PRAISE FOR THE NOVELS OF KATIE MacALISTER
Memoirs of a Dragon Hunter
“Bursting with the author’s trademark zany humor and spicy romance…this quick tale will delight paranormal romance fans.”
“Balanced by a well-organized plot and MacAlister’s trademark humor.”
It’s All Greek to Me
“A fun and sexy read.”
—The Season for Romance
“A wonderful lighthearted romantic romp as a kick-butt American Amazon and a hunky Greek find love. Filled with humor, fans will laugh with the zaniness of Harry meets Yacky.”
—Midwest Book Review
Much Ado About Vampires
“A humorous take on the dark and demonic.”
“Once again this author has done a wonderful job. I was sucked into the world of Dark Ones right from the start and was taken on a fantastic ride. This book is full of witty dialogue and great romance, making it one that should not be missed.”
The Unbearable Lightness of Dragons
“Had me laughing out loud…This book is full of humor and romance, keeping the reader entertained all the way through…a wondrous story full of magic…I cannot wait to see what happens next in the lives of the dragons.”
Also by Katie MacAlister
A Born Prophecy
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Copyright © 2020 by Katie MacAlister
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First Electronic Edition: June 2020
ISBN-13: 978-1-63573-077-7 (ebook)
ISBN-10: 1-63573-077-5 (ebook)
First Print Edition: June 2020
Printed in the United States of America
PRAISE FOR THE NOVELS OF KATIE MacALISTER
Also by Katie MacAlister
“Now, that’s what I like to see.” Thorn smiled with mingled satisfaction and goodwill at the sight of the embracing couple before him. “I’m glad to know that you and the priest haven’t been so grief-stricken over my loss that you parted ways. Did you miss me while I was in the spirit world? I have no doubt you’ve had endless trouble without me here to help, but there was little I could do about that. Oooh, is that land I see through the porthole?”
Despite the fact that he was unheard and incorporeal in his spirit form, he moved over to gaze out of the open window. “Hmm. Judging by the scrubby trees along the shoreline, I’d say that was Genora. Which means you’ve sailed all the way from Eris back home. Good work, lad. And I see by the carving next to the porthole that you’ve been hard at work making me a new physical form. That’s not a swallow, though. Tail’s all wrong, and the whole thing is bigger than my old form. I can’t see the front of it, but you should consult a book of birds if you want to make a proper swallow for me. Er…lad? Should you be touching Allegria like that? In front of me, that is?”
It was at that point Thorn remembered that although Hallow was a talented arcanist, he hadn’t yet perfected the art of talking to those who resided in the spirit world. Opting for discretion, Thorn took himself out of the small cabin…but not before getting rather too much an eyeful of the lad’s hindquarters when he stooped to remove his boots.
The tang of salt air slapped Thorn full in the face as he emerged from the cabin—or it would have if there had been a physical face to slap. “Regardless,” he said aloud, looking around him with pleasure—for he was a sociable being who counted conversation with his fellow kind as a treat—“it is a sensation nonetheless. Ah, this is Genora! Excellent! Now we shall see some action. My arcanists shall rise up and smite those who need smiting, and then Hallow and I will settle back to running Kelos the way it should be run. Greetings, Quinn. Who’s that you’re kissing? Ouch. That slap looked like it hurt.”
Thorn watched with interest as a red-headed young woman, her dark eyes alight with indignation, stomped by him muttering things that he was prepared to wager were anatomically impossible. He remembered the girl from the village where he’d found Allegria after having lost both her and Hallow on the continent of Eris; he assumed she was a native Shadowborn. “One with a bit of fire in her blood, eh?” he said with a knowing wink to Quinn.
The captain, he was sorry to see, also did not possess the ability to notice those who, sadly, were confined to the spirit realm until their new physical forms were made. Instead Quinn rubbed his face with a rueful expression that turned into a grin when the large form of Deosin Langton marched past saying, “You’d better watch out. One of these days Ella’s going to borrow Allegria’s gelding knife.”
“She loves me,” Quinn called after Deo. “She just doesn’t want to disappoint her master, so she pretends she doesn’t like my attentions.”
“What’s this? Allegria is mentoring a Shadowborn?” Thorn drifted past a number of sailors working in fluid synchronicity to trim sails and paused before the figure of a small girl sitting cross-legged on a wooden crate. “Ah, it’s you, the vanth. What’s your name? Er…Dara. Demo. Disius?”
The girl looked up and gave him a good long appraisal before returning her attention to the small book in which she was writing with a pencil that left unpleasant rusty-red marks.
“Dexia, you didn’t happen to see the blue tunic that Allegria gave me, did you?” The red-headed Shadowborn woman paused next to Thorn, glancing around the deck just as if she expected to see it
hanging from the spar.
Thorn clicked his tongue at his bad memory. “Dexia, that’s right. I remember now. You’re with Quinn, or at least that’s what Hallow told me. So much seems to have changed since that bastard Harborym destroyed my physical form. Here we are, almost to Genora, and a Shadowborn seems to have joined our company, not to mention the question of just where exactly are the queen and Lord Israel?”
“Not here,” Dexia murmured.
“Frogsbane,” Ella swore. “If Quinn stole it again just so he can pretend to find it and get me to kiss him in gratitude for returning it, I’ll…I’ll…well, I don’t know what I’ll do, but it will be something.” She marched off with a determined set to her mouth.
“So the queen and her swain aren’t with us.” Thorn thought on this a few minutes, absently moving with the ship as it rocked in the swells common to the west coast of Genora. He’d always been a good sailor, and didn’t let the fact that he had no physical body stop him from enjoying the movement of the deck under his feet. “Are they on Aryia? Together? I expected Queen Dasa would have high-tailed it home to Starfall City as soon as she could in order to deal with that weakling Darius.”
Deo’s shadow fell through Thorn’s incorporeal form when the latter turned at the bow and marched past Dexia, heading aft.
“You pace just like your mother when she’s bored,” Dexia told Deo, who paused long enough to shoot her an unreadable look. She met it with one of her own, tipping her head to the side to add, “Maybe you should have traveled north with her instead of accompanying us to Kelos.”
“I can do more to help the queen retake her throne here than in the north,” Deo said, the abrupt way he had of snapping off each word reminding Thorn of an ancient turtle who had lived in a fountain that sat in the center of Kelos back when it was a sight to behold. That turtle, like Deo, was known to be extremely cranky.
He reflected for a moment, a bit startled to realize that fountain had disappeared into rubble at least four hundred years before. Had it really been so long since he had been Master, leading his arcanists to glory with the Starborn against their most bitter enemies?
His gaze fell on Deo as the latter continued his path to the rear of the ship. “And there is the child who was supposed to bring peace to both the Starborn and Fireborn.” He sighed, but brushed aside the regrets. “Too much introspection never did anyone any good,” he told Dexia. “The queen is in the north, eh? She must be rallying the Starborn faithful to her before she routs that puling Darius from Starfall. Well, well, well. If Deo is going to Kelos, Hallow must have some grand plan in place. What of Jalas? Did Idril finally overthrow her father?”
“You had best heed the Shadowborn woman,” Dexia said suddenly, tilting her head up to look at Quinn when he stopped to order a change to the rigging.
“No, no, we have to get past the shoals. Don’t drop the handling sail until we’re well by the Miser’s Fingers and almost to Bellwether. What’s that, Dex?”
The vanth grinned, her sharp, pointed teeth looking strangely at odds with her otherwise childlike countenance. “Ella. She’s not like the white-haired witch you lusted after. She’ll chew you up and spit you out.”
“No, Ella. The witch would have gutted you where you stood had you tried to approach her.”
Quinn made a face, then smiled. “Idril isn’t a witch, although she was positively magical when the moon glinted on her silver hair…” His words trailed to a stop, and with a nervous glance back toward Deo, he gave a little cough and continued. “It doesn’t matter what you and I think about Lady Idril. She is evidently promised to Deo, although why he let her go with Lord Israel to confront Jalas in Abet is beyond me. I don’t trust her father further than I can throw a bumblepig. Does it matter that I think we should have descended on Abet as a group to take care of the whole Tribe of Jalas? No. I am but a humble servant to those who hold my talisman, and since Hallow hasn’t seen fit to release us from my bond to him, we must do as we are ordered.”
Dexia grimaced and returned to her journal. “I’m happy to be well away from the white-haired one, although I would have liked to taste the Tribe.”
“I think we’ll have our hands full here. And speaking of full hands…” Quinn waggled his eyebrows, brushed off his jerkin, and squared his shoulders. “I believe I shall go see if Ella wants me to tell her about Genora and the Starborn.”
He moved off toward the cabins.
Thorn eyed Dexia. “What was Hallow thinking, letting Israel and Idril face Jalas alone? It’s not like him to turn away from a battle. Far from it. He was always too quick to run to the aid of anyone who needed it. He is Master of Kelos now, leader of the arcanists, and not some mercenary soldier for hire.”
“How long until we land?” Dexia asked one of the sailors who bustled by with a pail and scrub brush.
“Another two hours, possibly three if the wind continues as it is,” the sailor answered.
“Has there been any sign of the Eidolon?” she asked, standing and tucking away her journal before stretching.
“Eidolon?” Thorn asked, astounded. “What is this? The Eidolon are confined in the crypts beneath Kelos. They do not roam Genora.”
“None, thank the goddess,” the sailor answered, using the hand holding the brush to sketch a sign made up of the moon and three stars. “Mayhap the captain is wrong about them roaming the land looking for men to prey on.”
“Perhaps,” Dexia allowed, watching while the sailor dumped the water overboard before disappearing into the hold. She turned and looked past Thorn to the shore. “Then again, perhaps they are waiting.”
“For what?” Thorn demanded to know, his mind awhirl with all that had happened since his physical form had been destroyed. It seemed to him that everything that could possibly go wrong had done just that.
“Allegria and Hallow,” Dexia said. Thorn turned to see them emerge from their cabin, their cheeks rosy, identical sated expressions plastered all over their faces. Hallow lifted a hand in acknowledgement of Dexia, and followed Allegria to where she stood at the rail, staring at the shoreline.
Thorn watched them with a growing sense of disquiet. Just what in the name of the moon and stars was going on?
“Why aren’t any spirits attacking us? Shouldn’t there be spirits attacking us? I was told there were going to be spirits everywhere, blighting the land and slaying the living, and yet all I have seen that was even remotely threatening was a one-legged harlot who seemed to feel you owed her money for services rendered several years ago.”
Hallow, riding next to Deo, looked first askance at his companion, then over his shoulder to where Allegria, the light of his life and fire in his loins, rode chatting with the red-headed Shadowborn woman she had taken under her wing. Allegria hadn’t been all too pleased when the harlot had accused him of partaking of her wares and slipping out without paying—which Hallow had not done, since he had always been very scrupulous about such things—and now he sensed a bit of frostiness lingering in his wife’s gaze when it rested on him. “Yes, well, I think the less mentioned about the lady in Bellwether, the better. As for the Eidolon…”
His words trailed away as a growing sense of unease prickled along his spine. He rubbed the back of his neck, eyeing again the thick copse of trees lining either side of the road that led eastward, toward Kelos. There was no sign that anything was amiss, but he felt as if his nerves were twitching a warning that danger lay all around them, ready to spring upon the unwary.
“They certainly aren’t the threat I was promised,” Deo grumbled, looking dissatisfied.
“You are the only man I know who gets snappish when someone isn’t trying to kill him,” Hallow commented with a wry sense of humor that he knew Deo would ignore. Allegria would have appreciated it, though. He glanced back to smile at her, hoping that her partiality to him
would thaw any remaining coldness regarding their landing at Bellwether, but even as he caught her eye, a flicker of movement to the side had him suddenly filled with rage.
Arcany pricked his palms as he pulled on the light of the stars that sat behind the sun, but the chaos magic within him rode high, filling him with a red-hot anger that threatened to spill out at the potential threat to his beloved.
A man emerged from the woods with a basket of fallen branches strapped to his back. He watched the company ride by for a few seconds before lifting his hand in greeting and turning to march off to what was no doubt his home.
“Hallow?” Allegria pressed her heels into her mule, pushing between his horse, Penn, and Deo’s massive black charger. “What’s wrong? Why have your runes lit up like a lantern? Do you sense something? Is it the Eidolon? Ella,” she turned in her saddle and called back to the Shadowborn woman, “tighten your bowstring, and make sure your quiver is at hand.”
“At last!” Deo said, his voice full of satisfaction. He pulled his sword from his back scabbard, glancing around quickly. “Where are they, Hallow? I see naught. Are they visible only to your eyes? That will make it a bit more difficult to smite them, but if you tell me where they are, I will take care of them.”
“There’s nothing,” Hallow said quickly, subduing the various magics that twisted inside him in what seemed to be an endless dance. The arcane power that he pulled easily from the sky even when Bellias Starsong was hidden, as she was now, was as natural to him as breathing. The blood magic that he’d gained during his visit to Eris was a little less natural, its complexity shifting and changing even as the chaos magic roared to life, drenching him with a hot, burning need. The runes etched in silver and bound to his wrists and ankles kept the chaos from overwhelming him, but lately, as his body learned to cope with the three different types of magic dwelling within, the chaos magic’s rush of red power had shifted from the urge to destroy to one much less lethal.