PAYBACKS ARE A BITCH.
And Hannah Wentworth would see to it that Ceithlenn, a dark goddess from Underworld, paid. Big time.
Banshee, Hannah's falcon familiar, made a soft cry and gripped her shirt tighter in his talons, reminding her of where she was and why she had come to this secluded pond deep in the forest of Otherworld.
Those â¦ feelings she'd been having.
Ever since she'd been forced to leave San Francisco, Hannah's instincts had told her things were about to get worse. Impossibly more dangerous.
Whatever was coming, Hannah wasn't about to face it blind or unaware. She would find out what she could, or die trying.
Hannah knelt on the damp grass beside the pond and dropped the pack she held. She dug through the leather bag until she found her scrying mirror then drew it out and settled it on the grass in front of her.
Smells of moss and rich wet earth mingled with the scents of evergreens and wildflowers as she focused on the mirror. A breeze ruffled Banshee's feathers, and stirred her dark hair and the shock of blond that swept down one side of her face. A night bird began its evening song, and Hannah thought she heard Fae voices joining in.
Her grandmother had given her the scrying instrument
after Hannah left her socialite mother to live with her father. The strength of Hannah's innate talent for alomancy, using the mirror and sea salt crystals to scry, had astonished the high priestess of her D'Anu Coven. Hannah's power over this form of divination as well as her connection to the Dragon Elementals grew greater as time passed.
The ornate ebony wood frame was fashioned of two Dragons, each biting the tail of the other so that it was a never-ending circle. Hannah rubbed her thumb over one of the intricate carvings. Ebony was the most powerful magical wood and was associated with all of the ElementsâEarth, Air, Fire, and Waterâand aided her in her communication with the Dragons.
They were her totem and always had been. Even her falcon familiar was the living embodiment of Dragons in her world.
Hannah tried not to grind her teeth at the thought that she and her Coven sisters had been forced to flee their homes in San Francisco for Otherworld, just days ago.
No time for that now. Deep breath. We
going to figure out how to toast that goddess-bitch
She gripped the soft grass in her fingers as she looked over the mirror. Only Hannah could “see” in the black glass within the ebony frame when she scried.
Hannah pulled a vial of salt crystals from her pack and tugged out the cork, which she then set aside. She leaned forward so that she looked directly over the mirror, her hair swinging forward at the sides of her face. The mirror didn't show her or Banshee's reflections.
She concentrated with everything she had, pushing out all other thoughts to still her mind and prepare herself for the vision to come. Silently, she asked for the aid of the Dragon Elementals and the great Druid Ancestors, and she called on Banshee's powers to strengthen her own.
The falcon's magic joined hers as it flowed through her body.
Come on â¦
Her heart rate picked up as it always did before she scried something monumental. The world closed in on her until all that remained was her, Banshee, and the mirror. The forest's sounds and smells vanished and it was as if she floated outside her body.
Time slowed. She tilted the vial and studied the patterns of the salt crystals in the air as they spilled out of the vial and onto the mirror. The vial slipped from her fingers, dropped onto the grass, and rolled away as she braced her hands to either side of the mirror and analyzed those patterns, too.
The thrumming of her heart grew even more rapid until it felt as if her entire body throbbed.
Images appeared in the mirror and she tumbled, tumbled into the vision, all five senses, body and mind and soul, as if the events she visioned were truly happening. As if she were truly there.
Her heart nearly stopped beating.
Rain pounded down so hard it soaked her to her skin, chilling her, and she had difficulty seeing. But through the downpour she made out humans fleeing from a San Francisco tourist pier. Their terror flooded Hannah so deeply she felt it in her bones. Blood and death and the acrid odor of fear mixed with the rotten-fish stench.
Magic sparked at her fingertips as she caught sight of malformed shapes attacking humans. A scream rose in her throat.
But then something enormous appeared, coming closer. A blast of fire bellowed from it as it spread its wings.
The Fire Dragon. An Elemental.
No! Not possible
Inside her vision, Hannah heard herself screaming, begging the Dragon to stop.
And then it turned its fire on her. Heat slammed into her and she screamed again.
Hannah jerked out of the vision and with a gasp she
almost fell backward. It took her a moment to realize she was in the present again. Her clothes were dry. She no longer felt as if she were burning from the blast of flames that had engulfed her in the vision.
The images whirled in her mind.
No sense. They make no sense
She wrapped her arms around herself and shook her head. Her eyes were moist as if she had felt an emotion deep enough that a tear had wet each eye.
She never cried. Ever. Not since she was a child and had had to live through all of her mother's choices. She had no tears, wanted no tears. Nothing could make her cry.
Hannah lowered her eyelashes as she looked at the mirror again. It was cold, no vision remaining. But the pattern of the salt crystals remained the same. Whatever change was coming, it involved her totems.
Especially the Fire Dragon.
Banshee gripped her shoulder tighter and she winced as his talons went through her shirt and bit into her flesh. Her familiar gave a cry, more than likely sensing her fear and confusion.
“I'm fine, Banshee.” Hannah raised her hand to his beak and he nuzzled his head against her fingers.
She eased into full reality and after a few moments realized that it was nearly dark. How long had she been in the vision? It had seemed like only minutes, but the remnants of sunlight had vanished, leaving only a veil of murky twilight.
Blessed Anu, her heart wouldn't stop pounding and her mind wouldn't stop whirling. Hannah bit the inside of her cheek and stuffed her things into her bag after dribbling the salt crystals from the mirror back into their vial.
Hair prickled at the nape of Hannah's neck.
She went still.
Someone or something was watching her.
Hannah dropped her pack to free her hands so that she could use her magic if she needed to.
She twisted to the right, her hands ready. And caught her breath.
Through the gloom Hannah saw a tall, powerful-looking man. The sudden urges rushing through her body made her breath catch. His broad chest was bare save for straps that crisscrossed his flesh. Gems on the straps glittered in the waning light.
Images flashed through her mind of rubbing her palms over the man's carved biceps, down his flat stomach â¦
She blinked and swallowed, but couldn't take her eyes away from him. Long hair dusted his shoulders, and she wondered how it would feel to run her fingers through the strands that caught the last of the sunlight enough to glimmer slightly. What color was his hair? Dark? Light?
Desire made her shiver as she let her gaze travel lower to where his snug black pants molded to his muscular thighs, trim hips, andâ
She swallowed again.
Dear goddess, what had come over her? She couldn't stop looking at him. She felt no fearâmore of a recognition. Like she knew this man.
As her gaze moved back up from where his pants were tucked into his boots, she took in the sheathed sword resting on one side of his hips. The sword hilt's gems sparkled like those on his chest straps.
Hannah's gaze met the man's as she finally looked from his body to his face. He had an aristocratic tilt to his head as he stood with his arms crossed over his chest. And studied her.
His gaze was unwavering and her body heated as she realized he had been looking her over as much as she'd been checking him out. Her body was responding to a man she'd never met.
The moon and crescent engraved band on her upper right arm tingled and grew warm against her skin.
Hannah raised her chin and narrowed her eyes as her thoughts came back into focus and she tightenened her grip on reality. Who did this man think he was, watching her like this? Was he one of the D'Danann?
Somehow she didn't think so.
She opened her mouth to demand that he tell her who he was and inform him that he had no business watching her.
But he turned and melted away into the darkness.
THE FOLLOWING MORNING, HANNAH stood in an open area of the woods, her face tilted up as she studied the unfamiliar crystal-blue sky. She frowned as she lowered her head and looked into the forest. The two D'Danann warriors and Rhiannon were late joining her so they could make the journey to the Drow realm.
Goddess bless it, she hated to be kept waiting.
Hannah whistled and held out her arm. Banshee answered with a screech and sailed in a wide circle over the forest before he landed with delicate precision on her outstretched forearm. The crow-sized falcon knew how to rest his talons on her bare skin without hurting her. Although sometimes he would grip tightly enough to get his point across when he felt Hannah needed an attitude adjustment.
Banshee had something in his hooked beak and dropped it at her feet.
Hannah glanced down. “Ugh.” A dead mouse. “You know I'm not crazy about your version of presents.”
As he responded, Banshee raised his wings and kept his cry to a decibel that wouldn't hurt her eardrums.
Hannah stroked the black feathers on his head and cheeks that made him look like he was wearing a helmet. “I think you do it just to gross me out.”
If birds could have an amused twinkle in their eye, Banshee did.
Like all peregrines, he was striking in appearance. He had slate-blue upper parts with bluish speckled bars across his white chest and on his undersides from wing tip to wing tip.
Banshee worked his way up her bare arm to her shoulder. Hannah brushed back the natural shock of blond that swept over her brows and curved along one side of her face. The
thick streak was a stark contrast to the rest of her dark hair. It hung in a straight but sophisticated cut, styled by the bestâat Joseph Cappucci's Salon and Spa near Union Square in San Francisco.
San Francisco. Her home. Hannah clenched her jaw as Banshee reached her shoulder. Thanks to that goddess-bitch, it was likely that Hannah and the other D'Anu witches wouldn't be returning to their former lives anytime in the near future.
Returning to their former lives â¦ as if that would ever be possible. Nothing could be the same after what Ceithlenn had done.
Still, Hannah closed her eyes and pictured herself on Market Street during rush hour. She missed it all. Every bit of it. Bumping into other people as she walked through the crowds. Stopping by her favorite bakery for an Ã©clair. Having a Frappuccino at Starbucks. What she wouldn't give for a Venti double caramel with an extra shot of espresso right about now.
With a sigh she shook her head, opened her eyes, and looked in the direction of the D'Danann village.
Definitely no Starbucks in Otherworld
After Banshee ruffled his feathers and settled himself, Hannah hitched up the small leather pack higher on her opposite shoulder and waited for her companions, one of whom was another gray magic witch, Rhiannon.
Hannah's Coven practiced gray magic, unlike all other D'Anu Covens that believed only in white magic. For some of Hannah's Coven sisters, maintaining the fine balance between gray and black was a fierce struggle. Hannah was certain that none of her sister witches would cross the line.
But sometimes â¦ Hannah worried about Rhiannon and Mackenzie. The way the witches fought with their magic was maybe too intense. Too close to the dark.
Hannah shook her head. “Mackenzie and Rhiannon are fine.”
Once Hannah had become a gray magic witch, she'd had no problems, no guilt, in using a power that could save lives.
With her strength of will and her utter confidence in herself, she knew she would
cross the line to black magic.
Faint voices caught Hannah's attention. It was time to head to the transference stone and make their way to the realm of the Dark Elves, the Drow.