Authors: Hilary Wagner
THE NIGHTSHADE CHRONICLES
The White Assassin
Lords of Trillium
BOOK III OF THE NIGHTSHADE CHRONICLES
Holiday House / New York
Text copyright Â© 2014 by Hilary Wagner
Illustrations copyright Â© 2014 by Omar Rayyan
All Rights Reserved
HOLIDAY HOUSE is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
ISBN 978-0-8234-3153-3 (ebook)w
ISBN 978-0-8234-3154-0 (ebook)r
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Lords of Trillium / by Hilary Wagner. âFirst edition.
pages cm. â (Nightshade chronicles ; book 3)
Summary: “The conclusion to the Nightshade Chronicles reveals the secret of the Nightshade rats' unique powers and resolves old rivalries and conflicts”âProvided by publisher.
ISBN 978-0-8234-2413-9 (hardcover)
[1. Fantasy. 2. RatsâFiction.] I. Title.
For Eric, Vincent, and Nomi, my three favorite rats
to my husband, Eric. His patience and support never cease to amaze me. He puts up with the endless stream of chaos and deadlinesÂ .Â .Â .Â and me. If that's not true love, I don't know what is. Everything's so much sweeter with your best friend and love of your life in your corner.
Thanks so much to my brilliant editor, Julie Amper, and everyone at Holiday House who played a part in the Lords of Trillium, including John Briggs, Mary Cash, Terry Borzumato-Greenberg, and the wonderfully detailed copy editor, George Newman. I'm indebted to Holiday House for taking a chance on an unknown author and her first book,
. Their belief in this series has been unwavering and inspiring. It has been my privilege to be part of the Holiday House family.
Thank you to Genevieve Ching, who sent me an article on a volcano in Papua New Guinea, which I held onto for over a year, knowing it would lead to inspiration for this book.
Marietta Zacker, my agent at Nancy Gallt, deserves loads of
hugs and a massive thank you. She is a trusted advisor, friend, and a true passionista. I'd be lost in this crazy world of publishing without her. Thank you, Marietta, for all you do.
Last but not least, thank you, CraigÂ .Â .Â .Â for everything. I hope I did you proud.
S THE SKY DARKENED
, Juniper and Vincent tightened their grip on the bus's undercarriage. It lurched forward, rolling into downtown Trillium. Juniper, eager to be free of the heavy fumes, inhaled a long breath as the bus picked up speed. Of late, teams of rats had gone missing. Several Hunter rats who'd set out to find food for the growing city had not returned. At first everyone blamed it on chance. Perhaps the team of Hunters got caught in a trap, run over as they slipped across a street, electrocuted by a live wireâafter all, hazards Topside were endlessâbut when two more teams of rats vanished, Juniper and the Council knew that there was nothing random about the disappearances. The Nightshade rats were being targeted.
Juniper could not imagine anyone who might harbor hatred for his citizens. He thought of Killdeer, but he and his regime were long gone. There were the dock rats, but they never cared about others' comings and goings unless it interfered
with their profitable theft of food from the many cargo ships that docked on the shores of Hellgate Sea. Moreover, his Hunters were well trained. They knew to stay far away from the toughened dock rats, a hard-bitten crew with little pity for any creature, rat or otherwise. There were a few rats who chose to dwell in Trillium, but what would be their gain? Dogs rarely bothered them, and cats mostly steered clear, knowing full well that their chances against a sturdy Trillium rat were slim to none. So who, then? He could only surmise the Topsiders were behind it, but why? Since the dawn of the Catacombs, rats had had little need to live Topside, and those who did stayed hidden or dwelled in places where most self-respecting humans rarely traveled.
He looked over at Vincent. The wind picked up, ruffling his black fur. Fall had swept in quickly, a damp, unforgiving cold. Nightshade City's food supply was stocked for the moment, but that would change quickly if the number of Hunters kept dwindling. Rats in Nightshade could come and go as they pleased. Juniper didn't want to ban that, but if any more rats went missing, he'd be forced to.
The bus idled at its next stop. Juniper and Vincent dropped to the asphalt. Under a leaden cloud of exhaust, they dashed from behind a tire and vanished into the alley behind the Brimstone Building, which sat in the center of Trillium City. They would search every alley if need be to find the lost citizens. As members of the Council, they had taken an oath. It was their sworn duty.
Hastening around the corner, they slid under a Dumpster, watching for enemies. “Topher's group always starts their hunt here,” whispered Vincent. “They spread out through the city in teams.” Cautiously, he stepped out from under the Dumpster
and surveyed their surroundings: nothing but rubbish and gray puddlesânot even the slightest scent of rat.
Sitting down, Juniper opened his tattered rucksack. It had been with him since before Killdeer took over the Catacombs. Maddy had made it for him all those years ago. He retrieved a thin silver tag. He felt the clean edges of the metal disk, the number 111 etched on its face. It was his brother's tag from his time in the lab. He wondered about him often, hoping Billycan had stayedÂ .Â .Â .Â good. They'd given him the cure for the horrible, mind-altering drugs forced upon him in the Topsiders' lab, but still Juniper had doubts. What if its effects were fleeting? Cures sometimes wore off. But no matter what the truth was, Juniper wished his brother were with him now. If any rat could sniff out the lost Hunters it would be Billycan. Admittedly he'd been cruel and merciless, but he
commanded an army for over a decade and was a masterful tactician, expert in tracking and pursuit. If anyone could find the Hunters it would be BillycanÂ .Â .Â .Â if only Juniper could find
“Do you really think he could help us locate them?” asked Vincent as Juniper put the tag back into his satchel.
Heavy footsteps sounded above their heads. Whatever was lurking on top of the Dumpster was far larger than any cat. They readied their claws.
Vincent's nose twitched.
, he mouthed.
As if the creature had heard him, a rangy raccoon screeched and wailed, hissing down at them from his Dumpster perch. He had several questionable-looking apples in his thick black paws, holding them protectively against his chest.
“We don't want trouble,” said Juniper evenly. “We're looking for some friends, who've gone missing, I'm afraid.”
Juniper might not have wanted trouble, but the raccoon
seemed to be of a different mind-set. Raccoons were highly territorial and could be irrational. The disheveled raccoon raged at them, screaming on in a jumbled language rats likened to gibberish. He pulled his arm back, launching one of his rotten apples at them.
Vincent and Juniper fled in opposite directions. The apple slammed into the wall behind Vincent, bursting into a slimy green pulp on the bricks and spattering runny chunks all over him.
Wiping his face, Vincent growled angrily. He headed straight for the Dumpster, the raccoon's bravado fading as he caught Vincent's infuriated expression. Muttering, Vincent picked up a sizable rock. “I hate raccoons.”
Lungs burning, he stole through the musty corridorsâa mad fiend. He hid his ghastly goods in corners, near doorways,
nailing them to walls, even stringing them up from the ceilings. He slapped his tail against the dirt wall, delighted with the sheer wickedness of it all, eager to give each and every resident the fright they deservedÂ .Â .Â .Â for it was
time again. With a cunning grin, he glanced down a corridor. It was late. Most had turned in for the night. All the better, he thought. It was no fun working someone into a lather in the middle of the day, now was it?