The Druid’s Daughter is a new monthly web serial of a short Prequel to Bound By Blood, Book 1 of the Rogues of Magic Series. You can read part 1 here
The moment they arrived back at the palace; Ann hurried up to her father’s meeting chamber. To her relief, Darius didn’t have any of his advisers around. “Papa, I need to talk to you,” she gasped, out of breath from running so fast.
Darius looked up from his desk. He and Ann shared the same blonde hair and blue eyes. Darius kept his tied back at the nape of his neck.
“Good, you’ve returned. I thought you might miss the meeting of the leaders.” Darius looked up.
“Edward and I were attacked on our way back,” Ann said, still panting. “I —”
Darius shot to his feet, moving around his desk. He placed his hands on her shoulders. “Are you hurt? Who was it?”
“I’m fine. It was a rogue sorcerer and a few ogres. They didn’t hurt us,” she said, brushing off his touch. “The sorcerer said he wanted to warn me. That the treaty is a bad idea. And if you didn’t stop it, there would be repercussions.”
Darius laughed. “They’re fools if they think I’ll scare so easily,” he scoffed. “Even so, stay close to the palace the next few days.”
“Papa, there’s more. I saw someone…a strange woman. She said the house of vow ran will fall,” Ann said. “She said—”
He laughed again. “Now is the perfect time for the lunatics to come forward. People always fear change.” He moved back to his desk.
“Only I could see her. And I couldn’t sense what she was,” Ann said. “She must’ve come to warn me for a reason.” She repeated the seer’s exact words.
Darius listened, and his lips quivered as he bit back more laughter. “Darling, you know I have many enemies. There are a lot of people who don’t want to see this treaty come to pass. Some like the chaos the other realms are in. Especially Asral.”
“What if she was telling the truth?” Ann clutched the top of the wing-back visitors chair that sat front of the desk. “I didn’t feel any deceit from her.”
Druids had strong instincts, but Ann couldn’t directly tell someone lying. Not unless she listened to their surface thoughts. Most druids who had more than basic magic were taught how to read surface thoughts. As were the Black.
“Rhiannon, I have too much to worry about without wasting time on a supposed prophecy.” Darius sighed. “Did Edward think she was a threat?”
That was another strange thing about her father. He seemed to trust Edward over many of the other Black.
She’d asked him about it before, but he’d only smiled.
She bit her lip. “No,” she admitted. No point in lying to the archdruid. He’d know. Somehow he’d find out.
“Then forget about it. Concentrate on the meeting. I need you there by my side. It’s important to put on a united front. Especially if your mother doesn’t join us.”
Ann knew things have been strained between her parents recently. She’d wanted to ask Darius about it but decided against it. His numerous affairs had always been a sore point during their marriage.
“Maybe you should postpone the meeting. Just for a few days.”
He stared at her, incredulous. “What has got into you? First this morning you talk of leaving and travelling like some —” He shook his head. “No, this prophecy means nothing. Don’t pay heed to such nonsense.”
“Surely we should at least be extra cautious?” She moved around the chair.
“If I stopped every time someone predicted my demise I’d never be where I am today. I haven’t spent almost two centuries building Caselhelm into the realm it is today by letting others dictate what I must and must not do.” Darius waved his hand. A gesture he always used to show he was finished with someone.
Ann gritted her teeth. “I meant what I said about travelling. I can do more good out in the world than I can hear.” She turned and stormed out.
If he wanted proof, fine. She’d get it for him. Usually she’d dismiss some crackpot seer’s predictions too. But there had been something about this seer that seemed different. Ann would have to find whoever wanted her family dead by herself. Fine, then she’d start with someone who knew of the Valeran’s greatest enemies the most.
Ann knew her elder half-brother was back. As Darius’ bastard Urien had the luxury of coming and going as he pleased. She’d always envied that about him. But if anyone could help her figure out who this seer was it would be him. Ann might know all of her father’s advisers and close allies but Urien could go places and do things she couldn’t do as the archdruid’s heir. She hoped he hadn’t been visiting his mother again. Despite his insistence he’d stay away from her, Ann wasn’t sure she believed him.
She stomped down the hall toward his chamber. Past gleaming suits of armour and intricate tapestries depicting various events in the druid’s history.
The two guards both wore the long cloaks and armour of the Black.
One of the men cleared his throat as she passed him.
Ann ignored him. She didn’t have time to chat with the Black like she normally did. She flung the door to Urien’s chamber wide open. Clothes were scattered across the flagstone floor leading to the bed. A man and a woman’s clothing. That didn’t surprise her. It wouldn’t be the first time she’d found a servant in Urien’s bed. But she did so hate seeing it. Didn’t the man have any self-control?
“Urien, we need to talk.” Ann moved around the bed covered in heavy linen. “Where —?”
A woman with long black hair and pale skin yelped as she looked up.
Ann gasped, recognising Ceara — Ed’s foster sister and her lady’s maid.
Ceara being naked in bed Urien left no doubt to what they’d just been doing.
“Ann, what are you doing here?” Ceara grabbed a blanket, using it to cover herself with.
“I might ask you the same thing.” Ann grabbed Ceara’s fallen dress from the floor and tossed it to her. “Get out, right now.”
Ceara scrambled off the bed, grabbing her things as she hurried from the room.
“Sister, why do you always have such bad timing?” Urien grumbled. “What did you want to talk about?”
Ann put her hands on her hips. “What are you doing?” she demanded. “Blessed spirits, you’re even worse than Papa!” She picked up his trousers and threw them at him. “She is our aunt’s fosterling. More importantly, she is Xander’s lover. Did you for one moment consider how he will feel when he finds out about this?”
Urien, with his dark hair and dark brown eyes, looked nothing like their father except for his lean, lithe body. He groaned and rose from the bed. Ann looked away to avoid seeing him in all his glory. “Calm yourself, sister. We were just having fun.” He laughed. “As for Xander, I doubt he could have kept a woman like her are satisfied for long.”
Ann slapped him hard around the face. “This is no time to joke.” Blessed spirits, she thought Urien would at least be her ally now. They often disagreed with their father’s decisions and banded together against him. “Xander will be devastated.”
“What Xander doesn’t know won’t hurt him.”
Her eyes narrowed. “Are you suggesting I lie to our brother?” She shook her head. “You bastard!”
“Yes, we’ve established that.” Urien pulled on a white linen shirt. “Tell me what you want to talk about.”
Ann turned away, too furious to even look at him. “Forget it,” she growled. “You’re the last person I want to talk to right now.” She turned to go.
Urien grabbed her arm. Power crackled against her skin. “Tell me,” he demanded. “Look, I’m sorry about Ceara. It won’t happen anymore.”
“Anymore?” She spun around and glared at him. “Has this happened more than once?”
“I’m in love with her.” Urien’s face turned serious. “I tried not to but there you have it.”
“You are in love with Ceara?” Ann didn’t believe it. It was hard to tell when he lied. He’d always been good at charming people. Even her.
“Yes, I have been for a long time. You should know what it’s like loving someone from a distance never being able to act on your feelings.” Urien ran a hand through his tousled hair. “Ceara felt it too. We couldn’t resist it. Surely you must understand?”
Ann shook her head again. “No, I don’t.” I’ve never been in love, she thought. “How would I know? I don’t believe in love. Not the romantic kind.” After all the pain it had caused her mother, Ann vowed to never fall in love.
“I meant you and Edward.”
“Urien, now is not the time for this nonsense,” she snapped and made a move to leave.
“What is it?” Urien asked. “You wouldn’t have stormed in unless something was wrong. So tell me.” So she blurted out about the attack and what the strange seer had told her. Her brother’s expression darkened. “Father doesn’t believe you, does he?”
“You know how he is. He won’t have anyone raining his moment of glory.” Ann sighed. “I don’t know what to do.”
“Maybe Father is right. The seer could be a charlatan. Out to trick us.” Urien rubbed his stubbled jaw.
“Have you been to see your mother? Is she planning something?”
“Ann, you know I turn my back on her the last time she plotted against our father.”
Her frown deepened. “She’s your mother. It would be hard for you to turn away from her.”
“She’s an evil manipulative bitch. She cares for power more than anything.” Urien scowled. “I’m a foul ran and that will never change. But if you want, I’ll use my contacts to see if I can find anything out about this seer. Perhaps one of the leaders coming to the meeting is using her to scare us.”
Ann nodded. “Thanks.” She walked to the door, hesitated. “You need to tell Xander the truth.”
Urien scowled deepened. “He won’t understand.”
“If you love Ceara as much as you say, do the right thing.”
Ann left, feeling more confusing than ever over what she should do next.