Eyes wide with shock, Hallie spins around in a full circle. The wild- looking girl with the silver blades is apparently alone, and ... friendly? But there are still Firks on the other side of the rift, possibly coming through after her, and she doesn’t have much time to spare.
Stuffing her blade back into her sleeve, she shakes her hands out, magic smoke dancing across her fingers like sparkling fog, and reaches for the hole hovering in midair. She can hear the chattering of Firk-speak even over the weather. They must be close, the only thing keeping them at bay the dust, which has got to be making it difficult for them to see. Shutting her eyes for a split second—just long enough to try and shake off the weakness that warp travel always leaves behind—she grabs the edges of the rift and slams them together, just in time.
A single diamond claw punches through at the last possible moment, then remains trapped in midair when the breach closes tightly around it, like a cork in a bottle. With a faint grin, Hallie carefully uses her sleeve to cover her hand and pushes on the end of the claw until it sinks into nothingness with a subaudible “pop.”
The breach closes once and for all, and she sits down like her legs have been cut out from under her and looks up at the stranger.
“Thanks for the save. Which division are you from? I’m Hallie, London Protectorate.” She tugs a necklace out from under her Queen shirt and jingles it, a bronze medallion glinting in the light.
Aurelia cocks her head. London? Yeah, right. No one can goldlight that far. Then again, that definitely wasn’t goldllighting. And this Hallie girl can’t be an Enchanter. If she were, she would’ve pulled out a wand instead of that silly little baby knife. Besides, she’s got the accent. And she seems friendly enough.
Deciding she’s not a threat, Aurelia sticks her swords back into their sheaths and blows a lock of wavy black hair out of her face. “I’m Aurelia. Some people call me the Firedragon. You can call me whichever. What’s a division? Is that some British thing?”
“I think I’ll stick with Aurelia. Firedragon is a dope nickname, but it’d take too long to say it. That’s like five syllables. Do you know where we are? This is a new one on me.” Hallie yanks up her long sleeves, revealing bands of black tattoos marching from her wrists to her forearms. She gives the top one a poke with a raised eyebrow, like it might start to talk.
Aurelia regards the tattoos, wondering how long it took to get them done. She doesn’t understand how anyone has time for such things. Her own look consists of whichever jeans-and-tank-top combo she can fish out of her drawer first. Plus a ponytail, though on busy days—like today—even that gets ignored.
She plops down on the ground next to Hallie. “We’re just outside the Capital. Of the Triumvirate of North America... How the heck did you get here from London? What was that portal thingy?”
Hallie visibly pales, thick eyebrows shooting together in distress. “Oh. Shit. Oh shit. I’ve done a parallel jump. Crappers.” She scruffs a hand through her hair, leaving the disheveled pixie cut in further disarray. “Um. Yeah, I portalled in from London. But ... I’m thinking not your London. Which is of the bad. The very bad.”
Looking down at her tattooed wrists, she frowns in concentration and, although white light seems to sparkle over her skin for a moment, like she’s dipped her wrists in liquid sunlight, it fades out just as quickly.
“And it looks like I’m stuck here, at least ‘til I recharge. Do you have any food?”
“Sure. Here.” Aurelia unzips one of the pouches on her utility belt. She always carries something to eat when hunting monsters, since she never knows how long it’ll take. She grabs a candy bar and tosses it to Hallie. “So ... what do you mean by parallel jump? Is that some new kind of hoodoo?”
“Ta.” Opening the candy with shaking fingers is hard, but Hallie gets it on the second try, and answers with her mouth full of delicious goodness. “Um, imagine that there are a bunch of balloons, in a room. And I can go from inside one balloon, which is Earth, to inside a different balloon, which is not Earth. I was in a different balloon, and I tried to get back to my own, original balloon—where I live—and I seem to have ended up in ... an entirely different room full of balloons. Shit, that was a terrible metaphor. Sorry. Yikes. I’m from another world? That also has a London and a North America and stuff.”
Licking the wrapper requires concentration, and when she looks up, she has chocolate smudged on her nose.
“How come you’re wandering round the woods with a pair of swords if you’re not a warrior?”
Balloons. Worlds floating around like balloons. Well, it’s not the weirdest thing Aurelia has heard of.
“Cool,” she says, then glances around in case those bloodwolves are nearby. So far, she hasn’t seen or heard anything. “I dunno how it is in your world, but here, monsters are everywhere. They escaped the Underworld about a hundred years ago and have been crawling all over the place ever since. And their favorite food is fresh human. The Enchanters used their magic to carve out little pockets of safety, but if you live in their cities you have to do whatever they say. And even then, monsters sometimes get through the magical barriers. Or get too close for comfort. The Enchanters fight them off, but there aren’t enough of them. So they enlist non-magical fighters like me. I’m better than any wand-wielding loser, anyway.”
“Huh. That sounds ... pretty sucky. We deal with a lot of monsters trying to come through and mess with us, but the Protectorate sends them scurrying back where they came from.” Hallie looks around for a moment, and doubt colors her voice. “Like here, I guess. It sounds kind of like you guys got over run. Do you have breaches? Like the hole I came through, I mean? Cause if that’s where the monsters are coming from, we could maybe help you out.”
Hallie looks like she couldn’t win a fight with a squirrel right now, and Aurelia thinks that traveling between dimensions must mess with her pretty intensely. But the offer is obviously genuine.
Still, she shakes her head. “Thanks, but it’s too late. The Sentinels—that’s a special class of Enchanters who pretty much run this place—closed the Portal to the Underworld forever ago. But by the time they managed it, too many monsters had already escaped, and they kept replicating. So we’re pretty much screwed. Still, I plan to take down as many of those supernatural suckers as I can.”
She glances over her shoulder, but, finding no signs of monster activity, turns back to Hallie. “So, it’s kinda obvious that you don’t fight monsters. What were you doing with those monkey things?”
“Maybe you can kill ‘em all? I hope so! Those monkeys are called Firks, and we were scouting on their home world, but there was a big storm and I got separated from my team. I have a warrior—that’s someone like you, who’s very, very good at killing things—and a warlock, who does the magic, and me. I’m the weaver. I can open and close dimensional doorways. That’s what the tattoos are.”
She lifts her hands, turning her arms so Aurelia can see. “I get a new one for each world I contact, and then I have the key if I wanna open another door there. This one—” A finger traces over a line just under her palm. “—Is the dial code for home. And as soon as my insides stop bubbling, I’ll get out of your hair.” The last is said with a grin, and Hallie tucks her hair behind her ear. “You’re a great fighter, though; if you wanna switch worlds, I bet I can get you a job.”
“Awesome,” Aurelia says. Hallie’s just earned about a million more cool points in her head. She may not be a fighter, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t fight. Running into the middle of a monster battle takes guts, no matter what your job is. “Warlocks sound an awful lot like Enchanters, with the magic and stuff. Except Enchanters here claim that their hoodoo makes them better than us non-magical Norms. Is it like that in your world?”
Hallie bursts out laughing. “Hell no! My girlfriend, Cam, she’s a warrior. She’d kick any warlock’s ass if they got that big headed. Nah, we’re a team sorta thing. None of us could do our jobs without the others, and most of our support staff are just your basic-issue humans. Doesn’t mean they don’t do their part, though. We don’t stand for no discrimination around our parts!”
She leans back on one hand and cracks her neck from side to side, making a horrible noise. “Why don’t you kick their butts?”
“Because everyone’s scared of them. Even talking to an Enchanter the wrong way can get you sent to jail.” Aurelia leans back on her hands as well, grabbing fistfuls of crunchy leaves, and anger flares through her chest, along with a stab of jealousy, for the kind of world Hallie lives in. A place where the magical and the non-magical work together and respect each other for their skills, not what they were born as...
That’s how her life should be, too. She sees a glimpse of the world she wants each time she hangs out with her best friend, Connor, who miraculously escaped the jerkishness that seems inherent in the other Enchanters. In fact, he’s the nicest person she’s ever met. A little too nice, even.
And though part of Aurelia sorely wants to escape to Hallie’s universe, the thought of her best friend reminds her why she can’t.
“I wish I could leave, but this is where my people are. I don’t have a lot of friends—actually, I really only have one—but that doesn’t mean I don’t care what happens to everyone else. If I don’t fight for them, nobody will. Right now I’m still stuck with the Triumvirate, keeping people safe from monsters, but someday I’ll fight for freedom, too.”
TUNE IN FOR MORE NEXT WEEK!
There have always been warps—tears between realities—and they’ve always been a threat to humanity. Most people are blind to them. But Hallie’s eyes are opening. Now that she’s going to school at the Protectorate, she’s learning there’s more to life than fun and games.The truth is, she’s just become part of Earth’s only shield against the monsters of the warps. Before, she didn’t think she was anything special. Now, yanked from her relatively normal life, she realizes that she doesn’t have a choice.When the emergency alarm sounds, calling everyone in the school to arms, even the young and inexperienced are needed. As one of the warp weavers—capable of closing the warps and stopping the monsters—Hallie must now work to save lives. And she must do it in the most complicated situation she’s ever experienced. Because there are sea serpents in the Thames, and Hallie has to close the doors that are letting them in.The problem is, they’re underwater, and they’re hungry.Now everyone is relying on her, and Hallie must find a way to do her job—with a brand new partner—before it’s too late. Because if she fails she’ll die, along with everyone who’s depending on her.Don't miss this prequel to Tash McAdam's new series, Warp Weavers, coming in 2016.
Sinister plots. An underground rebellion. And a treacherous road filled with monsters and enemies unknown. It's been three months since Aurelia survived the International Challenge—an elite monster-fighting competition. And the Triumvirate has been keeping a close eye on her ever since … as if they expect her to cause them more trouble.They’re right.Now that she knows about the underground revolution—and the dark secrets of her own past—Aurelia is hell-bent on escaping the government’s watchful gaze and joining the rebels. Finally, she’s found a cause worth fighting for. A way for her kind, the Norms, to take back their freedom.Then, when she overhears a Triumvirate official’s conversation, she learns that it’s even worse than she realized. The government knows about the rebels, and the rebellion. They’re searching for people who sympathize with the cause. And they’re coming after her next.Suddenly the time for dreaming about the rebellion is over. Aurelia must make contact with the rebels and plot a quick escape … before the Triumvirate has a chance to capture her. But government forces and miles of monster-filled wilderness stand between her and the rebel headquarters, and dangers she never imagined lurk in the shadows.Before she can fight for the freedom of her people, she must achieve her own—or die trying.