Free chapter from Fey Spy

Here’s the first chapter from one of my latest releases Fey Spy. Click the cover to find out more about the book.

Serafina Valeon crouched in the shadows watching as the swarm of villagers rushed past the houses. Now what? I don’t need this today. I’m supposed to be starting on my next mission. Her large wings glistened but she pulled them back inside her. No fey dared to show their wings anymore for fear of having them cut off.

She made sure her glamour remained in place, thankful it would disguise her true appearance. She rubbed the back of her neck, hating whenever she had to keep her wings concealed inside her body. In her vest and black leggings, she no longer appeared fey. Liana would be arriving soon, and she didn’t dare risk blowing her cover before her mission even began. Time to get to work.

She moved through the crowd of fey, wincing at their tattered clothing and skinny bodies. Despite being a place where fey and mages lived freely with each other, her people were still mistreated.

A shout rang out, two mage guards dressed in dark red uniforms dragged a bald man with sharp green eyes through the crowd by his arms. Sera winced. Yosef, the village leader of the resistance. Oh no! Her hand went to her pack where she kept her potions and other gear. She wished she could intervene but didn’t dare. You have a job to do, she reminded herself. By the ancestors, why does this have to be so hard?

“No!” someone cried and another man lunged at the guard.

Here goes. She pulled a vial and hurtled it at the oncoming attacker. Smoke exploded as the vial shattered, making the man double over coughing.

Another guard made a move towards Sera as more shouts rang out. The tension from the crowd grew and Sera feared they’d soon riot – the last thing she needed to happen was for the fey and mages to start having a go at each other again.

“Stop!” yelled another voice.

A man pushed through the crowd, dressed in a grey shirt and black trousers, he stood a head taller than the rest of the guards with a mop of brown curls and electric blue eyes.

Sera’s heart skipped a beat. She’d known who she was supposed to come and meet but seeing him again stirred up a rush of long buried emotions. Get a grip! You’re nothing to him now. The mission will always come first.

Why him? Why did it have to be him of all people? But she hadn’t protested when Alward had given her this task. They both knew only she was skilled enough to infiltrate the hunter’s guild.

Bastian Novare, mage prince and renowned fey hunter, commanded respect with his presence. Even the fey fell silent as they stared at him.

A redheaded woman with sharp emerald eyes and a burly man with long black hair came up behind Bastian. Both wore stunners and knives, marking them as hunters.

To Sera’s surprise, Bastian pushed his way through the crowd until he reached her.

She wished her glamour disguised her true appearance better as recognition flashed in his eyes. “Sera?” he gasped. “You’re the…”

“I’m the potential hunter Liana told you about.” She met his gaze head-on. “But I don’t think this is the place to talk.”

Liana waved to her, it eased some of Sera’s nerves.

“How are you alive?” he hissed, still staring at her wide eyed.

“Bas,” she snapped. “Not now!”

He shook his head as if to clear it, then took her arm. “You were dead.”

“Well, as you can see I’m alive.” She knew she should have expected this but part of her had hoped he wouldn’t make such a big deal about her arrival.

“How?” Bas demanded. “You were…”

Sera pulled her arm away, scowling at him. “It doesn’t matter. Now is not the time or place for this.”

“Sir, what do you want us to do with the prisoner?” asked one of the guards.

“Send him to…” Bas started to say.

“Let him go.” She gave Bastian a pleading look. “Killing him will break the peace in this place. The last thing either side needs is more bloodshed.”

Bastian’s eyes darkened. “You want me to spare a fey? They’re the ones who killed you – or at least took you from me.”

Sera snorted, shaking her head. “I didn’t die now, did I? Now, if I ever meant anything to you, release him.”

Bastian’s jaw tightened. “Fine, but you owe me an explanation after this.”

Oh, she knew that well enough. She’d have to have with a damn good excuse too. She’d spent weeks wracking her brains trying to come up with a good excuse. None of them had sounded very plausible.

“Release him,” Bastian barked to the guards. “But see to it he spends a month down in the mines.”

Sera breathed a sigh of relief. She hated seeing any of her people suffer but at least Yosef would still be alive. Bastian took her arm and led her away from the crowd.

Liana grinned when they locked eyes, Sera returned her smile, happy to see her best friend again. “Bastian, this is Sera, the one I’ve been telling you about,” Liana said. “She’d make a great asset to the guild.”

Sera tried not to wince. She’d never expected to join the hunters, or the guild as they were called, but her mission in working for the resistance now demanded it.

Bastian’s eyes narrowed as he let go of her arm. “Oh, we’ve met. Although your little stunt back there was impressive, why should I trust you?”

Because I was your wife and you loved me once, she thought, but doubted that would make a very good excuse. She tried not to sigh. Convincing Bastian to let her into his inner circle would be harder than she’d imagined.

“I proved I can be helpful,” she pointed out, not avoiding his gaze. “I don’t expect you to trust me – yet. Trust has to be earned. So give me a chance.”

Bas frowned. “Being a hunter isn’t an easy job. Why do you want to be one?”

Because I need a good excuse to get into the citadel. I’d never want hunt anyone, especially not my own kind, she thought. “I’m good at adapting to situations and with different magics. I know I can help your team,” she said with more confidence than she felt. “Let me prove myself.”

Bastian frowned. “Are you going to tell me why disappeared ten years ago?” He motioned Liana and Niall away.

Sera bit her lip. “It was a long time ago. Why does it matter?”

“Of course it matters! I thought the bloody fey killed you,” he snapped. “I looked everywhere for you the next morning, but I never found any trace of you.”

“They didn’t. To tell you the truth I don’t remember much about what happened,” she lied. “There was a fire, then I woke up somewhere else. A healer helped me.”

“What happened after? Did they hurt you?” The edge in his voice surprised her. “Why didn’t you try to find me again? You must’ve known I got out of there alive.”

“I didn’t.  I thought even if you did survive, it would be better if we didn’t see each other. We were just kids, Bas, we weren’t ready for marriage and with a war going on I couldn’t come to Elmira even if I wanted to.” She’d longed to come and find him but Alward had convinced it would be safer for everyone if she just forgot about Bas and moved on, so she’d tried to do just that.

Was this why he’d become a hunter? To avenge her? She hoped not. “I met a traveller and he taught me potion craft,” she said. “I don’t dwell on the past. I look forward to a better future. A peaceful one.”

Bas gave a harsh laugh. “There can never be peace with the fey around.”

Sera felt her own anger flaring but pushed it down again. This wasn’t the boy she’d known and spent an entire summer with, then married. This was someone else. “Not all the fey are bad,” she blurted out before she could stop herself.

“You’re a sympathiser then?” he sneered.

No, he was not at all the eighteen-year-old boy she’d known. But then she wasn’t the girl she’d been then either.

“I just think there’s a better way. The fey and mages have been at war for centuries. What good has it done either side?” She folded her arms. “Arguing about this won’t change anything. Just because I’m a mage too doesn’t change my belief that all races should be free.” She swung her pack over her shoulder. “If you don’t want me I’ll be on my way.” She turned to go.

“You can come but you’ll need to go through some training first,” Bas said, his jaw clenched. “Maybe once we’ve established some trust you can tell me what the hell happened to you.”

“We can’t change the past, Bas. It’s best left alone.”

His eyes flashed. “If I’d known you were alive, I would never have stopped looking for you. Hell, I did look for you every time I had to help carry bodies back to the city.” He sighed. “Did you know I was still alive?”

Sera winced, biting her lip. “I hoped you would be.”

“Then why didn’t you come back? Unlike you, I told you who I was and where I came from. You could have come here, I would have taken care of you. We might have just been kids, but I didn’t marry you for the fun of it.”

She looked away then, feeling a rush of feelings best left forgotten, then forced herself to look at him. “We were at war, Bas. With so much chaos I couldn’t just come waltzing in here and expect you to look after me. I’ve been taking care of myself for a long time now,” she said. “Like you said we were just kids, we weren’t ready for marriage and I didn’t want you to wake up one day and realised you made a mistake. So I stayed away and let you live your life.”

“I never thought of you as a mistake,” he hissed. He stared at her a moment before striding off in the opposite direction. She watched him go, letting out a sigh of relief. Seeing him again felt much harder than she’d expected it to be.

Liana raced over, hugging her. “Gods, I missed you.”

Sera smiled, returning her embrace. “It’s good to see you too.”

“What’s up with you and grumpy over there?” Liana inclined her head to Bastian.

Sera sighed. “It’s a long story.”

Sera followed Liana and the others out of the village to where an airship waited for them. Sera’s heart pounded. Although she’d known of mage tech she’d never been on one before since ships were city transport. She flew of course, thanks to her wings, but that was from her own ability, not from mechanical beast. The door slid open, Bastian and Niall headed straight inside, but Liana caught her hesitation. “Come on, it doesn’t hurt,” she said. We used to fly together all the time.

Yeah, but I’m a Ithereal and you’re a dragon. That’s very different to this thing.

Rule number one of being hunter, never show fear, Liana told her. That’s Bas’s rule anyway.

Sera took a deep breath and stepped into the back of the strange machine. You’ll have to tell me more about Bas’s rules.

The door rose and closed behind her. Bastian glanced back as he sat in the driver’s seat. “Buckle up,” he said.

Niall sat beside him. There were two more seats in the back. Sera took one and fastened the belt. An engine whirred to life as the ship rose and took off. Sera braced herself, expecting the worst, yet it felt much smoother than expected. Still she didn’t like the feeling of being closed in. The fey felt more at home in nature than anywhere else.

Relax, ada, Liana said in thought. These things are much safer than they look. The mages are good for some things.

She smiled. Ada was dragon tongue for “sister”. She reached over and squeezed Liana’s hand. Despite being different races they’d both been orphans and had been raised together by the Sera’s father, Alward.

I hope I can do this, she replied.

Of course you can. We spy on the mages all the time. We’re good at it.

This was different. She hadn’t been married to any of those mages.

Sera shook her head. No, he hadn’t been hers, not even ten years ago. Now she couldn’t allow personal feelings to get in the way either. She had a job to do and nothing could get in the way of that. If it did, it might mean death to all her people.

 

The grey stone walls of Elmira ran around the citadel. The place looked more foreboding than Sera had imagined. The citadel had been built on top of the cliff that gave way to the roaring ocean below. The ship – or jumper as Bas called it – flew over the city’s towering walls, landing a few metres away from the citadel. Elmira had been built two hundred years ago during the last great war between the mages and fey. Since then the fey, or Ithereals as they called themselves, had been enslaved to them.

The jumper’s door slid open, Sera breathed a silent sigh of relief when her feet hit solid ground and swung her pack over her shoulder. People bustled everywhere, mages wearing the robes of the city’s famous mage academy, others wore normal clothes. They were bright and unnatural colours, unlike the cool, earthy colours of her own people.

She spotted a dwarf pounding away at metal, noticed then a fey girl carrying heavy bags. Both of them were slaves. Sera knew fey here were considered property to mages who thought themselves as the dominant race. She turned away, following Liana and the others through the cobblestone streets as they headed towards the citadel.

“All potential hunters have to be tested before training can begin,” Bastian told her. “Your test will be conducted tomorrow morning. You can stay at the inn, I’ve arranged—”

“Why can’t she stay with us?” Liana interrupted. “You have a spare room.”

Sera bit her lip, seeing Bastian again was one thing, but she didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of living with him. They’d never even lived together as a couple – not that they’d ever had the chance to. “The inn is fine,” she added. “It will do until I can find my own place to stay.”

“That room’s for the fourth member of our team,” Niall pointed out. “She’s not one of us yet.”

Sera got the impression he didn’t like her, not that mattered. She was here to work, not make friends. Alward always said friendships were a means of getting useful information, and personal feelings got in the way.

Working for the Ashran – the fey resistance – didn’t allow much time for a personal life either but Sera loved her work.

All Ithereals dreamed of one day being free and living in their own communities as they once had. After centuries of war, the fey and mages had formed an uneasy peace, but Sera knew it wouldn’t last forever. The mages wanted dominion over all races, but they feared the fey the most.

“Let Sera stay with us,” Liana pleaded. “She’ll pass the testing, I know she will.”

Bastian’s gaze bored into Sera, but she didn’t look away. “Fine, you can stay. Liana will show you where to go.” He stormed off without saying another word.

“What’s up with him?” Liana muttered.

“Maybe he knows your friend won’t make the cut,” Niall suggested.

Liana thumped him on the shoulder. “Hey, be nice. She just got here.”

“Whatever you say, spitfire.” Niall chuckled and left.

Bastian’s townhouse had four bedrooms, a large lounge with a flat screen, a dining room and a basement that had been turned into a gym, a study and a small room where the team sometimes performed experiments, plus a small library.

Li opened the door to the spare room. Inside sat a single bed, a chest of drawers, a table, chair and an empty bookcase. The white washed walls looked stark, giving the room an unlived in feeling, but she’d slept in far worse places than this. She never stayed anywhere long enough for it to feel like home.

“Me too. I hate not being able to see each other for months on end,” Sera agreed.

Sera took a small piece of crystal out of her pack and placed it on the table. It hummed with energy and flashed as she activated it to stop anyone from listening in on them. “Alward sends his best. I can’t believe you’ve been here eight months already.”

Liana shrugged. “He needed someone in the guild to provide intel. But I like my job, I help our people when I can.” Despite not being an Ithereal herself, Liana considered herself one of the fey. “So what did he send you here for?”

Sera hadn’t been able to give Liana details of her mission when they’d spoken by link a few days prior. They never did openly share mission details unless they thought it was safe. Sera knew her crystals would stop any kind of magic or tech from breaking through. “He believes the mages’ guild has the keystone hidden here in the citadel,” Sera explained. “Most likely in the prince’s house. We know it’s somewhere in the city, but we haven’t been able to track its exact location yet. Alward thinks me being a hunter will help me find it.” Sera ran a hand through her long blonde hair. “I wonder if he knew about my connection to Bastian?”

Liana gave her a questioning look. “What connection? I wondered why Bas acted so weird earlier. It’s like he knew you.”

Sera bit her lip. “Bas and I were friends when I spent the summer in Aldrin. I saved him from drowning.”

“Wow, he’s the boy you–”

“It was a long time ago. I never told him what I am,” she said. “We were just friends – not that it matters now.”

Li arched a brow. “Bas seemed to think it does. I’ve never seen him react like that. Maybe now you can…”

Sera shook her head. “I’m here to find the keystone, we’re different people now.”

Liana smiled. “I meant you could use it to your advantage.” She chuckled. “He meant a lot to you, didn’t he?”

Once he had, yes, but now she didn’t know him. “I’ll do whatever I can to find the keystone.” Sera pulled several vials out of her pack. “But first I have to make sure I pass the testing.”

About Tiffany Shand

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