Authors: Heather Long
And the final piece snapped into being for Jacob. He was both sick and furious with the older man. His stomach curdled. He’d slept with Cassie’s mother and lost his magic. Changelings consume magic. Cassie drew it out of them, but she did more than take it away, she gave it back.
Maybe Cassie’s mother had been unable.
“In the court of the Danae was a woman named Saranna. She was human. A pet for the Queen, but a beloved one and human nonetheless. She told me she was nearly a century old, but Underhill kept her alive, Underhill and her sister who lived far above. A sister she could watch in the Danae’s viewing pool.” Gustav’s mouth twisted in bitterness. “I could not believe my good fortune. Young Saranna knew much of the Queen’s plans, of her intentions toward this forbidden legacy, hidden away and nurtured far away from Underhill.”
Cassie jerked a little but said nothing. Jacob caught Helcyon’s gaze. Lifting his chin, he flicked a look toward the sword, Gustav, and Cassie. Helcyon’s brows rose in the silent question, and Jacob shook his head. No matter what happened in the next few minutes, Helcyon could not be the one to kill Gustav.
The bastard needed to die. Of that there was no doubt in Jacob, but he would die at the hands of the elders, not Jacob and most certainly not Helcyon.
A single nod. He and Helcyon were on the same page.
“The Danae had a child, a forbidden child, with a human male.” There were enough Wizards present who had no idea of Cassie’s heritage for Gustav’s words to make a ripple. But Elijah silenced them all with one raised hand.
“And you did not think to tell the Council of this transgression,” Elijah stated as though for the record.
“It meant little until Saranna told me the child was a gateway, the key to their exodus from Underhill. They suffered, as they were meant to suffer, their ability to have children diminished. Fertility has never been their females’ strong suit, and with so few, their birthrates were next to nothing.” Gustav glared at Helcyon. “You earned that punishment for producing children as cannon fodder.”
“And is what you did any different?” Cassie demanded. Jacob winced at the absolute agony in her voice. “You fathered a child. Me. You walked away. It’s what you accuse the Fae of…you walked away until you wanted me for something. And you didn’t care if I died for it.”
“Your death is not what I wanted, but it was necessary because I thought your mother was the one. I was wrong.”
“The one what?” Vanagan’s indolent voice edged with impatience. “The one hot looker? The one smart enough to rip you a new one? The one what?”
“You can’t know that,” Elijah said. “That prophecy is old, older than most of the Wizards in this room.”
“Yes, and a foolish man’s dream.” Gustav sank back to his knees. “But I am one such foolish man. The Danae’s vision paralleled our own. The key to their freedom was the key to ours. It mattered only who possessed the womb first. I sought out her mother. It took me decades to find her. I thought she was the one, gifted, her magic latent and locked away. But in my success, I doomed myself.”
“Seriously, just spit it out, Gustav. The drama is killing everyone here.” Vanagan gave him a hard shove.
“I fucked the woman. I fucked her until she was pregnant. And I knew the moment the seed caught, because she took everything. Every drop of magic I possessed leeched from my body and spilled into her. Nothing remained. I abandoned her because I had no way to defend myself. I retreated here, and I didn’t leave. Then she gave birth to my bastard, and it was a girl. Worse, it was just a girl with no damn talent. A human, like all our children, a pointless exercise in futility, and how the Danae must have laughed. Trapped by my own arrogance into believing I’d bested her.”
Jacob wished he could block the inquisitor general’s ugly words, but Cassie edged forward, and he nudged in front of her. Magic or no magic, she wasn’t getting in arm’s reach of him.
“But I sent Michael to watch over you, waiting to see what the Danae would do next. Too bad we figured it out too late, too late to claim the advantage. Your mother wasn’t the key, you are. Your womb possesses the advantage.” Gustav looked away from Cassie and stared at Elijah. “Her gold eyes. They turned after she slept with them both. We’re free, if Jacob fills her. We’re free of the Fae forever.”
“What the hell?” Jacob stared at him.
“She is not human nor is she Fae nor is she Wizard, she is all three,” Elijah stated quietly. “Her ability to produce children is the final gift. The gift the Danae craves for her people.”
“How does that make us free?” Paul asked in a weary whisper as Wizards around the room edged forward, hushed expectation blanketing the crowd.
Vanagan looked up and stared directly at Cassie, his expression stunned. “She can give birth to Wizards and to Fae. That’s what he’s been hiding in his mind.”
“…but we have never been able to…”
“…we’ve never had a female Wizard…”
“…she’s Fae…she must be…”
“Silence.” Elijah held up his hand, stilling the chaos eddying in the room. He looked to Vanagan. “Is that all that is in his mind?”
The Wizard nodded curtly. “He buried that secret. Deep. If we hadn’t kept pushing him, he wouldn’t have let it out. He’s done now. He can’t even hold onto the shields he built into that blood magic on his skin.”
“Very well. My Lord Helcyon, can you do your friend a favor?”
“It depends on the favor.”
Jacob heard another wave of murmurs. Not only was his
chatting with the Fae, but he acknowledged him. Those words would carry weight with the Wizards present and ripple beyond them. Helcyon was an ally.
Relief eased one of the burdens inside him. He wouldn’t have to defend their friendship and allegiance. At least not right now.
“Take the inquisitor general through to Underhill. Leave him for the Danae’s hounds.”
It was an unheard-of punishment to consign a Wizard to the fate they left their Fae forbearers to. Worse still, the inquisitor general would be helpless, with no magic to call on. Underhill, without the similar human symbiosis such as Saranna shared with Cassie’s great-grandmother, he would wither and age, if the beasts didn’t get him first.
“Wait.” Cassie tried to step around him, but Jacob stayed with her and turned his back on them all to face her.
“I want him to answer one more question. Please, Jacob…I just need to know one more thing.”
Exhaling harshly, he nodded. “But you stay here. Away from him.”
She nodded slowly, and Jacob turned, half blocking her but allowing her to see Gustav.
“Was it your idea or Michael’s to kill my family?”
Jacob’s heart squeezed at the emptiness in Cassie’s voice.
“Michael’s. He never forgave the Danae for executing his father. He grew tired of waiting. Young Wizards are too impatient. He killed them to bring her out, to make her act. I disagreed with it, but he was right. It worked.”
“Thank you.” Cassie nodded once. “I don’t care what you do with him now.” She turned away, her tear-filled gaze drifting over Dalton’s still, lifeless body.
One month later…
Helcyon watched the full moon hanging fat and yellow over the snowy caps of the surrounding mountains. It was nearly one full moon’s passage since the world was turned upside down and six weeks since the Fae came back into the world. He’d had word that the Danae was in Scotland at Balmoral Castle, visiting with England’s reigning monarch.
Cassie declined to attend as she’d declined every other entreaty from the Danae or anyone else. That first week after he’d left Gustav Underhill, she’d barely said anything. She slept, she ate when they bullied her, and most of the time she just sat on the deck and stared at the mountains.
Services were held for many of the fallen Wizards, but they attended only one. The private one they held for Dalton. The man was buried in the garden Cassie began cultivating. She’d transplanted rose bushes the next day.
The third week, she shut down her media agency and sold her client list, all save for the Fae. She divided the profits among her staffers and sent a quiet, anonymous check to her assistant’s family. Every night she spent in his bed or Jacob’s, but despite her affection, she continued to grieve, and he was at a loss of how to get her through this, except to be there for her.
The door behind him opened. Jacob’s footsteps were heavy as they crossed the wooden deck. He’d spent the last three days in conclave, barely returning to sleep, shower, and change before leaving again.
“And?” Helcyon asked.
“Vanagan made it on the new Council, Elijah was elected its leader. We eliminated the title inquisitor general. He’ll simply be councilor.” His words were gray with fatigue. “How is she?”
“The same.” Helcyon nudged his chin toward the garden. She was sitting under the moonlight talking next to the small stone monument they’d erected for the fallen Wizard. “She is still talking to his grave.”
Jacob sighed. “Should we do anything about it?”
“Not yet.” For once, he wasn’t certain, but grieving came in all forms.
“She blames herself.” Jacob set the bottle on the railing and leaned his elbows on the wood.
“She is not alone in that.” They all blamed themselves.
“The Council doesn’t know what to do about the baby thing, and so for now, they will do nothing. She is ours to protect, and they will respect that.”
“Elijah has always been wise. Please extend my appreciation for his intelligence in this matter.” It would have been a pity to bloody their truce so quickly if they’d acted against her.
“Done already. It helps that Vanagan supports us in this. I can’t figure out his angle.” The Wizard’s mouth twisted, and he shook his head.
“We may not ever know it, but for now, we will accept the alliance.”
Below them, Cassie stirred from the bench Helcyon installed when she insisted on visiting the grave every night. They both straightened as she crossed the garden and climbed the steps to join them.
“Welcome back.” She smiled a small greeting toward Jacob.
“Hey, how are you, sweetheart?”
Helcyon relaxed as she glided into Jacob’s arms for a quick hug and a longer kiss. The delicate balance between the three of them weathered the first storm and seemed stronger for it. But there were other threats on the horizon, dangers neither of his companions saw yet. Storms he would do anything to prevent.
“I’m okay. I’m getting better. Thank you for not pushing.” She shifted against Jacob and turned those brilliant gold eyes toward him. “Thank you both for not pushing.”
The smile curving his lips was easy even if the task hadn’t been. “We would do anything for you.”
“I’m glad.” Cassie reached out her hand to Helcyon. He threaded his fingers through hers and tugged her between them. Balance smoothed the waters, easing the anxiety of what difficulties may lay ahead. She was safe, she was theirs, and they were together.
It was a good night.
“Why are you glad?” Of course, trust a Wizard to look a gift horse in the mouth.
As a child, Heather skipped picture books and enjoyed the Harlequin romance novels by Penny Jordan and Nora Roberts that her grandmother read to her. Heather believes that laughter is as important to life as breathing and that the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and Santa Claus are very real. In the meanwhile, she is hard at work on her next novel.
PolyAmour: Forbidden Legacy 1:
Siren Publishing, Inc.