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Authors: Will Peterson

The Burning

BOOK: The Burning
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A
merican twins Rachel and Adam Newman have spent a harrowing summer rediscovering their British roots in the village of Triskellion, where their mother was born. But what should have been an idyllic break has quickly become a terrifying adventure.

While staying with their grandmother, Celia Root, they have been befriended by “Gabriel,” a mysterious traveller boy. He has urged them to help him find a long-lost amulet, but their quest has made them many enemies. The villagers are willing to do almost anything to protect what is theirs, and the twins soon find themselves hunted by both Commodore Wing – the grandfather they didn’t know they had – and his son, Hilary, a dark and dangerous figure who seems bent on their destruction.

The discovery of the Triskellion, an ancient and powerful artefact, has unlocked the dark secret of Rachel and Adam’s ancestry. A frightening revelation from the past that will affect every moment of their future…

As they are airlifted from the village – where they are no longer welcome – by their friend archaeologist Laura Sullivan, it seems that Rachel and Adam have finally escaped.

Or have they flown straight into a trap?

T
he helicopter was banking slightly, moving across an area of flat, black ground, when Rachel heard the pilot pass a crackly message to Laura Sullivan
.

Laura nodded and put away the notes she’d been reading
.

Rachel looked across to her mother and Adam, pressed closely against each other in the seats next to her. Adam’s cheek was flat against the window
.

They’d been flying for about an hour, maybe more, she thought, and she’d watched the landscape waking up as they’d passed low above it. A patchwork of green and brown fields, loosely stitched together by threads of irregular lanes, had given way to clumps of terracotta houses that had become denser and more tightly packed as they’d approached the city. Lines of traffic had built up and begun to snake slowly along the main roads. Lights had winked in the windows and then faded as the sun had struggled up to bleach them out. Rachel had watched it bathing the crush of buildings and the twist of the river as they’d flown over the centre of London
.

Adam had sat forward, excited, and pointed out the London Eye, the Houses of Parliament and other landmarks familiar from films and pictures. Places they had seen, but never visited
.

Rachel yawned. Beneath the rattle of the helicopter blades, she thought she could hear a faint buzzing, just for a second or two, and wondered if a bee was trapped somewhere in the cabin
.

Zzzzz … dnk. Zzzzz … dnk
.

She looked around and finally located the stowaway slowly walking the glass circle of the porthole just above her head. With the sky behind it, the bee looked like a little man, exploring the surface of a new planet. She wondered if it had travelled with them from the village
.

One of Jacob’s, come to see them away safely
.

Laura turned round, reached across and laid a reassuring hand on Rachel’s arm. She signalled to Rachel’s mother, told her that they would be landing in a few minutes. Rachel watched as her mother nodded and squeezed Adam’s hand. Her mother smiled, but it was thin and weak
.

Her mother looked tired
.

Rachel was exhausted too: her brain and bones aching in equal measure. The last few hours, the last few weeks, seemed like a nightmare she was waking from. She was wrung out, but at least she knew it was over. That she’d feel better when they were on the plane, and better yet eight hours or so from then, when they were finally home
.

Through the window the land stretched out below her, flat as far as she could see. Free of trees, free of anything
.

She heard the men up front talking on the radio, its squawk like the noise of some angry insect, as the helicopter turned again
.

A complex of buildings came slowly into view ahead and to the left. It was single storey, concrete, and brown, and she could make out the line of a perimeter fence. She looked hard for other aircraft, for a control tower, but could see nothing. It wasn’t like any airport she’d ever seen
.

“Laura? Where’re the planes?”

They came down fast, the large “H” in the landing circle growing bigger as they descended. They hit it dead centre with a bump that made Rachel’s teeth shake and she looked across at her brother to see if he was OK
.

He gave her a thumbs up
.

Then everything happened very quickly…

Rachel was being pulled from the helicopter, out into the roaring wind of the rotor blades. Turning, she watched the same thing happen to Adam, and tried to get close to her mother. But Laura was leading her mother away, putting some distance between Kate and the men who had emerged from a metal door in one of the smaller buildings
.

The men who had come to take her children
.

They wore headphones and dark glasses. They didn’t speak
.

Rachel tried to yank her hand away as she was led towards the door, but the man escorting her only increased his grip. Adam cried out to her and they both cried out to their mother, but when Rachel turned to look she could see that her mother
was sobbing and shaking her head. Laura was doing her best to keep Kate calm, shouting over the noise of the engine as it died
.

Telling her that everything was going to be fine
.

Rachel watched, helpless, as Adam was ushered quickly through a door, several metres away to her right. He shouted something which she couldn’t catch: his voice lost beneath the wind and the sound of her own grunts as she struggled to free herself
.

The nightmare hadn’t ended. She hadn’t woken up
.

The last thing Rachel saw on the outside was a hazy line: the furious arc of the bee as it buzzed around her. She twisted her head to get a last look, to pass a last message, but then it too was shut out as the heavy metal door slammed hard behind her
.

part one:
hope

R
achel woke up in a bed. In
her
bed.

Not the creaky brass bed in the flowery bedroom of her grandmother’s cottage in Triskellion, but in her own bed, in her own room. Her own room in New York City.

She lay still for a moment, letting her eyes travel around the room, afraid to close them again in case it disappeared. Everything was there: the well-thumbed copy of
Where’s Waldo?
, a childhood favourite; the china piggybank that only ever held a couple of dollars in change; the furry, glass-eyed cat; and a battered and grubby teddy bear that had belonged to her mother. Everything was in its place, each item a touchstone to memories that now seemed part of a distant past. Rachel’s gaze drifted past the Johnny Depp poster to the window, where narrow shafts of light were squeezing their way through the wooden slats of the blind. She could hear the low rumble and honk of traffic on the street outside. The sounds of Manhattan coming to life…

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