Last time on Hunted, Conor’s party was arrested upon arriving in Trunswick. Will they ever escape from prison? Find out after the cut.
It didn’t take Essix long to find Meilin, Abeke, and Finn. They were just climbing a grassy bank that afforded a view of Trunswick when Finn spotted the falcon circling. He waved one arm, and then two. Abeke and Meilin joined in. Essix wheeled toward them.
Hooray! Essix found reinforcements.
Essix leads Finn’s party in the general direction of a large building in Trunswick. Unfortunately, Finn knows this building intimately: it’s the Howling House, where Marked humans driven insane from bonding sickness are imprisoned. Finn was once kept there, and almost executed by the earl of Trunswick, because he bonded with Donn without the Nectar.
Now that the party knows where Conor and Rollan possibly are, they decide to hang out outside Trunswick until night.
Trunswick was a silent place after dark. When night fell, Abeke, Meilin, and Finn crept closer to town. Unlike the cities of Zhong, which were lit and beautiful even at night, Trunswick was nearly as black as the moor. Only a few lanterns illuminated the main street up to the castle. There were no candles in any of the windows. No voices rose from the bars and no stragglers moved through the streets. Even Trunswick’s famous and industrious blacksmiths completely disappeared as night fell, leaving behind only a few glowing embers in their forges. Guards stood in vigilant silence at each of the gates.
It’s time to sneak behind enemy lines!
Since the Howling House is well-lit and heavily guarded, Finn’s party hides out in an empty blacksmith’s shop. Abeke and Meilin sneak over to a window that looks into a room inside the Howling House. Within, they find everyone’s favorite a-hole, Zerif, monologue-ing to a Four Token Band.
You see, Zerif gathered a Four Token Band of his very own to counter the Greencloaks and their Four Token Band. He explicitly chose four children for their special attributes, and force-bonded them to animals revered by the people of their homelands:
- Devin, bonded to Elda the
black pantherwildcat, chosen for being a dickhis “breeding”
- Ana from Amaya, bonded to Ix the gila monster, chosen for her “connections”
- Tahlia from Stetriol, bonded to Tiddalik the water-holding frog, chosen for her intelligence
- Karmo from Nilo, bonded to Impundulu the hammerkop, chosen for his strength
Unfortunately, Zerif’s Four Token Band could care less about Zerif’s near-fanatical devotion to
the Devourer the Reptile King. Devin is too busy being a boastful dick, Tahlia is sour that Zerif keeps referring to her as a child, and Karmo is more interested in returning to Nilo to help his people. And the kids don’t care about competing against the Greencloaks’ Four Token Band, since they’re also scrambling to find the Great Beasts’ talismans.
Anyway, Zerif orders Devin and Karmo to use the map he stole from Conor’s party to find Rumfuss’s talisman while he takes Ana and Tahlia home to influence their people. Karmo is not too thrilled with the idea.
Abeke and Meilin stop eavesdropping and recap Zerif’s epic monologue to Finn. Meilin then summons Jhi and casts Prescience to figure out how the party can free Conor and Rollan. She settles on a plan … but it may take a lot of work.
Stuff I Forgot to Mention Above:
Meilin gets very pissed when Essix finds her party. Why? Because she fears that someone beat up Rollan, and that someone wasn’t her.
Abeke keeps her cat in her hair. She still hasn’t named it yet.
Remember that bonfire burning outside Trunswick in the last chapter? Meilin and Abeke see smoke from it, and they think there’s something definitely off with its smell. I still think that the earl of Trunswick is burning the bodies of spirit animals — especially since burning flesh often gives off a distinctive smell. If you’ve ever burned yourself (which I obviously don’t recommend), you’ll know what I mean.
Now that I think about it, this book is significantly darker than the last one. Humans and spirit animals getting messed up when their partners die? Imprisonment of the insane? A local ruler possibly killing and disposing of spirit animals? That’s pretty heavy for a kids’ book.
Meilin finds it strange that Finn didn’t get the Nectar before bonding with Donn. In Zhong, every town has officials who report to the Greencloaks when a child comes of age so they can get Nectar.
How does Essix perch on Finn’s presumably unprotected arm without maiming him?
Why did Zerif form a Four Token Band of his very own? He’s trying to manipulate the nations into rejecting Greencloak influence and control over Nectar by bringing their local legends to life.
Bile apparently gives humans complete control over the animal they bond with. Hmm, being able to choose your own spirit animal and having full control over it doesn’t sound that bad. (Though, as we’ll discover in the fourth book, the Bile has a rather unusual side effect.)
Abeke and Meilin finally agree on something: they hate Zerif’s guts.
“It would be bad luck if they were,” Finn said. That’s the Howling House. It’s where they keep people and animals who bonded without Nectar, and developed the bonding sickness. Well, one sort of bonding sickness — it’s for those who went mad. It’s part hospital and part prison.”
Next time: A jailbreak goes down somewhere in Trunswick.