StoryBundle EXCLUSIVE! The Crossing Worlds YA bundle is the only place you can get the Special Illustrated Edition of Steven Savile's Moonlands, with over fifteen full color illustrations from artist Lukas Thelin (known for his work for Fenix magazine, illustrating RPG novels, and many other amazing projects.)
Ashley Hawthorne thinks of herself as the Cuckoo Girl. No matter where she is it feels like she doesn't quite belong.
Everything changes when her eccentric aunt, Elspeth Grimm, leaves her the key to a safety deposit box in a bank that was destroyed during the Blitz. That box contains the first part of her true inheritance: an umbrella, a battered old notebook, a pair of aviator's goggles and a locket. Each of these gifts is a unique part of who she really is.
Elspeth is a Grimm, a descendent of the brothers who purged this world of monsters by trapping them within the Concord. She is the Oracle. A keeper of all the knowledge we have amassed about the creatures of the Fae and other worlds. And someone intent on destroying the Concord has murdered her!
When Ashley looks through the goggles that night she sees curious creatures on the roof of the house across the street watching her. To the naked eye they look like crows but they are not. It is the first glimpse of the other place—the place where she will finally belong.
The journal is crammed full of things, but there's no actual writing in it. Ash decides she's going to use the book as a journal, and begins the first entry: My name is Ashley Hawthorne. The ink fades so she writes it again. My name is Ashley Hawthorne. Again the ink fades. She tries again and again until the ink scratches out an entirely different first line: That is not who you are!
I've recently enjoyed getting to know international bestseller Steven Savile—yet another author with an amazing number of series under his belt (and no stranger to StoryBundle fans). This collection is fortunate to include his YA novel, and even luckier to be able to showcase the amazing illustrations of Lukas Thelin. Seriously, this StoryBundle exclusive edition of Moonlands is worth the price of admission alone. – Anthea Sharp
"Savile's writing is achingly beautiful and sweeps the reader away into a fantastic world they'll never want to leave. The story grips you by the throat and doesn't let go, leaving you hungry for more. The author mixes political intrigue and epic fantasy in a coming-of-age story that will leave readers desperate to know how it's all going to turn out for the young heroine and the assassin sent to hunt her down. This is a classic in the making."– Debbie Viguie, NYT #1 Bestselling Author of The Wicked series
The wolf pack hit the streets of London howling. There were five of them, one Alpha leading them. They came through the gate at Golders Green, moving fast, following the scent of the girl. There wasn't a star in the city sky, which was bright with the reflected glow of streetlights. They ran hard and low, keeping their bodies close to the ground. Their nostrils flared as they sniffed the girl out.
She was close.
But the clock was against them.
The moon was a waning crescent in the bruised purple sky.
They needed to find her, kill her and return before the Moongate slammed shut. The mission was simple.
It was a mistake to believe that the Wolfen could only run with the full moon. That wasn't true. The Wolfen could shift at will, but it was easier if the moon—any moon—was high in the sky. They had seven in their own sky, meaning where they prowled any night was Wolfen night.
No one was safe.
The gate the wolves had used was in the grounds of the old crematorium, close to the memorials of some of London's most famous dead. It was like no gate you have ever seen. It was not made of iron or steel or wood. There were no hinges and no latch. It was, in fact, a gate by name alone, and should have been called more truthfully a weakness, because that was exactly what it was, a weakness between the worlds. It was an overlap: a place where the Kingdoms of the Moon and the Sunside brushed up against one another.
It was a rare occurrence, but when the moons aligned that weakness became a gate that could be crossed.
Tonight, for the first time in over one hundred years Wolfen prowled the streets of London. They weren't alone out there. Despite it being dark, it was still early. The nights drew in fast around the time of the winter solstice. But London was the kind of city where strange things happened day and night, and even as the Wolfen raced down the Finchley Road the people pouring out of the Underground station stopped and stared for a moment before they started walking again, assuming they were part of some movie shoot going on around them. That was the essence of the city. There was always something magical happening but people never took the time to reallyseeit.
Blackwater Blaze sniffed the air.
Her scent came to him.
He breathed her in.
He howled up at the moon.
Four of the pack ran on two legs instead of four, their bodies elongated, muscles stretched taut and powerful as they raced down the road. The leader was a great black beast with a slash of white across its left eye. He raced ahead on all fours. Blackwater Blaze ruled his pack with iron claws and wickedly sharp teeth. They followed him unquestioningly, deeper into the unfamiliar streets.
How can they live like this? So cut off from everything?Blaze mourned. The tarmac under his paws blocked all but the most potent essence of the earth's power from him as he ran across it.No wonder they are lost.
The Wolfen saw a woman in a long leather coat running through the city streets ahead of them. She looked over her shoulder. Just a glance as she ran on. There was something familiar about her. Blackwater Blaze sniffed the air. It was full of reeks and stinks and stenches, all so different to the smells he was used to: burger grease, sweat, chip fat, petrol, exhaust fumes, rotten food, and other aromas all somehow riddled with decay. But not the woman. She was different. Wrong. She did not belong.
She stopped running.
Blackwater Blaze stiffened, stretching to come up to his full height, and faced her.
She smiled. There was no warmth in it. She reached into her deep pockets and pulled out what appeared to be juggling balls. She tossed one up into the air.
"I know you, Targyn Fae," the Wolfen spat. "I thought I had already killed you once! I won't make the same mistake this time, believe me." His words sounded as though stones grated and ground against each other in his stomach to form them. "Face me and die a second time."
The Wolfen pack gathered around him.
They were unarmed because of Grimm's Concord. Fae weapons, blessed, enchanted, or in other ways tainted by the Kingdoms of the Moon couldn't pass through the gates. It was impossible. That was why Redhart Jax had sent the Wolfen, of course. They didn't need weapons to deal with the girl. Theywereweapons. They had teeth and claws. And those claws dragged across the blacktop of the road, leaving deep gouges in it. It was not difficult to imagine what they could do to skin and bone.
The Wolfen panted, their tongues lolled from their mouths, tasting the air, the life on it, and the inevitable undercurrent of death and decay that stole along with the breeze.
They waited for Blackwater Blaze to give the command.
"She's here, isn't she, Juggler?" Blaze growled. "I can smell her."
The traitor's heir.
They could call her whatever they wanted, but that did not change the fact she was the blood of the traitor and for that alone she must die.
She was close. Like the woman in front of him, she was different. She didn't belong. It was as simple as that. The traitor's heir—and the air—smelled ofwrongness.
"You can't save her from me, Juggler!" Blackwater Blaze tossed his head back and bayed, his howls rising and rising until they drowned out the police sirens and the music spilling out of the pubs and every other sound of the city for just long enough for the war cry to reach their quarry's ears. He wanted her to know that he was coming for her. He wanted her to know fear. He had her scent. He would not lose her now.
There were half a dozen places ringing the city where Moongates could be found: Aldgate, Bishopsgate, Cripplegate, Newgate, Moorgate and Ludgate. These were the old Roman gates of the City Wall, but they dated far back beyond the times of the invasion, back further than the memories of mankind went. Each of them opened onto a different aspect of the Kingdoms of the Moon, be it the woodlands where Wolfen ran, the high stone fortresses of the Kith and their brood of ashen-skinned blood-drinkers who shied away from all things Sunside, or the deep caves of the Daemondim where the lava spat and bubbled and gave birth to creatures no sane man would ever want to see, or the mountain ranges of the Coribrae, the crowmen who circled high above, cawing and watching, watching and cawing, or the quagmires where the mudmen writhed in the primordial ooze. The gates brought them all together.
And now, tonight, the gates were open.
Blackwater Blaze walked slowly toward the juggler. The neon lights of theatres and the too-bright lights of kebab shops and greasy spoons opening up for the night crowd lit the street. The juggler stared at him. Just watching. She made no move to fight. She tossed a second ball into the air and kept them moving. A third joined it.
Blaze sniffed the air again, the girl's elusive scent ghosted away on the currents of the night. The city proper, the centre where the tourists flocked, was alive, teeming with bodies and so full of stinks he lost her.
He never lostanyone.
Rage surged within Blackwater Blaze.
He sank his claws deep into the tarmac of the road, churning it up like loose earth.
And then it dawned on him. This had been the juggler's plan from the beginning: to draw him into the wretched press of humanity and hide her from him beneath so many more pungent odours. And to do it the juggler had simply laid down a false spoor for him to follow. She had never been there. Blackwater Blaze had been fooled.
The ridge of fur along Blaze's spine bristled.
He was an elite warrior, an unparalleled hunter.
It was a death sentence for Blackwater Blaze to have your scent.
And he had been fooled into chasing a dead woman down the streets and away from his prey.
"I'll kill you for this!" Blaze spat.
He surged toward her, every powerful muscle in his body driving him forward. His huge stride ate the distance between them, bringing Targyn Fae closer and closer by the heartbeat. The juggler wore the garish colours of a jester's motley beneath her long leather greatcoat. She tossed a fourth ball up into the air, making the pattern more complicated now. She was completely in control of each ball.
Behind her a sign in a shop window said: "FINAL DAYS!" The red and white poster might have been promising the end of the winter sale but its message was so much broader than that. It pierced the heart of everything.
The juggler threw one glittering black ball after another into the air until finally all five hung there, suspended in the night sky like dark stars.Her face was painted white, like a statue and the most peculiar goggles, like pebble glasses with lenses of oil, hung around her neck. The bones of the juggler's face were sharp and finely chiselled. She was beautiful, but it was a harsh, angular kind of beauty. There was nothing soft about her. Her head moved so slowly anyone not staring directly at the juggler would have thought she was one of those painted statues that had taken root around Covent Garden and the surrounding streets. There was nothing still about her eyes, though. They moved feverishly fast, darting to look everywhere and take in everything at once.
"She is protected," Targyn said, her words barely a whisper. They carried easily to Blaze.
The Wolfen bristled as one, the hackles of the pack rising. Their jowls curled back on jagged yellow-stained teeth. Their eyes were jaundiced by the streetlights. The nearest, second only in size and ferocity to Blaze himself, lunged for the juggler. Saliva spat from his mouth as he snarled, and lashed out with wicked claws.
The blow never landed.
A high-pitched whinethrummedfrom the middle of the five orbs hovering above the street. The light within it began to burn brighter, banishing the shadows back to the darkest corners and crevices and doorways. The orb vibrated wildly, still pinned in place as though straining against invisible tethers, and spun faster then faster still until it seemed to disappear into the air around it, becoming a blacker than black core of darklight in the afterglow of the remaining orbs.
And then it flew.
The juggling ball struck one of the Wolfen on the snout as he rose up to slash his claws across the juggler's stomach.
The impact snapped the Wolfen's head back, tooth and claw missing their mark by a whisker.
Darklight exploded out of the heart of the orb, a shockwave of ultra-dark rippling outwards until it engulfed the helpless Wolfen, tearing out across the ground beneath his paws and the air above his head, only to contract viciously, ripping the creature out of existence. It left a raw wound in the middle of the tarmac, exposing the earth and stones like the bones of London where the ground had been.
The shock of the sound waves hit the high houses, breaking away flakes of loose cement and chips of redbrick and white granite as it played the city street like one giant stone and steel instrument.
The last tortured mewl of the banished Wolfen lingered in the air long after he was gone.
And then there were four.
The second orb, and the third and the fourth flew to their marks, each detonating around the Wolfen foot soldiers. Together they became a four-note symphony, the booms amplified by the towering office buildings until it sounded like the end of the world was being played out on this lonely city street. And then, in rapid-fire succession, the three darklight sonispheres recoiled, contracting around the baying creatures as they tore them right out of this reality.
The barrage of sounds slowly dissipated, leaving Blackwater Blaze and the juggler alone and facing each other in utter silence. The road around the Wolfen was pocked and pitted with four deep gouges where his pack had flanked him.
Targyn locked eyes with the Wolfen Alpha.
Neither said a word.
Around them London trembled on the verge of explosive violence.
"You are not welcome here, Blackwater Blaze." Targyn said, and then brought her white-painted hand sweeping down sharply. "Go back to your masters and tell them the girl is protected."
High-pitched whistling broke the silence.
The whistling became a shriek as the last of the sonispheres came streaking down out of the night.
Blaze did not hesitate. There were times when even the greatest warrior knew the only option was retreat. It was not defeat. The Wolfen Alpha bolted, claws tearing up the tarmac as he raced away down a dark alley that squeezed between two of the shops. The sonisphere detonated on the road behind him, tearing out a huge chunk of black tarmac. It bit so deep it exposed the iron girders of the Underground railway tunnel far, far beneath the surface.
The juggler watched as one by one the sounds of the city returned to fill to void left behind by the sonisphere.
She wasn't the only one watching.
Far up above, lining the eaves of the street, a flock of Coribrae looked down. The crowmen drew their feathered cloaks around their narrow shoulders, their clawed toes curling around the gutters as they leaned forward intently. As the silence was banished they leapt from the rooftops, spreading their cloaks wide, and took flight. Beneath the slice of silver moon the Coribrae looked like great black albatrosses as they banked and wheeled across the sky. They would carry their messages back to the Kingdoms of the Moon, to Sabras, the Wolfen King, and Redhart Jax, his right-hand man, and eventually the word would filter all the way to the city of the King Under the Moon himself: Grimm's Concord had been broken, and not only were the Wolfen who had crossed over dead, a dead woman had been responsible.