The Legacy: A Custodes Noctis Book

BOOK: The Legacy: A Custodes Noctis Book
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Chapter One

 

Galen Emrys had been eighteen when he learned the truth. He’d been told the truth before, but he’d been eighteen when it was brought home in all its bloody glory. He’d been eighteen when it all began. He’d been eighteen when it ended. He’d been eighteen when he denied all he was meant to be.

He’d been eighteen when he died.

The alarm blipped and the rich sounds of a Boccherini quintet filled the room, echoing off the high ceilings. Galen groaned and lay listening to the music for a minute, the nightmare from the night before still playing behind his eyes.
Ten years and still that dream nearly every night.
The bitter thought formed as he rolled over and stared up at the light playing on the wall.
It has been ten years. Funny, sometimes it feels like just yesterday. I still expect to see…
He pushed himself up before the depression that thought always caused pulled him down.

The wood floor was cold as he wandered through the apartment to turn the coffee on before heading into the shower.  The kitchen opened off the huge space of the living room, one of the advantages of living over a retail space was former warehouses make huge apartments, if you weren’t too picky about bad flooring.
He stopped to pull a splinter out of his bare foot.  Turning on the coffeepot, he walked to the window looking out at the gray day. The Northwest in early winter was an unending stream of gray, rainy days. He sighed, the day was starting off on a bad note.

Walking back to the bathroom he stopped in front of the mirror, tugging on a strand of light brown hair. The length of his hair was a continual source of discussion. He liked it shorter, the guys in the band wanted it longer.
He picked up the scissors, then set them down again.
Not today, in the mood I’m in I might do something I’ll regret and have to let grow out later.
After his shower, he grabbed a cup of coffee and headed down the stairs to the herb shop below.

As he walked down, he looked out the back window, making sure no one had left anything—or anyone—outside his door.
Nothing… yet.
Galen put his coffee down on the counter, pausing as he always did to enjoy the quiet and the rich mixture of smells of his shop—dried herbs, incense, beeswax and coffee. He straightened the jars on the shelf behind him, putting the jar of vervain he’d left out the night before back in its place, then walked to the front door and unlocked it, turning on the open sign and pushing open the curtains.

The coffee had cooled by the time he got back to it. He considered heading out to the espresso stand across the street, a nice mocha mixed with the flirting of Becci was definitely a draw. At twenty-six, Becci had purchased the small stand across the street, after three unsuccessful months she hit on the idea of Hot Babes Coffee, dressed herself in lingerie, hired four other women and had nearly overnight success. Luckily, she made good coffee, too.

The lure of fresh coffee became too much and Galen wandered out of the shop and over to the stand. He turned back to look at the shop. He’d inherited it from his father, who had inherited it from his father, and so on, back to when the family had first arrived from Europe. His father left it to him, but Galen stepped into the role as proprietor a little uneasily. He couldn’t refuse the shop any more than he could refuse the Gift.

“Morning Galen,” Becci said, leaning over the sill, perky breasts held in check by a bright pink bustier.

“Hi, Becci, can I get a mocha?” he said.

“Sure, hon.” She turned, started the coffee and leaned back out the window, smiling at him. “Your eyes are really green today. Like fir trees in the rain.”

“Writing a song, Becci?” he said, smiling back at her.

“Could be. I could sell it to you and Flash,” she giggled. “When’s the band playing next?”

“Friday, I think, we got a gig down at Rat’s Nest,” he said, taking the coffee.

“Oooh. Can’t wait.” She waved the money in his hand away. “I still owe you for taking care of Sandi, keep your money to yourself.”

“Thanks.” Galen walked back across the street and into the store, the rich smells flowing around him as he walked in. He sighed. Somehow the shop always smelled like…home. He hadn’t really stayed there until he was thirteen. The family followed the strict codes of fostering laid down in antiquity and he’d only visited from his adoptive family on weekends, but this place had always been home.

In keeping with the traditions, when he turned thirteen, he’d gone to live in the apartment over the shop, back in the care of his birth parents and his father’s brother. His mother died when he was fifteen, leaving the large apartment to the three of them.
Except on weekends when…
He shoved the memory away, taking a moment to check the cash register.

A woman walked into the shop, wandering around the edges of the store picking up items and putting them back down. After a few minutes, Galen walked over to her. “Can I help you?”

She looked at him with a sad smile. “Are you Galen?”

“Yes.”

“I, uh, I heard that you might know something about herbs and healing?” She quickly glanced out the window then looked back at him.

“Depends, I guess, on what you are looking for,” he said carefully.

“It’s my, uh. This is stupid,” she said, turning back towards the door.

Galen put out a hand to stop her without coming into contact with her. “What is it?”

She looked at him again. “My daughter is sick and they don’t know what to do. The doctors don’t even know what’s wrong with her. I ran into a nurse in the hospital cafeteria, and she said you might be able to help.”

“Again, it depends,” he said.

“Would you talk to her?” The woman looked at him with a combination of hope and suspicion.

“Of course, how old is she?” Galen said.

“Thirteen,” she said. “She’s in the car, can I bring her in?”

“Sure.” He watched as she walked out of the store. The woman came back in, leading a thin girl with long blond hair. “Hi,” Galen said with a smile.

“This is stupid, mom, no one can help,” the girl said, her tone bleak.

“Kristy,” the woman said, a warning tone in her voice.

“Kristy?” Galen said, smiling at her. She smiled back. It wasn’t much of a smile, but she tried. “Can you tell me what’s going on?”

“I don’t feel good,” she said with a shrug. “I keep getting worse.”

“Worse how?” Galen said, putting a hand on her shoulder to steer her to the back of the shop. Pain lanced up the touch, the black spot hovering over her heart took his breath away. He dropped his hand, took a deep breath and looked at her. She looked back with a little nod.
She knows how bad it is, she understands she’s dying. Only thirteen and that calm.

“Can you help?” Kristy met his eyes.

“I’m not sure how much I can help. I will try, though,” he said. “Can you come to the back? Your mom can have some tea, and I’ll get some herbs for you.”

He led them to the curtained room off the back of the shop and motioned Kristy’s mom to sit at the table. He made some tea and went back into the shop to gather herbs. Galen put heart’s ease, elder, hawthorn and motherwort into a bag. He looked at it for a moment, wondering what else to add. Those herbs felt right, he tended to go with his gut instinct when dealing with any facet of healing. He closed the bag and walked into the back. Kristy was sitting in the recliner with her eyes closed. Her mother had tears running down her face.

Galen walked over to Kristy, and with a look, asked permission. When she nodded, he put a gentle hand on her forehead. He relaxed and let the light flow.
“It’s your Gift.” He heard his father’s voice. “Like mine, like my father’s. It’s part of who we are, what we do.”
  The pain was building behind his eyes and in his chest when he finally pulled his hand away.

Kristy sighed under his hand. “Thank you,” she whispered. She opened her eyes and smiled at him. “Thank you,” she repeated, and stood up, swaying a little until her mother put a steadying hand on her elbow. “It’s going to be okay, mom,” she said calmly, still smiling. Galen saw the tears start. He knew she understood he couldn’t heal her all the way, but he’d taken away most of the pain and given her a little more time. He walked out into the shop to give them a moment together.

The door banged open and he looked up. “Hey, Rhiannon,” he said to the fortyish woman striding into the shop.

“Galen, we’re having a party tonight, thought you might like to come along,” she said with a feral smile.

“Party?” Galen said with an answering smile.

“Yeah, down at the park, something’s been taking late-night visitors, and we thought we’d stop by and see what’s going on,” she said. “Do you mind?” She grabbed the tongs and dug a piece of candied ginger out of a jar.

Galen shook his head. He’d met Rhiannon Ross ten years before, and since then she’d appeared on a regular basis. She was a killer, pure and simple. She specialized in things that killed children. She’d lost her daughter and learned the truth. After that she’d become a killer, going after the lesser beings that took people away from the light into the recesses of the dark.

The truth did that to some people, the sudden flash of knowledge that there were things most people denied lurking in the dark corners of the world, hiding in the shadows of the night. There were too few people left to fight them, fewer still who faced the big things—those things that the creatures of the night fled from.
I’m supposed to be one of those people, one of those who fight the dark the night fears. Me and…
He stopped “Come by and get me when you’re heading down there,” he said with a smile.

“You okay?” Rhiannon looked him over with searching eyes.

“Why wouldn’t I be?”

“Your birthday, of course,” she said gently.

“We’ll see when the day arrives, I guess.” He turned as Kristy and her mother came out of the back.

“How much do I owe you?” Kristy’s mother asked.

“Ten fifty for the herbs,” Galen said with a smile at Kristy, the girl blushed. Rhiannon chortled.

“Is that all, but what about…?”

“No charge for that,” he said, taking the money from her and dropping it into the cash register.

“Thank you again,” Kristy said, giving him a hug and dashing out the door. Her mother followed her with a grateful smile at Galen.

“Another success?” Rhiannon said with a raise of the eyebrow.

“No, not really, I just made her more comfortable. I couldn’t help her, not enough,” Galen said sadly.

A gentle hand was laid against his arm. “It’s okay. You can’t save everyone.”

“I can’t even save most, Rhiannon, honestly.”

“Saved a few of us, though.” She laughed a little. “You’re damn good at those tiny stitches, hardly leave a scar, better than I ever got at the ER.”

“Don’t tell Mike Silva that.” He grinned back at her.

“I have, many times.” She perched herself on the counter. “You planning anything special for the next few days?”

“I was thinking about starting with a large bottle of tequila and a few limes.”

“Does it worry you?” She looked at him with her searching gaze.

“Does what worry me?”

“It’s been five years since Parry and Bobby were killed and ten years since…”

“Don’t, Rhiannon, please,” he said, surprised at the desperate note in his voice. His heart was pounding as sudden memories flashed before his eyes.
The quirky smile of a thirteen-year-old slyly mentioning his birthday, the happy laughter in his voice when he’d opened the package Galen gave him. “This makes it official, doesn’t it?” he’d said with a proud grin. Galen grinned back. “Yeah, Brat, it does.”

“Galen? Honey?” Rhiannon’s hand was back on his arm, she gave it a little shake.

“Sorry.” He blinked. “What’re we after tonight?” She stared at him for a long moment, he’d gotten used to the looks over the years and calmly started straightening the items in the display case.

“Not sure. Demon of some kind? Ghoul? Werewolf? Does it really matter? Whatever it is, it dies tonight.”

“I just wondered what I should bring along.”

“One of each?” she said, hopping off the counter. “I always do.”

“Yeah, you do.” He laughed. She gave his arm a little squeeze, and headed out of the shop.

As she left, a customer walked in and then another. The shop was surprisingly busy, a steady flow of customers. Most were looking for herbs or vitamins. Several came in for more unusual items. Galen catered to an interesting mix of people. One seventeen-year-old came in looking for a love spell for her boyfriend, and an older woman looking for a spell of protection for her house.

One of Galen’s favorite customers, Mrs. Barkley, came by for rosemary, candied ginger, the healing Galen offered for her arthritis and five ounces of catnip for her cat. At ninety-seven Mattie Barkley was spry, funny and very active.
Galen shook his head as he watched her get in her car and head home. He sighed as the 1939 Ford Coupe edged away from the curb. Galen had to admit to himself he coveted the car, still in near perfect condition.

 “Excuse me?” A voice broke into Galen’s musing.

BOOK: The Legacy: A Custodes Noctis Book
2.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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