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Hereditary Curse: The Gatekeeper's Curse Book 2 (Ebook)

Hereditary Curse: The Gatekeeper's Curse Book 2 (Ebook)

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Book 2 of 3: The Gatekeeper's Curse


Ilsa Lynn has survived her first few weeks as Gatekeeper between mortal and spirit worlds, but her problems are just beginning.

The source of her magic remains as shrouded in mystery as her family's past, while the necromancers are keen to recruit her as one of their own. And then there's River, the tempting faerie-necromancer, placed in charge of her training. Keeping her abilities quiet seems impossible with wraiths haunting her every step, let alone an estranged family member with a secret of his own appearing on the doorstep.

When a dark evil sets its sights on her family, it'll take everything Ilsa has to lay the spirit to rest before she ends up six feet under -- permanently.

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The ghost wailed, his hands buried in my neck. It was seriously beginning to creep me out.

“Look, I’m sorry you’re dead,” I told the man. “If you want to know what happens next, you’ll have to ask a necromancer. I’m not one.”

Thankfully. I was Ilsa Lynn, Gatekeeper-in-training, and an unfortunate side effect of my new role was the ability to see and speak to the dead. Now the local ghosts had picked up on the fact that I could see and hear them, I couldn’t go more than a minute without one of them tagging along after me. They complained, howled, refused to believe they were dead, and this guy was in desperate denial that I wasn’t the one who’d shuffled off this mortal coil. 

“Can you stop doing that?” I didn’t exactly feel pain when the ghost pawed at my insides, just an uncomfortable sort of cold like stepping into the shower fully-clothed.

“Are you sure you’re not dead?” said the ghost. “I can’t be. I was alive.”

“That’s usually the way,” I responded. “Is there any particular reason you stuck around?”

There didn’t have to be a reason for a ghost to get trapped here after death. Since the faeries attacked the mortal realm, the lines between human and spirit realms had been screwed up, too, and ghost appearances were more frequent than they used to be. Often they didn’t remember their own names, and they had the attention span of a hyped-up toddler hand in hand with a desperate need for attention. Which was kind of unfortunate, considering most people couldn’t even see them.

I was starting to think that maintaining a quiet existence in a city full of ghosts like Edinburgh was a futile prospect.

“I need to find Becka and tell her I’m going to be home late tonight.”

“Pretty sure she already knows,” I said. “You’ve been here a day.” I’d seen the ghost floating around the same spot on the road several times over the last twenty-four hours, long since they’d removed his body after he’d been hit by a car. Ghosts usually haunted either the place where they’d died, or somewhere important to them.

“Oh,” he said faintly. “I’m really dead, aren’t I?”

“Unfortunately, yes,” I said.

“Then you’re… you don’t look like a necromancer. Those clothes are wrong.”

“That’s because I’m not a necromancer.” Why did everyone have an issue with my fashion sense? I wore ragged jeans and my favourite hoody, aka my ‘leave me alone’ outfit. Most necromancers wore black cloaks, probably for the same reason, but I didn’t need to take tips from the dead, thanks. Unlike my sister, I didn’t pay particular attention to my appearance, but in fairness, I wasn’t generally under scrutiny by the impossibly beautiful Sidhe. I had brown eyes which hadn’t turned green with the faerie magic of our family, and kept my curly dark hair loose to hide the invisible mark on my forehead designating my status as Gatekeeper. As I wore a witch charm twenty-four seven, it was only visible within the spirit world, but I liked to keep my close brushes with death to a minimum.

Being Gatekeeper hadn’t exactly been a smooth ride so far. Thanks to my distant aunt’s quest to pursue immortality by screwing up the veil between life and death, I’d been claimed by a hereditary talisman and now had a type of necromancy unlike any other: the ability to banish faerie ghosts and control the gates of Death. But there was no point in using my ability on this spirit. 

As the truth dawned on him, he became more transparent, and floated away, hopefully to pass Beyond and stop drifting around being miserable. Not that I was one to talk. Since I’d moved back here, I didn’t quite know what to do with myself. I’d left my old job a few weeks ago after a rogue poltergeist had stripped naked on the counter and knocked a bunch of beer glasses over. My boss hadn’t appreciated my attempts to explain how I’d banished it using necromancy, so I’d resigned to keep my dignity intact. Since none of my other interviews had panned out and I had yet to submit my PhD application, I’d taken to wandering around the streets, switching my spirit sight on and off to fine-tune my ability to distinguish dead people from living ones. Because that was a sane, normal thing to do.

Maybe I shouldn’t have come back, but after five years, Edinburgh felt more like home than the Lynn house did. Since I literally had a sign on my head telling all the dead to come and hound me, my best bet was likely to find a job running ghost tours, but the sort of monsters who came after me were probably too hard-core for most tourist crowds.

A whisper of air stroked the back of my neck. Not again.

Behind me, a man without a soul shambled along with the uncoordinated steps of the recently dead. If seeing dead people in the streets wasn’t creepy enough on its own, my spirit sight showed me that the body was an empty vessel, propelled by necromantic energy with no will of its own.

I reached into my pocket for the salt shaker I kept on me all the time. Salt dissolved undead and deterred ghosts, without exception. The most undead could do was flail around and claw at you, but if someone had raised it from the grave, trouble would undoubtedly follow.

I followed close behind the undead, which walked so clumsily that it made me look positively coordinated in comparison. I grabbed a handful of salt, rolled it into a ball, and lobbed it at the back of its head.

The undead went down, hard. I ran after it to check there weren’t any others, and a second undead collided with me from the side.

Should have seen that one coming. The undead’s hand grasped my arm, coldness radiating from its body. Oh hell.

A current of icy magic blasted me off my feet. I hit the ground, landing hard on my shoulder. Grimacing, I scrambled to my feet, tossing salt at the zombie. It kept going even when its arm decayed and fell off, and its skeletal face sank in on itself as the magic sustaining it withered away. This time when my spirit sight switched on, it showed not a blank space, but a shadowy mass shaped vaguely like a person. A faint grey glow kicked up around its edges. Not good. The wraith directing the zombie still had magic.

The undead fell as its decaying legs gave way, but the wraith continued, bodiless, hovering above the road.

“Hey there.” I raised a hand, my heart thumping, and willed the book’s magic to rise to my fingertips. A thrill coursed through me when a familiar white glow enveloped my hand, binding words replaying in my head. For a stronger wraith, I’d need to trap it in a spell circle first, but just a whisper of my power sent the wraith flailing backwards. Reciting the banishing words, I gathered the magic in the palm of my hand and hurled it at the wraith, which exploded into shadowy pieces.

The grey haze faded, revealing streets slick with fallen rain, shop windows shuttered and closed. I’d unintentionally followed the wraith into a non-human area of the city, which had suffered damage in the invasion. After the faeries came, humans and supernaturals alike had to allocate their shattered resources towards rebuilding civilisation, with the result that huge swathes of land and whole areas of cities ravaged by the invasion had been left in ruins. Broken-down houses, overgrown roads, shadows where dark fae lurked and fed on anything that moved. Most humans avoided those areas, except thrill-seeking mercenaries looking for an easy kill. I was the opposite of thrill-seeking, but as far as wraiths were concerned, I was the only person I knew in this city who could kill them.

Up until a few weeks ago, I’d never seen one at all. Wraiths were dead faeries trapped in the magic-free Grey Vale until they became a terrifying concentration of necromantic energy held together by pure rage. At their worst, they could even use the faerie magic they’d had while they’d been alive, which wasn’t supposed to last beyond death. My distant cousin Holly had worked with rogue necromancers to summon them, but had disappeared in the Highlands three months ago. I fervently hoped she wasn’t behind the latest batch of wraith attacks, because she was the last living Winter Gatekeeper. My sister and I had until the winter solstice to find her and return her to her rightful position, but considering it was only September and there was little hope of finding a Lynn who didn’t want to be found, we had no leads on her whereabouts.

It’d been three months since I’d banished my distant aunt through the gates of Death—and three months since I’d last seen River, the half-faerie necromancer who’d promised to help me learn how to use my abilities. Since Faerie operated on a different time scheme to our realm, counting on him to help me figure out my new powers wasn’t an option. I stepped away from the zombie and extended my spirit sight to cover the general area, morbidly curious about what showed up in faerie-only areas of the city. Faeries didn’t have souls, the necromancers said. I didn’t think that was true, but I sure as hell couldn’t sense anything living—oh, crap.

Another undead lunged, icy energy blasting me in the chest. I shuddered, my immunity to faerie magic not extending to the necromantic energy wraiths used. The bigger their attacks, the more powerful they were. This one hadn’t reached high levels, but the guy it’d possessed was a brute. Recently dead, from the fresh blood staining his broad chest. Not good.

Once more, I called the book’s power. My pocket glowed as my hands lit up white, grey filming my vision. A wrathful being appeared beyond the zombie, propelling it forwards. Nothing survived of the faerie it’d been before aside from the drive to destroy everything in its path. My breath stuttered, cold fogging my vision, and I kicked the zombie in the leg. He didn’t go down. Cold air whirled around me, and my hands began to numb. I gritted my teeth, pushing against the invisible force with all the energy I could conjure from the book, but this one was stronger than the first. I’d need to use a binding spell. Problem: I didn’t have any necromantic candles on me.

I spoke the binding words anyway, letting the strange yet familiar language flow over my tongue. The wraith blasted me in the face with necromantic energy. My back hit the wall, and I gasped, winded, my shoulders aching. Ow. If I let it go, it’d escape the area and go after the living.

“Don’t you dare.” I kicked out, tangling my legs with the undead’s. It finally went down, but grabbed my ankle, pulling me after it. Deep coldness tugged at my bones as the wraith possessing it latched onto my spirit, onto my very essence. It wanted me to join it in cold, empty death.

The vision of the gates swam before my eyes. I gripped the pavement with one hand, focused on the present, and shouted the banishing words in the zombie’s face.

The wraith burst apart, leaving the zombie. Its body went limp, collapsing onto me. Ugh. I pushed at it with shaking hands. Then its weight disappeared as someone lifted the dead man away. I sat up, shuddering—and froze. Two hooded, cloaked humans looked down at me. Necromancers.

One spoke in a female voice. “Untrained rogue,” she said. “C’mon, Lloyd. We have to bring her in.”

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