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Faerie Magic: The Changeling Chronicles Book 2 (Ebook)

Faerie Magic: The Changeling Chronicles Book 2 (Ebook)

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Book 2 of 7: The Changeling Chronicles

 

With the infuriatingly arrogant Mage Lord pressuring me to join his team and a dark movement in the magical underworld threatening to ignite a war between the half-faeries and other supernaturals, I have my work cut out.

Especially when a serum that’s deadly to half-faeries finds its way onto the market, luring in its victims with the promise of immortality.

To find the source of the lies, I have to go undercover to a dangerous magical contest where half-faeries compete for glory. Problem is, to get in, I have to pretend to be one of them.

Navigating my way between half-faeries who want my head on a platter and the Mage Lord who wants, well, me, is tricky enough. But then I learn something about my own magic that changes the playing field. If I don’t come out on top, a second faerie apocalypse is on the horizon.

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“It’s not that bad,” said Isabel, my closest friend, as we prepared to face the music. Or rather, faeries.

“There are fifty piskies trapped in a garden shed,” I said. “It’s not ‘bad’. It’s a shitstorm of epic proportions.”

The overgrown back garden we stood in practically advertised itself as a haven to faeries, a warren of brambles and rotting trees. The people who lived here had let their pest problem spiral so far out of control, it was lucky they hadn’t woken up with all their hair missing.

“Pity the Mage Lord can’t appear and displace them all to Antarctica.” Isabel might be second in line to the local witch coven, but even she hadn’t been able to devise a spell for extracting piskies from a shed.

“Very funny.” Vance Colton, Mage Lord and royal pain in the ass, wasn’t here—which irritated me more than the oncoming horde of rabid piskies. He’d left on an ‘important mission’, and to say I was pissed off he’d left without a warning would be an understatement—let alone that he’d been gone a week without so much as a call. Especially as he’d asked me out on a date before he’d left. 

“Hey,” said Isabel, waving a hand in front of my face. “Now’s not a good time to be daydreaming.”

I shook off all thoughts of the Mage Lord. We had a horde of piskies to deal with.

Piskie eviction was the lowest of menial jobs, but covering this month’s rent payment mattered more than dignity did. Since I no longer worked for Larsen, who ran the local mercenaries, I was forced to rely on independent clients.

For sixteen glorious hours, I’d owned more money than I’d ever owned in my life—and considering I’d nearly died to get it, the spoils were more than welcome. Then the local council had swooped in and taken every last penny to pay for damages on behalf of the Necromancy Guild. And then I’d called Vance, only to be told he’d disappeared of the face of the earth. This after I’d walked away from Larsen, my old boss, thinking a steady job awaited me at the Mage Guild. Someone up there really didn’t like me.

So here we were, in the dingiest part of witch territory. Our own house sat at the other end, where it merged with the shifters’ lands. This place, on the other hand, lay on the half-faeries’ doorstep—which explained the piskies.

Think of the money, I chanted in my head like a mantra, as I helped Isabel set up a protective spell in front of the shed doors to keep them from swarming out all at once. Piskies were the weakest of Faerie’s creatures, but it didn’t mean they couldn’t claw us to pieces when enraged.

I tossed my ponytail over my shoulder and readied my weapons. I always carried at least three daggers, but Irene, my sword, did all the heavy lifting. Iron was fatal to faeries and I hoped waving it around would be sufficiently intimidating to send the piskies into our trap.

The chilly early autumn night wind whipped through my thin jacket, recently cleaned of the most recent spillage of monster guts. I’d hoped to replace my threadbare and bloodstained clothes using the bonus money, but at this rate, I wouldn’t even make rent payment this month unless I managed to do the impossible and get those piskies out of the shed.

“Hmm,” said Isabel. “I don’t think letting them all out at once is a good idea. They’ll just swarm somewhere else.”

“Yeah. You know your mass sleeping potion…”

“You said it doesn’t work on faeries.”

“No, it makes them drunk.” As I’d found out the hard way, when Erwin—the piskie who lived in our flat—had fallen asleep in a bucket of the potion when Isabel left some out on the table. We needed to capture the beasts while they were conscious. Not ideal.

Yells and other indiscernible noises rang out from down the road, where the area bordered on half-blood district. Probably a faerie house party. I hated the sounds of Faerie—the music alone made me want to curl up into a ball—but luckily the high hedges around their territory muted the noise, along with a million spells designed to keep outsiders away. 

Even the half-bloods would call pest control in this situation. Taking a steadying breath, I readied my hands on the lock. Best get this over with. I unlocked the shed door, whipping out my sword as I did so, then jumped behind the protective barrier.

Immediately, the racket coming from half-blood district disappeared under the screams of fifty enraged piskies. They swarmed as one, bouncing off the shield outside the door. Even though the layer of shielding kept them contained, the edges began to smoke.

“Crap,” I said. “Guess they must have some magic in them, after all.” Small fry like piskies had less magic than brains—and that was saying a lot. But with so many in a single place, they’d whipped up a storm. The inside of the shed became a torrent I didn’t want to look into.

“Right,” said Isabel, a resigned expression on her face. “It’s time for Plan B.”

She took out a trapping circle and set it up on the ground. Normally, we’d put sylvan leaves or another kind of bait inside it, but we didn’t need to lure the piskies out. They already wanted out, and our only option was to extract them one at a time and get them into the trap.

I shot her a worried glance. Most of the time, I worked alone on jobs like this. Isabel might be tough, but faeries were a species most humans couldn’t stand up to. The most dangerous jobs fell to me, from raiding trolls’ nests to killing man-eating hydras. Though I didn’t work for Larsen anymore, I was well known amongst the other mercenaries as the faerie killer.

I grimaced, reaching over the shield and grabbing for the nearest body. The piskie was surprisingly heavy for an eight-inch-tall twig like creature, and I nearly dropped it when sharp teeth bit into my finger. Wincing, I hauled it over the trap’s edge, which snapped into place immediately. One down. Forty-nine to go.

“We should strike ‘efficient’ off our ad,” said Isabel.

“And ‘reliable’,” I muttered, examining the wound on my finger. Shallow puncture marks. Not poisonous, at least. “Right…”

I dived back in, getting another bite on my arm for my trouble. After ten piskies were safely contained, I stopped, staring at my arms. Blue light spread across them, like when I used faerie magic. Usually the power activated at the last possible moment. Was it because there were so many piskies?

“Ivy? What is it?”

I shook my head. “Nothing. I think they have magic, though. We need to be careful carrying so many of them at once—”

The shed exploded.

One second, the piskies battered against the shield. The next, a blast of dazzling blue light shot up from the shed, and the walls and door burst into a million wood fragments. I threw myself to the ground behind the ward line. The piskies flew upwards in a shrieking horde, as though the line didn’t exist.

“Shit!” I yelled, searching for Isabel. She’d been forced to hide behind the trap, which had caught at least a dozen more piskies. Unfortunately, the rest of the swarm tasted freedom and liked it.

The darkening sky disappeared beneath fluttering wings and pointed faces. Piskies didn’t fly in formation. They crashed into one another, fighting, clawing, screaming. Sharp teeth dug into my arm and I yelped, swatting the piskie away. I jumped to my feet, waving my sword, trying to drive them towards the trap. Isabel got there first, and the trap expanded to cover half the garden.

Too late—a good third of the piskies had already flown in the opposite direction. I stared after them, unable to believe my eyes. How had the weakest denizens of Faerie blown up a shed and a witch’s ward to boot?

Isabel kicked one of the piskies into the trap with surprising anger. Generally, she was as laid back as I was impulsive, a balm to my quick temper. But nothing pissed her off as much as one of her spells not working.

“Guess we have our answer about why Erwin keeps breaking through our wards.” I wiped my bloody hand on my jeans. Damn. Who’d have thought they packed so big a magical punch?

“If you say so,” said Isabel. “What did that look like to you? All I saw was a big explosion.”

“Had to be magic,” I said. “A lot of it.”

She frowned. “I thought you needed the Sight to see faerie magic.”

“You do.” This wasn’t right.

“Is that what it always looks like? Blue light?”

I kept forgetting, what with the myriad other problems knocking at my door, that Isabel had far from exhausted her list of questions on the faeries. Since I’d told her my experiences as a captive of Lord Avakis of the Grey Vale, she’d barely been able to restrain her curiosity. I was, after all, the only human any of us knew who was able to see and use faerie magic. Not to mention the only human who’d ever escaped the faerie realm alive. Trust didn’t come easily to me, and I suspected it’d be a long time before I grew used to the idea of even my best friend knowing my darkest secrets.

“Blue or green light, depending on whether the magic belongs to Winter or Summer. You’ve already seen what both can do.”

She closed her mouth, forehead puckered in a frown. “I was half unconscious for most of it,” she said, referring to the time she’d spent in a necromancer’s summoning circle while half-faerie ghosts ran amok outside.

“True.” I stared at the sky. The piskies were long gone, though the yowls and screams of their brothers and sisters rang out from the trap. “Damn. Maybe it wasn’t faerie magic. Hang on.” I climbed over the splintered remains of the shed door, shattered so thoroughly it had turned into sawdust. Isabel hesitated, then followed. “Might be a trap in here.”

I expected to find a trace, at the very least. Isabel was the expert in magical explosive devices—several of which I carried in my pockets. But when she joined me in scanning the ground, her expression told me she was just as clueless as I was about what caused the explosion.

“Nothing,” she said. “No spells at all. Are you sure piskies can’t combine their magic?”

“Pretty sure I’d know by now,” I said. “They swarm, but they can’t so much as conjure up a spark. And the light—it didn’t look like Summer magic.” Piskies came from the Seelie realm of Faerie. The one where people pretended to be nice then stole your money.

“So what was it?”

I shrugged. Angry yells behind us reminded me twenty-odd enraged piskies waited to be escorted back to the clean-up guild at Larsen’s place.

I sighed and stood up. “Well. That could have gone better.” Should have brought backup, I imagined Vance Colton saying, to my intense annoyance. His displacing ability would be damned useful to get rid of those piskies. A cynical part of me whispered that I should have known it was too good to be true. We might have worked on a case together, but I’d been riding the high of being alive when I’d quit my job and put my future in his hands. Too bad my impaired judgement had been stronger than his desire to stick around.

Despite myself, I clicked through to his number on my phone. This was the kind of incident the Mage Lords needed to know about. Whatever history existed between Vance Colton and I was irrelevant. He was head of all the magical practitioners in the entire town—hell, in this area of the country. I couldn’t even get a wayward piskie to leave my flat, let alone convince the necromancers not to take away all my money.

Still, his rejection stung—my bank account more than my pride. Vance’s sort, descended from rich English aristocrats, were a little out of touch with the cut-throat world the rest of us lived in. I’d hoped to change that when I’d started working with him. Apparently not. 

My hand hovered over the call button, and my phone buzzed so suddenly I nearly dropped it.

The number calling me wasn’t the Mage Lord’s, but my ex-boss. Larsen.

My hand clenched around the phone and I damn near threw it aside in disgust. The sleazy bastard. No matter how desperate I got, I’d never work for him again. I glared at the phone. Apparently not getting the message, it kept buzzing.

“Why aren’t you answering?” asked Isabel.

“Larsen.” I spat out his name like a curse.

“Why would he be calling?”

“Because he wants to exploit or blame me for something. Maybe he found out I’m the one doing this job and wants a cut of the profits.” I pocketed my phone again. I’d forgotten Erwin the piskie had chewed holes in my pocket, so the phone fell through and clattered on the ground.

“Ivy,” said Larsen’s voice.

Shit. I picked up the phone, checked for damage, and was about to hang up when he said, “Wait. Listen for a minute.”

“Or what?” I glared at the screen, like he could see me through it. “I told you never to speak to me again.”

“I have a client who wishes to hire you.”

I laughed aloud. “Fuck that. Fuck that, and fuck you, Larsen.”

He took my abuse with unusual calmness. “This is urgent,” he said. “There’s been a murder in half-blood district. The Mage Lords are absent, and every half-faerie in town is calling for blood.”

Well, shit.

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