|“||"The Greencloaks have ignored your plight. They left your people to suffer while they silently took over the rest of the world."||”|
The Book of Shane is four special editions of Spirit Animals, written by Nick Eliopulos. In the paperback version (which includes all four parts of the trilogy), Tui T. Sutherland wrote an introduction which starts with a conversation between Mulop and Kovo with Shane being the subject.
This trilogy of e-shorts shines a light on one of the most compelling–and dangerous–villains of the NEW YORK TIMES bestselling series.
Friend and traitor. Conqueror and king. Hero and villain.
Shane is just a boy, but in order to free his people, he's resolved to do whatever–to become whomever–his mission requires. Conor, Abeke, Meilin, and Rollan are four young heroes racing to save the world of Erdas, and their journey has pit them against Shane again and again. But none have learned the truth of the boy who nearly changed the course of history forever.
Now that truth is revealed. With an introduction by Tui T. Sutherland, this collection of stories sheds a light on the past, present, and future of the boy who would be conqueror—and the role Shane has yet to play in the dangers still to come.
It isn't very often that a gorilla and an octopus have a polite conversation.
It’s trickier still when that gorilla is trapped in a cage made of ancient antlers on an enormous rock in the middle of a sun-baked desert, while the octopus lives in the depths of the unknowable ocean.
But Kovo and Mulop are two of the Great Beasts of Erdas, after all, so set aside your questions and imagine the scene . . .
He feels something inside of his mind, a gentle tentacle brushing against his mind. It’s Mulop. He mentions that Kovo has been imprisoned for a long time, making sinister plans, and although he should be trapped forever, fate will not let it be so. Kovo tells him that he doesn’t need a “mythical foresight” to tell him that he’s going to take over Erdas.
Mulop switches the subject and asks about the boy king of Stetriol, Shane. Kovo says that he’s the perfect puppet, a villain all the way through. Mulop counters this and tells him that he thought nobody could be a villain through and through, that there was both good and evil within. Kovo counters this again and says that he’s a traitor and a liar whom nobody cares about. Mulop believes that some will care, as Shane has a sister and a Greencloak friend, but Kovo adds that nobody knows the real Shane. Mulop says that the real Shane is a king who wants to save his people and regret his mistakes and lose his true friend. Kovo sees the Devourer, leading his people into battle to destroy the world, a perfect pawn, a disposable creature of the Bile.
The Great Octopus wonders aloud (as he always does) about what will happen to Shane after the war is over. Kovo laughs and admits that he doesn’t care. Mulop presses on, asking about what happens to the villains that fail, then use Kovo as an example. He continues to ask what happens to villains who lose their country and army and consciously betray their only friend, but Kovo tells him that it won’t matter, confident of his success.
Mulop believes that it will be a fascinating story about whether Shane will be forgiven and for there is any hope left for him in terms of redemption. Kovo insists that villains are what they are; Mulop insists that nobody is the villain of their own story. Kovo agrees to this yet continues to push his opinion that Shane is nobody and that he doesn’t care about him at all. Mulop tells him that somebody might care enough to listen to Shane’s story with a broad mind, but Kovo is doubtful that anybody would care enough to tell his story.
There must be somebody who cares enough to tell and hear Shane’s story, Mulop says thoughtfully. They can decide who Shane is: Traitor, liar, devourer? Failure, puppet, defeated fool? The boy who thought he was the hero of his story and made grave errors that he must move past? Once the stories have been told, the readers will decide:
In the end, who is Shane, after all?
|“||Abeke looked to Shane again. “How awful! Your bonding . . .”
“Occurred without any Nectar,” Shane said. “I was one of the lucky ones. Other friends and family weren’t.”
There are two sides to every story.
Throughout their quest to save the world, Conor, Abeke, Meilin, and Rollan have faced off against a brutal enemy force: The Conquerors. Their vicious tactics have toppled countries and devastated families.
Shane is a Conqueror. A boy himself, he's been both a mysterious friend and cunning foe to the heroes—with a past more complicated than any of them realized.
Now Shane's story will finally be told... and history will be written by the victors.
There was movement behind him. Shane spun around slowly to find the largest spider he’d ever seen in the corner of her room. He took a heavy lantern from Drina’s bedside, preparing to throw it, but Drina suddenly snapped back to full consciousness and shoved him against the stone wall, falling and hitting the stone floor. Drina said that the spider was hers just as Shane slipped into unconsciousness.
Back in the present, Shane wakes with a jolt, just as he’s done ever since the fateful day that changed his life. He scans his bare room for any sign of an animal, taking a deep breath when he realized that he was alone. He knew that his chances of summoning a spirit animal are poor, but every member of his immediate family had managed to be cursed with one.
As he gets dressed, Shane recalls a time where servants had been there to dress him, but now, there was no money to pay for such luxuries. He walks down the hallway leading to the dining room, tracing a line amidst the dust layering the tapestries, neglected to be cleaned. He nearly bumps into Yumaris–his elderly, wise tutor–as he rounds a corner. She unsheathes a saber from her robes and hands it to him, saying that a prince must have many tools in their arsenal, giving an ominous warning about how words and learning do little to impress a jacket. When Shane points out that there are no jackals in Stetriol, she tells him it’s a figure of speech and that there are more pressing matters waiting for him.
Shane enters the throne room, finding Gar standing on the dais, as close to the throne as he could get without actually sitting on it. His uncle had been named regent and was responsible for advising Shane and taking charge of the kingdom until Shane was crowned king. He apologizes for being late and steps up close to the beautiful throne–closer than his uncle is–and regards a man bowing before him. He’s committed a crime by chopping down a tree since all trees are being put towards building the armada, and all of their coastal forests had been burnt to the ground after Feliandor’s defeat.
The prisoner speaks, claiming that he cut down the tree to keep his children warm in the winter months. He asks to speak to the king in a way that implies he knows about the king’s condition, but Gar denies the request and sends him to be locked up in a cell. Shane is surprised to see that–when the prisoner lifts his head–he looks like a foreigner. On instinct, he asks for the prisoner’s name. He replies that his name is Zerif.
Shane goes to visit his sister, just as he does every day. Magda is there, whom each day swept away Iskos’s webs and cared for Drina. She’s doing better and doesn’t have a fever, even saying that she may be strong enough to go for a walk to the gardens. Shane explains that Gar is using the gardens—Zerif is imprisoned there. He admits that every time someone is taken prisoner, it’s like a piece of their childhood getting taken away. Drina laughs mirthfully, but then the laugh turns evil, ending in a harsh cough. She says that nobody will ever respect him, swinging and placing her feet on the ground.
Then, she lunges at him, pressing Shane’s sword against his neck, a crazed look occupying her eyes as she wonders what animal he’ll get. “A worm? A slug? Something small and worthless” is her exact words. She drops the sword onto the ground, murmuring about how “it’s not fair” and falls convulsing to the floor. Shane sheathes his sword, feeling no pity or love for his ill sister at the moment—only hate. When Drina holds a handkerchief against her mouth, it comes away, wet with blood.
Shane remembers a time when he was very young. He’d been chasing a white rabbit through the gardens, trying to catch it, to no avail. Out of nowhere, a snake struck, injecting its venom into his calf. He screamed in pain, and Drina reached him first, unsure of what to do. Shane cried harder, but soon enough, his mother appeared, rushing him back to the castle. When his tears dried, Shane noticed that Drina was crying. He asked why, and his mother replied that she was scared for him because she loves him. She assures Drina that the prince of Stetriol would never bow to a mere snake.
Shane goes to the gardens, now wild without his mother to tame them. He reflects on the former use of the gardens: to store exotic animals, but after Feliandor’s reign of the Bile, all of the animals had been forcefully bonded to the army. Shane can’t believe that at one point, people willingly bonded with animals—this, of course, was at a time before the bonding sickness.
He approaches Zerif. He tells the mysterious man about taxes and says that there isn’t a single document of any man named Zerif mentioned once. Shane points out that he doesn’t seem too worried to get back to his “freezing children.” Zerif admits that he lied, hoping that violating the law would get him an audience with the king. When questioned about what he’d use the king’s audience for, he says that he has secrets he wishes to tell him and refuses to speak with anyone else. Zerif assumes that the king is dead, but when Shane denies this and walks away, he says that he has the cure for the bonding sickness. Zerif still refuses to tell Shane what it is.
Shane dreams that he summons an ostrich, growing outwards from his own body. Suddenly, it stops growing, trying desperately to be free of Shane, but it can’t be free because the ostrich is him.
Shane and Gar travel on horseback through their kingdom, riding towards the towering ship at the dock. Shane is required to wear a purple velvet suit with a cape and puffy frills on his shoulders, while Gar chooses to wear a heavy steel breastplate. Shane acknowledges and waves at his people as his mother taught him.
They reach the gangplank and dismount, meeting a woman on the deck. Her name is Admiral Faye, the captain of the fleet of ships. Gar lies that King Irwyn sends his regards and takes a chalice filled with wine, stepping forwards to the railing. He addresses his people and introduces their new naval fleet, summarizing the day that the Greencloaks invaded and destroyed their forests and ships. He declares that they’ve been ignored by the rest of Erdas for long enough and reintroduces the largest ship as The Prince's Honor in honor of their king and prince, who will command the vessel. The crowd cheers for them.
We have another flashback of Shane when he was eight years old; he decided to wipe out Stetriol’s snake population after what the snake had done to him. He’d been bedridden for days as his body worked out the toxins, and in that time, he decided that snakes had no worth and needed to be destroyed. When he got better, Shane strapped pieces of metal to his body and took a shovel, sneaking through the garden all day until dusk when his mother found him. Drina revealed what her brother was doing, and his mother explained that the snake that had bitten him was only surprised and that most snakes are harmless. She tells him that Shane doesn’t hate the snakes: he fears them, and sometimes hate and fear are the same. He must learn to walk among the snakes in peace.
Shane waits for Magda to finish telling a story about a wild dog stealing food from the kitchens before entering Drina’s room. He keeps one hand on the hilt of his sword and shakes her awake. When she rouses, Shane asks that if he were to leave, would she come with him? Drina is confused, asking where they could go, and he replies that they would just go... away.
After that, Shane climbs to the top of a tower to a fort he and Drina used to play in, made entirely of wood that was painted pink and green, their respective favorite colors. It had been a respite from their stern father who didn’t always appreciate their shenanigans. He approaches the fort and rips a pink board away, eventually screaming with each board he tears. Shane’s already decided not to accept Gar’s gift of an armada and decided instead to sail to Nilo, where he believes there may be a cure for Drina.
Back in the gardens, Shane accuses Zerif of lying about the cure. He tells him that he’d have nothing to gain from lying about the cure, and to this Shane scoffs, telling him about how many people arrive at the castle, claiming they have a cure. One person even tried to convince King Irwyn to drink snake venom; Zerif’s eyes twinkle at this.
Then, Shane notices a ham bone in the cell. He questions where it came from, as he wasn’t supposed to be fed. Zerif suggests that Gar told the guards otherwise, and when Shane turns away from him, he says that he’ll give the information for free. He overheard the cure at Muttering Rock, but he still refuses to tell anyone except for the king.
Shane dreams that he summoned a seal. His spirit animal clambers on the shore and plays in the water before inviting Shane to come in, where the seal can be happy and free. But Shane knows that he can never be free.
When Shane’s mother died, the castle became darker, as she’d always possessed the ability to make those around her happier. After she passed, many servants began to leave and even more left when Drina summoned Iskos. Shane is grateful, though, that there aren’t many people in the castle anymore, as it makes it easier for him to steal items that could serve as paddles and sails. He continues down the halls, walking past the tapestries of the Great Beasts, although the Four Fallen, Gerathon, and Kovo are missing. He settles on using Mulop’s tapestry for the boat. Shane rolls up the tapestry and goes to look at Feliandor’s chapter, gazing at the deceased Reptile King for a while, deciding that there wasn’t much resemblance between them.
Shane returns to the gardens, questioning Zerif once more. He asks what he will benefit from giving the information about the cure to the king, but Zerif gives no clear answer. Shane then guesses that the cure is the Bile, and the look in the prisoner’s eyes tells him that he’s correct. He summarizes the Bile’s use and pieces together why it must be the Bile, especially since Zerif heard the secret at Muttering Rock, where Kovo is imprisoned, and Kovo knows the secret to the Bile. Zerif confirms this. Shane tells him that he deals with him, regardless of whether the king is alive or not. Zerif gives in, telling him that Kovo and Halawir both want to help and that the Jade Serpent–the key to the cure–is someplace where only the king can get it.
Shane works all night on the boat. It isn’t pretty, but he’s positive that it’ll float. As he works, he thinks about what Zerif said, wondering who may have the talisman. When the moon clouds over, he hides his project in a patch of shrubs and makes his way back to the castle, mistaking a kangaroo for his sister for a moment.
Without warning, a crocodile emerges from the stream and clamps its jaws on the kangaroo, dragging it down into the depths. Shane unsheathes his sword, but the kangaroo is already dead. The crocodile comes for him next, and Shane swings his sword wildly and screams to deter it, to no avail. When he turns to run, he slips, but luckily for him, a wild dog–a jackal–is there to distract it.
Shane flees back to the castle and finds the gardens. He tells the guard that Zerif must see the king, and he takes the prisoner there. Zerif is shocked to see the king, who doesn’t react to their arrival and holds a vacant stare. Shane explains that Gar claims to speak with Irwyn, but it’s a ruse and that he can’t touch the throne until his father dies. He also says that it wasn’t just the bonding sickness that ruined the king—it was mostly the fact that he killed his spirit animal in hopes of curing himself.
Zerif decides to finally tell the truth, as he has finally been granted an audience with the king, no matter how underwhelming. First, he releases his spirit animal, a jackal. He tells Shane that the Greencloaks cured the bonding sickness long ago and everything that’s happened throughout the rest of the world while Stetriol has been isolated.
Zerif tells Shane Kovo’s exact words concerning the whereabouts of Gerathon’s talisman: “The Jade Serpent is where only Stetriol’s king may retrieve it, hidden away in his seat of power.” He figures out that it must be the throne. They place the talisman in a bowl of water and watch as it turns amber. Shane gives the Bile to Drina, and she’s instantly cured.
On his thirteenth birthday, Shane goes down to the beach to regard his handmade boat burn. Two guards rush onto the beach, breaking the news that King Irwyn died when a wild dog appeared and ripped his throat out. Instead of expressing grief, Shane demands that they find him a crocodile.
Shane dreams that he summoned a crocodile. It came to the throne room in chains, but there had been casualties to get to this stage: one man drowned and two maimed. He drank the Bile and the beast was his. When he wakes, he worries for a moment that it was a dream. Then, he glances down at the tattoo of the crocodile on his chest and knows that there will no longer be a question of who is in charge.
|“||She saw Halawir give one mighty thrust and then furl his wings, shooting up and out of the great hall. The Great Beast disappeared into the sky, along with Shane.||”|
–Abeke, (from Rise and Fall: Chapter 14: Shane)
Now and then, to accomplish something great, you have to do something bad. Shane intends to end the conflict that's devastating Erdas... and to achieve that, he's just done something very bad.
While returning home from a fateful victory, the young Conqueror discovers he's being pursued and must seek cover in a war-torn jungle.
But the forest holds dangers of its own, and before long Shane is fighting for his life. If he's going to win this war, Shane will need to outmaneuver a deadly pursuer—and his guilty conscience. Plot
Shane gels over the wind to Halawir that they’ve won, and the eagle admits that he achieved his goals faster than the Great Beats had anticipated. Shane then thinks about how his infiltration of Greenhaven had gone nothing like he’d planned, as Conor and Rollan exposed his identity almost instantaneously. Still, he’d gotten away with all of the Greencloak’s talismans nonetheless. He’d been looking forwards to some time on the island with Abeke, though.
Suddenly, Halawir cries a warning and dives, narrowly avoiding a cannonball shot by a Greencloak schooner. They shook another, and Halawir tilts his massive body, nearly losing Shane. He asks if he can use his power over the wind, but Halawir says that he’s unable to do anything with Shane clinging to his feathers.
They veer towards Nilo, and Shane releases Grahv into the sea to keep the Greencloaks at bay. Shane tells Halawir that he’ll make his way back to camp while he leads them away, as there is no time for a full-out siege. When the eagle glides over the trees of Nilo, Shane jumps off.
Shane dreams about spiders. He was walking through the castle halls, except there were spiders everywhere. He crashed through webs that cling to him and felt spiders skitter across his skin. He ran into Magda, who told him that he couldn’t enter the doorway, but Shane could see a girl behind her. Magda told him not to look, and masses of spiders swarmed onto the girl and Magda. A spider sank its teeth into her forearm.
When he wakes, he’s screaming Drina’s name, on his back and staring up at the canopy of Nilo’s forests. He instinctively reaches for the talismans, relieved when he finds them all there. When he looks more closely, he discovers that there’s no ram or octopus and screams in rage, hoping that twelve talismans are enough to free Kovo.
Shane takes out the Copper Falcon to sharpen his eyesight and climbs a tree, looking for the Conqueror camp, but even his keen eyesight can’t see it. He climbs down and begins his journey, trying to keep the coastline in view to avoid getting lost, but when following the coastline meant scaling rocky cliffs, he gives up and travels into the forest. Shane tests each talisman as he travels, using Jhi’s to make him feel more refreshed, and settles on wearing the Amber Leopard to increase his speed and grace.
As night begins to fall, Shane runs into a ransacked village with no sign of human life. He should find a hut that’s been left intact as thunder rumbles in the distance. He settles down in a straw bed, tucking the talismans into his boot and going to sleep.
Shane dreams of a wolverine. He was looking out at his entire kingdom from the summit of a hill. To the north was a crumbling castle; to the west was wasteland; to the south was an abandoned village built in the Niloan style but with iron rather than wood; to the east was the sea and an immense warship. He took off the talisman so that he could only see what was directly before him: a luscious field and a wolverine. It growled in Gar’s voice at Shane to fight him, who suddenly had a saber in his hand. The wolverine leaped at him, impaling itself on Shane’s blade, saying that he always knew that Shane hated him. When he apologized, Gar countered that he did anyways and killed him, and that was his nature.
Shane jolts awake, immediately sensing that something is amiss. He gets up and takes the talismans from his boot, selecting Briggan’s talisman. The smell of death hits him, and he gags, removing the talisman with haste. Shane decides to leave, unsettled by the scents, and he gathers his things, heading for the doorway. The sound of laughter stops him in his tracks, and a hyena materializes in the doorway. Shane lunges for Cabaro’s golden talisman, mistaking the copper of Essix’s talisman for the Golden Lion. The hyena dives at Shane, who dodges, trying to make his way towards the exit, but another appears, blocking his path.
A small iron ball smacks into the heads of the hyenas, catching Shane off guard. A boy with a staff appears in the doorway next, his eyes widening when he spots the crocodile tattoo on Shane’s chest. The boy leads him out of the village, explaining what the hyenas were and how they were feasting on the corpses of the people who died there. He asks if Shane’s there to do the same thing, but he says that he was just seeking shelter from the rain. The boy tells him that the Conquerors were responsible for the death and destruction of the village. Shane says nothing.
After traveling a fair distance, the boy asks Shane what his spirit animal is. He lies and says that it’s an Amayan alligator and he’s from Concorba. The boy, who introduces himself as Achi, asks whether he’s a Conqueror or Greencloak. Shane asks what he thinks the Devourer is, and when Achi says that he wants to gobble up the world, Shane rephrases the Devourer’s purpose and explains that he just wants the world to be free of Greencloaks. He also says that the Greencloaks want to protect the world, but only on their terms, and both sides are stubborn. He says that he’s trying to end the war for good.
Shane then realizes that they’ve arrived at a campsite—Achi’s campsite. He’s stunned that the boy lives there, and Achi tells him that he’s the village elder now and he must keep watch. Shane asks where Zhong is, and Achi points in a direction. Shane offers for him to be his guide, and Achi agrees to take him as far as the Mumbi.
They walk throughout the morning, and when Achi asks if he got his scratch from the hyenas, but he admits that it was from a tree. He then uses a leaf to soothe and heal the cut. Shane asks if he learned that from his father, and his entire facade switches to stony and suspicious. Ha hi asks what he knows about his father. Shane quickly responds that he thought the boy might be following in his father’s footsteps of being the village elder. Achi doesn’t believe in following in anyone’s footsteps and informs him that the elder wouldn’t know about herbs. The healer at his village, Miss Callie, took care of that and taught Achi about herbs. When Shane compliments his use of the knowledge she taught him, Achi softens.
At midday, Achi asks why Shane doesn’t keep his spirit animal out, since he would always keep his out if he had one. Shane explains that the heat would make him sluggish, and the terrain would trip him up and thinks about amazing it is that most people think of spirit animals as a gift when he feared summoning one his whole life. The true answer to Achi’s question, though, is that he sees Grahv as a tool, only to be used in battle.
Shane asks him what he thinks his spirit animal would be. Achi replies that he thinks he’d summon a monkey, as he enjoys climbing or a boar since he claims to fight like one. Shane points out that he threw a rock from a safe distance at the hyenas, and Achi counters that by performing, exaggerating how Shane fights by running around with his arms flailing.
As Achi retrieves his quarterstaff and continues to reenact the event, Gerathon checks up on Shane, entering his mind and looking at his surroundings. When Gerathon retreats, Achi tells him that they’re being followed. Shane calls out Abeke’s name, thinking it’s her, but he gets a glimpse of their pursuer and realizes that it’s Ana's unfamiliar, black cat. They walk away slowly and head for the nearest settlement, hoping that the smell of so many people will scare the cat away. Shane gives Achi the Amber Leopard while he dons the Golden Lion.
As the light of the day begins to fade, they stop, close enough to the village that the cat shouldn’t approach them. Achi strings his hammock in the trees and Shane clambers up with him, revealing that the settlement is home to the Conquerors and worse. Achi crawls into bed and asks Shane to tell him a story, but the only stories he knows are those of Stetriol, and he’s posing as an Amayan. Achi tells a story instead about how Kovo lost his tail to Uraza and Cabaro and falls asleep soon after.
Shane climbs up to a branch above Achi to keep watch. At first, he uses Essix’s talisman, but when it grows too dark to be useful, he tries Kovo’s again, still unsure of it’s power. When he looks at Achi, he discovers that it exploits weakness and immediately takes it off, opting for Briggan’s instead. A few hours in, a monkey appears above Shane, and he shushes it, then remembers the vile of Bile in his pocket. He briefly considers bonding it to Achi, but pours out it’s contents before he can think about it further.
Achi begins to toss and turn in his sleep. Shane clambers down to wake him, and Achi confesses that it isn’t just the Conquerors in the village, but his father as well. His father was approached by them, demanding he turn over their Greencloak that provided Nectar, but little did they know that they didn’t have a permanent Greencloak resident. The Conquerors thought that he was lying, so he lied and said that Miss Callie was their Greencloak. They went there and took her. The people got upset, but the Conquerors got what they wanted, and Achi’s father left with them. When Achi bursts into tears, Shane embraces him in his hammock.
Shane dreamed of jackal that sat upon an iron throne, holding a golden crown that looked like a snake eating it’s own tail in it’s bloody jaws.
He wakes at dawn. Achi kept watch the rest of the night, regaining his stoic but cheerful facade. They leap down from the tree, and Achi prepares to go, having already gathered grubs for them to eat. Shane breaks it to him that he’s going to the village, assuring him that he’s right to be angry with his father. He compares his father’s actions to Kovo’s in the story and tries to make him sound like the hero, but Achi points out that Kovo was not the hero of that story. Shane presses his point further telling him that sometimes good people do bad things. That doesn’t mean they’re bad people. Achi should forgive his father.
Before he can continue his argument, Achi shoves Shane to the side. At first, he’s shocked and hurt, but when he spots the arrow sticking out from the tree behind him, he realizes just why Achi shoved him. As they run through the forest, Shane surfs through the talismans, donning the lion. He whirls around and roars, slowing the black tiger that had been charging at him. Shane whirls back around and yells at Achi to run, forgetting that he had the lion on, and Achi flies backwards. The impact renders him unconscious. Shane grabs the boy, wears the Amber Leopard, and flees.
A figure emerges from up ahead, cloaked with an arrow nocked. She admits that she saw him fall from Halawir’s back and pursued him from there. Shane says that Achi needs a healer, and style green-cloaked woman counters that he’s a shield to him. When she steps into the light, Shane can see that she’s from southern Zhong and has the faded tattoo of a white tiger on her arm.
She compliments that he uses the talismans well and also points out that if he’s so concerned for the boy’s life, he could don the panda, but only cares for himself. She introduces herself as Lishay, who’s lost her spirit animal, her brother, and Tarik to him. When Shane tells her that he’s killed nobody, Lishay tells him that he may not have struck Tarik down, but he’s responsible for his death. He shouts at her that he’s lost people too and that the Greencloaks left Stetriol to rot.
Shane finds Lishay glancing over his shoulder. He calls forth Grahv and rolls out of the way, allowing tiger and crocodile to clash while he focuses on Lishay. He dodges an arrow and drops Achi to the ground, unsheathing his sword and slamming it against her bow. She then unsheathes her own sword, slashing at Shane, who dodges and slams his sword into her’s. Shane backs away, leaping into a tree to find the Obsidian Ape as Lishay nocks an arrow. Zhamin lights up, along with Achi, her two greatest weaknesses. He commands Grahv to retrieve Achi in his jaws, telling her to lower her bow if she values his life. She summons back Zhamin and Shane smashes the hilt of his sword into her skull. She falls to the ground, unconscious.
Achi begins to cry in fear as he wakes, still fixed in the jaws of Grahv. Shane calls him off, assuring the boy that the crocodile won’t hurt him, but the fear in Achi’s eyes remains.
Shane enters the village, releasing Grahv to alert them of his superiority. The Conqueror’s captain and Achi’s father come out on his command. The captain tells his troops to bow and apologizes for their disrespectfulness. Achi’s father goes up to Achi, asking if he’s alright, and when prompted by Shane, Achi glares at him. Shane instead assures Achi’s father that his son will be alright and turns to the captain, scolding him for attacking innocent people. He instructs them to go and dig graves for the people they slaughtered.
Achi’s father speaks up as the soldiers depart behind their captain, telling Achi that Shane is a hero. Achi tells him that sometimes bad people do good things. That doesn’t mean they’re good people. As he’s carried away, Shane tries to grasp at a fleeting sense of victory, but it slips through his fingers like a curl of smoke and is gone.
|“||“What if you had been me?” Shane pressed on. “What if you were the crown prince of an island prison—a nation condemned by the Greencloaks for the crimes of their ancestors? What would you do?”||”|
–Shane, (from The Evertree: Chapter 16: Duel)
The war is over and Erdas is rebuilding. It seems everyone is celebrating a new age of peace. Everyone except Shane. Shane wants revenge. The young Conqueror is on the hunt, tracking a target who knows his every move before it happens. He’s closing in on his prey—but the closer Shane gets, the more he begins to see patterns in the shadows. Shane can sense a trap is waiting. He’s being led down a path that he may not be able to return from. Will he abandon his quest for vengeance... or follow it into the darkness?
The potion shop is dingy and reeks of a million different smells all at once. Shane looks at the frogs as an elderly woman walks in, explaining that the frogs are quite deadly and guessing that he didn’t stumble upon her shop on accident. Shane confirms this and reveals a corked vial containing the Bile; the woman is furious at the sight of it, demanding that he leave. He explains that he’s tracking an old, crafty woman who possessed her own Bile, hoping to sell it when she docked in Clarobo. The old woman confirms Shane’s suspicions, as the crafty woman came to her and traded the Bile to her—this was before she knew that the Bile was worthless. She reveals the surplus of Bile she traded for and tells Shane that she gave the crafty woman an antitoxin for bushmaster snake venom before going into the jungle. He then asks to take the Bile with him, but it slips from his hands and crashes onto the floor. He’s chased from her shop for good.
As soon as he leaves, Shane can tell that somebody is following him. He gets a glimpse of a cloaked figure and confronts them. The woman, whose name is Anya, tells him that she only wants to help and was going to see if he was really going into the jungle alone. She knows it’s dangerous and bites her lip as she says that she collects the old woman’s frogs for her potion shop, warning Shane not to go into the jungle now. She offers to be his guide, and he accepts. Anya then asks why he pursues the crafty woman, and Shane replies that her name is Yumaris, his old tutor, and that she killed his sister.
A long time ago in Yumaris’s stuffy, warm chamber, the crafty woman asks Shane what separates man from beast. The question came out of nowhere, like when she gave him an assignment to research a part of Stetriolan history and instead lectured him about rocks. He guessed that humans have restraint while animals don’t, but Yumaris reminded him that crocodiles wait for hours for the right opportunity to strike. He guessed that humans can learn in ways that animals can’t, but Yumaris reminded him that there are people who tame falcons and horses. She then revealed that the answer was tools and asked what separates king from commoner. Shane simply shrugged. Yumaris said that a castle isn’t built by a king, but by his subjects who work with his tools. A war isn’t fought by a king, but by his subjects. The answer was: tools. Some of them were people.
Shane trades his belt buckle for a cot and a bowl of stew that night, realizing in the shabby tavern how much he took advantage of as a prince. He hardly gets any sleep as people celebrate through the night and into the morning when Shane goes into town. He finds Anya on the outskirts, geared up with a bow and arrows, a machete, and provisions.
They set off to the jungle. Shane mentions going to Nilo’s jungles and asks if Amaya’s jungles are similar. Anya is surprised that he’s been there and explains that in Nilo, people live in harmony with nature, but in Amaya, everything is out to get you. She begins to cut away at the foliage with her machete as Shane compares this experience to his experience in Nilo; the heat is much worse, but he has a guide and provisions this time around.
After about an hour, he asks if there are any old forts in the jungle. Anya says that there is one nearby and asks why he wants to go there. Shane explains that “bushmaster” is a code, which is why Yumaris bought the bushmaster antidote: a code leading to the temple. She won’t be happy when he finds her, though. Anya promises to bring him there, but no farther, and lends Shane a turn with the machete. He asks what to do if he sees a venomous frog, and she reclaims the machete, explaining that the poison grows on the outside of the frog, and since they have no way to break your skin, the only way to get poisoned is to put it in your mouth.
Suddenly, a roar resonates through the jungle, frightening the two travelers. Anya says that it’s a sound that doesn’t belong in the jungle. They press forwards to the temple and find a massive bear in pursuit. Anya shouts that they don’t have bears in the jungle and they run. An unfamiliar voice shouts for them as arrows fly at the bear from a clearing ahead. Shane and Anya burst into it, finding a massive pyramid in the center that multiple soldiers guide them into.
They regain their breath, and Shane thanks the soldier dressed in a Conqueror’s attire. He recognizes Shane as the Devourer, but masks his surprise on instinct, introducing himself as Captain Lovvorn. Shane asks if they’re under attack as he figures that the best must be a spirit animal. Lovvorn brings them to the top of the pyramid where several other soldiers loiter about and explains that their spirit animals went mad, abandoning them when the Bile lost its power. Soyland’s bear decided to stick around and harass the soldiers, not allowing them to leave the pyramid. Shane remembers Grahv and wonders what will happen when or if he releases him.
Anya questions why they’re even in the pyramid in the first place. Shane delineates that they’re a Conqueror army awaiting his orders, allowing Anya to puzzle together that he’s the Devourer and unsheathe her machete. The archers raise their bows, but Shane deters them, reminding Anya that the soldiers are her best bet at escaping. She suggests either throwing Soyland to the bear or shooting it with poison arrows. Shane abolishes that idea, believing that it’s wrong to punish the bear who was victim to this and Lovvorn says that it’d be hard to do so nonetheless. Shane realizes that he’s walked into Yumaris’s trap, although Anya points out that her method of getting rid of him is immensely elaborate.
Shane takes charge of everyone, asking Lovvorn for information on everything that’s happened there and sends Anya to shoot with the archers. He learns that everything had gone well and they’d secured their post, awaiting instructions to attack Clarobo, until one morning when their animals attacked them. Shane tells Lovvorn that the same thing happened to everyone who drank the Bile after the Conquerors lost, and he’s touched that Shane came back for them. He doesn’t tell the man that he had no idea his men were still stationed there and accepts his gratitude.
Shane asks to speak with a scrawny soldier with a squeaky voice named Alix. He approaches Shane and bows, but he urges Alix to stand, thinking about how many young men and women had been forced into the war like him. Shane asks him to describe what the day was like when the animals went mad. Alix says that it was chaos: Garth’s owl tried to take his eyes out, Lovvorn’s horse started bucking, Arnold’s snake slithered away, and Tep‘s lynx fought with Dahved’s dog. They all had their hands full with the bear and managed to get it outside, and by then all of their animals had escaped, except for Alix’s. Shane asks him about his spirit animal, and he tries to shirk revealing his tattoo, but eventually acquiesces and shows him his faded tattoo of a ram; Alix is unable to summon it and the mark is starting to itch.
When Shane took the throne and started giving people the Bile, it was proving difficult to keep up with the demand of curing the people with the bonding sickness. When everyone was cured, he started forcing bonds with every last person in Stetriol—most people chose battle-ready creatures, but Yumaris chose an earthworm. When Shane approached her in the cemetery and asked what use it had, she allowed her spirit animal to bury into the soil of Feliandor’s grave and told him how they do not see or hear so much as sense, thriving beneath the feet of humans—giants, to them. Shane pointed out that they eat dirt, and Yumaris puts her worm into dormant state and replied that it’s the dirt of Stetriol’s kings, one last taste of home before they go to conquer.
They wake at dawn, the soldiers doing their morning routines gloomily, while Alix seems livelier than ever after Shane promised to help with his distorted tattoo. Alix brings him and Anya oats and water, apologizing for the lack of food. Shane tells him that they’re breaking out that night and sends him off to relay the message, then turns to Anya. He asks what she knows about the place, which isn’t much, and apologizes for dragging her into this mess. She confesses that Shane isn’t what she expected to find as the Reptile King: she imagined him to be sharper, scarier, and cackling like a madman. He defends himself by insisting that the information she received was filtered by the Greencloaks. She changes the subject, asking what he would choose: revenge on Yumaris or the lives of the men? He tells her that nobody else dies because of Yumaris and wonders aloud what’s so special about the temple. Anya isn’t sure.
He decides to have a look around the temple, refusing to believe that Yumaris had led him to a dead end. Shane travels through several stone passageways and finds a few archers on guard who point out an odd spiral design on the pyramid. Remembering a spiral design at one of the dead ends, Shane retraces his steps to find it, getting Lovvorn, Alix, and Anya’s help to budge the door. The passage beyond is made of dirt. Anya goes to grab a torch and they set off down the tunnel, sloping downwards. They come to a fork in the path: one way leads to the surface while the other leads into a place that smells like death.
Shane descends into the darkness while the others go up to the surface, but he senses somebody following him and isn’t surprised when Anya appears. She bites her lip and says that she thought he might want some company. Shane strikes, pinning her to the ground, saying that she bites her lip when she tells a lie, demanding to know where Yumaris is. She insists that she’s trying to help him. Shane points out that she hasn’t yet named her price for guiding him through the jungle and that it’s quite a coincidence that they ended up in this temple out of all of the temples in the area. He adds that she never goes for her bow and arrows: only her machete. He knows that Yumaris knew that he had a weak spot for girl archers because of Abeke, hence why she ordered Anya to carry around the weapon. He asks again where she is. Anya claims she doesn’t know, just that she was ordered to lead him here.
Shane allows Anya to stand. She tells him that he can walk away from the game they’re playing, but he says that he can’t forgive Yumaris that easily. He just wanted to make the world a better place and he’d only just gotten Drina back and-
Yumaris interrupts and says that she was a monster. Shane spins around to face his auld tutor, standing on the threshold of darkness. She greets him as the king of dead things, dead lands, and dead ambitions. Shane adds in “dead tutors” and tells her she knows why he’s here. Because she killed Drina. Yumaris points out that it was Gerathon who killed his sister. He counters that she held her down. She counters that he fed her the Bile because Zerif led her to that, because Kovo led him to. Shane tells her that she won’t escape the blame for what she did, and Yumaris tells him that he can’t escape the blame for what he did, as they were all puppets of Gerathon.
Anya steps in, offering a more peaceful solution between them. Shane shrugs her off, saying that Yumaris claims to see the future and asks if what she sees are Conquerors and Greencloaks living in peace—sarcastically, of course. Yumaris tells him that she does not see or hear‘’ so much as sense and makes predictions, ordering girls such as Anya to help those predictions along. She reveals that Gerathon was going to kill either Drina or Shane that day and she ensured that it was Drina. Shane tries to argue that she made the wrong choice, but him and Yumaris both knew that she was twisted and evil after enduring the bonding sickness.
Suddenly suspicious, Shane notices that Yumaris is standing just beyond the torchlight and has no torch of her own. He questions this, but she continues on, mentioning that he’s walked across the world for vengeance, but done good along the way, wishing she could see how he’s grown. She steps into the torchlight, revealing her features . . . and the fact that her eyes are gone, small depressions of flesh where her eyes used to be. She tells them that the Wyrm is rising and Erdas is in danger. Shane has seen every continent, yet he’s only seen half of the world. She tells him to spare her life and she will teach him much, but if he kills her, Erdas will pay the price.
Shane hesitates, gripping her saber hard. Part of him wishes to strike her down to prove a point, but the other part is curious and wonders whether Yumaris is telling the truth. Anya interrupts, urging him to walk away, as the war is over and he needn’t be the hero. But Shane isn’t a hero. He’s a king, and a king uses all of his tools at his disposal, regardless of what form that tool takes. Yumaris shuffles into the darkness, and Shane follows, void of reluctance.
As he descends into darkness, the tattoo on his chest begins to itch.
|“||“The Greencloaks have many fine qualities, but there are stories that they’d prefer to forget.”||”|
Shane is building an army, but first, he needs to destroy one. A group of former Conquerors has set up camp in a hidden cove, led by a mysterious figure who calls herself the Reptile Queen, and they're raiding any unlucky villages that happen to be close by. Shane is determined to discover the identity of this would-be tyrant—and take her down if necessary.
A dark power is awakening from beneath Erdas. Shane means to fight it, but he'll need help. With their spirit animals gone and the world turned against them, this desperate band of raiders might represent an opportunity. Shane could still turn some of them to his side...
But that's only if they don't kill him first.
A man named Abhay guides Shane to his cot, asking if he was Maddox’s king. Shane says that he is his king. Abhay claims that there are rumors about him fighting on the side of the Greencloaks in the end, and Shane says that it’s complicated. He then looks around the camp, surrounding by a wooden wall. People are sparring around the camp in patchwork armor and battered weapons. Shane comments that it’s rough around the edges, but Abhay says that it’s home. When Shane recognizes his accent is from southern Zhong, Abhay tells the story of how he joined the Conquerors—he was a runner and betrayed his forces, hoping to help end the war quicker.
Shane dreams that he summoned a wolf, running alongside their pack in the moonlight. He’d never be alone again.
The morning sky was beautiful, but Shane examines the army, made up of around two hundred soldiers. The soldiers are far from battle-ready, though, their techniques lazy and reluctant. Shane smells something foul, then Maddox comes over to him and challenges him to a sparring match. Shane chooses a quarterstaff; Maddox chooses a morning star.
They face off in a circle. Maddox strikes first, but Shane pivots to the side, and the morning star strikes dirt. Shane jabs him a few times, easily guessing the general’s moves, and dodges another swing of the morning star. Maddox anticipates his moves, though, and backhands him, but Shane lands a hit on his temple, grinning triumphantly. He continues the trend of dodging the weapon and whacking Maddox.
Shane is only distracted by a glint of gold, high above the crowd. It was a girl with a crown and flowing robes. Maddox takes the chance to wallop Shane in the side, sending him tumbling to the edge of the crowd. A healer named Viktor approaches him and helps him over to the medicine tent. His spirit animal, a fairy possum named Josie, crawls around the room with everlasting excitement.
He lifts his tunic, revealing his bruised side and his chest, the image of a waxy crocodile imprinted on his chest. Viktor tells him that he’s already seen a case like this at Shane’s prompting, but he’s been sworn to secrecy. Shane reminds him that he could command him; Viktor says that he’s sworn an oath as a healer. Shane questions what he’s even doing in such a place. He explains that most of the militia are children who don’t have a purpose anymore and he simply provides the healing needed. Shane tells him that he can help with the healing and pulls out a glowing mushroom, claiming it has healing properties that help with Shane’s issues with his old tattoo. He tells him to give it to whoever has the skin issue, and Viktor thanks him for that and the Bile, as it cured the bonding sickness. Shane nods graciously.
Shane leaves the tent, feeling a little bad for lying to the healer, but he knew that Viktor would seek the other person with Shane’s affliction and he’d be able to know who else was plagued by the waxy tattoo. He looks back up to the watchtower where he saw the crowned female and shudders.
Shane is sparring with a girl when a cry rings out that the raiders have returned. Everything throws their weapons aside a run to the entrance. Maddox shoved Shane aside when he reaches the gate, causing him to crash into a boy. Their attention is taken by a group of warriors in full Conqueror armor strutting through the gates with a haul of boxes and sacks in a sleigh pulled by warhorses. The warriors all bask in the attention from the militia except for a dark-skinned boy with a bandage on his arm, scowling as he enters the caldera.
One soldier named Yeffa reports that they raided three vessels in total, making Shane realize that the warriors are actually pirates. Maddox congratulates them, turning to the dark-skinned boy–Karmo–and saying he knew he’d get the hang of it. Viktor then appears, ordering people to sort the goods. Shane volunteers, keeping an eye on the raiders, as Yeffa reports that the Greencloaks took over Stetriol. Maddox admits that it’s better that way as he’d rather fight them than anyone else and that they’ll restore the rightful ruler to the throne.
Viktor asks Karmo to help him carry supplies to his tent. Yeffa intervenes, offering Fito’s help instead, but Viktor persists. She asks why Fito can’t help, and Viktor hesitates before asking if he can tell the difference between plants. When he doesn’t answer, he asks if he can read the labels, which he can’t. Yeffa gives up. Shane realizes that Karmo must be the other person with the skin affliction.
As news spreads of the Greencloaks’ presence in Stetriol, more and more people blame Shane with glares and blaming scowls aimed in his direction. Karmo doesn’t seem to have the same ill thoughts about Shane, lost in his own mind as he delivers more of the goods around the caldera. He sits alone during dinner, excusing himself early and scratching idly at his bandage as he vamooses.
That night, Karmo makes a break for it, slipping between two wooden posts and into the forest just as Shane was about to confront him. He follows the dark-skinned boy down until he can hear the ocean, but Karmo charges the air and lunges at Shane from the bushes, punching his jaw. He shoves Karmo into a tree and scrambles into a defensive stance. He tells Shane that he’s not going to return to the caldera, and he replies that he wasn’t going to ask him to return. He wanted to run away with him anyways. Karmo asks who he is, and Shane tells him his name and is instantly recognized.
The cry of a guard resounds from above them. Shane has a plan and asks Karmo to hit him. He punches him in the cheek, sending Shane reeling backwards as the guards appear. He pretends to yield in front of the guards as though they’d been fighting. Karmo goes along with the plan, claiming to have found Shane sneaking away and chased after him. The guards are disappointed by Shane’s actions in fighting with the Greencloaks and running away.
They drag him back to the campsite where Maddox is waiting to judge him, asking if he’s spying for the Greencloaks, but Shane says nothing. He’s then thrown into the Reptile House, filled with reptiles and amphibians enclosed behind glass. After a long time of doing nothing, Karmo arrives with water for him, having convinced Maddox to let him speak to Shane. Karmo asks why he helped him, and Shane answers that he suspects he’s meant for greater things and isn’t buying into whatever Maddox is selling. Karmo confirms this, admitting that he was chasing good intentions after being dragged into the mess by Zerif. He had been chasing talismans with a group of people including Devin and Tahlia, but when he was thrown in jail, Zerif abandoned him. Shane says that he knew Tahlia, but what he doesn’t tell him is that he watched her die in a fire in Eura.
Karmo continues, saying that all he wanted to do was help his village, which never had a Rain Dancer, but summoning a hamerkop, a bird from legend. Instead, he got locked up when his people needed him the most, and when he returned with a waxy tattoo that almost looked like a hamerkop, he was exiled. He didn’t have anywhere else to go, so he joined Maddox’s army, getting called a hero for stealing from innocent people.
He asks Shane why he’s there. Shane tells him that something bad is coming and there’s no use running away from it as no place on Erdas will be safe if it rises. He’d heard that Maddox had an army and figured he’d take it, but his hopes faded to loss when he saw how poor of an army it really was. Shane asks Karmo to join him and his allies. Karmo accepts the invitation and gets ready to go and grab the keys to Shane’s cell. He tells him that Maddox’s boss will be pretty upset once he realizes that Shane escaped. Shane is surprised that Maddox isn’t in charge, but someone called the Reptile Queen. He then tells Karmo that he can’t leave. He has to stop them from starting a war they’ll never win. Shane tells him to go and find his allies on a nearby island and be back by nightfall. Karmo breaks it to him that they don’t have time—he’s to be executed in the morning.
Shane dreams that he summoned a leopard. Together they were fierce and fearless, and Shane knew that he’d been forgiven for all he’d done wrong.
At dawn, the guards go to fetch him, ordering him to put on an green cloak. He’s led out of the Reptile House to meet Maddox who immediately begins to rub in the fact that he’s wearing a green cloak. Shane tells him to lie to his people all he wants, but they both know that he has nothing to do with the Greencloaks. Maddox throws his arm around Shane and says that it’s better for the Reptile Queen to become queen if the entire royal line is dead.
Shane is led to a hidden cove with a crescent-shaped beach and cliffs rising high around it. A hut on stilts sits on the beach and a net has been strung across the channel of water. Karmo and the raiders stand upon the beach and a girl stands on the pier, wearing fancy clothing, a white mask, and a crown—Shane’s old crown. She walks up to Shane, sarcastically saying that it’s nice of him to support her claim to the throne by dying. Shane says that nobody has to die, but she reminds him of the day on the docks in Eura where a lot of people died. He apologizes to her, telling her that he wouldn’t have left her behind if he’d known she were alive. Tahlia tears the mask from her face, revealing her face, waxy and pink with scars from the fire. He tries to apologize for the war, but she shoves him, saying that the war was one thing he’d done right. She declares that his method of execution is irony. After setting the girl with the water-producing toad on fire, he’s being fed to the crocodiles.
Tahlia kicks Shane into the water. His hands are bound, so he kicks to the surface and takes a deep breath, spotting a dark shape swim past him. Maddox blocks the way to the pier as Karmo confesses that he can’t get wet, yelling at Shane to look out. He rolls to the side, avoiding the crocodile’s snapping jaws. He takes another breath and dives back under, pulling at the rope binding his hands with his teeth. He kicks to the surface as it swims towards him at tremendous speed, knowing that one bite from the crocodile would end him—but Shane knows that a crocodile’s jaw is strong when it closes, but it’s weak to open. Shane wraps his hands around it’s snout and holds on, slipping the rope around it’s jaw.
He emerges on the shore, triumphant with the crocodile at his mercy. The sounds of fighting can be heard as Karmo battles the other raiders. Maddox lunges towards Shane, swinging his weapon, but the effort is in vain, as he throws the crocodile into the general’s face. Shane leaves Maddox to battle with the reptile and runs to help Karmo, but he urges him to deal with Tahlia.
Shane meets her on the pier. She’s trembling with rage as she unsheathes her knifes and lunges at Shane, who easily grabs her wrists and yells at her to give up. She screams back at him that war is all they know, but Shane pleads with her to try and heal her old wounds. She shrieks and smashes her forehead into his, slashing at him with her knives. She misses, the momentum throwing her off the edge of the pier.
The last of the raiders are vanquishes by Karmo and Maddox flees, the crocodile nowhere in sight. Shane leans over the pier and beseeches Tahlia to grab his hand. She refuses, slashing again with her knives, holding no regret in her eyes as the crocodile clamps down on her leg and drags her down. Karmo comes over and claps him on the back, turning to face the pathetic militia. Shane asks if they can find any reason to keep fighting.
Viktor appears, saying that he can’t. He’s come to help him, assuming that he’s in charge now. Shane denies this, volunteering him to lead. Viktor gives a show of surprise at this, admitting that he’s no leader. Shane tells him that he may not have a crown or a fancy title, but he can still lead the community of people that listens to him. Viktor accepts, telling this people to drop their weapons. He declares that they can begin to make a new home and that the war is over. Josie appears, jumping around excitedly.
Karmo turns to Shane, asking if the war is over for the two of them. Shane says that they’re just getting started; this time, they’ll be fighting on the right side.
- Every book in the trilogy has a title beginning with 'Ven.'
- The letter telling you the code is a Conqueror letter instead of a Greencloak letter.
- Viktor’s name is misspelled “Victor” in Venture.