The exhilarating conclusion to the Twin Willows Trilogy.
Sixteen-year-old Alessia Jacobs wants to go to college someday like her friends. She wishes for a chance at a normal relationship with Jonah. But normal is never an option for a Benandante like Alessia, who has sworn to protect the magic in the world from the Malandanti...especially when Jonah is on the opposite side of the deadly struggle. When the war comes to a head, lives will be lost, love will be gained, and Alessia will risk everything to save the people she loves and destroy the Malandanti once and for all.
About the Author
Nicole Maggi was born in the suburbs of upstate New York and began writing poems about unicorns and rainbows at a very early age. She detoured into acting, earned a B.F.A. from Emerson College, and moved to New York City where she performed in lots of off-off-off-Broadway Shakespeare. After a decade of schlepping groceries on the subway, she and her husband hightailed it to sunny Los Angeles, where they now reside, surrounded by fruit trees, with their young daughter and two oddball cats. In addition to the Twin Willows Trilogy, she is the author of the novel The Forgetting.
Read an Excerpt
The Blue Woods
By S. R. Savell
Medallion Press, Inc.Copyright © 2014 S. R. Savell
All rights reserved.
The dark Panther stalked toward my cage of light, his emerald-green eyes glowing in the dimness of the underground room. All I could see were those eyes, that gaze fixed on me. I fluttered to the ground. Through the glittering bars of the cage, he and I stared at each other.
Behind me, Heath — the Wolf — growled so deeply that his white fur vibrated. In front of me, the Panther snarled too, and the combined rumble of his and Heath's voices was enough to make an earthquake. Caught in the middle, I thought I would break into pieces.
The bars of light surrounding me, Heath, and Nerina shimmered with tantalizing transparency. Could the magic of my aura be strong enough to break through? Before anyone could tell me it was a bad idea, I gathered myself and flew straight into the light.
It was a bad idea.
Electric shocks fractured across my body, singed my feathers. I cried out and fell hard onto the concrete floor. For an instant the sickening scent of cooked bird filled the air. Pain coursed through me; I tried to breathe but each inhale was like a stab to my lungs. I closed my eyes. The dark behind my eyes was all-encompassing — no hint of light from my aura. It was going out, like a dying candle. Like my life source is being pulled out of me.
Something wet and cold pushed against me. Alessia!
I opened my eyes a sliver. Heath's blue eyes bored into me. Are you all right?
No, I wanted to say, but I couldn't summon the energy to respond. Nerina bent over me. Tear tracks ran down her usually impeccably made-up face. "Alessia? Can you move?"
I closed my eyes again and concentrated hard on my wings. After a moment, they twitched.
Nerina squatted beside me. She laid a gentle hand on my feathered belly. "The bars have magic from Angel Falls in them. She may have damaged her aura." Nerina moved her palms over me. Warmth emanated from her fingers. "What the hell possessed you to fly into them?"
I thought maybe ...
Never mind that. Can you help her? Heath interrupted me.
"I hope so. I'm using Redwood magic."
On the other side of the barrier, the Panther growled and scratched the floor. "Shut up," Nerina snapped. "Haven't you done enough?"
He's not ... He's worried about me ...
Nerina ignored me and kept gliding her hands over the length of my Falcon form. My aura began to seal together its cracks, smoothing itself into a whole. The pain ebbed, fizzling into a dull ache.
I opened my eyes wide and turned my head to the barrier, to the Panther on the other side of it. He — the Panther, Jonah — lay on his belly, his nose almost pressed against the bars of light, his deep green eyes looking only at me. A low, keening whine came from his throat, setting my feathers on edge. An answering call escaped from my own mouth.
Nerina jerked back. I thought I heard her say something, but my whole mind was focused on Jonah. I could feel Heath trying to break in, trying to warn me, but I pushed him out. I could not tear my gaze away from Jonah. Everything slowed — my heartbeat, my breath, even the world around us. All I could see was the green of Jonah's eyes; all I could hear was the sound of our breath, inhaling and exhaling in unison. It filled my mind, bigger than the ocean, until all the spaces inside me were empty. All I could see or hear or feel was Jonah.
His breath, his gaze, his being, filled me with more strength than Nerina's healing had. I lifted away from the floor and came to settle right in front of him, so close that the only thing separating us was the thin sheen of magic keeping me in and him out. A bubble seemed to surround us, shutting out everything beyond us. In that bright, beautiful space, I heard a voice. Alessia.
I shuddered with shock. Jonah?
Are you okay? That looked like it really hurt.
I feel ... I blinked. There wasn't any pain, just wonder. How is this happening? I thought Malandanti and Benandanti —
— couldn't telecommunicate? I thought so too.
Then how —?
I don't know. It's happened before. I heard Bree at the Waterfall the other night.
We blinked at each other. Somehow it seemed vitally important that we not break eye contact. I could feel his emotions inside my head, his fear just below the surface of his words. I stretched my neck just a fraction of an inch, careful to avoid getting shocked again. I wanted so badly to touch him. We took a breath together and let it out at the same time.
I think it has something to do with connection, Jonah said. My connection to Bree because she's my twin. My connection to you —
My connection to you —
Our connection —
We didn't finish. We didn't need to. We let the unspoken words hang there in our minds for a long moment, the size of them covering everything else. I had always assumed that the Benandanti and the Malandanti couldn't talk to each other this way, but it seemed I was wrong. I remembered the few times that we'd been together, transformed, I'd heard a crackle in my mind. That ability had always been there; it was just that Benandanti and Malandanti never needed to speak to each other as Jonah and I did. Why would they want to? Had there ever been as twisted a tale as mine and Jonah's in the history of this war?
I have to get you out of there, Jonah said, breaking the brief reverie that we had fallen into.
If your Concilio comes back to find us gone, they'll kill you.
And if they come back and you're still here, they'll kill you. He drew himself up and paced back and forth in front of the barrier. Do you know anything about this magic?
No. Bree would know, but ... no. I fluttered my wings. Jonah —
We'll have to make it look like you broke out, Jonah said, cutting me off. And that I fought you.
That's all well and good but we still have to find a way out.
Jonah stopped and sniffed the bottom of the bars, as though he could somehow smell an escape route. I followed him along the length of the cage. Jonah, I'm sorry. For getting Bree involved in this.
He raised his head, his eyes soft on my face. It's all right. It wasn't your fault.
It was. If it wasn't for me, she never would've gotten hurt.
Alessia, if there's one thing I know about Bree, it's that she doesn't do anything she doesn't want to do. He resumed his pacing. You didn't force her into anything.
Yes, but I made her feel guilty — about you, about Mr. Foster. When I asked her to be our spy, she couldn't really say no.
Trust me, she could have. He swung his head back to me, his green eyes narrowed. Wait, did you say your spy? I thought she was just your mage.
She spied for us first. That's why —
She wanted the internship at my dad's office, he finished for me. Of course. He shook himself, his fur bristling. I wish I didn't know that. It's one more piece of information about her — about you — that they can torture out of me.
I shuddered, cold fear rippling over my feathers. I won't let them, I said, my words fiercer than my conviction. I don't care if I get hurt, if they find out who I am. I'll protect you —
Jonah froze in front of me and once again that bubble surrounded us, my mind filled with every thought and emotion tumbling through him. I could tell from the way his whole body shook that it was the same for him, that he could hear everything that was inside of me, too. It was not like this with the other Benandanti — I only heard when and what they wanted me to hear. With Jonah, it was as if a great channel was open between us, as if the depth of our connection was a conduit through which our very souls flowed to each other. Alessia, he said. His voice reverberated deep inside me. That won't happen. Because you are the light, and I am the dark, and I will lay down my life for you if I have to.
I had never wanted to be human so badly. I wanted to wrap my arms around him, bury my face in his neck, and never let go. Jonah, we'll get you out. Bree says there's a way —
"Are you — talking to him?"
Nerina's voice jolted me out of the bubble. I spun to look at her. She stood at the far side of the cage, her face twisted with disgust. "Alessia," she said. Her voice shook with a rage that I had never seen from her before. "Answer me right now. Are you talking to that Malandante?"
I didn't know if she could hear me in her mind since she was not transformed, so I nodded at the same time I thought Yes. Heath started, his blue eyes wide.
Tell her I want to help, Jonah said.
He wants to help, I echoed to Heath and Nerina.
"Stop it," Nerina muttered. She pressed her hands to the sides of her head, her expression teetering on hysteria. "Stop talking to him. Stop it right now!"
Why didn't you tell me I could talk to him? I demanded. Why didn't I know Malandanti and Benandanti can communicate?
They can't, Heath said. I don't understand this —
Obviously we can because I'm doing it right now.
"They can, but they must not." An uncontained wave of horror rolled off Nerina, threatening to consume me. I had never seen her this unsettled, she who was always immaculately put together, she who always took charge and knew exactly what to do.
She stalked toward me, her stilettos so sharp on the concrete that I lifted myself into the air, away from her. "It is forbidden. Do you hear me, Alessia? It is unnatural, the ultimate taboo —"
Nerina, you don't understand. He's not like the others.
Nerina stomped her foot hard on the ground. "If you say one more word to that Malandante I will punish you in the name of the Concilio!" Wisps of red smoke spiraled around her shaking fingers, her magic loose and uncontained.
I froze, hovering unsteadily at the top of the cage. I had never seen anyone but a mage with magic like that, had forgotten that Nerina was just as powerful in her own right. Nerina. Please. We love each other. I thought you knew that.
"I thought it was over!" Nerina shot her gaze between me and Jonah. "This must stop. You cannot be together. You are enemies. The Malandanti will come back and kill us, and he will be part of it. He has no love for you."
You don't understand —
"I understand better than you think I do." Nerina's voice was like barbed wire. "He is using you to weaken us."
He is not! Do you really think I'm that stupid? That I would do anything to hurt the Clan?
"You are stupid where he is concerned!" Nerina shrieked. "You cannot be trusted around him!"
Please let me explain —
"No!" Her voice made the bars of light jitter and dance. "There is nothing to explain. The only good Malandante is a dead Malandante!"
Jonah roared so loud the world seemed to tilt. I shot toward Nerina, claws out, but Heath reared up onto his hind legs and shielded her from me. I buffeted up to the top of the cage. Heath forced Nerina to the back wall, his head pressed to her hip. I could tell he was speaking to her, but whatever he was saying, he'd blocked me from hearing. Nerina bent her head, her shoulders tense as she listened to Heath. Finally, she raised her gaze to me. "But we cannot trust him," she said hoarsely.
Jonah growled and struck his paw against the light barrier. Though his body shuddered with the jolt, he didn't look away from Nerina. Tell her, he said to me. Tell her that I asked you to help me get out.
I fluttered a few inches into the air between them. The heat of their anger at one another was thick and stuffy. He wants out, I said, making sure Heath could hear me too. He asked me to help him get out of the Malandanti.
Heath snapped his gaze to Nerina. She stood as still as ice, her hand pressed to her heart. "It's ... impossible," she breathed, her lips barely moving.
There is a way. Bree told me —
"An impossible way," Nerina cut me off. She sliced her hand through the air. "That's not important right now. How do we know we can trust him?"
I fought the urge to snap my beak at her. He wants to help us! You heard what the Harpy said. She said he was wavering. That's why she left him in charge of us: to test his loyalty.
Alessia, Heath said, if he lets us go, they'll kill him.
I looked back at Jonah. I know. We have to find some way out that makes it look like we overpowered him.
What's going on? Jonah broke into my mind.
He — the Wolf knows what kind of danger you're in if you let us go.
I don't care. I told you. He keened again, his paw lifted toward me. I don't care if I die saving you.
Well, I do. I hopped closer to the barrier, to him. We bent our heads to each other, the only thing separating his thick black fur and my snowy feathers the shimmering wall of light. Besides, Bree would have my head.
"Without a mage," Nerina said, making us both look up at her, "we'll have to use what magic we can access."
Our auras, I said. Like when Bree and I broke into that room here.
She nodded and raised her hand, her palm less than an inch away from the barrier. "We need that burst of magic that comes when we transform." The bars shivered as she waved her palm over them. "But this is dangerous magic, much more dangerous than that room. The Angel Falls magic contained in these bars makes them deadly." She dropped her hands to her side. "You saw what happened when you collided with them."
So what do we do?
Nerina narrowed her gaze at Jonah and curled her lip. "These bars will only affect a Benandante. But a Malandante ..."
Jonah pulled himself up tall, his fur bristling. Whatever she needs me to do, I'll do it, he told me.
I repeated his words to Nerina.
"Oh, really?" Shadows darkened her face. "I need him to bind himself to the cage, use his aura to bring down the bars. Will he do that?"
Jonah rushed into the barrier. The light exploded around him, sending off long tentacles of electricity. Stop! I screamed as the shock reverberated through him. A cry of agony ripped across my mind and Jonah tumbled backward from the cage. He lay still on the concrete floor, his only movement the heaving of his sides as he panted.
"When I say, you idiot," Nerina hissed.
I flew at her and stopped an inch from her face. How dare you? He's trying to help!
"He's a Malandante. I don't trust him."
He's our only chance out of here. If you keep treating him like trash he's not going to help any of us.
Heath padded between us, gently nudging me backward. She's right, Nerina. We have to trust him right now.
Nerina looked from me to Heath and back again. A little vein at the base of her throat throbbed. "Fine," she said through gritted teeth. She stepped around us. "Get up," she said to Jonah, "and listen to the plan before you do anything."
I clicked my beak but held my tongue. At least she hadn't called him an idiot again.
Jonah hauled himself to his feet. Are you all right? I asked him.
I'm okay. She's right. I should've listened before I did anything.
Maybe, but she's still being a jerk. I'm sorry.
He shook his head, his black fur glistening in the silvery light of the cage. Can you blame her?
"Can you two please stop talking so we can get on with this?" Nerina pushed up the sleeves of her silk jacket and pointed to Jonah. "You."
He has a name, I snapped at her.
She ignored me. "On my count, you will rush the wall."
You saw what just happened. He'll electrify himself, I protested.
"No, he won't." Nerina paced the perimeter of our prison, looking the walls up and down. "The magic will feed into him. It might hurt for a moment" — she waved her hand — "but he'll be fine."
I'll be fine, Jonah said. Let's just get on with it.
"As the magic is feeding into him, I'll transform and direct our magic into the barrier. That should be enough to weaken it." She turned in a circle, examining the cube of light that surrounded us. "I should be able to bring it down after that," she murmured. "If only Bree were here ..."
Cold crept into my feathers. Bree had been here, only hours before, trapped and tortured by the Malandante mage. If this didn't work, that was the fate in store for us.
Nerina snapped forward and faced Jonah. "Are you ready?" Without waiting for an answer, she went on. "On my count. One."
Wait, what are we supposed to be doing? I said as she held up a second finger.
Excerpted from The Blue Woods by S. R. Savell. Copyright © 2014 S. R. Savell. Excerpted by permission of Medallion Press, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.