The Hunt: A Custodes Noctis Book

BOOK: The Hunt: A Custodes Noctis Book
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Chapter One
 
Galen
 
It was night, there was a moon hanging over the fields, in the distance was the sound of horses, a hunt on the gallop, hounds baying as they raced ahead of the hunters. Something dark filled the night, obscuring the soft light of the stars, touching the earth with the taint of evil. The call rang out, the hunters turned and pursued the dark thing through the dry grass. It stopped, reaching out, knocking one man from his mount.
 
“No!” Galen Emrys bolted upright, his heart pounding. He lay back against his pillows, trying to get his breathing under control, his hands were shaking as the terror from the dream slowly dissipated. The nightmare was starting again, he’d hoped after what had happened the year before it would end, but they hadn’t. With a sigh, he sat up and swung his legs off the bed, scrubbing his hands over his face before pushing himself up and heading into the main room of the apartment.
 
“Good morning,” his brother, Rob, said from the kitchen.
 
“Morning, Brat, how long have you been up?” In the months since Rob had found him, Galen had noticed his younger brother rarely slept through the night. He’d be busy when Galen turned in, then up long before Galen was awake.
 
“Since about four, I think,” Rob said with a shrug running a hand through his dark brown hair. “How’d you sleep?” Slate-blue eyes met Galen’s dark green ones as his brother held out a cup of coffee.
 
“Thanks. I slept okay.”
 
“Yeah, right.” Rob looked at him with his eyebrows lifted.
 
“You know that’s a pain in the ass, right?” Galen grumbled. “I’m taking a shower.” He walked across the living room, aware of his brother’s eyes on his back. The psychic bond they shared as
Custodes Noctis
was inconvenient at times. The fact that Rob could sense at least the edge of his nightmares made lying to him a little complicated. Galen sighed and put his cup on the sink before turning on the shower.
 
He stepped into the hot spray of water and let the warmth ease the ache in the scar tissue on his chest. The wounds the Old One had given him were long-healed, but the scar tissue was there, reminding him of that encounter. Cold, damp mornings made it hurt more than usual and sometimes he felt far older than his twenty-nine years. He rolled his neck, loosening the muscles, then glanced in the shaving mirror. He tugged at a strand of his medium brown hair. It was starting to get long, at least it wasn’t as curly as his brother’s mop.
 
There were dark circles under his eyes, the nightmare was beginning to snatch more and more sleep from him. Once he woke from it, he couldn’t get back to sleep—he’d never been able to, and the fact that
 
the dream was back haunting him was worrying. He knew he’d have to talk to Rob about it sooner or later, but knowing his brother’s tendency to growl, he was trying to avoid the conversation for awhile.
 
Galen smiled to himself, having his brother there after the years Rob believed Galen was dead was both good and bad. The fact they could finally share their place as
Custodes Noctis,
Keepers of the Night, was more than good. In the ten years Galen had been “dead” his place, and the broken bond with his brother, had ached like an open wound. The block he’d maintained to let his brother believe he was gone had been broken the year before when Rob performed a ritual to summon him back from the dead. Of course, Galen wasn’t actually dead, so the spell had functioned to break the block, making him visible to Rob again.
 
Of course, with the good came the bad—or at least the annoying. The bond they shared as Keepers included a psychic link that alerted the other to strong emotions, pain, injury or danger. He and Rob had shared a close bond when they were young, and since they performed the Ritual of Swords, the rite that made them full-fledged
Custodes Noctis,
the bond had grown even stronger. Galen could sometimes catch a stray thought from his brother and they could communicate silently if needed. He wondered, for the thousandth time, if his father and uncle had shared a similar bond, or if he and Rob were closer because of who they were.
 
It still stunned him, the “who they were.” Like all Keepers he’d learned the Sagas. One of the most important had included the prophecy of the Legacy. Discovering he was one of the Keepers of the Legacy, of the horror that had stalked his family and the world for millenia, had been almost too much, the knowledge he and his brother were the fulfillment of that prophecy…was… Galen shook his head. Honestly, he still didn’t believe it, despite what he’d seen last year—and in the months since, even with his brother’s calm assurances. Even though Rob was five years younger,
 
he never doubted, he accepted his place in it all easily, with a calm certainty that all of Galen’s protests could not dislodge. It drove him nuts at times.
 
Galen stepped out of the shower and dried himself off, the coffee had cooled by the time he got back to it, and he poured it down the sink. It gave him a convenient excuse to visit the coffee shop across the street. When he wandered back into the living room, Rob was already gone down to the shop.
 
The Emrys Apothecary had been owned his family since the Nineteenth Century when they arrived from Europe. It had been in the same place since then, the city in many ways had grown around the area. His father, though a healer like Galen, had less interest in the herbal aspects of the shop, and had increased the stock of esoteric items. When Galen had taken it over nearly six years before, he added more herbal items, as well as a larger selection of vitamins and other health-related items. He still maintained the magical aspects of the shop and that helped make the business stable, despite other retail stores closing around them. Not that they needed the income the shop provided to survive, they had more than enough to be comfortable, but it would be sad to see the business close since it had been a part of the family for more than a hundred years.
 
 
That was another thing, since Rob had gotten involved, the hours had been getting earlier and earlier, to the point Galen had finally told him that they absolutely could not open before sunrise. Of course Rob had a come back for that: “But what about the non-humans, Galen? Some of them don’t like daylight.” Galen’s answer had been less than civil, but if Rob wanted to open the shop early, he didn’t really mind, it gave his brother something to do before Galen was up. And to his credit, Rob had the place spotless and organized to the point that the candles were in alphabetical order.
 
But some days it was a little too much. Galen sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. The nightmare was beginning to affect his mood. The enormity of what it could mean was always there at the back of his head. It always had been, except for the brief reprieve after he and Rob had performed the Ritual of Swords and killed the Old One of the Legacy. There had been a short time without the dream, without the call sounding in his head at night. Something had changed, and it was back, reminding him of everything he had denied, reminding him of the winter seven years before when he had nearly been lost to that nightmare. The call had been increasingly insistent since his brother was injured four months before while facing one of the minions of the Old One.
 
There was enough emotion tied up in it all that Galen knew his brother could sense it. Maybe Rob wasn’t sure what it was, but he knew there was something. In order to avoid the conversation for another day, Galen focused some of the healing light, one of his Gifts as a Keeper, into himself, calming the swirling cloud of memories, of the dream and everything it might mean.
 
When he was done, he walked down the stairs to the shop, he could hear his brother humming. Galen paused and looked out the back window, he knew Rob checked on his way down, but still he checked. People sometimes came to him when they needed medical attention and couldn’t go to a doctor, and sometimes people and animals needing help were dropped outside the door. All was quiet, their Jeeps parked where they’d left them, the 1939 Ford Coupe untouched.
 
He smiled. He loved that car and had coveted it as long as he could remember. The former owner, Mrs. Barkley, had been a customer of his family’s for sixty years. One blustery March day the year before, she’d walked into the shop and handed Galen the keys. He’d tried to give them back, but she refused to take no for an answer. She told him she’d decided to purchase a new car and rather than trade her Coupe in to “those buzzards at the car lot,” she was giving it to him. He was touched by the gift and Rob had been rendered speechless—which was amazing in itself. She checked on it when she came by the shop, pleased that Galen enjoyed the car as much as she had.
 
“Hey,” Rob said as Galen walked into the shop. “You getting coffee?”
 
“Why? The caffeine getting too low in your system?”
 
“That’s not funny.” Rob looked offended. “I could die from heart failure if it drops too low.”
 
“Yeah, right, because that happens all the time, and you couldn’t make it yourself right?”
 
“Too far, need coffee, world growing faint… Only five shot coffee will save me.” Rob stumbled for the stool, then grinned. Galen laughed and headed across the street to the coffee stand.
 
“Morning, Galen,” Becci Anderson said, opening the window as he approached the coffee stand. She was in an apron today, and it didn’t look like much else. When she’d opened the stand, business had been slow, until she came up with the idea of Hot Babes Coffee. Now the pink drive-up espresso stand was one of the most popular in the city.
 
“Hi, Becci. How’s it going?”
 
“It was slow for awhile, must be the weather. It picked up about seven.”
 
“How much of that business was Rob?” Galen asked with a laugh, watching her make the coffees.
 
“Only four.”
 
“Four? Four with how many shots?”
 
“I kept him to quads,” she said, setting his mocha on the shelf and turning back to the machine.
 
“Quads? He’s had
sixteen
shots of espresso this morning?” That seemed extreme, even for his brother.
 
“This one makes twenty.”
 
“His heart is going to explode one day, Becci, and it’ll be all your fault.”
 
“He had a muffin about six,” she said with a smile.
 
“A muffin? So, sugar and caffeine? You need to cut him off, Becci.”
 
“I tried, but…” She giggled. “You know how he is.”
 
“Right. Just because you’re going out, don’t let him sweet talk you.” Galen picked up the coffees. “No more for him today, okay?”
 
“Yes, sir!” Becci saluted him.
 
“I mean it,” Galen chuckled, then turned back to the shop. “This is the last one for you, Brat,” he said as he walked in.
 
“But Galen,” Rob said, taking a cup from him, “my heart could stop.”
 
“You’ve had enough to keep your heart going for a week.” Galen perched on one of the stools behind the counter. “Anyone been in yet?”
 
“Earlier, before I came upstairs.”
 
Galen waited a moment, when Rob remained silent, he kicked him. “And?”
 
“Huh?” Rob blinked. “He was looking around at first.”
 
“Rob?” Galen growled.
 
“I don’t think he knew, when he first came in, that I was
Custodes Noctis.
He asked about a charm, then took a good look at me. I keep the lights low for the night customers, so he probably didn’t see me well at first.”
 
“Yeah?”
 
“But once he did, he just turned and ran, almost went through the door without opening it.” Rob chuckled, then grew serious.
 
“Out with it, Brat,” Galen said, knowing something was coming. “What was he?”
 
“I don’t know.”
 
“But?”
 
“It was dark, I haven’t seen anything like it before.”
 
“You haven’t?” Galen asked, frowning at him. Rob was Gifted with the Sight, allowing him to see things like illness and evil, as well as differentiating between human and non-humans. There was more, Galen knew, but many of those things Rob didn’t talk about.
 
BOOK: The Hunt: A Custodes Noctis Book
11.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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