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The Legend Thief

BOOK: The Legend Thief
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Table of Contents


Prologue: The Binding of Bedlam


Chapter 1: Down in the Dumps


Chapter 2: Cut to the Wick


Chapter 3: Unexpected Guests


Chapter 4: A Deadly Collapse


Chapter 5: Sky Hunters


Chapter 6: Indecent Descent


Chapter 7: Grove of the Fallen


Chapter 8: A Surprise Party


Chapter 9: Thresher


Chapter 10: Vengeance


Chapter 11: Darkhorn Dreams


Chapter 12: Perspicacious Bodacity


Chapter 13: The Finger of Erachnus


Chapter 14: A Spy Among Us


Chapter 15: Angry Ostriches & Cockroach Eyebrows


Chapter 16: Dedications, Revelations & Lies


Chapter 17: Tryouts of Doom


Chapter 18: Friends of Mystery


Chapter 19: Hazzlebark and Hazzleweed


Chapter 20: Harrow Wights


Chapter 21: Orphan Among Us


Chapter 22: Erfskin Biscuits


Chapter 23: Buried by Porp-a-lorps


Chapter 24: A Gift Freely Given


Chapter 25: Ride of the Darkhorn


Chapter 26: Homecoming Queen


Chapter 27: Army of Bedlam


Chapter 28: Paragoth the Earth-Eater


Chapter 29: Slippery Wick Brew


Chapter 30: A Tangled Web Unwoven


Chapter 31: Solomon Rises


Chapter 32: Filled with Love


Chapter 33: Called from the Edge


Chapter 34: Twin Blades


EPILOGUE: Fred the Piebald


















































































Prologue: The Binding of Bedlam

December 25, 1592


Alexander Drake tightened his grip on his burlap sack and marched through the fiery crags dressed like a pirate. He was seventeen, slightly skinny, mostly handsome, and smattered with grit, both figuratively and literally.


He also wore a monocle.


The pirates who plundered the Atlantic and manned the ship
Le Pamplemousse Terrible
didn't commonly wear monocles, particularly thick white ones covered with strange latches and rings; but then, Alexander Drake was no common pirate.


A dark shadow passed through the ash cloud overhead. Alexander stopped and slowly reached for a long shimmering blade hanging from a strap on his shoulder. He let his hand rest on the handle.
Sounds bounced strangely through the haze, nearby and far away- muffled screaming and creatures shrieking.


The shadow passed and Alexander marched on, trying to silence his misgivings. He followed a worn path through a sleepy volcanic crater, passing bubbling streams and hardy tropical trees struggling to survive. Ahead, the path led up the side of a smaller volcano within the main crater, one of three such peaks within the broader volcanic valley.


He reached a ledge near the top and popped out above the ash cloud so that he could see the other two peaks and the surrounding ridge of the main volcano which, from above, resembled a human skull.


Alexander found Solomon Rose waiting for him on the ledge.


"I was beginning to think I'd have to go on without you," said Solomon grimly. Solomon was dressed like a nobleman in fine black breeches and hose and a black doublet adorned with golden clasps that looked like roses.


Other than the clothing, Solomon was identical to Alexander in every way-nose, eyes, ears, height, weight, everything-even down to the faint white mark, like a small eye, that sat on his palm: the Hunter’s Mark, which Alexander had inherited at birth and Solomon had miraculously and dangerously inherited much more recently. They could've been twins. In a very real way, they were, but not by birth.


Alexander scowled. "You look like a fop, Solomon. Worse, you make me look like a fop."


"A fop?"
Solomon asked, sounding confused.


"A fop.
A coxcomb.
A jackanapes.
A lordly mountebank," Alexander rattled off.


Solomon raised an eyebrow.


"A well-dressed
," Alexander clarified.


"Ah, I see," Solomon replied. "You mean because I look like you. Or rather, I look as I would if I didn't have to drink your nasty concoctions every day of my life."


"Don’t be so dramatic-it's not every day. And it was part of the deal, Solomon, when I made you what you are," said Alexander tartly.


"You mean when you made us what we are," Solomon corrected. "We're the same, you and


"We are most assuredly
the same," Alexander retorted, his eyes sweeping the crater below and catching fleeting glimpses of a massive winged shadow flying through the haze. With a fearful gulp, he lowered his voice. "When I merged our blood under my birth moon and did that which was forbid den, then-at that moment only-we became the same, save in will and general disposition- an important distinction, I might add. And while I admit that we are still bound together in strange and unusual ways, we are
the same. Not now. Not in any way that matters."


''I'm well aware of our differences," said Solomon. "That's why I'm in Austria risking my life to hunt the Arkhon and you're in Exile, hiding and playing with plants. And just because it doesn't matter to you doesn't mean it doesn't matter at all. My point was that we are
Changelings, not just me. When you
us, you made us both something else. You are a Changeling."


"Yes, yes, I know." Alexander sighed; feeling annoyed with the whole conversation and wishing Solomon would speak more softly. ''I'm not trying to suggest that I'm better than you; we both know that’s not true. But this isn't something either of us should discuss, especially out loud. If the other hunters found out what we are, they would kill us. You know the risks as well as I."


"If you don’t want to discuss it, then just say what you mean; if you mean
. 'we
,' say 'we,' and if you mean 'well-dressed fool,' then say it," Solomon retorted. "You can’t hide behind words forever, Alexander."


"I said precisely what I meant and nothing more," Alexander snapped. He turned away from the smoky crater below and
circling shadows and marched along the ledge toward a large cave. "I assume everything is in place?" he asked, changing the subject. He could feel Solomon watching him intently.


"My hunters drank your Slippery Wick Brew and are inside," Solomon replied after a moment, finally lowering his voice as he fell into step beside Alexander. "Bedlam doesn't suspect a thing."


"You'd better hope not or your hunt of the Arkhon may reach a premature conclusion, and that would end badly for the both of us."


Alexander glanced over and saw that Solomon had taken the Slippery Wick Brew once again, just as he had for the last several years, to maintain his disguise. The Brew allowed Solomon to move his fat around so that his jaw was now chiseled. The baby fat that had been there moments before had hardened and moved to his arms to make him look even stronger. His nose was now long and sloped at the tip, his ears slightly larger, while the fat of his midsection had moved to the balls of his feet to add a bit of height. Thankfully, he now looked nothing like Alexander, aside from the white Hunter's Mark on his palm.


They passed into the black cave, marching ever deeper into the volcano’s boiling heart. Strange creeping mosses glowed green on the tunnel walls, and far ahead, Alexander could see faint red light rising from rivers of molten rock.


Alexander offered Solomon some moldy brown leaves. "Shove it up your nose."


"Shove it up your nose,” Solomon replied tersely. "You insult me, sir."


Alexander rolled his eyes. "No, really-insert this sub stance into your nasal cavity. And there’s no need to get for mal, your lordship."


"What is it?" Solomon asked, refusing to touch the nasty leaves.


"Barrow weed," Alexander replied. "It will keep Bedlam from edgewalking into your mind, or at least make it harder."


"''ve grown beyond such trappings," Solomon boasted, refusing to take the barrow weed. "Bedlam holds no power over me."


Alexander scoffed. Bedlam held power over everyone. As one of Legend's five remaining children, Bedlam was perhaps the most powerful monster alive.


Solomon was a good monster hunter-perhaps the greatest since the original thirteen Hunters of Legend-but Bedlam was a force of nature.


Solomon wouldn't stand a chance.


Rather than argue the point, Alexander shoved barrow weed up his own nose and kept quiet.


Ahead, the tunnel opened into a gigantic glittering cavern, the top of which was so full of rubies, emeralds, and diamonds that it looked like stars sparkling in the night sky. Molten rock flowed in rivers through the cave, and heat washed over Alexander, growing hotter and hotter as he crossed bridges of hardened lava leading to the center.


They passed dozens of creatures-twenty-foot-tall Harrow Knights with rusted smoldering skin, and their human-size siblings, the Harrow Wights, who rode massive burrowing Gossymer spiders. But Alexander and Solomon had come this way many times before as welcomed guests, and nothing tried to stop them. If only they knew, Alexander thought.


Bedlam's giant obsidian throne sat in the center of the enormous cavern. The monster Bedlam sat on the throne and stared at them with burning eyes. He had a jumbled face of charred gray flesh and rusted green copper, hardened like plate armor. On Bedlam's forehead, Alexander saw a black scar that looked like an eye and belched out writhing puffs and strands of darkness that distorted the light around it.


The Eye of Legend.


"My friends, my pupils ... I sense that you have come to lie to me," Bedlam rumbled disapprovingly, his voice as gravelly as the earth. "Since you were young, I’ve trained you to walk the storms of the Edge-the invisible space all around us where light and darkness war. I've taught you how to cross those unseen lands and enter the minds of others, to see what they see, to dwell in their memories, and haunt or bless their dreams. I've taught you as one of my own Edgewalkers, my own children. But you are no longer those boys I once knew. I see the fire stirring in your minds-I know what you seek."


"We have come to ask for your aid in stopping the Arkhon, your brother, who has unjustly declared war on the hunters," said Alexander nervously. "We keep no secrets from you."


"You mix your words well, Alexander, with speckles of truth. You know that I am tired of war-I want no part of it. So let's be honest, shall we? It's not my presence you desire in this war; it's my Eye." Bedlam tapped the black Eye of Legend on his forehead. "It cannot be taken by force without dire consequences, which you know, and so you have come to ask me to hand it over to you willingly."


Alexander and Solomon glanced at each other.


"Well," Alexander began, “we were hoping that since you're tired of war, and since none of the hunters has an Eye of Legend quite as powerful, that you might see fit to-"


Bedlam started laughing.
"Ah, Alexander.
When did you start taking me for a fool? My Eye is only the first in your hunt. What you truly desire is to claim all the Eyes, to reforge the cold and terrible darkness my father used in his attempt to reshape the world-you want to possess the force that gave him power over nearly all other forces and nature itself."


Bedlam's burning eyes bored into Alexander and Solomon challenging them to deny it.


"Centuries have passed since the First Hunter trapped my father's power and gave half to me and my four siblings, and half to her chosen thirteen Hunters, binding that power in our very flesh, in the Eye marks that each of us guard. The Eye of Legend is a curse upon all who carry its burden, not a blessing. To use Legend's power, you must control his will, and the more of his power you obtain- the more Eyes you reforge the more lost you will become until he is all that is left."


"The Hunter's Mark will allow us to control it," Alexander insisted, holding up his hand to show Bedlam the pale white eye on his palm. "It’s warming light can cut through the dark, just as it did centuries ago. We can reforge the Eyes and use Legend's power for good!"


"The First Hunter held my father's power in her hands and she gave it up. Are you greater than she?" Bedlam asked.


Alexander looked away, unable to meet Bedlam's piercing, copper-flecked eyes.


"Enough of this!"
Solomon spat, drawing his long shimmering blade. "Will you give us the Eye and help us stop the Arkhon from destroying the hunters-your supposed allies-or not?"


Bedlam stood from his throne, dragging a massive great sword from the shadows. He stood over ten feet tall, and the sword was just as long.
"My allies?
Is this how allies treat one another? I give you one last chance-for what you were. Leave me now, in peace, while you still can.
Turn from your path.
Cease your lying. Seek not the wasting darkness."


Each command struck Alexander like a punch to the head.


More than anything, he wanted to do exactly what Bedlam said, to leave this path of madness and return to his plants and his botany in London, or Exile, or even-heaven forbid-Paris, but he breathed in the barrow weed and his mind cleared of Bedlam's unnatural influence.


Looking over, he saw Solomon, impassive-a single bead of sweat sliding down his forehead.


"I know your secrets, Bedlam," said Solomon quietly. "My mind is my own. Legend's power will be ours. And with it, we will change the world forever."


"That is precisely what I fear." Bedlam swung his great sword into the ground. The earth split. A gaping crack opened where the sword hit, racing all the way to Solomon. Fire and molten rock spewed out, setting Solomon's clothes aflame as he dove out of the way.


Solomon rolled as he landed, dousing the flames. When he regained his feet, his fine doublet and hose were scorched and covered in ash. On Solomon's face, Alexander saw something he never would have expected: fear.

BOOK: The Legend Thief
6.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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