Here’s a free first chapter from one of my latest releases, Outcast Fey.
Serafina Valeon crouched low in the back of the crystal cave, using the low light and a glamour spell to shield herself from being seen. Power thrummed from the earth beneath her feet, pulsing through her body in turn. She drew magic, keeping her senses heightened, waiting for the oncoming attack.
Something came at her, flying through the air.
Sera rolled out of the way, sending a burst of silver light skyward. Someone cried out as the light exploded, knocking her would-be attacker to the ground. She sprang to her feet, wings flapping as power flared between her fingers. Her assailant lunged at her, a silver knife flashing.
Sera shot skyward using her wings to propel herself out of the way.
The woman below her snarled, red hair billowing behind her as she catapulted herself up, coming at Sera again with her blade. Sera kicked out, knocking the knife out of the way, then blasted the other woman in the chest with a burst of light.
The women yelped as the blast knocked her off balance, sending her crashing to earth. “Ow!” Liana gasped, rubbing her stomach. “You’re getting too good at this. Which is annoying given what pacifist you really are.”
Sera snorted. She landed and offered her foster sister a hand up. “I’m not a pacifist. I may not like violence, but I’ll protect myself if I have to.” She pushed her long blonde hair off her face. “You’re just annoyed because I took you down.”
Liana rolled her emerald eyes. “You’re good, but you’ve got a long way to go before defeating me, ada.” She used the Dragonish word for ‘sister’. “I’m just going easy on you today.”
She and Liana moved back through the maze of tunnels with their glistening amethyst walls that send prisms of light dancing across the floor.
“Have you heard anything from your husband?” Li asked, waggling her eyebrows.
Sera’s heart skipped a beat. “He’s not my husband, well, not exactly. I’m not sure what he is to me,” she hissed, hoping none of the other Ashran who lived down there with them overhead. “And no, I haven’t heard from him.”
“I thought you could see each other in dreams?”
Sera sighed. Talking about Bastian didn’t make her miss him any less even though it had been two months since they’d last seen each other when he’d saved her from almost being killed by another mage.
“We can, but I told him we can’t see each other anymore.”
“Why? You all but admitted you still love each other. Plus, you are still technically married.”
“It’s not like we can ever see each other again. We’re from different worlds and it could never work unless a miracle happened.” She grabbed a towel and wiped sweat off her face.
“You could see each other again,” Li pointed out.
“Maybe, but we can’t have a real future together. Ever.” She bit her lip. “It’s best if we both move on.” Though moving on seemed impossible thing to do after reuniting with the love of her life again.
“What did he say to that?” Li picked up her sword and sheathed it, then began cleaning her precious knives.
She shook her head. “He wasn’t very receptive.”
Sera thought back to their last dream encounter Bas seemed determined for things to work between them and that they could see each other in secret. But how could they? She was a fey and he was mage, two races who’d spent centuries trying to kill and dominate each other. Now most of the fey – or Ithereals, as they called themselves – were either enslaved, fighting against the mages or struggling for their very survival.
Sera and Bas could never be together, not really. Neither side would accept their forbidden love. It would just get them both killed. It would be better that they remained apart and fought for a better future.
“I don’t think you should just give up,” Li said. “Love isn’t something you find every day. What you have is—”
Bells echoed through the caves, chiming in perfect rhythm.
“That’s Alward,” Sera said, dropping her towel and brushing her hair off her face. “I’d better see what he wants. He’s desperate for me to figure out how the keystone works.” She’d rather avoid seeing her father for a while longer but knew he’d just be annoyed if she did.
“Yeah, and he’s pissed off he can’t do it himself.”
“See you later.” Sera muttered a cleansing spell then hurried off down the next cavern to find her father. The crystalline walls glowed a faint blue and cool air flowed through the tunnels through vents. It made her miss being above ground surrounded by nature, but this was the safest place for them.
Alward with his long braid of blonde hair and piercing silver eyes, looked up as she came in. “Any news on the keystone?”
“I’d have told you if I had.”
He’d been different since her return from her last mission. She hadn’t told him everything that had happened or about her feelings for Bastian. Besides, she’d completed the mission in the end. She didn’t like the growing distance between them. He’d been her only parent for as long as she could remember and he had inducted her into the resistance and their cause. She’d never wavered in her loyalty to them. Even having Bastian in her life wouldn’t change her desire to see her people free.
“Have I done something wrong?” she asked, hoping he’d tell her why he’d been so distant. She feared he didn’t trust her anymore, but she didn’t see her feelings for Bas as a betrayal as Alward would.
His eyes narrowed. “No.” He ran a hand through his long hair. Sera opened her mouth to speak again but he cut her off. “I have a new assignment for you.”
Sera had been expecting this. She rarely went without a new mission and had been surprised he’d waited this long. But he’d given her time to work on unlocking the keystone’s secrets.
“Five fey have gone missing over the last month. Operatives who haven’t checked in with us and have vanished. I’m concerned the mages might be targeting us. If they’ve discovered who some of us are —”
“How could they?” Sera asked. “None of us would give away that kind of information. We’d all sooner die. The high council think Liana and I are dead.” Or at least that’s what Bas told them. Whether they believe him or not I don’t know.
Alward’s face betrayed no emotion. “There are a few weak links in any chain. I want them found, or at least to know why this is happening.” He handed her a small square crystal. “All the intel you need is on here. If you need someone with you, take Liana. She’s been too idle since she left Elmira.”
Alward hadn’t been happy when Liana’s cover in Elmira had been blown too since he had lost his chance to watch the mages through her.
Sera paused. “Li and I got to know a mage well during our last mission. Ranson Layard. I could…”
Her father’s jaw set. “Layard is a hunter who slaughtered dozens of our people. He can’t be trusted,” he snapped. “How could you befriend him? I’m surprised he didn’t kill you. He’d have known who and what you are.”
Sera hesitated. She hadn’t decided whether to admit to him that she knew he’d altered her memories of losing Bas ten years earlier when he and Layard had split them up. “He knew what I was when I met him, yet he didn’t blow my cover. He saved me when I got bitten by fire vine,” she said. “Plus, he doesn’t work for the council, he hates them just as much as we do.”
“You’re to have nothing to do with him or any other mage, is that clear?”
Sera nodded. “As you wish.”
Heading back to her chamber, Sera found Liana there cleaning her collection of various knives. “What did he want?” Li asked. “Please tell me we have a new mission. I’ll start climbing the walls if I have to stay down here much longer.”
“We have a new mission.”
“Yes!” Li sprang up, dropping her knife and cleaning kit. “Where is it? When are we leaving?”
Sera clutched the crystal, pressing the corner so that a hologram of text appeared. She scrolled through it, then showed it to Li who frowned. “Missing operatives,” Li said. “Crap, is the mages’ council on to us?”
“It could just be a coincidence,” Sera said. “The last one went missing close to the border, so it shouldn’t be too difficult for us to go there. I thought about calling Layard first to see if he knows anything. Alward…”
Li snorted. “Papa dearest doesn’t want us making friends with the enemy.”
“Not all mages are bad,” Sera pointed out, thinking of Bas.
“I know. Bas, Layard, hell, even Niall are our friends. We need all the allies we can get,” Li agreed. “You should call Bas. I’ll get our aliases and stuff ready for our trip across the border.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea. I told him we couldn’t see each other anymore.”
“Then tell him you changed your mind. Or just say you want to be friends,” Li suggested, shoving her knives back into her trunk.
Sera paced up and down, trying to decide what to say to Bas – if he even bothered to answer her call. Being just friends didn’t seem to be an option after everything they’d been through but hell, she had to try. Missions came first over personal feelings.
Sera waited until Li had gone before closing her eyes and sending out her senses.
Bastian? she called. Bas, I need to talk to you.
She tried calling Layard before but had received a response. It was safer calling this way, she didn’t want to use the crystal Layard had given her unless she had to. He said to only use it in emergencies and this didn’t count as one. She and Layard hadn’t formed a mental link and he wasn’t fey, so he wouldn’t hear her unless he allowed her to send him telepathic messages.
Bas? A wall, thick and solid greeted her when her mind reached for his. Bastian, please, answer me.
Only silence came in response. She couldn’t understand why he didn’t answer. Despite having told him they couldn’t see each other anymore, she never thought he’d block her out.
Li, can you come back in here? Sera asked.
Liana appeared in the doorway. What’s wrong?
Bas isn’t answering me. I think he’s blocking me out.
Maybe he’s busy or can’t talk right now. Li leant back against the crystal wall and played with a strand of her long hair. Try again.
Bastian? she called again, focusing on him. Bas, I need to talk to you.
The last time they’d physically met two months ago, she had performed a sharing, a blending of minds where they could share each other’s thoughts and memories. It would have created a strong mental link between them, making it easier for them to talk in thought.
“Maybe he’s ignoring you,” Li suggested. “Since you broke up with him he might not want to talk.”
“I didn’t break up with him. We weren’t even in a real relationship.”
“Sera, I know what you did before we left came back into the old world,” Li hissed in case anyone overheard them.
Sera paled. Alward would have considered the sharing an act of treason. Bas would have all her memories — including everything about the Ashran, how they worked and operated. One thing she knew for certain – Bas would never betray her.
“The latest missing person is Naven,” Li said. “We should go make sure he’s okay. I want to get moving.”
Sera knew Liana and Naven had been close before Li had gone on her last mission. “Okay, let’s go.” Sera grabbed her pack, checked to see if she had everything she needed and followed Li back through the tunnels and into the unknown.