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A Dark Faerie Tale Series Omnibus Edition (Books 4, 5, & 6)

A Dark Faerie Tale Series Omnibus Edition (Books 4, 5, & 6)

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A Dark Faerie Tale Series Omnibus Edition (Books 4, 5, & 6)

Länge:
702 Seiten
12 Stunden
Freigegeben:
Apr 22, 2015
ISBN:
9781311102492
Format:
Buch

Beschreibung

Grab the first three books of this series for a how deal price right now in A Dark Faerie Tale Series Omnibus Edition (Books 1, 2, 3, & Extras)!

Get lost in an addictive fantasy adventure! A fan favorite, this boxed set lets you continue the adventures of The Land of Faerie with beloved characters, new addictions and never ending magic!

This three-novel boxed set contains:
Ever Wrath (A Dark Faerie Tale #4)
History of Fire (A Dark Faerie Tale #5)
Ever Dead (A Dark Faerie Tale #6)

Ever Wrath:
Shade rules as Queen of the Seelie Summer Court with her love, a Teleen Faerie named Dylan at her side. But, the dark court of Unseelie faeries will do everything in their power to rule the earth, including enslaving the human world. Arthas, the Unseelie Ancient King, has shattered the boundaries of Faerie and the human cities are filling with his evil, unearthly armies.

History of Fire:
Benton is human, but he walks the line between two worlds: the mundane and the supernatural; the commonplace and the extraordinary. As a rare Fire Elemental Warlock, he finds himself in trouble more often than he cares to admit. It doesn’t help that his sister is a Faery Queen of the Summer Seelie Court.
This is Benton’s story as he makes his way between the mortal world and a world where magic reigns. Do you dare follow? Do you dare see what lurks just beyond the edge of perception?

Ever Dead:
Confronted by a warrior named Benton, who has the ability to disintegrate other beings with his flaming sword, Hank’s world continues to spiral away from reality. Especially when he inadvertently discovers a whole new world, unknown to most of humankind...along with the surprising realization that he is inescapably tied to this new and magical land.

All three novels in one thrilling boxed set!

Freigegeben:
Apr 22, 2015
ISBN:
9781311102492
Format:
Buch

Über den Autor

Alexia is a USA Today Bestselling author who currently lives in Las Vegas and loves spending every free moment writing or hanging out with her four rambunctious kids. Writing is the ultimate getaway for her since she's always lost in her head. She is best known for her award-winning Reign of Blood series, and A Dark Faerie Tale Series.Sign up for email updates and exclusive giveaways: http://smarturl.it/AlexiaPurdyNewsAlexia's websites:www.alexiapurdybooks.comhttp://alexiaepurdy.blogspot.comTwitter: @AlexiaPurdyAlexia Purdy Fan page:https://www.facebook.com/AlexiaPurdyAuthorA Dark Faerie Tale Series by Alexia Purdy FB page:https://www.facebook.com/ADarkFaerieTaleSeriesReign of Blood Series FB page:https://www.facebook.com/RoBbooks


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A Dark Faerie Tale Series Omnibus Edition (Books 4, 5, & 6) - Alexia Purdy

Wrath

(A Dark Faerie Tale #4)

Dedicated to the members of my street team.

No one works harder than you guys do! Love you! ~A

Prologue

Lana’s Ballad to Shade

Never underestimate anyone. Even those you consider to be the closest of your friends can turn against you in an instant. You know this, and I can never tell you this enough. Never assume you know whom you are dealing with. There was a time I thought I knew so many things, but they pale in comparison to what I know now. Those you trust the most, those who love you with the entirety of their being, those whose blood runs in your veins as well—they will be the ones lying dead at your feet when all is said and done. In the meantime, hold on to the ones you love, hold on tightly, memorize their faces, their voices. Cherish the way they laugh because, when the time comes and the darkness seems vast, insatiable and untouchable, that is when you’ll need those memories, those pictures in your mind to help you find the tiny sparks in the dark. Your enemies will stand face to face with you and wait to watch you crumble under the weight of their unflinching stares. Never give them such satisfaction. With that, with your soul and sense of self intact, you can crush them into a billion little pieces before they can even realize what you’ve done.

Don’t let the weariness bring you to murkiness and loss. It may seem like it’s endless and can chip away at your soul bit by tiny bit. I’ve been there, and I’m here. Your mother is here, your father, your spirit guides. We may stand in the background, forgotten at times and lost to the chaotic mess life can turn into, an afterthought. But we are the tiny lights, the flames burning in the pitch of night like stars in the sky. Don’t ever let go, and we’ll always be here to guide you. Nothing will hold us from you. Your powers are immense, but your heart is the greatest magic of all. Never forget it, for the trials and tribulations ahead will want you to forget. They will seek to drain you, wither your soul and chip away at your strength in every way possible. You will persevere. There is no other choice.

Memory is gold, and the memories I have given you will be your saving light when the world’s hope burns out and there is nothing but ash and dust left in its place. Never forget these things. Never let go of yourself.

The words made her flinch with a sharp pain along her temples. Shade rubbed the tingling away, recalling the words her grandmother Lana whispered into her head in her dreams. In times of doubt and despair, she could hear her the most. Lana’s memories had danced along the tips of Shade’s thoughts since she had downed the memory potion Lana had created for her before she died in exile.

Thinking of the loss of her Faery grandmother and, recently, her mother Jade, brought searing tears to Shade’s eyes. The thoughts stung like a prickling cactus sinking its needles into her brain. She missed them often, even though Lana was always with her, every moment of every day.

It was a precious feeling, listening to Lana’s whispers spiraling across her mind, an energy she clutched to her chest as she took in a deep breath and focused on the horizon. Something told her the biggest battle she would ever have to face was coming, tumbling across the oceans and land, an unbridled beast who knew nothing of love, nothing of family—only hate and destruction. Shade had been preparing for that moment for a while now, but the constant struggle and vigilance was exhausting. Still, she gripped her sword with a victorious determination as the days went on, never letting her guard down and keeping an ever-constant watchful eye.

The Unseelie army was going to pay for taking so much from her. Aveta, Arthas… all of them would be made to pay for every hurt, every loss and drop of crimson blood shed from her loved ones. It was a debt which must be paid for with nothing less than equal compensation. It would never be dismissed, and she would make sure it would be collected, regardless of cost or time. Mortality could wait.

Chapter One

The Lake

The viscous flow of blood dripped from the razor’s edge of Shade’s sword, black as pitch, which coated the ground beneath her in a gritty mess. She could hear the next Unseelie warrior coming around the bend, where the pine trees stood tall and the ground shifted with the accumulation of dried leaves and needles. Bending her knees, she held the sword out horizontally. Her eyes focused on the faraway drifts of rustling wind, and her ears listened to every traitorous snap of twigs under feet.

With a blur, she flicked her wrists, and the blade met its target, allowing another smear of red to join the darkened, sticky blood pouring over her fingers and embedding itself in the cracked lines in her hands. The warrior fell, never to fight again. He hadn’t had even a chance to reciprocate. She listened for more, but nothing else echoed across the vast trunks of trees with their branches softly swaying in the breeze, stretching across the horizon like welcoming arms.

Wiping her sword on the dirty clothes covering one of the downed Unseelie she had bested, she frowned, noting their pale skin and blackened eyes. A flash of memory stumped her, and a vision of the malicious Lady Blythe echoed in her mind. The woman’s inhuman screech resonated like a phantom, chastising her as her blackened insect eyes stared her down from a time long ago. Lady Blythe, evil Queen of the Dryads and ally to the Unseelie Queen Aveta, was long dead and only lived in a sliver of Shade’s thoughts.

Are there any more? Nautilus bounded from behind her, his long, dark dreadlocks swinging over his shoulders as he halted. Dylan flanked her to the right, covered in equal amounts of dirt and blood. His black hair was dusted from a struggle, and dried leaves stuck to his armor as his gleaming, steel-colored eyes scanned the horizon, eager for more-challenging foes.

No, that’s the last of them for now, she answered. She pulled a rag from her pack and wiped her hands as best she could. An odd, chilled feeling washed over her as she watched the rag turn colors from the gore and blood. How long ago had she been a normal teenager, struggling with grades, homework and meddling voices echoing in her head? Now… well, things were vastly different. She was a queen of an entire Faerie realm, engaged to a handsome Teleen warrior, and didn’t have any qualms about killing anyone.

It made her chuckle and shake her head, earning a puzzled look from both Dylan and Nautilus.

The hardened shell around her heart had solidified the day her mother was killed. Jade had been her rock, the one person who’d kept her family from falling apart. Now it was all up to Shade to keep her sister and brothers together. Benton was in charge, for now, back at the Scren Palace in the south, even after griping and grumbling about missing out on the action of this precarious mission. Shade just couldn’t risk losing any more family. It would crush what little humanity was left inside her.

Hopefully, all would go as planned and they would be on their way back home to the palace with the Summer Ancient Kilara in tow. If they were lucky, they’d find Rowan, the Spring Ancient, as well. But that was a big if.

Shade squinted toward the horizon, down into the majestic lake below. More morbid feelings crept into her chest and arrested her breath before she could swat them away. Closing her eyes, she concentrated on slowing her heart rate, willing the uncertainty to leave. Nothing would stop her from completing her mission. She’d make sure the Unseelie would pay with flesh and blood for everything they’d done to her and her family, and more.

Hey. Dylan’s voice yanked her out of her head, and she glanced over to him as his warm hand slipped over her shoulder. What’s bothering you?

Shaking her head, she stuffed the bloody cloth back into her pack and stood up. We’re close. I can feel Kilara. We need to continue to the shoreline of the lake. I know her sanctuary can’t be that far. With that, she paused, indulging in a brief admiration of his features and flushing as he reciprocated.

Since leaving Teleen, his light skin had morphed into a nice, rich tan, causing the startling shine of his gunmetal eyes to flash even brighter than before. His dark, black hair had grown past his shoulders, stopping mid back in length, but remained tied back in a tight ponytail. She reached up to push back a loose strand of black then plucked a small leaf clinging to his locks. His sharp nose flared, and she could tell her touch was affecting him more than she would ever know.

Watching him react to her actions made a smile play at the corners of her mouth. She felt it, too, even when she let her hand drop away to find her ring finger, where her engagement band remained snug against her skin. It tingled, filled with magic. In Faerie, the promise of marriage carried powerful bonds. She knew Dylan’s matching ring would be tingling as well, letting them both feel their emotions even more than without the rings. Their blood bind amplified their connection, which had been unsettling at first, but she’d gotten more used to it as time went on. It stopped short of allowing them to read each other’s thoughts—she was grateful it didn’t go that far—and even though it was rather invasive, it was still comforting at times.

Let’s go. Dylan offered his hand to her, and she slipped her grimy fingers, still sticky with blood, through his. At least down by the water they could wash up before continuing. Hopefully, the small bands of Unseelie soldiers had finished with them for now.

Trekking their way down the mountainside, Shade felt more at home than she’d ever felt at the Scren Palace. The weather was cooler here, but the smell of pine and mulch laced with a taint of ozone was calming. The robust trees stretched upward with seemingly endless branches, stroking the sky. Maybe one day, she would live here. Maybe then the insanity of it all would smooth over and let her breathe once more. With Aveta and Arthas lurking about, it would be a terribly long time before peace would once again reign.

And if it’s not on the shoreline? Nautilus jogged up beside her, pushing Dylan ahead of them. He didn’t exactly like Dylan, but the mutual respect of a former captain and a current captain of the Teleen Guard kept them in check.

If what’s not on the shoreline? Shade asked and craned her neck toward him, confused by his question.

Lake Tahoe is a vast lake, very cold and exceptionally deep. It’s a former volcano, now dormant. So many places to hide at the bottom of a dark lake, don’t you think? Though it does make for a perfect place for Kilara’s sanctuary. Nautilus smirked.

His eyes sparkled, as if he was mischievously hiding some conniving thoughts under their twinkling exteriors. They were similar to Dylan’s, but with hazel specks throughout and without the metal sheen. His skin was also darker. The days spent outdoors had quickly shaded it even more since they’d met, making his dark dreadlocks stand starkly against the browning of his tan. His merfolk and Teleen background was puzzling, making Shade wonder how that had come about.

That’s what you’re here for. Shade threw him a toothy grin and changed direction, following Dylan down a brushy incline where the branches poked at her arms and scraped her skin, grasping at her as if to never let her escape. The sharp rocks dug into her hands as she allowed her body to slide down the slope, steadying herself with one arm. It was the fastest way to get down, but not one without annoying injuries.

I can swim down there, if that’s what you mean, but you, Miss Elemental, can’t breathe underwater. Or… can you? Nautilus caught up at the bottom of the hill, but she didn’t answer him. Joining her, he reached over to pluck some twigs ensnarled with the ends of Shade’s hair as she dusted her clothes off. Dylan’s eyes burned into him from ahead, but he didn’t care. He was always game for an invigorating spat.

Shade ignored them both, more bothered by the leather armor making her sweaty and itchy under her clothes. It did little to keep the dirt from working its way under it all on this hot July afternoon, it had her wanting to dive into the cold waters below as quickly as possible.

We’ll row to the middle of the lake if we have to. Wherever I can feel her power the most. That’s where we’ll have to dive and look. She paused and glanced over to Nautilus, who was scoping out the shimmering water ahead. We’ll search the entire lake bottom if we have to. There are ways of breathing under water even if you aren’t part merfolk, aren’t there?

If anyone knew the answer to that, Nautilus would be the one. Yes. He smiled to himself, as though he knew she’d known the answer all along. Nothing gets past you, Shade.

A lot gets past me.

His gaze turned serious as he slowed down to a halt beside her. Not everything. Craning his neck, he squinted at the choppy waves ahead, reflecting the sun’s late afternoon gleam. The water called to him, sending a surging ache through his bones which he had to shake off before going mad. He was happy to have been chosen to come along—he’d hoped to get closer to Shade—but with Dylan in tow, it proved to be a nearly impossible task.

Do you still have the ruby rock I gave you?

Shade slowed up her pace to fall in step with him, following his solemn stare toward the shoreline. Yes, I do. Fishing it out of her pack, she held it out. The brilliant, rough surface bled out red in the blinding sunlight.

Good, you’ll need it to get down there. He cupped her hands in both of his, curling her fingers tightly around the gem. Don’t lose it. It’s the essence of life underwater. It allows one to breathe where there is no air.

Shade’s eyes widened, sliding her gaze down to his hands encasing hers. They were rough and callused, as if he’d been training hard with swords and riding horses, which had been their main source of transportation lately. His warm skin sent a thrill up her arm until it was met with the shiver of jealousy seeping from her engagement ring.

Suddenly, she jerked her hands out of his hold and turned slowly to find Dylan watching them from a small hill, several meters away. His eyes burned a metallic blue, his lips a tight line.

Shade gulped, letting her arms drop to her side. Guilt seared across her face, and she covered it by hopping down the hill, sliding with the gravel to stifle the feelings within. Her grip on the ruby tightened, letting it embed a painful mark into her palm. She hoped her sprint across the bumpy landscape had covered up her flushed embarrassment. Her heart continued to race, but it wasn’t from the quick run.

She joined Dylan, and he immediately continued on down the slope. He turned away and shaded his face, avoiding her pleading eyes. The human roads are here. Throw on your glamour to disguise your weapons and armor. We don’t want to catch anyone’s attention. His voice was deep but calm, yet Shade could still feel his energy pulsating through the ring. He wasn’t happy. Not one bit. It was a struggle to keep his temper wrangled.

She pulled her glamour over her body. It felt like a snug, tight-fitting suit for a moment before absorbing into her flesh. When it did, it felt as though nothing was there, but it turned her armor into jeans with a shirt and hoodie. Her boots had morphed into hiking shoes, and her leather pack was now a standard backpack. She glanced at Dylan as he put on his own glamour and couldn’t get over how different he looked in civilian clothing. She decided he could pass for the yummiest, best-looking human guy she’d ever met.

She glanced back at Nautilus. His dreads were now gathered into a bunch, tightly bound to his nape. It brought out his startling eyes, and the light blue shirt and dark jeans he now wore failed at hiding his striking looks. Shade had thought getting engaged to a Teleen would end the parade of suitors from the Faerie clan, but she’d been sorely mistaken. Trying hard not to glance back at Nautilus, she felt her world shake underneath her hardened exterior. She wasn’t attracted to him. Well, maybe just a bit. But how could she even allow that? It was surprising how hard he was to shake off, even when she wanted to ignore his presence.

Crossing the road and back into the human realm, she felt the magic of Faerie pull at her. It was like thick, sticky taffy, begging and longing to keep her in its grasp. She almost felt naked walking away from the magic land along the asphalt, thick with the tarry smell of newly laid road. Bundled rows of houses lined the lakeshore near them. She liked their rustic appeal. Some were tightly clustered while others had private driveways ending at enormous log cabins touching the canopies of the thick evergreens. They made their way down one of the many dirt roads leading toward the rocky beaches.

The hum of magic returned, flowing off the water in waves, calling to Shade in low whispers. It made her hair stand on end and her fingers tingle as she took in the atmosphere. This was definitely it, she could feel it. Kilara was closer than ever before.

Chapter Two

Rubies & Water

It’s so cold, Shade half whispered under her breath as she let her fingers dip into the lapping waves, rolling over smoothed pebbles and mud. Her feet sank into the sand, shocking her skin, but it still felt good. She’d pulled her boots off of her aching feet, longing for the cool embrace of the frigid water. It wasn’t as cold as it was during the winter, but it was never really warm. Luckily, her fire powers heated the water lapping against her skin, making the shock wear off quickly.

This beach was full of boulders the size of mammoths and more secluded than the previous ones lined by the cabins. Shade’s eyes followed Dylan, who was making his way toward the cluster of gigantic stones at the edge of the lake. The water was so blue and clear, it was stunning. Even so, the impressive size of the great stones was dwarfed by the enormity of the lake, surrounded by even more behemoth mountains.

It’s beautiful here. Have you visited this place before? Nautilus was perched over a boulder, leaning down to caress the surface of the water with his fingertips.

Yes, but it was a long time ago. My father… my human father… brought us here to this very place. We dove off the boulders and swam all day until the sun started setting and the chill crept into your bones from swimming in the water too long. A small tear slid down her cheek at the memory. Remembering was always painful.

I’ll get the boat. With that, he disappeared over a hill of boulders, leaving her to her thoughts. The day was wearing on too fast. Even in the long hours of summer, time appeared to go faster in the mortal world than it did in Faerie. Shade had spent too much time there, and now the human world was feeling incredibly foreign. It was hard to shake the uneasiness of that feeling.

Hey, I’ve got the boat! Nautilus pulled a moderately sized speed boat slowly from an enchanted alcove nearby. It was a modern craft, equipped with an engine, and big enough for six people. Shade briefly wondered how he’d known where one would be, but decided she could always ask him later. They’d have to wade out to it in the chilly water. The waterproofing spells would help ward off the cold somewhat, but not enough for Shade’s comfort. A flash of the Seven River Valley she’d had to trudge through her first days in Faerie scratched at her mind. The deep permeating chill from those rivers still made her shiver at the thought. At least this would be much briefer than her endless submersions into the tangles of those rivers.

Let’s get to it. Dylan pulled his pack over his head and strapped it on tightly, jumping in and heading toward the boat. Shade gave one last groan, staring at the cold, clear blue water. Tossing her shoes into her pack, she dove in after him, feeling her body stiffen at the shock of the lake. It was unpleasant, but she pushed it from her mind and made her way to the boat.

Dylan reached over, helping her into the boat and throwing her a wide smile as his warm hands gripped her sides firmly. His face always calmed her, and she relished the moment, glad he wasn’t holding grudges today. Nothing was better than Dylan’s embrace.

Speeding through the waters was exhilarating. It couldn’t be compared to the open air of the mountain forests, but it was a different kind of peaceful feeling. It made Shade wonder how she’d ended up a summer faery princess. The warmth of the south was nice, but the cool, mountain air was revitalizing. Maybe it was the human part of her which made her enjoy it more than her faery half. Whatever it was, she was glad to be out of the stifling confines of the Scren Palace, no matter how beautiful and magical it was.

Stop! she shouted over the roar of the wind. Dylan cut the speed and pulled the boat around. The waves slapped the sides of the boat until they calmed their choppiness. Shade leaned over the side and peered down into the endless, dark blue abyss. Visibility was clear for several feet, but the sun’s rays were swallowed up by the mysterious depths, the bottom nowhere in sight.

Shade….

Closing her eyes, she searched her memories for anything that told her the sanctuary of the Summer Ancient would be buried at the bottom of a freezing cold lake. Even Lana’s offerings told her nothing, and she let the magic floating off the surface of the water waft across her, circling around her body and into her lungs. Kilara was far beneath the surface. There was nothing left to do but dive.

She’s down there.

Dylan peered over the side, staring so intently, it looked like he could see through the indigo depths. The light went down pretty far, but who knew how deep it really went? Shade shivered at the thought and straightened, finding Nautilus observing her closely.

Nautilus. She acknowledged him with a nod, a tiny smile playing on her lips as her cheeks reddened. Clearing her throat, she decided it was time to figure out the game plan and get moving. So… how do we get down there? The ruby lets me breathe under water, but I can’t possibly swim all the way down there, can I?

No. But that’s where I come in. He grinned, looking like he’d won the lottery. Shade swallowed, returning her eyes to the water surrounding them.

Dylan was paying attention now and eyed him with perfect distaste. What do you have in mind? he hissed. Shade was sure he was none too happy to have his former Teleen Guard comrade along for the ride and would be sure to ditch him as quickly as possible if he could.

Simple, really. Nautilus pulled off his shirt and started dumping his gear on the floor of the boat, except for his small weapons pack. Everything he could need was in a small, compact bag, ready to be summoned to full size when he needed it. I do the swimming, Shade holds on to me on the way down. He snickered and threw Dylan a challenging stare. All she has to do is hold the ruby crystal in her mouth and breathe normally. Its magic allows an affinity to water, therefore she’ll be able to breathe as if the water were air. She won’t freeze either; it dulls the sensations of both heat and cold while submerged, so she won’t go hypothermic.

Shade pulled out the jewel once more and held it up. It sparkled and sent a thousand fragments of red light across her tanned skin. Her brown eyes shined under the crimson, making them look somewhat like dark blood. Dylan shifted uncomfortably at the thought of her diving in with Nautilus, but if he wanted to protest, he sure didn’t voice it.

Be careful, he whispered and slipped his arms around her waist as she also dropped her weapons and packs of supplies. She stripped down to just her shirt and jeans, knowing the hoodie would drag her down with excess weight in the water, and her shoes would impede any swimming.

Smiling at his warm embrace, she slipped her arms through his, hooking her fingers together around the small of his back. His heartbeat thumped like a drum, music to her ears.

I will. Kilara wouldn’t have chosen this spot if she had ever thought her descendants wouldn’t be able to reach her. I’ll be safe, I promise. With that, she let his lips descend upon hers, feeling their soft touch send bursts of lightning down her skin and deep into her chest. Nothing compared to kissing Dylan. His magic mingled with hers, happily entwining. It left her heart singing.

Uh-hum. Nautilus cleared his throat, buying a sharp glare from Dylan, but he acted as if he hadn’t noticed as he tightened back his bundle of dreadlocks. Ready, Shade? He smiled and jumped off the side of the boat.

Shade flicked her eyes between Dylan and the now empty spot Nautilus had occupied. She couldn’t wait to get some alone time with her fiancé. They’d had none since he’d asked her to marry him back at the Teleen Caverns. The Faery war, her mother’s death, plus the impending end to the warded borders between Faerie and the human world didn’t leave much time for love. She wondered if she’d ever get any time to herself ever again.

She prepped to jump in, Nautilus already treading water as he waited for her, his hazel eyes gleaming greener in the blue of the water. Wait, Dylan’s hesitant voice interjected.

I’ll be okay, hun.

I know. You’ll always be okay. I know that. You can take care of yourself, that’s what I love about you. It’s just… don’t forget… I love you.

She smiled back at him, finding his arms once more wrapped about her waist, and their lips pressed together one more time. I know. I’ll be back soon.

I’ll be waiting.

She turned and jumped off the side, down into the frigid water, ruby in hand. Surfacing, she found Nautilus making his way toward her, slicing his well-defined muscular arms through the water. She pulled the jewel up to her eyes, admiring it’s brilliance before popping it onto her tongue and sealing her lips shut. It was hard and cold, but easy to grip in her mouth. She wasn’t sure how long it would feel comfortable, so she signaled that she was ready and wrapped her arms around the Teleen-merman’s shoulders, hoping she wouldn’t choke him during the ride down. Dylan was gripping the sides of the boat, his face a mask of stoicism. He gave her a small, tentative nod right before Nautilus jolted up and jerked forward, bringing her head under the water, making the world above disappear as the water swallowed it whole.

Chapter Three

The Merfolk

At first, Shade squeezed her eyes shut and held her breath. Slowly easing them back open, she was astonished to find that she could see clearly. It didn’t feel like a haze over her eyeballs, like at the pool she used to swim in at the Y. It was like she was looking clearly through a glass wall, without any kind of discomfort. She waited until her lungs were on fire before risking a tiny breath through her nose, the natural phobia of drowning screaming at her as they descended farther.

Nautilus had warned her it would feel like heavy air at first, but it felt as though she was breathing viscous oil as the water rushed into her lungs. She sputtered for a moment before it eased up, the burning retreated and her breathing normalized. Now it just felt a bit odd and uneasy, but her panic diminished rather rapidly, and she concentrated on holding on to Nautilus.

She’d seen his webbed feet and fingers before, but she was impressed to find he had gills opening and closing on his exposed neck. Closed, they looked like faded tribal lines against his light mocha skin, but in the water, with the rush of water shifting in and out of them, it was akin to being next to shark gills. It made her shudder, but she covered it up by adjusting her grip around his massive shoulders.

There was a vast nothingness around them, nothing but deep blue and the fading light from above. The pressure increased as they dove deeper, and she wondered if she would have to decompress when they resurfaced, like divers did when deep sea diving. Maybe she wouldn’t have to. Sometimes, being part Faerie had its advantages.

Feeling the current tug at her hair and the loose ends of her shirt, she was grateful for her fire powers, especially the deeper they went. Nautilus had also kicked up the heat and kept the freezing water at bay. The light faded away, and the darkness brought out another power of them both. He began glowing, his fire element burning along his skin, rippling in the water and casting an eerie light across the expanse around them. It sent chills up her arms, even though she was toasty warm. Something was getting closer, and they weren’t even near the bottom yet. It was nothing but instinct which kept her eyes peeled.

Nautilus stopped dead in his tracks, treading the water as a flurry of chaos surrounded them. Merfolk guards with tritons circled them as they floated, suspended in the darkness. Shade jerked her head around to watch the ones behind them inching in. Their faces were human, but their skin blended into an array of glittering scales, shining in the blue glow of Nautilus’s fire. Their eyes twinkled in the light, a dark fathomless black which watched their every move. His fire reflected in their black eyes like stars on a clear, cloudless night.

An echo, smothered by the weight of water, vibrated in Shade’s eardrums, making her almost let go of Nautilus to protect her ears from the high pitched sound stabbing at her. Cringing away from the sound, she managed to cover one of them before the voice died away.

No one moved, making her even more nervous. The merfolk guards flicked their tales to hover, weapons pointed toward them as they held their ground. Nautilus responded with the same resonating sound. It was unsettling, feeling the water echo around her, but it didn’t hurt her ears any more. She focused her eyes on the one merman who was obviously their leader. His scales shone more crystalline, and his arms were plastered with an array of platinum arm bands which glinted as he moved, pointing at them. He looked quite intent on yelling at them, his lips moving in strange, haunting calls with echoing clicks, reminding her of dolphin speak. She hoped he wouldn’t be using that long, sharp and dangerous-looking triton on them. From the sound of his voice, it wasn’t looking good for them.

What’s going on? Shade asked, unsure if Nautilus could even hear her in the ruckus. Her voice was muffled and sounded as if someone had stuffed a sock down her throat. The merfolk guard glared at her, his eyes narrowing before he yelled out and flicked his hand for the rest of the guards to do something. They closed the gap between them, weapons ready to impale.

At this, Nautilus shook his head and swatted Shade off like a nuance. He then shoved her down with a rough push, sending her descending rapidly. The acceleration made her almost swallow the hard ruby in her mouth.

Twisting her neck to look up at the disappearing glow of Nautilus’s fire, she panicked and found that she was moving without any assistance from her own body toward a massive wall ahead. Stuck in the current, she thrashed, trying to move forward, or sideways, or any which way that wasn’t the direction she was being dragged. It was useless, especially since whatever had a hold on her was refusing to let go.

She had to gather her wits before she drowned or froze. With all the commotion, she’d let her inner fire burn out, and the water-proofing spell had broken up along with it. Shoot! That darned spell never lasted long enough, and it had let the cold freeze of water swirl in, overtaking her and stealing the heat away. She was left quivering with the cold in no time, near hypothermia. Closing her eyes, she let the calm wash over her, and the heat reignited. She opened her eyes and found that she was now being escorted by a couple of mermaid guards, also armed with tritons but less threatening in posture.

These merfolk were not exactly the traditional form of a merman or mermaid; they had no tails to speak of. Instead, they had long legs with fins formed on their feet, long and wavy. Their legs also glittered with small, shimmering scales which seemed to flash with a bit of self-emanating light. Their hair was long and braided, weaved with tiny shells and coral clipped to the locks. Their faces looked human but blended into the same glimmer of scales around the edges. Not all of their skin was covered with scales, only the edges of their faces, the cusps of their shoulders, elbows and most of their legs. Blushing, Shade realized they were otherwise naked, but she didn’t really think about it too much, seeing that the mouth of a large cave was rapidly approaching, and the jet stream which had a hold of her was pummeling her toward its mouth with alarming speed.

Gasping, she readied herself for impact, but before she hit the hard stone wall ahead, the mermaids grabbed her arms and pulled her along, entering the darkness ahead. Shade shuddered at the slimy, cold touch of their fingers on her wrists. She wondered if they could dwell on land or remained underwater their entire lives. The difference between Nautilus and these full-blooded merfolk was obvious. He didn’t have the scales which decorated their skin. He did possess the webbing across his toes and fingers but lacked the long, pretty fins off the tips of his feet that these people had. Besides that, only their onyx eyes, without whites, kept them apart from even other faeries and mortals. Otherwise, they were quite humanoid.

A light shone up ahead, bringing her aching eyes forward. The water had had an irritating effect on her eyeballs, and she was sure they would be burning for a while after this was all over. The shimmering water shifted, making her realize they were headed upward, toward a surface, with air above them. She wondered what sort of underground cavernous place this was and what had become of Nautilus.

One big yank from one particularly rough female broke them through the water’s surface. The mermaids didn’t pull hard, but they pressed her to continue swimming on her own, up a long staircase which made its way down to the water’s edge and became completely submerged halfway down. Her feet bumped into a step, and she flailed her hands out until she gripped the slimy stone steps before her.

Scrambling up them, she stepped to the side and rolled onto her back, slowly taking deep, moss-scented air back into her lungs. With the first breath, she spit the ruby out into her hands, along with a stomach full of lake water. Gasping, she felt as though she was drowning for a few seconds until her body readjusted to breathing in the moist air. It wasn’t as fresh as she would have liked it to be, but it would do for now.

Plucking the ruby from the ground, she peeked up through the sopping wet locks framing her face to see more merfolk guards surrounding her, tritons pointed. As they closed in, she laid down onto her back, exhausted from the trek down and utterly unable to move her stiffened limbs. All she could do was concentrate on breathing normally, which felt like a task in and of itself. The magic of the ruby had left her feeling almost hung over, and she wished Nautilus had pointed that little tidbit out before they’d taken to the lake. Now she was at the mercy of the underwater inhabitants, and she hoped they weren’t anxious to chop her up into little tiny pieces.

Speaking of Nautilus, she hoped he had finessed his way out of trouble out there and wasn’t floating belly up.

She coughed. So… who’s in charge here, anyway?

Chapter Four

Kilara

The Summer Queen calls you. One of the merfolk women stood only two feet from where Shade sat, her prickly stare making her shift in her spot. Shade’s clothes were soaked through, but at least the surrounding air was warmer than the lake water had been. Still, she rung out her long ponytail and stood up to face the leader of the merfolk.

That’s because I’m her descendant. She asked me to come here. Where’s Nautilus? The entire room felt stiff, as if she moved too quickly, the entire place would cave in.

The woman tilted her head, and a spill of shimmering blonde waves trickled over her shoulder. She was also naked but for the scales littering her body. Shade could now see that her eyes weren’t just solid black, as they’d appeared to be in the depths of the lake, but were an oily, dark rainbow of color. Her face was smooth and hairless, making her eyebrows stand out in an odd way. Her mouth was very human-like though, pink and supple. The mermaid extended her scale-lined hand out toward Shade and waited patiently for Shade to ponder whether or not she should take it.

If you mean our half-brother, who has accompanied you, he’s just arrived.

Shade turned just in time to see Nautilus shoved unceremoniously onto the stone steps by two guards before they dipped below the water once more and swam off. Shade scrambled down the algae-covered steps, nearly slipping down them to reach Nautilus. He was unconscious, but was stirring. Angry red welts littered one side of his head, and his soft groans made Shade’s anger surge. She glared at the merfolk standing around them, watching her every move.

What did you do to him? She cradled his head with the mesh of his dreadlocks draped over her thigh, both their bodies remaining half submerged in the cold water.

He will awaken any moment now. He didn’t cooperate, the woman sneered as she lowered her hand and waited, watching them with hard eyes. I am Lark, leader of the lake dwellers of Lake Elidar.

Shade huffed. Doesn’t anyone smile and greet people with open arms in Faerie anymore? She thought. Shade was afraid the answer to that was a definite no.

Lake Elidar? Okay, so… not Lake Tahoe? She didn’t respond, so Shade continued. Look, Kilara wants us here. I need to wake her up immediately. The Land of Faerie is falling into the hands of the Unseelie, and you think we’re not cooperating? I can’t believe this crap. Shade waved her arm, and the water bubbled into a mad, churning mess. A wave rose up, pushing them onto the flattened cavern floor. It retreated some but then stopped, hovering in a roaring stance, waiting on command to pummel the merfolk. Shade’s anger was making her water magic flare up, which could be bad. She hadn’t used it much since getting her powers back from Corb.

Behind her, the wall of water froze to a solid surface, cracking and groaning loudly with its massive weight. That would keep out those pesky guards behind them for a while so she could think. She squeezed the water from her hair before setting Nautilus’s head softly on the cavern floor.

The leader didn’t look impressed, but the other merfolk backed away in fear. Their hushed and worried voices echoed against the curved stone above their heads, and the scurry of feet reverberated as they scrambled away, clinging to each other. Fearful, they gave her a wide berth and waited impatiently, whispering amongst themselves. Lark blinked her eyes at the frozen ice wall and then stepped forward, offering her hand once more.

I’ll show you to her chambers, but at the entrance, he cannot follow. None of us can. Only blood of her blood may enter. All others will be burned to ashes if they even set a foot past the threshold.

Okay, but he comes with me to the entrance, and no one comes near us again, got it? Shade lowered her head and glared at the mermaid with searing eyes. Nautilus, now awake, moved quickly to his feet, holding out a hand for her to stand up too.

If these people only knew what she could do with her magic now, they wouldn’t move so painfully slow. They literally lived in a cave, and she guessed they would be useless as allies in an all-out battle against the Unseelie. It would be nice to be as oblivious as these people were.

But time was running out, and this stalling was grating on her nerves. The woman turned and headed out of the cavern, down into a narrowing hall and into a larger chamber. This was the heart of their city, and small as it may be, it was fascinating. The streets were all made of stone, glittering with tiny crystals embedded in them. Some volcanic rock was carved into steps, tables and other furniture. Everyone was walking on two legs, but there were large ponds inside the city where some were swimming, laughing and splashing each other playfully.

Shade took it all in, excitement at seeing something new again rushing through her. The merfolk would stop and stare at them curiously as they passed, following Lark. Trudging through the exquisitely carved city, Shade realized how much in awe the Land of Faerie still left her. The flurry of excitement rustling through the people made her feel somewhat important. It wasn’t unlike the way the Fey viewed her back at the Scren Palace. Nothing would make it any easier to be held in such prestige. Even though she looked like a drowned rat, they all held a look of fear and respect in their eyes.

They entered a large archway, and the group escorting them had to go no more than two abreast to fit through. They funneled into a slightly wider entryway, but the room was smaller and not everyone could fit. The majority of the group lingered outside, peeking over heads and shoulders, curious about what the strangers were up to.

Lark turned to look at Shade. I cannot follow where you must now go. Neither can your friend. No one but the Ancient’s descendant can enter. If you are not what you say you are, you will be incinerated the moment you enter. I suggest you turn back now, before you forfeit your life. Lark’s eyes sparked a flicker of emotion, letting Shade know that under her hardened exterior, Lark was as serious as anyone could get. Shade nodded but faced the elaborate door again.

I am her descendant; it won’t be an issue.

Very well. Lark reached out, offering a small twisted metal key lying across her fingers. The key shined under the torchlights hanging along the walls of the room. It looked old yet sturdy, with its twisted and snarled design. Shade slipped the key off of Lark’s fingers, and as her fingertips touched the metal, it hummed under her skin and sent a shock of power through her. She fit it into the lock, hesitant to turn the key. This was it, now or never. Shade glanced at Nautilus, who threw her a reassuring nod before she held her breath and turned the ancient key.

She paused but realized she had to finish turning the key; it wouldn’t let her go as she tried to softly pull away. Instead of struggling, she took a deep breath and twisted it until she heard a click. The sound echoed through the chamber, and the door suddenly swung open before her, ripping the key from her grasp.

A waft of dust and musty air enveloped her body, forcing her to close her eyes as the cloud swept past. As the particles settled, she peeked through her lids and saw only the blackness of the unknown before her. Hoping the long-extinguished torches inside would light up once she entered, she swallowed the hard knot in her throat and took one tentative step forward.

Gravel crunched under her feet. Stepping across the threshold had her heart fluttering like a mad, caged bird. If she was wrong, this was the end. If she was definitely a descendant of Kilara, this should go smoothly. She hoped it was the latter.

Once inside the darkened chamber, the door behind her slammed with a horrendous, thundering clap. She jumped and stared at the silent entrance behind her, cutting off the outside world. Her heart raced, making her sure another surprise like that would be the death of her.

Well, I’m still alive, she thought. Turning back to the empty darkness before her, she was relieved to see the rush of torchlight begin its slow crawl around the chamber. It was a large oval, lacking any furniture or decoration besides a sarcophagus sitting silently in the center of the room. It was plain, a smooth and lightly veined marble, but pulsating magic leaked from it like a heartbeat drumming under the surface of the stone. It snaked about the room after lighting the torches, whispering unintelligible things into her ears, haunting her with their ardent demands.

The voices reminded her of her spirit guides, and it sent a low hum of longing through her chest. Duende, Elaby and Astrid had all but disappeared from her dreams. Now that her magic was in full force, nothing penetrated the protective shields encasing her mind and body. Even this fluttering, mad whispering in the chamber couldn’t harm her. Squeezing her eyes shut, she spoke to them in her mind, hoping one would form into a more defined voice and speak to her, let her know what she needed to do to awaken the Ancient Kilara.

Shade….

She whipped her eyes around. The sudden quiet surrounding her was even more unsettling than the rush of voices had been.

Who’s there? she whispered, hoping the echo of her voice would alleviate the loneliness creeping in upon her.

Shade, it’s Verenis.

A fuzzy form materialized before her, standing next to the sarcophagus. He was tall and nothing like she could have imagined. His features sharpened, and his gleaming eyes glistened in the illuminated chamber. Long dark hair hung down his back, partially pulled back from a strong, chiseled face. She was in awe, her eyes wide at his presence. She didn’t look much like him. In fact, now she was sure that she had stolen most of her features from her mother, Jade. Her only inheritance from him seemed to be the sharp nose and Cupid’s bow-formed lips. That, in addition to her faery magic, of course.

What are you doing here? she asked, unsure if she should call him Father or Verenis. Her human father had been the one with the privilege of the title of Dad. But what would she call her actual faery father?

My daughter, I am also a direct descendant of Kilara. We all are here, her descendants. I’ve wanted to meet you for so very long, and I have to say, I’m very much in awe of the queen you have become. I’m so proud of you.

Shade’s silence made him shift, even in his spiritual form. She didn’t know what to say to him. Never having met him, he was like a stranger, just another faery spirit speaking to her. It felt odd and made her uncomfortable. He seemed to notice this, prompting him to continue his speech.

"I won’t stay long. I just wanted to talk to you. You know who you are.

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