Edge Chronicles: The Last of the Sky Pirates is a part of the The Edge Chronicles collection.
The newest paperback installment in the exciting Edge Chronicles!
Rook Barkwater lives in the network of sewer-chambers beneath Undertown, the bustling main city of the Edgeworld. He dreams of becoming a librarian knight—one of those sent out to explore the mysteries of their world. When his chance comes, Rook grabs it! Breaking all the rules, he sets out on a journey to the Free Glades and beyond. His luck and determination lead him from one peril to another until, buried in the heart of the Deepwoods, Rook encounters a mysterious character and is thrust into a bold adventure that dares to challenge the might of the Guardians of the Night. . . .
An Excerpt fromEdge Chronicles: The Last of the Sky Pirates
The young under-librarian awoke drenched in sweat. From all around, echoing down the tunnels of the Undertown sewers, came the sound of the piebald rats' shrill dawn chorus. How they knew the sun was rising over Undertown, high above them, was a mystery to Rook Barkwater. But they did know, and Rook was grateful to be awake. The other nineteen under-librarians in the small sleeping chamber twitched and stirred in their hammocks, but slept on. It would be another couple of hours before the tilderhorns sounded. Until then Rook had the sewers to himself.
He slipped out of the hammock, dressed quickly
and stole across the cold floor. The oil lamp fixed to
the damp, mossy wall flickered as he passed by. In
the furthest hammock Millwist muttered in his sleep. Rook froze. It wouldn't do to be caught.
'For Sky's sake, don't wake up,' Rook whispered as Millwist scratched his nose. Then, with a small cry of anger or alarm, the youth rolled onto his side -- and fell still.
Rook crept out of the chamber and into the gloom of the narrow corridor outside. The air was cold and clammy. His boots splashed in the puddles on the floor and water dripped down his neck.
When it rained in Undertown, the underground tunnels and pipes filled with water, and the librarian-scholars fought to keep it out of the network of sewers they called home. But still it seeped through the walls and dripped from every ceiling. It hissed on the wall lamps, sometimes extinguishing a flame completely. It fell on mattresses, on blankets, on weapons, clothes -- and on the librarian-scholars themselves.
Rook shivered. The dream
still echoed in his head. First
came the wolves -- always the
wolves. White-collared. Bristling
and baying. Their terrible yellow
eyes flashing in the dark forest . . .
His father was shouting for him to hide; his mother was screaming. He didn't know what to do. He was running this way, that way. Everywhere were flashing yellow eyes and the sharp, barked commands of the slave-takers.
Rook swallowed hard. It was a nightmare, but what came next was worse; far worse.
He was alone now in the dark woods. The howling of the slavers' wolf pack was receding into the distance. The slave-takers had gone -- and taken his mother and father with them. Rook would never see them again. He was four years old, alone in the vastness of the Deepwoods -- and something was coming towards him. Something huge . . .
And then . . .
Then he'd woken up, drenched in sweat, with the shrill sounds of piebald rats in his ears. Just like the time before -- and the time before that. The nightmare would return every few weeks, always the same and for as far back as he could remember.
Rook took the left fork at the end of the corridor and went immediately left again; then, fifty strides further on, he turned sharp right into the opening to a low, narrow pipe.
Newcomers to the sewers were forever getting lost in the perplexing labyrinth of pipes and tunnels. But not Rook Barkwater. He knew every cistern, every chamber, every channel. He knew that the pipe he was in was a short cut to the Great Storm Chamber Library -- and that even though he had grown tall since he first discovered it, and now had to stoop and stumble his way along, it was still the quickest route.
Emerging at the far end, Rook looked round furtively. To his right, the broad Main Tunnel disappeared back into shadows. It was, he was pleased to see, deserted. To his left, it ended with a great, ornate arch, on the other side of which lay the chamber itself.
Rook took a step forwards and, as the cavernous library chamber opened up before him, his heart fluttered. No matter that he had seen it almost every day for the best part of a decade, the place never failed to amaze him.
The air was warm from the wood-burners, and wafted round in a gentle breeze by hundreds of softly fluttering wind-turners. The buoyant lecterns -- which housed the vast library of precious barkscrolls and bound treatises -- gently bobbed in their 'flocks', straining at the chains which secured them to the magnificent Blackwood Bridge below. The ornately carved bridge spanned the great, vaulted chamber, linking the two sides of the Grand Central Tunnel. Beside it was the older Lufwood Bridge and numerous gantries; below, the flowing waters of this, the largest of Undertown's sewers.
Rook stood for a moment at the entrance to the chamber, feeling the warmth seep into his bones. No dripping water or leaks of any kind were permitted here; nothing that could harm the precious library that so many earth-scholars had died to establish and protect.
The words of the ageing librarian, Alquix Venvax, came back to Rook. 'Remember, my lad,' he would say, 'this great library of ours represents just a fraction of the knowledge that lies out there in the Deepwoods. But it is precious. Never forget, Rook, that there are those who hate librarian academics and mistrust earth-scholarship; those who betrayed us and persecuted us, who blame us for stone-sickness and have forced us to seek refuge down here, far from the light of the sun. For every treatise produced, one librarian has suffered to write it, while another has died defending it. But we shall not give up. Librarian Knights elect will continue to travel to the Deepwoods, to gather invaluable information and increase our knowledge of the Edge. One day, my lad, it will be your turn.'
Rook crept out of the tunnel and onto the Blackwood Bridge, keeping his head down behind the balustrade. There was someone on the adjacent bridge, which was unusual for so early in the morning -- and though it was probably just a lugtroll there to clean, Rook didn't want to take any chances.
Unconsciously, yet unavoidably, he counted off the
mooring winch-rings as he passed. It was something every under-librarian did automatically, for those who made an error about which buoyant lectern was at the end of which chain did not last long in the Great Storm Chamber.
Rook's experience led him unerringly to the seventeenth lectern, where he knew he'd find one treatise in particular. A Study of Banderbears' Behaviour in Their Natural Habitat, it was called. Of all the countless leatherbound works in the library, this one was special; special for a very simple reason.
Rook Barkwater owed his life to the treatise, and he could never forget it.
Having checked that the lugtroll was definitely not spying on him, Rook gripped the winch-wheel and began turning it slowly round. Link by link, the chain wound its way round the central axle and the buoyant sumpwood lectern came lower. When it was at the same level as the mounting platform, Rook ratcheted the brake-lever across, and climbed aboard.
'Careful!' he whispered nervously, as the lectern dipped and swayed. He sat himself down on the bench and gripped the desk firmly. The last thing he wanted to do was keel over backwards and fall into the sluggish water of the underground river. At this time of day, there were no raft-hands to drag him out -- and he was a hopeless swimmer.