Flight of the King


By C. R. Grey

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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around October 13, 2015. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Winter vacation has never seemed so long. Normally, Bailey would enjoy the break from schoolwork, but this year he can’t wait to get back to Fairmount Academy in order to spend more time with his Animas, the white tiger Taleth. After years without his kin, Bailey’s anxious to strengthen the bond that connects him to the magnificent animal at last. But Viviana Melore, the head of the Dominae, has plans to visit the school on a goodwill tour that is anything but???and Bailey and Taleth are forced apart for their safety. He and his friends know Viviana will be on the lookout for the Animas White Tiger prophesized to stand in the way of her rule. While the kids must tip toe around Viviana and her army, Bailey and Hal flee to the Dust Plains after tragedy occurs, and run straight into the path of another sinister enemy. On the other side of Aldermere, Gwen is tasked with hiding the Seers’ glass, a tool that could reveal dangerous details of the prophecy if it fell into the wrong hands. And when it becomes clear that someone has followed her all the way from Fairmount, Gwen must do everything she can to protect it. In the second book in the Animas series, Bailey, his friends, and their kin embark on a desperate flight across the kingdom to stop Viviana and the Dominae as new bonds are created???and others are twisted beyond recognition


AS THE RIGIMOTIVE CREAKED into the Fairmount station, Bailey felt a surge of joy. The Midwinter break had only been six weeks, but it felt like months since he’d awakened to his Animas. Being away from his kin had made the days at home seem long and flat—nothing compared to the excitement of his first few months at school. And now being so near to his kin, the great white tiger Taleth, again had him feeling light-headed with anticipation. He couldn’t wait to see her, and to continue training with Tremelo, who would teach him how to strengthen and utilize his newly formed bond.

Hal crouched at the rigimotive window, scanning the waiting crowd through his thick glasses. Outside, a fresh layer of snow dusted the station roof and the hedges beyond, and the gaggle of students on the platform were dressed in cozy coats and scarves. Bailey saw his friends Tori and Phi waving, their breath floating up like mist into the air. Phi’s falcon, Carin, stood on her usual perch: the protective leather patch strapped to Phi’s shoulder.

“It’s the girls,” Hal said, nudging Bailey excitedly. A pain shot through Bailey’s right arm and he flinched. He was still healing from the deep knife wound that ran up his forearm, given to him in the fall by the Dominae spy Ms. Sucrette. Hal sucked in his breath.

“Ooh, sorry, Bailey,” he said. “I forgot.”

“It’s okay,” said Bailey. He adjusted his sling and pulled his coat over his shoulders.

As soon as he disembarked from the rigimotive, Bailey could sense the presence of Taleth somewhere in the nearby woods. He felt relief to have the tiger so close, though he knew he’d have to keep his Awakening a secret still. The Dominae would be looking for a white tiger and its human kin, and revealing his true Animas would put both him and Taleth directly in their sights. Just as he’d struggled the previous semester to hide the fact that he hadn’t Awakened, now he’d have to hide that he actually had.

“Bailey! Hal!” called Phi, hurrying over to them. She and Tori pushed through the throng of students and their kin. A pack of dogs, along with a couple of raccoons and badgers, played happily in the snow as students hustled across the platform to find their trunks. Phi hugged both Bailey and Hal, taking care to avoid Bailey’s injured arm. Tori stood back from them, smiling.

“We’ve been waiting for you,” Tori said, with an air of importance. Bailey noticed a small, triangular black face peeking out from her coat sleeve—a snake. It flashed its beadlike yellow eyes at him and retreated. “You’re supposed to see Tremelo as soon as you get here, and not talk to anybody about your…well, you know.”

“My nonexistent kin?” Bailey guessed.

“Right,” said Phi, with a finger to her lips. Her dark brown eyes sparkled as she smiled. “He has something for you.”

Bailey smiled, hoping that Phi was referring to the Loon’s book of prophecies. In addition to training with Tremelo, Bailey was eager to learn more about the strange book that had predicted his Awakening. The book contained a prophecy about the “Child of War,” who would herald a new king for Aldermere. It had been written by the Loon, the man who had raised Tremelo. Ever since the discovery that Bailey was, in fact, the Child of War and that Tremelo himself was the True King, Bailey longed to pore over the book’s mysterious code. But it could only be read with the Seers’ Glass, a prism-like object that deciphered the broken, scratchy letters. Tremelo had promised to study the book over the break, and to tell Bailey what he’d discovered.

With their bags in tow, Hal and Bailey followed the girls away from the crowded rigi platform and onto the main campus. The hedge animals along the path, lovingly sculpted by the groundskeeper, Mrs. Copse, wore white hats of fresh snow. A family of deer darted through the falling flakes on the path ahead of them. A flurry of bats, happy to see Hal again, fluttered out of the Fairmount clock tower in a leathery swarm and surrounded the group, causing Tori and Phi to shriek with laughter.

“They’re just saying hello!” said Hal, grinning as the colony circled the clock tower as one, then disappeared under the eaves of its peaked roof.

The Fairmount campus was still decked out for Midwinter—candles shone in every window, and cheery garlands of ivy and cranberry twigs had been draped over all the marble entranceways.

“How was the Gray City?” Hal asked Tori as they passed the library.

“There were lootings,” she said. “A printing press near our apartment was ransacked. Papers everywhere, all along the streets, for days. It was a mess! At least the papers looked sort of festive.…”

“Who did it? The Dominae?” Bailey asked.

Tori shrugged.

“Who knows? The entire city’s gone nuts—whether people support the Dominae or want Parliament back, it doesn’t seem to matter. Everyone’s just doing whatever they please. I’ve even seen people trying Dominance for themselves—controlling their kin just for fun. Like a game!”

“That’s awful!” said Hal. “There’s nothing like that in the Lowlands. Not that we saw, anyway.”

Bailey knew that Tori’s experience of going home for a few weeks was remarkably different from his own. In the Lowlands, he’d felt very far away from Taleth and his friends, but also far away from the growing power of Viviana and the Dominae. He couldn’t imagine what it was like to live in the center of the turmoil.

“No one’s able to do what Sucrette did, though,” Tori continued, lowering her voice. “I haven’t seen anyone able to control someone else’s kin, the way she did in the woods that night. I think most people don’t even know Dominance is capable of that. If they were, I wonder if they’d be so eager to try it.”

The four of them walked on in silence for a moment. Bailey tried to dismiss the grisly images that played across his mind: an advancing troop of bears and wolves and badgers, their eyes cold and murderous. Sucrette, ordering them to kill.

“Did you tell your mom and dad anything about Taleth?” Phi asked, drawing Bailey back to the chilly commons. He smelled burning logs on the breeze, drifting from the chimneys of the library. Carin the falcon nestled her head in Phi’s curly hair, which had somehow grown even wilder over the few weeks they’d been gone.

“I couldn’t,” said Bailey. He’d wanted to blurt out the whole story as soon as he’d gotten home, especially when he imagined how proud and relieved his parents would be that he had Awakened at last. Instead, he’d pretended that nothing had changed, and had tried to ignore their looks of concern. As far as they knew, he would have an Absence forever.

“It’s not that I don’t trust them,” he explained. “I know they could keep my Awakening a secret, but if I had to explain why it’s a secret, they’d never let me come back to school! How was I supposed to tell them that the Dominae tried to kill me once already? I can’t see my mom taking that in stride.”

“No, I guess not,” laughed Phi.

“How were things here?” Bailey asked, hoping he hadn’t brought up any sore feelings. Phi’s family hadn’t been able to afford a rigi ticket back to the Dust Plains, and she’d spent the break at Fairmount, in the lonely wing of the Treetop dormitory that the school had kept open for cases like hers.

“It was nice, actually,” she said. “I spent a lot of time with Gwen.”

“That’s great,” Bailey said. “I wouldn’t mind talking some more to her too.” Gwen was only a year older than Bailey and his friends, but she came from an entirely different world. She and her guardian, the Elder, had escaped chaos in Parliament and the Gray City, and had come to Fairmount in search of Tremelo. It was the Elder who had broken the strange and life-changing news that Tremelo was the lost Prince Trent. Now, with the Elder dead, Gwen was also in danger from the Dominae. The safest place for her was at the school.

“She’s been a huge help,” Phi said, lowering her voice to a whisper. “She’s hiding the Seers’ Glass for Tremelo.”

Bailey felt a twinge of envy. He wished he’d been asked to keep the Glass safe, or the Loon’s book. But Tremelo hadn’t asked for his help.

Bailey and his friends arrived at Tremelo’s classroom, which was just as messy, dark, and unorganized as he’d left it the semester before. Worse, even, since Tremelo—a devoted tinkerer—seemed to be at the start of several new projects. In his office, oil-covered gears and ink-blotted papers were piled on the wide, wooden expanse of his desk. This wasn’t how kings lived.

“Good, you’re here.” Tremelo, a tall, lean man with a dark mustache, stood against his desk with his arms crossed. “We need to discuss your plan now that you’ve Awakened.”

“Nice to see you too,” Bailey said, shuffling off his winter coat. “Good break?”

“Not enough rootwort rum in the stores,” Tremelo replied. Apparently he didn’t care how Bailey’s break had been as he changed the subject abruptly. “You’ll have to be on your guard, Bailey. The school will be watched now that Sucrette’s gone.”

Bailey nodded, excited to hear what Tremelo had in mind. Six weeks had passed, and Bailey was sure that as king, Tremelo would have reached out to the Melore loyalists by now.

“Of course,” Bailey said. “But what else? Have you talked with the RATS? Did you tell them you’re the True King? What about the Velyn? Will they fight with us?”

“Focus,” Tremelo said.

“But—” Bailey tried again.

Tremelo held his hand up for silence. He looked at Tori, Hal, and Phi, who stood gathered inside the doorway between the classroom and the office, and beckoned them in. He waited for Hal to close the door before going on.

“You’re getting ahead of yourself,” Tremelo said. “We would need more than the word of an old man and the appearance of an abnormally large cat to spring into the Gray City like vigilantes. I am not running into the heart of the Dominae’s operations to get myself assassinated, thank you. Maybe there is a True King, maybe there isn’t. Right now, we’re interpreting a prophecy, not going into battle over it. Understood?”

A silence settled over the room like a thick, suffocating blanket.

“My status as a supposed ‘king’ is the least of our worries right now,” Tremelo continued. “I have urgent news: we’re about to be paid a very unwelcome visit by Viviana Melore. She’s conducting a goodwill tour of the kingdom’s assets: factories, farms…and schools. Her first stop is none other than Fairmount.”

Bailey stiffened. He heard a sharp intake of breath from Phi.

“She’s coming here?” Bailey said.

“Next Friday.” Tremelo nodded. “In less than two weeks.”

“Goodwill tour, my eye!” exclaimed Tori. “She’ll be asking around about Sucrette!”

“If she even needs to ask,” Hal pointed out. “What if she already knows we were involved?”

“Don’t panic,” Tremelo urged. “If she knew that, we’d all be dead already.”

That’s reassuring,” Tori said.

“The tour is a ruse, an excuse for her to find out more about the Child of War. I suspect she’ll also try to find the book and the Glass, as it’s certain that Sucrette would have mentioned them—but she won’t find them,” said Tremelo. “Not as long as you all lie low. And that begins now. No jaunts off the grounds. No secret meetings, after this one. You will all do your utmost to appear as normal, unaware students.”

“But shouldn’t we try to stop her?” Bailey asked, though he wasn’t sure how. “You’re the true ruler of Aldermere, you could challenge her—”

“We’ll do absolutely nothing to draw attention,” said Tremelo firmly, cutting Bailey off. “If we do, we risk exposing ourselves—and that goes for using the book and Glass while she’s here. Working out the Loon’s riddles isn’t worth the risk.”

Bailey looked around at his friends. Hal stood with his arms crossed tightly over his chest, staring at the floor. Tori was shaking her head.

“I don’t understand,” said Bailey. “We’re not going to do anything?”

I have a plan,” said Tremelo, “if only to gain some information during Viviana’s visit. But you must listen to reason, Bailey. Involving you is far too dangerous. Even if I was this ‘True King,’ we’re nowhere near ready to challenge Viviana’s rule openly. Unless the four of you and Gwen are ready to stand in for an entire army.”

Bailey didn’t respond. Tremelo was right, though he didn’t want to admit it out loud.

“I thought not,” said Tremelo. He straightened up. “The Dominae suspect foul play in Sucrette’s death. And if Viviana is as intent on stopping the prophecy as I believe she is, then that means she’ll be after us. We can’t give her any reason to suspect our involvement.” He walked to a wire cage hidden behind a pile of newspapers in the corner.

“We must assume that Sucrette sent word to Viviana about the Child of War, even if she didn’t name you, Bailey,” Tremelo went on as he bent down and unlatched the door of the cage. “So the Dominae will be looking for a white tiger or for anyone who claims to have a White Tiger Animas. Which means you’re inviting certain death if you reveal your Awakening. But you can’t continue to live with an Absence, either. It will seem too suspicious.” Tremelo reached into the cage and pulled something out. When he returned to the desk, he had what looked like a moldy green stocking cap lying along his forearm, with its tail dangling down past the crook of Tremelo’s elbow. Tremelo plopped the creature on his desk, where it adjusted a scaly leg over a metal pipe and promptly fell asleep. It was an iguana, and an ancient one at that. Its gray-green skin was flaking off in patches, and the sagging bags under its bulbous eyes were crusted with a growth that reminded Bailey of pictures he’d seen of sea barnacles.

“Uugh,” said Tori, and Bailey agreed.

“Say hello to your new kin, Bailey. Many felicitations on your Awakening,” said Tremelo. “Tori, I’ll need you to pass along a few pointers on how to blend in with the reptilian crowd.”

The iguana slowly opened one eye, and then, presumably bored by what it saw, licked its eyeball and went back to sleep.

“It looks like it’s dying,” Bailey said.

“Its immobility is part of the plan,” said Tremelo, sounding tremendously pleased with himself. “No one will notice that you aren’t fully interacting with him. And since there are no other Animas Iguana students currently at Fairmount, no one will be the wiser when you carry Bert around.”

“Bert?” Tori asked.

Tremelo raised an eyebrow.

“Doesn’t he look like a Bert?”

“He looks like a handbag,” Bailey said.

Tremelo smiled. “He’s your handbag now, my boy! He’ll accompany you to classes, to the dining hall, to Scavage practice…”

Bailey reached out a tentative finger and stroked the ridges on Bert’s back. The iguana didn’t stir, but a quarter-inch of papery skin lifted off at Bailey’s touch. He shook his finger to get it off.

“What about Taleth?” Bailey asked. “Last fall, you were helping me prepare for my Awakening—now that I’ve Awakened, is the training over? I don’t even know how the bond is supposed to work!”

Tremelo’s mustache drooped as he frowned, and Bailey saw a glimmer of sincere concern in his eyes.

“It’s true, your bond is very fresh,” Tremelo said, “which means it’ll seem very random to you at first. Moments of insight and shared vision with Taleth will come and go without you being able to control them, usually during times of extreme emotions. These can be jarring, and learning to tap into your kin’s mind at will takes time. I wish I could help you ease into it, I really do. But if we were to attract attention to the woods, it’s not only you and Taleth who would be in danger. The Velyn would be at risk too.”

Bailey breathed deeply, fighting back a lump in his throat. Disappointment filled his chest like a dark cloud.

“Could the Loon’s book help?” he asked. “Even if you won’t let me see it while Viviana’s here, I have to know: what does it mean that I’m this Child of War? Could the prophecy help me understand more about my bond? Did you read any of it?”

“I’ve done what little reading I dare,” Tremelo said. “One passage in particular caught my interest: the reflection and the opposite of evil…” He seemed to lose himself in thought for a moment, then shook his head. “But the book is hidden away now. I promise, I won’t keep it from you forever. But you’re in more danger now than you’ve faced in your entire life. We must wait.”

“Tremelo’s right,” Phi said, putting her hand on Bailey’s shoulder. “Come on, you haven’t even been to your dorm yet.”

“I’ll see you in homeroom,” Tremelo said, turning back to his desk. “Don’t forget your iguana.”

Bailey picked Bert up and placed him on his good shoulder, where the lizard flopped and settled like a wet towel. He followed his friends from Tremelo’s office.

“I don’t understand him,” Bailey said as they crossed the commons toward the dorms. “The Dominae are coming here, and he says he has a plan—but why won’t he ask the RATS and the Velyn for help? They’d be here in the blink of an eye if he just told them who he was! And that stuff he said about the prophecy—‘maybe there’s a True King, maybe there isn’t,’ as if it weren’t clear as day that he’s the king!” As he spoke, he tried to ignore the humming pull he felt in his chest, urging him toward the woods. Taleth was out there—but he couldn’t even build his connection with her. Not yet.

“Tremelo’s scared,” Hal said.

“And don’t forget crazy,” murmured Tori.

Bailey sighed. He knew about being scared, and he also knew how overwhelming it felt to learn your true legacy. He was a Velyn—the Child of War—and Tremelo was a king. But even if Bailey’s Animas meant he was in danger, his real identity made him feel powerful and important. He couldn’t understand why Tremelo didn’t feel that same way upon learning he was the son of a king. But Tremelo was right about one thing: with Viviana at the school, Bailey faced his greatest danger yet. He was the herald of the True King and the fulfillment of a prophecy that Viviana would do anything to prevent. If she knew that he was the Child of War, she would have him killed without a second’s hesitation. But still—did that really mean that he and his friends could do nothing?

“This will cheer you up,” said Phi. “Come see the book’s supersecret hiding place!” She smiled, and even Tori seemed pleased, as though she were about to pull the perfect prank. They led the boys across the lawn where the Fairmount clock tower stood, and into the library.

Warm yellow light bathed the entryway, and Bailey smelled the homey aroma of a fire burning in a nearby study room. The girls turned into a large hallway off the main atrium and stopped at an ornate display case. Behind the glass panes of the carved wooden bookshelf stood dozens of books with rich leather bindings and gold decorations on their spines.

“What am I looking at?” asked Bailey.

“If you can’t even see it, then Tremelo was right!” whispered Tori. “Look up there.” She pointed toward the top shelf, in the left corner.

Bailey followed her gaze. Sitting just as if it belonged there was the Loon’s book of prophecies.

Hiding in plain sight, that’s what Tremelo said when he put it here,” said Phi, looking around to make sure no one was listening. “This is a display of all the first editions that were printed here at Fairmount when there used to be a working printing press.”

“Anybody would think that the book belongs here,” said Tori. “It’s even safer than if we tried to hide it in Tremelo’s office.”

“Let’s hope so,” said Bailey, looking around the atrium as a group of Year Two girls walked through, giggling. He hated the idea that only a thin pane of glass stood between the book and anyone who wanted to read it—including him. But Viviana was coming, and being caught with the Loon’s book or the Seers’ Glass would bring the full force of the Dominae down on them. “Let’s hope hiding in plain sight works for all of us.”

As they walked back out into the cold winter air, Phi tapped Bailey’s shoulder.

“Meet me out by the Scavage fields in half an hour,” she whispered. “I have an idea.”

GWEN LOOSED AN ARROW from the black walnut longbow Tremelo had given her. It missed the trunk of the tree she’d been aiming for, but snapped several dead, dried leaves off a branch a few inches away. She was improving.

Behind her, three owls sat on the outer windowsill of the tree house where she’d been staying since the battle with Sucrette. The owls ruffled their feathers, swiveling their ghostly heads in the direction of the Fairmount campus. From the trees, Gwen heard footsteps.

She pulled another arrow out of the quiver on her back, nocked it, and lowered the taut bow to her side.

Whit whit whoo—she whistled.

The same whistle echoed back to her, with an added chirp at the end. Gwen eased her grip on the bow as Phi emerged from the trees, leading Bailey. His arm was still in a sling, and he had several broken twigs in his sandy-colored hair. She saw something move under his coat—a scaly face nosed its way out of the top of his collar.

“Hi!” said Phi. She held a haddock sandwich wrapped in paper from the dining hall, which she handed to Gwen. Gwen thanked her, and nodded at Bailey.

“Breaking the rules already?” she asked. “You’ve only been back a day!” She knew Tremelo had forbidden him to leave campus. He’d demanded that she too stay out of sight.

“I had to say hello, didn’t I?” said Bailey. “Besides, I’m technically not off the grounds.”

Gwen smiled. She understood his restless energy—she felt it herself.

Bailey shifted the animal inside his coat so that Gwen could see it face-on.

“This is Bert,” he said. “My ‘kin.’”

“I guess if I had to pick the opposite of a white tiger, that’d be it.” Gwen laughed.

“Let’s go inside, it’s freezing out here,” said Phi. Gwen was glad to usher them into the safety of the tree house; it was risky enough having someone bring food, but two of them were practically a parade. She led them up a set of footholds in the trunk of the tree, and through a trapdoor that led into a cozy room, built around the oak. It was used by the Biology and the Bond class in the warmer months, for the students to observe forest life, but during the winter it sat unused. Arched windows lined the hexagonal space.

Bailey passed the iguana to Phi, who held him in the crook of her arm, as he pulled himself through the trapdoor.

“When do you get to take the sling off?” Gwen asked him.

“Next week,” he said, “whether it’s done healing or not. Can’t have a visible injury when Viviana’s around.”

Gwen set the bow and arrows down next to her pallet, and twisted a lock of her short red hair in her fingers. She too was anxious about Viviana’s impending visit. She wondered what the Elder would do if he were here. Try to confront Viviana, maybe, or persuade Tremelo to gather the Velyn and move against her.

“You’ve been here all alone?” Bailey asked her, taking in the stark tree house.

“I’ve been visiting her,” said Phi. She set Bert on the ground, where he looked around once, and then closed his eyes and seemed to fall asleep.

“Phi’s been bringing me food, and books from Tremelo,” Gwen said.

“While Tremelo does what?” Bailey asked. “Sit in his office tinkering away?”

Gwen cocked her head like a bird’s and looked at him closely. She hadn’t seen Bailey since he’d left school for break. He had been excited about his Awakening then, and eager to do more to help the kingdom. Now she saw the way his eyebrows knit close together and the way his eyes cast down to the floor as though pulled there by heavy thoughts. She knew the feeling well. Being cooped up in a tree house, all alone, made her miss the Elder even more. She looked sadly at the leather box that contained Melore’s harmonica; it sat on top of the small pile of books Phi had brought her. She hadn’t played it for weeks for fear of drawing attention.

“Tremelo’s worried,” Bailey said, “and there’s a lot to be worried about—but that shouldn’t mean that we do nothing.”

Bailey glanced at Phi, and Gwen saw Phi nod slightly, as though encouraging him.

“Did you two have something in mind?” Gwen asked.

Bailey sat up straighter.

“It’s a lot to ask,” he said. “But we need someone to trail Viviana while she’s here. Tremelo won’t do it—”

“And we can’t very well leave class to keep an eye on her the whole time,” said Phi.



    "Drawing on the traditions of Harry Potter and His Dark Materials, Grey has created a fantastical boarding-school adventure with steampunk sensibilities and political intrigue...This series will grab fans of the Warriors and Guardians of Ga'Hoole series, as well as anyone up for a suspenseful adventure."—Booklist Online

    "[A] fun page-turner with interesting characters and unexpected plot twists. Readers will be propelled toward the next volumes in this entertaining new series."—School Library Journal

On Sale
Oct 13, 2015
Page Count
272 pages

C. R. Grey

About the Author

C. R. Grey was born in a house on a pier in Maine-literally on the ocean. She grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, then received her BA in Theater from the State University of New York at New Paltz and her MFA in fiction from Ohio State University. She is the author of the other two books in the Animas series, Legacy of the Claw and the upcoming Song of the Sword. Grey lives in State College, Pennsylvania, with her husband, one black cat, one white cat, and a Boston Terrier named Trudy. Find her on Twitter @CRGreyBooks.

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