Casting the Bones Book Two
In exile from her home and her people, Turn—once Crow and psychopomp-in-training—is living among the mysterious Ravens, a people steeped in magic and forgotten history. Despite a period of relative quiet, the peace can’t last. In Sol, the world of the living, the dead are rising, and they have an appetite for flesh; the Moravici tribe—supposedly stripped of power—are actually extending the dark reach of their control and coercion. The Ravens are faced with difficult decisions, but Turn fears their choice may influenced by a source that means to destroy them.
Read an Excerpt
No more dark dreams. Not of rising powers, not of threatening forces. There were, in fact, hardly any dreams at all these days. Turn would never have believed that she would miss them.
But now she was beginning to understand they had served a purpose. One that went beyond getting her attention.
She sat on the edge of a low rise, legs crossed, hands idle at her sides, her eyes slightly unfocused. Before, she would have called a whirlwind and traveled in its arms, or perhaps she would have sent her attention to one of the stunted trees a little way below her and cast it in flame. Perhaps she would have combined the two, or cut her arm with a thumbnail and invoked the rune for water, bringing a flash flood to the dry creek bed a quarter mile away and carving it a little deeper. But now she did none of those things.
She was simply listening. Listening to the Shadowlands.
It was something she had been doing more and more lately, after she had gotten all she could out of practicing her Raven powers. No one had suggested it to her; no one had needed to. It had asserted itself in its own time, something proper and appropriate, something that could serve her. It could certainly serve her better than the spurts of argument that were cropping up more frequently in the Ravens’ encampment, rising every time they settled, fading again when they moved on, then rising once more as soon as people had the time to devote attention to it. In Turn’s early days with them, they had seemed so united, so smoothly harmonious in their dealings with each other, even with the other groups they occasionally met as they traveled.
Now that was changing.
And she couldn’t escape the feeling it was, to some degree, her fault.
Turn sighed and scrubbed a hand back through her hair. It was getting longer than she liked. She would have to find someone willing to hack it short. That, at least, was something she could do something about.
She took a deep, slow breath and sent her attention back out into the Shadowlands.
It whispered to her. It had since she began to listen to it. Sometimes the whispers were loud, sometimes they were almost too soft to hear, and always they were too muffled and jumbled to make out exactly what they were saying; the Shadowlands didn’t speak with only one voice but with many, some agreeing with each other and some vaguely contradictory. If she couldn’t make out specifics, Turn could at least get the faintest of senses about it all. So she listened, gleaning what she could, trusting that someday, as her hearing improved, she might make out the words themselves.
In its way, it was better than casting the bones, which she still did, though rarely. The Shadowlands were the oldest things in Nicht. They were so far outside of time that time itself meant nothing to them. They might bring her hints of the future.
Any hints of the future would be welcome. Any guidance at all. Because the dreams no longer came.
She didn’t want to think the goddess Atropos had abandoned her, after naming her a champion. But sometimes it felt like that.
Anyway, the voices. Though she knew she was getting better at hearing them, they had changed in the last week or so: darker ones now entering the chorus, beginning to drown others out with their noise. Turn knew the origin, and—knowing it—she also knew there wasn’t much to be done about them.
Without meaning to, she turned her head to the west, toward the source of the dark sound. The Mountains of Madness rose up in front of her like a wall, massive to the point of incomprehensibility, jagged and horrible and, in their way, very beautiful as the moon cast milky light across them, throwing their peaks and crags and chasms into sharper relief.
She didn’t like the mountains, but she knew they were trustworthy. They didn’t need to lie about what they were.
A presence behind her, silent, suddenly there as if materialized from the air itself. Turn smiled faintly, though she didn’t look around. “Ava.”
The Raven moved closer, paused, and then sat down beside her, feathered cloak rustling. They—Turn had finally begun to think of the Raven as neither “he” nor “she,” but “they”—didn’t speak, and Turn wasn’t bothered by it. Ava rarely spoke unless they felt a specific need to do so, and that lent all the more weight to whatever was said. So for a few moments Turn and the Raven simply sat there, regarding the mountains together, and Turn sensed that, as it frequently went, her thoughts and Ava’s were moving in similar directions.
At last Ava shifted, feathers whispering again. “The others speak of moving on at moonset.”
Turn nodded. It wasn’t surprising. When she had first come to them, they had stayed in one place for several weeks, but she was now understanding that such a lengthy sedentary period was not normal for them. She suspected it had probably been for her benefit, to help her get used to so much newness without forcing more of it on her. Since she had returned, they were almost always moving. As if the Ravens were afraid to remain still.
Fear was too present now.
“Closer to the mountains?”
Ava nodded. “They say other caravans are congregating in the foothills. That we will have a meeting the likes of which we have not seen since the destruction of the city.”
Turn looked sharply at Ava. She had heard murmurings along those lines, but hadn’t connected the disparate pieces in her head, and now the idea was difficult to get her mind around. Ravens, congregating: the very thing that their own esoteric and unwritten laws forbade. They would not do it unless a great need was felt, one that extended far outside the bounds of their own group.
“An Unkindness,” Ava said quietly. “Mori is not pleased. But I think he feels he has no choice. So many of them are pressing for it.”
Turn cocked her head. Unkindness. She had never heard the term, not among the Ravens themselves or in the unflattering descriptions she had read about them—written from a Crow’s perspective—while still studying in Lune. “Why do they call it that?”
Ava shifted, looking faintly uncomfortable. “In the past, such a gathering led to unfortunate things. Pride. Cruelty. Even while we stood for what we believed was right. We no longer do well together. We are no longer kind, to each other or to others.”
“So no one really wants this.”
“No one would have suggested it if no one felt it was necessary.”
“I see.” As she had guessed. Turn fell silent again, staring up at the mountains, at the Shadowlands, at the great sweeping flatnesses and the little rises, the piles of standing stones that might have been natural or might be the last ruins of much more ancient structures. It was impossible to say.
Ava laid a gentle, slender hand on her shoulder. “We should go back. Prepare.”
Turn sighed and nodded, pushing herself slowly to her feet. She stretched her stiff legs and reached a hand down for Ava, who took it and rose. Standing, they were a head taller than Turn, but Turn had long since stopped noticing the disparity. Ava was so slight, even though tall; as slender as one of the pale, spindly branches of the dead trees that clustered about the lands.
Together the two turned and began to walk down the little slope. Before them, about half a mile away, the lights of the Raven camp burned. And for the first time in months, they didn’t look entirely welcoming.