Authors: Jenna Elizabeth Johnson
Jenna Elizabeth Johnson
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination. All material in connection with Celtic myth has been borrowed and interpreted for use in the plot of the story only. Cover image is the sole property of the author. The
font used in the title, table of contents and chapter headings of this book was created by P.A. Vannucci
to be used exclusively for the
series. Any resemblance to actual persons is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2012 by Jenna Elizabeth Johnson
All rights reserved.
No part of this book or its cover may be reproduced in any manner without written permission from its creator.
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For the Sisters of Mercy, who first introduced me to the mystical world of Ireland.
The creature was utterly disgusting, whatever it was. Faelah, yes, but I didn’t have a name for this unfamiliar beast. Not yet, at least. So, what to call this one . . . I’d have to come up with something creative, some new word to describe the half-dead creature resembling a possum, coyote and rabbit all rolled into one. Perhaps I could combine the first two letters of the names for each of the animals: po-co-ra. Huh,
. It even sou
nded like an Otherworldly term.
The thing, the pocora, jerked its head up from whatever poor creature it feasted on, bony jaws dripping with gore. My stomach turned, and not just because of the brutal scene. The faelah was eating one of Mrs. Dollard’s cats, the chubby one that obviously hadn’t been able to outrun this particular enemy. I gritted my teeth. I wasn’t attached to my neighbor’s cats, despite the fact I once spent a summer caring for them, but the poor thing hadn’t deserved to die at the mercy of an Otherworldly monster.
I took a deep breath, pulling an arrow free of the quiver slung across my back and deftly positioned it in my bow. I’d become quite good at this in the past several weeks; arming my longbow with an arrow quickly and without making a sound. I stretched the bowstring back and aimed the arrow’s tip at the creature, steadying my arms while trying to concentrate. With a twang, I released the string and fixed my face with an expression of satisfaction as the arrow pierced the mummified hide of the pocora. The creature squealed like a pig and fell to the ground, kicking and clawing and attempting to remove the hawthorn arrow. If I had used any other wood, the faelah might’ve stood a chance, but even as I watched the small monstrosity struggling to regain its feet, smoke lifted from where the hawthorn shaft burned through nonliving flesh. I crinkled my nose at the acrid smell and turned away. Generally, I didn’t like killing anything, but the faelah of Eil
were an entirely different matter. And they weren’t technically alive, either.
The creature’s screams ceased and it went still. I waited a few more moments before moving close enough to pull the arrow free. I always kept the arrows from my hunts. It wasn’t like I could go down to the local sporting goods store and ask for arrows made with hawthorn wood. I wiped it on a nearby patch of grass out of habit. Whatever remained of the faelah would already be gone, however, burned off by magic. I glanced back over my shoulder as I left the small clearing behind, but the pocora had already disintegrated into ash, its glamour no longer keeping it alive and whole in the mortal world. I sighed and turned my eyes to what was left of Matilda Dollard’s cat. I would pay her a visit later and tell her I’d found her pet’s remains in the swamp. Another poor victim of a coyote attack.
, a bright thought said in my mind, forcing my thoughts away from the gruesome scene.
I shaded my eyes and glanced up into the eucalyptus leaves only to catch the brilliant white flash of a small bird of prey darting through them. She had been scanning the forest for more faelah. I grinned.
Did you catch anything?
I sent to my spirit guide.
Meridian chittered and sent back a joyous,
That would be a yes.
I heaved a deep breath and pulled my quiver back onto my shoulders. Mid-morning had become late afternoon and I knew Mom would be worried if I didn’t get back soon. After having confessed to my family I was Faelorehn, an immortal being from
, the Otherworld, and that a vindictive goddess was out to get me, she had been a little more protective of late. I guess I couldn’t blame her.
Meridian finished up with whatever she had caught and then set her focus on accompanying me back to the house. The walk home took a good fifteen minutes, but I didn’t mind taking my time this afternoon. I had a lot on my mind, after all. Actually, there had been a lot on my mind since my junior year in high school when all of this stuff concerning the Otherworld got dumped on me like a ton of bricks, but for the past month I had even more to worry about.
I made my way back to the main trail leading out of the swamp and thought about what had transpired just before graduation. It sometimes made me sick with anxiety, but I couldn’t help that. The Morrigan had tricked me, once again to my chagrin, into thinking she meant to go after my family. A few years ago, she would have been happy just to kill me. Now that she knew I possessed more glamour than the average Faelorehn, she was intent on using me as her own personal supply of endless magic. She probably would have succeeded if Cade hadn’t stepped in.
Cade . . .
A pang of regret cut through me and when I reached the spot in the trail where a fallen tree blocked my way, I leaned heavily against the rough trunk and pulled a well-worn note out of my pocket. The message wasn’t from Cade, but from his foster father, the Dagda. I unfolded the edges and began reading.
Cade is improving every day, yet he is still very weak. I know you wish to see him soon, but please give him a little more time and don’t cross into the Otherworld. The Morrigan has been lying low; no one has seen her lately, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t lurking in the shadows, waiting to cast her net. For now, you are safer where you are. Cade will come and get you as soon as he is recovered.
The note should have made me happy, and it did when I first received it a week and a half ago, but I longed to visit Cade so badly I ached. I needed to know he was safe and I needed to witness with my own eyes that he was healing.
I folded the worn paper into a perfect square and returned the note to my pocket, then climbed over the log and kept on walking. Last May I’d been all set to go to prom with the guy of my dreams, Cade MacRoich, the gorgeous Faelorehn boy from
who appeared one day like some guardian angel to save me from the Morrigan’s faelah and to tell me all about my strange heritage. Unfort
unately, on the day of the prom
we both got tricked into running headlong into the evil goddess’s trap. Only, Cade wouldn’t let her have me, and right before he took on almost a dozen of her monsters, he told me he loved me. And then he died.
I stopped for a moment,
craned my head back and leaned on my longbow, soaking in the filtered sunlight trickling down between the leaves above. I shut my eyes and tried to tell the knot of worry in my stomach to go away. Cade had died, he died defending me and the trauma of such a terrible experience forced my power to surge forth, scaring the Morrigan away, at least for the time being. The sudden rush of my glamour had soon faded and the reality of what had happened slammed into me like a train. I was convinced my heart would tear itself asunder, for Cade had sacrificed too much.
Only after recovering from my hysterics did I remember Cade’s foster father, the Dagda, an ancient Celtic god-king, happened to own a magical cauldron with a reputation for reviving the dead. A frantic horse ride against a driving storm later and I dropped like a fly at the Dagda’s door, a lifeless Cade in my arms. I’d arrived just in time; Cade would recover. But he never got to hear me tell him I loved him, too.
I had returned to the mortal world, an emotional and physical wreck, only to finally confess the truth to my family: I was an immortal from the Otherworld, the daughter of a Celtic goddess and the high queen of
, and one day I’d be going back to the world of my origins. Let’s just say after such an ordeal, I needed something to keep me distracted, to give me purpose so I wouldn’t lose my mind completely. Thus, I had taken up hunting for the faelah on my own. Hec
k, before the Morrigan’s attack
Cade constantly pestered me about practicing my archery and this way I could kill two, maybe three, birds with one stone. I was getting some much-needed practice in, I was
ing the swamp of dangerous faelah,
I was keeping my mind occupied. Yup, three birds.
I fingered the note in my pocket once more as I stepped onto the equestrian trail leading to my home. I hoped the Dagda was right; that Cade was recovering. I so desperately wanted to turn around and head for the dolmarehn in the heart of these woods, to travel back to the Dagda’s home and see Cade, but like the Dagda said, I’d be an easy target in the Otherworld. And I agreed with the other thing he’d mentioned as well. I had no doubt the Morrigan would be looking for me.
Gritting my teeth, I turned my mind away from those dark thoughts and picked up my pace. By the time I reached the end of the path, I welcomed thoughts of a shower and a sit down with a good book and some hot chocolate. Summer was in full swing, yes, but the coastal fog was already creeping in and the ea
rly evening would turn chilly.
I planned on crossing our backyard and slipping in through my sliding glass door, but a barrage of young boys accosted me before I could even step foot on the lawn. Apparently my brothers had been waiting for my return.
“Meghan!” Logan whined as he rushed forward. “We wanted to go with you this time!”
He crossed his arms, and yes, actually stomped his foot.
I blinked at him and my other brothers as they gathered around me, a small army of Elams.
“Huh?” Despite my claims that my hunting ventures helped purge my mind of everything Otherworldly except the faelah themselves, my wandering thoughts still found ways to wrestle free of the bonds I’d placed on them. I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about. I’d been too busy reminiscing.
“We want to help you hunt!” Bradley offered, thrusting out a fist which happened to be clutching a small bow.
I cleared my throat and took a breath. When would they realize no meant no? I was still getting used to the fact that my parents and brothers knew about my Faelorehn blood. After keeping my identity a secret for so long, I found it easy to forget I had told them (and shown them) what my Otherworldly power could do.