Blood, p.1

Blood, page 1

 part  #6 of  Clockwork Twist Series

 

Blood
 

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Blood


  Clockwork Twist

  Book Six: Blood

  by Emily Thompson

  Text copyright © 2017 Emily Thompson

  Cover and artwork by Emily Thompson

  “Clockwork” poem by Janice T

  All Rights reserved

  Table of Contents

  Prologue

  Beginning (Hawaii)

  Underway

  Fellow Travelers (Peru)

  Halfway There (Brazil)

  Switching Sides

  An Unexpected Threat

  Tales of the Past (Sierra Leone)

  The Assault (Ghana)

  A Moment of Courage

  Final Note From the Author

  Previously in Clockwork Twist...

  Originally a clock maker living in forever-rainy London, Twist has become a world-traveling adventurer. Gone are the days of solitude and silence. Twist now shares his life with a sky pirate and a clockwork princess, hopping from country to county as life dictates. He’s seen faraway cities, battled monsters and secret societies, and befriended more than a few magical beings.

  Twist’s latest adventure was the result of him slaying a dragon named Kazan. But dragons are not so easy to kill. When Twist killed Kazan, the dragon’s magical essence clung to Twist’s skin. Some have implied that the dragon’s disembodied spirit will enact some mysterious revenge on Twist for the inconvenience of being killed, but no one has fully explained what this means. So far, Twist’s only punishment is to suffer an uncomfortable shiver whenever someone near him speaks the word “dragon” or the dragon’s name.

  Twist and Jonas were also both arrested in Australia by an ancient dragon and sent to a trial at the South Pole for the murder of Kazan and the destruction of the dragons’ spaceship. They managed to evade execution but were forced to repair and calibrate the dragons’ astrolabe instead. The clockwork machine was massive and complex, but Twist finished his work with the help of his friends, and the dragons were pleased. Once it was finished, all but the oldest dragon, Zéphyrin, then took their astrolabe and their mended spaceship and left the Earth in search of a new, less-populated planet to inhabit.

  Even though they were initially at odds, Twist has also found himself now counted as a friend by the mysterious and powerful Rooks (or magpies, as Jonas and others like to mockingly call them). It was only through helping Twist that Aden, the leader of the Rooks, discovered that dragons were actually real. The beasts had perfected magical disguises and memory magic to such a degree that no human beings still believed in them at all. Even after all but one of them had left the Earth, fragments of their powerful magic still remained, hidden in long-forgotten shadows. It’s now Aden’s goal to glean as much of their abandoned magic as he can.

  Meanwhile, Twist’s Sight, which shows him damage in whatever or whomever he touches, has become less of a hindrance to his life. Touching his beloved Myra shows him nothing but her emotions, so long as her clockwork puppet is in good working order. Thanks to a mysterious and still-unexplained connection between Twist’s Sight and that of his friend, Jonas, Twist can also comfortably allow himself to be touched by Jonas without having to fear any painful visions of Jonas’s past.

  Jonas also finds that can look Twist straight in the eye without seeing any deadly visions of Twist’s future. If Jonas allows himself to catch anyone else’s gaze, a vision of that person’s inevitable death appears instantly before his eyes. As expected, he goes to great lengths to avoid the eyes of everyone, except for Twist. Jonas still sees visions of the future from time to time, whether he looks at Twist or anyone else, but most of these vision are harmless as long as he avoids eye contact.

  Being social at all is still somewhat new to Twist, but he’s growing more accustomed to it all the time, now that he has true friends. Along with Myra and Jonas, Twist has befriended a djinn and his talking baboon, a celebrity magician and her companion inventor, and a crew of treasure hunters that includes a vampire as well as Jonas’s sister and uncle, just to name a few. He currently finds himself also traveling with a Rook agent named Skye, whose magical tattoo can transform into a fully grown Bengal tiger. Twist enjoys Skye’s company a great deal, but Myra and Skye have also become fast friends as well. Jonas, meanwhile, seems to be caught up in a relationship with Skye that Twist finds very confusing. Twist’s own relationship with Myra, of course, looks to be growing deeper every day.

  Now that they are no longer in danger from dragons or anything else, Twist and his friends have taken an opportunity to have a rest in the islands of Hawaii. Aden has arranged for Twist and his companions to stay on the currently unused royal beach in exchange for Twist mending and cleaning all of the palace clockwork, while Aden and his Rooks search the islands for any forgotten dragon magic. Skye cashed in her unused vacation time to rest along with Twist, Myra, and Jonas in the sunny sands of Waikiki...

  At last, exempted from the fray

  His troubles slowly ebb away

  From frightful throes

  To sweet repose

  Where palm fronds ever gently sway.

  —Janice T

  Twist woke in sunlight. The whisper-thin white mesh hanging over the bed billowed in the gentle, moist, flower-scented breeze that moved through the little house. Twist stretched comfortably in the soft white sheets and sat up to look around. The simple, wooden room only had three walls, and two of them were broken up by wide, glassless windows that would never close. Where the fourth wall should have been, an open, covered porch sat on the edge of the pale beach sand, showing Twist a perfect view of the brilliant blue waves farther off. Palm trees tapped pleasantly in the breeze and splintered the warm sunlight that spilled inside through the windows.

  As he rubbed at his sleepy eyes, Twist caught the echo of a voice calling from afar. He looked to the ocean to see a long, wooden surfboard—devoid of its rider—fly high off of a crashing crystal-blue wave. An instant later, the sound of laughter in the waves soothed his concern. Snatching his pocket watch from the nightstand, Twist wasn’t very alarmed to see that it was already nearly noon. He hadn’t woken up in a morning hour for the past week, and no one seemed to mind. It was only the thought of another cup of the delicious local coffee and a slice of papaya that got him out of bed at all.

  Slipping out from under the mesh canopy, Twist got to his feet and dressed. He’d learned quickly that a proper suit had no place in the tropics and had adjusted his wardrobe accordingly. A roomy pair of dark trousers—the cuffs rolled up to keep them out of damp sand—an airy white cotton shirt, and an open silver waistcoat were all he needed now. He stepped across the small deck and onto the beach, smiling at the curious sensation of warm sand slipping between his toes. His eyes narrowed against the brilliant blue sky, reflecting their own chilly, silvery hue. As he rolled his sleeves up to his elbows, he examined the gently darker tone that the sun was slowly laying on his skin.

  Myra was not far from the water, sitting under the shade of a small clump of palm trees, on one of many blankets that had been lain haphazardly on the sand. She too had adopted an island style. She wore a pink-and-green sarong draped over one shoulder to form a very simple dress that gathered at her waist with a rope tie, her long hair was loose on her shoulders apart from one bright pink flower tucked behind an ear, and her shining copper ankles and arms were left bare to glint in the sun. She was sitting beside a basket, intently carving a piece of fruit with a small knife as Twist approached.

  He slowed his steps to quiet them and turned his course to stay directly behind her. She continued to work, noticing nothing. Twist dropped carefully to his hands and knees and crept silently closer to her over the blankets on the sand. When he was near enough, he knelt just behind her and put his fingers over her glittering azure eyes. His Sight flashed with her surprise, bu
t her emotions warmed almost instantly.

  “Guess who.”

  Myra gave a soft giggle. “Oh, now let me see…” she mused, putting her piece of fruit and the knife in her lap to poise a finger at her lips. “Is it a robber? Do you want to steal my purse?”

  “No.”

  “A postman? Have I received a letter?”

  “No…” Twist sighed.

  “Oh, a suitor perhaps?” Myra asked, dropping her voice to a whisper. “You should know, I’m quite well spoken for.”

  “You are?” Twist asked, adding a ring of shock to his voice as he released her and bent around to peer at the wide, warm smile that had appeared on her face. “Who is this lucky bastard?” he asked in mock anger.

  “It’s a secret,” she said, still in a whisper. Twist’s Sight prickled with her elusive emotions as she reached up to stroke the edge of his face with a hand before leaning in to place a kiss on his cheek. “Now, how were your dreams?” she asked him with a smile.

  “Lovely,” he said, taking her hand to kiss it. “I dreamed only of you.”

  Myra’s smile poured through his Sight like warm honey, until he took his hands away from her. He flopped himself lazily down on his side, smiling up at her with his head propped up on one hand. Myra picked up her fruit again.

  “What did you dream about?” he asked.

  “Oh, nothing really,” she said, working carefully on the piece of fruit. “But I’ve discovered how to do something new this morning.”

  “What’s that?”

  “This!” she said brightly, holding up the fruit for him to see.

  Twist gave a laugh in surprise; she had spun many thin slices of one half of the papaya into the shape of a flower, with two black seeds placed at the center like stamen. The shape appeared to still be attached, sitting in the cupped skin of the fruit.

  “That’s remarkable,” Twist said, watching her face bloom with pride. “You’re so clever.”

  “Here, I made it for your breakfast,” she said, giving it to him. “Would you like some coffee?” she asked, already getting to her feet. She didn’t wait for his answer as she stooped down to the coffeepot that sat on a small metal grate over a few hot coals that nestled in the sand beside the blankets.

  Twist examined the intricate papaya sculpture and shook his head slowly. “Myra, you take far too good care of me.”

  “No, I’m selfish,” she said, sitting down again beside him with a cup made from a small, dark, speckled coconut shell in her hands. Twist caught the delicious scent of fresh coffee and smiled. “I like to make you happy,” she said, handing him the cup.

  Twist took a sip of coffee, savoring the smooth, nutty, and deep flavor. “I must be the luckiest bastard on the planet,” Twist said with a sigh.

  “He’s alive!” a voice called to them from afar.

  Twist looked up to see Jonas and Skye approach from the rolling waves. They were both dripping wet and dressed in very sparse swimming costumes. Twist still marveled at how Skye seemed so comfortable showing the bare skin of her legs below the knee, and nearly her full arms in the simple, puffy blue cotton blouse and gathered shorts that she wore in the water. Kali, the tiger, padded along beside Skye, her orange, white, and black fur flat and heavy with water, even after a vigorous full-body shake. Two long surfboards were stuck upright in the sand behind them to dry in the sun.

  “It’s past noon, you know,” Jonas said chidingly as he stepped onto the blankets and snatched two folded towels from a small pile to one side. He handed one to Skye as she too knelt down in the shade. Kali flopped lazily onto the sand in full sunlight, her wide, furry face a picture of bliss.

  “I’m on vacation,” Twist said smugly, looking to the flower of fruit again. It seemed somehow wrong to disturb the delicate design, no matter how delicious the fruit.

  “Oh, wow, that’s a good one, Myra!” Skye said brightly, leaning forward to see it.

  “Thanks!” Myra responded. “I think I finally got the hang of it.”

  “She’s been playing with papayas all morning,” Jonas said in an aside to Twist before tossing the towel over his head to rub at his damp hair.

  “I got to eat the mess-ups,” Skye said with a smile and a wink, her towel now hanging around her shoulders. “Hey, you wanna practice some more?” she added to Myra. “I really worked up an appetite out there.”

  Myra reached for the basket of fruit. “I did want to try making a bird…” she mused, selecting a sweet, yellowing papaya.

  “I’d have thought you swallowed enough seawater and kelp to keep you till dinner,” Jonas said, one finger in an ear to shake out a bit of water.

  “I told you,” Skye snapped instantly. “I like falling in the water. It’s fun!”

  “Uh-huh…”

  “Oh, you!” Skye grumbled, reaching out to swat at him. Jonas leaned out of reach, his face awash with a guilty smile, but Skye got to her knees to reach for him.

  “Save me! Save me!” Jonas gasped, pulling at her grip on his wrist, his eyes snapped tightly shut but his features otherwise devoid of fear. “Clowns can bite! I don’t want to become one!”

  “I’m not a werewolf,” Skye snapped at him, struggling to keep a hold of him.

  “Twist, don’t just lie there!” Jonas pleaded.

  “I told you,” Twist reasoned, glancing away to the palm trees with a languid smile as he took a sip of his coffee. “I’m on vacation.”

  Skye laughed triumphantly as she finally managed to pin Jonas down.

  “Got you now, cutie pie,” she purred, grinning evilly at his closed eyes. “Now, whatever shall I do to you?” Twist felt an electric thrill flash in the buzz at his neck and glanced at Jonas.

  “Hey, here’s an idea,” Jonas said quickly. “Let’s throw Twist in the ocean again.”

  “What?” Twist snapped, putting his coffee down.

  Skye had paused in her assault, looking at Twist with a wide grin. “Okay. Truce,” she said, releasing Jonas.

  “No,” Twist said, his eyes locked on Jonas. He put his fruit down slowly as well.

  Jonas opened his gleaming, dark-blue eyes on Twist and got smoothly to his hands and knees, his expression predatory and his posture pounce ready.

  “Now, Jonas…” Twist toned warningly. His own limbs were preparing to flee, and his heart was already pounding. “Now…now, just a minute. Calm down.”

  “I’m calm,” Jonas said smoothly, an instant before his hand lunged out for Twist.

  Twist shot to his feet, slipping away in time, but Jonas followed just as quickly. Twist turned and leaped away, running for the trees and away from the sea as a wild thrill shot through his heart. He heard Jonas’s footsteps pound across the sand after him and turned sharply to one side. Jonas didn’t anticipate it. He tried to snatch at Twist but missed by inches and tumbled to the sand. Twist took an instant to look around at him before Jonas leaped back into the chase. Twist heard Skye and Myra cheering and laughing as he and Jonas tore past them. Kali, sitting up now to watch, also gave a playful sound.

  Turning suddenly again, Twist felt excitement burn in his skin as he slipped just out of Jonas’s fingers. A moment later, he was startled when his feet struck the thin edge of a receding wave. The water splashed high in the brilliant sunlight, slowing him slightly. He’d somehow doubled back, right up to the water. He turned, aiming for the trees once again, but Jonas dove at him before he could. Jonas caught him around the waist with both arms and sent them both crashing to the wet sand with the force of his leap.

  “Let me go!” Twist yelped, struggling to free himself.

  The satisfaction of the catch splashed over Twist’s Sight for only an instant before a warm, soft, bubbly wave burst over the both of them. The water filled his ears and nose with frightening speed, but he clenched his mouth closed in time to hold his breath. The wave receded into a thin, foamy sheet that lingered around them for a moment before it ran back out to the sea. The instant he could breathe again, Twist let out a pitifu
l whimper of a scream.

  Jonas finally released him, and Twist struggled up out of the surf to discover himself to be thoroughly soaked, head to toe. Jonas was barely able to breathe for his laughter. Twist turned back to find Jonas sitting in the edges of the crashing waves, smiling up at Twist with pure delight.

  “You look like a drowned cat!”

  Twist saw an incoming wave about to fall and recognized instantly that this wave was larger than the last one had been. He kept his eyes narrowed on Jonas, who was waiting patiently for a reply to his taunt. Twist held his tongue. The waved crashed over Jonas, shoving him roughly with the spray and foam. Jonas scrambled to his feet and out of the ocean’s reach, sputtering and cross, as the wave receded.

  “You could have warned me!” he shouted at Twist.

  “Yes, I could have,” Twist said, smiling smugly. “Serves you right, you damned brigand.”

  “Soggy little dandy,” Jonas spat back, a smile on his face as he reached out to ruffle Twist’s soaking-wet hair. Twist’s Sight warmed his mind with the quick touch.

  “Oh, come away!” Myra called to them, standing well out of the water’s reach. She was holding a fresh towel and wore a piteous expression. “You’ll only get more wet, standing there.”

  “My dear, I fear that’s impossible,” Twist said, shaking his arms as rivulets of water poured down them. He stepped forward with a sigh.

  Myra gave a sympathetic tone and wrapped the soft towel around his shoulders as they came back to the shade of the palm trees. Skye was suppressing her giggles behind a hand, and Kali’s tail swept the sand happily, as Twist sat down on the blankets again. The moment he did, Myra took the towel and ruffled his heavy, wet curls with it. Twist couldn’t help but smile, helpless to stop her, as the towel flapped awkwardly around his face.

  “There,” Myra said, wrapping it around his shoulders again and trying to straighten his mess of hair with her fingertips. “We’ll fix you right up,” she cooed, showering his Sight with sunny, rich warmth in every touch.

 
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