A PLUMMETING CLOUD OF SNOW rumbled at my back, snapped at my skis, and roared like a hungry hound as it picked up speed. Outpace this, Trinidad. Outpace this. I looked to my left and right. The whole face of the mountain had collapsed, and I found myself balanced on slipping snow in the point of a V-slide. Billowing fifty feet high, the snow rose, a foreboding burial at my back.
I can run 70 miles an hour. But can I ski that fast?
Crouched with poles tucked close, leaning forward within the curl, I rode out the snow surf. Ice needles pricked and slashed my face. Damp earth and splintered evergreens tumbled within the powder. Darkness shrouded my shoulders, heavy with its load, until from the right, the snow wall smacked me like a block of concrete, and my skis popped off my boots.
I rotated to my back. Nothing can hurt my torso.
I LAY BACK AND BLINKED at the curved dome at least ten stories high. A memory flashed through my mind of a time of peaceful tribes, plentiful game, clean snow, a thousand years before kings sent ships to a New World. Where, during my twenty-seventh life, Saba and I had surveyed the valley where the Ice Castle now stands. “A perfect place,” he’d said, pointing out the landscape. “They will believe we are gods, sacrifice their Days and Nights like in Teotihuacán. Nevis may have persuaded Attila to cross the Danube twice to find you, but the Hun won’t span an ocean. We’ll be dead to them and build a new life in a grave of snow.”
As my eyes focused on the invisible shield protecting the castle, I remembered it had taken Dom no time to find it. From the sky, it’d projected a snowy tree-filled valley, but our eyes, Nadirian eyes, could see the shimmering mirage.
I SCANNED THE ROOM. Plastic table and chairs sat on a glossy white floor between an open entry and oversized grandfather clock. Two empty beds flanked a metal cupboard opposite Dom and me. In the corner, a throbbing violet light emanated from behind a pulled curtain. And at that very moment, a gray shadow of a mouse ran up the wall and across the ceiling—upside down! When he dropped to the grandfather clock, I knew he wasn’t a real mouse; I could see straight through his body to numbers on the clock’s face. Its whiskers twitched but eyes were missing! I was about to point it out to Yukiko, but suddenly it jumped toward me like a flying bat, and in midair, it changed shape from a blind mouse to a boy in buckskin, with two long braids and a slashed throat.
Hotah! The Indian boy Nevis had murdered two lives ago.
I knew Hotah had attached himself to Saba when he escaped the Queen of Hearts Hotel. Now he must be haunting the death house, a fitting place for a ghost. The first time I’d seen him as a spirit, he’d almost scared the Nadir out of me when he threw a ghostly knife through my chest. Now we were friends, I guess. He floated to me, kissed my cheek, and fled back to the curtain. The metal slither barely whispered when he pulled the curtain to expose the faint light, a violet-tinged aura shimmering around an encapsulated figure.