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Authors: Kate A. Boorman

Darkthaw

BOOK: Darkthaw
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PUBLISHER'S NOTE: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Boorman, Kate A.

Darkthaw : a Winterkill novel / by Kate A. Boorman.

pages cm

Summary: “Emmeline, kept so long behind walls, finally achieves her deepest desire: to leave the isolated world of the settlement and explore the wilderness that has long called to her. The subsequent journey, with First Peoples guide Matisa at her side, soon proves far more dangerous than anticipated”— Provided by publisher.

ISBN 978-1-4197-1663-8 (hardback)

[1. Fantasy. 2. Survival—Fiction. 3. Love—Fiction.] I. Title.

PZ7.B64618Dar 2015

[Fic]—dc23

2015008785

Text copyright © 2015 Kate A. Boorman

Illustrations copyright © 2015 Shane Rebenschied

Book design by Maria T. Middleton

Published in 2015 by Amulet Books, an imprint of ABRAMS. All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, mechanical, electronic, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the publisher.

Amulet Books and Amulet Paperbacks are registered trademarks of Harry N. Abrams, Inc.

Amulet Books are available at special discounts when purchased in quantity for premiums and promotions as well as fundraising or educational use. Special editions can also be created to specification. For details, contact [email protected] or the address below.

115 West 18th Street
New York, NY 10011
www.abramsbooks.com

Contents

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

THE RIVER IS SWOLLEN AND VIOLENT.

The dead lie beneath.

I fix my eyes where the banks close to a narrow gap and the river rushes through in a torrent. Where the trees bud out with soft green tips, bending in the springtime breeze. Where they sent my pa to his peace.

They did it quick, that very day he died to save me, before
La Prise
howled in and blinded us, before the world went dark. Wrapped in cloth tied at each end, his body was thrown to the deadly chunks of whirling ice. I had the memory of those waters deep in my bones, the hollow scream of the river loud in my ears, and I went with him, swirling down that giant hole of black.

Then Kane put his hand to the nape of my neck and pulled me, gentle, to his chest, his woodsmoke warmth. I heard the winter winds whistling through the trees, Kane's heart beating loud in my ear. Matisa put her unfamiliar, familiar hand in mine.

We took shelter. The dark rushed in. The river froze.

And our dreams began. Matisa's of death: river on fire, shattering bone, deafening sound. A war destroying the people she and I love. Mine of life: tall peaks of rock, snowcapped trees, shining waters. A valley where warm winds drift across an impossible lake: blue like a robin's egg yet green like the newest poplar buds. And all of it, calling out to me.

Matisa says we're the dreamers of her legend—two dreamers from “different times” who were meant to find each other. Last fall, I dreamt about Matisa every night. I dreamt she was out in the woods beyond our fortification, and the pull, the desire to find her, was so strong, I risked my own life to do it. She was dreaming of me, too. She left her home and searched these woods, a forbidden place among her people, to find me. All winterkill long, my dreams have been about life—my new life, out there. A small part of me wants to cling to that idea, wants to believe that this alone is the reason she came.

But I know different. The disaster Matisa dreams: she believes we will prevent it if we stay together. And even if I don't rightly know how, I plan to try. I'll leave this place and journey to her home, that strange and beautiful place in my dreams. Find out how our dreams connect, how they can prevent death.

I fiddle the balsamroot in my hand. It grows much closer to the fortification, but I can't help but come out here to pick it. I bend low to pull some more from the bank, shifting my weight to my good foot before I remember it won't hurt to lean on my other, thanks to Matisa's tincture. She says I'll forget the habit soon enough.

The voices that used to whisper at me from the trees are silent. My Lost People, the ghosts of the First Peoples who once lived on this land, are here now. They have been found;
we
have been found.

But I hear new voices murmuring beneath the rush of river. Way down in those cold depths. Clamoring under the surface.

And they don't speak of life.

I close my ears to the murmuring and breathe the soft wind that sighs through the willows. The sun shines on the spot where they cast my pa. My pa's body, so still. I push the memory away and let my eyes fill up with the silver light gleaming off the waters. That once solid ribbon of frozen river is now a glimmering rush, feeding the thirsty willows and cattails, helping the trees burst into all shades of green.

With the Thaw comes promise.

I put that idea in my secret heart and hold it there. I cling to the truth that this river's melt brings new life, new beginnings.

I try to push away a different truth that creeps cold fingers across my chest: once ice thaws, what is hidden in its depths can resurface.

My world is changing. I have to believe it's changing to the good.

“Em!” A child's voice comes from far off, behind me.

I turn. Kane and his little brother Daniel are making their way from the fortification. The morning sun bathes them in a warm glow, but the walls loom dark behind them.

Kane's head is bare, and his shirt is open at the neck, like always. He walks casual; hands in his pockets, like he has
all the time in the world to get to me. I know better; I know neither of us can get near the other fast enough.

Stolen moments from this past winterkill wash over me in a heat: desperate kisses and fumbling hands in the dark woodshed. Kane's breath on my skin, his woodsmoke scent all over me.

Nothing about those secret meetings was slow. And they were always far too short . . . heartbeats in time, only.

Tom's ma, my self-appointed guardian, would look on me hard when I stamped back into the common area, shaking snow from my winter cloak, hoping my cheeks looked flushed from the biting cold.

I watch Kane approach now, cabbage moths fluttering around in my belly.

Daniel breaks away from Kane and races toward me, his five-year-old legs pumping furious. “I got to feed them today!” he calls.

I pull my gaze from Kane and notice Daniel's bright eyes. “Feed them?”

He skids to a stop before me, dark hair all mussed. “The horses!”

Of course. Daniel plain loves those beasts. None of us had ever seen horses before Matisa and her cousin, Isi, and brother, Nishwa, showed up on them in the fall; such animals were taken by the sickness when our ancestors arrived. Matisa's horses are like something from a fairytale picture book: all long lines and sleek muscles.

I reach out my hand to smooth Daniel's hair. “You been wrestling with Nico?” Kane's other brother, Nicolas, is eight, but Daniel is the sort to bite off more than he can chew.

Daniel shakes his head but looks at the ground, a mischievous smile on his face.

“Why are you so messy?” I prompt.

BOOK: Darkthaw
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ads

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