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Faerie Hunt: The Changeling Chronicles Book 6 (Ebook)

Faerie Hunt: The Changeling Chronicles Book 6 (Ebook)

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Book 6 of 7: The Changeling Chronicles


I'm Ivy Lane, and lately, my life has been suspiciously free of faerie-related drama. But there's a storm coming.

Now, the lords of Faerie know I have their magic. What they don't know is that I killed a powerful faerie, and might just have doomed both our worlds in the process. With hellhounds camping out in my garden and a dark uprising amongst the half-faeries, something bad is on the move in Faerie.

The evil that rose to destroy our world twenty years ago is back. After all, in the place where the faerie realm meets the spirit world, nothing truly dies...

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My office was still in one piece. Good start. Vance and I walked to the two-floor building through witch district, weaving in and out of crowds of shoppers. A fair few people either walked at a distance, watching my visible weapons, or ran into the road to avoid me.

“I can’t imagine why they keep doing that,” I said to Vance after the fifth mercenary had nearly walked headlong into an oncoming bus in an effort to keep his distance.

“Nor me. You look so friendly and approachable.”

“Look who’s talking.”

We made an odd pair, even I’d acknowledge it. Vance was nearly a foot taller than me, and I lived in leather and denim, while his tailored, expensive clothes made him stand out in almost any crowd. He’d left his long coat behind, but everyone knew him as the head of Mage Lords. He wasn’t just tall, he had presence, a powerful aura which drew the eye. It was impossible to ask him to tone it down, because he didn’t seem to realise the effect was there half the time. As for me, I carried iron and wore my sword, Helena, strapped to my waist at all times. Even at Vance’s cottage by the sea. Monsters didn’t take holidays, after all.

“Number eighteen, right? There’s blood on the porch.”

“Of course there is.” I rolled my eyes. “Someone couldn’t wait to ruin my day.”

Actually, given that Vance and I had been away for two weeks, I’d expected to come back and find everything on fire with faeries and undead running amok through the streets. I stopped outside the nice-looking brick building. All the shitty jobs I’d taken over the last few years had finally paid off. Using a combination of savings and the money Isabel had inherited from the former witch coven leader, Francine, we’d purchased new premises on the upper floor of a converted Victorian house, with Isabel’s new flat on the ground floor. It was twice as big as our last premises, and a dramatic improvement, considering our old one had holes in the ceiling and no working heating system.

I’d left a notice up in the window telling anyone with faerie-related problems to go to the mages for a temporary discount because the resident faerie killer was on holiday. Isabel could handle most cases alone, but I’d asked her to call if a Grey Vale-level threat presented itself. We’d had no calls, but Vance was right about the bloodstains on the doorstep. A small feathered body had been stuffed in the letterbox.

“Oh, someone left a dead crow for me. How considerate.”

I’d bet my sword it was one of Larsen’s cronies. My former employer wasn’t best pleased with my change in fortunes. Larsen’s low-key resentment had led to several of his highest-ranked mercenaries attempting to take out our business. Unfortunately for them, they hadn’t reckoned on the tripwire spells Isabel had built into the walls. Nobody intending harm could bypass the wards without consequences, but I guessed dead birds didn’t fall into that category.

The dead crow vanished before I could pull it from the letterbox. “Where’d you send it?” I asked Vance.

“Larsen’s porch.”

“Ha.” Vance’s ability to displace objects often came in handy. He could also move people, though his range didn’t stretch as far as the other side of the country, so we’d had to drive back. I didn’t mind a few more hours in his company. I’d been looking forward to seeing Isabel, not so much to the frequent attempts on my life.

Erwin the piskie flew out the window as I dug in my bag for my key.

“Ivy!” he screamed delightedly. “Mage!” he shouted in Vance’s ear.

I smothered a laugh as Vance turned to face me. “Isabel’s still using him as a security guard?” he asked.

“Yeah. We’re thinking of hiring extra staff. Maybe I’ll try and lure away some of Larsen’s people.”

“Thought I heard your voice.” The door opened and Isabel, my best friend, smiled at me. Her dark brown skin was marked with witch runes on each arm, designed to retaliate if anyone attacked her. As leader of the local witch coven, she’d inherited her fair share of enemies to add to the faeries which wanted to ruin both our lives. Isabel didn’t look threatening, being five feet tall and dressed in bright colours—a common habit of the witches, who didn’t want to be mistaken for the cloak-wearing necromancers—but she wasn’t to be underestimated.

“How was your holiday? Wait, don’t answer. It’s written all over your face.” She grinned at me. “It’s been relatively calm without you here. I think the monsters went where you did. Unless you want to tell me you made it through a whole fortnight without stabbing anything.”

I pretended to consider this. “Almost. Okay, I might have done it once or twice.”

Isabel rolled her eyes. “Of course.”

“Three times,” Vance added. 


He flashed me a grin. This was fairly typical. We poked fun at one another, but that was how our relationship worked. I’d never been happier.

“Is everything all right here?” I asked Isabel.

“Yeah,” said Isabel. “Kind of. There’s one thing… you won’t like it.”

“As long as nobody’s dead, we’re all good.”

“Well,” said Isabel. “Yes. Someone is, actually.”

“Shit, really?” It wouldn’t be a mage or a witch, otherwise she’d have told us right away. “Shifter? Half-faerie?”

“Mercenary.” She paused. “Larsen called this morning. I think he wants to hire you.”

“You’re kidding. Right?”

Her mouth twisted. “From what I gathered, it’s too complicated for any of his mercenaries to handle.”

“You mean complicated as in the solution doesn’t involve stabbing someone?” More than that was beyond most mercenaries.

“Yeah, maybe.”

“So it wasn’t him who shoved a dead crow in our letterbox?”

Isabel grimaced. “Someone did that? Ugh. Probably Gregor.”

“Hmm. Maybe he did.” Gregor wasn’t the brightest mercenary I’d met. “Did Larsen tell you the name of the person who was killed?” I’d never been friendly with most mercs, but there were some I’d developed a tolerance for back when I’d raided trolls’ nests on a weekly basis and occasionally needed a partner for backup.

“I think he said the mercenary was called Liam Harlow.”

I’d hoped it wouldn’t be a name I recognised. Liam had been one of the few good guys. “Murder?”

“Most likely, Larsen said. He didn’t give details. Said I was to tell you to call him back. Also, he doesn’t want the mages involved.”

“Figures.” Larsen was under the impression that Vance had seduced me away from my former job taking on freelance cases for him. In reality, I’d quit because Larsen had always given me the shittest jobs with the worst pay and the highest mortality risk. Now I split my time fifty-fifty between helping the mages and dealing with independent clients alongside Isabel, and I’d been avoiding Larsen since I’d stopped working for him.

“What d’you reckon?” I asked Vance. “Want to head over there now? If it’s a faerie, it’s best to stop it sooner rather than later.”

“You’re right.” He sounded a little annoyed, probably because we’d been back all of ten minutes. It’d have been nice to have a simple case to come back to, but Isabel and I weren’t known for taking the easy road. Vance took my arm, and a second later, we both disappeared.

The entryway to the mercenary guild was as dingy as ever, and smelled of stale cigarettes mixed with the coppery tang of old bloodstains nobody had ever bothered to wash out of the carpet. A short, slightly overweight balding man glared at me from the desk, stubbing out his cigarette in the nearest plant pot. Its occupant was long dead.

“You,” said Larsen. “Ivy Lane.” His gaze shifted to Vance and his eyes narrowed.

“Larsen. I’m told you wanted to see me about a murder. Since most of your freelancers take on similar cases to the one you’re offering, I’m curious to know why you think I’d be the person for the job.”

He discarded the cigarette. “Because the killer isn’t human.”

“Neither is half your clientele.” Larsen was part shifter himself, technically, but could no more turn into a wolf than into a tree. More’s the pity for him.

“No, but a wild animal couldn’t have got the jump on Liam. Not a normal one, anyway.”

Faeries? Most likely, yes—knowing my luck. However, I’d rule out any other options first.

“Ritual sacrifice?” asked Vance.

“No summoning circle was found.”

“Or spells?” I asked.

“Nothing. The manner of death was gruesome, but nothing like any animal attack I’ve seen.”

“Sounds delightful,” I said. “I’ll need more detail.”

“If the Mage Lord steps outside. This is sensitive information.”

Yeah, right. Now I got why he wanted me to do the job. I was the only person ever employed at the guild who could see through faerie glamour. Although many of his clients were half-bloods, none of the mercs were. I wasn’t entirely sure on why.

“I’ll wait outside,” said Vance, appearing entirely unconcerned.

“Sure.” The quicker this meeting was over with, the better. But if Larsen thought he could get the best of me because Vance wasn’t here, he was laughably mistaken. The first time he’d seen me, I’d been sixteen, and I’d signed up when I’d come back from Faerie and found myself homeless with no money. Survival had been my first priority, and I’d heard a rumour on the streets that it was the place to go if you were desperate. Which was still true. Larsen had told me to prove myself by evacuating a bunch of fire imps from someone’s attic. He’d omitted to tell me the place was already on fire at the time. But I’d had enough experience with the faeries to deal with the case anyway, and came back to Larsen’s, covered in ashes, to demand payment. He’d been impressed enough to offer me a job, but not enough to respect me. In his mind, I was still that kid, starving on the streets, willing to take on any job to pay the bills.

I didn’t take the seat Larsen offered, instead moving so that he could see the blade sheathed at my waist. Helena was no normal sword but a faerie artefact forged from the heart of one of their trees and imbued with magic which could draw on pain and suffering to gain a power boost, destroy almost any enemy, living or dead, and give me the enhanced instincts of a pure-blooded faerie. But Larsen’s smirk told me he’d forgotten all of that.

“If I knew what it’d take to get compliance from you, I’d have taken you to my private rooms rather than letting you sleep on the streets the night after we met.”

One movement and my blade was at his throat.

“I’m not trading my skills for sexual favours, you perverted troll,” I spat. “I’d work with Vance over you because he isn’t an exploitative dick who’s probably pocketing half the money himself.”

“Jesus, Lane, I wasn’t being serious.”

“You’re fucking kidding me, right?” I didn’t remove my sword.

He coughed. “It was a badly judged joke.”

“Yes, it was. And by the way, if I ever do find proof you’re taking more than your fair share from each case, you’ll get worse than one of Isabel’s tripwire spells.”

He shifted, a flash of guilt noticeably crossing his face. So he’d definitely been sending people to sabotage our business. Prick. I’d sort of been bluffing, but hell, maybe I wasn’t. Isabel and I had been considering hiring other mercenaries to work for us—specifically, the most vulnerable ones. Maybe I’d be better off doing that than listening to Larsen’s grovelling, but as far as mercs went, Liam had been a decent guy. And the circumstances of his death sounded weird enough that I at least wanted to check it wasn’t a faerie I’d met who’d been the killer.

“I want to see the murder scene,” I told Larsen. “Have you ordered anyone to administer a tracking spell?”

“To find the killer? The traces were too muddled.”

Hmm. It sounded plausible, but I didn’t take him at his word. “Does the victim have any surviving relatives?”

“No. Only an ex-girlfriend who hasn’t seen him in years.”

Not unusual for a mercenary. Most people joined the guild out of desperation, after all.

“So can I go?”

“If you accept the case.”

I narrowed my eyes. Okay, I could always back out if it turned out he was playing me again. “Fine.”

“I’ll let the mercs watching the place know to let you in.”

How very considerate. The absence of human police told me he knew without a doubt it wasn’t a regular killing. Which meant he’d probably withheld details. But for someone who fielded complaints about rampaging monsters, he was surprisingly cowardly.

I made for the door, more than happy to get the hell out of there. The door opened as I did so. Vance’s gaze snapped onto Larsen and the air moved as he displaced it to smack the mercenary on the back of the head. Larsen gasped.

“Did you lay a finger on her?” Vance asked, in a low, dangerous voice.

“Christ, no. Mage Lord. Sir.”

“Just a misunderstanding,” I said cheerily, throwing Larsen a look over my shoulder which said clearly that I could ruin him, if I wanted to.

Once I was outside with Vance, I added, “He’s being his usual dickish self. Want to go visit a murder site?”

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