Spirit of the Fae – Linsey Hall

MİST SWİRLED AROUND MY ANKLES, a cold reminder of my SITUATION. Fear thundered through me. Tarron and I stood in the afterworld—dead. Or partially dead, according to the Celtic goddess Brigid, who had just visited to deliver the dire news. She’d left almost immediately. Totally unhelpful. Now we were alone in some unknown afterworld with no idea how to get the hell out. I looked at the Seelie king, my fated mate and the man who drove me crazy—both forreal crazy and crazy with desire. White mist surrounded him, twisting around his tall form. His strong body appeared partially transparent, though he was just as lethally sexy as ever. Green eyes blazed, and his black hair was swept back from his head. I couldn’t believe he wasn’t dead. Five minutes ago, he’d died to save thousands of lives. I’d lost my shit over the idea of him dying. Sobbing, screaming—the works.

I shook away the thoughts. There was no time for feelings right now. Because instead of killing just him, the magic had killed us both. I raised my hand and tried to press it against his chest. It drifted right through. “Fates,” I murmured. “This is bad.” His brows lowered, and a grim light entered his eyes. “Do you feel that?” I shivered as I sensed the eyes watching us. It prickled across my skin.

“Yeah. We might not be alone.” “We need to get the hell out of here.” The last thing I remembered was dying in the battle to save Tarron’s Seelie kingdom from my mother—the false queen of the Unseelie Fae. Apparently I was the real queen, which I’d just learned. Unfortunately, my mother had survived, and if we didn’t get out of there fast, she’d wage war on our people again. “She’s going to keep fighting. No matter what.” “Brigid said it was possible for us to find a way out,” he said. I tried calling upon my transportation magic, knowing it couldn’t be that easy.

But I had to try, right? Of course it didn’t work. Shit. “Can your gift of sight help?” he asked. “Fates, I hope so.” I closed my eyes and drew in a deep breath. The air going into my lungs was a comfort—it confirmed that I couldn’t be totally dead. It took everything I had to call upon my magic. Here, in the half realm between life and death, it seemed harder to access. I couldn’t get my sense of premonition to work, but my seeker sense started to tug on me. It was one of my weakest magics.

The ability to find things was a difficult one, and it didn’t always work, even in the real world. But it worked at that moment—just a bit. Just enough. It pulled me toward answers, tugging around my middle. I opened my eyes and pointed to the left. “That way.” “Any clue what’s over there?” Tarron asked. “Answers. About the false queen. About where we are.

I don’t know exactly.” “It’s our only clue, so we must follow it.” He shrugged. Tarron and I both headed in that direction, cutting through the mist. I stuck close by his side, not wanting to get separated in the eerie mist. After a few minutes, it began to fade slightly, revealing white trees with ivory leaves. Clusters of red berries hung from them—the only color in the whole place. Rowan berries. We were in some kind of forest. “The trees look like the ones back home, but…dead?” I touched the white bark, and it felt normal.

“I’ve no idea,” Tarron said. “Never seen anything like this place.” The white clouds that had filled the air had drifted toward the ground. They lay like a heavy mist, twisting around the raised roots of the trees. A faint wind whistled through the branches, rustling the white leaves. In the distance, a white stag appeared between two thick trunks, then kept on moving, as if something were chasing it. Something dangerous sparked on the air. I shivered. “I don’t like this place.” “A threat lurks.

” He called upon his sword from the ether, and I was grateful to see that power still worked. He gripped the long blade in his big hand, his stance relaxed but his eyes wary. I drew a dagger and looked around, searching for threats. I could feel it, too, prickling against my skin. Faerie lights glittered in the trees above, bright white. Cold. We were in hostile territory. Together, we moved quickly and silently through the white forest. I followed the tug of my seeker sense, letting it pull me along. I had no idea where it was taking us, but I prayed there would be answers on the other side.

“Look, the mist is turning dark,” Tarron murmured. I caught sight of it at the edge of my vision. A black thread of mist was snaking through the rest, pollution of some kind. Instinct screamed through me. “Avoid it.” We veered right, away from the thread of black mist that reached for us. I picked up the pace, muttering, “Thank fates I died in my fight wear.” Tarron chuckled, and we moved faster, sticking close together as we cut between the trees. Shadows flashed in the corner of my vision. “Down!” Tarron lunged toward me, forcing me to the side.

He shifted to block me from attack. Panic spiked in my chest. He grunted as something hit him. He stumbled, staying in front of me. “Don’t risk yourself to protect me,” I hissed, remembering the horror of him dying. I couldn’t survive that again. His gaze flashed to mine, deadly determined. “I’ll always protect you.” I swallowed hard, pushing away the surge of emotion. There was no time for this.

I darted around him, catching sight of a splotch of dark magic that stained his partially transparent shoulder. He groaned and tried to straighten. We’re under attack. I crouched low, drawing my shield from the ether as I searched the surrounding forest. My heartbeat thundered in my head—a reminder of my mortality. I could die here. For real die. Somehow, I felt it. About forty feet away, I spotted a dark shadow. It looked like the grim reaper, but partially transparent.

As if it were made of mist that formed a long dark cloak and hood. Ethereal black wings rose up from the creature’s back. It drifted among the white clouds that hovered low at its feet. I shivered. Fucking creepy. My dagger had fallen when Tarron had saved me. I reached for it and hurled it at the figure. The blade flew through the air, straight and true. Then sailed right through the ephemeral form. “Shit.

” Tarron’s magic flared. The limbs of the tree nearest the reaper trembled and bent down a few feet, reaching for him, then sprang back into place. He cursed. “My powers don’t work here. The tree roots and earth aren’t responding.” Shit. Just like mine. The shadowy figure drifted toward us. The scent of death and decay rolled through the mist, preceding the monster. It raised an arm, the black cloak fluttering in the breeze as it hurled a midnight ball of mist right at us.

I ducked behind my shield. Pain exploded against my arm. I gasped, clutching it. The mist had flown right through my shield! Sickness surged inside my stomach. I looked down, spotting a dark stain on my arm— the creature’s dark magic. Just like Tarron’s wound. “Run!” I scrambled upright. Tarron followed, and we sprinted away from the figure. More tendrils of dark mist crept out from the forest around us, snaking along the ground and twisting around tree trunks. I leapt over them as I ran, looking back over my shoulder to make sure the shadowy figure wasn’t following us.

It was. Along with two more. Oh fates. We were up shit creek. Their magic felt so much more powerful when they were together. Strength in numbers, but in the worst way. There was no way to fight these things—not in this realm. Not without our magic. My seeker sense tugged at me, and I followed, lungs burning and heart pounding. “Fly,” Tarron said.

I tried calling upon my wings. They flared from my back, and I launched myself into the sky. I barely rose four feet into the air, then slammed back down, stumbling into a run. Tarron did no better. Our wings helped us fly—but so did our magic. His were made of lightning and mine of an ephemeral substance that was a bit like water. We needed our magic to fly. “Fates, we’re fucked.” Tarron looked over his shoulder. I glanced back.

The reapers were gaining. They were fast, damn it. A low growl sounded from my left. I looked down, and my heart leapt. “Burn!” The Thorn Wolf raced alongside me, his form totally solid. He wasn’t a ghost-like creature. Not like us. He shot me a look with his flaming red eyes, then veered off to the right and back around, headed straight for the reapers that followed us. He formed a barrier, crouching and growling. His spikey hide rose, and he shot thorns at our attackers.

The long black projectiles sailed through the reapers, but as the spikes passed through them, they howled and slowed. “He’s buying us time,” Tarron said. “We need to be faster. To hide.” The tree trunks all around us were wide, but we needed more cover. Burn wouldn’t be able to hold the reapers off for long unless we were really lucky. And our luck hadn’t exactly been running strong lately. Ahead and to the right, there was a huge grouping of white, misty bushes. They were about as tall as I was. I darted toward them, racing through the mist.

My heart thundered in my ears. We sprinted behind the bushes, ducking low to conceal our position as we ran. The foliage provided some cover, but it wouldn’t last long. One of the prickly branches scraped against my skin, and I winced. Shit. This world could hurt me, but I couldn’t hurt it. Nor could I touch Tarron. Not freaking fair. A blast of dark magic exploded against the bushes ahead of us, and we darted to the side, narrowly avoiding the blast. Another hit from behind, and I lunged forward.

Burn growled in the distance, and a reaper howled, but he wasn’t able to hold them off entirely. One had clearly cut away from the pack and was still coming. “We’re not going to lose them this way,” Tarron said. He was right. They were too fast. Too strong. Up ahead, a white river cut through the ivory landscape. The water looked like milk— totally opaque. Perfect for hiding. “The river.

” I pointed. “Aye.” The row of bushes was still between us and our attackers, providing a bit of cover as we raced toward the water. Pain surged through my arm where I’d been hit earlier, but I ignored it. When I reached the river, I didn’t even hesitate. I dived right in, going deep and holding my breath. The water rushed by my skin, cool and smooth, soothing the burn on my arm. I let the current carry me downstream, trying my best to stay under water. Unconsciously, I reached out for Tarron. Not that it would matter if I reached him.

We couldn’t hold on to each other. But I couldn’t help the instinct. Seconds passed. Maybe minutes. My lungs began to burn, a stark reminder of the fact that I was still partially alive. And I could die. Please don’t let me get caught in something down here. Underground roots or a fallen tree could be trouble. Even though I opened my eyes, all I could see was blinding whiteness. Finally, when my lungs were screaming more than I could bear, I surged to the surface, gasping.

Frantic, I searched for the dark shadows. They were gone. The riverbank rushed by, white and serene. Tarron. I bit my tongue, resisting the urge to call out for him. He couldn’t hear me while he was still under. Please don’t be trapped underwater. An image of his lifeless body floating in this horrible river flashed in my mind. No. I shoved the panic down deep and ignored it.

He would be okay. He had to be. Feelings for him surged to the surface—feelings I didn’t want to confront right now. When his head finally broke through the surface, I gasped. “Oh, thank fates.” He spun in the water, searching for me. When his eyes landed on me, his furrowed brow relaxed. “That was dangerous as hell.” I laughed, relieved. “Not as bad as the grim reapers.

” A devastating grin flashed across his face. “Fair enough.” He cut toward the edge of the river with strong strokes, and I followed. Exhausted, I climbed out onto the shore. Burn was nowhere to be seen. “We need to move fast, in case they followed the river.” He nodded. “Which way?” I called on my seeker sense, hoping we weren’t too far off the mark. Hoping that it would work. Now was not the time for it to quit on me.

It flickered to life, weaker than ever but pulling me away from the river. I raced toward the forest. Tarron stuck close by my side. My seeker sense tugged harder and harder. Answers. Fates, I wanted them. What had happened to the false queen? Was Aeri okay? Ahead of us, a building appeared out of the mist. I blinked. Aethelred’s house. And my seeker sense pulled me right toward it.

What the hell? Aethelred wasn’t dead, right? Oh no. Terror spiked. Had the false queen survived and launched an attack on my loved ones? “No.” The word escaped on a strangled gasp. He couldn’t be dead. He just couldn’t.

.

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