A Book of Spirits and Thieves

Free A Book of Spirits and Thieves by Morgan Rhodes

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Authors: Morgan Rhodes
circles, confused by everything he’d seen and heard, until Livius barked at him that it was time to leave Lord Gillis’s villa.
    Thankfully, it seemed as if the strangely dressed girl had only been a figment of his imagination.
    It was entirely possible that such hallucinations had been caused by Maddox’s not getting very much sleep lately. He’d recently begun having nightmares. Always the same one, too—the horrific experience of seeing his first spirit.
    The shadowy creature moved toward him in the dead of night . . . chilling his heart the closer it came. Maddox pulled his blanket up to his nose as he stared out with horror at what approached him, lit only by the flickering candle on his bedside table.
    It had black eyes so dark and bottomless he was certain they could devour his soul.
    “Help me,” the horrific thing screeched.
    Maddox screamed and screamed until the spirit withdrew from him, asif in horrible pain, and faded into the shadows. His mother was at his side a moment later, pulling his small body into her arms and holding him tightly until he stopped sobbing.
    “You’re stronger than any creature of darkness, my sweet boy,” she whispered. “These troubled spirits . . . they’re drawn to your magic, like nightflies to a campfire. But they will never hurt you. I promise they won’t.”
    He wasn’t sure it was true, but her promise helped him be brave.
    By the time he turned twelve, Maddox had learned that he had the ability to trap the dark things that visited him in the night in silver containers that he would then bury deep in the earth.
    “Why can I do these things, Mama?” he asked her one evening when she was in the middle of making a potato and pheasant stew. The pheasant had been killed by the man she’d recently claimed to have fallen in love with. Livius was very handsome and seemingly full of enough kindness, charm, and wit to get him through the door of their cottage and into Damaris Corso’s bed.
    “I don’t know.” It was her constant reply whenever he asked, but somehow it always rang false to him. He sensed that she
did
know something, although she refused to say what it was. “But you must tell no one of your magic. Other people wouldn’t understand like I do.”
    However, it was Damaris who confided in Livius about her son’s abilities a year later. Afterward, Livius had shown them his true self, which was made up almost entirely of greed and deceit. He was an opportunist and a con man hiding in their village to escape the moneylender he owed.
    But he decided his luck had finally changed as soon as he learned Maddox’s secret.
    Once Livius discovered that real hauntings were rare and that noblemen who believed their villas were plagued by spirits werequite common, he began to rely on Maddox’s ability to summon shadows to trick customers who were made gullible by fear. And it was a very good trick: No one ever doubted Maddox’s abilities as a vanquisher of dark spirits.
    The day after they left Lord Gillis’s villa, Livius took Maddox to the local festival. With the crowds so large that it was impossible to estimate their numbers, it appeared as if all citizens who lived within a twenty-mile radius were there to celebrate the goddess’s fifteenth year of ruling Northern Mytica.
    Maddox was just an infant when the two radiant and powerful beings first came to Mytica, but he’d heard all the stories. He’d lived his entire life under Valoria’s rule.
    Two goddesses made their home Mytica. One in the North, one in the South.
    Valoria of the North was the goddess of earth and water. She commanded both elements, and her displays of magic were, as the stories went, as beautiful as they were terrifying.
    The goddess of the South was Valoria’s sworn enemy. Contrary to the legends of Valoria’s beauty, she was said to be horrifically ugly and sadistically cruel to her subjects—rich and poor alike. Many claimed she was a glutton who ate the children of those

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