The Dead Seekers by Barb HendeeThe Dead Seekers by Barb Hendee

The Dead Seekers

byBarb Hendee, J.c. Hendee

Hardcover | January 3, 2017

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In the New York Times bestselling Noble Dead saga, Barb and J.C. Hendee created an engrossing mix of “intrigue, epic fantasy, and horror.”* Now, they present a bold new series set in the same world, where the destinies of two hunters shaped by the shadows of their pasts are about to collide...
 
In the dark reaches of the eastern continent, Tris Vishal travels from village to village, using his power to put unsettled spirits to rest. He works alone, having learned that letting people close only leads to more death. Still, he finds himself accepting the help of the Móndyalítko woman who saves his life—a woman whose gifts are as much a burden as his own. 
 
Mari Kaleja thirsted for vengeance since the night her family was taken from her. She has searched far and wide for the one she thinks responsible, known only as “The Dead’s Man.” But before she can kill him, she has to be sure. Mari hopes traveling with Tris will confirm her suspicions. But as they embark on a hunt where the living are just as dangerous as the dead, she learns the risks of keeping your enemy close...
 
Because it’s no longer clear who is predator and who is prey.
Barb and J. C. Hendee are the New York Times bestselling authors of the Novels of the Noble Dead, including The Night Voice, First and Last Sorcerer, and A Wind in the Night. Barb’s short fiction has appeared in numerous genre magazines and anthologies. She is the author of the Vampire Memories and Mist-Torn Witches series. J.C.’s poet...
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Title:The Dead SeekersFormat:HardcoverDimensions:336 pages, 9.31 × 6.25 × 1.13 inPublished:January 3, 2017Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0451469348

ISBN - 13:9780451469342

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Chapter OneNightfall came and went. The chill air smelled of autumn leaves, decay, and dank earth around the quiet town of Str”brov, hidden in the thick forest of southern Stravina.Tris Vishal walked the main road through town, the place he now called "home." Time had passed slowly since he'd left his first home, his birthplace, and he felt older than his twenty-five years.The pack slung over his left shoulder was heavy. His soggy black cloak hung well below his knees, weighed down by the recent rain. So was the cloak's hood, though he kept it pulled forward and low over cropped dark hair shadowing blue eyes so pale that some thought them colorless.Tris had no wish to greet or be greeted by anyone. Thankfully, townsfolk here retired early, as this was not a region to be out late after dark. Side streets along the way were little more than mud-packed paths. When he reached a squarely built, three-story building of weather-stained pine planks at the far end of town, he paused about a stick's toss before its front door.The bottom level was used as an herb and apothecary shop, owned and run by his landlord, Heilman Tavakovich. Tris lived on the second floor. The top floor remained unoccupied, its spare rooms used for storage, and he paid extra in rent to see that it stayed that way. All the windows were dark, including the shop's, which had glass panes behind their outer shutters.He rounded to the building's back side and dug for his key. An actual lock in a door wasn't common, but Heilman wasn't a common proprietor or landlord.After letting himself in, Tris climbed the back stairs to his second-floor door. Once inside, he dropped his pack and stepped through the chaos of his main chamber. Even in the dark, he didn't trip over anything, as clear paths were always kept amid the mess. He unlatched and raised the front window-the only one of his with glass-and pushed open the outer shutters.Scant moonlight passed him, likely illuminating the room's clutter and shelves of books-parchments, tomes, and odd objects and knickknacks everywhere-though he didn't look back.Tris stood there staring over the silent town and the still forest, and into the darkness. Perhaps the span of twenty slow breaths passed before he finally turned around. By then, the room had turned cold from the night air.Three faded tables were cluttered with small urns, bottles, and mortar and pestle, leaving little room for more than a cup. A single bed and a small chest stood near the back, though to the south was a door to a bedroom that he never used. He preferred one room for himself, with his possessions always kept within sight.Tris had been gone four days and returned feeling more hollow than usual. Of late, the trade he had chosen-no, had chosen him-offered few tasks and no relief.He'd gone seeking the truth of a rumor of a wandering spirit haunting the main stream of a not-too-distant village. The people there had become so frightened that they had taken to collecting rainwater in pots and buckets rather than venturing to the stream in the forest.The haunting had been false-a neighboring village's ruse to seize water rights to the stream. There had been nothing for Tris to do. With no spirit to eject or mystery of its demise to solve, he had returned again with nothing to sate his own need.How many times had he stood here, his back to the window, surveying this silent place, this dark room, this home that was not the home he had left years ago? That choice had been better for everyone. Still, he hated having too much time to think-to dwell.But there was nothing else to occupy him when he had nothing to hunt.No fence or wall surrounded Str”brov-only the thick, dank forest-and Mari Kaleja easily avoided the main road. She slipped through trees and undergrowth to enter the townÕs northern back side and crouched near the front corner of an aging stable attached to a smithy.The place stank of dung and char even in the cold, even after the day's chill rain.Her thick chocolate-colored hair was pulled back into a tail held by a leather thong darkened by years. Even so, her head was masked by a cloak's hood pulled forward to shadow her face, masking as well any glint from a street lantern that might catch her amber eyes, which were oddly colored enough to be noticed and remembered.Both her narrow hands were covered with worn-out gloves, stolen and then stained with oil to darken them. Her snug canvas pants were now damp from the knees down, and her shabby soft boots no longer kept water from seeping in.She didn't even care about or feel the night's chill.Dark hope brought back the heat of long hate and pain.Was this town really where she'd finally catch "the Dead's Man"?Vengeance had turned to a knot like a stone in her gut. How many hints, stories, and rumors had she tracked about a man who wore black, who called spirits to himself and commanded them?Mari reached under the front of her scarred leather jerkin, felt for the hilt of the long, narrow dagger hidden there, but she didn't pull it just yet. Even though she'd darkened it with char from her last fire, there was too much risk that the well-tended steel might catch any light in the dark. Gripping the hilt was just a reflex after so many times of getting close, so many false leads, so many things she'd done-that others wouldn't-just to buy the kind of blade she couldn't steal.It was her one treasure, waiting to be bloodied with one man's life."Papa . . . Mama . . . ," she whispered.The pain was as fresh as the night she'd fled in the Wicker Woods.Mari tried to let go of such thoughts in remembering the last words-the last hint-gained ten days ago from a traveling merchant:The Dead's Man? Yes, I heard someone mention him. He's in Str”brov, living over some herb shop. Not much else like it in a timber town, so you couldn't miss it.Releasing the hilt, she gripped the stable's post, leaned forward in her crouch, and peered both ways. The main street was clear, so she rose and stepped out along the drier side of the road. She passed dwellings and shops, turning her head a little, though her eyes turned more in watching every side path, door, and shuttered window.Mari paused two side paths away from the town's far end. She veered into the deeper shadows beneath one structure's slanted awning. There it was at the last corner ahead-the three-story building of rain-darkened planks. A sign sticking out from the dark bottom shop had one word, which she couldn't read. That didn't matter, for it held a carved symbol of a garlic bulb surrounded with leaves. Others might not have seen that in the dark.The herb shop was shuttered up for the night, and she wavered. After coming this far, she hadn't given any thought to how to get in, which floor housed her prey, or whether he was in there this night. She knew nothing about him other than his black attire and that he had power over the spirits of the dead.Rushing in to attack blindly within his territory was stupid. Only a fool would think cunning and stealth were enough, and she'd become too cunning for that. Glancing around, she spotted a decaying shed in a side path farther on. The place just beyond it might be a candle-and-oil shop; that could be useful, if needed. She scurried for the shack, found its door had only a rope-pull latch, and tugged slowly to open it a thumb's width.Then she froze, listening for the sounds of movement or breathing, as the shack was too dark within for even her eyes. It wouldn't be the first time-or twelfth-that she'd found some drunk, thief, or runaway in such a place. She'd hidden and slept in a few herself over the years.Sniffing twice, she caught nothing of the living and slipped in with one hand under the jerkin around the dagger's hilt. The shack was as empty as her senses had told her, other than piled crates and bulging burlap sacks. She pulled the door closed halfway and peeked out through the crack around its rope hinges toward the herb shop.Her best option was to wait for her prey to come out. She could follow and catch him unaware in the wilderness.Slipping a leather satchel off her shoulder, she dug in it with one hand while still watching that three-story building through the door's crack. Her fingers found a raw carrot stolen from a garden on the edge of town.Such food brought strength but not relief. It too often tended to bring a memory of warm food cooked by her mother, images of being half-asleep while waiting for supper beside yet another fire. Every time she was about to eat, the same memories rose again.Those woods, that night, after she'd watched her papa die and then run away, came back to her. Half-naked, for she'd found only part of her clothing stripped away in flight, she'd crept into her family's last camp while watching the trees all around. She saw no one and nothing, not one glimmer of those white spirits in the woods. And not the black silhouette she'd seen kill her papa.Only a few sparks from the cook fire's scattered coals guided her at first. Then came the dark shapes of the family's silent wagon homes as she closed on the camp. She already knew the first body she'd find and never tripped over it.Papa lay facedown on the wet ground and dark weeds, his woodsman's ax lying just out of reach beyond his head.Mari sobbed once and, in sharpened terror, quickly clamped a hand over her mouth. She twisted frantically, looking everywhere through the trees. She saw no spirits but kept looking with wide eyes that never blinked.And how could she even see that black one-if he was still there, here-in the dark?She collapsed next to her papa's body, sobbing in great gasps, but no matter how she tried, she couldn't roll him over. She never saw his face again.As she knelt there listening and looking, and not wanting to look for anyone else, she already knew she'd never find any of them alive. There might be food to find. There might be clean, dry clothes, or at least a blanket in the wagon. But all she did was curl on the ground, with her papa's shoulder for a pillow.She dreamed of a boy's shape, blacker than moonless night, of ghosts white as wisps, and a hand erupting from her papa's face. If she screamed-more than once-she still didn't awaken until the sun came again.On the third following day, a gamekeeper and his lad who didn't fear the Wicker Woods shook her awake at dawn. She lashed out instinctively and screeched at them like an animal-her papa's little "kitten" turned savage and feral.Mari crouched atop her papa and wouldn't let them touch him or her.The lad ran off at the gamekeeper's instruction. Soldiers from the nearby keep arrived. Though they looked all over, draped scavenged blankets over the collected dead, it took three of them to remove Mari. She was hauled off eventually, was later questioned but had never answered.What could she tell them, even if that would bring back her mama and papa?The gamekeeper tried to take her in after that, but she ran off into the dark the following night . . . to seek out more of her own people.Mari froze in the shack, no longer chewing the raw carrot, fighting to push the memories away. The rest was useless to remember now. All that mattered now, after so many years alone in searching for vengeance, was blood on her blade. She stared at the dwelling where he lived.Perhaps she shouldn't wait for him to come out.Tris turned toward the window, seeing only the rooftops of the silent and dark town. He knew he should try to sleep but dreaded the thought of closing his eyes. Some people believed a long and sharp memory was a blessing. He knew better.He remembered everything from the night he was born, though that should have been impossible. So many things set him apart, made him different, but this was the thing he minded most. He remembered his mother's love, how she doted on him and coddled him as his father looked on. If Tris's mother had refused to see that he was different, not right, his father did not.Father's eyes soon clouded with mistrust-later with open dislike, maybe revulsion and fear as well. When Tris was only a year old, and his mother happily cradled him in a rocking chair, his father had burst in and walked over to stare down at them."Have you ever wondered," Baron Vishal began, "if the midwife tricked us?"Baroness Reagan stopped rocking. "Tricked?"The baron took only one more step and halted with a glance at his son."She left the room with a dead child," he said, "and suddenly returned with a living one. How do we know they were . . . are . . . one and the same?"Baroness Reagan said nothing."How do we even know that is our son?" Gerold whispered."Get out," Reagan said quietly, and then said with greater force, "Get out! Don't touch him!"Turning, the baron left in silence.It was not the first time, but it was the last.Tris's mother held him close and sang to him softly, though her voice shook. And all of this he remembered now, though then he had yet to understand all the words. When language was later fully understood, so were those words.Tris had driven a wedge between his parents merely by being born.By the time he could walk, his father left the manor more and more, and stayed away longer. His mother did not appear to care, though her love for Tris became smothering.One evening of relief came when he was three years old. He'd been left alone to play with toys in his room, and a movement caught his eye. White wisps rose out of the shadows to fly and whirl all about the room-all around him. He could see right through them, and he smiled at such a wondrous sight.

Editorial Reviews

"The action starts early and suspense is maintained throughout as high peril and danger propel the storyline to the thrilling conclusion.”—RT Book Reviews"There’s an addictive quality to it that will make you want to pick up the next book and dive straight back into this world to spend time with Tris and Mari.” —Speculative Herald“With an unlikely friendship, an interesting cast of characters, all of the fascinating paranormal and magical aspects and of course a plot that kept my eyes glued to the page, Barb and JC Hendee created a unique fantasy tale with The Dead Seekers.” —BookaholicPraise for the Noble Dead Saga   “[A] mix of The Lord of the Rings and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”—Kevin J. Anderson, New York Times bestselling author of Eternity’s Mind   “Maintains a high level of excitement...a lively fantasy world.”—The Denver Post   “A series that will appeal to both horror and fantasy fans.”—SF Site   “[An] exciting series of magic, mythical creatures, and incredible lore.”—SciFiChick.com   “A unique tale of vampires and half-vampire undead hunters set against a dark fantasy world ruled by tyrants.”—Library Journal*Publishers Weekly