New Lands (THE CHRONICLES OF EGG), p.1
ALSO BY GEOFF RODKEY
THE CHRONICLES OF EGG, BOOK ONE:
DEADWEATHER AND SUNRISE
G. P. PUTNAM’S SONS
AN IMPRINT OF PENGUIN GROUP (USA) INC.
G. P. PUTNAM’S SONS
An imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group.
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Copyright © 2013 by Geoff Rodkey. Illustrations copyright © 2013 by Iacopo Bruno.
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Published simultaneously in Canada.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Rodkey, Geoff, 1970–
New lands / Geoff Rodkey. pages cm.—(The chronicles of Egg ; book 2)
Summary: Thirteen-year-old Eggbert and his friends face old and new enemies when they travel
to the New Lands in search of the lost Okalu tribe and its mysterious ancient treasures.
[1. Adventure and adventurers—Fiction. 2. Buried treasure—Fiction. 3. Good and evil—Fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.R61585Ne 2013 [Fic]—dc23 2012049196
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Bugging
Chapter 2: Boarded
Chapter 3: Pella
Chapter 4: The Letter
Chapter 5: The Palace
Chapter 6: Chained
Chapter 7: Water and Fire
Chapter 8: In the Reeds
Chapter 9: On the Move
Chapter 10: Uphill
Chapter 11: Flut
Chapter 12: Coming Clean
Chapter 13: The Clutch
Chapter 14: Brought Low
Chapter 15: Moku
Chapter 16: Reunion
Chapter 17: Queen
Chapter 18: News
Chapter 19: Escape
Chapter 20: Choices
Chapter 21: Pembroke
Chapter 22: Darkness
Chapter 23: The Map
Chapter 24: Sentenced
Chapter 25: Sprung
Chapter 26: Away
I hung my head over the side of the Thrush and watched the prow carve the seawater into a hissing spray. Viewed up close, the Blue Sea wasn’t all that blue, and I wondered—for the umpteenth time in the past few days—who had named it that, and why they hadn’t bothered to get it right.
They should have called it the Greenish Blue Sea. Or the Almost Blue Sea. Or the It Only Looks Blue From A Distance Sea.
It was stupid, I know. But it kept my mind off the other stuff.
Like the man who wanted to kill me.
And his daughter, Millicent, who I was in love with.
And the map in my head, which was the cause of all the trouble, and which I wasn’t even sure I was remembering right. Especially the tricky part in the middle.
Three squiggles down left, four dashes up…
Or was it four squiggles and three dashes?
It turns out it’s a bad idea to try and memorize something written in a language you don’t even speak. I’d been practicing the map twenty times a day, tracing it with my finger on the deck of the Thrush, so you’d think by now I would’ve had it hammered into my head pretty good.
But it was getting harder, not easier.
Still hanging over the gunwale, I shut my eyes and tried to imagine the original, its crooked lines of Okalu hieroglyphs painted on the gloomy wall of the Fire King’s tomb.
Dash dot feather, cup, two dash dot firebird…
It was Guts. He was standing behind me on the deck.
“Almost,” I said. “Just let me throw up again.”
He snorted. “Wot’s yer problem? Food ain’t that bad.”
“It’s not the food,” I said, although the food was awful. The crew were all bone-skinny, and after three days of eating their smelly turtle meat and wormy biscuits, it was no mystery why.
“Not that, either.”
I’m scared out of my mind and I think we should just forget about finding this stupid treasure and run away.
But I couldn’t actually tell Guts that.
I couldn’t admit that I was terrified we were doomed—that if we set foot in the New Lands, we’d be killed long before we could find an Okalu Native to translate the map, and that the only sane thing to do was to bug out and flee down to the Barkers, or maybe even farther, someplace where nobody was gunning to kill me for an ancient treasure I barely understood and wasn’t even sure existed.
I couldn’t admit any of that.
Or could I?
I retched over the side one last time to make sure I was done. Then I straightened up and turned to face my partner.
Guts was bobbing on the balls of his feet, eyes twitching under his tangled thicket of white-blond hair. He raised his arms in a fighting stance. The steel hook on the stump of his left hand glistened in the morning sun.
“C’mon,” he said. “Let’s tussle!”
I sighed. “Again?”
“Need to practice!”
He’d bought the hook from a field pirate just before we left Deadweather Island. He was getting pretty handy at fighting with it, which I guess was helpful. Except that I was his only sparring partner, so the fact that he was getting better meant my shirt was ripped in three places, and there were a dozen puncture marks and several deep scratches on my forearms. He kept promising he wouldn’t make contact, but he couldn’t seem to help himself.
“Not now,” I said. “We need to talk.”
“I think we…it’s…I forgot the map.”
“Nah, ye didn’t.”
“Said that yesterday. Then ye remembered it.”
“I thought I did. Then I forgot again. And this time it’s
“Said that yesterday, too. C’mon, ye porsamora! Fight me!”
One of the crew had taught him how to swear in Cartager. He was as excited about that as he was about his new hook.
“C’mon! Lucy needs a workout!”
He’d named the hook “Lucy.” I kept telling him it was ridiculous, but he didn’t care.
“I’m serious! We need to talk!” I insisted.
Guts lowered his arms and frowned. His eyes twitched one more time and then went still. When we first met—when Ripper Jones and his pirate crew had made us fight almost to the death, and had done who knows what else to Guts before that—he twitched constantly. Eyes, shoulders, head…sometimes the whole upper half of his body would shudder.
Now it was mostly just his eyes, and sometimes he’d go a good two minutes without a twitch.
Sometimes, he almost seemed normal.
Not me. Not lately. I was a wreck. And the closer we got to Pella Nonna, the worse I got.
I’m scared out of my mind and I think we should just run away.
Guts was still staring at me.
“So talk,” he said.
I took another deep breath.
I HADN’T STARTED the trip scared out of my mind. In fact, when we first boarded the Thrush three days earlier, I’d been feeling pretty cocky. Mostly because right before we left Deadweather, Guts and I had managed to stand down Roger Pembroke and a hundred Rovian soldiers.
How we got to that point is kind of a long story. Pembroke had killed my whole family—sent them off to their deaths somewhere out in the Blue Sea, in a runaway hot air balloon that he’d rigged so it looked like an accident—and when I didn’t die with them, he’d gone to an awful lot of trouble to finish me off.
I don’t think it was anything personal. He just wanted the Fire King’s treasure. And he figured the map to it was somewhere on my family’s ugly fruit plantation, which was why he wound up sailing to Deadweather with a hundred soldiers and marching them up to our front porch.
But somehow, Guts and I escaped, with the only surviving version of the map lodged between my ears.
The “somehow” was mostly Millicent’s doing. She was Pembroke’s daughter, and the person I loved more than anything else in the world. I think that must have been true for Pembroke, too, because he let her talk him into slinking off empty-handed, packing his whole company of soldiers onto a boat back to Sunrise.
The truth was, if it weren’t for Millicent, Guts and I would have been dead as rocks.
But I wasn’t thinking that when the Thrush showed up to take the ugly fruit harvest to Pella Nonna in the New Lands, and we hitched a ride on it. And I wasn’t thinking it was just blind luck that a ship had appeared at exactly the moment we needed to get off Deadweather, headed for exactly the place we wanted to go.
I wasn’t thinking we’d only gotten this far because of blind luck and Millicent. Not yet. Instead, I was patting myself on the back for how clever Guts and I were to have pulled it off.
And considering what we’d just gotten away with, I figured the rest of it—finding an Okalu Native, translating the map, tracking down the treasure—would be no trick at all.
So I spent most of that first day at sea sunning myself on the deck like a lazy turtle, daydreaming about what I’d do once the treasure had made us fabulously wealthy.
I’d marry Millicent, that was obvious. I didn’t bother to stew over minor obstacles like our being thirteen and her father wanting to kill me, let alone whether she’d say yes in the first place.
To my mind, the real challenge was figuring out where to build our mansion.
Deadweather was out of the question. Too many pirates, not enough food, the weather was lousy, and until I’d left for a while and come back again, I’d never realized just how much the smoldering volcano made the whole island stink like rotten eggs.
Sunrise wasn’t an option, either. It was beautiful and all, but the people were terrible snobs. And since Roger Pembroke had plastered WANTED FOR MURDER posters with my face on them all over the island, it was likely to be awkward for me at dinner parties and such.
There were the Fish Islands, up north. But the name made me think they probably didn’t smell too good, and I didn’t know anything else about them. I knew even less about the Barkers, down south…Pella Nonna was full of Cartagers…and the rest of the New Lands were nothing but Native tribes and wilderness.
So that just left the Continent. We’d have to sail forty days across the Great Maw to get there, but once we did, we could live in Rovia itself—the setting for almost every novel I’d ever read, a rich and fabled land with glamorous cities and a countryside of gently rolling hills (I wasn’t sure what “gently rolling” meant, but it sounded awfully nice) supposedly chock-full of ancient castles. If any of those were for sale, we wouldn’t even have to build a mansion first. We could just move right in.
I figured I’d get a place like Timberfield, the mountaintop fortress where Billicks the Brave wound up at the end of Throne of the Ancients. I’d pass the days with a lot of hunting and falconry, and at night, Millicent and I would curl up in our massive library and read books to our hearts’ content, surrounded by our six children.
The kids would read books, too, even the little ones.
I was just getting around to naming our firstborn when the quartermaster banged on the dinner plate. Starving, Guts and I quickly gathered under the mainmast with the eight haggard-looking crewmen for our first night’s meal.
And that’s when things started to go sideways.
FIRST, CAPTAIN RACKER demanded fifteen silver from us for the right to eat while we were on board. We forked it over, but when we saw what we’d paid for—the biscuits were so maggoty that if you set one down, it’d slither off under its own power—Guts just about buried his hook in Racker’s head.
I managed to keep Guts from drawing blood, but then the jokes about my name started.
“Egg, eh? Was mummy a chicken?”
“Nah! She was an omelet! Haw, haw!”
Just the mention of my mother, who I’d never known except as a story Dad told over her grave, made me angry.
“It’s short for Egbert,” I said, trying to sound polite.
“That’s even worse! Haw, haw!”
“Why stick ye with a name like that? Didn’t they love ye none?”
It was a fair enough question as far as my dad was concerned. But that just made me madder. I had to bite my lip to keep quiet.
Then the conversation turned really unsettling.
“Why you headed for Pella?” asked Racker. “Got an itch to die young?”
“What do you mean?”
“Short-Ears’ll kill ye ’fore ye get off the dock,” snorted a snaggletoothed crew member.
Pella Nonna was a Cartager port, the same way Sunrise Island was Rovian. And Cartagers all had freakishly small ears, which was why everybody called them that.
“Wot they want to kill us fer?” Guts asked.
“For the shape of your ears,” said Racker. “Haven’t you heard of the Banishment Law? Ever since the Barker War, Rovians are banned from the New Lands on pain of death.”
“Nuts to that!” spat Guts. “Islander, I am. Never even been across the Maw.”
“It’s not where you’re from, boy—it’s how you look. And talk. You got Rovian ears, Rovian skin, and a Rovian tongue.”
“But that makes all of you Rovian, too,” I said. “And you’re going to Pella.”
Reggie the quartermaster shook his head. “Nah. Droppin’ anchor offshore. Cartagers run boats out, load the ugly fruit. Then off we go. Try to put in, Short-Ears’d hang us dead.”
A heavy lump of dread settled in my gut. “So if we go to Pella…they’ll hang us dead, too?”
The crewmen all nodded eagerly.
“Might even torture ye first,” said the snaggletooth, with a wide-eyed grin that told us he found the idea pretty exciting.
“Could you…maybe drop
“What? And get eaten by Natives?”
“They’d actually eat us? The Okalu?”
“Okalu, Fingu, Flut—any of them tribes. Bunch of cannibals.”
“Now, hang on, cap,” the quartermaster chimed in. “They don’t eat the whole of ye. Just yer heart.”
“Reggie’s right,” agreed the snaggletooth. “Cut it out yer chest, munch it down while it’s still beatin’. That’s how they do it.”
“Tell the other one!” Guts snorted.
“True enough, boy. They’re not called savages for nothing.” Racker shook his head. “If you’re dead set on going to the New Lands, you’re best off in Pella. Might stand a chance there if you keep your ears covered. And you speak the language.”
He leaned forward and looked down his thin nose at us. “You do speak Cartager, don’t you?”
GUTS REFUSED TO WORRY that we were sailing to our deaths.
“Gonna be fine,” I heard him say as we lay awake that first night in the hammocks we’d strung up in a corner of the cargo hold. It was pitch-black down there—I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face, let alone Guts in the next hammock.
“How can you say that? What’s going to stop the Short-Ears from stringing us up?”
“Lucy, fer one.”
“Will you stop calling it that? It’s a hook.”
“Yeh—hook named Lucy.”
“But it’s stupid! Might as well name your pants.”
“Pants ain’t gonna get me out o’ no scrapes.”
“And a hook’s not going to kill a city full of Cartagers.”
“Don’t need to—that’s wot her brothers an’ sisters are fer.”
“What brothers and sisters?”
“Ones in the sack.”
We had four pistols and a pair of knives in the rucksack we’d brought with us, but I didn’t see how it changed the odds much.
“You’re out of your mind,” I said. “And how are we even going to feed ourselves? Only got fifteen silver left.”