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Contents

Cover

About the Book

Title Page

Dedication

Epigraph

1 The Third Tear

2 Landfall

3 The Lost Seedbearer

4 New Blood

5 Deep Freeze

6 Enemies Closer

7 For a Song

8 Trial by Orchid

9 Diver Down

10 As it Relates to Love

11 Stay, Illusion

12 Occupy Atlantis

13 Eye of the Storm

14 Storming a Storm

15 Mourning Broken

16 The Filling

17 Trysts

18 Fever to Tell

19 Evicted

20 Yet Trouble Came

21 Illusionment

22 Mother Tongue

23 Ovid’s Metamorphoses

24 Flight

25 The Marais

26 Dispossessed

27 The Lightning Cloak

28 The Ghostsmith

29 The Loved One

30 Crimson Kiss

31 Nostalgia

32 Sunrise

33 Waterfall

Acknowledgments

About the Author

Also by Lauren Kate

Copyright

About the Book

One tear can save the world. One tear can destroy it.

Eureka’s tears have flooded the earth and now Atlantis is rising, along with its evil king, Atlas. Eureka is the only one who can end the death and destruction – but first she must learn how to fight.

Torn between two loves, she must make sense of the dark world her sorrow has created. But haunting secrets are hidden in the depths – will she be strong enough to defeat Atlas, or is her broken heart just what he needs to power his rising kingdom?

Eureka has the chance to save the world. But she’ll have to give up on everything – even love . . .

Also by Lauren Kate:

THE BETRAYAL OF NATALIE HARGROVE

The FALLEN series:

FALLEN

TORMENT

PASSION

RAPTURE

FALLEN IN LOVE

TEARDROP

LAST DAY OF LOVE: A TEARDROP STORY

(ebook short story)

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For Venice

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It’s satisfying to think that the weight of the ocean and the weight of meaning could be in some way connected.

—JOE WENDEROTH, “THE WEIGHT OF WHAT IS THROWN

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1

THE THIRD TEAR

The sky wept. Sorrow flooded the earth.

Starling opened her mouth to catch the raindrops falling through the hole in her cordon. The Seedbearer’s transparent sanctuary was pitched over the bonfire like a camper’s cozy tent. It sealed out the deluge, except for the small opening at the top meant to vent the fire’s smoke and admit a sample of the rain.

Drops dampened Starling’s tongue. They were salty.

She tasted ancient uprooted trees, oceans reclaiming land. She tasted black water on coastlines, gulfs engulfed. Withering wildflowers, parched highlands, everything salt-poisoned. A million rotting corpses.

Eureka’s tears had done this—and more.

Starling smacked her lips, probing the rain for something else. She closed her eyes and rolled the rain over her tongue like a sommelier sampling wine. She could not yet taste Atlantean spires interrupting sky. She could not taste the edges of Atlas, the Evil One.

This was good but confusing. Tears shed by the Tearline girl were meant to bring Atlantis back. Preventing those tears’ fall had been the Seedbearers’ single objective.

They had failed.

And what had happened? The flood was here, but where was its ruler? Eureka had brought the horse but not its rider. Had the Tearline swerved? Had something gone wrong in the right way?

Starling hunched over the fire and studied her nautical charts. Teardrops streamed down the cordon walls in sheets, accentuating the warmth and brightness of the citronella-scented space inside. If Starling had been someone else, she might have curled up with a mug of cocoa and a novel, let the rain lull her into another world.

If Starling had been someone else, old age would have killed her millennia ago.

It was midnight in the Kisatchie National Forest in central Louisiana. Starling had been waiting for the others since midday. She knew they would come, though they had not discussed this location. The girl had wept so suddenly. Her flood dispersed the Seedbearers along this vile new marsh, and there had been no time to plan their regrouping. But here was where it would happen.

Yesterday, before Eureka cried, this site had sat a hundred and fifty miles from the Gulf. Now it was a shard of disappearing coastline. The bayou—its banks, dirt roads, dance halls, twisting live oak trees, antebellum mansions, and pickup trucks—lay entombed in a sea of selfish tears.

And somewhere out there swam Ander, in love with the girl who’d done this. Resentment brewed inside Starling when she thought of the boy’s betrayal.

Beyond the flame’s glow, against the sideways rain, a shape emerged from the forest. Critias wore his cordon like a slicker, indiscernible to any but Seedbearer eyes. Starling thought he looked smaller. She knew what he was thinking:

What went wrong? Where is Atlas? Why are we still alive?

When he reached the edge of Starling’s cordon, Critias paused. Both of them braced for the rough blast that would signal their cordons joining.

The moment of their union struck like lightning. Starling crossed her arms to withstand the gale; Critias squeezed his eyes shut and struggled forward. Her hair waved like a cobweb against her scalp; his jowls flapped like flags.

Starling noted these unflattering aspects in Critias, saw him note the same in her. She reassured herself that Seedbearers aged only when they felt affection.

“Venice is no more,” Starling said as Critias warmed his hands before the fire. She had coordinated what her taste buds told her with her charts. “Most of Manhattan, all of the Gulf—”

“Wait for the others.” Critias nodded into the darkness. “They are here.”

Chora staggered toward them from the east, Albion from the west, the storm glancing off their cordons. They approached Starling’s cordon and stiffened, girding themselves for the unpleasant entry. When Starling’s cordon had absorbed them, Chora looked away and Starling knew her cousin didn’t want to risk feeling nostalgic or pathetic. She didn’t want to risk feeling. It was how she had lived for thousands of years, never looking or feeling older than mortal middle-aged.

“Starling is listing the fallen lands,” Critias said.

“It doesn’t matter.” Albion sat down. His silver hair was soaked, his neat gray suit now mud-stained and torn.

“A million deaths don’t matter?” Critias asked. “Didn’t you see her tears’ destruction on your journey here? You have always said we were the protectors of the Waking World.”

“What matters now is Atlas!”

Starling looked away, embarrassed by Albion’s outburst, though she shared his vexation. For thousands of years the Seedbearers had struggled to prevent the rise of an enemy they had never met in the flesh. Long had they suffered the projections of his terrible mind.

Imprisoned in the sunken realm of the Sleeping World, Atlas and his kingdom neither aged nor died. If Atlantis rose, its residents would be restored to life exactly as they had been when their island sank. Atlas would be a strapping man of twenty years, at the zenith of his youthful power. The Rising would make time begin again for him.

He would be free to pursue the Filling.

But until Atlantis rose, the only things stirring in the Sleeping World were dreaming, scheming, sickened minds. Over time Atlas’s mind had made many dark voyages into the Waking World. Whenever a girl met the conditions of the Tearline, Atlas’s mind worked to be near her, to draw tears from her eyes that would restore his reign. Right now he was inside the girl’s friend Brooks.

The Seedbearers were the only ones who recognized Atlas each time he possessed the body of a person close to the Tearline girl. Atlas had never succeeded—partly because the Seedbearers had murdered thirty-six Tearline girls before Atlas could provoke them into weeping. Still, each one of his visits brought his unique evil into the Waking World.

“We are all remembering the same dark things,” Albion said. “If Atlas’s mind has been this destructive inside other bodies, waging wars and murdering innocents, imagine his mind and body united, awake, and in our world. Imagine if he succeeds in the Filling.”

“So then,” Critias said, “where is he? What’s he waiting for?”

“I don’t know.” Albion tightened his fist over the fire until the smell of burning flesh alerted him to move it. “We were all there. We saw her cry!”

Starling thought back to that morning. When Eureka’s tears fell, her sorrow had seemed bottomless, as if it would never end. It had seemed that each tear shed would multiply the damage to the world tenfold—

“Wait,” she said. “Once the conditions of her prophecy were met, three tears needed to fall.”

“The girl was a blubbering mess.” Albion dismissed her. No one took Starling seriously. “Obviously, the three required tears were shed.”

“And then some.” Chora looked up at the rain.

Critias scratched the silver stubble on his chin. “Are we sure?”

There was a pause, and a burst of thunder. Rain spat through the cordon’s hole.

“One tear to shatter the Waking World’s skin.” Critias softly sang the line from the Chronicles, passed down by their forefather Leander. “That’s the tear that would have started the flood.”

“A second to seep through Earth’s roots within.” Starling could taste the spreading of the seafloor. She knew the second tear had been shed.

But what about the third, the most essential tear?

“A third to awaken the Sleeping World and let old kingdoms rebegin,” four Seedbearers said in unison. That was the tear that mattered. That was the tear that would bring Atlas back.

Starling glanced at the others. “Did the third tear fall to Earth or didn’t it?”

“Something must have caught it,” Albion muttered. “Her thunderstone, her hands—”

“Ander.” Critias cut him off.

Albion’s voice was high with nerves. “Even if he did think to catch it, he wouldn’t know what to do with it.”

“He is with her now, not us,” Chora said. “If the third tear was shed and captured, the boy controls its destiny. Ander doesn’t know the Tearline is tied to a lunar cycle. He won’t be prepared for Atlas, who will stop at nothing to get the third tear before the next full moon—”

“Starling,” Albion said sharply. “Where has the wind taken Ander and Eureka?”

Starling drew in her tongue, chewed and swallowed, belched softly. “She is shielded by the stone. I can barely taste her, but I believe Ander travels east.”

“It is obvious where he has gone,” Chora said, “and whom he has gone looking for. Outside of the four of us, only one knows the answers Ander and Eureka seek.”

Albion glowered into the fire. When he exhaled, the blaze doubled in size.

“Forgive me.” He took a measured inhale to tame the fire. “When I think of Solon . . .” He bared his teeth, stifled something nasty. “I am fine.”

Starling had not heard the name of the lost Seedbearer spoken in many years.

“But Solon is lost,” she said. “Albion searched and could not find him—”

“Perhaps Ander will look harder,” Critias said.

Albion grasped Critias by the neck, lifted him off his feet, and held him over the fire. “Do you think I have not been looking for Solon since the moment he fled? I would age another century in exchange for finding him.”

Critias kicked air. Albion freed him. They straightened their clothes.

“Calm, Albion,” Chora said. “Do not succumb to old rivalries. Ander and Eureka must come up for air sometime. Starling will discern their location.”

“The question is,” Critias said, “will Atlas discern their location first? In the body of Brooks, he will have ways to draw her out.”

Lightning flashed around the cordon. Water lapped the Seedbearers’ ankles.

“We must find some way to take advantage.” Albion glared into the fire. “Nothing is as powerful as her tears. Ander cannot be the one in possession of such power. He is not like us.”

“We must focus on what we know,” Chora said. “We know Ander has told Eureka that if one Seedbearer dies, all Seedbearers die.”

Starling nodded; this was the truth.

“We know he is protecting her from us using our artemisia, which would exterminate all of us if any of us were to inhale it.” Chora strummed her lips with her fingers. “Eureka won’t use the artemisia. She loves Ander too much to kill him.”

“Today she loves him,” Critias said. “Name one thing more mercurial than a teenage girl’s emotions.”

“She loves him.” Starling puckered her lips. “They are in love. I taste it on the wind around this rain.”

“Good,” Chora said.

“How can love be good?” Starling was surprised.

“One must love to have one’s heart broken. Heartbreak causes tears.”

“One more tear hits Earth and Atlantis rises,” Starling said.

“But what if we gained possession of Eureka’s tears before Atlas could reach her?” Chora let the question seep into the others.

A smile filtered onto Albion’s face. “Atlas would need us to complete the rise.”

“He would find us very valuable,” Chora said.

Starling flicked a slug of mud from a pleat on her dress. “You are suggesting we align ourselves with Atlas?”

“I believe Chora is suggesting that we blackmail the Evil One.” Critias laughed.

“Call it what you like,” Chora said. “It’s a plan. We track Ander, take possession of any tears; perhaps we generate more. Then we use them to seduce Atlas, who will have us to thank for the great gift of his freedom.”

Thunder rattled the earth. Black smoke twisted up out of the cordon’s vent.

“You’re insane,” Critias said.

“She’s a genius,” Albion said.

“I’m afraid,” Starling said.

“Fear is for losers.” Chora sat on her haunches and stoked the fire with a wet stick. “How much time until the full moon?”

“Ten nights,” Starling said.

“Time enough”—Albion smirked into the distance—“for everything to change in the last word.”

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2

LANDFALL

The silver surface of the ocean danced above Eureka’s head. Her legs fluttered toward it—the urge to pass from water into air was irresistible—but she stopped herself.

This wasn’t the warm Vermilion Bay back home. Eureka was treading inside a transparent sphere in a dark, chaotic ocean on the other side of the world. The sphere and the voyage Eureka had made in it were possible because of the thunderstone pendant she wore around her neck. Eureka had inherited the thunderstone when her mother, Diana, died, but she’d only recently discovered its magic: when she wore the necklace underwater, a balloon-shaped sphere bloomed around her.

The reason the thunderstone shield encased her now bewildered Eureka. She had done the one thing she was not supposed to do. She had cried.

She’d grown up knowing tears were forbidden, a betrayal to Diana, who had slapped Eureka the last time she’d cried, eight years before, when she was nine and her parents split up.

Never, ever cry again.

But Diana had never told her why.

Then she died, sending Eureka on a quest for answers. She discovered that her unshed tears were connected to a world trapped beneath the ocean. If that Sleeping World rose, it would destroy the Waking World, her world, which she was learning to love.

She couldn’t help what happened next. She had stepped into her backyard to find her four-year-old twin siblings, William and Claire, beaten and gagged by monsters that called themselves Seedbearers. She had watched Dad’s second wife, Rhoda, die trying to save the twins. She had lost her oldest friend, Brooks, to a force too dark to fathom.

The tears came. Eureka wept.

It was a deluge. The storm clouds in the sky and the bayou behind her house joined with her sorrow and exploded. Everything and everyone had been swept up in a wild, new salty sea. Miraculously, the thunderstone shield had also saved the lives of the people she cared about most.

Eureka looked at them now, pitching unsteadily beside her. William and Claire in their matching Superman pajamas. Her once-dashing father, Trenton, with his lightning-struck heart yearning for the wife who’d fallen from the sky like a raindrop made of blood and bone. Eureka’s friend Cat, whom she’d never seen look so afraid. And the boy who with one magic kiss the night before had gone from crush to confidant—Ander.

Eureka’s shield had saved them from drowning, but Ander was the one who’d guided them across the ocean, toward what he promised was sanctuary. Ander was a Seedbearer, but he didn’t want to be. He had turned away from his cruel family, toward Eureka, vowing to help her. As a Seedbearer, his breath, called a Zephyr, was mightier than the strongest wind. It had carried them across the Atlantic at an impossible speed.

Eureka had no idea how long the journey had taken, or how far they had come. At this depth, the ocean was unchangingly dark and cold, and Cat’s cell phone, the only one that had made it into the shield, had died a while ago. All Eureka had to measure time were the white creases at the corners of Cat’s mouth, the rumbling of Dad’s stomach, and Claire’s crouching squat dance, which meant she really had to pee.

Ander propelled the shield closer to the surface with a crawl stroke. Eureka was eager to break free of the shield and terrified of what she’d find on the other side. The world had changed. Her tears had changed it. Under the ocean, they were safe. Above it, they could drown.

Eureka held still as Ander brushed a strand of hair from her forehead.

“Almost there,” he said.

They had already discussed how they would make landfall. Ander explained the ocean surges would be treacherous, so their exit from the shield had to be calculated. He had stolen a special anchor from the Seedbearers that would grip a rock and steady them—but then they had to pass through the limits of the shield.

Claire was the key. Where everyone else’s touch met stonelike resistance, Claire’s hands passed through the shield’s edges like a wildfire through fog. She bobbed on her heels, swirling her hands against its surface, finger-painting an invisible escape. Her wrists passed in and out of the shield the way ghosts reached through doors.

Without Claire’s power, the shield would pop like a bubble when it crested the surface and touched air. Everyone inside it would be scattered like ashes across the sea.

So once Ander found a suitable rock, Claire would become their pioneer. Her hands would pass through the shield and hook the anchor on the stone. Until the others were ashore, Claire’s arms would remain partway in and partway out of the shield, keeping it open for their passage, keeping it from shattering on the wind.

“Don’t worry, William,” Claire told her brother, who was older by nine minutes. “I’m magic.”

“I know.” William sat cross-legged in Cat’s lap on the translucent floor of the shield, picking pills off his pajamas. Beneath them, the sea built hills and valleys of debris. Black strands of algae slapped like shaggy beards against the shield. Branches of coral jostled its sides.

Cat hugged William’s shoulders. Eureka’s friend was smart and audacious—together they had hitchhiked to New Orleans, Cat wearing only a bikini top and cutoffs, singing raunchy Navy songs her dad had taught her. Eureka could tell Cat thought the plan with Claire was a bad idea.

“She’s just a kid,” Cat said.

“There.” Ander pointed to a broad, barnacle-covered slab of stone ten feet overhead. “That one.”

White foam sparkled beneath its crevices. The stone’s surface was above water.

Eureka’s arm joined Ander’s in propelling the shield higher. The water changed from black to dark gray. When they were as close as they could get without breaking the surface, Eureka clasped her thunderstone and sent a prayer Diana’s way that they make it out safely.

Though only Eureka could erect the shield they traveled in, Ander could maintain it for a while. He would be the last to leave.

He studied Eureka. She glanced down, wondering what she looked like to him. The intensity of his gaze had made her nervous when she first encountered him on the road outside New Iberia. Then last night he told her he’d been watching her for years, since both of them were very young. He’d betrayed everything he was raised to believe about her. He said he loved her.

“When we get above the ocean,” he said, “we will see terrible things. You must prepare yourself.”

Eureka nodded. She had felt the weight of her tears as they left her eyes. She knew her flood was more horrible than any nightmare. She was responsible for whatever lurked above, and she planned on redeeming herself.

Ander unzipped his backpack and withdrew what looked like an eight-inch silver stake with a wedding-band-sized ring at the top. He flicked a switch to release four curved flukes from the stake’s base, transforming it into an anchor. When he pulled on the ring, a fine chain of silver links spurted from the top.

Eureka touched the strange anchor, amazed by its lightness. It weighed less than half a pound.

“Pretty.” William touched the anchor’s sparkling flukes, which were forked at the edges and had a scalelike hammered texture that made them look like little mermaid tails.

“It is made of orichalcum,” Ander said, “an ancient substance mined in Atlantis, stronger than anything in the Waking World. When my ancestor Leander left Atlantis, he had five pieces of orichalcum with him. My family has held on to them for millennia.” He patted his backpack and managed a mysterious, sexy smile. “Until now.”

“What are the other toys?” Claire stood on her toes and stuffed a hand into Ander’s backpack.

He hoisted her in his arms and smiled as he zipped his bag up. He placed the anchor in her hands. “This is very precious. Once the anchor grips the rock, you must hold on to the chain as tightly as you can.”

The links of orichalcum jangled in Claire’s hands. “I’ll hold tight.”

“Claire—” Eureka’s fingers brushed her sister’s hair, needing to convey that this wasn’t a game. She thought about what Diana would have said. “I think you’re very brave.”

Claire smiled. “Brave and magic?”

Eureka willed away the strange new urge to cry. “Brave and magic.”

Ander lifted Claire over his head. She planted her feet on his shoulders and plunged one fist up, then another, just as he’d instructed. Her fingers passed through the thunderstone shield and she flung the anchor toward the rock. Eureka watched it sail upward and disappear. Then the chain grew taut and the shield shook like a cobweb hit by a sprinkler. But it did not let in water, and it did not break.

Ander tugged the chain. “Perfect.”

He pulled, drawing more chain inside the shield, lifting them closer to the surface. When they were only inches below the crashing waves, Ander shouted, “Go!”

Eureka grabbed the chain’s smooth, cold links. She reached past Claire and began to climb.

Her agility surprised her. Adrenaline flowed through her arms like a river. When she crossed the shield’s border, the surface of the ocean was just above her. Eureka entered her storm.

It was deafening. It was everything. It was a voyage into her broken heart. Every sadness, every ounce of anger she had ever felt manifested in that rain. It stung her body like bullets from a thousand futile wars. She gritted her teeth and tasted salt.

Wind slashed from the east. Eureka’s fingers slipped, then clung to the cold chain as she reached for the rock.

“Hold on, Claire!” she tried to shout to her sister, but her mouth filled with salt water. She buried her chin against her chest and pressed upward, onward, urgent with a determination she’d never known before.

“Is this all you can do?” she shouted, gurgling through her torrential pain.

The air smelled like it had been electrocuted. Eureka couldn’t see beyond the deluge, but she sensed that there was only flood to see. How could Claire hold on in all this thrashing water? Eureka envisioned the dispersal of the last people she loved across the ocean, fish nibbling their eyes. Her throat constricted. She slipped essential inches down the chain. She was up to her chest in ocean.

Somehow, her fingers found the top of the stone and gripped. She thought of Brooks, her best friend since the womb, her childhood next-door neighbor, the boy who’d challenged her to be a more interesting person for the past seventeen years. Where was he? The last she’d seen of him was a splash into the ocean. He’d dove in after the twins had fallen from his boat. He hadn’t been himself. He’d been . . . Eureka couldn’t stomach what he’d been. She missed him, the old Brooks. She could almost hear his bayou drawl in her good ear, lifting her up: Just like climbing a pecan tree, Cuttlefish.

Eureka imagined the cold, slick rock was a welcoming twilit branch. She spat salt. She screamed and climbed.

She dug her elbows into the rock. She flung one knee onto its side. She felt behind her to make sure the purple bag containing The Book of Love—the other part of her inheritance from Diana—was still there. It was.

She’d gotten a portion of the book translated by an old woman named Madame Blavatsky. Madame B had acted like Eureka’s sorrow was full of hope and promise. Maybe that’s what magic was—looking into darkness and seeing a light most people missed.

Madame Blavatsky was dead now, murdered by Ander’s Seedbearer aunts and uncles, but when Eureka tucked the book under her elbow she felt the mystic spurring her on to make things right.

The rain fell so intensely it was difficult to move. Claire clung to the chain, keeping the shield permeable for the rest of them. Eureka thrust herself over the rock.

Mountains stretched before her, ringed by a pearly mist. Her knees slid on the rock as she turned and plunged her arm into the churning sea. She felt for William’s hand. Ander was supposed to lift him to her.

Small fingers traced, then grasped Eureka’s hand. Her brother’s grip was surprisingly robust. She pulled until she could reach under his arms and heave him above the surface. William squinted, trying to focus his eyes in the storm. Eureka moved over him, needing to protect him from her tears’ brutality, knowing there was no escape.

Cat came next. She practically launched herself from the water and into Eureka’s arms. She slid onto the stone and whooped, hugging William, hugging Eureka.

“The Cat endures!”

Pulling Dad up was like an exhumation. He moved slowly, as if drawing himself up required a strength he had never hoped to possess, though Eureka had cheered him across the finish line of three marathons and watched him bench-press his weight in the sweltering garage at home.

Finally, Claire rose in Ander’s arms above the surface of the waves. They held the orichalcum chain. Wind lashed their bodies. The shield glimmered around them—right up until Claire’s toes slipped past its bounds. Then it split into mist and vanished. Eureka and Cat pulled Ander and Claire over the ledge and onto the rock.

Rain pinged off Eureka’s thunderstone, stabbing the underside of her chin. Water sprayed up from the ocean and down from the sky. The rock they stood on was narrow, slippery, and dropped steeply into the ocean, but at least they had all made it to land. Now they needed shelter.

“Where are we?” William shouted.

“I think this is the moon,” Claire said.

“It doesn’t rain on the moon,” William said.

“Head for higher ground,” Ander called as he unhooked the anchor from the rock, pressed the switch to retract its flukes, and slipped it back inside his backpack. He pointed inland, where the dark promise of a mountain sloped up. Cat and Dad each took a twin. Eureka watched the backs of her family as they slipped and slid along the rocks. The sight of them stumbling and helping each other up, traveling toward a shelter they didn’t know existed made her loathe herself. She’d gotten them—and the rest of the world—into this.

“Are you sure this is the way?” she shouted at Ander even as she noted that the rock they’d landed on jutted out above the sea like a small peninsula. Every other way was white water. It stretched forever, no horizon.

For a moment she let her gaze float on the ocean. She listened to the ringing in her left ear, deaf since the car accident that had killed Diana. This was her depression pose: staring straight ahead without seeing anything, listening to the lonely and unending ring. After Diana died, Eureka had spent months like this. Brooks used to be the only one who let her go into these sad trances, gently needling her when she was through: You’re a nightclub act without the nightclub.

Eureka wiped rain from her face. She couldn’t afford the luxury of sadness anymore. Ander had said she could stop the flood. She would do it or die trying. She wondered how much time she had.

“How long has it been raining?”

“Only a day. Yesterday morning, we were home in your backyard.”

Only a day ago, she’d had no idea what her tears could do. Her eyes focused on the ocean, made wild by a single day’s rain. She leaned down and squinted at something bobbing on its surface.

It was a human head.

Eureka had known she would face terrible things above the ocean. Still, seeing what her tears had done, this demolished life. . . . She wasn’t ready. But then—

The head moved, from one side to the other. A tan arm stretched out of the water. Someone was swimming. The head pivoted toward Eureka, took another breath, and disappeared. Then it appeared again, a body moving fast behind it, riding the waves.

Eureka recognized that arm, those shoulders, that dark, wet head of hair. She’d watched Brooks swim to the breakers since they were little kids.

Reason vanished; amazement prevailed. She cupped her hands around her mouth, but before the sound of Brooks’s name escaped her lips, Ander leaned in next to her.

“We need to go.”

She turned to him, brimming with the same unbridled excitement she used to experience when she crossed a finish line first. She pointed at the water—

Brooks was gone.

“No,” she whispered. Come back.

Stupid. She’d wanted to see her friend so badly her mind had painted him in the waves.

“I thought I saw him,” she whispered. “I know it’s impossible, but he was right there.” She pointed weakly. She knew how she sounded.

Ander’s eyes followed hers to the dark place in the waves where Brooks had been. “Let him go, Eureka.”

When she flinched his voice softened. “We should hurry. My family will be looking for us.”

“We crossed an ocean. How would they find us here?”

“My aunt Starling can taste us in the wind. We must make it to Solon’s cave before they track us.”

“But—” She searched the water for her friend.

“Brooks is gone. Do you understand?”

“I understand it’s more convenient for you if I let him go,” Eureka said. She started toward the rainy outlines of Cat and her family.

Ander caught up and blocked her path. “Your weakness for him is inconvenient to more people than me. People will die. The world—”

“People are going to die if I miss my best friend?”

She yearned to go back in time, to be in her room with her bare feet against the bedpost. She wanted to smell the fig-scented candle on her desk that she lit after going for a run. She wanted to be texting Brooks about the weird stains on their Latin teacher’s tie, stressing over some petty comment Maya Cayce made. She had never realized how happy she was before, how rich and indulgent her depression had been.

“You’re in love with him,” Ander said.

She edged past him. Brooks was her friend. Ander had no reason to be jealous.

“Eureka—”

“You said we should hurry.”

“I know this is hard.”

That made her stop. Hard was how people who didn’t know Eureka used to refer to Diana’s death. It made her want to strike the word from existence. Hard was a biochemistry exam. Hard was keeping a great piece of gossip to yourself. Hard was running a marathon.

Letting go of someone you loved wasn’t hard. There was no word for what it was, because even if you didn’t let them go they were still gone. Eureka hung her head and felt raindrops slide off the tip of her nose. Ander must never have suffered so great a loss. If he had, he wouldn’t have said that.

“You don’t understand.”

She’d meant it as a way to let him off the hook, but as soon as it came out, Eureka heard how harsh it sounded. She felt like no words existed anymore; they were all so insufficient and mean.

Ander spun toward the water and let out an exasperated sigh. Eureka saw the Zephyr visibly leave Ander’s lips and smash into the sea. It spat up a gaping wave that curled above Eureka.

It looked like the wave that had killed Diana.

She caught Ander’s eyes and saw guilt widen them. He inhaled sharply, as if to take it back. When he realized that he couldn’t, he lunged for her.

Their fingertips touched for an instant. Then the wave slid over them and swelled toward land. Eureka was flung backward, spiraling away from Ander into the battering sea.

Water shot up her nose, crashed against her skull, bashed her neck from side to side. She tasted blood and salt. She didn’t recognize the waterlogged moan coming from her mouth. She fell out of the wave as the water dropped out from under her. For a moment she was running on a path of sky. She couldn’t see anything. She expected to die. She screamed for her family, for Cat, for Ander.

When she landed on the rock the only thing that told her she was still, ridiculously, alive was the echo of her voice against the cold, incessant rain.

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3

THE LOST SEEDBEARER

In the central chamber of his subterranean grotto Solon took a sip of tar-thick Turkish coffee and frowned.

“It’s cold.”

His assistant Filiz reached for the ceramic mug. Her mother had cast it specially for Solon on her wheel, had baked it in her kiln two caves to the east. The mug was an inch thick, designed to hold heat longer in Solon’s porous travertine cave, which sat in the constant clutches of a bone-deep chill.

Filiz was sixteen, with wavy untamed hair she dyed a fiery shade of orange and eyes the color of a coconut husk. She wore a tight, electric-blue T-shirt, black tapered jeans, and a choker studded with short silver spikes.

“It was hot when I brewed it an hour ago.” Filiz had been working for the eccentric recluse for two years and had learned to navigate his moods. “The fire’s still going. I’ll make more—”

“Never mind!” Solon flung his head back and poured the coffee down his throat. He gagged melodramatically and wiped his mouth with a pale arm. “Your coffee is only slightly worse when it’s cold, like being transferred from Alcatraz to Siberia.”

Behind Solon, Basil snickered. Solon’s second assistant was nineteen, tall and swarthy, with slick black hair combed into a ponytail and an impish twinkle in his eyes. Basil wasn’t like the other boys in their community. He listened to old country music, not electronica. He idolized the graffiti artist Banksy and had painted several of the nearby rock formations with colorfully distorted superheroes. He thought he had done the graffiti anonymously, but Filiz knew he was the artist. He liked to show off his English by speaking in proverbs, but he never translated them right. Solon had taken to calling him “the Poet.”

“You can lead a horse to water, but your coffee tastes like poop,” the Poet said, chuckling into Filiz’s glare.

The Poet and Filiz looked older than their boss, whose pale and sculpted face was as smooth as a child’s. Solon appeared to be about fifteen, but he was far older than that. He had searing blue eyes and shorn blond hair dyed with black and brown leopard-print spots. He stood over a silver robot that lay on a long wooden table.

The robot’s name was Ovid. He was five foot eleven, with enviable human proportions, a handsome face, and the blank stare of a Greek statue. Filiz had never seen anything like him and had no idea where he had come from. He was composed completely of orichalcum, a metal neither the Poet nor Filiz had heard of before, but which Solon insisted was priceless and rare.

Ovid was broken. Solon spent long days trying to resurrect him but would not tell Filiz why. Solon was full of secrets that straddled the border between magic and lies. He was the kind of crazy that made life interesting, and dangerous.

In the seventy-five years since he’d arrived at the remote Turkish community, Solon had rarely left the vast warren of narrow passageways that led to the cave he called the Bitter Cloud. He had a workshop on the grotto’s lower level. From there, a spiral staircase led to the living quarters—his salon—then up another flight to a small veranda. It offered a scenic view, overlooking a field of cone-shaped rocks that formed the rooftops of Solon’s neighbors’ caves.

The most magical feature in the Bitter Cloud was Solon’s waterfall. Tumbling fifty feet from top to bottom, the waterfall spanned two towering stories and comprised the back wall of the cave. Its salty water was dove white and always roaring, a sound Filiz heard even after she left work. At the waterfall’s summit, a fuchsia orchid clung perilously to the stony peak, trembling against the current. And at the waterfall’s base, a deep blue pool of water bordered Solon’s workshop. The Poet had told Filiz a long flume connected the pool to the ocean hundreds of kilometers away. Filiz longed to take a dip in the pool but knew better than to ask permission. So much inside the Bitter Cloud was forbidden.

Turkish rugs hung over small alcoves in the salon, sectioning off two bedrooms and a kitchen. Candles flickered on stalagmite candelabra, constructing ropy hills of wax with their drippings. Skulls lined the walls in elaborate zigzag designs. Solon had positioned each skull carefully in his Gallery of Grins, choosing them for size, shape, color, and imagined personality.

Solon was also the artist of a vast floor mosaic depicting the marriage of Death and Love. Most nights, after giving up anew on Ovid, he sifted through a heap of jagged stones in search of the right shade of translucent blue for Cupid’s wedding veil or the proper flash of red for Death’s blood-dripping fangs.

Filiz specialized in finding these russet stones on local creek banks. Every time she brought Solon an acceptable stone, he allowed Filiz a few moments to wander through the secret butterfly hall behind his bedroom. A hot spring burbled through it, so the hallway was a natural steam room. Millions of species of winged insects roamed the humid chamber and made Filiz feel like she was inside a Jackson Pollock painting.

“You know where they have real coffee?” Solon asked as he dug through a dented metal toolbox.

“Germany,” Filiz and the Poet said, and rolled their eyes. Solon compared everything with Germany. It was where he’d been old and in love.

Solon, like all Seedbearers, was haunted by an ancient curse: love drained life from him, aging him rapidly. Knowing this had not prevented him from falling desperately in love with an exquisite German girl named Byblis seventy-six years earlier. Nothing could have prevented that, Solon had told Filiz many times; it was his destiny. He’d aged ten years leaning in for their first kiss.

Byblis was a Tearline girl, and she had died for it. Her death had regressed Solon as rapidly as her love had aged him. Without Byblis, he returned to eternal boyhood by shutting off his emotions more completely than any Seedbearer ever had. Filiz had caught him admiring his reflection in the pool at the bottom of his grotto. Youthful beauty radiated from Solon’s face, but it was pore-deep, with no suggestion of soul.

Solon thrust his hand inside Ovid’s skull and probed the ridges of the robot’s orichalcum brain. “I don’t recall if I’ve ever switched these two circuits here—”

“You tried that last week,” the Poet reminded him. “Great minds think alike.”

“No, you’re wrong.” Solon clenched a pair of pliers between his teeth. “Those were different wires,” he said, and switched them.

The robot’s head popped off its shoulders and hurtled into the dark wilderness on the far side of the room. For a moment Solon and his assistants listened to a stalactite drip water onto the robot’s always-open eyes.

Then the wind-chime doorbell sounded. Its flat link pulleys and the triangular sprockets connecting them jerked back and forth across the ceiling of the cave.

“Don’t let them back here,” Solon said. “Find out what they want, then send them far away.”

Filiz didn’t make it to the door. She heard the telltale buzzing, then Solon’s curse. The gossipwitches had let themselves in.

There were three of them today: one looked sixty, the next a hundred, the third no more than seventeen. They wore floor-length caftans of amethyst-colored orchid petals that rustled as they filed down Solon’s spiral staircase. Their lips and eyelids had been painted to match their gowns. Their ears were pierced from lobe to tip with stacks of the thinnest silver hoops. They went barefoot and had long, beautiful toes. Their tongues were subtly forked. A cloud of bees swarmed above each witch’s shoulders, continuously encircling their heads—the backs of which no one ever saw.

Two dozen gossipwitches lived in the mountains around Solon’s cave. They traveled in multiples of three. They always entered a room walking forward in single file, but for some reason, they left by flying backward. Each one possessed spellbinding beauty, but the youngest was exceptional. Her name was Esme, though only another gossipwitch was allowed to call a gossipwitch by name. She wore a gleaming crystal teardrop on a chain around her neck.

Esme smiled seductively. “I hope we haven’t interrupted anything important.”

Solon watched the candlelight playing off the young witch’s necklace. He was taller than most of the gossipwitches, but Esme had several inches on him. “I gave you three damselflies yesterday. That buys me at least a day without your persecution.”

The witches glanced at one another, sculpted eyebrows raised. Their bees swarmed in busy circles.

“We are not here presently to collect,” the oldest of them said. The lines on her face were mesmerizing, pretty, like a sand dune shaped by a strong wind.

“We bring news,” Esme said. “The girl will arrive shortly.”

“But it isn’t even raining—”

“How would a hermetic fart-hammer like you know?” the middle witch spat.

A spray of seawater shot out of the waterfall’s pool, drenching the Poet but glancing off of Solon’s Seedbearer skin.

“How long will it take you to prepare her?” Esme asked.

“I’ve never met the girl.” Solon shrugged. “Even if she’s not as stupid as I suspect, these things take time.”

“Solon.” Esme fingered the charm on her necklace. “We want to go home.”

“That’s crystal clear,” Solon said. “But the journey to the Sleeping World is not possible at this juncture.” He paused. “Do you know how many tears were shed?”

“We know that Atlas and the Filling are near.” Esme’s forked tongue hissed.

What was the Filling? Filiz saw Solon shudder.

“When we glazed your home, you promised to make it worth our while,” the oldest witch reminded Solon. “All these years we have kept you out of view from your family. . . .”

“And I pay you for that protection! Three damselflies only yesterday.”

Filiz had heard Solon grumble about being indebted to these beasts. He hated obliging their incessant requests for winged creatures from his butterfly hall. But he didn’t have a choice. The witches’ glaze rendered the air around Solon’s cave imperceptible to the senses. Without it, the other Seedbearers would detect his location on the wind. They would hunt down the brother who betrayed them by falling in love with a Tearline girl.

What did the witches do with the fluttering dragonflies and damselflies, the regal monarchs and occasional blue morpho butterflies that Solon bestowed on them in small glass jars? Judging from the gossipwitches’ hungry eyes when they snatched the jars and slipped them in the long pockets of their caftans, Filiz imagined it was something terrible.

“Solon.” Esme had a way of speaking that made it sound like she was both a galaxy away and inside Filiz’s brain. “We won’t wait forever.”

“Do you think these visits speed the process? Leave me to my work.”

Instinctively, everyone looked at the pathetic spectacle the headless Ovid made, wires protruding from its neck.

“It won’t be long now, Solon,” Esme whispered, drawing something from the pocket of her caftan. She placed a small tin on the floor. “We brought you some honey, honey. Farewell.”

The witches smirked as they arched their arms behind their heads, lifted their feet off the ground, and flew backward, up the waterfall and out of the damp, dark cave.

“Do you believe them?” Filiz asked Solon as she and the Poet laid the robot’s head next to its body. “About the girl being on her way? You knew the last Tearline girl. We have only heard the stories, but you—”

“Never mention Byblis,” Solon said, and turned away.

“Solon,” Filiz pressed, “do you believe the witches?”

“I believe nothing.” Solon set about reattaching Ovid’s head.

Filiz sighed and watched Solon pretend to forget that she existed. Then she crept upstairs to the entrance of the cave. On her way to work the sky had been a strange silvery color that reminded her of a wild foal she used to see frequently in the mountains. There had been a chill in the air that made her walk quickly, rubbing her arms. She’d felt nervous and alone.

Now, as she stepped outside the cave, a great shadow fell over her. An immense storm cloud dominated the sky, like a giant black egg about to crack. Filiz felt her hair begin to frizz, and then—

A raindrop fell onto the back of her hand. She studied it. She tasted it.

Salty.

It was true. All her life, her elders had warned her of this day. Her ancestors had lived in these mountain caves since the great floodwaters receded millennia ago. Her people possessed a murky collective memory of Atlantis—and a deep-rooted fear that another flood would one day come. Was it actually going to happen, now, before Filiz had climbed the Eiffel Tower or learned to drive a stick shift or fallen in anything resembling love?

Her shoe smashed her reflection in a puddle, and she wished she were smashing the girl who’d made this rain.

“What’s your problem, frizzball?” The middle gossipwitch’s voice was unmistakable. Her forked tongue flicked as the gossipwitches hovered in the air over Filiz.

Filiz had never understood how the wingless witches flew. The three of them were suspended in the rain, arms slack at their sides, making no visible effort to stay aloft. Filiz watched droplets of salty water settle like diamonds on Esme’s lustrous black hair.

Feliz ran her hand through her own hair, then regretted it. She didn’t want the witches to think she cared about how she looked. “This rain will kill us, won’t it? Poison our wells, destroy our crops—”