Game of Shadows

Thousands of years ago in Ireland, an ancient race fought a world-changing battle—and lost. Their land overrun, the Celtic gods and goddesses fled, while the mythical races and magical druids sailed to an uncharted continent, cloaked so mankind could never find it. This new homeland was named Tara.

In modern day Los Angeles, Ethan Makkai struggles with an overprotective mother who never lets him out of her sight, and a terrifying secret: he can see ghosts. Desperate for a taste of freedom, he leaves his apartment by himself for the first time—only to find his life changed forever. After being attacked by dive-bombing birds, he races home to find the place trashed and his mother gone.

With the help of a captain from Tara who has been secretly watching the Makkais for a long time, Ethan sets out to save his mother; a journey that leads him to the hidden lands, and straight into the arms of a vicious sorcerer who will stop at nothing until he controls Tara.With new-found allies including Christian, the cousin he never knew he had, and Lily, the sword-slinging healer who’d rather fight than mend bones, Ethan travels an arduous road—dodging imprisonment, battling beasts he thought only existed in nightmares, and accepting help from the beings he’s always sought to avoid: ghosts. This L.A. teen must garner strength from his gift and embrace his destiny if he’s going to save his mother, the fearless girl he’s fallen for, and all the people of Tara.

A stunning debut, Erika Lewis’s Game of Shadows is available February 28th from Tor Books.

After he’s attacked by a flock of ravens in the streets of L.A. and rescued by a stranger claiming to know him, Ethan Makkai races home to find his mother gone and the apartment trashed. Panicked, he demands answers from the stranger, only to be knocked unconscious—and to awaken on a ship in the middle of the sea…

 

 

Ethan’s eyes fluttered open. His head ached as if he’d been hit in the temple with a sledgehammer. The unfamiliar room was dimly lit by moonlight streaming in through a small round window.

Moonlight. He’d lost an entire day.

Moaning, Ethan slowly lifted his head and threw his legs over the side of the bed he’d been sleeping on. He tried to stand up but the floor rocked, dropping him back on the bed, disoriented.

The stale air was thick with salt water, and the walls creaked from strain every time the bottom rocked. A ship, and judging from the size of the room, a big one.

The place was an unbelievable mess. Clothes lay scattered everywhere. Old bread and dried-up cheese that looked like a science experiment sat on a table next to the bed. The mattress was bare except for a tattered blanket balled up near the footboard.

Ethan checked his pockets for his phone but it was gone. The only things he had on him were his mother’s drawing and her necklace.

Standing up, he noticed a door on the wall opposite the bed. He cautiously padded over, grabbed the knob and twisted. Locked. Ethan tried again, turning it back and forth, yanking and kicking, but the door wouldn’t budge.

“Bartlett!” No response. He kicked the door again. Still nothing. He wasn’t going anywhere.

Ethan trudged over to a large desk in the center of the room before the ship could rock again. On it was an old-fashioned feather quill and inkwell. Ethan’s English teacher, Mr. Burrows, used one of those pens. He thought it made him look cool, but his fingers were always covered in sticky black goo. It wasn’t a good look.

To the right of the inkwell was a wooden model-map with the word tara carved into the top.

At three feet long, the map took up most of the desk. It had raised mountain ranges peaked in white, and rivers running through deep valleys. Detailed green fields had actual grass that waved as if blown by a breeze, but the air in the room was perfectly still.

Ethan touched a blue spot labeled dryden lake. It felt wet. When he lifted his fingers up, water dripped from the tips. It was wet.

Ethan counted eight territories—five in one large landmass and three islands. The islands were called Talia, Cantolin, and Isle of Mord.

Waving grass fields spread from Landover, the far eastern territory on the continent, into its western neighbor Gransmore.

As Ethan ran his fingers through Landover’s warm fields, a wave of emotions sprang from the map into his fingertips, up his arms, and then throughout his entire body. Adrenaline coursed through his veins. Filled with pure, unbridled courage, he felt strong, like he could rip someone apart with his bare hands.

Next, Ethan glided his index finger through the breezy rolling hills of Gransmore. His spirits instantly lifted, and he burst out laughing.

On the other side of Gransmore were Kilkerry and then Algidare. In Kilkerry, a small forest led to rocky surfaces. The entire place was filled with a frenetic energy.

Algidare was covered with snowcapped mountains that numbed Ethan’s fingertips. He couldn’t feel anything.

Then Ethan came to the last territory, Primland, the most northern, it bordered each of the other territories on the continent. As soon as his hand touched it, an inviting, gentle heat warmed his fingertips, but within seconds Ethan’s whole hand sizzled like it had been shoved into the middle of a pile of hot coals.

Crying out, he tried to pull his hand off the map but couldn’t. It was stuck. He set his foot on the desk and pushed, but that didn’t work either.

A few seconds later, the heat slowly dissipated. But Ethan’s momentary relief vanished as it came with a hollowness he’d never felt before, as if his soul had been burned out of him.

Then the map let go. His fingers skated off easily. The odd sensation slowly faded, but his hand didn’t come away unscathed. His fingertips were red and stung like he’d touched a hot stove.

“Bartlett!” Ethan called again.

The ship rocked hard to port. Ethan’s feet slipped out from underneath him, but he managed to grab hold of the edge of the desk, which appeared to be nailed in place, to keep from falling over.

An old green-glass bottle tumbled across the floor. Ethan threw his foot out, stopping it. Inside was a rolled-up piece of paper. He picked it up and held it in the moonlight, illuminating the paper’s edge that was caught in the neck.

The only thing he could make out was his name written in cursive.

After failed attempts to poke his fingers inside, Ethan smacked the bottle on the corner of the desk. When that didn’t work, he set it on the floor, picked up a heavy, rock paperweight, and dropped it on the bottle. The rock bounced off and rolled under the bed.

“Unbelievable.” Ethan picked up the bottle. It didn’t have a scratch on it.

With an exasperated bellow, Ethan was about to hurl it across the room when the door creaked open. “That bottle won’t break. The message wasn’t meant for you,” a female voice scolded.

Startled, Ethan spun around. The room was completely empty.

“Hello?” Ethan came around the desk, clutching the nose of the bottle, holding it like a club, prepared to strike.

“The captain wanted me to check on you. He won’t be pleased when I report you’ve been snooping around his room, maliciously attempting to read his personal messages.” A low rumbling growl reverberated around the room, but the voice seemed to be emanating from the darkness beyond the door.

“First of all, there was no malicious intent. Simply intent. That message has my name on it so it seems it was meant for me.”

A pair of piercing blue eyes appeared in the moonlight only a few feet away and stared intently at him. Ethan moved closer, then froze.

A large black panther skulked toward him. Trying not to make any sudden moves, he slowly backed up until he bumped into the desk.

The panther paused, tilted her head, and then continued toward him with a slow methodical prowess as if stalking her next meal. “If it was meant for you, then it would allow you to read it. It didn’t, so be a good boy and put it down before I permanently maim important body parts.”

Ethan cringed as the feline stopped only a few inches from him. At waist height, it would be some very important body parts. He was preparing to jump up on the desk when she did the most unexpected thing: she rubbed her ear against the side of his jeans and began to purr. “Oh, that feels good—”

Ethan cautiously set the bottle down on the desk, and stood perfectly still. “Please don’t eat me.”

“You don’t need to be afraid, Ríegre. I won’t bite.”

“Said the predator to his prey.” Ethan scooted to the other side of the desk to put some distance between them. “I’d rather not take any chances.” An unexpected laugh escaped as the absurdity of the situation dawned on him. It was bad enough he talked to ghosts. “I’ve seriously lost my mind. I’m talking to a panther.”

“I’m not a panther.” One minute the panther was at waist height, and the next, she’d morphed into a stunning woman with chocolate-brown skin and long wavy dark hair, wearing a solid black unitard. Close to the same height as Ethan, she looked like she was in her mid-twenties.

Ethan’s mouth dropped open and he slid even farther away from her. “Oh yeah, I’ve lost it. Completely.”

Ignoring his comments, the woman leaned over the map on the desk and smiled. “I’m a Cat Sidhe. My name is Mysty.” Her pale eyes glistening in the moonlight, there was a playful wickedness about her. And the way she smiled at him made him very, very uncomfortable.

“Where is Bartlett?”

“Captain Bartlett. On deck, of course. The storm is getting worse. We’re so close to the doorway, I can already taste the sugarloaf.” Mysty turned her longing eyes to the map.

“Where is Tara, exactly?” Ethan asked, following her gaze.

“When our homelands were no longer safe, our ancestors were granted their own continent on Earth. The god of the sea, Manannán mac Lir hid it from mankind. But he left doorways for us to travel between our lands and the rest of Earth, and this one will take us to the very heart of Brodik Bay.”

The boat swung hard. Staring down at the map, Ethan grabbed the desk. Brodik Bay was on the northeast side of Tara, next to Landover. His thumb skimmed the calm waters. It felt peaceful.

“That’s it.” Mysty waved her hand. “Up on the cliffs sits Weymiss, your family’s home.”

“My home is in Los Angeles.”

“Trying my patience, aren’t you?” Mysty morphed. The panther leaped up on the desk, baring her long, sharp canines, and gave a roar so ferocious that Ethan’s heart skipped several beats.

Holding his hands out, Ethan slowly backed out of the room.

“Where do you think you’re going? You’re to remain in this room for the duration of the journey. Captain’s orders.” Mysty jumped off the desk, bared her sharp teeth, and headed straight for him.

Before she could ruin his chances at procreation, Ethan bolted out the open door and raced up a short flight of steps that led to the deck. Freezing rain poured down. The ship rocked. He slipped and skidded into one of the masts. The skies black, the wind whipped the sails, and the ship continued to rock furiously from side to side. It looked like they had sailed straight into a hurricane.

“Keep a look out!” Bartlett bellowed from the helm at men who hustled from stern to bow along the railings, scanning the dark sea.

“Nothing. I don’t see anything, Captain,” a man yelled from a tiny platform on top of the tallest mast.

Waves crashed against the ship from both sides, tossing it back and forth, taking Ethan’s stomach with it. He crawled toward Bartlett, latching on to the masts to keep from slipping again. As he grabbed hold of the last mast before the helm, a tall, burly guy, in a dingy white shirt, black pants, and boots came around from the other side and glared down at him. His long black hair clung to the side of his face where a large jagged scar ran from his right eyebrow to his chin. “What’re you doing up here?”

Noticing Ethan, Bartlett leered over the wheel at him. “Ethan Makkai, get yourself back down those stairs!”

Ethan glanced into the darkness of the hull below, and heard Mysty growl. “Think I’m safer up here, Captain.”

Bartlett shook his head and tossed a rope at Ethan’s feet. “Fine. Tie yourself to the mizzen then,” he shouted over the gusting wind and pounding rain.

“The mizzen?” Ethan wondered aloud.

The scarred man slapped him on the back and laughed. “Doesn’t even know what the mizzen is?”

Ethan wanted to punch the smirk off the guy’s face.

“The mast on the end there.” Bartlett gestured to the far post on the very front of the ship. It was cloaked in darkness and pointed into the unknown ahead. It looked like the perfect spot to get killed.

“No thanks.” Ethan tossed the rope back at Bartlett.

“Donnagan, drag him there! Tie him up! Hur—” Bartlett was cut off by a rogue wave barreling in to the starboard side, spraying freezing seawater over the railing.

Before Donnagan could reach Ethan, the ship leaned hard to port. Ethan flew into the railing, whacking his shoulder, and then started sliding over the edge. He grabbed on to the rail to keep from falling overboard. The ship righted and Ethan tried to stand up, but his stomach heaved. Still on his hands and knees, he swallowed over and over again, but it didn’t work, and he was forced to lean over the side and puke.

When Ethan finally lifted his head, raucous, high-pitched squawks cut through the thunderous echoes of the storm, growing louder and louder with each passing second.

“Ravens. Hold on!” Captain Bartlett yelled.

The whoosh of flapping wings and forceful caws of the Ravens were so loud they drowned out Bartlett, who spouted off something unintelligible, waving a fist at Ethan.

A shadow flew over. Ethan looked up as a half-woman, half–black bird moved to hover over the water, next to the railing. With long, dark hair, her body was covered in black feathers that blended seamlessly with her large, strong wings. She tilted her neck and locked her eeries yellow eyes on Ethan.

Mesmerized, Ethan watched her as she moved so close to him, he could make out every facet of her severe face. With a wicked grin, she lunged her clawed feet, latching on to his arm.

“No!” Bartlett yelled.

Ethan braced his feet against the railing to keep from falling overboard. He was strong, but the Raven was stronger. She yanked, and Ethan rolled over the top of the railing, giving him a terrifying look at the freezing, violent ocean below.

Donnagan reached over and wrapped an arm around Ethan’s waist. Another man latched on to his arm clutching to the ship, and then another and another, until one of them could reach the center mast.

“Pull!” Donnagan bellowed.

With a combined heave, they yanked Ethan over the railing. The Raven’s claws slipped off, leaving a painful trail of scratches down Ethan’s forearm.

Ethan grasped his arm that was now bleeding all over the deck when Donnagan let out a horrifying cry. Ethan spun and his stomach ceased. The Raven had stabbed Donnagan in the back, the tips of her claws visible through his right shoulder.

Ethan grabbed hold of Donnagan’s arms, yanking him forward, forcing the Raven’s claws out of his body and him to curse loudly in a language Ethan didn’t understand.

Hissing, the Raven flew toward the dark skies, vanishing.

Donnagan sank to his knees. Ethan placed his hands over Donnagan’s wound, trying to stop the bleeding, but there was no time.

More Ravens bombarded the ship.

Ethan frantically scanned the deck for something to fight them off with when a deep-throated rumble came from behind the ship.

Bartlett hurried back to his perch. He swung the wheel hard, and the ship reacted, turning sharply as a huge creature rose out of the dark water, fire blazing from its nostrils.

“Ethan, grab hold of that mast and don’t let go,” Bartlett shouted.

Ethan crawled as fast as he could toward the pole, but between the swaying ship and the wet deck, his knees kept slipping. With the next tilt of the ship, Ethan skidded into the mast, hard. He grabbed on, but his arms couldn’t reach all the way around.

One of the men slid down the shaft, landing next to him.

“What is that thing?” Ethan asked.

“The Nuckelavee,” the man said in a reverential tone. They both watched it circle the ship completely in seconds. With a body measuring at least fifty feet long, it looked like a dragon with long, leathery wings, but also had whale-sized fins. It could both fly and swim, making the odds of the ship losing it slim to none.

A loud whoosh shook the ship as fire cascaded down from above, skimming the wet deck. Men scattered, trying to take cover.

Bartlett flipped the wheel again. The ship responded, turning hard to starboard as the Nuckelavee rocketed down. It missed and dived headfirst into the ocean.

Seconds ticked by as the men waited for the beast to come out of the water, and make another pass from above. But it didn’t. Instead, a loud crunch reverberated from below. The Nuckelavee must have latched on to the bottom of the ship. The hull sounded like it was being crushed from both sides.

“Fire the cannons!” Captain Bartlett ordered. He flipped the wheel again, but this time he didn’t stop. He spun it in circles, around and around, and the ship responded, making wide turns that grew tighter and tighter with each passing second.

Ethan tried to hold on but the centrifugal force was too much. His hands slipped off the mast, and he barreled toward the starboard side, slamming into the railing, bringing him much closer to the monster than he wanted to be.

The Nuckelavee had crawled up the side, its spearlike claws sinking farther into the belly of the ship. With cannon barrels pointed down, the men lit the fuses.

One after another, the cannons exploded. With each blow, the creature lifted its claws off the hull, only to put them right back. Meanwhile, the ocean churned, creating a whirlpool that threatened to take the ship down.

Flames spewed over the side of the deck and Ethan was forced to let go or be barbecued. He rolled away from the railing as walls of spinning water rose up, forming a tube hundreds of feet above the ship.

“Hold on! We’re going through!” Bartlett cried.

With a stilted whine, the Nuckelavee was ripped off. It spiraled up the flume as the ship headed in the other direction, straight for the bottom of the ocean.

Seconds later the ship smacked into the seafloor. The impact lifted Ethan off the deck and dropped him down hard on the same shoulder that had twice slammed into the railing. Crying out from the pain, he crawled toward the mizzen, hoping to reach it before the ship did something else unexpected.

But he didn’t move fast enough. The ship jerked. Then it jerked again, sinking into the ocean floor. With each tremor, the bottom sank farther and farther into the sand, with huge chunks of its hull disappearing.

The spinning started again, sending Ethan flying into the starboard side, his legs lifting out from underneath him. He held on with everything he had left, but it wasn’t enough. He slipped off.

An arm caught him around the waist and dragged Ethan back to the mast, reaching it as the water walls crashed down. The next thing he knew, they were submerged.

Ethan’s lungs ached, desperate for air. He had to get to the surface. Pinned and suffocating, he pushed against the body holding him, but whoever it was wouldn’t move.

Just as his lungs were ready to burst, the ship shot straight up, like an arrow from a bow, then burst through the surface and splashed down.

“Breathe.” Bartlett smacked him on the back, hard.

Ethan spit out about a gallon of salt water and gasped.

“Welcome to Tara.”

Excerpted from Game of Shadows © Erika Lewis, 2017

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