Authors: Kalayna Price
Tags: #Urban Life, #Contemporary, #Epic, #Fiction, #Fantasy, #General
The reassuring weight of the phone stil fil ed my hand. I flicked the screen lock off and opened the phone app. I got as far as dialing the nine when Caleb plucked the phone from my trembling fingers.
“Don’t do anything hasty,” he said, his voice low.
“Don’t do anything hasty,” he said, his voice low.
You brought the fae who’s been threatening me into the house and now there’s a dagger driven into the middle of my porch. I think I’m already behind on cal ing the police. And don’t tel me this isn’t connected.”
I made a wide, sweeping gesture to include both Malik and the dagger protruding from one of the porch beams, the blade embedded deep enough that the ornate hilt touched the wood. It pinned a scrap of paper to the porch.
From where I stood, stil inside the house, the yel owing parchment looked old, the edges curling and torn. The entire display looked surreal, almost innocuous, beside the saucer of milk I fil ed nightly for our resident gargoyle, but fear gripped my chest, made my breath harden in my lungs.
Someone had come to my home, to my door, and driven the dagger into my porch. And I had a good idea who.
Caleb tucked my phone into his back pocket and turned to face Malik. “What do you know about this?”
The gangly fae cocked his head to the side, one bushy eyebrow lifting as he shuffled forward. I stumbled back, out of arm’s length, and the fae hesitated. He blinked at me, as if surprised by my fear and not pleased at being the cause.
We stared at each other for a moment, and when he stepped toward the door again, I held my ground.
He peered around the doorframe and after a single glance shrugged. “It’s not mine.”
“It has to—” I stopped. No, it didn’t have to be his. He hadn’t said he didn’t put the dagger there, only that it didn’t belong to him.
Caleb obviously came to the same conclusion. “Do you know anything about the dagger or how it ended up here?”
Malik blinked his large, dark eyes, surprise at Caleb’s clarification obvious on his face. Then the surprise hardened to anger and he straightened to his ful height, his head inches from the ceiling. He tugged at the hem of his unseasonable coat, making whatever was inside clatter.
Caleb met the tal er fae’s gaze. “If you want her help, Caleb met the tal er fae’s gaze. “If you want her help, you’re going to have to be straight with her. I told you that before we came here. Now what do you know about that dagger?”
Malik glanced at me, the conflict in his features clear, but after a moment he let out his breath and his knees bent again, his posture slumping. “I’ve never seen that dagger before and I have no knowledge of how it came to protrude from your porch.” The clear and indisputable statement seemed to pain him, his thin lips cutting downward as he spoke.
Well, no wiggle room in that statement.
But if he didn’t drive the dagger into my porch, who did? I turned back to the open doorway.
PC, noticing the open door for the first time, darted out from under the bed. I intercepted him, scooping him into my arms and clutching his warm gray body tight. “Outside later,” I told him, whispering the words into the soft white hair on the top of his head.
“Do you think it’s a threat or a warning?” Caleb asked, pul ing my phone back out of his pocket. Apparently now that Malik wasn’t the main suspect he would let me cal the police. “Or it could be a trap,” he said, frowning.
A trap? By the same person who’d sent the construct?
Only one way to know for sure.
I took the phone from him, but I hesitated before dialing and reached with my senses.
Unfortunately, the same wards that protected me from outside interference locked my own magic inside the house. To sense spel s on the dagger I would have to leave the safety of the wards, which if this was a trap, didn’t sound like a great plan.
Except . . .
From my spot in the doorway, I studied the intricate hilt.
“I think that’s my dagger.” Which didn’t eliminate the possibility of a trap, especial y since I’d lost the dagger a month ago when I’d exhausted the spel s enchanting the blade by using it to overload a magical circle. After I’d escaped the circle, I’d lost track of the dagger and when I’d escaped the circle, I’d lost track of the dagger and when I’d gone back to search for it, it had vanished.
I glanced at the phone in my hand. Cal ing the police was the smartest move, but if it was the same dagger I’d lost . . .
I’ve already delayed this long; what would a few more
After al , Caleb and Malik had entered my loft from the inner door, so the dagger could have been driven into the porch anytime since I’d arrived home last night.
I lowered my mental shields, letting my psyche span the chasm between planes. The wards kept my ability to sense magic locked inside, but they did nothing to my grave-sight.
Colors dul ed as in my vision the wood around the dagger rotted and the note browned and curled, but the dagger remained the same. Whatever metal the fae-wrought dagger had been forged from, it had never tarnished or rusted, not even in my grave-sight, and this dagger didn’t either. It shimmered with the enchantments bound in the metal, but again, my lost dagger had done the same. I glanced around the landing. The tendrils of Aetheric energy were as chaotic as ever, but I didn’t see any disturbance that looked like a spel ready to descend on the unwary. I also didn’t see any glamoured or spel ed forms ready to spring out as soon as I stepped through the door. If this was a trap, I wasn’t spotting a cage.
I snapped my shields closed and set PC down. He looked at me and then the door. Shaking my head, I nudged him and he grudgingly headed toward the bed, his nails clicking on the hardwood. Once he’d jumped onto the mattress, I headed for the door.
Caleb grabbed my arm, his fingers feverishly hot against my own lower body temperature. “I’l take a look,” he said, stepping into my path. He didn’t give me time to protest before he walked out onto the porch.
He squatted beside the dagger, not touching it. Caleb wasn’t a sensitive, so if there were malicious spel s on the wasn’t a sensitive, so if there were malicious spel s on the dagger, he wouldn’t be able to tel , not until it was too late. I, on the other hand, could sense magic. I ignored his disapproval as I joined him on the porch.
Without the shields in my bracelet or the house wards to block the grave essence, the chil of the grave swarmed around me. It clawed at my mental shields like dozens of spectral hands searching for cracks in my defenses. There was a graveyard a mile away, and there were other, smal er graves even closer than that, but I didn’t want to feel them. I blocked hard, concentrating on keeping the vines encircling my psyche sealed tight. The real trick was to shield while stil reaching with my ability to sense magic.
I focused on the gleaming hilt a foot from my toes.
Enchantments swirled inside the metal, but they didn’t feel malicious. They felt
“It’s my dagger.” It seemed impossible, but somehow it was the same dagger, one of a pair. The enchanted blade could cut through almost any material. I’d thought I’d lost it forever. I reached out, tracing a single finger along the intricate design. Then I closed my hand around the hilt.
Magic purred across my palm and an eerie, alien consciousness touched the edge of my mind. But that wasn’t unexpected. The enchantments forged into the fae-wrought blade gave the dagger not so much an intel ect as a sense of awareness. It liked to be drawn, to be wielded, to cut through skin, through magic—and right now, it did
like being driven into wood.
“Al?” Caleb edged closer, the muscles in his legs bunching as if he were a moment from leaping to his feet.
I felt much the same way. I stil hadn’t spotted a trap, but I was ready to leave the exposed position of my porch. After a quick glance around, I tugged on the dagger. The blade slid free of the wood effortlessly, the note moving with it.
Caleb jumped to his feet and I whirled around, dagger in hand. Nothing happened. No magical y constructed hand. Nothing happened. No magical y constructed monsters appeared, nor did a shadowy witch or malicious fae emerge to ambush us. Not even a spel charged the air.
nonthreatening. I scanned the dagger and note once again with my ability to sense magic. Nothing. I wasn’t going to wait around for that to change. Clutching the dagger, I hurried inside, Caleb at my heels.
“What does the note say?” Caleb asked as soon as the door shut behind us.
I pul ed it from the blade, trying not to damage it worse than being pinned to the porch had done. The paper was a thick vel um that rustled and cracked as I unfolded it. I recognized the neat script immediately.
“It’s from Rianna.” I said, frowning as I read over the careful y penned letters.
I need your help. Please, come to the Eternal Bloom. I’ll
be in the VIP section all day and through the night.
Forever your friend,
P.S.I heard about the cu sith attack. I had your dagger
repaired. I only hope it can help you. Be careful, and
please, come see me.
I reread the short note twice. Then I handed it to Caleb.
He read it aloud. While he read, I dug through my top drawer, looking for the sheath enchanted specifical y for the dagger—it wasn’t exactly safe to leave a blade that could cut through anything just lying around.
Why would Rianna pin a note to my porch?
It didn’t make sense, though knowing she was the one who’d left the dagger actual y did explain some things. Rianna, my roommate from academy, had been a captive of Faerie roommate from academy, had been a captive of Faerie until recently. The last time I’d seen her I’d freed her from the slave-chains binding her and she’d saved my life. She’d been one of the few witnesses to what happened under the Blood Moon when I’d lost the blade. Also, the dagger had original y been a gift from her.
But why the threatening display? And why hadn’t she just knocked on the door?
Unless she didn’t deliver it.
Her note said she needed help. Was that the trap? Was someone using Rianna to draw me to the Bloom? Of course, if that was the case, why make a production of delivering the note? Why put me on my guard? The Eternal Bloom was Nekros’s only fae bar, and the majority of its profits were drawn from humans gawking at the unglamoured fae who worked in the bar. But the VIP area was different—it was a pocket of Faerie.
My fingers final y landed on the sheath, its leather buzzing lightly with magic. It was stil in the holster I’d used to keep the dagger in my boot through most of the Coleman case, which was probably best—it looked like I needed to wear it again. Kneeling, I rol ed up my pants leg and strapped the dagger in place.
When I looked up, I found Caleb staring at me, the note stil in his hand. Malik stood beside him, and I started. I’d gotten so caught up in the dagger and Rianna’s note, I’d forgotten about Malik. A new wave of adrenaline flooded my system. I stood, crossing my arms over my chest.
If Malik had planned to hurt me, he’d had the opportunity while I’d been distracted—but he hadn’t taken it. A good sign, I guessed. I opened my mouth to tel him I’d listen to what he had to say, but Caleb spoke before I got a chance.
“You didn’t tel me you were attacked by a cu sith.”
I blinked. “It wasn’t like it was wearing an ID tag.”
Caleb turned to his friend. “And you, you didn’t tel me either. You didn’t think that was worth mentioning?”
Malik’s shoulders crowded his large ears as he cringed, and a tinge of color flared in his pal id cheeks. “I was and a tinge of color flared in his pal id cheeks. “I was holding the information as a bargaining chip.”
“A bargaining chip? I told you that you’d have to be straight with her.”
“Wel , she hasn’t so much as agreed to hear me out yet, has she?”
“Hel o, I’m right here,” I said, giving both men a mock wave. “Hol y and I were attacked by a glamour construct built on witch magic that tried to kil us. Does the shape the glamour took real y matter?”
“Yes,” both men said simultaneously, and I stumbled back a step.
“Okay.” I looked from one to the other. “Explain. No, actual y, wait. You were on the street yesterday,” I said, focusing on Malik. “I saw you. Did you have anything to do with that creature. Anything at al ?”
Malik hesitated long enough that I thought he might not answer. Then he blew air out between his teeth and said, “I was fol owing you because I wanted to talk with you. When I saw the cu sith I actual y thought it was after me. Until it saw you and howled.”
I wasn’t convinced, and I didn’t see how the beast howling at me changed anything, but I nodded for him to continue.
“Cu sith are a type of faerie dog—” he said, and I scoffed under my breath.
“That was no dog. The giant faerie cousin of a dire wolf maybe, but not a dog.”
Malik cleared his throat, ignoring my commentary. “As I was saying, cu sith are a type of faerie dog that disappeared centuries before the Awakening. You said it tried to kil you, but the cu sith were never trained to kil .
Inside Faerie they guarded against intruders, but when they were sent out of Faerie to hunt, their role was that of retriever. They howled only once they spotted their prey, and if their target heard the third howl before reaching safety, Faerie claimed that mortal—forever.”
safety, Faerie claimed that mortal—forever.”
I shivered, remembering the beast’s red eyes locking on me, its giant head tilting back, the howl that made me want to fal to my knees and cower.
It had howled twice.
I’d been afraid of its teeth, of its claws. I would never have realized I needed to be afraid of its howl.
“So it was there to steal me away to Faerie?”