Discover more from The Worlds of Susan Dennard
Read a sneak peek of The Hunting Moon!
Though be warned, spoilers for book 1 wait inside...
It has been over a month since The Luminaries hit stores, and I’m sorry not to have updated sooner. With book tour and deadlines and a babysitter that quit & left me in the lurch, I’ve been spread a little thin.
But that has (I hope!) given most of you time to read the book! And since I know it closes with a few, erm…loose ends, I thought I’d share the first chapter of book 2 right here for all of you to read.
Scroll down or click here to read!
Disclaimer: this is not a final version of chapter one! I have yet to do line edits, copy edits, or the final round of proofs called pass pages. Still, the bones and meat shouldn’t change.
This story begins with a funeral in a town where the locals don’t bury their dead. The forest has such a nasty habit of waking the corpses back up again.
This particular corpse is a stranger to Winnie Wednesday. She knew of Grayson Friday, of course. He was the person who first bust into the old museum on the south side of town and turned it into The Place to Party. He also regularly snuck into the clans to steal banner sigils just to show that he could. And then there was that one time when, according to local legend, he stole a Tuesday Hummer and drove it right off the dam—while he was still inside.
Yet for all that Winnie knows of Grayson, she never, not once in her life actually talked to the guy, with his peat brown hair and his bright green eyes.
Now, she never will.
“You okay?” Mom asks, dark eyes squinting at Winnie’s face. She and Winnie are in the forest, walking toward the Big Lake’s western shore.
“Yep,” Winnie lies. “I’m fine.” It’s not a good lie, and Mom definitely doesn’t believe it.
“You don’t have to come.”
“I do.” Winnie avoids her gaze. For Jay, she needs to come. She is his friend again, so she should be here. Grayson Friday was his Lead Hunter, after all.
“You can go home,” Mom presses, “and I’ll get a ride with Rachel—“
“No.” Winnie snaps this harder than she intends. People are coming up the path from behind; she doesn’t want to deal with them. She’s as close to a local celebrity as Hemlock Falls gets these days thanks to Johnny Saturday calling her The Girl Who Jumped on a news segment five nights ago. Everyone wants some of her shine.
Because ten nights ago, Winnie completed her third trial; saved Emma Wednesday’s life with a banshee claw; jumped off the Big Lake’s waterfall; and got bitten by a werewolf while somehow not absorbing the werewolf’s nightmare mutation and turning into one too.
It’s exciting stuff, worthy of a penny dreadful (or a repeated slot on the nightly news)…
Except half the story is missing.
Emma wouldn’t have been in the forest if she knew how bad Winnie really was at hunting. Winnie only jumped off the waterfall because the Whisperer—a nightmare no one believes in—chased her there. And as for the werewolf bite…Well, Winnie can’t remember that part. Almost everything from under the water is forgotten, erased, missing.
Which just makes this whole celebrity thing even worse. It’s a constant reminder of the gaping hole inside her brain.
“Take these,” Mom says, cutting into the spiral that consumes Winnie’s thoughts almost hourly these days. She slides the Volvo’s key from her pocket. “If it gets to be too much, just leave, okay?”
“It won’t be too much,” Winnie counters, although she does take the keys and push them into her pocket. If for no other reason then so this conversation will end.
Like Mom, Winnie wears all black underneath her jacket, though her black jeans have faded to heather gray at this point. Her feet, bound in the combat boots she wore on her second trial, stomp out a steady and graceless rhythm down the path. Mom’s tread lands more lightly behind her.
Eventually, she and Mom clear the trees and the entirety of the Big Lake opens before them. The waters are dark at this morning hour, the surface rippling and writhing like basilisk scales—all moving south, toward the waterfall. Spindrift rises off the precipice, flies off a dead body.
“Hey,” Mom says, gripping at Winnie’s bicep. Winnie flinches. “Let’s go back.”
Winnie has stopped walking. She hadn’t realized it. Her feet just…aren’t moving. “No.” She wags her head. This is weird—she, Winnie, is being weird—and she needs to get a hold of herself.
I’s not like she’s never been to a hunter’s funeral before.
Twenty steps bring Winnie and Mom to the amorphous cloud of people clustered at the Big Lake’s silty edge, two bacteria sucked into a colony. It’s more Luminaries than Winnie would have expected at a funeral for the smallest clan, although Tuesday scorpions do inflate the numbers. They cluster around the edges in their camouflage fatigues, weapons strapped across their bodies.
Winnie can’t tell if they’re here for the ceremony or because this is where their daily route just happens to take them. Their faces are hidden in the glossy brown, carapace-like helmets they always wear.
Menacing helmets. Little shields meant to hide something.
These are the Alphas—a special branch of the martial Tuesday clan who deal with any nightmares who escape the forest. Or, as they’ve been deployed lately, to surveil the forest for daywalkers.
Conversation drones around Winnie. She hears someone mention the werewolf and how it must be brought to justice. Then someone else complains that the Council can’t get its shit together—and hey, did you see Johnny’s interview with Dryden last night? What a disaster. But at least the Masquerade hasn’t been cancelled.
Winnie gets whiplash just from listening. Werewolf, werewolf….Masquerade! Werewolf, werewolf…Masquerade! Darkness, darkness, light!
She should be used to it by now.
It has been eight days since she told the truth to Aunt Rachel about the banshee head. Eight days since Aunt Rachel told Winnie not to tell anyone. And eight days since Winnie was forced to accept that no one—absolutely no one—in this town cares that she and Emma Wednesday almost died.
People have even asked Winnie if it was fun jumping off the waterfall.
Fun jumping to her almost death. Darkness, darkness, light!
Winnie yanks off her glasses and frowns down at the lenses. They’re clean, but she scrubs at them anyway until Lizzy Friday clears her throat. Then Winnie shoves her glasses back on to watch the funeral. Her heart beats faster than it should.
Lizzy stands at the lakeshore, waves lapping gently a few steps behind her, tiny tentacles feeling for their next meal. She wears a simple black button up tucked into functional black slacks, and she looks more like a traffic cop then leader of the Friday clan now mourning her lost. In one arm, she holds a ceramic urn.
“Thanks for coming,” Lizzy says, and the crowd goes silent. Now there is only the waterfall’s roar to fill the afternoon sky. “Grayson would have liked knowing he was this popular.” She smiles; a few people laugh.
“Grayson died doing what he loved,” Lizzy continues. “He died a hero protecting us from the forest. And although no one outside Hemlock Falls will ever know it, he died protecting them too.”
Grayson’s mother chokes at those words. She stands at the front of the crowd, her back ramrod straight like she’s still bracing for bad news. Like she hasn’t yet heard her only son is dead, but she’s knows the message is on the way.
Mom and Ms. Friday went to school together; Grayson is only a little older than Darian.
Was only a little older than Darian.
For two years, Grayson has been Lead Hunter for the Fridays. Now he will be one more name among thousands hammered into the wall in city hall downtown, and on the next Friday night—just six days from now—the new Lead Hunter will take his place in the forest.
The new Lead Hunter stands near his aunt on the shore, his head bowed and his suit jacket too short in the sleeves. He must have borrowed it; Jay isn’t the type to own a suit. Plus, Grayson only just died last night. Funerals have to happen fast in Hemlock Falls, or else the forest has a nasty habit of waking up the bodies again.
Jay probably hasn’t slept since finding Grayson, so mangled Jay only knew it was his Lead Hunter because of the ring on a nearby finger that marked him as such.
Jay doesn’t move as Lizzy speaks. He is still as the forest. Still as a corpse chilling in the morgue.
“Integrity in all,” Lizzy says, ending her eulogy with the Friday clan’s motto. “Honesty to the end. May Grayson Alexander Friday find peace in his long sleep at the heart of the forest.”
Everyone murmurs those words back.
Everyone except Winnie.
Because Grayson Friday isn’t sleeping. He isn’t coming back. And whatever he was two days ago, now he is nothing more than fish food floating in an aquarium.
Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed, and please forgive any typos you might have spotted. 😉
Also, stay tuned for the official summary + jacket copy of book 2 coming very soon!
💚 - Sooz