Shadow FaerieRachel Morgan
By Rachel Morgan
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Copyright © 2017 Rachel Morgan
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Cover Design by Rachel Morgan
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Having made a deal with a prince in order to get her sick mother healed, Emerson enters the dangerous world of the Unseelie Court. But how far is she willing to go to save her mother?
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This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or, if real, used fictitiously.
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All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission from the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For more information please contact the author.
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Mobi Ebook ISBN: 978-0-9947154-2-5
Epub Ebook ISBN: 978-0-9947154-3-2
Dash had been at his desk at the Creepy Hollow Guild for less than ten minutes when his amber, sitting beside the goblin abduction report he was working on, shivered and emitted a chirp. Glowing gold words rose to the surface of the rectangular device. Recognizing Violet’s handwriting, Dash quickly pulled the amber closer. His eyes darted up to check who might have been standing close enough to his desk to have seen the message. The open office area was filled with the bustle of morning activity: a junior guardian team returning from a night mission; two trainees delivering scrolls; and his own teammate, Jewel, hard at work on something. It was highly unlikely any of these people would know who the message on Dash’s amber was from, but it still made him nervous corresponding with Griffin rebels while beneath the Guild’s own roof.
He leaned back in his chair, schooling his expression into one of nonchalance, and read the message: Do you know where Em is? I can’t find her. Ice chilled Dash’s veins as he struggled to keep his expression neutral. If Vi couldn’t find someone, that meant serious trouble. Thanks to her Griffin Ability, she should be able to find anyone who wasn’t concealed by some form of magic. Em’s Griffin Ability, however, was a whole new story. Was she playing around with it? Testing whether she could hide herself? Dash reached across his desk, grabbed his stylus, and wrote a quick response on his amber. No. Are you sure she left? Check orbs.
Vi’s reply came seconds later: Checking now.
I’m on my way over, Dash scribbled as he pushed away from his desk and stood.
“Leaving already?” Jewel asked. Dash looked up as she stood and walked around her desk. “You only just got here.”
“I need to check on something. One of the witness reports from the goblin abduction case. A few details are missing.” Dash cringed internally, hating having to lie to one of his best friends. “I’ll get one of the guards downstairs to open a doorway for me,” he added quickly. Like Jewel, he wasn’t supposed to be able to open doorways to the faerie paths anymore. An annoyance Em’s Griffin Ability was responsible for. Em had since reversed the magic’s effect on Dash, but Jewel didn’t know that. The only thing Jewel knew was that Em had escaped the Guild’s clutches and disappeared.
“Do you need me to go with you?” Jewel asked.
“No, don’t worry. It’ll be quick.” He gave her a smile, which he suspected looking nothing like his usual easygoing grin.
“Okay. Hey, is everything all right?” Jewel caught his arm before he could turn away. “You’re not normally so serious first thing in the morning.” Her hand lingered a moment too long on his arm, and the conversation he’d had with Em came to mind. She’d pointed out that Jewel clearly wanted to be more than just his friend, a fact Dash had somehow been oblivious to until this moment. How had he missed it? And why had Jewel never said anything to him about her feelings for him? She must have exceptional control over them. He hadn’t noticed any random magical outbursts.
Not important right now, Dash reminded himself. “Yes, everything’s fine. I’m just … more tired than usual.” That, at least, was the truth. He’d been up late the night before talking with Chase, discussing when to return to Tranquil Hills Psychiatric Hospital to examine whatever records were on file for Em’s mother. With unknown magic preventing her from waking up, she wasn’t in a position to explain why she and her daughter had lived for so long in the non-magic world, masquerading as human. Hopefully Em’s father could provide some answers instead. Em said she knew nothing about him, but if he was the one who’d been paying Daniela Clarke’s medical bills, the hospital must surely have his name and contact details.
“Okay. See you later then.” Jewel returned to her chair.
Dash should have left then—he wanted to leave—but he couldn’t ignore Jewel’s desire to be more than friends now that he knew about it. “Hey, do you want to hang out this evening?” he asked before he could change his mind. “We should … talk.” It would no doubt turn into the most awkward conversation they’d ever had, but he needed to do it. It wasn’t fair of him to allow Jewel to continue hoping for something that would never happen.
“Yeah, okay. Great.”
“Cool.” Dash hurried down the Guild’s main staircase, across the foyer, and into the room with bare walls used for accessing the faerie paths. “Do you mind opening a doorway for me?” he asked the woman standing guard just inside the door.
“Still haven’t found that Griffin Gifted girl, huh?”
“I hope you do,” the woman replied as she walked to the wall and raised her stylus. “I heard she’s a dangerous one.”
“Yeah,” Dash muttered. “Extremely dangerous. I plan to find her.”
The woman stepped back as part of the wall pulled away to reveal the darkness of the faerie paths beyond. Dash walked forward. Once the light had vanished behind him, he focused his thoughts on the oasis hidden in the middle of a desert thousands of miles away.
Minutes later, he hurried up the porch steps of the little white house on one side of the oasis, past a few closed doors, and into the surveillance room. A row of glass orbs lined three of the four walls, and within each orb was a miniature form of a different part of the oasis. Magic connected each orb to the enchanted bugs that flew around outside, displaying everything the bugs saw. Vi was bent over, staring intently into one of the orbs, while Calla and Chase sat in front of another one. “What can you see?” Dash asked, not bothering with a greeting.
“Oh, Dash, hey,” Vi said as she turned to face him. “The orbs show that Em left during the night. Just beyond the dome layer, she opened a doorway to the paths and went through it.”
“She must have taken someone’s stylus.”
“Yes. There was one missing from our kitchen this morning.”
“I just don’t understand,” Calla said, her finger swiping repeatedly across the orb in front of her as she moved backwards in time through the scenes it displayed. “Why would she leave?”
Vi shook her head as she shrugged. “Any number of reasons, I suppose. Maybe she wanted to see one of her old friends. Or maybe she remembered something that could help her mother. What’s far more worrying is the fact that I can’t find her. What could possibly be shielding her?”
“Nothing good,” Chase muttered.
“Dash, you never told me what happened when I couldn’t find you and Em yesterday,” Vi continued. “Remember, when I came to meet the two of you at her aunt’s house?”
“Oh yes.” Dash cursed inwardly—with the kind of words his mother wouldn’t approve of—at having forgotten, yet again, to mention that strange
place and the people who had taken him and Em there. “I don’t know where we were, but it was weird. Everything seemed drained of color, and parts of it were sort of … smudged. Unclear or unformed. And we couldn’t access the faerie paths. We ended up running from some shadowy creature I’ve never seen before, and somehow we found ourselves near the tear in the veil. But not on the human side, and not on the fae side. Somewhere … I don’t know. Maybe it wasn’t even real. Maybe it was some kind of hallucination. Anyway,” he continued with a deep breath, “we were there because of the Unseelies. The prince and princess.”
“Seriously?” Chase looked away from the orb he’d been examining.
“Yes. That girl who was at Chevalier House for a few days—Aurora—is actually the Unseelie princess.”
“So that’s what she was doing at Chevalier House,” a new voice said from the doorway. Dash looked around and saw Ryn standing there. “Aurora wanted Em to run away with her. She was obviously planning to take Em back to the Unseelie Court.”
“You didn’t think to mention any of this last night?” Calla said to Dash, an accusatory edge to her voice.
“To be honest, I didn’t think of it at all. Em said she was going to tell me what happened later—since I was, uh, stunned and unconscious for part of the time—but then that glass faerie showed up, and we almost died, and then we raced off to get Em’s mom, and … I didn’t think of the Unseelies again until late last night when I got home.”
“Great, so we have no idea what they told Em,” Calla said, crossing her arms and frowning at the floor.
Dash said nothing. It was unlike Calla to be so ticked off at him, but he couldn’t blame her. He was furious with himself for not asking Em about that strange shadowy world last night. She’d seemed distant and unhappy, and, like an idiot, he’d tried to distract her with dancing. What the hell was wrong with him? How could he just forget that two members of the Unseelie royal family had transported Em to a strange place and then mysteriously let her go?
“So …” Vi rubbed her temples. “The fact that we can’t find Em now might have something to do with the Unseelies.”
“Unless she herself doesn’t want to be found,” Chase said. “She left voluntarily. She might have used her Griffin Ability to shield herself somehow.”
“Whatever her reason for leaving, she must be planning to come back,” Ryn said, walking into the room and taking a closer look at one of the orbs. “Her mother is still here, after all.”
Dash shook his head. “She may have left of her own accord, but what if the Unseelies got hold of her once she was out there? They let her go yesterday, but they definitely still want her. They might be holding her against her will now.”
“So what do we do?” Vi asked. “Wait to see if she comes back? And if so, how long do we wait?”
“She has to come back,” Calla murmured, chewing on her thumbnail as she stared unseeingly at the floor. “She has to.”
Ryn looked across the room. “What’s wrong?”
Calla lowered her hand and frowned at her brother. “Don’t do that.”
“Hey, I’m not trying to feel what you’re feeling,” Ryn said, holding his hands up in defense, “but your anxiety is just about giving me a panic attack. I’ve been trying to ignore it but it’s practically assaulting me.”
“Anxiety?” Chase moved closer to her. “About what?”
“Jeez, people,” Calla exclaimed. “I’m just preoccupied with another case. Everything’s fine. Can we focus on how we’re going to figure out where Em is? Just in case she is someone’s prisoner now?”
“I have some Unseelie contacts,” Chase said. “I’ll see what I can find out.”
“Good. I’m getting back to work on other stuff then,” Calla said. She crossed the room and left without a word, leaving several moments of awkward silence in her wake. With a frown, Chase followed her.
Dash cleared his throat. “The Guild also has Unseelie contacts. I’ll ask if anyone knows anything. And I’ll question our Seelie contacts as well. It’s possible they found Em but haven’t informed the Guild yet.”
“Thanks,” Vi said.
“Let us know as soon as you discover anything,” Ryn added.
“Of course.” Dash turned and strode out of the room, already reaching into his pocket for his amber and stylus so he could contact the Guild’s Unseelie liaison. He paused near the front door as he wrote a quick message enquiring whether the liaison had received any news regarding a Griffin Gifted girl.
“… something going on?”
At the sound of voices, Dash leaned to the side and peered out the window. Calla paced back and forth across the porch. “She has to come back, Chase. She has to.”
“Okay, seriously.” Chase caught her arm and pulled her to a halt. “Tell me what’s going on.”
Dash knew he shouldn’t be eavesdropping, but if it was something about Em …
Calla took a deep breath. “I saw something. Last night. When I went up to ask Em if she wanted to join us this morning. It made me hope that maybe … somehow …” She shook her head. “I mean, I know it’s crazy to even think it. My brain is still playing through everything that happened back then and how it could even be possible. But if it’s true …” She grabbed the front of Chase’s T-shirt in both fists. “Chase, if it’s true, then we have to make sure Em comes back.”
Chase took Calla’s hands in both of his. “You’re not making any sense. What did you see?”
“You can’t tell anyone, okay? Not until I know if it’s true. I don’t want to be responsible for any more broken hearts.”
“Broken hearts? When did you—”
She leaned closer to Chase and whispered, her words too quiet now for Dash to hear through the window. He watched as Chase’s brow furrowed further. “Not possible,” he said as Calla stepped back. “Or … is it? When I first saw her, I thought …”
Chase’s gaze became unfocused as he stared over Calla’s shoulder for several moments, clearly lost in thought. A small smile stretched his lips as he returned his attention to her. “I think you could be right.”
Her answering smile lit up her face. “I think so too. But I don’t know for certain, and I refuse to get excited until we confirm this. I know someone who can tell us beyond a doubt, but I don’t know where he is. You need to help me find him.”
“Vi can help if she has …” Chase’s words trailed off as he shook his head. “But you don’t want her to know.”
“No. Not yet.” Calla took his arm and pulled him down the stairs with her. “We first need to find out if it’s true.” Her voice grew fainter as she and Chase headed away from the house, leaving Dash with more questions and no answers. He had his own mystery to solve, though. Where are you, Em? he wondered silently as he opened the door and stepped onto the porch.
His amber shivered in his hand, and he stopped to read the Unseelie liaison’s reply: No recent info from the Unseelies. Nothing interesting anyway. Of course not. The Unseelies would never choose to inform the Guild if they happened to be in possession of a powerful Griffin Gifted girl. But Dash had to check, just in case the liaison had heard something. Now he’d have to contact the Seelie liaison. After that, it would be time to move on to unofficial channels. “Somehow, Em,” he muttered as he strode away. “Somehow, I’ll find you.”
Things I never imagined: One, escaping the miserable town of Stanmeade long before I ever dreamed it possible. Two, becoming almost-friends with the guy I hated for years. Three, climbing the outside of a faerie palace tower with a stolen stylus in my pocket so I can hide at the top and open a faerie paths doorway with magic. Oh yeah. And I never imagined using words like ‘palace tower,’ ‘faerie paths’ and ‘magic’ without sounding like an inpatient at a mental institution. But that was before I discovered I’m a faerie, and that a hidden world of magic exists alongside the one I grew up in. That was before I landed at the top of everyone’s most-
wanted list for possessing a unique and dangerous faerie superpower. And that was before I took the biggest risk of my life and agreed to marry a faerie prince of the Unseelie Court in the hope of saving my mother.
So yes. I imagine things now that most people from my old life would consider impossible. Like a dark hole of nothingness materializing across the gold-veined marble walls at the top of the tower I’ve climbed. I needed to get away from the watchful eyes of the palace guards, and this turret forming the highest point of the Unseelie Palace seemed like a good spot. Unfortunately, the spell I’ve been whispering and the words I’ve written repeatedly across the wall seem to be producing nothing.
I heave a frustrated sigh and clench my fingers around the jewel-encrusted stylus. I stole it from Aurora’s room yesterday. Only the best of the best for a princess, so I doubt there’s anything wrong with it. Which means … perhaps my magic is the problem? I place the stylus on the turret floor and cup my hands together, then breathe out slowly and feel for the core of power within me. Almost instantly, a roughly spherical shape of white glitter and wispy fragments hover above my hand. It seems almost easy to produce magic now, after having practiced so much in the past few days. No need to squeeze my eyes shut, furrow my brow, and imagine dragging the magic out of myself like a mouse tugging on a truck.
So if my magic and the stylus aren’t the problem, and the spell itself is correct—which I’m certain it is, given I used it to leave the oasis—that leaves only one answer: the faerie paths are not accessible from this tower.
“Dammit,” I whisper. I shove the stylus back into my pocket and stare out across the endless lands of perfect summer. Brilliant green lawns, flowers in every color, enchanted water features surrounded by shrubs clipped into ornamental shapes, and various areas for entertaining: a pergola here, a gazebo there, the queen’s bower off to the right beyond that little bridge. And just beyond the palace grounds, the turrets of manor houses belonging to Unseelie nobles rise above the trees.