A field of pansies faded into view. The flowers stretched to the horizon in every direction, except there was no bright blue sky overhead. The purples and oranges of a darkening sunset filled my sight. I squinted, hobbled forward, and saw the girl.
She was lying on the dirt, crushing a ring of flowers beneath her. Chestnut brown hair spread from behind her head, purple eyes open wide. She wore a simple white dress with no sleeves, but in the center of her dress was a dark spot. I glanced away.
Her breathing came rapidly.
“Eric . . .” she gasped.
Zinnia held out a human hand toward me. Tears built beneath my eyelids. I crouched down on my knees and took her small hand into mine. My fingers wrapped around hers. “Zinnia, I'm sorry.”
“It'll be okay.” Her eyes closed. “I'll miss you, Eric. You're brave. And strong. And I know you can face anything that comes next.”
I shook my head. “No. . . . No I can't. Everyone around me is getting hurt and dying.” I stared at the horizon. “So many people are dead now,” I muttered.
Zinnia's hand clenched mine. “Don't blame yourself. This world is at war, Eric. I'm a small part in the story, but you . . . you are the Runner of Golden Light.” Her eyelids fluttered open, and she stared into me. “You are the forebear.”
“How do you—” I paused. “Can you read my mind?”
A kind smirk crossed the girl's mouth. “Always could. Your thoughts are intriguing. Most would not understand you. Most won't. But you can know that I always have.”
“Well that's embarrassing,” I chuckled. But then my face dipped back into a frown. “Zinnia, you can't die. It's not fair!”
“Nothing was ever fair.” Then Zinnia wrapped her arm around my neck and pulled herself to a sitting position. She groaned and winced, one hand over her wound. Then she leaned in to me and kissed my cheek. “Stay safe, Eric. Goodbye.”
And then she slowly fell onto her back, closed her eyes, and stopped breathing. The sky drifted into darkness, stars poking into view like the pinpricks poking into my chest. I couldn't breathe. My lungs felt tight, like the air was squeezing them closed. I fell onto my palms, hitting the dirt and letting the sobs erupt from deep in my gut.
“No!” I screamed. “No! No!”
I glanced back toward Zinnia's still form. Tiny plumes of blue smoke sifted through the soil around her, swirling over her face and body until she was completely covered. A gust of wind rushed across the pansies behind me, blowing the smoke away and into the stars above. And where Zinnia had been lying was a pack of blue and yellow flowers with swirling petals in the shape of a horse.
I buried my face in both hands and wept. Wept for Saltha and Zinnia and the countless numbers of people who had been slaughtered by Molduth in the castle city. I wept for myself; the emotion and tension of the past few weeks rushed over me.
And then a gentle hand fell on my shoulder.
Warmth pressed through me, and I lifted my head to see the boy. Tears filled his eyes, and his chin trembled as he slowly dipped down and ran a hand over the patch of flowers where Zinnia had once been. He let his tears fall onto the petals. They soaked into the blues and yellows making them even more vivid than before in the growing moonlight.
I leaned back on my heels and brushed my greasy hair away from my face. I rubbed both eyes with fists and then sighed, long and loud.
“Why is all of this happening?” I whispered.
The boy didn't respond. He merely looked at me with sad eyes. A gentle breeze blew through our hair.
“Why won't you say anything? You seem to know something!” I stood up. “Who are you? Really? Are you a runner? Or something else? You told me to trust you, and I did. And the golden light came through me without a clasp. What does any of this mean? You have to give me some answers.”
He studied the flowers and pulled one from the ground. Not in a harsh way, but with the greatest gentleness, pulling up the roots and all. He held the flower toward me. “Flowers are more important than most people realize. They can bring life where it was waning. They can restore memories where they were lost. They can remind us of things long forgotten. And then they can tell us the stories we're afraid to hear.”
“That doesn't make any sense,” I said.
“But it does. It makes all the sense. This flower for instance. It tells part of your story.” He pointed to the blue edges of the petals. “This world is dark, lost in chaos, wondering when relief will ever come.” His finger moved down to the roots. “But all along, something has been brewing deep beneath the surface. Something that will change everything and bring new life to people who have lost all hope.”
The boy pointed at the yellow middles of the petals. “And this?” His gaze lifted to me. “This is the golden light that has come into the world to shine in the darkness. Not that this light is The Light. This light points to something greater. Something coming. Something that will bring hope. But first, this point of golden light must shine. And ready the way.”
He stared at me. “You are that light, Eric of Jedros. Runner of Golden Light. There will be sadness on this journey. As there is now. And there will be times you wish more than anything to quit, and then there will come the end. But not before hope has been restored. And freedom has come.
“Molduth was only the beginning. A weaker ancient than many others. And believe me, more will come. And ravage these islands. You must stand and fight against them and shine with the light that is inside of you. Freedom is coming, and together, we must show them the way, the truth, and the life.”
The boy's words swam in my head, stroke after stroke. Ancients, freedom, fighting, hope. I still didn't understand all of it. I wanted to. I wanted to know. To have it sorted through and organized within my own mind in a way that made sense.
“What do I do now?” I asked.
“Finish the job. You are no longer bound by the slavery of runners. You are free, Eric. But Bella is important. Take her to Riverfork. And then go back to Gratta. There are others that must find the same freedom you've found.”
“But how do I do that?”
“You will know the way. Trust me.”
I took a deep breath and knew the only response my heart had was yes. So I nodded. And on the third nod, the field of pansies drifted out of sight, replaced by a rolling stretch of dirt filled with thousands of holes and piles of red ashes where pitters had once squirmed.
The sky had darkened. How long had I been . . . wherever I had been?
Zinnia's body had vanished.
So had Molduth. He was gone. Where he had once stood was a simple purple necklace, now glowing red and purple and floating at eye level. I blinked. Tried to focus on one of the colors. But my eyes wouldn't take it in. The necklace was wholly red and wholly purple at the same time. I reached out for the thin metal chain and brushed a finger against it. The necklace floated back slightly, and I reached out and grabbed it, drawing the chain into my hand and slipping it into my pocket.
I almost thought I heard a faint roar from within the crystal, but I shook my head. I had to get back to Bella, and I had left her--
My head shot up. Red smoke plumed in the distance. The castle. The Queen. Bella. The fires. I closed my eyes and felt the golden light build inside of me. It closed around my body, and I lifted into the air. “Take me to her,” I whispered. My arms whacked to my sides, and I blasted forward, leaving a fading trail of golden light behind me. The trees zipped by underneath. The path to the castle and the city snaked its way through the brush until I burst out from over the forest and through plumes of smoke rising from the burning city. The handful of people who stood below held a hand over their eyes, pointing into the sky as I soared overhead.
The ruins of the castle loomed into view. Piles of boulders and the broken ramparts from where Molduth had snapped through circled the main structure. Towers had toppled; ashes lay throughout the once green rows of hedges. And there, on the dirt, was Bella. Her hair was splayed beneath her prone form. And standing over her, the Queen, metal umbrella held at her side, and other hand stretched over Bella's forehead.
White light streamed from Bella into the queen's hand, and the woman leaned back, shawls covering her face, but I could see the light trickling from her skin.
I leaned forward and dove with a shout, smacking into the queen's side. We tumbled across the dry dirt, through the ashes, until we rolled to a stop. The Queen shoved me away and kicked her feet up, jumping to a standing position. White light flowed from her fingertips as she swayed from side to side, facing me.
“You are the boy of impossibilities, but impossibilities I will soon conquer.” She held a hand to the sky, and a stream of white light shot into the air. “I have siphoned enough of the girl's powers to match your own.” She held her palm to the side, and white light shot from her hand like a rope, wrapping itself and tying around a large stone boulder. She yanked on it and flung it toward me.
I dove to the side, the boulder clipping my back as I went. I cried out and held up both hands. Golden light shot from my palms and blasted into the stone, shattering it into pieces.
The Queen dropped the white rope, and it dissipated into nothingness. She rubbed her hands together, white sparks drifting from fingertip to fingertip. “Impressive. But let's see how you really fare against me.”
She whipped out the metal umbrella and tapped the tip of it. White light pooled on the end, and she held it back, firing blasts in rapid succession at me. I ducked and dodged, holding up my forearm so a shield of golden light formed over my torso. Some of the white light blasted against the shield, pinging away and burning into stones and dirt around us.
A company of seven soldiers clomped up the cracked steps behind the Queen and stood at attention, lowering their spears toward me.
“Stay back!” the Queen screamed, holding up a glowing hand toward them. She sent a blast toward them, which smacked into the soldiers and sent them flying through the air with screams.
“Stop!” I shouted. “You're hurting people!”
I could see the queen's mouth beneath her shawl flip into a sneer. “Stop hurting people? I have only begun to show you pain!” She jerked the umbrella, and a large ball of white lightning shot at me, breaking through the golden shield and smacking me in the chest. I screamed and fell backward, sliding through the dirt until I had reached Bella's side.
Her mouth moved slightly as if she were asleep and trying to speak. I rolled back over and stood up, the necklace falling from my pocket. I grabbed it up. The necklace. It had seemed to absorb Molduth's red light into itself. It had been absorbing light back when Julian had been using it on the rocky outcrops in the ocean to the north. It snapped together in my head like bolts fitting into door frames. The crystal on the necklace was purple. And the only thing purple light seemed to do was soak light into itself. Molduth had been born from a purple crystal and been amplified by the red gem the Queen had held. And now red and purple co-existed inside this single necklace. Maybe I could use it to absorb the queen's light and stop her.
I stood and held by the chain, extending my arm until it hung between the Queen and myself. “Stop!” I shouted.
The Queen pulled back her umbrella. “Julian's necklace. How thoughtful of you to hold onto it for him. And now I shall hold onto it for both of you.” She held out her hand, and thin streams of white light slipped across the distance, wrapping around the necklace chain like fingers and yanking it out of my grasp.
“Yes,” the Queen hissed, catching the necklace from the air. “Foolish boy! You think you can manipulate the light better than I? I have studied lost arts for hundreds of years. One stupid son of Jedros could not hope to match me.” She eyed the necklace. “And now it appears you've added a little something extra to it. My red gem. Returned at last.” She slipped the necklace over her head, maneuvering it past the horns until it rested against her gown.
She laughed and then snarled. “Now that I have three strands of light, nothing can stand against me until I collect the spectrum and subjugate every soul in this wretched world unto my will!”
“I won't let you,” I said, planting both feet, but feeling my hands tremble in betrayal. “Freedom is coming, and not even you can stop it!”
“Been listening to children recently?” She leaned in. “I'll fill you in on a secret. The voices are only in your head.”
“No! He's real!”
The Queen held up both hands like claws. Three lights swirled in each palm, a red one, a purple, and a white. “There is no reality but the one I shape. And in my reality, you don't even exist. Such a pity. You could have joined my ranks as a powerful Runner. But there will be others. I will clasp every human throughout these islands and then extend my reach to the lands beyond. None shall stand before me!” Light blazed behind the shawls where her eyes would be. She took a step back, and her mouth dropped. “And now, die.”
Six streams of multicolored light zapped through the air. I threw my hands across my face, and a half-shield of golden energy formed in front of me. The streams of light shoved me back. I bent my knees, leaning in and holding my hands out until golden light rushed through my fingertips and met the Queen's blast.
The lights slammed against each other. Sparks sprouted from where the streams intersected. We pushed against each other; the lights shoved us back and forth as my stream grew brighter and then the queen's.
The Queen leaned forward with a screech. Every muscle in my body tensed, veins on my neck pressing against my skin. I stomped forward, one foot at a time, watching the golden light overtake part of the queen's red, purple, and white beams. My shoulder and leg ached, my face throbbed, my hands shook, and I felt a wave of darkness threatening to suck me under and into unconsciousness.
“You can't last for long!” the Queen shrieked.
I squinted in her direction and saw her calmly standing with both hands outstretched. Light shone beneath her shawls and her gown, creating a thin shield around her body. I lost concentration for a moment as my eyes rolled back. The golden light snapped out, and purple, red, and white shot over my body. My skin burned as the Queen cackled, the light lifting me into the air. I squirmed around, screaming.
“You shall not survive. None shall survive!” The Queen bent a knee and sent another wave of light coursing over me, brighter than before.
And then I saw a figure rush from the side and tackle the Queen to the ground.
The light dropped from the Queen's hands, and I fell to the dirt with a thud. A crack erupted from my arm, and I felt a shock of pain rush to my head. I cried out, rolling side to side, clutching my broken arm with my other hand.
Telisa punched the Queen in the side of the face and landed one good blow before the woman held up her hand and blasted Telisa with purple and red light. It swirled around her like a rope, lifting her into the air.
“Now, where were we?” the Queen muttered, blasting me with her other hand. White energy wrapped around me, and I screamed as it pressed in on my body, squeezing my arm and the burns.
“Where were we? We're done!” Bella stood, fists clenched, facing the Queen. Her dark hair stood on end and cracked with white light. She held up her hands and yelled, sending white light blasting through the air and slamming into the queen's chest.
She grunted, lost her hold on Telisa and me, and stumbled backward.
I hobbled over to Bella's side. “Let's take care of this Queen.” I held up my one good hand, my other arm hanging limp at my side. I shoved out a burst of gold, and as white and gold mixed in the air, it blasted against the Queen, sending her rocketing into the air, farther and farther away until she was nothing but a pinprick on the distant horizon.
The world slowed to a crawl. I saw the zagging stream of light zipping toward me, closer, inch by inch, sapping the energy from the air around it and channeling it at me.
I raised my arm. I had to shine. I had to shine. I had to shine.
I closed my eyes, grit my teeth, and imagined golden light streaking from my arms. It had to work. I had to shine. To save everyone. To stop this beast. To save a world otherwise destroyed.
My eyes opened one at a time. No light shone. Not even a glimmer.
I dropped stomach down to the stones, and the lightning struck the air over my head and popped. I scrambled forward as the demon blasted again. This one scorched the rampart a foot ahead of me. I clambered back. Another blast. I jerked my leg away as it struck stone.
And I saw Bella, lying still on the dirt below.
And I saw Saltha, embalmed in purple light.
And I saw Telisa, vanishing without a trace.
And the boy. His face. Staring into mine. And whispering, “Trust me.”
I closed my eyes again.
How did you trust someone? How was it supposed to work? How did I let go and just trust?
I took a deep breath and stood up. “I can't do this alone. I never could,” I whispered.
Light glimmered over my fingertips. Golden light. A surge of energy rushed over me. I clenched my fists and then slowly rose into the air as the light enveloped me from foot to head. I kept rising higher until I hovered across from the demon's smoking snout.
It turned to look at me, cocking its head to the side. “Impossible,” it muttered.
I held out both palms, and golden light blasted from my hands, streaking at its mouth. The beams sliced through the front of its snout, a puff of red smoke billowing to the clouds where it had once been. The mangled demon roared and swiped at me with a clawed hand.
I dove to the side, golden light growing brighter around me. A haze of gold covered the world. Red molded with gray and into white light shimmering from city rooftop to castle ruins. The demon swiped at me again, and I shot up through its claws, two golden swords appearing in both hands. I swung downward and sliced through two of the demon's fingers. Both fell to the ground and vanished in a plume of red smoke.
The demon stumbled backward. Its legs crashed into the castle behind me. A tower fell to the side and slammed into the earth sending up a cloud of dust. It stared at me and with garbled words said, “Runner of Golden Light, thou dost not comprehend what thy eyes see nor what thy hands do. Nor whom thou standeth against! I am the Ancient called Molduth, Destroyer of All the Living! And I shalt destroy thee!”
It leaned back its head. The Adam's apple on its throat warbled, and red creatures swarmed into the air from deep within its chest. The creatures looked like red locusts with tails like scorpions. Sharp stingers glistened with red lightning on the tip of each tail. Claws emerged from their abdomens, and each face lifted up to reveal the visage of a human male. They opened their mouths at the same time and roared, sharp fangs chomping with saliva.
My eyes widened, and I dropped a full man's height in the air. There must have been nearly a hundred of the locusts flapping translucent wings. They swirled around Molduth’s head. The larger beast’s eyes darting past them to me.
Molduth shoved a claw in my direction. With a synchronized screech, they darted in my direction in a swarm. I flipped over in midair, pressing both hands to my sides and rocketing forward, diving over the ramparts and into the city below. The swarm followed, clipping the sides of buildings and leaving chunks of stone debris in their wake. I slipped under trellises and balconies and flew around the corner of a main street to see a handful of people weeping on the cobblestoned streets.
I stuck my legs out in front of me and started running in the air until my heels touched down on the ground. I spun around, golden swords in hand and crossed them. The locusts at the front of the swarm snarled, tucked their legs in to their sides, and aimed their stingers at me.
“Run!” I shouted over my shoulder to the men and women in trousers and bland tunics behind me. I heard the patter of boots across cobblestones and swung to meet the first of the locusts. I chopped through a scorpion tail and stabbed upward into its belly, sending it careening into the side of the building beside me. Another locust jabbed at me with its tail from the left. I swung up and sliced through the beast, breaking it clean in half. Both halves shriveled and hit the stones.
I swung both blades, pounding into the middle of the swarm, spinning and swinging and stabbing again and again and again. I lost myself in the swirling gold, the light shining through my skin, powering the fervor channeled through the swords in my hands. Locusts dropped in steaming piles of mucus and muck around me in plops.
A roar drifted down from the hill above me. The demon parked both hands on the ramparts, claws digging into the stone. I glanced up and saw that the entire horde of locusts lay in pieces around me, littered throughout the streets. My shoulders heaved, and I gasped for air. Had I actually done this? Beaten my way through a swarm of lightning red locusts?
No. I hadn't done this alone. Something else—no, someone else was powering me. Shining through me. The boy. Whoever he was.
Molduth roared again.
I pointed a sword at him. “Leave this island! Go back to wherever you came from!”
Smoke poured from Molduth's dismembered mouth. And then a flame of dark red fire exploded from its throat. I threw my hands up, and the swords vanished in a cloud of dust and reformed into a half-shield over my face. The fire blazed around the golden shield, trickling off into the cobblestones and leaving melted slag in its wake.
The blast ended, but not before a second one took its place. The fire burned through part of the shield, and I flew backward from the force of it, landing on my back on the street. Molduth leaned back and heaved another shot of fire at me. I scrambled away as it exploded into the road beside me. Heat wafted over my face and sent blisters bubbling to the surface of my cheek. I screamed and clutched at my face, rolling until I bumped into a gutter. Fire blazed up the street from Molduth's maw, cutting into the stones until it caught the bottom of my foot, burning through my boot. I screamed again, yanking my leg away and crawling out of range into the doorway of the nearest building.
Molduth blasted the two-story shop with fire. The wood erupted in flames and burned rapidly toward me. I jumped away, hobbling up the street, ducking beneath awnings and into doorways as Molduth blasted shop after shop behind me. Fire ripped through the street and spread, sending clouds of crimson smoke billowing into the air.
I stumbled to the ground. Pain boiled over my foot. Blisters had covered the top of it and left behind charred skin. I winced, holding back the tears.
“Help,” I rasped.
My throat felt raw from the smoke filling the street.
“Nowhere to hide thyself, Runner. All mortals perish before the Flames of Molduth!” The demon laughed, leaning over the rampart. I watched another crimson glow brighten within its throat.
I cradled my face, and the golden light that had surrounded me faded. I couldn't fight this. I had tried. I had put up a good fight. But it wasn't enough. Molduth was too powerful. Too strong. And no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't face it.
I am coming, Eric.
The voice whipped through my mind like an old friend coming around the corner with no warning. Zinnia. The horse emerged from the red smoke, throwing her mane to the side. She leaned into her gallop, gaze set on me.
Molduth loosed another blast of fire. I rolled away, hopped to my feet, and reached out for Zinnia's neck. She kicked her legs to the side and slid on two hooves toward me until I could yank myself onto her back. The fire slammed into the ground behind us. I clung to Zinnia's neck, feeling the tears drip down my face as pain coursed through my leg. She raced through the streets of the city, a nameless row of shops and homes slowly burning to ashes. Molduth shot at us with streams of fire, blazing through cobblestones as Zinnia leaned left and right to avoid being hit. She seemed to see and know when each blast would strike.
My eyelids drooped. “Bella,” I rasped.
Where is she?
I pointed a weak finger back up the hill. “Castle grounds.”
On it, Zinnia said. She neighed and swerved to the right down a side street. Fire blasted over our heads, slamming into the thatched roofs.
How do we stop that thing?
I shook my head. “Too strong.”
There has to be a way.
If there was, I didn't know what it would be. Molduth was something old. From an ancient time, trapped inside that purple crystal for thousands of years probably. And now, here it was, unleashed on the world and ravaging the island of Castos. And who was I really? A boy from a rice farm on Jedros. A boy who had come to stand against evils in many forms, from pales to pitters to--
My eyes shot open. “Zinnia! How far are the pitworm holes from here?”
Not too far on horseback.
“Take us there! As fast as you can! And try to be obvious about it!”
What about the girl?
“We can save everyone if we just get to those pits!”
Zinnia whinnied and darted back onto a main street. Molduth spotted us and sent another blast of fire our direction. It blasted into the ground ahead of us leaving a trench of molten cobblestones in its wake. Zinnia leaped into the air and sailed over the slag. She landed on the other side with a clop.
Molduth roared behind us. “How doth thou escape mine own grasp?”
I spun around on Zinnia's back, facing Molduth's towering figure leaning on the ramparts. “Come get us!” I screamed as loud as I could.
Rage burned through Molduth's eyes. It flapped into the air and cast a red shadow across the burning city. The world blurred slightly as I turned back around, clutching Zinnia's neck as she raced through the flaming city gates and onto the dirt roads beyond. Trees whipped past us, disintegrated as Molduth flew behind us, zapping the ground with red lightning.
The clouds had spread into the horizon. I squinted, trying to see where they ended and blue sky began once more. But all I could see was red. My face stung from the burn, and I grazed it slightly with my fingertips. The skin felt folded over. Char covered my fingers. I winced and shook my head. I couldn't think about it. I had to concentrate on what we were about to do.
I had one plan in mind. One that was insane enough to maybe work. I couldn't fight this beast alone. I had to have some kind of help. And it didn't need to be the good kind of help either.
Zinnia shot through the forest. Fire swept along behind us, reducing the pines to ash and dust. A cloud of smoke roiled across the ground, nipping at Zinnia's back hooves. And Molduth flew ever closer. Wind gusted through my hair and Zinnia's mane.
And then I saw it ahead. The field of pitter holes. I pointed. “There!”
Zinnia shot off the path and down the slope toward the field of holes.
“Straight through! And make noise!”
I screamed, rawness raking through my throat. Molduth flapped ahead and slammed into the ground, its shadow falling over us. His taloned feet dug into the earth and churned it. He swiped down with his claws at Zinnia. She darted sideways, but not quickly enough. One of the claws struck her in the back leg. I flew to the side, tumbling through the dirt and landing on the edge of a pitter hole. Zinnia fell to her side, kicking all four legs.
“Hold on!” I shouted. I stood up and raced to her side, placing both hands on her neck.
“Foolish mortals. Playthings of the Ancients. Thou hast run far enough!” Molduth leaned back to heave another blast of fire at us.
And then the ground rumbled.
Molduth glanced down and watched as a thousand pitters rose out of their holes and squirmed across the earth toward the largest thing in sight: Molduth. They opened their mouths, leaned back on the tail ends of their bodies, and hurled through the air, latching onto Molduth with all their teeth in tow.
The demon roared as pitter after pitter shot at it. It wrapped each hand around one of the giant worms and yanked, trying to pull them off with no success. The worms had sunk their fangs into the red flesh, tail ends wobbling in midair as their bodies lurched, eating away at the monstrous beast. Darker blotches of red spread across Molduth. The demon gripped its head with both clawed hands and then leaned back, stretching its arms to the clouds.
“Enough!” Molduth roared. Lightning sparked from the sky and drove through its body, zapping every pitter to dust. Lightning drove into every hole in the ground. Screeches echoed from the earth followed by billows of pitter dust.
I stared with an open mouth at the remains of so many pitters drifting through the air and swirling into the distance. We had failed. Maybe an Ancient was too much to fight. Maybe they weren’t meant to be destroyed. Only trapped. But I knew I had no ideas on how to capture something so monstrous and shove it back into the crystal beneath the castle. My hands shook, and I leaned back toward Zinnia. “I’m sorry,” I whispered.
Molduth leaned over Zinnia and me. “Thou hast fought bravely. But alas, bravery doth not earn thee life.” It swiped a hand down and wrapped around Zinnia, lifting her into the air.
“No!” I screamed, clutching onto Zinnia's neck and dangling in the air beneath her as she rose higher and higher.
Eric! I'm scared!
Molduth lifted us to its mangled snout, leaned its head back, and opened wide.
I closed my eyes and whispered, “Help us . . . please. . . .”
But no golden light came to my fingertips this time. No course of energy through my body. Only the dry heat rising from Molduth's gullet. The beast laughed.
I swung sideways and felt something drop from my pocket. I glanced down and saw Julian's purple necklace falling through the air and straight into Molduth's throat. Rays of purple light shot from it and pierced straight through Molduth's skin. The demon slammed its mouth shut, and held us out from two claws, dropping us through the air.
Zinnia and I fell toward the earth. I screamed and felt a cushion of golden light swirl beneath us. Before we pounded into the dirt, the golden light caught us and set us down gently. I stared up and saw Molduth stumble backward, clutching its stomach with both claws.
“What hast thou done? Dost thee not know that purple crystals are poison to the Ancients?”
Shafts of purple light broke through Molduth. The beams of light slowly spiraled around Molduth, picking up speed until the entire beast lifted into the air, spinning like a tornado. The clouds sucked downward into the red and purple vortex, clearing the way for blue sky to emerge. Wind blasted over us. I shaded my eyes and watched as the purple light consumed Molduth, rose into the air in the shape of a massive sphere, and then exploded outward. The light pressed into the sky, through the blue, and sparking into the distance like a star twinkling out for the night.
I fell back onto Zinnia's side and felt the warmth under the back of my head. A sticky warmth.
I sat up and glanced down.
A deep wound pierced the horse's side from where Molduth had gripped her.
I'm dying, Eric.
She neighed softly. Meet me in. . . .
My eyes closed and the field of dead pitters vanished from view.
Love what you read then
When Eric was only thirteen, he was taken from his family and the peaceful rice fields on the island of Jedros to become a Runner. Roaming the five islands of Abra, Runners are tasked with jobs -- jobs they must see to the end. Either finish the job or die.
And then a mysterious benefactor arrives with a bag of gold and Eric's first job: find the girl spotted somewhere in the northern islands responding only to the name Bella. Simple enough. But this job is not what anyone thought. Others are searching for the girl. Others who will kill to keep Bella a secret.
But Bella has her own secret to keep. And if it gets out, the very fabric of the known world will change forever.
Audience: Ages 10 to 14
Shaun Stevenson has always loved a good book. Ever since he first picked up his great-grandmother's ancient copy of THE WIZARD OF OZ, he has wanted to take readers on crazy journeys through imaginative worlds where the danger and mystery never stop. He lives in the Great Northwest with his wife, enjoying the coffee, the thrifting, and of course, the writing.