Arwen Elys Dayton’s Traveler, the second book in her Seeker series, is out in paperback today from Ember—and not only do we want to send you copies of the first two books in the series, but we’ve also got an excerpt of book three, Disruptor, to share!
Quin Kincaid is a Seeker. She thought her legacy was an honor, but what she learned on her oath night changed her world forever. Quin pledged her life to deception. Her legacy as a Seeker is not noble but savage. And the boy she once loved is out for vengeance, with her family in his sights. Yet Quin is not alone. Shinobu, her oldest companion, might now be the only person she can trust. The only one who wants answers as desperately as she does. But the deeper they dig into the past, the darker things become. There are long-vanished Seeker families, shadowy alliances, and something else: a sinister plan begun generations ago, with the power to end the legacy forever. The past is close. And it will destroy them all.
Comment in the post to enter—and read on for a taste of Disruptor, available February 7th from Delacorte Press!
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Chapter 2: Shinobu
Shinobu stood on the crumbling ledge of stone, biting his fingernail as he surveyed the mess he’d made. Twenty Watchers—twenty!—lay about the broken floor of Dun Tarm. The ruined fortress was wedged into the water of Loch Tarm, and half of the structure had fallen to rubble and slid into the lake. What remained was mostly open to the sky, the floor a patchwork of ancient flagstones, pitted and out of alignment and covered in moss and puddles of rainwater. There were even trees growing up between the flagstones, gnarled and stunted oaks with the bright green leaves of spring.
Shinobu stood with his back to the cold water and the granite peaks that rose up beyond the lake. The day was beautiful and mild, and the sun touched his back with late spring warmth where it peeked out between towering clouds. He noticed none of these things. He was watching the Watchers, who were sprawled in positions unsuited to lying down, exactly as they had been since he’d brought them into the world. They were so still that they might have been carved out of Dun Tarm’s discarded stones, but they were slowly, moment by moment, relaxing into natural poses as they rejoined the stream of time. When they did, they would be awake and dangerous.
This is madness.
No. It’s how I keep Quin safe. I tame these boys and use them.
His mind was arguing with itself as it now did almost constantly.
He slipped a hand into a pocket of his cloak and withdrew the medallion. It was a stone disc, about four inches in diameter and perhaps an inch thick at the center. He noticed more details now that he was studying it in bright sunlight. On the face was the symbol of the Dreads, three interlocking ovals. The back, which he’d thought was mostly smooth, was actually pockmarked and scratched—or per- haps not scratched but etched with lines forming concentric circles. And had it been vibrating? He’d been focused on retrieving all the Watchers, but hadn’t he felt it shaking in his pocket when he was in
the darkness There?
The medallion was heavy with unknown properties. All Shinobu knew was that it was his talisman to control these boys. It had be- longed to the Middle Dread, and the Watchers had already shown him that they respected it as a symbol of authority. With it, he was their master, just as the Middle Dread had been. Looking at all twenty of them, however, he had his doubts. He’d fought four of them once, with Quin, and he and Quin had barely made it through the fight alive.
Why do I want them? They’re dangerous.
Quin wants to understand Seeker history. If these boys aren’t on our side for that, they’ll be against us.
“But I don’t have Quin to check on me,” he whispered aloud. At once he closed his lips tightly, as if that might prevent the boys from hearing what he’d said.
You left her There to keep her safe.
I left her. I left her.
The hand of one boy twitched. Another boy’s foot shifted on the stone floor; a head jerked to one side. They were almost awake.
They were all dressed in dark, scratchy-looking cloaks, as though the Middle Dread had found them in medieval European villages. He must have gotten them from everywhere, though, because they were of all sorts, Asian, Indian, and African. They filled the air with the scent of death, which came, Shinobu had discovered, from bits of rotting animal flesh they carried around in their pockets.
He tried to run a hand through his hair, but he was thwarted by the metal focal. How long had he been wearing it? He was supposed to keep track.
Why was the sun so warm? Scotland had been cold when he and Quin were last here. When had that been?
How long has she been in the darkness alone?
Each moment There is safer than here.
A boy nearby was groaning and feeling for his knives. Another was muttering something. Then, quite suddenly, twenty boys were stirring, and twenty pairs of eyes opened and latched on to Shinobu.
Chapter 3: Quin
How long has she been in the darkness alone? Shinobu asked. He sounded far away and confused. Each moment There is safer than here.
Is it? Quin tried to ask.
“Quin, do you want to get out of the cave?”
She was awake in a sudden rush. There was still the rumble of the waterfall in the rocks around her, but there was another sound—a deep, low hum penetrated her lungs and her stomach, almost making her sick. Quin sat up and clamped her hands over her ears.
“Come!” Dex was yelling to be heard over the competing vibrations in the air.
Directly behind him, where the wall of the cave should have been, there was something else entirely. It was as though the rocks had been ripped out and replaced by blackness.
No, not blackness exactly.
“Is that an anomaly?” Quin asked him—shouting—trying to grasp what she was seeing. How had she fallen asleep? The noise was so distracting, and she knew she was forgetting something.
“Do you mean an opening to no-space?” Dex yelled back. “Yes, that’s what this is! And when it’s open, it’s the strongest note in the hum of the universe.”
The opening was larger than any anomaly Quin had seen. The whole wall had disappeared, and instead of a circular border as would appear after carving an anomaly with an athame, the glowing edges of this opening were thicker and held the shape of a huge semi- circle, like a tunnel carved through the mountain, with streaks of light smearing backward and leading the way deep inside.
Dex pulled her to her feet. Quin stopped at the incandescent, seething edge and looked up at the ceiling. It had been cut in half by the anomaly’s arch.
“You shocked me into unconsciousness,” she said, remembering now. “Why did you do that?”
Dex had the courtesy to look somewhat abashed. “You know I’m not supposed to show you how it works.”
That was all the apology she was going to get. “How . . .” She searched for the question. “How long has it been open? Won’t it fall shut?” Her training told her that you used anomalies quickly and carefully.
Dex shook his head. He wasn’t wearing his focal; it hung down his back from a leather strap around his neck. His shaggy brown curls were loose about his face, making him look boyish and young—and he also looked frightened. He pointed to the floor of the cave.
“It won’t collapse until I collapse it,” he explained.
Near Quin’s feet was a small stone disc. She recognized it—it was the medallion Shinobu had shown her back in the cliff barn. It lay at the center of the flat base of the glowing semicircle; the anomaly was flowing outward from the disc.
“Where did you get that?” she asked him.
Dex tugged her forward. “Please, before I lose my nerve.”
She shook him off, leaned closer to get a better look at the disc. It wasn’t Shinobu’s medallion after all. Like Shinobu’s, it was carved with the symbol of the Dreads—three interlocking ovals—but the pattern along the edge was different. Dex hadn’t stolen this from Shinobu; so far, he hadn’t lied to her, and she really had no choice but to go along with him.
She allowed Dex to guide her forward, and together they stepped across the threshold. The border was more than a foot wide, a bright band of hissing, swirling energy. Quin held her breath as she crossed over into what should have been the familiar darkness of the place between.
“It’s not dark,” she said, surprised. The light coming off the anomaly’s border streaked out on either side like hazy guide lights in a tunnel.
Dex smiled at her, a seasoned explorer with a naive companion. He stooped over the medallion, made a minute twisting motion with the disc between his hands. When he lifted the medallion up, the space around them warped, like a water droplet joining with other drops and changing its shape. At once the cave opening was far be- hind them, and they were well within the dark tunnel.
Compared to the medallion in his hands, an athame was . . . a blunt instrument, just as Dex had said. The disc was manipulating the space between as a potter manipulates clay.
The medallion held out on his palm, Dex began to walk. The smears of light on each side defined themselves into shapes. Quin saw the rock of the cliff they’d been inside, the water at the top of the falls, grass, and sunlight. These things were discernible within the blackness, as if the landscape were flowing around her and Dex behind a dark curtain, as if this tunnel they were in were pushing its way through the world.
She recognized where they were immediately. The landscape spread out beyond this high meadow was the Scottish estate. The waterfall was the same fall she and Shinobu had visited a dozen times when they were children. Until now, she’d only been as far as the pool at its base and hadn’t known of the hidden cave to which Dex had brought her. It was as though he knew the estate better than Quin, who’d lived there for most of her life.
“We walked through the cliff and now we’re above it?” she asked incredulously.
“In a way.” Dex was keeping his eyes turned from the view. “The hidden dimensions are curled up at every point of our world. You can unfurl them all at once with an athame, or unfurl them as you go with this.” He held out the medallion.
Dex made another series of adjustments to the stone disc. “Look,” he said. To their left, in time with the shifting of the medallion, the curtain became less substantial and the shapes more distinct. Quin could see a high open meadow, covered in spring grass and cut by the wide channel of the river above the falls. And there, at the water’s edge—
“Yellen?” she whispered in astonishment.
The horse grazed on the long grass. Quin could make out an uneven blaze down a broad, reddish-brown forehead. It was Yellen without a doubt.
She’d lost track of her horse two years ago, when she’d jumped, on his back, through an anomaly and escaped from the estate during John’s attack. Quin had been shot in the chest, and tangled up with Shinobu, and neither of them had known what became of her horse.
“How did he get here? I haven’t seen him in two years.”
“I came upon him in no-space,” Dex said, as if that sort of thing happened to him every day. “Call him, if you like.”
The horse lifted his head, twitched his ears toward her, and whinnied. She whistled and clapped her hands smartly, the way she’d done when she was ten years old and had first taught Yellen to come to her. The horse approached warily, evidently not able to see Quin, though she could see him clearly. He still wore his bridle, the same bridle she’d put on him two years ago. She coaxed him closer by voice, until he’d poked his head through the gauzy fog and his muzzle touched her hand.
“Come on,” she whispered, and she pulled him all the way inside the anomaly.
Yellen whickered, and Quin touched the horse’s forehead with her own, overjoyed to have found him again. It was like finding a piece of herself she had mislaid.
As soon as he was fully with them in the strange tunnel, the brightness of the meadow began to fade. Dex was manipulating the medallion and was walking again. Quin followed with her horse, soothing him as he tossed his head nervously. In a few moments, though, he had fallen into a docile state and was following her easily.
Traces of the world moved by like ghosts on either side. It was as if they, inside the tunnel, were walking through the world, but also as if the world were being moved around them.
Her mind kept darting back to Shinobu, and she wondered where he was and how she would find him. But this dance Dex was doing between the world and the hidden dimensions There was like nothing she’d imagined, and she couldn’t help losing herself in the experience as it unfolded around her.
Excerpted from Disruptor (c) Arwen Elys Dayton, 2017