Authors: Morgan Daimler
Lost In Mist and Shadow
A Between the Worlds Novel
By Morgan Daimler
All rights reserved. This book and contents may not be reproduced or transmitted by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage or retrieval systems without permission in writing from Morgan Daimler. Reviewers may quote brief passages.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination; any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, locations, or incidents are entirely coincidental.
Copyright 2014 Morgan Daimler
Dedicated to my husband Scott, for putting up with me, encouraging me, and supporting my dreams.
And to my beta readers Maya, Cathy, Tricia, Sara, and Jennifer.
Novels in the Between the Worlds Series:
Murder Between the Worlds
Lost in Mist and Shadow
Non-fiction by Morgan Daimler:
By Land, Sea, and Sky
A Child’s Eye View of the Fairy Faith
Where the Hawthorn Grows
Pagan Portals: The Morrigan
Aliaine “Allie” McCarthy–Ah-lee-awnya–
Syndra Lyons -
Elizabeth “Liz” McCarthy–
Rose Chapman -
Mariniessa – Mahr-ihn-ee-ehs-sah
Salarius – Sah-lah-rih-uhs
Savelian – Sayv-eh-lih-ahn
Varessial – Vayr-ehs-sih-ahl
They’d gathered hastily as word had spread of Walters failure; everyone was agitated and the atmosphere of the small spare room was tense. The half dozen people talked in low voices among themselves, muttering and whispering as if they were afraid of being overheard. When the door finally opened and their leader strode in, the group’s relief was obvious, although the tension was no less.
One of the young men standing against a wall spoke up immediately, “He failed. What do we do now?”
Silence reigned as they all waited for direction. The leader’s voice was confident, “He failed because he didn’t listen. He decided to go his own way, against the group.”
The words fell like stones into a still pond. Everyone shifted uncomfortably, meeting the speaker’s eyes and then looking away. “We can still succeed–will still succeed. But we have to stay together and stay strong as a group. We have to remain true to the cause.”
Her piercing eyes caught and held a frail woman’s gaze, “Why are we doing this?”
“Because the Sundering is a sickness that has to be cured,” the frail woman said, straightening as she spoke and pushing her brown hair behind her ears.
An older man across the room was next to be questioned. “What is our reward?”
The man’s voice was confident, “The world will be returned to normal. We’ll get our world back and send the elves and other creatures back from whence they came.”
“And what is this worth?” the leader asked a middle aged woman hovering next to the man.
“Anything,” she replied, her voice catching.
The woman next to her spoke without prompting, “Any sacrifice for the cause is worth making if it helps us ultimately succeed.”
“That’s right,” the group’s leader said, as several people began nodding. “Anything. Walters’ failure is unfortunate but he did forward the cause, and he died without telling them anything about us. If he had listened to what he was told, he would not have failed, but even so, we can salvage the situation.”
The last member of the group, a young man with a rose tattooed prominently on the side of his neck who was wearing a battered Bomber jacket, finally spoke. “How?”
The leader met his eyes and he didn’t look away as the others had. “Listen carefully. This is the new plan. We must continue the rituals. We only have five more and the cycle will be complete.”
She turned back and focused on the woman standing next to the man, “You keep her off balance, keep her distracted so she stays away from what we are doing.”
The woman swallowed hard but nodded. “Of course. I don’t want her getting hurt again.”
The leader nodded back and then returned her focus to the man with the tattoo, “You will take Walters place as our chosen one. You will continue the work, conducting the rituals, until the cycle is complete.”
Several people shifted uneasily at this pronouncement, but the man straightened, his eyes shining with unconcealed enthusiasm.
“Yes,” he said eagerly, “I will do what needs to be done. And I will not fail.”
He watched the girl as she got ready to walk to her car, his hands shaking in excitement. She had finished her shift and clocked out five minutes ago but lingered, talking to friends. He wished she’d hurry. He’d waited too long, until the night he needed to do the ritual, and now there wasn’t any time for mistakes.
As he watched she finally waved to her friends and turned to walk out to her car. He’d gotten lucky there, because she’d parked out at the edge of the lot where it would be hard for anyone else to see what was about to happen. It had been simple to park his van behind her car with all the empty spaces to choose from. He felt a surge of adrenaline and lust, watching her walk closer in his rear view mirror. He imagined he could see the magic around her, the way he always liked to imagine it, that indefinable something that marked her as not-quite-human.
He waited until she was just past his door, her head down, attention on her keys, and then opened it and slid out quickly. She stopped and turned faster than he’d expected, her posture defensive. He smiled at her, “Hey Shelby.”
“What the fuck dude?” she said, acting angry but really afraid. He liked that. He wanted her to be afraid. She should be after the way she’d treated him.
“Is that any way to say hello?” he said, his voice breathy and excited. She must have sensed something different, something dangerous in him, because she stepped back slowly.
“Jerry, you shouldn’t be here. I told you, I’m not interested. Get the message dude and leave me the fuck alone,” her dark eyes were wide and she was looking now for help, for anyone who might be close enough to hear if she yelled.
“Oh I got the message. The thing is I’m part of something, something big. And you’re going to help with it,” he stepped forward slowly as he spoke closing some of the distance between them.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about but I’m not helping you with shit,” she was shifting her keys in her hand now. He wondered if she was going to try to fight back and he liked the thought.
Without warning she turned and started running. It surprised him, but only for a moment. He shot after her and tackled her at the curb, tumbling her onto the grass outside the lights of the parking lot. She opened her mouth to scream and he punched the back of her head, hard, driving her face into the dirt. He got carried away then and forgot what he was supposed to be doing, forgot about his greater purpose…
When he finally came back to himself he felt a moment of panic afraid that he’d killed her, but she was still breathing. That was good. He could still use her in the ritual, there was still time. Straightening his clothes quickly, but not bothering with hers, he picked her up and carried her over to the van, dumping her in the back. After a moment’s hesitation he tied her up quickly with some electrical tape, just in case, although all the fight seemed to be gone from her.
He hopped in the driver’s seat feeling euphoric. Plenty of time to drive out to the site and do the ritual before the sun rose. Despite his lapse no one had seen or heard anything, and he drove away whistling.
He’d shown Shelby what happened to women who turned him down, and now she’d serve the greater good. And he had a whole month to find the next girl….
Allie McCarthy was not having a good day. She was late leaving for work after losing track of the time. When she turned onto Asylum Street, the back road she usually drove to avoid Main Street, she was confronted with a wall of construction equipment and a sign declaring the road closed for repaving. By the time she detoured and fought through the weekend tourist traffic – not even a hint of what it would soon be when summer was upon them – it was quarter past and she was late. She parked haphazardly in the lot behind Between the Worlds, her bookstore, and jogged as quickly as her bad ankle would allow to the back door, hurrying to lower the magical wards that protected the building and unlock the door.
She rushed in through the back only to find several impatient people waiting at the front door and was so flustered trying to get up front to open that she tripped into one of the chairs set up on the left hand side of the room and twisted her bad ankle. She staggered the rest of the way to the door swearing at her dead grandmother for ever wanting to have the seating area at all and for the way that customers used it to treat the book store like a library.
The first person through the door was a middle aged man whose demeanor screamed tourist. He immediately started asking questions, “Hey are you the one that was in the papers? You the one that got kidnapped by that serial killer? I want your autograph! I got questions for you about all that too, I want you to tell me what the papers didn’t talk about…”
Allie barely managed to resist the urge to jab her keys into his face. Instead she ignored him and headed back to the sales counter with him following and complaining loudly.
“I came all this way after reading about it in the papers! The least you can do is talk to me!” the man huffed, and Allie felt his righteous indignation and outrage like thorns biting into her. “You owe me that, bitch! I got questions and you need to talk to me!”
One of her regulars had come up behind him with a friend, having also come in when she’d opened the doors, and made a point of commenting loudly enough for anyone in the building to hear, “Some people have their heads so far up their asses they can see out their own necks! You’d think they could find people to harass in their own towns but no they have to come here to our nice town to prove what monumental jackasses they are. Newsflash, the jackass convention is next month right after the Treaty Day parade.”
The tourist huffed loudly and stormed out, much to Allie’s relief. By that point though Allie was so upset her hands were shaking and she dropped her keys twice before managing to get the cash box unlocked.
Allie was glad Sara had come in because she wasn’t the sort to sit by and not speak up when people were behaving badly. It was a quality that Allie alternately appreciated and dreaded depending on who Sara was inflicting her opinion on, but today it had been helpful. If she hadn’t said something there was no telling how long the guy would have stayed, and Allie just couldn’t make herself speak up to people like that.
“What an ass,” Sara said, shaking her head as Allie fumbled to pick up her keys again after missing the hook she usually hung them on under the counter. She didn’t say anything, but nodded.
“Do you get that a lot?” Sara’s friend asked. The other woman was a stranger to Allie but her expression was kind, if a bit stunned. Her dark hair was a tumble of dreadlocks, black laced with gray, and she wore a colorful sundress made of patches of different colored fabric. Allie had thought she was in her thirties at first but when she spoke Allie could see the fine lines and wrinkles around her eyes and mouth and changed her estimate up by a couple decades.
“Often enough,” Allie said between clenched teeth, and then with an effort, “Hi, I’m Allie. Sorry about that.”
Sara waved her concern away, “You’ve got nothing to apologize for. What was his problem? Acting like you owed him something! You don’t owe anybody anything and certainly not an ass like that.”
The strange woman smiled gently and extended a hand over the counter, “Nice to meet you, I’m Rose.”
Allie hesitated only a moment at the idea of physical contact, something that would surely trigger her empathic gift even more strongly, and then extended her own hand. Rose’s grip was firmer than she expected; she felt genuine concern and kindness coming from the other woman and relaxed. Rose’s eyes widened slightly, “You have a very powerful gift.”
“Are you a witch?” Allie asked, caught off guard that the other woman had picked up on her ability.
Sara laughed. “Rose is an artist. She just moved into the co-op and she does the most amazing work in clay, you wouldn’t believe it. She’s not a religious witch but she keeps her hand in some folk magic. We were hoping you might have some books on old American folk magic stuff.”
Rose laughed lightly, “I don’t know about amazing, but I guess after all this time I’m pretty good. I moved out here hoping that living on the edge of Fairy would inspire a new series of work.”
“Oh,” Allie said, impressed. If Sara, who managed the artists co-op, said Rose was amazing then she must really be good. Sara wasn’t big on empty praise, especially for the various artists who cycled through the co-op drawn to the more magical atmosphere of the Bordertown. “I have some books on German Pow-wow and a very interesting older work on local folk magic.”
“Would you be willing to trade? I can give you one of my sculptures for the books if the prices work out.” Rose looked hopeful, but Allie’s heart sank. She didn’t need artwork, she need money to get her bills paid.
“Ummmm, I don’t know…”
“Oh you should consider it Allie,” Sara said. “Rose is brilliant. She just finished up a show in a major gallery in New York”
“Well, I guess I could this one time,” Allie said, mentally kicking herself.
Just say no, how hard is that?
She imagined she could hear her friend Syndra’s voice whispering in her ear
What do you have against getting paid?
But Rose and Sara both looked pleased and with a sigh Allie stepped out to show them over to the books they were looking for.
“I’d love to sculpt you,” Rose said as she followed Allie over to the books. “I have this beautiful idea you’d be perfect for – have you ever modeled before?”
“What? Oh, no. No. Never,” Allie mumbled feeling foolish. Rose seemed nice, but surely she was kidding.
“Think about it. Consider it a standing offer,” the older woman smiled warmly again and without meaning to Allie reached out with her empathy and read her, shocked to feel that the other woman was sincere. Before she could decide how to respond Rose continued. “And you know, I don’t mean to sound like a nosy mother here, but you might consider doing a good energetic cleanse of this place. Seems like maybe you’ve got some nasty stuff built up that needs to be swept out.”
“That’s how my mother always did it,” Sara agreed. “Swept an onion right out the front door and all the bad energy with it.”
“Huh. You know that’s a pretty good idea,” Allie agreed. She didn’t know why she hadn’t thought of that.
Some witch you are
, Allie thought chagrined,
after everything that’s gone on and you don’t even think to cleanse the place
….She pointed to the shelf where the American folk magic books were kept. “Here you go, feel free to browse.”
Both women leaned towards the shelves and began looking over the selection. Allie turned back to the front of the store just as the door opened again and another small group came in. This time it was teenagers wanting a book on summoning the dead and it took Allie more than twenty minutes to convince them she wouldn’t help them. They left disgruntled, probably planning to head over to Circe’s Cauldron but Allie doubted even Faye would be willing to help with the girls’ necromancy adventure, despite the occult store’s usual laissez faire attitude. The teenagers were followed by another round of tourists wanting to hear about Allie’s kidnapping and involvement with the death of the town’s serial killer, and then a local Druid came in to pick up a special order. Unfortunately the much needed sale came with a long lecture on how she could have handled the situation the previous month better and how he would have done it and done it before more people had been killed…
By the end of the day she had made a grand total of $42.40 and traded ten times that value in books for a sculpture she didn’t really want. At least the sculpture could be displayed in the store with Rose’s name; maybe it would help business. Of course she’d have to find time to get out to the co-op to actually pick it up.
Allie had listened over and over to people who had no idea what had really happened, what she’d really been through, tell her how badly she’d handled everything until she didn’t know if she wanted to scream or cry. It was a relief when it was finally time to lock up.
When she opened the back door to leave she was so distracted and in such a rush that she almost stepped on the dead squirrel laying on the doorstep. At the last second she saw the motionless lump of gray fur and managed to pull herself back, balancing precariously on the sill, and flailing to grab the door frame. In her desperation not to step on the animal her cell phone fell out of her pocket, hit the concrete step – thankfully not the squirrel – and bounced in two pieces to the asphalt.
With her heart in her throat she carefully stepped around the dead animal and picked up the pieces of her phone. To her relief it wasn’t broken; the back had come off and partially dislodged the battery. Jason had bought her the phone for emergencies and she didn’t want to tell him she’d broken it in less than a month because she was afraid of a dead squirrel. She’d never live that down. She quickly reassembled it and shoved it back into the pocket of her jeans. Turning back to the door she hesitated for a minute and then leaned over the animal to lock the door before pulling back to examine the situation.
The squirrel was an adult and seemed to be in good health. Allie couldn’t see any obvious blood or injury, but she wasn’t sure that meant much – she’d seen plenty of road kill that didn’t look too bad either. Come to that her back door wasn’t impossibly far from the road
I wonder if he was hit and dragged himself this far before dying?
Or maybe he was sick. Oh crap what if he had rabies?
She winced looking around helplessly, unsure what to do. Finally she pulled out her phone to call animal control deciding they at least would be able to tell her how to handle a possibly rabid dead animal. But when she opened her phone nothing happened. She pushed the on button several times in rising panic, sure now that she had broken it after all, before it occurred to her that dropping the phone and popping off the case had broken the spell that kept the device running in the semi-magical environment of the Bordertown.
Gritting her teeth in annoyance she took the back of the phone off again and began tracing the necessary spell over the battery. Her eyes unfocused and she relaxed involuntarily as she directed the magic into the shape she needed it to take to protect the small but convenient bit of technology. Since touching the spell would disrupt it the cell phone protection was placed just above the battery where the back of the case would cover it and allow it to work without interference. Unless, of course, you dropped your phone and it popped apart. She felt the magic snap into place and the phone immediately hummed with power – magical and electrical – and she sighed. It was definitely not broken then.
She dialed information to get the number for animal control, eyeing the sad lump of fur.
I have absolutely got to do a cleansing. A major cleansing,
This is getting ridiculous and I don’t know if I can take much more….
He stood in the shadows of an empty lot, safely hidden behind a row of bushes whose spring leaves and flowers provided the perfect cover. The scent of Forsythia filled the air and made his head ache but he ignored it; he couldn’t afford the distraction. His eyes remained trained on the house across the street watching patiently as the hours crawled by and the party went from small to wild. He watched carefully, trying to take in every movement and occasionally was rewarded with a glimpse of her. She was impossible to miss; in this crowd of bland, interchangeable nobodies she glowed like a star. She had a presence that the others didn’t, that betrayed her heritage to anyone who wasn’t an oblivious idiot. She was magical, and he felt a terrible longing and hatred every time he saw her.
Finally in the dark hours of the morning the party started to break up with people staggering off, alone and in groups. He stood still as cars drove away, headlights stabbing into the night, their drivers weaving all over the road, and he sneered. These stupid children, these sheep, had no idea they were wasting their lives, throwing it all away when there were important things to be done. Things like what he was doing, serving the greater good. If they only had the sense to wake up and throw off the chains of lies and misinformation that held them subservient. He shook his head. They would never do that of course. It was up to the few who had realized the truth to take action, to set things right. As more and more cars left he was starting to think that she was going to stay here all night,
maybe she’s smart enough not to get into a car that was as likely to end in a ditch as a driveway
, he thought feeling disappointed and relieved at once. And then, like a beacon, her unmistakable form was emerging from the front door, half turned to say good bye to her friends.