I hope you’re all excited for this week’s Hunted chapter reveal. Since you all have proven to be incredible at solving riddles and puzzles, we thought we’d raise the stakes for Chapter 2 and hide a game code for you within the chapter below. Keep an eye out as you read through and see if you can spell out the cheat code that will unlock a HUGE pile of gold. Just think what you’ll be able to buy from Mustela!
Once you’ve figured out the code, you can enter it in the “Books” tab by clicking “Add Book or Code.” Be sure to enter it all as one word, with no spaces. Good luck, Greencloaks. And check back for next week’s Chapter 3 reveal!
Chapter #2 GREENHAVEN
I’m nearly ready, Uraza,” Abeke said, slipping a bracelet over her slender brown hand. Her woRds were directed at the leopard that paced the floor of her room. Because the room was much too small for a leopard, or because the leopard was much too large for the room, the big cat could only take a few steps in each direction before she huffed and twisted the other way.
Abeke could sympathize.
In just a few short weeks, their world had shrunk from their home in wide-open Nilo to a tangled training camp, and then shrunk again to this island fortress: Greenhaven, the headquarters of the Greencloaks, guardians of Erdas. Abeke supposed that the fortress was impressive — a sprawling stone castle built on top of a waterfall — but both she and Uraza were of the mind that the forest surrounding it looked more appealing.
Outside the window, a bell sounded from a distant tower. Three tolls: the call to training.
Uraza paced even harder, making low, grunting sounds.
“All right, we’ll go!” Abeke tightened her bracelet so it wouldn’t slip off. Although its strands looked like wire, they were actually boiled elephant tail hair. Four knots in the strands symbolized sun, fire, water, and wind. Her perfect sister, Soama, had given it to her as she’d left home. It was supposed to bring good luck.
But AbEke wasn’t sure if good luck was really what she had been having since she left Nilo. She’d summoned a Great Beast as a spirit animal, which seemed like good luck. But almost immediately after that, she’d been recruited by people who were secretly in cahoots with the Devourer, enemy of the known world. Definitely bad luck.
The Greencloaks had agreed to take her in once she’d discovered her mistake; Abeke knew that she was probably supposed to consider that as good luck. After all, they hadn’t had to let her switch sides. But it didn’t feel very lucky at the moment. She’d made one friend since this whole thing began — Shane — and he was still on the other side, with the Conquerors. She’d traded her only friend for three kids who didn’t trust her.
Really, Abeke would settle for the good luck of not getting lost in the giant Greencloak fortress again.
As she opened the door, she donned the green cloak that meant she had sworn to defend Erdas. The dim hallway was full of sound. A monkey screamed a laugh somewhere out of sight, and a man’s voice rumbled low beneath it. A donkey brayed. Something like hoofbeats or pattering footsteps resonated through the stone walls. Abeke ducked as a bird the color of a banana soared overhead.
At the sight of the bird, Uraza, however, leaped skyward with a gleeful and rather threatening growl. The banana-colored bird shrieked. Just before the leopard slapped her paws together, Abeke grabbed her tail. The leopard’s leap was brought up short with a yowl.
Uraza spun. For a moment her teeth were instinctually bared and menacing.
Abeke’s heart stopped.
Then the leopard realized it was Abeke’s hand on her tail. Her lips lowered. She gave Abeke a deeply wounded look. The bird flapped away.
“I apologize,” Abeke said. “But that was someone’s spirit animal!”
One would think a Great Beast would understand why it wasn’t right to eat someone else’s spirit animal, but with Uraza, sometimes the beast part outweighed the great part.
“Maybe we should do this,” Abeke told UrazA, holding out her arm as a request. All spirit animals had the ability to enter a dormant form. If Uraza chose to enter it now, she would become a tattoo on Abeke’s skin until they got to training. And tattoos had never eaten anyone else’s spirit animal.
But Uraza was tired of being cooped up. She considered Abeke’s outstretched arm for one long moment, and then she turned and stalked down the hall.
Abeke didn’t press the issue. They were going to be late. As she hurried down the hallway after the leopard, various Greencloaks waved and greeted her by name. Abeke felt bad that she couldn’t return the favor, but they all knew her more than she knew them. All four of the newcomers at the fortress — Abeke, Rollan, Meilin, and Conor — were well-known. The four kids who had somehow summoned the Four Fallen.
Uraza made a curious trilling sound as she leaped down a circular stairwell in front of her. At the bottom, both Abeke and Uraza hesitated. They faced two identical halls, each with plaster-white walls and exposed timber ceilings. Only one led to the training room.
“Uraza?” Abeke asked. Uraza’s violet eyes darted from the floor to the ceiling, her long tail thrashing slowly.
Suddenly, Abeke didn’t think she looked so much like a leopard deciding which way to go. Instead, she looked like a leopard about to — Uraza lunged. She was a muscled blur of gold and black as she pushed off the wall. A thrumming, heart-chilling growl burst from her. For one moment, Abeke just thought, What an amazing animal!
Then she realized that Uraza was on the hunt. The leoparD’s unlucky prey crouched on a notch in the plaster wall. It was a small, squirrel-like animal with pink feet, a striped back, and large eyes. Abeke thought it was a sugar glider.
Uraza thought it was delicious.
“Uraza!” Abeke snatched for the leopard’s tail again, but missed. The sugar glider leaped toward the opposite wall. As it flew, its tiny limbs stretched out from its body. There was skin webbing between all its legs, making its body into a furry sail.
Uraza pounced. The sugar glider darted out of her way. The two of them careened down the hall. The sugar glider soared onto a side table. Uraza knocked the furniture over. The sugar glider scrambled up a tapestry of Olvan, leader of the Greencloaks. Uraza clawed the fabric from the wall. Tatters of Abeke’s dignity fluttered to the ground.
Helplessly, Abeke ran after them. She managed to get ahold of Uraza’s back leg, but the leopard tugged free easily. Abeke was left with a handful of black and yellow hairs.
The chase hurtled on. The three of them crashed through the hallway into a small eating room Abeke hadn’t seen before. People filled the benches. Abeke took the long way around the diners as the sugar glider and Uraza tore across the long table. Plates flew. One man got a faceful of his oatmeal. Another diner shut her eyes against an onslaught of fruit.
Outrage had just been added to the breakfast selection.
Abeke felt the Greencloaks’ eyes. She wanted to shout: It’s her fault, not mine! But she knew what their responses would be.
It is up to you to control your spirit animal.
Can’t you control her?
This is your responsibility!
This is your failure.
Maybe you don’t belong here after all.
There was no time for her to apologize or clean up the damage. She panted after the animals as they darted and clawed through several twisted hallways and a large room full of chairs, ending up in a foyer with an arched doorway on the other side. The sugar glider was making panicked, pitiful noises that sounded like a squeaky rocking chair.
Abeke was gasping too. Back in Nilo, she could track animals for hours without feeling she had taken a breath. What was this castle doing to her?
“Uraza,” she said, grabbing a stitch in her side. “We are supposed to be here to save the world . . . so save your appetite!”
This made Uraza pause. The sugar glider had just enough time to Hurl itself to the safety of the chandelier. Both Abeke and the sugar glider breathed a sigh of relief.
Uraza circled below, but the chase was over.
Now, Abeke thought with dismay, we are really lost.
Being lost wasn’t the worst consequence either. Being late was. Not because it came with a steep penalty — her instructors were fairly understanding. But she knew her tardiness would only deepen the problems between her and the other three kids. They had begun their training together, while Abeke had still been in the clutches of the Devourer. She was not only the outsider, she was the suspicious ex-enemy. She could only imagine what they thought she was doing right now — spying somewhere in the castle. Sending secret messages to Zerif, the Conqueror who’d taken her away after her Nectar Ceremony. Letting Uraza eat someone else’s spirit animal.
She had to get to that training room.
Maybe there was someone inside that arched doorway who could help her find her way. Even if the room was empty, there was something tempting about the curved entry. Although it surely led to another room, something about it felt as if it led to the outside instead. Abeke couldn’t quite explain the sensation to herself.
Cautiously, she pushed the door open. Inside was a dim room she’d never seen before. It was cluttered with musical instruments, mysterious pieces of art, and mirrors. There was a pile of drums as tall as Abeke, a piano-like instrument the size of a dog, and a bin full of flutes and recorders. A portrait of a girl smiled at her from one wall, while a mural of a man leading dozens of unfamiliar animals through a field covered another. The room smelled like dUst and wood and leather, but also, to Abeke’s delight, like the outdoors, though, again, she couldn’t explain why.
A single man stood inside, partially turned away.
It was possible his spirit animal was in its passive state, but Abeke realized quickly that she wouldn’t be able to tell. Apart from his face, every inch of visible pale skin was covered in tattoos: inked mazes, circles, stars, moons, knots, stylized creatures. The mark of his spirit animal wouldn’t stand out from the rest of the designs all over his body.
Abeke was suddenly impressed. Whether it was the man’s intention or not, he had very cleverly hidden the identity of his spirit animal.
Even though what she could see of his face seemed young, his hair was gray. Nearly white.
He didn’t seem to have noticed her silent entrance. His eyes downcast, he continued whispering to himself. Abeke couldn’t quite make out the words, but it sounded like coaxing. She suddenly felt like she’d interrupted something quite secret, almost sacred. And in that dim, mirrored room, it was also just a little eerie.
She backed out. She’d find her own way back to training.
In the foyer, Uraza waited, her tail curled tidily around her own feet.
Abeke didn’t have to tell the leopard she was upset with her. Uraza knew.
Without a word, Abeke held out her arm. And without a moment’s hesitation, Uraza became a tattoo on her skin. It only stung for a second. Abeke started on her way. Back in Nilo she had been known for her tracking skills, hadn’t she? She would find the training room. And she would make it her business to not get lost again.
The training room was the second-largest room in Greenhaven Castle. It was bright and inviting and had a dazzlingly tall peaked ceiling for the high-flying spirit animals. One end of the room was devoted to weapons’ storage — spears, maces, slingshots. Anything you might hope to find, so long as it would leave a mark. Stained-glass windows lined the walls, each one featuring a different Great Beast.
As she stepped in, Abeke was uncomfortably aware of suspicious eyes on her. RollaN, the scruffy orphan who had summoned Essix the Falcon, frowned at her. Meilin, standing near the panda Jhi, kept her striking face intentionally expressionless. Only Conor, the blond boy with pale skin who had summoned Briggan the Wolf, offered a faint smile in Abeke’s direction.
Tarik, the Greencloak who was in charge of their training and their futures, stood in front of a folded fabric screen. His weathered, lean face was only a little lighter than Abeke’s. Right now it wore a perplexed frown. “Abeke, didn’t you hear the training bell?”
There was no point blaming it on Uraza. She knew what Tarik would say: You’re going to have to learn to work with Uraza in far more difficult situations than our hallways. And she didn’t want to give the others more reasons not to trust her.
Abeke said, “I’m sorry. I got lost.” She hurriedly released Uraza from her arm.
“Lost?” Meilin rolled her eyes. She turned to Tarik. “Now can we start? Every minute we stand here doing nothing, a city in Zhong falls to the Conquerors.”
“That’s a lot of cities,” Rollan interjected. “Do you mean eleven cities have fallen while we’ve stood here? How many do you think fell during breakfast? That was nearly twenty minutes! How —”
“Rollan, that is no joking matter,” Tarik said. “And Meilin is right. Time is precious. But I think it will be more efficient if we train together. Today, you’ll engage in hand-to-hand combat with other Greencloaks.”
Meilin smirked, certain of her abilities.
“I call dibs on the mace,” Rollan said. “And the brass knuckles.”
“Not so fast,” Tarik said. As he spoke, four other Greencloaks entered the room. Though their spirit animals were in passive form, the four newcomers held their arms in such a way to display their tattoos to the four kids — like the Greencloaks were introducing the animals, even though they weren’t physically present. There was a llama, a fruit bat, a lemur, and a mountain lion.
Tarik continued, “You won’t always have access to weapons. In fact, an attack will more often come when you’re not ready — while you’re sleeping or eating. So you will not be using those weapons.”
He pulled aside the folded screen behind him. The wall behind it was hung with frying pans, broomsticks, plates, pillows, and other ordinary objects.
He said, “You’ll be using these.”
“Oh, I did that every day in my old life,” Rollan joked.
“This is ridiculous,” Meilin argued. “Maybe a street urchin is willing to fight with these crude tools, but I could do better with my bare hands.”
Abeke exchanged a look with Conor. They both moved to the wall to get weapons. Neither bothered complaining.
“Grab the first one you come to,” Tarik said. “And when I whistle, change to another object.”
Abeke took a broomstick. Conor took a fork.
“Here,” Rollan said, offering Meilin a handkerchief from the wall. “This one won’t scratch up your noble hands.”
Meilin smiled prettily. Removing the frying pan, she handed it to him. “And here’s one for you. Doesn’t require much brains to figure out how to use it.”
Rollan pretended to bow.
“Everyone to their marks,” Tarik ordered.
They took their places, the other Greencloaks opposite. Abeke faced a middle-aged man with a lemur tattoo and friendly-looking, wide eyes. The sword he held was not quite so friendly looking.
“I’m Errol,” the man said, touching his chest.
“My name is Abeke,” Abeke replied.
He smiled warmly at her. “I know.”
Tarik’s voice rose above the introductions. “Older team: Keep your spirit animals in passive form. Younger team: You may use all powers you have at your disposal. The object is to disarm your opponent. And if you manage that, to pin them to the ground.”
“For how long?” Meilin asked. “How will we know if we’ve won?”
“There is no win or lose here, Meilin,” Tarik replied. “We don’t have time for games. What I want is for you to show me that you can neutralize an opponent so I feel more comfortable putting you in a real-life dangerous situation. Now. Are we ready? Three, two?”
Putting his fingers to his lips, he let out a sharp, piercing whistle. The training battle began.
Right away, Abeke knew that her broomstick would be no match for Errol’s sword. So, drawing on her past in Nilo, she hurled her broomstick like a spear. The stick bounced harmlessly off his chest. Grinning at her, he picked it up.
“I’ll let you have one free pass,” Errol said, offering her the broomstick. In the background, iron clanged and Rollan swore joyously. “But remember that thing doesn’t have a point on it. If you tossed it at me in a real fight, you’d just end up empty-handed as I came at you with my blade.”
Abeke’s cheeks felt warm. “Of course.”
“But well-thrown,” he said. “Here’s a hint: Use that broomstick defensively, and count on your spirit animal as your weapon. And the other way around, if you find yourself with a real weapon.”
“Thanks,” she said. Then, suspicious of his kind smile, she added, “Don’t go easy on me.”
“That wouldn’t be a favor,” Errol said. “We want you prepared when you get out there. Don’t go easy on me.”
Abeke stole a glance at the others. Meilin sat on the shoulders of her opponent, the silk handkerchief wrapped around her assailant’s eyes. If Meilin can do so well with just a scrap of cloth, Abeke thought, I have to be able to work with a broom!
This time, when Errol came at her with the sword, she used the broom like a long staff instead, blocking his blows as best as she could. His strikes became steadily harder, though, and the broom handle began to splinter.
“Sorry!” Abeke said.
He looked confused. “For what?”
“For this!” With a pang of conscience, Abeke thrust the broom bristles into the swordsman’s face. SnEezing, he swatted at the noxious cloud of dust, hair, and animal fur surrounding his head. He blindly windmilled his sword.
Well, he said not to go easy on him.
“Uraza!” Abeke called. “Now!”
Just as Errol’s sword split her broomstick in two, shards flying, the leopard pounced. Her paws clapped on his chest.
With a grunt, he fell back, catching himself with his hands. His sword clattered away.
Uraza licked a paw serenely.
Errol gave Abeke a thumbs-up from his place on the floor.
Abeke smiled at him. It was nice to feel accepted.
Tarik’s whistle sounded.
“New weapon!” he shouted. “Now, this round, I want you fighting as a team. Hurry! Grab something, quick.”
Abeke snatched up a heavy wooden mixing bowl. Conor took a spoon. Meilin and Rollan argued over a vase. Meilin ended up with the porcelain bottom and Rollan ended up with the dry flowers inside it.
“Wait —” Rollan said.
Tarik let out his shrill whistle. “As a team, go!”
This time, all four Greencloaks attacked at once, and the four kids moved as one against them. Abeke’s wooden bowl served well as a shield. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Conor and Briggan working together, darting forward and back.
Smart, thought Abeke. Conor’s been taking his training to heart. He would be prepared even if he was surprised out in the open, with no weapon at all.
In fact, she was awed by their progress. Although he and Briggan had been gradually improving at each training session, this was a huge leap forward.
Suddenly, the older Greencloaks changed tactics, turning to Abeke at the same time. She found herself facing two swords, a spear, and an axe — impossible to hold off on her own, even with Uraza.
Uraza snaked beneath a Greencloak, her flexible body low to the ground. One paw darted out, claws sheathed safely away. The Greencloak with the llama tattoo careened to the ground, unbalanced. Abeke used her bowl to knock back the bat-tattooed Greencloak. Uraza sprang onto his shoulders effortlessly. The weight of the big cat brought him to his knees.
But the success was short-lived. The other two Greencloaks came at her while Uraza was occupied. Errol’s sword smacked her bowl right out of her hands. As it flew up into the air, the other Greencloak slammed her with the broad side of his training axe, hard enough to throw her to the ground and knock the breath out of her.
Abeke gasped as her palms scuffed over the floor.
Tarik’s whistle shrieked. It sounded a little irritated, louder and longer than usual.
“What was that?” Tarik demanded. “This was not a spectator event! Where were you three? How could you let her go down like that?”
Conor had the good manners to look ashamed. Rollan acted like it simply hadn’t occurred to him to help. Meilin’s carefully painted face remained haughty. They didn’t explain themselves, but they didn’t have to.
They don’t trust me, Abeke thought, her eyes prickling with tears. The days of the others’ distrust piled up inside her along with the ache of her scuffed palms and the humiliation of having been so badly beaten. She wouldn’t cry in front of them. Especially not in front of Meilin. She was sure Meilin didn’t cry over anything.
“I’m deeply Disappointed,” Tarik said. “Part of good strategy is making good use of all your assets. Abeke is one of your assets, and you should have protected her.”
Conor offered his hand to Abeke. She hesitated before accepting it. He hauled her up.
“Sorry,” he said.
On the other end of the room, footsteps rang out through the uncomfortable silence. It was Olvan, the regal leader of the Greencloaks. As always, his movements were slow and deliberate. There was something imposing about him, even when his spirit animal, a moose, wasn’t visible.
Rubbing his beard, he surveyed the wreckage: shattered glass, broken broomsticks, dried flower petals. “Tarik, I don’t like to interrupt. But this is important.”
“Go ahead,” Tarik said. He was still frowning at three of his four pupils. When he nodded at the four Greencloaks, they nodded back and exited. Errol waved to Abeke as he left. It was kind enough that it made her want to cry again.
“We’ve confirmed that one of the Great Beasts is in the north of Eura,” Olvan said. “Rumfuss the Boar. It’s not a far journey from here. The four of you and the Fallen must travel immediately to find out more. Tarik, you will lead them again.”
“Yes,” Rollan said. “Finally. Let’s leave all this cutlery behind.”
Tarik’s brow furrowed. “I don’t know much about the North.”
Olvan seemed unconcerned. “I’ll be sending Finn with you. He’s from that area and can act as a guide.”
“Finn?” Tarik echoed. He didn’t add anything else, but the single word was enough to make Olvan raise a thick eyebrow. It was unlike Tarik to question Olvan.
“Concerns, Tarik?” Olvan asked brusquely. But his tone didn’t seem to encourage a confession. Tarik merely shook his head.
“It will be good to have another set of hands,” Meilin said.
“Finn was once a great warrior, but now he’s seen too much battle,” Tarik answered carefully. “He will only be useful as a scout.”
“But a very good scout,” Olvan insisted. “He will not fight for you, but he will stand by you. There can be no question of that. Here he is.”
Finn entered the room with footfalls much softer than Olvan’s had been. Abeke’s head darted up. At once her humiliation was forgotten, replaced by interest.
Finn was the tattooed man from the mirrored room.
And their lives would soon be in his hands.
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