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Authors: Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

Bloodkin

ALSO BY AMELIA ATWATER-RHODES

DEN OF SHADOWS
In the Forests of the Night
Demon in My View
Shattered Mirror
Midnight Predator
Persistence of Memory
Token of Darkness
All Just Glass
Poison Tree
Promises to Keep

DTHE KIESHA’RA
Hawksong
Snakecharm
Falcondance
Wolfcry
Wyvernhail

DTHE MAEVE’RA TRILOGY
Bloodwitch

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Text copyright © 2015 by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
Jacket art copyright © 2015 by Sammy Yuen

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, New York.

Delacorte Press is a registered trademark and the colophon is a trademark of Random House LLC.

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Educators and librarians, for a variety of teaching tools, visit us at
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Atwater-Rhodes, Amelia.
   Bloodkin / Amelia Atwater Rhodes. — First edition.
      pages cm. — (The Maeve’ra; volume 2)
   Summary: When a shapeshifter/vampire nation is charged with a crime against Midnight that sixteen-year-old Kadee and her friend Vance played a hand in, Kadee feels compelled to return to the Shantel forest where she must confront her past and the decisions she has made in the pursuit of freedom.
   ISBN 978-0-385-74305-1 (hc) — ISBN 978-0-375-99092-2 (glb)
— ISBN 978-0-307-98075-5 (ebook)
[1. Fantasy. 2. Shapeshifting—Fiction. 3. Vampires—Fiction.] I. Title.
   PZ7.A8925Bi 2015
   [Fic] —dc23

2014020694

Jacket design and interior design by Jinna Shin

Random House Children’s Books supports the
First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.

v3.1_r1

 

Bloodkin
is dedicated to my father, William Rhodes.

Writing the Maeve’ra trilogy has involved some of the most intense historical research I have ever done. Balancing historical accuracy and detail with suspension of disbelief in a fantasy setting is always tough, and I’m never able to include all the fun tidbits of information I would love to share. Thankfully, my father is also a fan of history. Since I have been working on the Maeve’ra, we have had many fascinating conversations about everything from the role of women in the Revolutionary War to overseas trade in the beginning of the nineteenth century. I finally followed your advice, Dad—here’s a story about the Revolutionary War for you. Kind of.

No acknowledgements page of mine would be complete without my giving thanks to my fellow writers and beta readers, who stuck with me as I went through draft after draft, adding and removing entire plotlines and multiple characters as I tried to get the story just right.

Finally, thanks to everyone at Random House, and to my wonderful editor, Jodi, for being so patient with me as I navigated life’s ups and downs—and watched more than one deadline sail by in the meantime!

Welcome back to the Maeve’ra, everyone. Enjoy!

“WE HOLD THESE
truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.… That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it.…”

My father taught me those words when I was just a child, too young to read them for myself. That was before I was taken away at age seven, and learned that I was something called serpiente, and that I had a people and a civilization
.

And a king
.

The serpiente claim to be the freest culture in the world, but that is an egotistical delusion. They worship freedom the way
corrupt men worship God: from afar, with faith that it must exist, but little loyalty and no personal experience. They bow to their king, who they call Diente, and even he bows to another, crueler power: Midnight, an empire ruled by blood-drinking immortals
.

The vampires’ empire maintains its grasp on those it rules through cruelty, slavery, and terror. The shapeshifter nations are too afraid to rise up, so they play Midnight’s games. Kings exploit their own people in order to preserve their precious illusion of freedom
.

My father taught me that an American does not accept an abusive government, that it is not just our right but our duty to stand up to a leader who mistreats us. Farrell, the man who took me in when I fled the serpiente palace three years ago, taught me a similar lesson: a child of Obsidian bows to no king, no queen. No Diente Julian. No Mistress of Midnight, the pale vampiress Jeshickah, who claims to rule the world. I accepted the name Obsidian proudly. It is true that we live as outlaws, but that is because the alternative is to live as slaves
.

When I joined the Obsidian guild, they told me about a prophecy, which had been given years before by our kinsman Malachi when he and his mother had still been slaves in Midnight: someday, his then-unborn sister would take the serpiente throne and bring about the fall of the vampires’ empire. Farrell rescued Malachi and his pregnant mother from Midnight and brought them back to the Obsidian guild to live freely
.

I was told of the prophecy by Malachi and Misha’s younger brother, Shkei, but the Obsidian guild doesn’t actively concern
itself with kings or queens, fate and the future. What will be, will be. A child of Obsidian is the master of his or her own life, not an arbiter of destiny
.

We had hope for the days ahead, and that was enough—until last summer, when Misha, who was supposed to destroy Midnight, was instead sold to it as a slave. With her went Shkei, my dearest friend, a boy whose sixteen years of life were snuffed out to satisfy a bitter king
.

I do not know how much one individual can accomplish alone, but I know what a group of people who have chosen complacency will accomplish together: nothing. I am not content to wash my hands of a world where these things happen, but sometimes it seems there are few other choices, and each one is worse than the last
.

Kadee Obsidian
May 7, 1804

PERFECT WEATHER FOR
a shopping trip
, I thought as I passed through the gates to the serpiente open-air market.

A fine, chilly drizzle was falling from the overcast May sky. Like everyone else in the market, I kept my head down so the hood of my cloak could keep the rain out of my eyes. Unlike everyone else, I had good reason to hide my face regardless of the weather: like most members of the Obsidian guild, I was wanted for treason. I did have the distinction of being guilty based on my own actions instead of just by association, which was the charge on most of Obsidian’s members. I had been convicted at a trial I had declined to attend three years ago—wisely, since the sentence would have been death despite my age.

I was fifteen now, and grateful for the rain.

Under the cloak, I felt half naked in the clothes of a casual serpiente trader: a loose blouse under a half bodice, and trousers that hugged my hips and thighs, then laced even more tightly at my calves. The bodice was low-cut, and dyed a brilliant shade of emerald, leaving the majority of my chest exposed.

A good way to catch your death by lung fever
, I thought, then shook my head. The concern was a remnant of another time, another life. Serpent shapeshifters like me were immune to human diseases like that.

Maybe that was why they were so comfortable wearing so little clothing.

Out of the corner of my eye, I spied the black and crimson uniform of a member of the palace guards. His gaze drifted over me as he scanned the crowd in the marketplace, but he paid me no attention. Why would he? I was just another shopper.

Unfortunately, “shopping” was made difficult by the fact that I had no trade goods or currency that I dared use. That meant I had to get creative.

Once, I would have balked at stealing, but these days, my hands were swift. As I moved casually through the marketplace, I took advantage of absentminded shopkeepers—those who were busy flirting, or whose eyes had caught on the brightly dressed dancers who flitted through the crowd. A salt horn, a bag of dried peas, a sack of cornmeal, and a
log of goat cheese all disappeared into the haversack that hung at my hip.

I didn’t take much from any individual merchant. I couldn’t quite resist a warm lamb pie, which smelled of rich spices, but I slipped a blood coin onto the merchant’s table where he would find it later.

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