OMG it's finally here! Now hold up a second and make sure you read this before you go all psycho ninja at the end of this chapter. Due to the fast pace of the fast part of the story and a lot of information being thrown at you all, I thought it best to break the ending up into 3 shorter, separate installments. So, this will be one and there will be two more that follow.
You will see exactly what I mean after reading this chapter. Which by the way, has some ANSWERS. Yay!!! LOL. I've included a recap which some of you requested like I did in a previous chapter. If you would like the full glossary of Fae terminology and characters, you can check out Chapter 6 before continuing.
I've also updated the My Stories Page with the new Halloween Quickish in case you missed it.
Stay tuned for some other things later this week. Blog Hop and giveaways next week! YAY!
Big hugs to all my fangirls and boys. *squeeze*
XOXO NIGHT TEMPEST
~Last Time On My Telija~
When we left off last time, Jordan was whisked away to the Elder Lands with his merry band of sidekicks and his juicy beefcake of a Ghea, Vendish. Shit got real in the forest when Jordy and Ven were getting it on and Jordan was the victim of attempted mind rape. Rain comes to the rescue and Jordan still thinks she’s the bitch who did it.
Fast forward to the part where Jordan is formally recognized as Fae. Enter the Elders. These tall, gorgeous supernatural beings that were the first creations of the Great Mother! Holy crap, there are more of them? Yep. They had start out somewhere, right? So Jordan finds out that the Mother created the Elders, eleven of them, to start the Fae race. Only one of them went all whack job and raped another one to create this evil Elder baby. Said baby grows up, takes one of the Night Fae females and bam! He creates the Yukah. Gasp. This was never supposed to happen!
This is why the Fae all fear the Yukah because they were never supposed to be. Elder Frawn, the big wig around the temple, takes time away from his new baby and consort—this female who carries his child as that is part of his job—to make babies. Anyway, he sets aside some time to teach Jordan the wonders of being Fae. Of course Rain decides to tag along and Jordan learns that she isn’t a bitch after all. She was just scared because she didn’t know him and feared for Luciana. Duh. Jordan isn’t some evil villain.
They make nice and Jordan learns to use his powers a little. While all this is going down, the Elders and some of the leaders come to the conclusion that Orla, the queen, might be the traitor because she’s the only one with powerful enough Skeenji abilities. You know, the Skeenji, those Fae that can control someone like a puppet? Yeah. Them.
She says oh hell no. I’m no traitor! So she volunteers to go into quarantine to prove them wrong. Guardwin, the king, gets hella pissed and the others set out to find the traitor because they know it’s not the queen. Ven and Hazia run into each other outside the consort’s rooms. They talk about Hazia forcing himself on Ven and Ven is like: I don’t want you all up in my bed. Hazia’s like: Well I don’t want to be in your bed because I feel like I belong in someone else’s. Boom, they’re friends again. Jordan walks in on at an imperfect time and hears about the bed thing. He’s pissed but then learns Hazia can feel his true Ghea and that he’s no threat. Awwww. Whatever.
The Fire Fae that was just born is sick and so is the mother, the consort. Jillian, Jordy’s crazy mama, finds out she’s a healer Fae, and heals them both, much to the shock of everyone else. Damn, that woman sure knows how to make an impression. But back to Ven and Jordy. They get some quiet time in the temple hot spring and reconnect like any mated couple should. *Cue Barry White*
During the love connection, Cellan, Ven’s second in command, goes on a witch hunt with his sidekicks Jambi and Quimm. They position the warriors they were allowed to bring into the Temple, because it’s supposed to be a peaceful place. Not somewhere to let your bloody sword fly. *eye roll* After parting ways, Cell starts to get the sixth sense or some shit and follows someone down the hall. It’s the cloak but he doesn’t know that! Just as he’s about to find out who is around the corner, Floxa appears. Floxa is one pissed Pixie Queen. And she brings with her the Poppy, the little girl, and her dad who witnessed Jameen in the field. She starts freaking out about her guards being dead and drained of their blood. Cellan knows that the only reason you would drain a pixie is for power. The plot thickens. And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for….Who the FUCK is The Cloak?
My Telija Chapter 7
Catching her breath, the cloak looked into the mirror around her neck. In the small necklace that had been her mother’s, she saw her eyes begin to darken. It was there that the cloak saw her fate starting to take shape. The little slips of power, the feeling of losing control, her grip on Jameen’s mind escaping her little by little. She had to reach him before her power took her to the grave—the others finally catching on to execute her immediately. She could not take on an entire army of Fae by herself. Jameen had the pixie blood she needed. If she took but a sip, she’d have everything she needed. He’d already secured an opening between the lands with the blood, getting ready to let the hunters pass into this realm.
Sometimes she felt guilty about what she was doing to these people, but only a little. They had forced this upon her. They had done this to her! The eldest of all her sisters, she was the most beautiful, the smartest and the fittest to be royalty. But it had started when Guardwin had ignored her advances in favor of Orla long ago—that stupid twit with her long blonde locks and irritating laugh. Then Jameen when he was of an age to marry. He hadn’t been interested in a relationship with her because she was not his true mate. Both men had made tremendous errors in judgment. She was the best of them all. This time, they would not pass her by, because they would have no choice.
At the moment, Jameen was a perfect example of her power, of her secret strength. Which ironically she was having trouble controlling. Hiding who you were for so long was trying and even more so among the most powerful of her kind. She had one more stop before she tracked Jameen down and welcomed the hunters into Fae lands. Unraveling her cloak from her body, she closed her eyes and sprinkled a bit of dust on her cloak. The dwarf mixture worked with the image in her mind—fashioning the cloak into an elaborate green ribbon in her hair.
Smoothing out her robes, she smiled at the guards she came upon around the corner. “Gentlemen.” She bowed a little.
“Priestess,” they returned with a lower bow.
“I wish to speak with my sister. I know she must be in an awful state, what, with everything going on. I only wish to give her encouragement for her act of strength. I find myself upset with current events, even with the Mother to hold faith in. You might find me selfish in this, as the Great Mother is all I should focus on, but I worry like everyone else.”
“It is only natural to worry so,” one guard replied.
The other stepped forward with reluctance. “But I’m afraid we are under strict orders not to—”
“I figured as much. I guess I shall go then. But, please—please tell her I think of her.” She gave her best sugary pout, wavering eyes—enough emotion to make the guards think twice.
The guards looked at each other. The first one turned back to her. “Priestess, it is not that we do not trust you completely, for you are the heart of our Mother, but if something were to go wrong—”
“Might I have a minute with her, just the barest of moments, if only to see her face? She is my sister, I beg you.”
The more suspicious of the two guards sighed heavily. He tapped the door in thought. “For you, Priestess? We will grant you a moment with our queen. No more than that.”
“You have my undying gratitude and well wishes from the Mother,” she lied, bowing her head with a hidden smile. The small mirror around her neck swayed heavily.
The guards let her through the thick door and down the stoned corridor to the only room at the end—a room that no Fae could breach for there were no windows and the ceiling towered some three to four stories above. Not to mention the pixie magic that kept the room secured for its tenant. No prisoner here could leave unless the field was broken by the one who put it there.
Sweeping gracefully into the room, The Cloak swirled, allowing her robes to pool around her feet. Her long locks fell over her breasts to her waist with the beautiful green ribbon weaved into her lone braid. Her blue eyes smiling, she looked to epitome of Fae beauty.
Orla gathered her dark skirts and rose with emotion. To see her sister standing there eased her heart and mind a little—a pleasant gift to her, no doubt from the Mother herself. Even under the greatest of duress, she kept her faith with their one and only.
“Yarnah,” she breathed. “Have you news of the outside? I am desperate to hear from my mate. Is he well?”
“A bit saddened I’m sure, but he is in good health. Sit, sit, rest a bit.” The Priestess followed suit on the small bed provided. “The question remains, my sister, how are you?”
“Disheartened I’m afraid. To sit in this room and know I could help them all is torture. But, I know this is for the best. I am their queen and I must give them no reason to squabble over my abilities. I have done nothing wrong and I will sit here in silence for however long it takes to clear my name—to bring them peace of mind.”
“How noble of you.” Yarnah smiled, but the sinister edge to her voice was right on the cusp. “You’ve always been so regal in your rule, so graceful and poised. They would never think ill of you. After all you’ve done to right their wrongs.”
Something felt strange to Orla. Not magic, not power, but plain and simply strange from her sister that she had known her entire life. It was unlike Yarnah to fawn over her as if she was reading her traits. Her sister knew she didn’t care to be cast as if she was on a pedestal—above the people she ruled, when she truly was no different. There was the occasional compliment that was truly heart felt from her humble sister, but this was different. Yarnah was different.
“Are you feeling well, Yarnah?” Orla looked to her sister’s profile.
“Oh, I am fine, sister dear.” Yarnah kept her face to the wall as a smile crept over her mouth. “But I will be better when this is all finished.”
A foreboding chill slithered up Orla’s spine. Somehow she knew those words were not meant as Yarnah said them. “You mean once we’ve caught the traitor?”
“No.” Yarnah pulled the mirror from around her neck—a blood laced imprint of her powers clinging to it. Orla was not to use her own abilities in captivity and Yarnah needed to leave this place without being noticed. This would surely do the trick.
“Then whatever are you referring to?” Orla scooted away slowly, her fists clenched to her skirts.
When Yarnah looked up her eyes bled black with evil magic, careful to not let her powers seep through. “I mean, sister dear, when you are all finished.”
“No,” Orla whispered.
She could taste the barest hint of dwarf magic on her tongue as the necklace slithered from Yarnah’s lap like a snake. Her voice refused to work, to call for help—to save herself. The heavy, magic laced chain wrapped around her arm, working up her body until it attached around her neck—the mirror falling right over her chest.
“You are now a reflection of myself—a traitor, the enemy,” Yarnah murmured, watching the mirror’s image pulse with darkened eyes within its surface before bleeding back to normal. “I must thank you for taking the fall on this one. I needed a moment to gather myself before leaving. But rest assured, I will take your grandchild just like I took your son. Ghea or no, Jordan will be mine—the ultimate weapon against you all. For when I take my powers to the fullest extent, he will have no choice, but to bend to my will.”
Yarnah stood with kind eyes looking down at her gasping sister. The mirror would be working by now. She would only have a few moments before the Skeenji imprint went off like an alarm, creating a distraction for her to leave. Her sister would be ruined, shamed by her people—chaos would ensue and they would all think Orla the traitor while she let the hunters into Fae lands. It was perfect.
“Well wishes, my sister. For you will need them.” Yarnah did a dramatic bow. She swept the skirt of her robes over her arm and made for the door.
Orla raised her hand to try and reach for something that wasn’t there—a last attempt at calling for help that she knew wouldn’t come. The mirror slid under the fabric at her chest, hiding in plain sight as she heard the heavy door slam shut. Her sister, Yarnah, was the traitor they had been looking for.
Vendish held me close in his lap. Sleep had taken us for just a little bit in the hot spring before Jambi shouted from the entrance.
“Oi! Your highness!” The hulking black warrior with snow white stubble capping his head and liquid blue eyes seemed terrified—scratch that, alert, protective even.
“Mm?” Ven groaned to awareness. “What did you say, Telija?”
“Vendish!” Jambi stomped to the edge of the spring, crouching down to see through the steam with a hand as a visor. “Oi!”
“Jambi?” Ven shook me off his lap gently. He stood tall, splicing through the water towards Jambi’s voice. “It would seem you have an important task to interrupt my private time with my Ghea.”
“It would seem that way now, wouldn’t it?” The warrior clucked his tongue, standing up to look down at his prince. “Many things be important at the moment, deadly even.”
“What’s happened?” Ven emerged from the water, completely nude, but not bashful for one second.
“For one, guards tapped Orla’s power on the rise minutes ago—her Skeenji power be like a mighty bonfire. Two, pixie sent word through the temple to Quimm and I that Cell had words with Floxa. She spouting off about Jameen killin her guard, all of them. Says they was drained and she has witnesses that saw Jameen in Fae lands.”
“What!” Vendish scrambled for his tunic, following with his leggings and boots. “Telija, stay here!”
“You can’t be serious. I’m going with you.” I swam over to the edge.
“He’s right, my prince. Elder Frawn wants him immediately, you too. Everyone is gathered and waiting with her.”
“Who?” My brow furrowed.
“Orla,” Jambi replied solemnly. “She used her powers, Jordan, full blown abilities and all.”
I stared at him, his eyes bright and sure of what he said. “No. No way, she wouldn’t do that.”
“Whatever you say, wee one. I only speak the truth.” Jambi bowed to his prince and waited just outside the entrance.
“This shit is over. I am done wandering my way through this blind. Everything that’s happened since I’ve arrived has all been connected to me and I am done playing the victim, the poor little maiden. My grandmother didn’t do this and you damn well know it! And if you start telling me it could be true, so help me God, I will smack you so hard your brain rattles.”
Ven raised his brows. “That sounds quite forceful. But believe me, Telija. I back your beliefs on this. Orla is no traitor.”
“Good. Then let’s go raise hell.”
Again, he was confused. “Hell?”
“Good lord, never mind. Come on.” I dressed quickly, grabbed his arm and rushed past Jambi. The warrior caught up to us, weaving around so he was in the lead.
“Give me an update before I walk into chaos, my brother.” Vendish kept his eyes on the entrance fast approaching.
“The Elders and Guardwin believe Jameen be in Fae for sure. Jilly say so with all her heart—only true Ghea know that for fact. She say she seen him in the darkness with monsters.”
“Monsters?” I rolled my eyes. “My mom is a little off these days if you hadn’t noticed.”
“She’s not off, Jordan, she only a free spirit. Most healers be that way, full of light and carefree. Only natural I say.” Jambi shrugged. “But I believe her same as the others. What I don’t believe is Jameen killin the Pixie Guard now. That is mad chat from Floxa—she out of her good mind.”
“Oh yeah, that’s the last thing I forget to tell you. Your mother be a healer of the brightest kind. Save a wee Fire Fae earlier and Frawn’s consort from the fever. Not that bad normally, but it was an act of the Great Mother that Jilly was there at the time. She say she is the light, well, I believe her now.” Jambi smirked as if replaying the image in his head.
“I feel like we should be taking a commercial break. So much drama for one episode,” I muttered under my breath. Ven looked at me funny.
“Commercial? What is this? You need a break?” The large prince cocked his head, still walking beside me.
“Never mind.” I sighed. “Is my mother okay, Jambi?”
“Yes, she be just fine. A little on the edge after feeling Jameen I think, but she be in good health.” The warrior never looked back. He was on high alert, walking ahead of us, looking around corners before letting us pass open doorways.
“And my grandfather?”
“That be another story. He is, mm how should I say, pissed off, mad as hell Luciana said. Been throwin water around as if creating his own ocean. They chained Orla before the elders. I fear he might go mad.”
“Oh hell no!” I pushed past him. Pissed off didn’t cover the rage rushing through my veins, the shadows emerging along my arms and chest.
“No!” I barely gave the guards at the double doors time to open them before I pushed into a world of madness.
On the polished stone floor sat Orla. Tears ran down her face, marring her beauty with blotchy red patches. Her hair limp, instead of radiant, covered her back and chest like a protective blanket while Brutus crouched before her, tugging on golden chains as if to make sure they were secure. I could feel the power of her bondage, something I didn’t want to go near, but I did anyways.
“Jordan, do not approach her.” Elder Frawn descended the steps from the Elder thrones.
“You—” I pointed at him. “—will not tell me what to do. You aren’t my king and you have no right over me!” I rushed to Orla’s side, feeling the sizzle of power fighting with my own abilities from the chains that bound her.
“Jordan,” she sobbed. Her hands found mine. “I didn’t do it. You must believe me.”
“Who did this to you?” I searched her eyes.
“These?” She lifted her wrists in question.
I shook my head. “I know you didn’t just bust a move with your powers after you volunteered to be quarantined. Who made you do it?”
“I cannot remember. I woke up screaming and my guards still cannot wake. It is as if they are sleeping. Why would I do this if I could not leave that room, Jordan? I had no motive to hurt my own people.” Her eyes locked with her mate across the room—held there by six men who were drenched with Guardwin’s power, water dripping from every inch of their bodies.
“I am well, my love,” she tried.
“You are not well!” He roared, another blast of water swirling out of his body to splash across the stone.
“Jordan, step away from Orla. Now.” Elder Frawn commanded.
I shook my head as my eyes bled black. “Touch me or her, and I swear—”
“Elder Frawn, Jordan is more than capable of holding his own at the moment. Please don’t give him reason to be any angrier.” Vendish stepped up to me, staring into Frawn’s eyes. “As this is your lands, I understand your need to take charge, but seeing as how all the others standing here are under our rule, I am the only one eligible at the moment to command my own.”
“Very well,” Frawn hissed. “But know that if they find themselves out of line again, I will be taking charge—Royal or not.”
“Understood.” Vendish narrowed his eyes. “Unchain her, immediately.”
Elder Frawn flicked his eyes to a dwarf sitting on the steps with a nod. Bored, or so it seemed, the dwarf yawned his way to his feet and pushed up his sleeves. Cautiously, he approached us until his hands were just above the large chains that bound Orla at the throat and limbs. His eyes at first brightened—a vivid green comparable to fresh spring grass. They bloomed into a brilliant gold as his magic worked its course. The chains began to slither away, but Orla hissed in pain. Something clinked to the ground under her skirts, but it wasn’t from the chains.
“Tis other magic on her now. I can smells it like burning hair,” the dwarf inhaled, wriggling his nose with distaste. “Funny I didn’t smells it before. Powerful it be. Hmm. Careful wee one. Let me take a look—dwarf magic surely ain’t to be messed with.”
Orla ransacked her skirts until something shiny flickered from under her dress. “That can’t be.” She frowned, rubbing her neck where a red mark appeared. “I haven’t seen that mirror in a very long time.”
“It’s yours?” The dwarf squinted, crouching until he looked like a cat studying the mirror.
“It was my mother’s mirror—a gift from our father on their mating night.” Orla went to touch it. “No one has seen this in ages.”
The dwarf slapped her hand away. “Ain’t no gift here, only evil. Seems we has more than one traitor here. One dwarf to power to this and another to give it to you.”
“What is it?” I kneeled over the mirror, inspecting it with the tiny man.
“An imprint, a blood imprint it tis. It holds another Fae’s powers for a while. A mirror of all objects tis the worst to leave an imprint on. Ever hear bout breaking a mirror?” The dwarf looked up.
“Seven years bad luck, right?”
“More like a lifetime if an imprint tis on it. Breaking the object releases the power onto the person who owns it at the time. The mirror becomes a reflection of the imprint, of the powers the person put on it, a reflection on the person who bein cursed. Tis all bad, all the way round.”
“Why would someone want an imprint then?” I eyed the man again.
“Some make them as memories of their loved ones, the unfortunate souls who’ve passed. But most know to imprint an object that don’t break—a ring, a cast iron pot, a stone. Holding the object makes them feel their loved one briefly. Tis an act of love, wee one, not harm. Usin this as a source of evil—” He clucked his tongue, irritated. “—that be a soul worth burnin. Elder Frawn?”
“Yes?” Frawn crossed his arms.
“Gonna need a few others to contain this.” He waddled around the mirror in thought. “But I tell you now, I know with all I am, our queen ain’t no traitor.”
“Then who killed my guard!” A large pixie zipped above us angrily. She landed on my shoulder, startled as the shadows wisped around her feet.
“Ah, Floxa.” The dwarf winked.
“Don’t you try to charm me, you tired old gimp! I will drain that traitor myself. Tell me who, dwarf.”
“Ain’t no tellin just yet.” He sighed heavily.
Another set of feet landed on my other shoulder. A little hand soothed over my ear and I smiled. “Hello, Daega,” I whispered.
“Hello, Jordan,” she whispered back in my ear.
I looked to Vendish who was still staring at Elder Frawn—the battle in their eyes obvious. “Then we must act quickly. Cellan, make a list of all that are unaccounted for. As well as anyone that came through the temple in the past few days. The Priests and Priestesses will know.
Jambi, find Jillian a quiet space and work with her. Kimella, go with him and see if she can’t connect to Jameen—find out where he is. Quimm, send word to the men outside the lands and tell them to rally our troops. I want men on that field where he was last seen. Bring the Pixie guard bodies back with you so Floxa may give them ceremony. My king, I know that you are upset, but we need to meet with all the leaders and tell them what is happening, set a plan in motion in case this truly is a war and not one traitor with a motive.”
Guardwin made way for his mate, falling to his knees and sweeping her into his lap—wet and all, Orla didn’t care. She wept into his neck, clung to his back and hair— a reunion that caused me to search for Ven’s hand. My own mate hauled me to my feet.
“My king?” Ven wrapped an arm around me.
“Yes, call in the leaders,” he growled.
Nodding, Ven turned to the steps. “Elder Frawn, we shall require the Elders backing on this.”
“You have our blessing and our help. This traitor has caused enough feuding among us. It’s time to clean up around here.” He looked at my mate once more. There was an agreement in the air. The Elders would fight with us from the sounds of things.
An hour later, I sat in a smaller room watching my mother. With everything that had been going on, I felt like I neglected her somehow. She was just as much a part of this as I was and I couldn’t help but feel responsible for her feelings. She wasn’t crying but she was definitely withdrawn. Sitting in a chair by the window, my mother allowed Aunt Kim to brush her hair.
Across the room, Lu held my hand as we sat on the bench. We watched and waited for Jambi to clear his mind. The Spirit Fae was deep in meditation, cleansing himself of everything in hopes of connecting with my mother’s mind. When his ice blue eyes slit open, Lu jumped next to me. He had been still for so long, his gaze was unnerving.
“I can feel her now. She be hard to read, but she there.” He rose in a fluid motion from his spot on the floor. “Kimella, may I?”
Aunt Kim nodded. “Be gentle. I can feel her stress.”
“I can hear you both,” my mother murmured. Everyone looked at her.
“Jilly?” Aunt Kim bent down. “How are you?”
“Tired, I am tired of being without him,” she whispered, smoothing her hand over the stones of the window. “He is so close, yet, so far away.”
“Do you know where Jameen is, Jilly?” Jambi moved into place behind her. Kim stepped back to give him some room.
“It is always dark there. Always black and smells of dirt. He is trying to break free.” Her eyes creased in the corners. Her lip trembled. “But he can’t without me.” Her wings fluttered as Jambi settled his hands on her shoulders.
“Close your eyes for me, Jillian. Do not dwell on how you are sad. Only think of him.” Jambi took a deep breath and something cold filled the room.
The only thing I could think of was my mother’s eerie vision for my father. Dark, dirt and trapped, it sounded like a grave to me. But he couldn’t be dead if she felt him, right? I tightened my hand on Lu’s.
“Please, Mother, help us,” my cousin whispered a prayer.
It was then that I realized I was the only one in the room that had never had a connection with the great deity. What if I was offending her by not reaching outside of my box and calling to this woman for help? Could I be the reason she had yet to make an appearance or offer aid when we needed it the most?
Closing my eyes as Jambi’s power rose, I bowed my head. “Help us… Great Mother.”
Lu’s arm slid around my shoulders. Her face buried in my neck as the chill of the room grew cooler.
“I can feel him.” Jambi’s excitement caused my eyes to open. “I can feel his spirit! He is—”
A great wind rattled the windows. They swung madly on their iron hinges. Beneath the layers of Jambi’s power, something inside me recognized another with us. My eyes flicked to the darkened doorway as everyone concentrated on the Spirit Fae. It was there that I saw a woman made of windswept dust. I felt her smile rather than saw it. Her transparent hand reached out. A brush of cool air caressed my cheek.
The windows stilled and the wind died, leaving a pile of dust on the ground. The woman was gone. For as much as I had seen since I’d been in Fae, I knew not to be surprised anymore. But what I had just witnessed was unlike anything I’d witnessed to date. I knew with all my heart, I had just been paid a visit by the one that started it all. The Great Mother had just blessed me.
“Something is happening.” Jambi drew my attention once more. “I can’t control it.”
His hands dug into my mother’s shoulders. Lu and I stood. As much as I wanted to be happy for what had just happened, I could feel exactly what Jambi was saying. Like bees to honey, we were drawn to my mother. Her hands lifted and a smile on her lips.
“There you are,” she said to no one in particular.
And like the light she claimed to be, the light she became. Her skin glowed so bright, it burned my eyes but still, I couldn’t look away.
“Jordy!” Lu cried out. Her hand gripped Jambi and I knew she couldn’t control it. My hand shot out, landing on his back. Kimella screamed, grabbing onto the warrior’s hand.
“Hang on!” I yelled over the loud buzz filling the room. And then we were engulfed in light. Not a first for me, unfortunately.
The light died into almost darkness and when my eyes adjusted, the view was nothing short of a war zone. I had no idea where we were but I recognized Sena in the middle of it all. The great Yukah raised his claws to the back of a large man dressed in all black. His claws connected into flesh, ripping down until blood covered his glistening black scales.
“Hunters!” Lu screamed.
Her hands flew up in front of her as a black mist was hurled from the other direction. Water rushed from her fingers, engulfing the mist to contain it. I had only had one lesson in battle training. What the hell was I going to do! Scared, but determined as the others fanned out alongside the Yukah, I closed my eyes to will my powers to life. My hand was filled with something heavy and when I opened my eyes. The black Staff of Shadows filled my palm, the blue stone at the top burned bright in the dark.
“Whatever feels right!” Jambi advised to me at the top of his lungs, whipping out a blade covered in wisps of cool air. “Get behind me, Jilly!”
Jambi raised his blade into the air. “I seek help from the spirits who rest here! Come and fight for your people as you would have in life! Mother, bless them well!”
The fog over the ground rose higher on our bodies. The hunters had no time to look around at what was happening. Keeping back the Yukah seemed hard enough without having their attention diverted. Sena hissed and struck another hunter in the face before he could cast a mist, following the body into the fog for further destruction.
Kimella ran to her daughter, linking hands with Lu. “Focus, Luciana—together now.” When they raised their hands as one, a wave of water rose from the fog—sweeping over four incoming hunters.
Awestruck at the powers flying around me, I looked down at the staff. It glowed brighter as if telling me something. The shadows burned on my skin, rising higher into the air—twisting, curled and begging to play. Normally, I would’ve thought twice about letting them out, but now that I sort of knew how to control them, and we we’re in the middle of a battle, I decided to let my freak flag fly.
On instinct I raised the staff into the dark just as the fog began to swirl like an ocean of milky white. The muck beneath our feet shook, trembled the ground and left little room for balance or concentration. If you’ve ever heard someone say, I see dead people, they have no fucking clue what they’re talking about. Because what happened then? That would forever be ingrained in mind.
Amidst the battling beings in the dark woods emerged others—because you couldn’t really call them people anymore. Rotted and pieces missing, some only skeletons of their former selves, the spirits of the dead rose from their graves. Jambi cut his sword through the air. The dead began to approach our enemy.
The great, dark warrior was more than some aura reader. He commanded the dead. The hunters only increased, walking through some invisible barrier as if it was nothing but air. This was the protective boundary I had heard of. The only thing was. It wasn’t protecting anything anymore. The dead pulled weapons from their belts and backs, objects they must have been buried with long ago. Their magic wisped around them much like Jambi’s and they attacked the hunters as if they were still alive—moving and disappearing just like real Fae.
My mother clung to Jambi’s back. Her hands still glowed like she was feeding him power. All the while, she called for my father above the chaos. Like he would come to her if she only screamed his name louder and louder. When I realized I was just standing there, I looked to the tree in the middle of some sort of swamp. Something about it called to me. The thick bark was black like the shadows and twisty like the staff. Every move I made toward it felt right.
My stride became wider. Soon enough, my boot made contact with bark. I couldn’t seem to stop myself from climbing up to the flattest part.
Jambi cut his eyes to me, terrified. “Jordan! No!”
Whatever lay under this tree was powerful. Spelled, I kneeled on the flat root and pressed the staff to its surface. The sounds of the battle seemed to die away. My focus was lost to the swirling fog and the thrum of something below. With its stoned tip, the staff radiated a magnificent blue. The same blue glow beamed around my wrist. This was where I was supposed to be. Water surrounded me, made me feel safe. The black of the tree reflected the shadows slithering upon my skin—the markings covering my body.
Whatever it meant to be the Keeper of The Shadows, I was about to find out. No sooner had the thought occurred in my mind, the fog began to clear around me. I gasped in fear as a large yellow eye blinked under the water, swimming away before I could study the beast too closely. Earlier at the temple, Elder Frawn had shown me the book that most Fae would never get to see. Within its pages had been a depiction of the man that was partly my ancestor, raising his hands to the sky. In the night air had been… dragons.
Looking up to find some security in another’s eyes, I was only greeted by a wall of fog. No one could help me with this part of the journey, no matter how unprepared I was. This was my own task to bear. So with a deep breath in and another out, I gripped the staff for all that I was worth. I knew in that moment, these beasts, whatever they were, were mine to call.
Where they had come from or if they were only Shadow filled nightmares, it didn’t matter. All I knew for sure was that they would fight for me and together we would clean Fae of all dark magic that wished us harm. A face formed in the water next to me. A smile made of pitch liquid assured me this was the right thing to do. She had been with me all along.
Bowing my head, I remembered what Elder Frawn had said. I whispered to her. “I am the Keeper of The Shadows and with a clean heart. I will protect the Fae with my last breath.”
“For your love of everything pure, I grant you means to an end. For you are a true warrior and one of my own children. Know that my love knows no bounds. Be brave, young Keeper.” The words blew through my ears on a warm breeze. Her voice filled me with a confidence I had never had. For the first time in all my life, I had a purpose. The Mother was with me.
Eyes narrowed and an excited draw to my lips, I slammed the staff on the root and screamed into the night. “I am your Keeper! Come to me!”
The tree unraveled beneath me. Thousands of swirling tendrils pulled apart to reveal the water below. My heart raced but I wasn’t scared as black scales formed under my fingers and large wings began to rise behind my straddled thighs. Still I remained fearless as thick, creased lids opened a foot in front of me—yellow eyes bigger than my palm, cocked to look back at me. Another head rose to my right, shadows huffed from large nostrils as they emerged dripping with what looked like ink.
Yet another head slithered like a crocodile towards me, lifting only a foot away. How many had been trapped in this place and for how long? I had no idea but they just kept coming. When the tree had all but disappeared from behind me, at least a dozen dragons looked back at me from the foggy waters. The one I sat on was the largest. His body was warm but slick, scaly with pointed ears. He was beautiful yet destructive.
So much power under me and I was not sure what to do with it. I leaned forward and stroked between his ears. His head swiveled back to me. His mighty tail curled, splashing back into the water in excitement.
“Can you hear me?” I kept my hand still between his ears. Familiar whispers filled my head. The ones I had heard from the very first time that the shadows had made an appearance.
“Yes.” They sounded like an echo—all of them at the same time.
“You’ve been trying to talk to me the whole time, haven’t you?”
“Yes. To serve you.”
I looked around at the waiting eyes, their bodies lifting from the water. Darker than black, powerful—these creatures were mine to command.
“Then… we take on the hunters and destroy them all?”
“If that is your will.”
“I have to protect them, the Fae.”
“We will protect the Fae,”they echoed in my head.
I didn’t have to see myself to know my eyes were black. But unlike my predecessor, I was going to use my power to help. And right now, the Fae needed me. I sent thoughts of love to my Ghea, hoping he would feel me. All my heart went out into the world in search of him. If something were to happen, at least he would know how grateful I was for all that he’d done to bring me to this point, how much I loved him now and wished we had nothing but a happy ending in our future. But just in case… I sent Vendish my heart.
Knowing I would never get another chance to say this, I smiled wide. Smoothing a hand over the dragon’s scales, I raised my staff.
“Tonight, we ride!” I kicked gently into the dragon’s side and lifted into the air—a laugh of excitement from deep in my throat. Large wings flapped, shadows flared from their nostrils and my hair whipped around my face as we breached the fog and entered the war zone.
To Be Continued…