Story in the Round — Part 9

Hello! I’m excited to be joining the Scribes, and a little nervous that I’ve got the ending of the Story in the Round. See you soon and enjoy the end!

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The King of Neráida stepped from his dais, sweeping Danny to the side as if he meant nothing. I leaned forward, prepared to grab my cousin and put him out of harm’s way. Yuko’s grip around my arm stopped me, I glanced over my shoulder and saw a silent promise that we’d get out of there alive and with Danny spoken through his eyes. I didn’t want to trust him, but I didn’t have many choices.

“I have a proposition for you, young one.” Kian, the king, stood before me. I swallowed the lump in my throat and looked at him with what I hoped was a face void of emotion. If we were going to get out unscathed he couldn’t know just how scared I was. With Yuko at my back or not, I wasn’t convinced we could go.

“A proposition?” I asked.

“You for your little human here. He is of no use to me. You are the one I want. The reason I sent Alek and Aria to you.”

“And if I refuse?”

“Then you all die.” The king shrugged then returned to his throne.

I would not exchange Danny, nor would I accept death. From behind me, Yuko whispered, “Their magic is blocked, the king is unaware. Agree to trade Danny. When he is out of reach, take Kian.” A solid weapon pressed against my back as Yuko slid it beneath the waist of my pants. “I will dispose of the others. You can do this, Aideen. Use the gifts you have denied. It is time.”

He was right, I knew it in my soul. I’d denied my true self for far too long.

“If I agree to the exchange, you will give me Danny first. When he is safe I will come to you. Alek and Aria will not touch any of us.”

Kian studied Yuko and I for what felt like forever. The dampness of Neráida seeped into my skin. As the forest lightened my worry grew. If we didn’t leave before the sun rose, we’d never get out. Silently I begged the king to get a move on. Finally he nodded once.

“Agreed. Release the boy.”

None too gently, Alek shoved Danny across the open space. I rushed forward and pulled him into a hug. “Go to Yuko. Do what he says, don’t argue,” I spoke into Danny’s ear. He didn’t acknowledge my orders, but did as I’d commanded.

Kian stood to come for me, but I held up my hand and shook my head. “No. I will come to you.”

This was it. Time to see what I could do. I sucked into a deep breath and began the spell to shield myself from anything Alek or Aria might try. With my arms locked behind my back, one hand wrapped around the hilt of the dagger from Yuko, I took a step forward. Then another. King Kian stayed on his throne looking bored. Cocky. That was fine with me.

The moment I reached the dais I knew I’d have one shot. If I didn’t kill him the first time our mission to save Danny and avenge my mother would be done. A failure.

I closed my eyes and made the last step. Kian wrapped his arm around my waist and pulled me to him. No time to hesitate, I whipped my arm from behind my hand and slammed the dagger into his chest.

Seconds later the world of Neráida collapsed around us. Danny, Yuko, and I were pushed back through the portal. The bonfire simmered beside us. We’d made it out. Alive. I breathed a sigh of relief and pulled Danny into a tight embrace.

No longer would I deny who I was or what I could do.

Story in the Round–Part 8

Hello readers! I’m so excited to be joining the ranks of the Spellbound Scribes, so I hope you enjoy my very first post and check back for more later!

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The ancient song poured from the well of magic deep within me, my voice thrumming through the hot, sluggish air. A faint oblong shape shimmered on the surface of the pond, growing larger and more solid the longer I chanted: the mirror portal that would transport Yuko and me to Neráida. My steps carried me closer to the gate and a thrill of anticipation shot through me.

The last words of the chant burst from my throat and the portal snapped into focus, a still shining disk atop the surface of the pond, like a mirror reflecting nothing. I reacted instantly, flinging myself into the water and surrendering myself to the magical gateway I had conjured.

I fell. Sideways, backwards, inwards; directions were meaningless. I clenched my eyes shut and focused on the dire purpose burning in my heart: kill the faerie King, and rescue Danny if I could. Nothing else mattered.

Stillness. I forced my eyes open and dropped into a defensive crouch, my hands sliding towards my weapons. Yuko’s presence loomed behind me, still and reassuring. We stood at the end of a long courtyard, open to a night sky that was both moonless and starless. Once magnificent architecture crumbled around us, wreathed by withered vines and dead flowers. In every direction stretched a barren wasteland, pock-marked by shriveled-up streambeds and petrified stumps of trees.

I swallowed hard against a wave of disgust. So this was Neráida, where the Fae had once lived in beauty and plenty until they’d depleted all the magic from the land for selfish gain. Now they sought to do the same thing to my world by sucking all the magic out of people like me. Well, I wasn’t going to let that happen.

I snapped my gaze to the end of the courtyard, where Danny’s broad-shouldered frame slumped between the monstrous shapes of two faeries. Aria and Alek. Beyond them, on a throne as pale as bleached bone, sat the faerie King with his eyes shuttered against the world. Hate filled my chest as I stared at the silent, cold King, posed like an ice sculpture upon his throne of destruction. Now, after so long, I was close enough to avenge my mother’s death. I could hardly believe it.

“Yuko!” I hissed, my eyes never straying from the target of my vengeance. “Get ready. The only way I’ll be able to kill the faeries and their King is if you stop their spells.”

“I am always ready.” Yuko whispered, his voice deadly calm.

My weapons slithered out of their sheaths as I flung myself down the length of the courtyard toward the faeries. Aria and Alek turned, hissing dark spells, but Yuko’s power wrapped around me like a cocoon, dampening their magic. I blocked Alek’s desperate blows at my head and caught him in a chokehold. My knife kissed his throat as his cold carrion breath rasped loud in my ears.

“Yield!” Aria’s voice, strident. She held Danny in front of her like a shield; his blank eyes and slack jaw betrayed the fact that he had no clue what was happening. “You’re outmatched. If you kill Alek, you’ll die too.”

“Outmatched?” I choked on a laugh. “You have no weapons and can’t use your magic. Get out of my way before I kill you too.”

A cold smile twisted Aria’s features, and a finger of dread slid down my spine. “We’d never leave our starving King undefended. Look behind you.”

I obeyed almost against my will, turning to see a horde of wraiths materialize out of nowhere, an army of vacant undead soldiers marching steadily toward me. Fear wrapped a cold fist around my heart. I was going to die here after all, without avenging Mom or saving Danny.

“Oh, stop.” The voice rang from above, ancient and cold as death. Slowly–so slowly–the faerie King opened his eyes.

Story In The Round – Part 7

Hi everyone, I’m so thrilled to be part of Spellbound Scribes. Hope you like my inaugural post!

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That was an understatement.

With a jerk of my head, I motioned for Yuko to follow me into the woods, far enough so we didn’t attract attention, but near enough to draw on the power of the ritual and the white stones at its heart.

Ten years. I’d done nothing but practice for this day since my mother died. When my magic went with her, I turned to physical training, but the point was still the same. My destiny was to seek revenge for her untimely death – and all the others like her – and put an end to the madness that had caused it. But to do that, I would have to cross over into Neráida to kill the faerie King. I swallowed hard. No one had ever attempted that, not even in the shadowy times before recorded history.

But when they took Danny, I knew. Alek and Aria were here for our magic, just as my mother always feared. “Watch out for faeries and wraiths,” she’d say anytime we ventured out after dark, especially on the high holy days. We always thought it was a joke or her way of being overprotective. But obviously, the threat was very real. Sure, faeries appeared beautiful in this world, but I’d glimpsed their true, dark nature in Aria’s eyes. Once she was in her own plane, she’d drop the glamour and reveal herself as a monster.

All this because of something in our DNA, some strand of magic that had become entwined with our bloodline. The faerie King thought it would break the spell that held them in a barren land, giving them free reign into our world just has they had before our ancestors built the stone circles to keep them at bay.

But the joke was on him. By some fluke, they’d picked the wrong cousin to enchant. Danny didn’t have any magic in his blood. That’s why he’d spent his whole life with cauldrons, wands and spell books, trying to develop any latent talent he might have, while I could flood the whole house on a whim. He would do them no good. Strike one against the fairies.

I sighed. That was the least of my problems. Now that Danny was under their spell, he would blindly follow them to the other side, becoming a wrath – an undead faerie solider – without even realizing what had happened. That’s what happened to all spellbound humans who passed through the veil.

Beside me, Yuko hummed a tune that twined with the rhythm of the drums. I glanced over at my new ally. I hated to admit it, but I needed him. He was the only hunter in this part of the States. If I was going to get to the King, I’d probably have to go through the two faeries and their new zombie lapdog, Danny. My heart squeezed painfully at the thought. There was one way to bring Danny back unharmed, and my newly-restored powers made it possible, but I wasn’t sure I could pull it off. Better to have backup in case I needed it. Strike two.

“There. Stop.” I led Yuko to a small pond that cast back a glimmering reflection of the bonfire. The stones were obscured from sight by the ring of smoke and flames, but I felt them pulsing as surely as the blood in my own veins. “The faeries are probably still guarding their gateway, but I can create a mirror portal just long enough for us to get through. Chances are good Alek and Aria will sense my magic and chase us back to other side. I’ll need you to stop their spells while I kill them. Leave Danny for last – we’ll save him if we can.”

Yuko, a man of few words, simply nodded.

I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and began to chant.

Story in the Round–Part 3

Welcome to part 3 of the Story in the Round! This is also the first official day of the Hot Paranormal Nights Blog Hop, so I hope you’ll hop around to the other blogs and see what everyone has going on. 🙂 Enjoy!

 

The people before me glowed. There was no other way to put it. The intricate patterns tattooed all over the exposed portions of their skin were lit up, as if from within.

The man was taller than average, his tan skin in stark contrast to the eerie white glow emanating from his tattoos. The woman was pale, almost ethereal in her beauty and the silken way she moved.

They walked toward Danny and me, the woman’s gauzy skirt swirling around her ankles. The man smiled, and although they looked so strange, so alien, I calmed almost immediately in response. Danny’s steel grip on my arm had relaxed as well, and I guessed the stranger’s smile had the same effect on him.

“Hello.” The woman spoke softly. Her voice tinkled, the way I imagined silver would if it were a sound. “I am so sorry we startled you.”

“That was certainly not our intention.” The man’s pale blue eyes held mine, and the deep, rich timber of his voice reverberated through me. “Please accept our sincere apologies.”

“Who…who are you?” The question blurted out of me; I hadn’t meant to be so blunt. If these two were fairies or wraiths—and their incandescent skin said they were definitely something other than human—I didn’t want to incur their supernatural wrath.

“I am Aria,” the woman said. “And this is Alek. We come from Neráida.”

Danny stepped forward, closer to the woman. I looked at him sharply, but his eyes were trained on her. He seemed to be in a trance, completely unaware of anything but the two strangers before us.

“Your…your skin.” Danny reached out a hand toward Aria. She didn’t move away or deter him in any way, but he seemed to lose his nerve at the last moment. Dropping his hand, he said, “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“Where’s Neráida?” I looked from one hauntingly beautiful face to the other. “You’re not…you’re not from here, are you?” By “here” I meant the mortal realm. I hoped they understood; I couldn’t bring myself to actually say the words. This was all insane, and yet, it was happening right before my eyes.

Danny darted me an “of course they’re not” look and turned back to inspect their skin. How was it so easy for him to accept all of this?

Alek spoke. “No. We are Fae. The Solstice has allowed us to cross the veil between realms. We shall return to Neráida on the autumnal equinox when the veil reopens.”

Fae. As in, fairies. So Danny’s joke wasn’t really a joke at all. My stomach seemed to be filled with ice. I didn’t know whether to run away or ask the million questions that bounced around in my mind.

“Why are you here?” I finally managed to spit out.

Aria spoke, her voice soft, her green eyes dancing with fear. “Our king sent us. We have a task to complete by the autumnal equinox. And if we do not…”

Alek completed the thought for her, looking from me to Danny and back. His voice, I noticed, held just a hint of a tremble. “They will kill us. And you as well.”

 

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Story in the Round – PART 2

I could feel the smoke warming my lungs and tickling my heart, seducing things from the depths of my soul that had not stirred in the last decade. Magic does that—it whispers promises of ease and power to us, makes us think we can be more than we are.

And on the Solstice, sometimes it speaks the truth. Things shift on a solstice, and it’s only natural that we follow the same pattern.

Even as I followed Danny reluctantly, I could feel the magic changing me. I could feel it lightening my steps, and I thought, against my will, of my mother floating over the earth, literally high on her power. The sticky heat on my skin turned cold, clammy, but the beat of the drums compelled me onward.

Outside the circle, I put my bag down on the grass beside Danny’s. He turned to me, his brown eyes glowing with the heat of the power now coursing through him, and offered me his hand. Behind him, the dancers swirled in a sun-pattern, opening a gateway for the power, even as the drumming grew ever louder. Velvet darkness crept across the sky, and when night fell, the magic would really take over.

Driven by the force of the dance, I put my hand in Danny’s. More heat caught fire, this time our own, and he pulled me into the circle of dancers. My body fell into a rhythm I knew in my bones as my heart started beating to the cadence of the drums. Danny knew the steps; the dance was something greater than us, as much a part of the summer night as the stars above and the fireflies skirting the woods. It made us a part of the night, too, our heat and sweat blending into the moisture of the night.

I noticed the stones only after we had done two circuits of the fire. Round and white, they would be nondescript if they were not so strangely placed, close to the fire as if they had been casually cast aside, but so close to the dancers that I had to wonder.

They said, after my mother died, that she had reached too deeply into the well of magical power that summer night so many years ago. But things reach out as much as we reach in, and small gateways as well as large open on solstice nights. I remembered what Danny said about fairies and wraiths, and I felt a spear of icy fear pierce the warm veil of the summer night.

We whirled past the stones, and I wondered if they had grown from the ground there, or if someone had placed them. They glowed amber in the firelight, pulsing in the flickering light as if they were alive. While the rest of us danced to the drums, the soul of these stones moved to another music, something none of the rest of us could hear.

When I saw a man and a woman step from the darkness between the stones, their eyes feral in the firelight, I stumbled.

Story in the Round – PART 1

Today we are beginning a new segments of posts, a very creative journey together, namely: A Story in the Round. Today I start the story, the first 500 words  of the introduction, and then leave off for the next Scribe to pick up. We’ll each add to the story until it comes to its natural conclusion. We’re not discussing where we each want to see where the story will go or what characters should arrive or do or whatever, it will be as much of a surprise to us as it will be to you, dear reader. So! Enjoy!

Southern summers were sticky, hot, and fierce. They held the kind of wet heat that you could never really prepare for. Short hair and short shorts didn’t do much to help, but I tried anyway. Now, walking through the field, the grass tickled my dewy skin, scratching and tickling all at once.

I hefted my backpack higher up on one shoulder, as I trudged up the hill, skirting around the fireflies that drifted just above the ground. The bonfire was tonight, and the drum circle. People would dance and sing and light the fire to breathe in the healing smoke. A new level of heat would be added to the night. The last time I’d danced around the bonfire my mother had been alive. The magic poured from her as she danced to the rhythm of the drums, her scarves swirling around her like a kaleidoscope come to life. Her bare feet skimmed the grass and for a moment, my ten-year-old self believed she was flying.

She died six months later – right before Winter Solstice. It was like some cruel cosmic joke.

I lost my magic with the death of my mother. How could magic be real if someone as beautiful and wonderful as my mother could die? Especially if I couldn’t bring her back, no matter how many spells I tried.

My father said she didn’t want to come back – that she would have found peace and moved on. And so should I. So, I walked away from magic, since it had obviously abandoned me.

Ten years later, I stood on top of that hill, and looked down at the celebration already started. The ground vibrated with the beat of the drums. The breeze carried voices back to me. The song was in a language I didn’t know, but was somehow familiar. There was power in those words and that power touched me, made my blood rush in my ears and pulled at my body to run to it.

“You ready for this?” Danny asked as he came up alongside me. I turned to look at him, pulling my eyes away from the celebration at the bottom of the valley. His brown eyes were alive with excitement. The power of the gathering was already filling him. It wasn’t filling me, not yet, but when I looked into his eyes, saw them alight with life and power, I knew I wanted to feel that too.

“I think so,” I finally answered with a strained smile.

“Then let’s go.” Danny nudged me with an elbow before starting down the slope leading to the bottom of the hill. “Oh,” he said over his shoulder, “remember to watch out for fairies and wraiths.” He grinned at the look on my face. I stumbled for a moment and had to swallow against the lump that had formed in my throat. Danny laughed and shook his head at me before turning away and hurrying down the hill. I had no idea if he was serious or not.