The Shadow Weave by Annette Marie

  “And all you ask is my unswerving obedience, right?” Lyre unfolded one arm so he could flutter his fingers in Bastian’s direction. “You’ll shelter me in your territory, and in return, I have to weave whatever spells you request. If I fail to comply, well, who knows what will happen to me, isolated and under your power in a world I can’t escape.”

  “That’s a bleak outlook on a generous offer,” Bastian said with a frown. “Providing a sanctuary for you would come with risks for us. Asking for your cooperation doesn’t seem unreasonable, does it?”

  “Well, that’s the thing. I didn’t come here seeking asylum. I came to get my spell back.”

  “Your spell?”

  “Yeah, you know, the one your dear pal Eryx stole from me.”

  Bastian’s frown deepened. “Eryx didn’t turn over any spells when he returned. Are you sure he stole it?”

  Lyre smiled, an expression that could almost be mistaken as friendly. “Do you really want to play this game with me, little prince?”

  The chimeras stiffened but Bastian merely raised his eyebrows.

  Pushing away from the doorframe, Lyre stepped out of the shed. “This territory is something else, you know. Nymphs are unlike any caste I’ve encountered in the Underworld. They’re almost like children—so trusting and naïve.” A sharp edge crept into his smile. “It must be so easy for a guy like you.”

  “I’m afraid I don’t understand.”

  “Still pretending, huh?” Lyre ran his hand through his hair, pushing his hood off. As it fell back, the chimera guards went rigid and their wide eyes darted over his face as they got a good look at him. Bastian’s expression didn’t change.

  Lyre took another step closer. He wished he could use aphrodesia but the prince would see it with his asper. “I’ll tell you something, Bastian. You might be a smooth bastard compared to all these carefree nymphs, but to me, you’re a clumsy amateur.”

  Bastian’s mouth thinned. Aha. A reaction, finally.

  “In my world,” he continued, “lies and deception are the air we breathe. You don’t have the skills to play this game at my level.”

  The prince studied him, his expression indecipherable. For all Lyre’s condescension, Bastian wasn’t that much of an amateur. But the taunting was all part of the game.

  “I see,” the prince replied. “I presume you wish me to be as straightforward as possible?”

  “Yeah, that’s right. We don’t have all day to stand here verbally sparring, do we?”

  “We do not,” Bastian agreed, and this time, when he smiled, it was as sharp and mocking as Lyre’s smile had been. “Then I will be honest, Lyre. I want you to work for me. You will be protected, safe, and comfortable. In exchange, you will weave at my command.”

  “You propose it as though I’ve never had an offer like that before.”

  “I expect you will find life significantly more pleasant here than under your family’s employment, but should you refuse, I’ll arrest you as a Hades spy.”

  Lyre tsked softly. “Another amateur move, Bastian. Don’t make threats you have no intention of carrying out.”

  “I assure you, it is not a bluff.”

  “Oh, but it is. You won’t arrest me and throw me in a dungeon. Too much risk you’ll lose control of the situation before you can get what you want.”

  “And what do you think I want?” Bastian asked coolly.

  “We both know perfectly well.” Lyre dropped his voice to a malevolent purr. “The clock spell. You’re standing here with your guards, trying to persuade me to come quietly, because you can’t unlock the clock spell without my help.”

  Bastian’s eyes flashed—chagrinned surprise followed by anger.

  “You won’t throw me in a dungeon. You don’t want the king or anyone else at the palace to know I’m here. That’s why you came to find me before talking to Clio.” He canted his head. “Let me guess. Your spies informed you about a stranger with a gold aura and lots of fancy spells heading toward the palace, and you guessed where Clio would ditch me—in her favorite private spot in the garden.”

  Bastian raised his hand. The five chimeras snapped their pikes down, the blades pointing at Lyre’s chest.

  He arched an eyebrow. “Didn’t we just agree that you don’t plan to kill me?”

  Stepping backward, Bastian nodded pleasantly. “We did, and your shields will prevent those pikes from piercing your flesh.”

  Lyre’s jaw tensed. A diversion. Bastian wanted Lyre to focus his defenses on the threats in front of him, but the attack would come from somewhere else.

  An instant—that was all he had to decide. Fighting back would be pointless. The moment he tried to cast, Bastian would see it. With no spells in hand and his enemies so close, six against one were impossible odds. And if he attacked the crown prince of Irida, whether he won or lost, he’d end up dead.

  So in the instant he had to act, he caught the tracking gem on his tongue and triggered it. The spell pulsed in his head as its twin activated, and with no better way to keep the weaving hidden and close, he swallowed it.

  Bastian’s gaze flicked up, focusing on something above Lyre. A signal.

  A rope dropped over Lyre’s head. The noose snapped tight around his neck and yanked, half strangling him even with his shield. He grabbed the rope but the nearest chimeras caught his arms and forced them away from his body. The noose pulled up until he was lifted onto his toes.

  “Begin a cast and I’ll have them beat you unconscious.” Bastian stopped in front of Lyre and touched two fingers to his chest. Hot magic washed over him, followed by a cold wave as the nymph dissolved his protective wards. “Would you prefer to walk under your own power or be carried?”

  Lyre wheezed, the rope crushing his throat. He rolled his eyes up and caught a glimpse of the chimera crouched on the roof of the shed—a familiar chimera.

  “Fancy meeting me again, eh?” Eryx barked a laugh. “I can’t believe you got out of there alive, but it worked out well for us, didn’t it?” He hauled on the rope, lifting Lyre off his feet by the neck. “Not so much for you, though.”

  “Bind him,” Bastian ordered. “Gag him as well.”

  As the chimeras pulled his arms behind his back, Lyre sneered at the prince as best he could while hanging from a rope, but he couldn’t come up with a witty insult. Helpless and captured again. What a fun pattern this was becoming.

  The tracking spell pulsed in his head. With the weaving’s light lost in his aura and muted by his body, the prince hadn’t noticed it—yet.

  Bastian wrapped his hand around Lyre’s spell chain. A touch of his magic snapped the links and he pulled the chain off to examine the weavings. “We can have a long and profitable relationship, or we can have a short and violent one. The decision is yours, but either way, I will get what I want from you.”

  As he turned away with the spell chain, he glanced back, pale eyes gleaming like arctic ice.

  “I’ll tell you something, Lyre,” he murmured—the same phrase Lyre had derisively used. Bastian’s smile returned, crueler than a blade. “You may know how the game works, but you’d lost before we even began to play.”

  Chapter Twenty-Four

  Clutching the silent tracking spell, Clio waited for the signal to return. If it didn’t reactivate, how would she find Lyre?

  Throughout the reception hall, voices buzzed and advisors, messengers, and guards rushed around. Rouvin was barking orders, so focused on locating his missing son that he’d barely glanced her way when the tracking spell went off.

  Why had it gone off? Why was Lyre so far from the garden storeroom? Her shaking hand tightened on the stone. If the palace guards had captured him, they would have brought him inside, not taken him away.

  Why had the signal stopped?

  “Lady Clio.”

  She looked up. The nymph guard who’d been holding the tracking spell watched her warily.

  “What is that spell?” he asked. “Why did it activate?”

p; She glanced at her tightly closed fist, the gem hidden in her grip.

  “Were you signaling someone?” His voice hardened with suspicion. “Do you have someone waiting at the ley line?”

  Her head snapped up. “Ley line?”

  “I felt the signal,” he said, his tone suggesting he thought she was playing dumb. “The only thing in that direction besides wilderness is the North Road and the White Rock ley line.”

  A ley line. There was a ley line north of here. She stared at the guard, her mouth hanging open. If Lyre had gone through a ley line, that would explain why the tracking spell had cut off. It couldn’t signal his location if he wasn’t in the same realm as her.

  “Your Majesty.” A guard knelt before the king. “We’ve expanded the search into the city. Prince Bastian appears to have left the grounds.”

  Rouvin folded his arms. “You found no indications of where he’s gone? Are we certain he left under his own power?”

  “His guards are also missing,” the chimera replied. “I assume they’re with him. We found no indications of where he might have gone, but there are signs of a disturbance in the east garden.”

  Clio’s lungs seized.

  “What kind of disturbance?” Rouvin asked.

  “The storage room door was open and there were footprints in the dirt and signs of a struggle. We don’t know if it’s related.”

  “Find out,” the king commanded, and the daemon saluted.

  Clio stared blankly at the chaotic bustling. A disturbance in the garden where she’d left Lyre. Signs of a struggle. Lyre activating his tracking spell and heading toward a ley line he shouldn’t know existed.

  Bastian missing. His guards with him. Gone from the palace grounds. Signs of a struggle.

  It was too much of a coincidence.

  What were the chances that Bastian knew she hadn’t arrived alone? Hundreds of nymphs in town had seen Lyre’s golden aura and the strange spells he carried. She’d thought she’d have time to talk to the king and Bastian before rumors of a mysterious visitor reached the palace.

  She looked at the king, tall and commanding amidst his people, then turned around. With purposeful steps, she walked away. In the bustle of soldiers and messengers, Rouvin didn’t glance in her direction. Everyone was focused on their tasks, too busy with their orders and searching for the crown prince to worry about the princess’s long-lost lady-in-waiting. Everyone except—

  “Where are you going?”

  The persistent nymph guard trotted after her.

  “I need to check on something,” she answered through clenched teeth.

  “On what?”

  She marched faster. As she headed out of the reception hall and into a long corridor, he swung in front of her, forcing her to a stop. “You don’t have permission to—”

  She flicked her fingers. Her binding spell was so fast he only had time to gasp before it immobilized him.

  “I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m leaving. Tell the king … tell him I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

  Stepping around the frozen guard, she broke into a run. Her nymph swiftness carried her through the familiar halls in a flash and she burst out of a side door. She’d lived at the palace for over three years and knew how to avoid the guards. In only a few minutes, she had hopped the outer wall and was pounding down a path.

  She’d never traveled on the North Road before, and if not for the signpost, she would have run right by it. She’d expected an actual road, but it was scarcely more than a worn track through the grass that branched off from a city avenue. She launched down the trail, hoping the ley line wouldn’t be difficult to find.

  She wished she was leaving with her father’s blessing and the assistance of the palace guard, but she couldn’t risk it. She had to do this alone.

  Sabir had shown her how other daemons, even Overworlders, could react to a rare master weaver. If she told Rouvin about Lyre, he might decide the incubus was a tool, a bartering chip, a spy, or a criminal. Rouvin hadn’t known about Bastian’s lies, which meant he didn’t know Bastian had sent her into the Underworld.

  She ran on, long grass whipping at her arms, the trail nearly invisible. The enormous guardian trees petered out, replaced by smaller ones with needle-like leaves that were more suited to the rocky terrain and cool mountain weather. The road wound among crystal-veined outcrops and colossal boulders from ancient rockfalls, and soon the grass disappeared until she was jogging across a trail of fine gravel.

  Even as her feet pounded the ground, she knew this was a fool’s mission. Ley line travel was untraceable. Bastian could have taken Lyre anywhere.

  But if he had left the palace, it was because he didn’t want anyone to know about Lyre. They weren’t in Irida—she would have sensed the tracking spell if it was that close—and going to another Overworld territory would risk the attention of another caste or ruling family. Which meant he’d probably gone to Earth.

  Brinford was the only human city she’d been to, and the only daemon-friendly one she was familiar with, so that’s where she’d start. As long as Lyre kept his tracking spell active, she could find him.

  What she’d do once she reached him … that she wasn’t sure about.

  She needn’t have worried about missing the ley line. It was easy to find—protected by a troop of nymph and chimera soldiers, positioned in an open valley, with the ley line running through a gully at the end.

  She stopped on the trail and scanned the valley, but there was no way to sneak up on the line. Leaving the road, she trotted down the slope. The soldiers watched her come, and a pair of nymphs broke off from the wooden shelters where the rest were positioned.

  “Lady Clio?” The nymph frowned at her. “I hadn’t heard you were back. This ley line is restricted. What are you doing here?”

  “I’m following Prince Bastian’s instructions. I need to go through the line.”

  His frown deepened. “He didn’t mention you.”

  So Bastian had gone through this line. She lifted her chin. “Why else would I be here? I need to catch up with him. It’s urgent.”

  The nymph exchanged a look with his comrade, then shrugged. “Go ahead, then, but make sure to return with His Highness.”

  With a nervous nod of thanks, she approached the ley line. At a fast jog, it had taken her almost an hour to reach this spot. Bastian and his men must have captured Lyre almost as soon as she’d left him and traveled to the ley line. She was so far behind.

  Her stomach twisted. She had to get to Lyre. She was the only one who knew what had happened to him. No one else could save him.

  No one else would even try.

  The realization came on a wave of quiet grief. She was the only person who cared about him, who would fight to save his life. Besides her, there was just Reed, and he had already done all he could.

  She was the only one. Lyre had no one else.

  The burn in her lungs and the ache in her legs faded. Determination lit through her, and her hands clenched into fists. She would not fail him. She would be there for him.

  She stepped into the ley line.

  The moment she stepped out of the line, she felt it: the pulse of the tracking spell. A beacon in her mind summoned her onward, calling her to follow.

  She stumbled away from the ribbon of blue and green light and gathered her bearings. Though it was early dusk in the Overworld, on Earth, it was already dark. The stars glimmered in a clear sky and the three-quarter moon illuminated the scrubby forest that surrounded the ley line.

  The tracking spell beat in her head, telling her which way to go.

  She shoved through the underbrush, ignoring the thorns scraping across her exposed skin. Ahead, an old highway peeked through the foliage; she’d last traveled that road with Sabir on their way to the line a few days ago.

  As she broke into a steady jog, timing her pace with the pulse of the tracking spell, her mind raced ahead. Bastian had brought Lyre to Brinford. She hadn’t wanted to hope it would be t
his simple, but it made sense. Brinford was the human city Bastian was most familiar with. He’d been visiting it at least once a month for two years.

  Bastian had lied. The sick realization had hovered in her mind since her talk with the king, underscoring every thought. Bastian had lied about everything. Why? Why had he tricked her into leaving Irida? Why had he convinced her their homeland was in danger and sent her to investigate Ra spell commissions? Why had he asked her to steal warfare spellcraft from Chrysalis?


  No matter how she twisted and wrangled the questions, she found no answers. She didn’t know where the truth ended and his lies began. With each question that spun through her head, the numb shield of disbelief cracked. Beneath it, pain waited—and beneath the pain, fury simmered, its heat growing swiftly.

  Her legs burned and her throat ached from thirst, but she didn’t slow. She had to catch up. She had to find Lyre and stop Bastian from … from whatever he intended to do.

  In the distance, a smattering of white and yellow lights glittered among the blanket of darkness: Brinford. The tracking spell called her onward. It was so pervasive she almost missed the second, softer beat of another spell—the beacon that marked a Consulate.

  She hesitated, slowing to a walk. The last time she and Lyre had been there, they’d stolen the Consulate’s car. Had the Consulate recovered their vehicle?

  Making a snap decision, she rushed down the long drive. The elegant manor came into view, its front lights glowing welcomingly. Ignoring the front drive, she cut through the trees to the hidden garage and narrow back driveway. A bolt of magic snapped the lock on the door and she flung it open to reveal the pitch black interior.

  She cast a light spell and the green glow washed over the dull paint of a gray sedan parked in the center of the garage. Old, rusting, and far more beaten than the car she and Lyre had stolen, but it was a car nonetheless.

  She pulled the vehicle’s door open and a musty smell wafted out. Dropping into the driver’s seat, she pawed at the various nooks and crannies where the keys might be hiding. Last time, Lyre had hot-wired the car—an unexpected skill she’d meant to ask him about—but she had no idea how to do the same. She needed the key.

Previous Page Next Page
Should you have any enquiry, please contact us via [email protected]