creepy hollow 05 - a faerie's revengeRachel Morgan
A Faerie’s Revenge
By Rachel Morgan
Copyright © 2015 Rachel Morgan
Cover Photography by Regina Wamba
Cover Design by Rachel Morgan
Still reeling from a shocking revelation, Calla Larkenwood finds the threads of her world unraveling further when she’s accused of a horrifying crime she didn’t commit. In a world where everyone keeps secrets and someone is intent on framing her, how will she figure out who to trust?
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.
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.
Mobi Ebook ISBN: 978-0-9946679-7-7
Epub Ebook ISBN: 978-0-9946679-8-4
The ship rolls from side to side as it rises and falls on the swell of heaving waves. Purple-black clouds darken the sky, spitting out beads of icy rain that sting my bare arms. Lightning zigzags across the horizon. It’s the perfect storm. The perfect distraction.
Across the slippery deck, my opponent raises her wooden staff. “Ready for another ass-kicking?” Saskia shouts, her voice barely reaching me before it’s snatched away by the wind. My only response is a grim smile. I’d like to tell her it’s her backside that will be meeting this deck, but I’d probably be lying. I’m not particularly skilled with the staff, and she knows it. She punches the air with her fist and lets out a war cry. She takes her staff in both hands and, with enviable ease, begins spinning it in front of her—hand over hand over hand—until it becomes a blur.
Then she lunges forward and strikes. I raise my staff to block the blow, and a crack rends the air as our two weapons meet. Ignoring the sting in my hands, I twist on one leg and kick with the other. Saskia pivots out of the way and swoops her staff around. She jabs at me with the end of it, but I jump back. As I swing the wooden weapon from side to side, she slides one leg forward and slams hers down onto the deck, narrowly missing my foot. I dance out of the way and use the staff to help vault me up onto the ship’s railing. I wobble and almost tumble into the water, but I regain my balance quickly.
For a moment I see everything—the ship and the waves and the storm tossing the entire scene about—and I remember the glass bottle on Chase’s desk. The glass bottle with the tiny ship sailing on an enchanted stormy sea. What was I thinking? A perfect storm isn’t a distraction. Draven was the master of storms. How can I think of anything but him?
Saskia’s staff slams against the back of my legs, knocking me completely off balance. I fall forward onto the deck. The scene vanishes, and when I roll over, I find myself staring up at the wispy white surface of the Fish Bowl.
Footsteps sound nearby before Saskia’s face appears above mine. She gives me a smug smile and mutters, “Loser,” before striding away.
I let my eyelids slide shut as I catch my breath—
And I see Chase. Stepping away from me. Fading into the snow. I’ve never lied to you, I swear. This is who I am. My hands squeeze into fists at my sides because, once again, it hasn’t worked. Once again, focusing all my attention on a training exercise has done nothing to distract me from the memory of him. Every time I close my eyes, I see the same thing: that moment in the forest with flurries of snowflakes swirling around me, wind tearing at my hair, and Chase vanishing into the whiteness. Then a frozen calm settles over everything and Vi says his name, and the weight of that one whispered word is heavier than a stone slab lowered onto my shoulders.
A chill races down my arms, both in my memory and here in the training center where I’m lying sweaty and breathless on the Fish Bowl floor, watching the forest scene play out across my closed eyelids yet again:
“Draven?” I repeat. “What are you talking about?”
“It was him.” Vi’s face is almost as pale as her dress.
Ryn steps into my line of vision then. “What’s wrong?” he asks immediately. He knows something is amiss without us having to tell him. He could probably feel our tumult of emotions from the other side of the clearing.
Vi turns to face him. “Draven. Nate. He was here.”
“What?” Ryn clasps Vi’s hand.
“I swear it was him.”
“That was not Draven,” I blurt out. What a ridiculous notion. How could the tattoo artist by day, vigilante by night that I’ve slowly been falling for be the evil overlord who brought about The Destruction?
“He didn’t look exactly the same,” Vi says to Ryn, “but it was him. I have no doubt.”
“The necklace,” Ryn says without pause.
Vi nods. “We always wondered.”
“Wondered what?” I demand. “What necklace?”
Vi presses her hands against her forehead and groans. “I knew it. I knew it, I knew it. Why else would his body vanish? Surely it should have remained there if he’d truly died.”
“We couldn’t say anything without knowing for sure,” Ryn says. “You know that. And the winter ended, and you couldn’t sense anything when you tried to find him. The logical conclusion was that he was well and truly gone.”
Vi drops her hands and finally looks at me. “Eternity necklace,” she says. “That’s what we’re talking about. It was made for the Unseelie Queen centuries ago. It was supposed to keep her from ever dying. Draven was wearing it right at the end when I … when I thought I killed him.”
I blink. I open my mouth, but no sound comes out.
“Well, I didn’t know for certain that he was wearing it,” Vi adds, “but he had some sort of chain around his neck, and I always suspected it was the eternity necklace. It seems I was right.”
I try to reconcile the image of Chase—the Chase who helps people in secret; the Chase who lives in an unassuming Underground home that looks like his grandmother decorated it; the Chase who saved my life—with the image I’ve always pictured of the powerful and destructive halfling prince who wiped out so many fae. My mind won’t accept it. I slowly shake my head. “It isn’t possible. He’s just a guy! There’s no way he’s Lord Draven.”
“Then why isn’t he here to tell you that himself?”
“Because … because … ”
“What was he doing here with you in the first place?” Ryn asks with a frown.
But I don’t answer him because my mind is far away now, remembering things I don’t want to remember. Scraps of information that fit together like pieces of a puzzle I don’t want to see. No amount of remorse can change the past. The past. His past. His secrets. Whatever it is, he said, it can’t be as terrible as the things I’ve done. What things has he done? Who is he? You wouldn’t like me nearly as much if you knew.
I almost hear the click in my brain the moment I accept the truth. The whoosh of air as it’s sucked from my world. The groan of my heart as it’s crushed beneath the weight of betrayal.
“Calla?” Ryn reaches out and touches my shoulder. I shrug away from him, turn around, and run.
I’ve been running ever since.
My eyelids spring apart and I find Gemma looking down at me. “Yes?” I croak.
“You’re okay.” She smiles in relief. “I thought Saskia might have knocked you out properly.” Gemma is one of the few people at the Guild who likes me enough to come over and find out whether I’m unconscious or not. Almost everyone e
lse, including my oh-so-friendly mentor, would probably use this failure as another opportunity to point out that I don’t belong here.
“Don’t worry,” I say, pushing myself to my feet. “Saskia isn’t that good.”
Gemma chuckles as we head for the edge of the Fish Bowl and push through the swirling misty layer. “Don’t let her hear you say that.”
We walk toward the collection of training bags floating against the wall. I glance at her with a half-smile. “How about if I shout it instead so that everyone can hear?”
Gemma rolls her eyes. “Do you really want to poke the dragon like that?”
“Which dragon are we poking?” Perry asks, swinging a sweaty arm around Gemma’s shoulders as he joins us.
“Saskia,” I tell him.
“Perfect. I’ll get a stick.”
“Don’t you dare,” Gemma says, smacking at his hand until he removes his arm from her shoulders. “Why don’t we go to my place and do that history assignment instead?”
“Gemma.” Perry shakes his head with great seriousness as he looks down at her. “That is one of the worst suggestions you’ve ever made.”
“I can’t, I’m sorry,” I say before she can ask me. “Olive has another assignment for me. She told me to report to her directly after the last session.”
“Now? But you just finished training. You need a break.”
“It’s fine. I don’t mind.”
Gemma narrows her eyes. “You don’t mind, or you don’t have a choice?”
I consider her words. “Both.”
She shakes her head. “You know Olive is going to keep piling more and more on top of you until you either refuse or crack beneath the weight.”
“Yes, I’m aware of that. I don’t plan for either of those things to happen, though.” And the added work is a welcome distraction from the thoughts that are never far from my mind.
Thoughts of Chase.
“Anyway, I’ll see you tomorrow.” I pull my training bag out of the air and swing it over my shoulder.
“Okay. And don’t forget about the history assignment,” Gemma calls after me. “I know you haven’t started it yet.”
“Yeah, yeah,” I call back to her. I haven’t opened a single history textbook in the past ten days. They all make reference to Draven at some point or other, and he’s the last person I want to read about right now.
I stride along the corridor toward the main foyer. I’m almost there when a figure steps out of a nearby lesson room and stops in front of me. My stomach plummets at the sight of Violet. She and Ryn have been gone since the day of the wedding—the day I discovered the truth about Chase—which has made it easy to avoid talking to either of them. I thought they were away until tomorrow. I thought I had at least another twelve hours before they ambushed me. “Uh, how was the honeymoon?” I ask.
“Hmm, let’s see.” Vi places her hands on her hips. “We had a wonderfully relaxing time and didn’t once think about you or Draven.”
I raise an eyebrow. “Judging from the number of mirror calls I missed from you and Ryn in the past ten days, I’m going to take a wild guess and say that was complete sarcasm.”
“Missed? It felt a whole lot more like you were intentionally ignoring us.”
“I was,” I admit, “which you should be thanking me for. It was your honeymoon. You were supposed to forget about the real world.”
“And forget that the guy who almost destroyed the real world is actually alive instead of dead?” Her expression is incredulous. “Were you able to forget about that in the past ten days?”
I let out a loud bark of a laugh and fix a grim stare on the floor as my mind skims over the days since the wedding.
Day one: I slept in as long as possible, ran laps around Carnelian Valley until my legs could barely hold me, refused to let myself cry, contemplated burning Chase’s coat, and ended up stuffing it into the back of my closet instead.
Day two: I relished the distraction of lessons, poured every ounce of energy into training, splashed my feelings onto an angry painting—which I did end up burning—and successfully saved a businessman from being eaten by an ogre on his way home from a late night meeting.
Day three: I woke up early and found myself missing Chase more than anything. I got up, got dressed, and took two steps along an Underground tunnel before coming to my senses and realizing what a foolish idiot I was. I visited Mom instead, still trapped in her enchanted sleep in the Guild’s healing wing.
Day four: Olive discovered I’d never fought with a staff before. My entire afternoon was spent practicing the basics, and I welcomed the distracting pain of every blister.
Day five: I cried. Then I pushed down the hurt and confusion and focused on the anger instead. My evening assignment went well.
Day six: More staff practice. More blisters. More training, training, training.
Day seven: Don’t think of him. Keep training.
Days eight to ten: Keep training, keep training, keep training.
I fold my arms over my chest and look at Vi. “Yes, of course, I was able to completely forget about him.”
She purses her lips before saying, “I don’t need a wild guess to know that was also sarcasm.”
“This is serious, Calla. Ryn and I need to know everything you know before we go to the Council with this.”
Go to the Council … The thought makes me sick. Everything about this situation makes me sick. “Well, you’re going to have to wait a bit longer.” I step past her. “I have an assignment right now.”
“This is more important than any assignment,” Vi says, catching my arm.
“Have you met my mentor? Nothing is more important than her schedule.” I pull my arm out of Vi’s grasp and keep walking.
“Calla!” she shouts after me, seemingly shocked that I’m walking away from her.
“Calm down,” I say, turning and continuing to walk backwards as I speak. “Nothing happened in the past week, did it? Nothing happened in the past ten years, so what’s another day?” I spin around and head across the marble floor of the main foyer. I reach the grand stairway on the other side and take a step before hearing a commotion somewhere behind me. Glancing over my shoulder, I see two guardians struggling to restrain a man near the entrance to the Guild.
A man I recognize.
A guardian who allowed everyone to believe he died in The Destruction.
The first person who taught me how to fight.
In shock, I grab the banister. “Zed,” I murmur. “What are you doing here?”
I glance away quickly, my hand tightening around the banister. No one can know that Zed and I are connected in any way. It would make things worse for him, and it wouldn’t exactly help me either. He’ll be in enough trouble for never having given up his guardian weapons without adding the fact that he’s secretly been training someone for the past several years.
From the corner of my eye, I watch as the two guardians drag him across the foyer and into a corridor I’ve entered only twice. There’s a well-guarded gate not far along that corridor, and then a glass elevator that drops down, down, down. Then another gate, and then rows of cells separated by thick bars.
How did he get caught? How, after years of staying far from the Guild, did he wind up in the clutches of two guardians? And what will his punishment be?
Knowing there’s nothing I can do for him right now, and fully aware that I’m late to meet my mentor, I hurry up the stairs toward her office. I expect to find her ready to spit fire at me, but instead she raises her gaze from the unfurled scroll in her hands and fixes me with an expressionless stare. “What are you here for?”
“Uh, the assignment you said you had for me?”
“Oh.” She returns her attention to the scroll, her thumb running along the broken edge of the red wax seal. “I gave that to Ling.”
I stand in the doorway, wonderi
ng whether I should dare ask why she gave my assignment to the other fifth-year trainee she mentors. “Um—”
“She’s been asking for extra assignments. She was here on time. You weren’t.” Olive’s eyes scan the reed paper, never glancing up at me.
I fiddle with the strap on my bag and try to figure out whether I’ve been dismissed or not. “So …”
“No, you don’t have the night off.” Olive rolls up the scroll and throws it into a drawer, which she slams shut before standing. She combs her fingers through her short hair as she watches me, probably deciding what training exercise I’m least likely to enjoy. She lowers her hands to her sides. “You’ll be running laps around the old Guild ruins for the next two hours, and you’ll be wearing your tracker band so I’ll know you’re not skipping a single second of it.”
Terrific. So instead of sitting at home trying not to think of what Chase is doing, I’ll be running in circles trying not to think of what Chase is doing. Wondering whether he’s been cooking up evil plans since his fall. Pondering what reason he might have had for helping me. Trying to figure out how someone so terrible could seem so … caring.
“Not impressed, I see,” Olive says. She sifts through the untidiness of her desk until she finds the box that contains her trainees’ tracker bands. “Does the idea of improving your fitness seem like a waste of time to you?”
I carefully arrange my features into what I hope is a pleasant expression. “Of course not. None of this is a waste of time. I appreciate all the extra training you give me.”
“I see. Well, since you’re so appreciative of the extra training, let’s add in some more. You’ll do thirty minutes of running and spend the remainder of the time on the obstacle course. The one set up on the ruins. I want it completed perfectly five times in a row before you’re allowed to leave.”
I nod, relieved that I won’t have to spend two hours doing something so mindless. “Thank you.” My smile is closer to being genuine this time, which only seems to annoy Olive further.