If you've read the Bridger series, you'll know about Memaw, my kick-arse ninja granny. :) This novella is tentatively titled Assassin Rising, and if you guys like this, I might have to release the novella. Let me know what you think!
Thanks for reading,
PROLOGUE of ASSASSIN RISING
The blood in my veins went cold. Air hitched in my throat. My stomach felt as though it was filled with lead. Panic sunk in. “This isn’t MaKenna!”
My husband ran into the room. “What to do you mean that isn’t MaKenna?”
“Paul, I know my daughter, and this isn’t MaKenna! Her eyes, look at them!”
The child I held in my arms was withering before our very eyes. I looked up to see the terror-filled eyes of Paul. He looked as though he had seen a ghost. He raised a hand shakily. “A-A-Ank…”
He didn’t have to finish his sentence. The air around us grew cold. The water that was in the cup on the nightstand froze over on top. Ankou was here.
“I have her, Emily. She’s safe. She’s better off now.”
I didn’t look behind me to see him. Instead, I gazed down into the coal black eyes of the Changeling that manifested in my arms. I dropped the filthy thing on the floor, disgusted by what I thought was my child for the past two months. How could I have missed the signs? Was I that blind, or had I just denied the fact that I knew? What kind of mother was I?
Paul’s face contorted in rage. “You bastard! You told us we were safe if we followed you!”
Ankou chuckled. “I said you were safe. Not your child, stupid human. She will be used to strengthen our bloodlines. We’ll be better with her. Thank you for your generous contribution.”
That was it. Ankou may have shown me his power multiple times, but he was also half my size. He’d taken my only child – my reason for breathing – and it was more than I could bear.
I grabbed him by his hair and held him in the air. Before he could disappear or say an incantation, I snatched up the iron chain on the nightstand by MaKenna’s crib. We had always kept iron in the house to defend ourselves against the Fae; how could one have infiltrated and we not notice? In one swift movement I wrapped the chain around Ankou’s neck and ran into the living room.
The only chance I had was to use the incantation I’d watched Ankou use to bring Morgan, or as we called her, The Fates. “Arcessere quas!”
There was no reason to think she’d side with me. We both worked for Ankou. I could only pray she had some sense of a soul within her. Her sister, The Morrigan, certainly didn’t.
Paul was wide-eyed in the doorway. He sobbed, but the betrayal he felt shone through his eyes. “Emily, what have you done?”
“I’m getting our daughter back!”
Ankou cackled as he struggled against his bonds. “You’ll never find her, and I don’t know why you’d want to. You should be honored to have her strengthening the Changeling bloodlines. That’s what you wanted, right?”
Morgan’s silvery grey wisps began to appear, then her jet-black sheet of hair, and finally her body. The grey mist hovered around her feet until she stepped out of it. “Ankou? What is this?”
“I called you here, Morgan,” I said as I clamped a hand over Ankou’s mouth. “He kidnapped MaKenna and won’t tell me where she is. He needs to pay.”
Morgan stood there, silent. Panic was taking over again. I shook Ankou wildly. “Look at him! Look at what he’s done! Do you think he’ll keep any promises he’s given you?”
I threw Ankou to the ground, the iron still in place, which rendered him helpless. He grabbed at the iron, but it singed his hands when he gripped it. He writhed on the ground as smoke rose from around his neck. “You treacherous human! Do you really think I’ll let you get away with this?”
“You won’t have a choice. You’re done here.”
Morgan’s proclamation shocked me. I looked up to see the resignation etched in her face. She was forming a red sphere in her hands. “I don’t like doing this, Emily, but you summoned me. I’m bound to do what you want. I don’t appreciate this.”
She irritated me. I needed my daughter back and she was talking about whether or not she liked the situation.
I’d reached the end of my rope. “Fine. Fine. I’ll do it myself.”
Without another second passing by, I picked Ankou up and threw him in the fireplace. The fire was nearly dead, but when Ankou hit the embers, flames licked up around him. He screamed in agony.
“Now will you tell me where MaKenna is?” I yelled over his shrieks.
He writhed in pain and tried to escape the flames. “You’ll pay for this!!”
“No, because you’ll be dead,” I spat.
Morgan stepped between us and looked back at me. “If you kill him, what really have you accomplished? There are worse things than death.”
She turned and slathered her whole right arm with the red smoke ball she’d created. With her arm covered, she pulled Ankou out of the fire. “Ankou, you will be unable to die, yet unable to heal from these wounds. You will always be mutilated. You will never find the peace of passing over, but you will be in charge of making sure everyone finds peace in their deaths.”
Ankou let out a furious scream, but then the power of Morgan’s proclamation took effect. His body went rigid, and he hovered in the air in a trance. Morgan reached out to grab him, but without warning, he opened his eyes and smiled an evil smile. “You think you can defeat me? I’ve taken precautions against traitors like you! You can’t invoke my own spells on me!”
“Oh yes I can,” Morgan countered. “You gave me more powers than you know. I will make sure you are taken out, one way or another.”
Morgan filled her hands with white light and shoved it into Ankou’s face. With a sudden crash, his body hit the floor and exploded into dust.
“You killed him, Morgan!” I accused. “You killed him when you said you wouldn’t!”
“I didn’t kill him, you fool,” she countered, “Didn’t you listen to what I said? He’s not able to die. For now.”
“What do you mean, for now?”
Morgan shrugged, seemingly not worried at all. “That spell will a few months at best. I don’t know enough to really cause much damage.”
“Are you kidding me?”
She put her hands in the air. “I didn’t want to be part of this. You summoned me. I had to obey, so I did enough to get by.”
“I need my daughter back!”
“Not my problem. You sided with faeries. You, of all people, should know we faeries are not to be trusted.”
Without saying another word, she disappeared into the grey wisps of smoke that signaled her arrival not ten minutes before. I stood there numb, covered in dust, and nowhere nearer to my daughter than I had before it all began.
Before I sided with the wrong people.
I’d forgotten Paul was even here. He reminded me of it in a cold, cruel tone that I’d never heard from him before. “I hate you, Emily.”
My skirt swirled around me as I whipped my body in his direction. “What… what did you say?”
“I hate you. You did this. You caused all of this. We’ve lost our daughter because of you.”
Tears began to fill my eyes. “No, no, no, Paul. You know why I agreed to work for Ankou. I was trying to protect you. Protect MaKenna. Protect us.”
“And a fat lot of good it did, didn’t it?” He spat, “You’ve lost my daughter, Emily! You know spells and people I never dreamed of. You said you didn’t know any spells, but how did that Morgan woman get here without you calling on her? You’ve lied to me from the beginning!”
“Paul, I didn’t mean for it to be this way. You’ve got to understand – “
He held up his hands to stop me. “No, you’ve got to understand me, Emily. I’m done. I’m done with this. The lies, the trickery, the deceit that comes with associating with faeries. I want none of it. You’re on your own.”
I fell to my knees, unable to move. “Paul, no, if you go – if you leave – I’ll have no one.”
He didn’t even turn to look around as he walked away. “Which is what you deserve.”
Silence filled the now empty room.
Tears spilled over. I was alone. I’d caused this. My intentions had been pure: protect my family. But now, because of me, I was alone.
I needed help. I needed to fix this.
Without thinking it through, I stood weakly and stumbled my way to the door.
Desire for revenge and hatred of what I’d become fueled my steps. Ankou talked of another faerie race – one he loathed for their benevolent interest in humans – and I thought I knew where one could be found.
I tripped over tree roots blindly and waved my arms in front of me to feel my way through the pitch black forest. Desperation filled every ounce of my being. I would do anything to save MaKenna. Anything.
Movement. I heard movement ahead. There was a crunch of underbrush, and I ran toward it. “Help, please! Please stop! I need help!”
I tripped over a tree root. Mud filled my mouth. Still, I gurgled out pleas of help while trying to spit out the goo. “Please, I know you’re a Glaistig. I’m willing to do anything. I can help you defeat Ankou. Please, let me help you in your battle.”
The crunching stopped, then began again. It came closer, and for a split second I wondered if I’d made the right decision.
A woman’s sweet voice filled the air. “You can help us stop Ankou, you say?”
“I can,” I sputtered. “I know him personally. Where he’ll be, what he does. You need me.”
The woman laughed. “I don’t know if we need you, but if you can provide that kind of information, it’d certainly be helpful.”
She cracked her knuckles. “I really hope the Committee doesn’t get upset about me creating another member without it going to a vote. They’ll be disgruntled if you have no outstanding abilities. Please don’t be a waste.”
The woman’s face illuminated by the orange light she created in her hands. Her bright red hair fell in waves around her beautiful face. She smiled, and her perfectly aligned, pure white teeth gleamed in the moonlight. “This may hurt a bit when it fills your nostrils, but don’t try to hold your breath. It just prolongs the pain. Good luck.”
The orange light covered me. I didn’t even have time to argue. I opened my mouth to scream, but the orange light was thick and filled my mouth. The words she said rang in my ears.
Don’t try to hold your breath.
I didn’t have anything to live for anyway, so I listened to her advice. The orange substance danced around my nose, so I took in a deep breath.