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The Ever Storms
Table of Contents
About The Book
Barclay and his friends find new dangers and fresh adventure when they encounter mysterious sandstorms in the Desert in this thrilling third book of the New York Times bestselling Wilderlore series.
After saving the Sea, Barclay and his fellow apprentices are eager to take part in a new kind of adventure—the Symposium, a set of courses that all apprentices of the Lore Keeper Guild need to pass before they can take their licensing exam. Barclay is excited to travel to the Desert to study at the University of Al Faradh, the most respected school in all the Wilderlands, and to reunite with the new friends he made at the Sea.
He’s slightly less excited about the Tourney, the traditional, good-natured prank war between the various apprentice tracks. As an Elsie, he’s pretty sure he’ll have enough on his hands keeping up with the Symposium without having to worry about stink bombs and slime warfare.
But as mysterious, unnatural sandstorms start to appear around the Desert, there are more than just exams and bragging rights at stake. And the appearance of an exclusive, magical library might just be the key to everything…
Barclay Thorne groaned and covered his ears, trying to muffle the ferocious rumbles of the dragon’s stomach—the dragon he was now riding.
This was Barclay’s first time traveling by carrier dragon, and for the most part, he liked it. The passenger caravan strapped to the Beast’s back was comfy and spacious, with wide windows perfect for admiring the breathtaking views. And the speedy flight had shortened an otherwise thirty-week journey on foot to a mere four days.
What he didn’t like was all the noise. The wind whizzed shrilly in his ears. The pilot hollered directions from his saddle, no matter the time of day or night. And the carrier dragon, named Justine, was clearly suffering from a bad case of indigestion.
“Are we there yet?” Barclay grumbled.
“For the fifth time, no,” answered his closest friend, Viola Dumont, who sat cross-legged on the window bench beside him. “We’ll land at sundown.”
As she spoke, Mitzi—Viola’s own dragon—reached a silver wing over Viola’s shoulder and clawed at one of the hundreds of gold pins on her tunic. Viola yelped and shot Mitzi a dirty look.
Mitzi used to be sneakier—and a lot smaller. Only a baby whelp when Barclay had first met her, Mitzi had since grown to the size of a sheepdog. Two nubby horns had sprouted between her ears, and the feathers on her tail now climbed up her back and wings. But despite how much she’d changed, Mitzi still loved nothing more than all things shiny.
“Mitzi, we talked about this,” Viola scolded her. “You need to be better behaved.”
Mitzi paid her no mind. She jabbed a talon at a glimmering button on Viola’s sleeve.
Both Justine and Mitzi were Beasts, which were animals with magical powers called Lore. Beasts came in many shapes and sizes, from tiny, harmless creatures to gigantic, terrifying monsters, and they dwelled in six regions of the world known as the Wilderlands. The people who lived there with them, like Barclay and Viola, were called Lore Keepers, and they bonded with Beasts in order to share their magic.
“You should try to relax,” Viola told Barclay, ignoring Mitzi’s pokes and prods. “Haven’t you read that book twice already?”
Barclay peeled his attention away from Beastly Biographies of Brilliant Keepers, which Viola had gifted him for his thirteenth birthday earlier that Summer. “But what if I missed something? There are going to be apprentices from all across the Wilderlands at the Symposium, but I didn’t grow up in the Wilderlands like everyone else. I don’t want to fall behind.”
The Symposium was a set of courses that all apprentices of the Lore Keeper Guild were required to pass before they could sit for their licensing exam. It took place every year at the University of Al Faradh, the most famous school in all the Wilderlands.
Being an apprentice himself, Barclay had always known that he’d have to attend the Symposium, but he’d assumed that would be years and years away. Until four days ago, when their teacher, Runa Rasgar, had abruptly announced their travels to the Desert for the Symposium. And four days was definitely not enough time to prepare.
Viola shook her head. “You’ve been a Lore Keeper for a year and a half now, and you know as much about Beasts as Tadg and I do. You have nothing to worry about.”
Tadg Murdock was their fellow apprentice, a hotheaded boy who always found something to be grumpy about. After complaining all afternoon about how boring and long their flight was, he’d fallen asleep on the cushions in the caravan’s corner. His wavy light brown hair was matted from his pillow, and one of his Beasts, Toadles, had nestled himself into the crook of his arm.
Barclay hoped that Viola was right. Even if he ended up being the only student from the Elsewheres, which were the regions of the world without magical Beasts, he no longer felt like the scared mushroom farmer who’d accidentally wandered into the Woods. He’d faced not one but two Legendary Beasts. And after more than a year spent training at the Sea, he was smarter, stronger, and faster than he’d ever been.
Gurrrrrrrrrg. The floor tremored with Justine’s latest stomach cramp.
The sound made Root wake with a start. Root was Barclay’s Lufthund, a wolflike Beast with powerful wind Lore. Side by side, the pair of them looked similarly wild. Root had shaggy fur, hooked claws, and sharp teeth. He was all black except for the white bones that jutted out from the base of his spine. Meanwhile, Barclay had long, tangled dark hair to match, pale skin, and fingernails far too often caked with dirt.
Unlike Barclay, who was still as short as ever, Root had grown far bigger this past year. When he padded up to Barclay, he had to bend down to nudge his Keeper’s head.
“I know,” Barclay told him, scratching him beneath the chin. “I’m tired of being cooped up too. But we’ll land soon.”
Root huffed impatiently. Then he sat down and rested his head on Barclay’s knees.
Barclay turned back to Viola. “Maybe you’re right and I’ve been studying too much. But how come you’re not?” That wasn’t like Viola, who didn’t deem a book finished until she’d read it three times over.
Viola shrugged. “Oh, I’ve been studying for the Symposium since I was seven, so I’ve spent the trip doing more important things. Like mapping out my to-do list for when I get home.”
Mitzi and Root weren’t the only ones to have grown this past year. When Viola stood to fetch her satchel, she towered over Barclay. She might’ve always been tall, but lately she seemed to stretch another inch every season, and her two hair buns of tight brown curls only added to her height. She was even taller than Runa now.
Viola sat down and flipped through the pages of her leather-bound notebook.
“Your mom lives in the Desert, right?” Barclay asked. “How long has it been since you last saw her?”
“Almost two years, since I first became an apprentice.” Barclay was no expert on families, as his parents had died when he was small, but two years seemed like a long time to be apart. “Which is why the first thing I’m going to do when I get home is eat as much of my mom’s cooking as possible.”
Barclay agreed this task was very important. The food at the Sea left a lot to be desired.
“Second,” Viola continued, “I’m going to meet Gamila Asfour. She’s the new High Keeper of the Desert, now that Idir Ziani retired. I’ve heard she’s very impressive, and I need her to like me if I’m going to be Grand Keeper one day.”
Whereas High Keepers governed each Wilderland, the Grand Keeper was the leader of the Guild and the entire Lore Keeper world. Though the job was elected, not inherited, the Dumonts had been the Grand Keepers for three generations. And Viola was determined to follow in her family’s footsteps. Barclay had no doubt she’d succeed. She’d already traveled to four of the six Wilderlands. She was an expert on languages. And she spent all her free time studying and preparing for a job that was years away.
“Last, I’m going to bond with a second Beast,” Viola finished.
Barclay smirked. “Will Mitzi like that?”
Mitzi now creeped across the floor toward Toadles, her best friend—or, as Tadg referred to him, her partner in crime.
“Mitzi and I have had a lot of long talks,” Viola replied. “And we agree that I’m more than ready for a second Beast.”
Meanwhile, Mitzi tapped Toadles on the gemstone in the center of his forehead. The tiny Beast’s bulging eyes flew open with surprise, and purple goo squirted out of his webbed hands. Tadg jolted awake, seething. Toadles’s poison Lore had made his fair skin swell violet with an itchy rash.
“You’re supposed to stay in your Mark!” Tadg snapped at Toadles, who only stared at him blankly.
Suddenly, the caravan lurched as Justine swooped to the right. Root howled. Viola collided with Barclay. And Mitzi frantically stretched out her long wings to take flight, smacking Tadg in the face.
“Whoa, girl! Steady!” the pilot hollered, tugging on Justine’s reins.
In the span of a blink, Runa rose from her sleeping roll in the corner and darted toward the pilot’s side. “What’s going on?” she asked, her voice calm even as Justine plunged into a steep dive.
Runa Rasgar was never afraid of anything, because no matter where she was, she was always the scariest thing in the room. Her chain mail clothes looked fit for a warrior, and a jagged scar cleaved down the pale skin on the right side of her face. Her famous reputation as a Guardian and a Dooling champion had earned her the nickname the Fang of Dusk.
“I… Look! Over there!” The pilot pointed southward, and Barclay and Viola twisted around to peer out the windows.
In the distance, a dark, menacing pillar stretched up from ground to sky. It was as wide as a city or even a mountain, as though a vast hole had been torn through the world. It took Barclay several seconds to realize that the pillar was moving. Its surface swirled and billowed like plumes of smoke.
“What is that?” Barclay rasped. Beside him, Root sprang up to take in the sight as well, and he let out a low, threatening growl.
“It’s a sandstorm,” Runa answered gravely.
“But it’s so small,” said Viola, which made Barclay gape. The storm might’ve taken up only a sliver of the otherwise blue and sunny sky, but it still felt ridiculous to describe something so frightening as small. “If it was a sandstorm, it would be—”
“I don’t think it’s a normal one. Can you take us closer?” Runa asked the pilot.
“C-closer?” the pilot sputtered. “That’s much too dangerous. You see how Justine reacts.”
“We don’t need to fly close enough to put us in harm’s way. I just want to get a better look.”
The pilot muttered something under his breath, then tapped his foot against Justine’s long neck, steering her to the right. The caravan tilted, forcing Barclay and Viola to grasp onto the window frames to keep from falling, and Root’s claws raked across the seat cushions. Along the back wall, a rack of pamphlets advertising SKYBACK CARRIER DRAGONS, the #1 Keeper-recommended draconic flight service toppled down with a crash.
Tadg pried Mitzi off him—she’d been clinging to his face—and stumbled toward Runa. “You told us that you didn’t have any work to do in the Desert. You said that while we were studying, you’d be taking a vacation.”
“Did I?” Runa said innocently, with a not-so-innocent twinkle in her icy blue gaze.
Runa was a Guardian, which was one of the four types of Lore Keepers licensed by the Guild, so it was her job to protect the Wilderlands from dangerous Beasts. Last year, Runa had been summoned to the Sea to investigate a carnivorous algae bloom called the weeping tide, which had been making Lochmordra, the Sea’s Legendary Beast, attack islands and ships. But as it turned out, the seaweed wasn’t to blame. The real culprits were a Lore Keeper named Audrian Keyes and his apprentice, Yasha Robinovich, who were trying to destroy the borders between the Wilderlands and the Elsewheres to let Lore consume the entire world. Even though Barclay and his friends had saved the Sea, Keyes and Yasha had escaped, and no one had seen them since.
“I knew there was a reason you were sticking us in the Symposium,” Tadg said smugly. “You’ve been sent to investigate something in the Desert, haven’t you?”
“High Keeper Asfour might’ve requested my presence,” Runa admitted. “But the three of you don’t need to concern yourselves with it. You should be focusing on your studies.”
“No way! We’d rather help you than be stuck in some class.” When Runa didn’t respond, Tadg whipped his head toward Barclay and Viola. “Well? Don’t you two agree with me?”
Barclay was only half paying attention. As they neared the sandstorm, he could make out huge, whirling currents of dust within it, twisting around one another like snakes. It looked as though the Desert was writhing. The sand that soared in the air was so thick that no light could break through from above, creating a deep, deep darkness.
“Is that what sandstorms usually look like?” Barclay asked Viola.
“No,” she answered tightly.
Justine let out a fearful cry and lurched a second time, so strongly that Viola shrieked and Tadg was thrown to the floor.
“I’m sorry,” the pilot told Runa. “She won’t take us any closer.”
Runa stared at the sandstorm through shrewd, narrowed eyes.
“Ma’am?” the pilot asked nervously.
“That’s fine. Get us back on course to Menneset.”
Justine swerved around, and Barclay breathed a sigh of relief. Just looking at the sandstorm had made goose bumps prickle across his skin. He wrapped his arm around Root’s back, and after a few moments, Root relaxed and withdrew his claws from the shredded cushions.
As they soared away, something dark moved in the corner of Barclay’s vision. He turned back to the window, and his heart stuttered to a stop.
One of the columns of sand had bent away from the storm and stretched out toward them, like a massive hand reaching for a candle flame.
No sooner did Barclay scream than the hand closed over them.
And the world snuffed out.
- Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (January 31, 2023)
- Length: 368 pages
- ISBN13: 9781665910750
- Ages: 8 - 12
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