Rise of the Fae – Linsey Hall

THE LOVE of my life sat tied to a chair, thrashing against the bonds as his eyes glowed gold and black. I gripped my sister’s hand and stared at him. My legs were so weak that I thought I might turn into a puddle at any moment. “He’s under her spell still,” Aeri said. “It’s been over an hour, and it hasn’t faded.” I swallowed hard, nodding. Unable to speak. An hour ago, we’d escaped the Unseelie kingdom. The land of the Dark Fae was ruled by my mother, the false queen, and she’d hit Tarron with something awful as we’d escaped through the portal back to earth. We’d brought him directly back to our workshop and bound him with unbreakable chains. The rest of our friends were recovering after the battle, but we had work to do. Namely, curing Tarron. “Whatever that spell was, it’s infected his mind. The false queen is particularly good with mind control.” I stepped closer to him, and he growled, his eyes alight with hatred.

We’d magically gagged him, but the growls were clear enough. He’d been poisoned to hate me. To want to kill me. I dropped to my knees next to his chair and drew a knife from the ether. My heart thundered as I dragged the blade across my wrists. “What are you doing?” Aeri demanded. “The only thing I can.” My voice broke. “Healing him.” “You don’t even know if it’s possible.

” “I have to try.” I was a Dragon Blood, for fates’ sake. I could create any kind of magic I wanted. More blood equaled more magic, and I wanted the biggest magic there was. Pain flared as I dug the knife deeper, determined to pour out as much of my blood as I could. Aeri fell to her knees at my side and gripped my arm. “Mari, slow down.” I looked at her, desperate. “I have to fix him, Aeri. I have to try.

” Giving this much blood—all of it, really—would make the power permanent within me. It could also kill me. Which Aeri knew. It was always dangerous to make a new, permanent power. My head grew light from blood loss and I swayed. “Fine,” Aeri snapped. She began to feed her magic into me, giving me strength. Burn, the Thorn Wolf, appeared at my side, pressing his spiky body against my leg for support. I leaned into him despite the prickliness. He and Aeri kept me upright as I poured my blood to the ground.

It gleamed around me, black and bright. I gave my magic along with it, forcing it outside of myself. Darkness began to creep in at the edges of my vision. I imagined the power I wanted—the ability to heal whatever ailed Tarron. I can do this. I have to. I kept going, forcing my life and my magic out of me. My breathing quickened and my skin grew cold. Blindness stole over me. “It’s too much.

” Aeri’s voice filtered in as if from a distance. I swayed, nearly toppling over. Fear pierced me. If this didn’t work—if the magic didn’t turn—I would die. Then it snapped in the air. The magic changed, growing to suit my visions. The power surged back into me, and I gasped. Strength filled my muscles, and magic sparked through my soul. My eyes popped open, and I could see, clearer and sharper than ever. The air felt fresh.

And I felt powerful. I stood, pushing away from Aeri and Burn. Tarron stared at me, hatred and rage in his eyes. It’s not him. Shaking, I pressed a hand to his shoulder. My new magic raged inside of me, the healing power bursting to break free. I fed it into him, watching with delight as the cut on his brow healed. It’s working. I gave it everything I had, pouring as much healing energy as I could into him. I would force away the false queen’s influence, drive away the curse that twisted his mind.

Heal him. It took everything I had, though. He soaked up my magic like a sponge, but never stopped growling at me. Weak, I went to my knees. He thrashed, trying to get away. I kept going. “Mari, stop.” Aeri grabbed my arm. “It’s not working.” I didn’t stop.

She yanked at me, and I was too weak to fight her. Gasping, I sat back. Tarron glared at me, his lips forcibly shut by our magical gag. Tears pricked at my eyes. “It didn’t work.” “We’ll find an antidote.” Aeri pulled me to my feet. “I tried, and I’m not strong enough. I don’t have what it takes.” I would never be as strong as the false queen.

Never be able to undo her curse on Tarron or stop her from destroying our kingdoms. “Get it together.” Aeri shook me, her eyes intense. “This isn’t you. Come on, now.” I gasped, blinking back tears. She was right. I staggered backward, staring at Tarron. This was rock bottom. I drew in a shuddery breath.

“We need a plan.” “Let’s figure out what the curse is exactly,” Aeri said. “Then we can find the right antidote.” I nodded. Just because I couldn’t heal him didn’t mean there wasn’t a solution. “Yeah. We’ll heal Tarron. Then, I’m going to find a way to become stronger so that I stop that bitch from ever doing anything like this again.” I wasn’t strong enough now, but I would be. Aeri squeezed my shoulder.

“Come on.” I sucked in a deep breath and went to the shelf full of my blood sorcery supplies. We had a spell for this. It wasn’t super precise, but it would give us a clue about what was wrong with him. I’d hoped I could hit him with such a huge healing blast that I’d drive out whatever curse there was, but apparently we needed to do this the hard way. Quickly, I gathered the tiny bottles of ingredients. Aeri collected the onyx bowl and silver dagger. I retrieved the pink crystal that came from a realm not on earth, and we got to work mixing the potion that would reveal the nature of Tarron’s curse. She carefully measured out the ingredients, and I dropped the crystal in. Slowly, I stirred the mixture with the silver blade.

“We’ll fix him, Mari. Don’t worry.” My throat tightened. Tarron and I had just confessed our love for each other. And then this. He’d thrown himself in front of the curse to save me. In the chair, he thrashed. “We’ll fix you, I promise,” I said. He just growled. Tarron was gone.

In his place was a creature I didn’t recognize. It wore the face and body of my beloved, but it wasn’t Tarron. Burn prowled toward him, big head low and eyes flaming as he watched the Seelie king. The Thorn Wolf positioned himself between us, and I turned my back to Tarron. I couldn’t bear to see him like this. Carefully, I added the ingredients to the bowl. The hearth flickered with warmth and light, but it did nothing to drive away the coldness in my soul. When all the ingredients had been added, Aeri raised the silver dagger. “Ready?” I nodded. She sliced her fingertip, wincing slightly, and let the white blood drip into the bowl.

I took the glinting blade from her and did the same, feeling the pinch of pain as it bit into my flesh. We only used this blade when the spell was extra important—and this definitely qualified. I shook my finger so a few drops of black blood dripped into the potion. The mixtures sizzled. Quickly, I stirred the potion with the blade, watching as the black and white blood mixed with the purple liquid. “Do you want me to get his blood?” Aeri asked. “I’ll do it.” I took the knife and bowl to Tarron, who fought even harder against the bonds. Briefly, I glanced at his face, then away. “This won’t hurt much.

” I knelt behind him, moving toward the spot where his hands were bound behind him. Gently, I sliced his fingertip and let the red blood drip into the bowl. The dagger was imbued with magic that would make the cut heal quickly. I rose silently. Tarron snarled as I walked back toward my sister. My heart pinched. Even though I knew it was the false queen’s magic at work, it still stung. “Get a move on,” Aeri said. “Quicker we do this, quicker he’s better.” I nodded and looked away from him, hurrying toward the table.

Together, Aeri and I leaned over the bowl. Burn joined me, pressing his thorny side against my leg. I scratched his neck, grateful for the moral support. Aeri and I stared down into the bowl. Tarron’s blood mixed with the potion, and I gave it another stir with the silver blade. I held my breath, waiting. It would turn different colors depending upon the nature of his curse. The potion turned blue—a faint periwinkle that would be pretty if it weren’t for the message it sent. “The soul.” I blinked, then looked at Aeri.

“That’s strange.” “I would have thought it affected his mind, not his soul.” “It must be some mutated version of the false queen’s power.” The potion turned black. My stomach pitched and my skin chilled. “Death.” The black transitioned to silvery blue almost immediately. “What the hell?” Aeri said. “That’s never happened before. It always ends on black.

” I frowned. “I don’t understand. Normally the potion turning black indicates that the curse will kill you.” “Perhaps it will kill his soul,” Aeri said. I drew in an unsteady breath. “That’s not better.” “There was no mention of his mind. If the curse controlled his mind, the potion would have turned green.” “It controls his soul.” I shuddered.

This was far worse than what she’d done to me. She’d tried to control my mind with her cursed power, but I’d been able to fight it. “He can’t resist it because she’s got her hooks into his soul. “Maybe that’s why your new healing power didn’t work on him,” Aeri said. I shook my head. “It should have. I think I’m just not strong enough.” “You can do anything.” “Anything except defeat the false queen, it seems.” I shook my head.

I needed to become as strong as her. To gain her skills so I could take her out and protect everyone I loved. Finally, the potion faded to gray. It was done. Aeri put on a determined face. “Let’s consult the book.” I nodded, my mind on autopilot. The potion had revealed the fundamental nature of the curse—but to find the specific curse itself, we’d need more information. I strode to the bookshelf on shaking legs, taking down a massive leather-bound tome. Curses Most Deadly and Rare was one of our most useful books.

I flipped through the pages, skimming quickly for any mention of a soul curse that would lead to a fate worse than death. Finally, I found something. The Ataraxia Curse — Mind Control Through the Soul. Aeri jabbed the words with her finger. “That’s it.” Breath held, I skimmed the text. “It says that only one who already possesses the power of mind control can wield this curse.” “Just like the false queen.” “Except she enhanced her magic and turned it into soul power. Now she can control her victim without being near them.

It’s so much more powerful than what she tried to do with me.” “He is already her minion.” I glanced toward Tarron, who fought against the bonds. His powerful muscles strained, and he growled low in his throat when he caught sight of me watching him. Minion would never be a good descriptor for him, but he was definitely under the false queen’s sway. “What does it say for a cure?” I turned back to the book and scanned. “There is no cure.” Aeri’s tone darkened. “There has to be. Just because it doesn’t say so here, doesn’t mean there isn’t one.

” I reached the bottom of the page. It provided only the tiniest bit of hope. “It says there is a potion that can dampen the effects.” “But it won’t eliminate her influence. He’ll still be slowly losing his soul.” “But it will buy us time.” Desperation surged through me. “A few days at most.” I shot her a glare. “I’ll take them.

” My mind raced. “If we can hold off the effects and kill the false queen, her curse will break.” “Will it?” Aeri asked. “Or will it take him with her, if their souls are bound.” “Shit.” That was the more likely outcome. She squeezed my hand. “We will find a way around this.” I swallowed hard and gripped her hand tightly, focusing on her words. “First step’s first.

” She bent over the ingredient list for the potion that would dampen the effects of the spell. “It looks like we have everything we need except for the root of Paeoria.” “That’s traditionally a Fae ingredient.” I frowned. “I wonder if they have it in their realm?” “He has a comms charm, doesn’t he?” I nodded, then strode toward him. He thrashed against the bindings, growling at me. Thank fates for the gag—I didn’t want to hear whatever he’d say to me right now. I skirted around him, avoiding looking at his face, and knelt at his back. Quickly, I removed the comms charm tied around his wrist. Unlike a cell phone, it could only contact one person—but the line was always open.

As long as you weren’t dead. I raised it to my lips. “Luna? Are you there?” “Mari, is that you?” Tarron’s second-in-command sounded perplexed. “It is.” “What’s happened to Tarron? I had to leave the forest earlier, and he hasn’t returned to the Seelie Court. Nor have I heard from him.” “He’s…” I glanced down at him. “Indisposed. Taking a shower.” Luna was loyal to him—I was nearly sure of it.

All the same, I didn’t want to tell his subjects that he was out of commission, held sway to an evil bitch who would make him kill me and all the Seelie if he could get free of his bindings. “When is he coming back?” she asked. “Soon. We’re working on a plan to take out the false queen of the Unseelie.” “We want in,” Luna said. “The whole royal guard.” “Thank you.” We’d need all the help we could get, and the Seelie were the perfect people for it. After the false queen had burned much of their city and tried to murder them all, they were out for blood. “What can I do for you now, though? Clearly you’re calling about something important.

” Suspicion sounded in her voice, and I couldn’t blame her. Rarely did someone allow another to use their comms charm. “We need some root of Paeoria. I know that is commonly used in Fae spells.” “It is. But why do you need it?” “For an antidote for my sister. She’s unwell.” I shot Aeri a glance. She drew a finger across her throat, tilted her head, and stuck out her tongue. “Oh no.

” Concern echoed in Luna’s voice. “Aerdeca is sick?” “Yes. Do you have the ingredient?” “Let me check with our potions master. Give me a moment.” I waited, breath held, foot tapping. By the time she returned, I was vibrating with anticipation. We needed this. “I’m afraid we don’t have it,” Luna said. “But there’s a guy in Glasgow. A Fae without a court.

He runs a bar as a front, but his main business is Fae potion making.” Fae without a court were often dangerous. The Fae were a social people, often liking to stick to their groups. They were as pack-like as the shifters, but in a different way. When they went off on their own, they were often unstable. “What’s the bar called?” I asked. “And where in Glasgow, exactly?” “It’s the Whispering Rowan, located just off Union Street on the north end, down a flight of stairs that can be found in an alley marked with a stone rowan branch.” “So Fae,” I muttered. “We do love our trees.” Her voice sobered.

“But seriously, Mari. You need to be careful. He could be unstable.” “We will be. Promise.” “What’s his name?” “Kevin.” “Kevin?” I frowned. “That’s not very Fae.” “I told you—he is a Fae without a court. He’s taken a human name.

But if you really want to get one over on him, call him Penriel.” “Penriel.” “Yep. Good luck. And tell the king that we await his command.” “I will.” She disconnected, and I couldn’t help but feel that she didn’t buy my story about Tarron. “At least she didn’t ask questions,” Aeri said. “Seriously. Is Declan done getting cleaned up, do you think? Could he keep an eye on Tarron while we’re gone?” Tarron had been hit by this curse while we’d been trying to rescue Aeri and her boyfriend.

She’d gotten cleaned up first, getting into a fresh ghost suit so she was fightready, and he should be done in the shower any minute now. “I’ll check.” She shot me a serious look. “But you need to eat something before we go. You look ready to drop.” I nodded, my stomach grumbling at the thought. Though food held little appeal, I needed to keep my strength up. I looked at the Thorn Wolf. “Keep an eye on him, will you, buddy?” He woofed low, then sat in front of Tarron, his eyes glued to the bound man. Aeri went to find Declan while I hurried to my kitchen.

Quickly, I put some bacon in the microwave—not ideal, but I wasn’t rolling in time—then went to my bedroom and changed into fresh clothes. Fight wear, of course. I grabbed a huge stack of cash from the bottom dresser drawer, just in case the root of Paeoria was pricey, and withdrew my potion bag from the ether. I stashed the cash in it and shoved the bag back into the ether. By the time I made it into the kitchen, the microwave was beeping. I pulled out the hot plate and threw together two sandwiches. I bit down into the first sandwich, and deliciousness exploded on my tongue. Life was always better with bacon. I ate as I returned to the workshop and handed Burn the second sandwich. “For you, buddy.

You earned it.” He nipped it gracefully out of my hand and chomped down. Tarron had slumped in his bindings, finally exhausted from fighting against the enchanted metal. “I’ll keep an eye on him.” Declan’s voice sounded from behind, and I turned. The fallen angel had wet hair from his recent shower, and Aeri stood at his side. “Thanks. I don’t think he can get out of those chains, but I’d hate to lose him if it happened.” Declan nodded. Aeri approached.

“Let’s get a move on.” I held out my hand for her. She reached out and gripped my palm. I called upon my magic, envisioning St Vincent Street in Glasgow, with its wide road and massive stone buildings. The ether sucked us in and spun us through space, finally spitting us out on the dark road in the middle of the city. Streetlights shed a golden glow on the creamy flagstone, and drunken revelers stumbled along ahead of us. “It’s got to be near midnight here,” Aeri said. “The Fae pub will still be open.” “Good. We can pretend to be patrons.

” I spun in a circle to get my bearings, then pointed. “This way.” Together, we hurried down the street, headed toward the east end and the alley marked with the rowan bough. As we walked, Aeri broke the silence. “So, if you overthrow your mother, that will make you queen, you know.” I swallowed hard. “Yep.” “You don’t sound that excited about it.” “I haven’t had a lot of time to think about it.” “Now that you have?” The words blurted out of me.

“I don’t think I want it.” “The responsibility, you mean?” “Exactly. The crown is fine, the deference and being called Your Highness—that all sounds great. Plus, the palace is fabulous. But it’s so much work. So much responsibility. And it all takes place in another realm.” “And I thought I was gone from home a lot these days. You’d never be around.” “Exactly.

We’ve built an awesome life in Magic’s Bend. I like that life. I don’t suddenly want to be doing a lot of bureaucracy—because that’s what it is, if you’re a decent queen. The boring minutia and stress of making sure everyone is okay.” Aeri shuddered. “Yeah, no thanks.” “It’s definitely not how our mother is ruling.” My heart twisted. “I can’t believe that the only family I’ve ever known sucks. Our aunt.

My mother.” “I don’t suck.” I wrapped my arm around her neck and leaned my head against hers. “That, you do not.” “But I get it. Would be nice to have some good family besides the two of us.” I nodded, then shoved the thought away. We passed several bars and restaurants before I spotted the stone rowan bough. It was subtle, but unmistakable. Compared to the other spots on the street, the Fae pub was distinctly lower key. A narrow set of stairs led down into the shadowed alley. “There’s not even a sign,” Aeri said. I glanced up at the rowan bough. “Just that thing, if you know to look for it.” “Do you think they’ll let me in, since I don’t have Fae blood?” “Let’s try.” She nodded and started down the stairs. I followed, keeping my footsteps silent on the stone. By the time we reached the bottom, the light from the street lamps above had faded. Faerie lights glittered a few feet over my head, shining a faint glow on the alley. A narrow door stood at the end of the passage, closed tightly against the night air. “Not very welcoming,” Aeri muttered. I frowned and strode up to it. “There’s no door handle.” “But there is a little hatch.” Aeri pointed to a tiny hatch set into the door, just above our eye level. “Should we knock?” “What if there is a fancy knock we have to do and we screw it up and they know we’re not regulars? Or invited?” “Good point.” She frowned, then pointed to the middle of the door. “Is that stain what I think it is?” I peered at it, then nodded. “Definitely blood.” “Then you know what to do, fairy lady.” I smirked at her, then sliced my fingertip and pressed the bloody tip to the door, trying not to think about how gross it was. Nothing happened. I glanced at Aeri. “You try.” She shrugged and cut her finger, then pressed it to the door. The little hatch on the door slid open, and she yanked her hand back. My gaze flew up to the hatch, meeting a pair of black eyes. “What do you want?” “A drink.” Aeri glared. “I suggest you let us in if you don’t wish to face our wrath.” I let loose with a bit of my magical signature, and Aeri did the same. It was the supernatural version of flexing your muscles, and it worked. The eyes darted left and right, then the door creaked and swung open. Aeri and I shared a glance. Well, that had worked. And apparently Penriel wasn’t a fan of the Fae, since her blood had worked and mine had not. I stepped toward the door. The scent of the forest and a rushing river flowed out. Despite the welcoming sounds, the corridor within was dark and creepy. “Definite creep vibes,” Aeri muttered. “Perfect,” I said wryly. “Penriel is a weirdo.”

.

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