Unlocked (Keeper of the Lost Cities #8.5) by Shannon Messenger


Sophie has brown eyes (with small flecks of gold in them) instead of a shade of blue, like the rest of our species. No one, including her creators, seems to be 100 percent clear as to why—though most suspect the condition is related to certain modifications made to her genetics during the Black Swan’s experiments, many of which were based on alicorn DNA.


In what appears to be a nervous tic of sorts, Sophie is often seen tugging on her eyelashes. She’s been quick to assure everyone that it doesn’t hurt, but she does often appear to be trying to break herself of the habit. So far, she’s had little success. And it’s hard to blame Sophie for that, given the numerous stressful things she’s been through—and continues to endure.


Originally the Council ordered that Sophie’s human identity be “terminated” and that her human family be made to believe that their eldest daughter had passed away. But Sophie was concerned about the emotional toll her family would pay while grieving for their lost child, and she convinced Alden Vacker that her human identity should instead be “erased,” with the humans relocated to someplace their memories wouldn’t be triggered. Alden and Della Vacker oversaw the relocation, moving both parents, their daughter, and their pet (a large gray cat evidently named Marty) to a location with no ties to their previous lives. And Della was careful to ensure that their new lifestyle was what humans would classify as “very comfortable.” Sophie had also specifically requested that her family’s new home have a yard large enough for a dog, so Della gifted the family with a beagle puppy. Our records indicate that the dog has been named Watson.


Sophie brought one small purple backpack with her when she left the Forbidden Cities, and it was filled mostly with human clothing. The only other items were a scrapbook of family photos, a gadget called an iPod (which Dex Dizznee has made numerous adjustments to), and a bright blue elephant stuffed animal that she has named Ella and apparently cannot sleep without. All other items from Sophie’s human home were packed up and meticulously recorded before being stored in [ADDRESS REDACTED FOR SECURITY] in Mysterium, which Sophie has visited once with Councillor Terik in order to retrieve a childhood journal she’d left behind and realized was important. (Councillor Terik asked her why and was not given an answer.)


Sophie’s unconventional upbringing—as well as numerous other suspicious circumstances—led the Council to order Councillor Terik to descry Sophie during her first year in the Lost Cities. Alden Vacker brought Sophie to Councillor Terik’s private office in Eternalia, and she cooperated fully with the descrying. But the reading results were inconclusive. Councillor Terik reported afterward that he could definitely sense something strong when it came to Sophie’s potential, but what that actually means remains unclear.


Upon the discovery of Sophie’s existence, Alden and Della Vacker applied to be her guardians—but their application was rejected because Alden’s search for Sophie had not been authorized by the Council. Sophie was instead placed at Havenfield with Grady and Edaline Ruewen, and adoption proceedings were initiated shortly thereafter. But several months later, the Ruewens canceled the adoption, citing emotional distress due to their ongoing grief over losing their daughter (Jolie Ruewen) sixteen years earlier. Alden and Della Vacker then renewed their application for guardianship, and the Council was willing to grant permission. But Sophie’s kidnapping—and brief presumed death—ended the proceedings once again. After her rescue and recovery, both the Ruewens and Vackers applied for adoption. The Council opted to leave the decision to Sophie, who chose to permanently return to Havenfield with the Ruewens.


Finalizing her adoption was surely a relief for Sophie—but it was still only a “step” toward truly feeling like a family. A period of adjustment is expected in these situations, so it wasn’t surprising that Sophie initially struggled to use terms like “Mom” and “Dad.” But for the Ruewen-Foster family (assuming that’s what they call themselves), there was the added complication of the loss of Jolie. Reports indicate that Sophie initially worried that Grady and Edaline wished she were more like their lost daughter, and she tried to avoid the subject as much as possible. She evidently also tried to avoid Jolie’s old bedroom, out of fear that she might not be allowed in there. But all of that changed when Sophie discovered that Jolie had been involved with the Black Swan.