Download a FREE sneak peek of WARRIOR GENIUS, the sequel to REBEL GENIUS by Michael Dante Dimartino.
It has been years since Geniuses—creatures that channel their owners' creative energy—were banished from Zizzola. But a new generation of artists and their bird-Geniuses has been training in secret. Led by Giacomo, a young orphan with promising talent, they set out to track down the Sacred Tools that could hold the power to overthrow the ruthless emperor, Nerezza.
With paintbrushes flying and artistic force weaponized, the group secured the Compass, but they’ll need all three Tools to take down Nerezza. Traveling to distant Rachana in search of the Straightedge, the young artists are alarmed to find all the warriors’ horse-Geniuses afflicted with a mysterious illness.
The source of the plague is an ancient, dark force that no human can conquer, but Giacomo has learned a surprising truth: he isn’t human. He is a Tulpa, a manmade being created with sacred geometry. Using newfound abilities and the help of great friends, Giacomo will have to fight the battle of his life if he wants to save the Geniuses—and the empire.
|Publisher:||Roaring Brook Press|
|File size:||4 MB|
|Age Range:||8 - 12 Years|
About the Author
Michael Dante DiMartino is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design and the co-creator of the award-winning animated Nickelodeon series Avatar: The Last Airbender and its sequel, The Legend of Korra. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife. The Rebel Genius series is his debut prose work.
Read an Excerpt
THE COUNCIL OF TEN
Giacomo Ghiberti was not long for this world.
From her throne's perch in the Salon dei Guerra, Supreme Creator Nerezza gazed down at the cloaked figures of the Council of Ten and demanded that one of her ministers explain how a twelve-year-old Tulpa, a man-made being, could have been living in Virenzia all these years without her knowing it. None of them could provide an adequate answer.
The young Tulpa had brought chaos to her city, brazenly defied her, and fled. Soon, Nerezza would make him pay for his rebelliousness. But for now, she needed to create the perception in the minds of her citizens that last night's violence had been quelled.
"Minister Monti, do you have the statement prepared?"
The Minister of Information, a woman half Nerezza's age with a frog-like face, nodded and began to read from a piece of parchment. "Loyal subjects of Supreme Creator Nerezza, let it be known that the treasonous artist Ugalino Vigano and his Tulpa, Zanobius, returned from exile and attempted to assassinate your beloved leader. They were aided by a new Tulpa, but —"
"Stop," Nerezza interrupted. "Make no mention of the second Tulpa. We need to calm the masses, not send them into a panic."
The minister nodded and went back to her parchment. "But with the power of her Genius, the Supreme Creator repelled the attack."
Nerezza's Genius was curled up on the dais, her massive body safeguarding the throne. Nerezza reached a bony hand from under her robe to run her fingers along Victoria's long, gnarled beak, then scratched behind one of her large, pointed ears. The Genius raised her head and acknowledged her master with a groggy grumble.
"Once again, our great city is safe thanks to the leadership of Her Eminence," Monti continued. "The traitor Ugalino is dead."
And plans are already in place to deal with Zanobius, Nerezza thought.
"But make no mistake, it is a time of great strife in the Zizzolan Empire, and enemies both foreign and domestic seek our annihilation ..."
As Minister Monti laid out the present-day dangers facing the Zizzolan people, Nerezza turned her attention to past threats, immortalized in the frescoes lining the Salon dei Guerra.
The paintings portrayed Zizzolan forces triumphing over Rachanan warriors through the ages. Some depicted ground battles with swords and spears crisscrossing amid thrashing bodies. Others showed clashes in the sky between bird-Geniuses and winged horse-Geniuses. Artists wielding brushes and pencils soared on the backs of giant bejeweled crows, eagles, and falcons, launching patterns of light from the gems in their Geniuses' crowns. Mounted warriors wielding large daggers countered with their own sacred geometry attacks, which radiated from gems on the horse-Geniuses' faceplates. The frescoes served as a reminder that Zizzola was — and needed to remain — the dominant force in the world. Nerezza wasn't about to let Giacomo and his friends threaten her supremacy.
"... And in trying times like these, we must remain strong, vigilant, and fearless." Minister Monti looked up from her parchment.
"Good," Nerezza said. "Now go deliver the message to the people."
The minister hesitated. "But we must also address the matter of the Geniuses, Your Eminence. There may have been witnesses to the battle. What if word spreads that there is a new generation of children with Geniuses?" Monti cleared her throat, then added, "Not to mention the reemergence of Pietro Vasari and his Genius."
Nerezza's face twisted with annoyance at the mention of Pietro. She had stuffed her memories of him into a chamber of her mind that she kept locked, even to herself. Especially to herself.
"It's your job to make sure word doesn't spread," Nerezza ordered.
Monti bowed her head. "Yes, Your Eminence."
On one side of the vast hall, a door opened, and two armed guards entered, pulling a shackled man behind them. The rattling chain echoed through the chamber. "Here's the mercenary who was detained last night, as you requested," one of the guards said.
Ozo Mori's feet shuffled along the shiny marble and his head hung forward. Long black hair, matted with blood, covered half his face. On the other half, a scar ran from temple to jowl. As the mercenary passed the Minister of Culture, Baldassare Barrolo, the two men scowled, casting blame upon each other. Both had failed miserably in their mission to help Nerezza obtain the first Sacred Tool. But Barrolo had always been a loyal, if disagreeable, servant. The brunt of her punishment would fall on Ozo.
"For allowing the Tulpas to escape with the Creator's Compass, it is the decision of this Council that you shall be executed," Nerezza declared. "Perhaps I shall feed you to Victoria." With a long metal hook, Nerezza stabbed a piece of raw meat that had been laid out on a platter near her feet. Blood spattered across the dais as she flung the slab to her Genius. With a snap of her fangs, Victoria devoured the meal, then let out a satisfied snort.
Nerezza expected the mercenary to plead for his life, but instead, Ozo met her with an icy stare.
Barrolo strode over to Ozo and leaned in close. "You had better pray the Creator takes mercy on your soul."
Ozo let out a wolfish growl, exposing some missing teeth. Barrolo flinched.
"That's enough, Minister Barrolo," Nerezza commanded. "I'll decide who gets mercy. The Creator has no say in the matter."
Barrolo stepped back in line with the other ministers. "My apologies, Your Eminence."
"If you kill me, what I know about Giacomo dies too," Ozo remarked.
"And what is that?" Nerezza asked.
Ozo glanced at Victoria. "I'll tell you, but only if you promise I won't become your Genius's next meal."
"Very well," Nerezza said. "I don't think she has a taste for Rachanans anyway."
"Ugalino's Tulpa isn't the one you want," Ozo said. "Zanobius tried to take the Creator's Compass and failed, but Giacomo alone was able to remove it from the site."
Impossible, Nerezza thought. How could this new Tulpa possess powers even greater than Zanobius's?
Her Minister of War, Carlo Strozzi, stepped forward. He carried his burly frame with the confidence of a man who had survived many harrowing battles. "Don't believe a word he says, Your Eminence. He's only trying to stave off his execution. My soldiers witnessed Ugalino and Zanobius in the piazza with the Creator's Compass."
"Because they took it from Giacomo," Ozo rebutted.
Nerezza stared into Ozo's eyes, trying to discern if the mercenary was lying. "What do you make of this, Minister Xiomar?" Nerezza asked.
The hunchbacked Minister of the Occult lurched forward. The rest of the Council eyed him with long-standing distrust. At 140, he had become the oldest man in Zizzola's history. Though his bizarre regimen of imbibing foul-smelling elixirs had caused an enormous fleshy hump to grow on his back, the fact that he was still alive proved his methods were effective.
"While much has been written about the creation of Tulpas," Xiomar began, speaking between labored breaths, "very little is known about how their power manifests, or why one Tulpa differs from another. It is believed that the intention of the Tulpa's creator is somehow infused into its being."
"But is it possible Giacomo could have obtained the Compass alone?" Nerezza said, growing impatient.
"Certainly," Xiomar replied.
Nerezza clacked her red-tipped nails on the throne's golden arm. Giacomo did have a Genius, she reminded herself — impossible for a Tulpa, or so she had thought. And according to Barrolo, the young Tulpa also had been able to access the Wellspring. Clearly, Giacomo possessed great abilities. Maybe it wasn't so far-fetched to believe he was the only soul capable of acquiring the Sacred Tools. Together, the Compass, the Straightedge, and the Pencil held untold power — power that rightfully belonged to her.
Nerezza turned to her Minister of War. "Ready one of the new ships, Minister Strozzi. And assemble a crew. I want Giacomo captured — unharmed."
"As you wish," Strozzi replied. "And the prisoner? What do you want to do with him?"
"Free me and I'll help you track down Giacomo," the mercenary offered. There was a flicker of desperation in his eyes.
"The Supreme Creator already let you live; don't get greedy," Strozzi said, puffing out his chest. "My soldiers are more than capable of capturing a few children on the run."
"They'll be hard to capture with a vicious Tulpa protecting them," Ozo countered. "And from what I saw, your soldiers didn't fare very well against Zanobius. At least I was able to take one of his arms. I know his weaknesses better than anyone." Ozo turned to Nerezza. "I'm offering you my services, free of charge this time."
"What assurances do I have that you won't abandon the mission and flee to Rachana?" Nerezza asked.
"Rachana hasn't been my home since I was a boy," Ozo said. "The last thing I want is to go back there."
Nerezza considered Ozo's offer. He had provided her with vital information about Giacomo, and the reason she and Barrolo had hired him to escort the children to find the Compass in the first place was because of his reputation as a tracker. As a mercenary, he had worked for dukes and merchants throughout the empire, so he knew the lay of the land even better than Strozzi did.
"Remove his shackles," Nerezza ordered the guards.
Ozo's chains clattered on the marble, and he rubbed his wrists. "You won't regret this, Supreme Creator."
"I'd better not," Nerezza grumbled.
Barrolo stepped forward. "Your Eminence, I'd also like to join the mission. I want to bring my son, Enzio, back home."
"Very well," Nerezza said.
Ozo and Barrolo nodded begrudgingly at each other.
"We do have one problem," Ozo said. "I've never tracked anyone who had a magic Compass that can take him anywhere he wants to go."
"Not anywhere," Barrolo corrected. "The Creator's Compass will allow the user to travel only to places they've been before."
"Perfect," Ozo said. "We'll search the route I took the children on."
Barrolo shook his head. "Pietro is with them and can call upon his own memories. He's too smart to tread recent ground."
"Then where do you suggest we look?" Ozo challenged.
The Minister of Intelligence, a tall, slender man with an arrogant look about him, stepped forward. "I will send word to my spies. If anyone has seen Giacomo or his friends, we'll soon know."
"In the meantime, I'm going to contact some of my dealers in the black market," Barrolo said. "Pietro may try to seek refuge with one of them."
"Wherever Giacomo is hiding, let's find him quickly," Nerezza urged. Her heart, which usually beat weakly, began to thump. The hunt was on.
Zanobius stepped into the portal and surrendered to the streaming light. As his body sped through space, his mind drifted toward a brighter future, one full of possibility. Warmth enveloped him, relieving his tense muscles. Knowing the serenity would be short-lived, Zanobius allowed himself to enjoy the peace.
Recently, his life had been the opposite. His master had died, a vengeful mercenary had severed one of his four arms, and he had nearly been ripped apart by Supreme Creator Nerezza's Genius. He'd helped Giacomo and his friends flee Virenzia, and since then, the group had been searching for food, supplies, and somewhere to hide that was out of sight of Nerezza and her minions. On top of that, Ugalino's most recent mind wipe had left Zanobius's memory still full of holes.
Pietro Vasari, the children's teacher, was the best traveled, so he had used the Creator's Compass to take them to places he had once visited. Though he was blind, the old master's powers of recall were still sharp. But Pietro was dismayed to learn that Zizzola had changed much in the decades since he had last journeyed through it. Villages stood where once there were empty fields; soldiers on horseback patrolled even the empire's farthest borders.
Zanobius had offered to take everyone to an uninhabited island where he and Ugalino had lived for a few months during their exile, but Pietro had informed him that to wield the Compass, you need a Genius. They had forged onward.
It wasn't the relentless travel that wore on Zanobius, but his mental struggle. Ugalino's death had freed Zanobius's mind, causing agonizing memories to return. Long-forgotten victims surfaced from the past, shouting at Zanobius that he was a killer. Ugalino may have given the violent orders, but Zanobius was far from blameless. He could never erase that so many people had died by his hands.
As Zanobius was jettisoned from the portal, he slammed into a stone wall. He went down on one knee, recovering as he waited for the others.
Savino appeared out of the light first, followed a moment later by his falcon Genius, Nero. Though he was only fourteen, Savino had become the group's de facto leader throughout its journey, a role that seemed to fit his brash personality. "Any signs of trouble?" he asked.
Zanobius scanned their surroundings. He realized he hadn't hit a wall, but a massive rock jutting out of the earth. Dozens more were all around. His eyes tracked the monoliths up a slope to the top of the hill, where they ringed a crumbling stone villa. In the distance, a ribbon of mountains glowed pink in the morning sun. Wind gusted up from a wide valley.
"Doesn't look like it," Zanobius answered, and Savino sent Nero back into the portal to signal to everyone that it was safe to come through.
One by one, the rest of the group emerged. Next came Pietro, riding his owl Genius, Tito. Pietro eased himself off his Genius's neck and pulled the large Creator's Compass down after him. With a dissatisfied hoot, Tito shook, jangling his earrings and sloughing off gray feathers.
"I don't think Tito is ever going to get used to portal travel," Pietro said, catching his breath. He felt the ground with a walking stick until it tapped the side of a rock. With a groan, he sat down. "I'm not sure I will, either."
"Let me help you." Zanobius reached for Pietro, but the old man waved him off.
"I'm ... I'm fine. Leave me be."
Zanobius backed away. Pietro still seemed wary of him, and Zanobius didn't want to test the old man's tolerance or seem the least bit threatening. He was still the outsider, tied to the group by only the tenuous thread of Giacomo's kindness. Pietro had the power to cut that thread at any moment.
Milena jumped nimbly from the light, accompanied by her crane Genius, Gaia, who cut a graceful curve through the air and landed on her shoulder. As soon as Milena noticed her teacher sitting hunched on the rock, she went to check on him. "Master Pietro, are you all right?" she said, her face full of concern.
"I'm used to spending my days in a cellar, not traveling the empire," Pietro complained. "But really, it's nothing to worry about."
Aaminah — the youngest of the group, and the only musician — sprang out next, joined by her robin Genius, Luna, who chirped excitedly. Milena called them over and asked Aaminah to help ease their teacher's aches. Aaminah pulled out a small flute and played a bright tune. Circles of yellow light leaped from her Genius's gem and danced over Pietro, whose grumpy expression started to soften.
The portal spat out Enzio, the only one of the children without a Genius. Even though Ugalino had taken him from his home and nearly killed him, Enzio and Zanobius had forged a friendship.
Last, Giacomo appeared, along with his hummingbird Genius, Mico. Since learning that Giacomo was a Tulpa, Zanobius had felt a deep connection with the boy.
With everyone accounted for, Giacomo took the Compass from Pietro and held it up to the portal, then spun its legs. The circle of light shrank, and with a pop, it vanished. Giacomo slid the Compass into the leather holster that Savino had fashioned from an old sword scabbard and slung it across his back. He took in their new location, his shaggy brown hair blowing in the wind. "Pietro, where are we?" "Northern Rapallicci," Pietro said, sounding more energetic. He pushed himself up with his walking stick.
Milena gazed up the hill. "There's a villa covered in ivy and moss that looks centuries old. Pietro, whose house is that?"
"It belonged to one of my former students ..."
Pietro hung his head. "Before Nerezza killed him."
Everyone fell silent, and Zanobius felt a pang of guilt. It wasn't a coincidence that Nerezza had begun wiping out artists and their Geniuses shortly after Ugalino had created Zanobius.
With Zanobius leading, the group crested the hill and approached the villa. To everyone's shock, a man's voice shouted from inside. "You better get lost, Tulpa, before I make you get lost!" Zanobius clenched his three fists. He had a feeling the man wasn't referring to Giacomo.
"I thought this place was supposed to be abandoned," Savino complained.
"Me too," Pietro said.
Zanobius looked up at a broken window on the second floor where the sunlight glinted off a long, tubular barrel. He ushered the children back. "Get away, he has a gun!"
Smoke billowed from the window. The bullet hit Zanobius in the shoulder. He recoiled but held his ground. The children screamed, and their Geniuses squawked and scattered.
Excerpted from "Warrior Genius"
Copyright © 2018 Michael Dante DiMartino.
Excerpted by permission of Roaring Brook Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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