold her gaze, fighting the spell with thoughts of my missing kids. "I'm not a doctor, Patience, and I'm not leaving."
Astrid stops crying with a hiccup. "Didn't I show him around the place?"
"Show him the door, sweetie."
"Why don't you let her decide?" Opening my suitcase, I bring out a battered, plastic-wrapped paintbrush.
Astrid's breath catches. She looks at me closely, searching my face. "I'm supposed to believe you'd let me have it back?"
"Cooperation is a two-way street. I don't expect something for nothing, Astrid."
She licks her lips. "I need paper. Cards. Playing cards."
"I've brought them."
"Astrid, you're not ready," Patience says.
"How long do you expect us to give her?"
"She's in shock."
"Astrid?" I say.
"It was okay, Patience." She slides to her knees, face raised, eyes locked on the paintbrush.
"Fine." Throwing up her hands, Patience wafts away.
Astrid begins to hyperventilate. "When are we?"
"You said something about showing me around."
"I said that?" Her tone is dubious. "Is that today?"
"Do you know how long you've been here?"
"We were locked up for about twelve weeks. ..." Her eyelids flutter; she seems to be counting. "Eight in jail, four here. That's twelve."
"That's right. You were moved here a month ago."
"The comfy prison." She shudders.
The apartment is part of an underground military base: a VIP housing unit that got converted to a jail cell when this crisis arose. It comes with false windows, frosted glass alight with phony full-spectrum sunshine.
"You razed your gardens," Astrid says. "Bird blood, right? If you put tulip bulbs in the front, daffodils —"
"I'm not much for the outdoors these days," I say.
"The woods aren't as deep as they seem." She breaks off, eyes wandering. "Have we ... Sahara —"
"It's all right," I say, because I've watched hundreds of hours of surveillance footage on this pair, and that is what Patience tells her.
Astrid curls away, then bangs her head against the drywall. "Roche sent you down here to screw me over."
"It's not like that." I grasp her shoulders. "You help me, I'll help you."
"Help ..." She jerks her head again, but I'm holding her away from the wall.
"Let me help you, Astrid."
She flinches, then seems to calm down. "Want to see the rest of the place?"
She listlessly tours me through the apartment. Every counter, shelf, and tabletop is cluttered with baubles and jewelry, offerings from Patience's admiring public. The air smells of paint, and the furniture is inexpensive particleboard, two decades out of date. One piece stands out: an oak cabinet that dominates the living room wall.
"My grandfather is gonna make that," Astrid explains.
"I thought he was an accountant."
"He took up woodworking after he retired. Terrible at it — made Ma a rocking chair that almost killed her. Tips too far, falls, hits her head."
"Ouch." Evelyn Lethewood has mentioned the incident too; it happened when she was a teenager.
Astrid leans a damp cheek against the varnished wood. "Colonel Roach takes this out of Ma's garage for me."
"I asked him to."
"Yes." She's mentioned the cabinet in her ramblings, even searching for it in the spot it now occupies.
"You're a regular Santa Claus, aren't you?"
"I meant it as a show of good faith."
"It's all happening." Her hand drifts out, settling on my briefcase. "It's finally Will day, isn't it?"
"It's the sixth of September."
She starts to weep, tugging her hair. "Will day, Jackson day, fire, quake day, cutthroats, boomsday. Blood on the paintings, painted spatters across the walls ..."
Patience peers through a doorway, arching her brows in challenge. "Making out okay, Santa?"
"I'm fine." I rap my knuckles on Astrid's cabinet, drawing her attention. "Only things my granddad ever made were model airplanes and bad wine."
She sniffles. "Think you can trade with me? I'll bare my soul for treats, like a dog?"
"I thought you'd like to have something familiar around, that's all."
"Thinking of my welfare." Her eyes narrow. "I know about you."
"You're divorcing, I know that."
"Am I supposed to believe you're psychic? Patience could have gone through my office."
"Right, Patience. I'm small potatoes, right? The side issue. The material witness."
Her mouth tightens. "You have two kids and a pit bull, which is funny because you don't like dogs."
The words bring up gooseflesh on my neck. "My son Carson wanted a puppy. I'm a soft touch."
She scoffs. "You're here to break me open."
"Astrid, all I want is to talk."
"Gull dropping mussels onto rocks, that's you. Cracking shells, getting the meat. Break everything open."
"Astrid, I know you've been through a traumatic —" "I'm not insane."
"Then you've no excuse for not cooperating." I will coax the truth from this raving, damaged woman. I need to learn how Patience became a shape-changing beauty, how she defies locks and assassins by turning to mist and drifting through walls and bullets, rocks and people.
I'm here to find out how Astrid, a landscape gardener who never finished high school, came to possess a collection of objects we can only label as mystical, despite our science and rationality.
Most important, I'm supposed to learn how Astrid's childhood friend, Sahara Knax, took those mystical items and used them to create an eco-terrorist cult with half a million devoted followers. I need to discover Sahara's weaknesses, anything that will tell my panicked government how to fight as her numbers grow, as she unleashes monsters into the seas and forests, as she forces us to napalm U.S. territory to destroy the infestations. Her actions grow more dangerous daily, and our attempts to locate her have failed. Astrid may be our only hope.
"The grumbles are so loud," Astrid says, "I can't remember when things happen. So much compressed magic ..."
"You want to make things right, don't you?"
She clutches my arm. "You had an accident last month. A contaminated blue jay attacked your car."
I rasp my tongue over my lips, remembering the eagle-sized bird pecking holes in my windshield.
"That's when you killed off your yard."
Caroline had vanished with our kids just days earlier. I'd shot the bird, then pulled up the garden and, in a rage, burned it. Instead of telling Astrid this, I say: "Lots of people are sterilizing their gardens."
With a defeated sigh, she leads me to the kitchen, where Patience is sorting tea bags. "Santa Claus drinks coffee," Astrid says.
"We don't have coffee."
"It's okay, tea's fine."
Patience holds up a bag of Darjeeling. "You don't look military."
"Are you asking what I do for a living?"
"Yeah," Astrid says. "This is the part where you tell us."
"You don't already know?"
"Patience asked, not me."
"I'm no psychic," Patience says, crunching another candy as she dangles the tea bag. The swing of her wrist is hypnotic; I nod to show Darjeeling is fine.
"I'm a crisis negotiator for the Portland city police," I say.
"Hostage haggler. Same as Roach." Astrid's voice is flat with dislike. I remember anew she has been charged with kidnapping and murder.
"Civilian rather than military, but essentially yes, the same as Colonel Roche. We went to school together."
Patience runs hot tap water into a stoneware teapot to warm it. "So you're a cop and a shrink?"
"If you like."
Dreamily, Astrid says: "He was at the sewer outflow before they firebombed it. He got some of Sahara's converts to come out."
"Does that make you uncomfortable, Astrid?"
She eyes me like a stalking cat, ready to pounce. "You don't make me uncomfortable, Santa."
"I'd prefer it if you'd call me Will."
"Would I, won't I, will I?" Another predatory glance. "Okay ... Will it is."
The kettle shrieks and Patience puts a tray together. Sugar, cream, three cups. "You sure about this, sweetie?"
"Yeah. It's Will day, Patience."
"If you say so. Want to set up by the couch?"
"I think that's what we do." Astrid pushes at her curls, flashing the mangled cartilage of her right ear. "It's hard ... so much going on. Tuna and bullets and gates of brambles —"
"Let's try, all right?" With that, Patience leads us back the way we came. As she passes me, she whispers a threat: "Don't you mess her up worse than she already is."
The living room's lack of a TV gives it a Victorian aura. Photographs cover the walls — snapshots of Astrid's parents and missing stepbrother. Four couches sit facing one another in a box.
Roche tried to keep the personal touches out of the suite, but Patience kept telling the media that she and Astrid were being kept in a barren subterranean hole. Her fans raised a hue and cry. Finally Roche allowed the bric-a-brac and Patience resumed her public campaign against Sahara. Without her broadcasts, the Alchemite cult would be even larger.
Astrid slumps on a grass-green chaise. I sit on a matching love seat and pull out my digital recorder.
She scowls. "Apartment's bugged."
"It can go out of sight if you like."
"Doesn't matter. The cards?"
"Will these do?" I hand over a bulging manila envelope stuffed with greeting cards, playing cards, and a Tarot.
"Perfect. Are you really going to give me my chantment?"
"Of course." I pass her the paintbrush.
"Oh, thank you, thank you," she murmurs, rolling it between her fingers. I imagine how Roche and the others upstairs in Security must be tensing up. But her gratitude and relief seem sincere.
She holds the brush to her cheek, eyes glistening. "You took a chance, bringing it here."
My gut clenches. Roche hadn't wanted to hand over the paintbrush.
It's magical, he'd said. What if she uses it to change you into a frog, like the Clumber boy?
I'd brushed the objection aside, producing the transcripts of Astrid's ramblings. "Can't think," she'd said hundreds of times. "Need the brush, Jackson day, fortune cards."
"Will day" too appears repeatedly. Maybe it's arrogance, but I knew she'd been saying my name.
Turn you to a frog, like the Clumber boy. It doesn't seem so funny now.
"Are you going to show me what it does?" I ask.
"Yes." Astrid pulls her hair up, knotting the curls atop her head. She pins them into place with the paintbrush handle. Her hands drop to the table ... and as they do, they change. The fingers become longer and wider, while the nails take on the flat, fibrous texture of paintbrush bristles.
She says, "Relax. Nothing terrible happens today."
"Is that so?" I turn her hand palm-up, running my finger over the bristles of her thumbnail.
She draws back, aloof as a cat, and digs out a ten of hearts. "The cards help me keep track of things ... things to come?" "I'd like to talk about the past six months."
Ghosts of dimples dent her cheeks. "Past, future ... it's all the same."
"Tell me about the magic — when and why things started to change."
"That's two different questions." Patience tosses a couple of high-calorie protein bars onto the tray. Then she serves the tea. "What exactly do you want to know?"
How to change it back. "Let's start with Sahara."
"That's two questions too." Astrid cups her palms above the surface of the ten of hearts. The red ink fades, leaving it blank. Then a bead of brown paint wells from the stiff paper, like a minuscule drop of blood coaxed from a pinpricked finger. It streaks across the card, outlining a dilapidated car. Astrid watches it raptly. Me, I burn my mouth, slurping too-hot tea in a sip that becomes a gasp.
"Not what you expected?" Patience laughs.
"On the fifteenth of April, Mark Clumber told Sahara he'd been cheating on her," Astrid says, eyes locked on the card as if she's reading text. "He confessed, then took off for a few hours — to give her space. Sahara packed her bags the second he was gone. She took his car and cat, half their money, and drove west. She was eighty miles out of Boston before Mark slunk back, looking for forgiveness."
"She just left?"
"When someone hurts Sahara, she cuts them out of her heart forever. Ask Mark."
"Mark's beyond speech," Patience says sharply. The Clumber boy is in one of the compound's other apartments, suffering from severe alchemical contamination.
"Beyond speech," Astrid murmurs. "Sahara would be pleased."
I can believe it. Sahara routinely attacks Alchemites who leave her cult, not to mention police who oppose her and reporters who question her claim to be a goddess.
On the playing card, brown paint colors in the outline of the car. Wispy strokes of black sketch a cat on its rear dashboard. Brushstrokes from an invisible brush; the hairs on my arms stand up.
"So Sahara isn't particularly forgiving?"
Astrid doesn't contradict me. "She called from Billings and asked if she could stay at my house."
She means the home she inherited from her father, I know, on Mascer Lane in Indigo Springs, at the epicenter of the alchemical spill. "And you said yes?"
"I said she could stay forever if she wanted."
"What did she say?"
On the card, dots of green brighten the cat's eyes. "She said I'd have to make life pretty goddamned interesting if I was going to keep her around."CHAPTER 2
If the house Astrid had inherited from her father was in unexpectedly good repair, the yard was in a state of war. The chief aggressor was a blackberry bush that had established squatter's rights along the fence before allying itself with some bindweed vines. These two runaway growths were making a claim for the whole backyard.
Excerpted from Indigo Springs by A.M. Dellamonica, James Frenkel. Copyright © 2009 Alyx Dellamonica. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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Meet the Author
A.M. DELLAMONICA has had stories published in various fantasy and science fiction magazines and anthologies. She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, where she is at work on Blue Magic, the sequel to Indigo Springs.
A.M. DELLAMONICA is the author of Indigo Springs, which won the Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. Her short fiction has appeared in Asimov’s, Realms of Fantasy, Sci-Fiction and Strange Horizons, and in numerous anthologies; her 2005 alternate-history Joan of Arc story, “A Key to the Illuminated Heretic,” was shortlisted for the Sideways Award and the Nebula Award. Dellamonica lives in Toronto, Ontario.
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The first few chapters of Indigo Springs by A. M. Dellamonica was a little confusing but by the third chapter I was totally hooked. After Astrid's father dies, he leaves her a house that is full of enchanted objects. Astrid begins to uncover the mysteries behind her father as well as unlock memories that have been buried for years. With the help of her brother by marriage, Jacks, and her friend, Sahara, the three embark to uncover the mystery behind the dangerous,blue, magical substance called vitagua. The story is told from two points-of-view from two different people. The first is told from an investigator named Will. The magic that Astrid unlocks wreaks havoc on their community. It's like a whole epidemic has taken over the town and beyond. Astrid is held in a bunker below ground. Will has come to interview her to find out any information on the fugitive, Sahara. The second point-of-view is told from Astrid. She reflects and tells Will the events that has led up to the present day circumstances. Indigo Springs is a well-written novel, full of imagination and complex characters. It is a thoroughly fascinating look into the temptation of power and the consequences of using it for one's own advantage. I was completely caught up in the world that Dellamonica created. This is a book that I would definitely recommend. You won't want to put it down until you reach the end.
Will Forest goes to interview Astrid where she is held in an underground apartment, vaulted in with surveillance cameras that have taped her and he has watched to learn of her condition mentally. Will has several questions the damaged Astrid could answer, for his boss to save others from destruction, and of his own personal thoughts for his family. All revolves around one magically powerful woman Astrid created, Sahara. How she got the collection of magical items Astrid has, and how her friend used those items to create an eco-terrorist cult. Astrid tells her story, starting with Sahara Knax leaving her cheating boyfriend and agreeing to stay with her. Astrid told her she could stay forever, Sahara said she'd have to make life pretty interesting to keep her around. And Astrid does, without expecting to. Astrid also has her step-brother living with her in the home she inherited from her father, a house she never knew he owned. Astrid just wanted to help her 'family' - two friends in need, and keep them with her as they were her only two friends, and receive the love from them as well. Astrid quickly finds magical toys, chantments, of her fathers and tells her two best friends of them. This all leads to learning of the vitagua through any memory she can find of being with her father. The three of them take care of the business of creating and sending chantments (magiced nick knacks) to needy people. Each has their own part, but there are those her dad had mentioned that look for the magical items and will do anything for them, even kill. Which leaves Astrid wondering...was Astrids dad murdered like her mystery-solving-mailman (from the books she reads) mom believes? Why? As we read, we view the story from two time views. This is interesting as we know what's happening, and what the result is by the different views. We get Astrids story of finding magic, using it, and how things happen and grow. We then get a current view of the world in which there is chaos everywhere with the release of potent magic into the world. Quickly I became increasingly curious as to what really was going on in the current world, and how did it get that way. I wanted both stories, and both I got as the raced together by the end of the book. I start off with so many questions at the introduction to Astrid and ever present magic and all the tidbits of hints and clues as to what the world is like, making us wonder on the world we are getting into. Chapter one we are in the present with an interview by Will of Astrid, which raises lots of questions by the quick reminders to Astrid and hints to the past. Then the next chapter we are in the past, the memory of the days to Astrid, which feels like we are there with her. With the help of a paintbrush and a deck of cards; playing and tarot, Astrid uses the ink on each to draw pictures of the past to go with her story, showing it to Will as well as telling it. I felt like I was witnessing a magically induced apocalypse, gushing like a geyser back into the world. The magic! Oh, I'm a magic lover. Magic of any kind, that is well played out. Here, I loved the description of the magics existence and how or why it went into hiding. The history we know of with witches and fear of magic is all brought into play here, so we are not completely out of our element with what has happened. The Fey are mentioned as part of this history as well, but they no longer exist from the people that believe magic should not exist, and maybe those people are still present in the world, ready to hunt and burn it away. In the end I was left amazed with the tale told. I loved the magical creation, and the way the world was left leaving us ready for the next book, Blue Magic. I liked the way the two times come together in the end, giving us a close, yet leaving the story to what will happen in the here-and-now. I will be reading Blue Magic to see how Astrid corrects the contaminated world, or how magic takes it's place again.
In Indigo Springs, Oregon, Astrid Letherwood like most if not all the other residents assumed her father was a drunken bum. With his death, she learns the truth about her dad; he was an underground magic practitioner who created "chantment" magical objects that he gave to people he felt deserved a slight edge. He told nobody, allegedly not even his daughter, who was actually his apprentice but remembers nothing about magic since he died. He knew the witch finders stalk everyone with their burn at the stakes first and ask the charred corpse questions second. However he was unable to keep Astrid safe as the government has incarcerated her although they improved her prison to a comfortable cage. Roche and his agents have her under arrest for kidnapping and murder. The latest inquisitioner is hostage negotiator Will Forest who actually gets Astrid to reveal a bit of what she knows, but she recalls nothing of value. Family friend Sahara Knox arrives and taps into the blue fluid vitagua that flows underneath her dad's home and is the source of magic. Unlike Letherwood who felt magic should do no harm, she employs violence turning people and animals into monsters as she wants the underground magic rebellion to come out into the open. This is a super psychological suspense suburban fantasy starring a great bewildered lead protagonist who is center to all the goings on. Her confusion purposely leaves the story line somewhat hazy as her latest interrogator tries to get at the truth but is different from previous inquisitioners as he is first a hostage negotiator while the others were enforcers using any means. Sahara complicates a complex character driven thriller that uses the questioning of an alleged convict to establish the delightful Dellamonica domain. Harriet Klausner