9780060766245

Night of the Soul Stealer

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780060766245

  • ISBN10:

    0060766247

  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2007-01-01
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publications
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Summary

It's going to be a long, hard, cruel winter. And there couldn't be a worse place to spend it than up on Anglezarke. Thomas Ward is the apprentice for the local Spook, who captures witches and drives away ghosts. As the weather gets colder and the nights draw in, the Spook receives an unexpected visitor. Tom doesn't know who the stranger is or what he wants, but the Spook suddenly decides it's time to travel to his winter house, Anglezarke. Tom has heard it will be a bleak, forbidding place, and that menacing creatures are starting to stir somewhere on the moors nearby. Can anything prepare Tom for what he finds there? What if the rumors about the evil beast called the Golgoth are true? And how much danger will Tom be in if the secrets the Spook has been trying to hide from the world are revealed?

Excerpts

The Last Apprentice: Night of the Soul Stealer

Chapter One

An Unexpected Visitor

It was a cold, dark November night, and Alice and I were sitting by the kitchen fire with my master, the Spook. The weather had been getting steadily colder, and I knew that any day now the Spook would decide it was time to set off for his "winter house" on the bleak moor of Anglezarke.

I was in no rush to go. I'd only been the Spook's apprentice since the spring and had never seen the Anglezarke house, but my curiosity certainly wasn't getting the better of me. I was warm and comfortable here in Chipenden, and that's where I'd rather have spent the winter.

I glanced up from the book of Latin verbs I was trying to learn, and Alice caught my eye. She was sitting on a low stool close to the hearth, her face bathed in the warm glow of the fire. She smiled and I smiled back. Alice was the other reason I didn't want to leave Chipenden. She was the closest I'd ever had to a friend, and she'd saved my life on a number of occasions over the last few months. I'd really enjoyed having her living here with us. She made the loneliness of a spook's life more bearable. But my master had told me in confidence that she would be leaving us soon. He'd never really trusted her because she came from a family of witches. He also thought she would start to distract me from my lessons, so when the Spook and I went to Anglezarke, she wouldn't be coming with us. Poor Alice didn't know this, and I hadn't the heart to tell her, so for now I was just enjoying another of our last precious evenings together in Chipenden.

But as it turned out, that was to be our last one of the year: as Alice and I sat reading by the glow of the fire and the Spook nodded off in his chair, the tolling of the summoning bell shattered our peace. At that unwelcome sound, my heart sank right down into my boots. It meant only one thing: spooks' business.

You see, nobody ever came up to the Spook's house. For one thing, they'd have been ripped to pieces by the pet boggart that guarded the perimeter of the gardens. So, despite the failing light and the cold wind, it was my job to go down to the bell in the circle of willow trees to see who needed help.

I was feeling warm and comfortable after my early supper, and the Spook must have sensed my reluctance to leave. He shook his head as if disappointed in me, his green eyes glittering fiercely.

"Get yourself down there, lad," he growled. "It's a bad night and whoever it is won't want to be kept waiting!"

As I stood up and reached for my cloak, Alice gave me a small, sympathetic smile. She felt sorry for me, but I could also see that she was happy to sit there warming her hands while I had to go out into the bitter wind.

I closed the back door firmly behind me and, carrying a lantern in my left hand, strode through the western garden and down the hill, the wind trying its very best to tear the cloak from my back. At last I came to the withy trees, where two lanes crossed. It was dark, and my lantern cast disturbing shadows, the trunks and branches twisting into limbs, claws and goblin faces. Above my head the bare branches were dancing and shaking, the wind whining and wailing like a banshee, a female spirit that warned of a death to come.

But these things didn't worry me much. I'd been to this spot before in the dark, and on my travels with the Spook I'd faced such things that would make your hair stand on end. So I wasn't going to be bothered by a few shadows; I expected to be met by someone far more nervous than I was. Probably some farmer's lad sent by his ghost-plagued dad and desperate for help; a lad who'd be scared just to come within half a mile of the Spook's house.

But it wasn't a lad waiting in the withy trees, and I halted in amazement. There, beneath the bell rope, stood a tall figure dressed in a dark cloak and hood, a staff in his left hand. It was another spook!

The man didn't move so I walked toward him, halting just a couple of paces away. He was broad-shouldered and slightly taller than my master, but of his face I could see little as the hood kept his features in shadow. He spoke before I could introduce myself.

"No doubt he's warming himself by the fire while you're out in the cold," the stranger said, the sarcasm heavy in his voice. "Nothing changes!"

"Are you Mr. Arkwright?" I asked. "I'm Tom Ward, Mr. Gregory's apprentice. . . ."It was a reasonable enough guess. My master, John Gregory, was the only spook I'd ever met but I knew there were others, the nearest being Bill Arkwright, who plied his trade beyond Caster, covering the northern border regions of the County. So it was very likely that this man was him—although I couldn't guess why he'd come calling.

The stranger pulled the hood back from his face to reveal a black beard dappled with flecks of gray and an unruly thatch of black hair silvered at the temples. He smiled with his mouth, but his eyes were cold and hard.

"Who I am is none of your business, boy. But your master knows me well enough!"

With those words he reached inside his cloak, pulled out an envelope, and handed it to me. I turned it over, examining it quickly. It had been sealed with wax and was addressed To John Gregory.

"Well, get on your way, boy. Give him the letter and warn him that we'll be meeting again soon. I'll be waiting for him up on Anglezarke!"

The Last Apprentice: Night of the Soul Stealer. Copyright © by Joseph Delaney. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from Night of the Soul Stealer by Joseph Delaney
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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