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Authors: Patricia Rice

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Mystic Rider

BOOK: Mystic Rider
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MYSTIC RIDER

A Mystic Isle Novel

Patricia Rice

www.bookviewcafe.com

Book View Café Publishing Cooperative
March 18, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-61138-362-1
Copyright © 2008 Patricia Rice

Acknowledgments

As a reader, I’ve always considered acknowledgments pages
to be wonderfully edifying, but as a writer, I’ve considered them too literary
for the fantasies I have so much fun spinning. But there are so many wonderful
people who have brought this series into existence that I can no longer get
away with saying “to all those who helped me, you know who you are,” because
I’m not certain they realize how important they really are.

In no particular order:

Ellen Edwards, the editor who understands my vision and
helps me realize it

Robin Rue, the cheerleader who offers encouragement and
keeps my evil twin from slitting throats

Mary Jo Putney and Susan King, my fellow cauldron stirrers
and co-conspirators, whose fantasies and friendship I can’t do without

The Wordwenches, one and all, who understand the need for
history

The St. Louis convocation who accepted a stranger into their
midst like an old friend

Everyone — and this list is much too long to name — who listened
to my ravings, read my trashy beginnings, and supported my insanity

And my husband, who bears my ups and downs with patience and
love and an occasional dose of shopping therapy

Thank you all!

Prologue

Smoke rising from the Mystic Isle’s highest peak dimmed
the glow of the quarter moon, casting a foreboding shadow over the drooping
leaves of the tropical jungle at the mountain’s foot.

Undeterred by the prophetic gloom, Ian Olympus gripped his
six-foot-tall oak staff with both hands and adjusted his breathing until he
reached the center where his soul resided. As the island of Aelynn’s only Sky
Rider, he was attempting his visionary journey once more in an effort to subdue
the abnormal weather that was crippling his home and his people. Previous efforts
had failed, but perhaps this time…

He swung the staff over his head with practiced hands. As
the staff spun faster and faster, he gazed into the starlit bowl of the
heavens, searching for answers. The tropical night was humid, and beads of
moisture formed upon his brow.

His torso stripped bare, he strained for greater swiftness,
compelled by the urgency of the situation. The staff became little more than a
blur of motion against the sky as images poured through him.

Sweat glistened on bronzed shoulders and arms bulging with
muscle. His abdomen was taut from years of practicing this exercise. Standing
half-naked on a rocky hillside above the lush forest of his island home, he was
as much a part of the natural world as the trees below — a human windmill
catching the energy of the skies.

Electricity danced along his fingertips like a thousand
fireflies. As the staff spun faster, sparks flew from its ends.

Ian took no notice of sparks or speed. His inner eye fixed
on the familiar image rising in the stars, a womanly vision fine and fair,
caught in a cacophony of stormy music. Thunderous deep bass notes joined in
symphony with the high-pitched melodies of woodwinds. He didn’t understand the
significance of the music, but the chorus of screams in the distance, the
background of blood and soldiers… Those he interpreted from reports he had
received.
Revolution
.

The woman had entered his visions before, capturing his
imagination. Cylindrical blond curls framed high cheekbones flushed with pink.
Skin like ivory silk, a high intelligent brow, and thick gold lashes provided a
perfect setting for crystalline blue eyes. Her music pulsed through Ian’s
veins, filling an emptiness inside him.

Women had told Ian that he had a hollow heart, and he’d
acknowledged the truth of the accusation. He’d never loved, never known
passion. He’d hoped someday that might change, but it didn’t seem reasonable at
this late date. He was what he was, and his detachment had made his days
exceedingly efficient. Until now…

He’d never known such stirring music, or been so thoroughly
aroused by the sensual promise in a woman’s winsome smile. His lonely soul
awakened and craved life.

Why do the stars
continue to summon this vision?

He caught his breath as the image unexpectedly sharpened at
his question. There, just past her round, bare shoulder, hovered the sacred
Chalice of Plenty. Its disappearance two years ago had marked the start of the
deteriorating conditions on the island. The
chalice,
with a woman not of his world. Did this mean…?

Ian had given up all hope of ever finding his physical and
spiritual equal, the rare
amacara
only a fortunate few were granted. If he read the stars correctly, he’d found
them both — his mate and his duty — in a woman who was caught in a storm of
violence.

He rarely saw himself in his visions, but he recognized his
staff in a man’s hand reaching out to the woman and the chalice. And there,
beyond the chalice —
Murdoch.
In a
soldier’s uniform. The vision exploded in a painful swirl of red and the
thunder of drums, striking him with a blow as effective as if it had come from
a club.

Gasping at this psychic attack on his senses, Ian slowed the
motion of the oak staff until it became visible. Staggering, he steadied
himself. He couldn’t stop now while the vision filled his head. He needed to
puzzle out its meaning.

Slowly, he worked out the kinks in his extended arm muscles
by lowering the pole to the height of his shoulders. He crossed his arms to
grasp the top and bottom of his staff and spun it from hand to hand in looping
figure eights while he pondered.

What did the blood in the vision signify? His own death? Or
that of the woman who was his destiny? And how did Murdoch, a banished renegade,
fit into the image?

That he himself should die anywhere other than on Aelynn was
unthinkable. Who would lead their people into the future? His sister? Like him,
she had no mate. If neither brother nor sister produced an heir, Aelynn would
eventually be left leaderless. In a time of upheaval such as this, that could
spell disaster for their gifted, ancient people.

He sought other meanings.

The people of Aelynn had been assigned the duty of
protecting the chalice, and they had failed. The fate of his world could rest
upon his recovering the sacred object — and finding the woman.

As it had more than once before, the conflict between the
fate of his line and that of the chalice kept him twirling his staff, until
this time he saw resolution. Only after he began cooling exercises did the
visitor waiting at the bottom of the hill dare to approach him.

“Ian,” Kiernan the Finder shouted, reducing the regal family
name of Iason to the more familiar one that Ian preferred.

Kiernan’s presence had not intruded earlier. Now, Ian
resented returning to mundane matters after the vision of golden curls. But he
had been taught since birth that his responsibilities came first, and the
Finder’s arrival was important. Several months ago, Kiernan had been sent to
retrieve the chalice and the woman in Ian’s recurring vision, but he did not
appear to have returned with either of them.

“I assume you have Seen the news I have come to tell you,” Kiernan
said.

“She is lovely,” Ian agreed obliquely. “The chalice
recognizes her, but if she has gifts, they are too common for her to be aware
of them.” He seldom spoke of all he’d Seen in his visions, but he hoped Kiernan
might be prompted to provide more insight into the woman.

“You see more than I,” Kiernan replied, to Ian’s
disappointment.

The Finder looked weary as he came closer, Ian noted. The
youthful humor that had once defined his friend’s smile had worn away these
past few years into the harsh angles of an adult who had seen more than he
liked. Ian was sorry that he’d had to ask so much of him.

“I See
differently
,”
Ian corrected. “I know nothing of the Outside World except what others report.
The woman appears foreign and exotic to me. I simply recognize the chalice. I
possess just a small portion of your skill and can guess only her direction.”

Kiernan did not have visions, but he could locate any object
once he’d been told of its existence. “The woman is in Paris,” he stated
bluntly. “The city is a maelstrom of discord, misdirecting my insight with the
smoke of anger and hatred. The chalice lies in the center of it.”

With great patience, Ian waited for the Finder to explain
why he had not returned with either prize — the chalice or Ian’s mate — as he’d
been instructed to do.

Kiernan shoved a callused hand through his long, ragged
hair. “I went to Paris,” he stated with a rough edge to his voice. “But the
chalice is not a…” He hesitated, apparently searching for a means to explain. “It
is not an inanimate object.”

He seemed to be waiting for the obvious protest about the
inability of lumps of silver to have minds of their own, but Ian acknowledged
the possibility of sentience with a nod. “The gods work in strange ways.”

With relief at Ian’s understanding, Kiernan continued. “Tracking
the chalice is akin to tracking our exile. I know its general direction, but
like Murdoch, it does not stay put. I have the feeling that the chalice is
deliberately avoiding me, just as Murdoch does.”

Ian frowned. He disliked the idea that Murdoch LeDroit might
be in the same country as the chalice. The renegade had been banished for
killing Ian’s father, Council Leader of Aelynn. Whether the death was an
accident or deliberate was still debated, but either way, the lightning Murdoch
had brought down had demonstrated his menace.

What havoc might he create if he claimed the chalice?

“Murdoch should not be able to sense you,” Ian reminded
Kiernan.

“I know.” Kiernan’s troubled expression revealed his
reluctance to acknowledge what must be said. “I think it is as Trystan warned
us — Murdoch’s abilities may have been muddled but were not entirely destroyed. Is
it possible that he has more gifts than was known?”

Ian spun his staff. As usual, the movement helped him
concentrate. “Anything is possible, although I suspect it is more a case of no
one being able to completely erase what the gods have given. Could he be the
reason you cannot find the chalice?”

“I think the chalice is avoiding Murdoch as much as it
avoids me. And I sense that your mate is the reason.”

Ian’s head jerked up, and his eyes narrowed. “You think she
has the ability to conceal it? That she knows of its worth to us?”

“I have no good explanation for why the chalice and your
mate keep disappearing at the same time.” Kiernan straightened his shoulders
and met Ian’s gaze boldly. “I think the chalice is challenging you to claim
your mate in person.”

At this confirmation of Ian’s own thinking, a ripple of
shock hit him. His family never left the isle, not since the beginnings of
time. Their abilities were too valuable to risk elsewhere.

Because of that risk, he had never sailed beyond the
island’s waters. It was his duty — as it had been the duty of all generations of
Olympians — to lead the Mystic Isle of Aelynn. As the only son of the late
Council Leader, Luther, and presiding Oracle, Dylys, Ian led the island’s
government. Among other things, he ensured that those of his world followed his
mother’s edicts.

Ian was also the last Olympus male on Aelynn.

Even Kiernan was painfully aware of the enormous
consequences of what he was suggesting. The Finder dropped to a boulder seat
and bowed his head, waiting for the gods to smite him for speaking such heresy.

They did not.

Perhaps it was time to think the unthinkable.

Although Ian had abilities beyond those of mortal men, using
them to cause harm in the Outside World was forbidden except in self-defense,
and even then, their use was dangerous. Mankind often killed what it did not
understand, and Ian was an enigma even here, where he’d been born. In the
Outside World, he would be akin to a statue come to life, with little knowledge
of his surroundings beyond what his instincts told him.

BOOK: Mystic Rider
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