We’ve got something really fun for you today. Hold onto your hats!
If you remember what happened in Abducted by Faerie (Stolen Magic, #5), you can probably guess where this book is headed based on the title. We’re really excited about this one, and we hope you are too. We’re so excited that we couldn’t wait until the book’s publication in early November to share some of it with you. Keep in mind that this is still being edited, so forgive any errors, and know that the final product may be different than what you read here.
Without further ado, this is the first chapter from our upcoming book, Indebted to Faerie (Stolen Magic, #6).
“You can stick your problems with the fae council right up your ass,” I shouted, my nose an inch from Dave Hammond’s face. That’s probably not the way you’re supposed to talk to your boss in the middle of the work floor where everyone can see you. I’m pretty sure I’d been told I wasn’t supposed to talk to my boss that way at all. “It’s not my fault you were playing every angle and one of those happened to be evil.”
“Erik Bresnan is an upstanding member of Volarus, and a prominent member of the fae council,” said Hammond, wiping a fleck of spit from his face. It may have been mine. “You can’t talk about him like that. He’s done a lot of good work for this office.”
“He was a prominent member of the fae council,” I corrected. “He resigned last week.” I left out the part where I’d marched into a closed door session of the council and told him to quit. I, being a lowly agent of the Magical Object Division at the Faerie Affairs Bureau, should have been promptly tossed out on my ass. Instead, empowered by the Golden Fleece, I’d gotten exactly what I’d asked for. Sadly, the golden crown of feathers on my head appeared to have no effect on Hammond. I really needed to find out what kind of fae he was. “And his position in society doesn’t make him any less of an evil, kidnapping, supervillain that I wouldn’t piss on if he were on fire.”
Hammond opened his mouth to argue. If he made any sounds, they were drowned out by the sounds of dozens of crows cawing.
“No,” I whispered, closing my eyes as if that would make the swirling feathers dancing through the room disappear.
When I opened my eyes again, the feathers had formed into the shape of a person. A naked, pale woman stepped through the swirling mass and came out the other side with black feathers adorning her body in ways that paid lip service to modesty. The remaining feathers formed into large black wings on her back. Cold, dark eyes surveyed the room and finally landed on me. The Morrigan’s head tilted to the side in a distinctly bird-like gesture. “Hello, Sophie. I have come to collect on the favor you owe me.”
Hammond took a couple steps back, his face switching from red to deathly pale in an instant. “The Morrigan?” he spluttered.
My mother ignored him and all the other whispers that started around us. “Come with me and I will tell you how I can be repaid.” She held out her hand.
I stared at that hand for a long time. I’d been dreading this for a week, and yet, I’d naively believed I’d have a lot more time to dread it before it came to pass. I owed The Morrigan a favor. I wanted to believe it would be better to get it over with, but this was The Morrigan. I was pretty confident it wouldn’t be as simple as getting it done and moving on with my life unchanged.
Her hand still hung there, waiting. There was no reason I had to go leave in order to hear what she needed from me, but I knew it wasn’t likely that I’d be able to refuse. As long as she asked for something reasonably equivalent to the favor I’d asked, I’d have to do what she wanted. Since she’d helped me wipe out dozens of fae in order to save Owen, her repayment would likely be pretty gruesome. It was probably better she told me about it elsewhere; I didn’t need that kind of office gossip. I took her hand.
We dissolved into a cloud of feathers and then further into a dark cloud of smoke. My mind brushed against hers, feeling the madness that was barely kept at bay. I also felt her ridiculous power surging through me. I couldn’t imagine what there was that she could ever need my help with. My magic felt like a drop in the bucket compared to hers. I had a brief moment of worry that she would take me on a killing spree in my office, like we’d done in Oscura. Then we were out of the MOD offices and on the street. She was so fast in this form. With that thought in mind, I concentrated on how she shifted into smoke. If she could do it, maybe I could as well.
I almost thought I understood it, then she dumped me onto the ground outside a very familiar castle. My stomach roiled at the thought of what she would ask me. The last time I’d seen her at this castle, she’d been in her huge crow form, swallowing her worshipers whole. Since then, Graulfv, the only survivor had been recruiting a new group. They’d helped me rescue Owen. My feelings toward the clansmen were complicated, but definitely growing fonder.
“I won’t kill your clansmen,” I said, knowing that if she really wanted me to, I likely couldn’t deny her.
The Morrigan’s head tilted in confusion, and then flicked toward the castle and back to me. It was creepy watching her behave like a bird while in human form. “I have no desire to be rid of them at this time. They pleased me with the havoc they helped you wreak. I’ve decided to grace them with my presence for the time being.”
“What havoc?” I asked. “All we did was rescue Owen from the Orani.”
The Morrigan’s smile made my stomach drop. “You did what has never been done in recorded history. You ventured into the green mist and came out with what you sought. You killed their silly pets, wiping away the mist, and with it their mystery. Then, with my aid, you destroyed dozens of their warriors and several of their illusionists.” Her smile turned into a grin. “You’ve reshaped the power landscape in Faerie, plunging it into chaos. It’s delightful. Now, in repayment of that favor, you will continue that work.”
I swallowed hard. Faerie didn’t have any sort of order that I was aware of. It was kill or be killed. But I was fairly certain The Morrigan couldn’t lie. “I wasn’t trying to do any of that. I just wanted to rescue my boyfriend.”
The Morrigan tossed her head back in a small laugh that was even more chilling than her smiles. “All the better,” she said, stalking in a circle around me. “You are certainly my child through and through if you spread chaos with such little effort.”
I shuddered. I really didn’t like thinking about being her child. “What do you want from me, specifically?”
The Morrigan continued to circle me, her dark eyes appraising. “In repayment of my favor, you will dismantle the power base of a lovesick fool here in Faerie. You will bring his power to ruin and destroy his place in fae society.”
I did my best to keep staring forward instead of tracking her around me. My mouth turned down into a frown. “That doesn’t sound comparable to what you did for me. It took you like five minutes to help me kill some Orani.”
The Morrigan stopped in front of me, fixing me with a hard glare. I think I preferred the evil smiles. “Are you refusing to repay my favor?”
“No,” I said, because that wasn’t an option. I had no idea what really happened if you didn’t repay a favor when asked, but I’d heard rumors ranging from becoming a social pariah, to losing all your magic, to instant death. Definitely not something to be trifled with. “I’m just debating the equivalence of what you’re asking me to do.”
The harsh lines of her face smoothed. “I helped you destroy the power base of the Orani people,” she said simply. When I shook my head, she continued. “They lost most of their great illusionists and warriors in that battle. It is unlikely they will be able to reestablish the status they held in Faerie, or even be able to generate that mist again for decades. I only ask you to do the same in exchange.”
The way she put it, her request was sounding more reasonable. “But how long is this going to take? I doubt that you’re asking me to waltz into a room and kill a few people.”
“Time is irrelevant. We are fae.” She turned her nose up in a haughty expression. “It may take minutes or it may take centuries. Neither is of any consequence to the likes of us.”
That came dangerously close to confirming my immortality, not something I liked to think about. Fortunately, I had plenty of other things to think about, but none of them good. The Morrigan was right. What she was asking for was a fair exchange, despite the time involved. I could feel it. “Fine,” I said. “I will help you destroy this fae’s power base. I’ll get started in a couple of hours.”
“You will start now,” said The Morrigan.
I growled. “I thought time was irrelevant.”
“The time it takes you to complete the task is irrelevant,” said The Morrigan. I swear her eyes actually sparkled with mischief. “Taking time before you start your repayment is unacceptable. If I had taken a couple of hours before I helped you destroy the Orani, your companions, and quite possibly you, would be dead.”
“Damn it,” I muttered. I could see where this was going. “I need time to gear up, and notify my work and friends.”
“You have your swords and your magic. You have all you need to complete this task. Dealing with any personal attachments is an unacceptable delay.” Her mouth quirked up slightly. “Unless you would like to ask another favor for this time you request.”
Yep, that’s what I thought. I knew it was a mistake to allow her to set the time the favor was due. I weighed my options while The Morrigan stared me down impassively. I couldn’t just disappear into Faerie without so much as a word to Owen. The office would be buzzing with rumors about my disappearing with my mother. He’d be worried sick, and probably come traipsing after me. Man, I had responsibilities. My life had changed. Once again, there was no getting around owing The Morrigan a favor. “I am considering the favor, but I’m not taking any of your ambiguous shit this time. I need to know the exact nature of the favor owed, and the time it will be called in before I agree.”
The Morrigan nodded, ignoring my sass. “This is a simple favor. Time for time. While you are working on repaying the first favor, during your downtime, you will spend time with me, developing your magic. I want to see you ripen, little girl.”
“Will this be an even exchange of time?” I asked.
The Morrigan was quiet, staring into the distance. “Since this is delaying a much more important quest, the exchange rate will be twenty to one.”
My mouth dropped open. “You want me to spend twenty hours with you for every one I delay your quest?”
“Yes,” she replied simply. “Or you can start now and will be under no obligation to spend further time with me. Do understand that any time spent on Earth will be subject to this same exchange rate unless it is specifically in service to my goals.”
Damn. That meant I couldn’t just agree now and then claim there was downtime and go to Earth because there was no way to advance her goals. “If I spend time with you in any capacity, then that will count toward time on Earth, even if I haven’t yet taken that time.”
“Agreed,” replied The Morrigan, giving the slightest of nods. Did I see grudging respect in her gaze? “Do we have an accord?”
“Yes, any hour I spend on Earth before I complete your quest will be repaid twenty to one in time with you, learning to master my magic.”
The Morrigan shook my hand, and yet again, I was surprised by its warmth. Her domain was death, but she was as warm and vital as any other person I’d met. As powerful as she was, The Morrigan wasn’t physically that different from anyone else. I wasn’t sure whether that bothered me, or if I should take comfort in it. “Very well,” she said. “You may return to Earth, or you may get started now.”
“I haven’t been gone that long,” I said. “I can take some time to familiarize myself with the objective. Who exactly will I be targeting, and what can I do to weaken their power?”
“His name is Aengus, and he is the strongest of the Seelie fae. My opposite.” For them being rivals, she didn’t say his name with any bitterness. “Do you know of the differences between Unseelie and Seelie?”
I shrugged. “Not in any detail. From what I know the Seelie tend toward order and the Unseelie toward chaos. It’s mostly a Faerie thing. It’s not something that really comes into play in my daily life.”
The Morrigan let out a throaty laugh, but didn’t explain. “If you say so. In any event, it is Aengus and his ilk that you must weaken. Are you at least familiar with which fae are Seelie?”
“I have a pretty good idea in most cases, but the fae in Volarus and on Earth are mostly Seelie.” I looked at her skeptically. “You don’t want me to mess with them, do you?”
“Earth and Volarus hold little draw for me,” she said, waving a hand dismissively. “I want you to focus your efforts on the Seelie in Faerie.” She reached into a bag I hadn’t noticed, hanging behind her hip. “Here, this will help you.”
I took the offered book and stared down at the title. It was called On Seelie Fae. It was nearly identical to the copy of On Unseelie Fae that Owen had. It was strange that I had never thought to ask about its Seelie counterpart. If Owen didn’t have a copy in his trove, it was either very common, or so rare as to be priceless. Given the situation I was in, I was leaning toward priceless. “Do you need this back?”
“Do what you will with it,” said The Morrigan. “I’ve long ago memorized everything it has to say.”
It was a hefty book. I couldn’t imagine memorizing that much information. Then again, when you had forever. I shuddered. “Fine. I’ll be going to Volarus to wrap up some loose ends, then I’ll come back to Faerie to get started. I’ll keep track of my time.”
The Morrigan’s lips turned down at my mention of tracking time. “I have no doubt that you will.” With that, she turned and walked into the castle. I caught a glimpse of Graulfv as the door closed.
“Well, this is going to be interesting.”
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