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Hereditary Power: The Gatekeeper's Curse Book 3 (Ebook)

Hereditary Power: The Gatekeeper's Curse Book 3 (Ebook)

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Book 3 of 3: The Gatekeeper's Curse


It's time for the Gatekeeper's final stand...

The Lynn siblings might finally be reunited, but now their mother is held captive in Faerie and their family's magic is fading, Ilsa holds the key to saving both realms from total annihilation.

With allies in short supply and the Summer Court refusing to believe the threat they face is real, it's up to Ilsa to dig into her family's past to find the truth of the Gatekeeper's curse. Enemies old and new are gearing up to take out the Gatekeeper and claim her power, and even the help of the legendary faerie killer Ivy Lane might not be enough…

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“The Winter Gatekeeper’s back.” With those words, Hazel ended the phone call. “The Winter Lynn house is locked down again. Nobody can get in.”

“But—which Gatekeeper?” I asked, since nobody else came out with the obvious question. Not Aunt Candice. It can’t be her. I banished her beyond the gates of death.

Hazel shook her head. “I don’t know.”

“Evil Aunt Candice is back?” said Morgan. Our older brother, psychic sensitive and necromancer, was the one Lynn who hadn’t been around in June when our distant relative had tried to murder us.

My heart sank. “It can’t be her. Who told you she’s back?”

Hazel slipped her phone into her pocket. “That was Lou from the necromancer guild in Foxwood. I asked her to watch the place while I was gone. Someone has claimed Winter’s territory again.”

A moment passed. “That… it might be good news, if Holly’s come to finally take over as Winter Gatekeeper.”

And if not? There was only one person who could have claimed Winter’s gate, and I thought I’d banished her into the afterlife for good.

“It’s more likely to be Holly,” Hazel said. “Maybe she heard the Courts pretty much threatened to declare war if she didn’t come back. I’ll go check it out.”

“I wouldn’t,” I warned. “If it is you-know-who, you’re in no condition to fight her.”

Not to mention, she’s dead. But if anyone was tenacious enough to sneak back into the land of the living, though, it was our deceased and distant aunt.

“We dealt with one ghost today. I can...” Hazel trailed off, pressing a hand to her forehead.

“You okay?” I asked.

“Yeah. The spell that knocked me out was damn strong. I’ll be fine when we get to the house.”

I hope so. The ghost we’d fought and barely beaten had nearly killed Hazel, and tried to use Morgan as a puppet to steal my talisman. All of us were exhausted, even River, my half-faerie, half-necromancer… I wouldn’t say boyfriend, but if I’d been able to complete my necromancer training, he might have been.

At least, until about five minutes ago, when he’d revealed he’d known all along where our missing mother was. The Summer Gatekeeper had disappeared in the most dangerous region of Faerie: the Grey Vale, a death trap even to Sidhe, while on a quest that couldn’t end until she completed it. I understood why he’d kept the truth from me, since faerie vows left no room for flexibility, but the betrayal stung all the same.

“We already told Lady Montgomery we were on a rescue mission,” I said to the others. “Let’s make it official. Send Arden into the Summer Court to warn them, and then…”

“Go after Mum,” finished Morgan.

River shifted on his feet, the merest betrayal of his disapproval. Okay, I was well aware that Hazel was the only one of the three of us with any level of faerie magic—not counting River himself, of course. But I wouldn’t leave Mum to suffer alone. Whether the Winter Gatekeeper was back or not.

Hazel snapped into Gatekeeper-in-Training mode. “Right. I’ll clean up if someone has a spell handy. Morgan?”

“Why do you want to clean the place?”

“Because my housemates will ask awkward questions if they come back and find evidence of blood magic in the living room,” I answered for her, heading for the stairs. “I’m going to grab some spare clothes. I’ll be down in five.”

I ran upstairs, removing my torn and bloodied necromancer coat and shoving it into a rucksack along with some spare outfits. I left my suitcase, scribbled a quick note to my housemates explaining I’d be back in a week or two, and checked on the book I kept in the pocket of my hoody. Small, square and unobtrusive—you wouldn’t think it was a talisman that contained the power to control life and death. The curling symbol on the cover, which belonged to a faerie language I couldn’t read, gleamed softly with white light, and its power resonated in my hands and in the mark on my forehead. The mark of a Gatekeeper who didn’t guard the gates of Summer or Winter, but of Death itself.

Powerful curiosity brimmed within me at the sight of new text on the pages, but if I stopped to read it now, I’d lose track of time. Find out which Winter Gatekeeper is back first, deal with the book later.

I found the others downstairs, surrounded by the smell of cleansing spells. No blood or necromantic residue remained on the walls or carpet.

“The first spell turned the walls pink,” said Morgan. “Damn Corwin… you ready, Ilsa?”

I nodded. “Hazel, where did you cross over from the Ley Line, anyway?”

Her brow wrinkled. “Ah. I can’t remember… it’s all fuzzy thanks to that bastard’s spell.”

“You must have used a Path, right?” I said. Oh no. The Lynn house rested in a liminal space on the Ley Line, the invisible line through the middle of the country which marked the place where the three realms of Faerie, Death and the mortal world overlapped. Only the Summer and Winter Gatekeepers or their heirs were capable of controlling the way in and out of the family home.

“I can help,” River offered. “I’m familiar with the Line, since I used it to cross over from Faerie a few weeks ago.”

I glanced at River. He didn’t flaunt his magic most of the time, but it was difficult to forget he was half-Sidhe. His pointed ears and faintly glowing green eyes were clear enough markers, though his human side lent him slightly rugged features, tousled fair hair and a more muscular frame than most half-bloods. He wore his necromancer cloak, arms folded across his chest, and the grim exhaustion of his expression seemed to be expecting us to throw him out. Collectively, the three of us could probably toss him outside for not telling us the truth about our mother’s captivity, but he was in the employ of the Summer Court, he knew what might be going on over there, and I’d rather have him as an ally than an enemy.

“If I invite you to come with us,” I said to him, “do you swear not to lie to us again?”

Unlike Sidhe or other faeries, half-bloods weren’t obligated to tell the truth at all times, which was how he’d managed to deceive us for so long. Morgan and Hazel looked at him, too, the former with disdain, the second with anger mingling with distrust. River’s arms dropped to his sides as he straightened to his full six-foot height, and looked between us. “If your siblings don’t have a problem with that.”

“I don’t give a shit, to be honest,” Morgan said. “I’m no more welcome in the Lynn house than he is. And we need allies.”

All eyes turned to Hazel. She scowled. “Look, I’m already outvoted. We need to move if we’re gonna rescue Mum. It’s hardly the first time he’s lied to us.”

River’s jaw twitched a little. “Very well. I promise not to deceive you, as much as it’s in my power.”

“A vow would hold you to your word,” Hazel observed.

River looked at me again. “Is that what you want, Ilsa?”

The way he said my name threatened to undo the calm I’d managed to maintain since he’d revealed he knew where Mum was. If I asked him to swear to tell the truth—really swear to, on pain of literal death as per the terms of faerie vows, then… would he go through with it? It’d be a sure-fire way to tell how sorry he actually was. On the other hand, I hated the Sidhe’s manner of forcing obedience, and besides, only people with faerie magic were able to force someone to swear a vow. He’d have to make the promise to Hazel, not me.

I met his stare. “No. I’ll trust you to keep your word. It’s up to you to decide how much that’s worth, not a spell.”

His gaze flickered away from me before I could read the emotion within it. “With your permission, I’ll accompany you back to the Lynn house. As for the Ley Line, I can take you there.”

“As long as it’s nowhere near that bloody graveyard, I’m good,” Morgan said.

I didn’t want to place my trust in River, not when he’d so recently betrayed us, but we had few options, and if the Winter Gatekeeper had really taken back the other Lynn house, we needed to be ready to defend ourselves. Neither she nor Holly could directly harm anyone with the surname ‘Lynn’, which covered all of us except River, and he wasn’t exactly a pushover, either. We had strength in numbers.

The four of us left the house, and River took the lead, walking down the road. The grey Edinburgh sky showed no signs of the battle that had taken place less than four hours before, ripping the boundaries of the worlds apart. Ghosts were common enough here that Edinburgh was the only major city in the UK to have a large organised necromancer guild. Morgan, River and I were still official members, despite having acquired permission from Lady Montgomery to go chasing after the missing Summer Gatekeeper. It still blew my mind that she hadn’t locked me up when I’d told her the truth—or some of it, anyway.

“How are you tracking the Line?” I couldn’t help asking River. “Is it because it’s your home?”

His shoulders tensed, and there was a long pause before he answered. “No, but my vow binds me to the person I swore it to. It’s another type of magic to regular faerie magic, and while it’s faint here, I can still sense it.”

“Huh.” The spirit realm looked uniform to me. I couldn’t sense the invisible spirit lines criss-crossing the city, let alone the major line cutting through the centre, where the faeries had tried to break out entirely too many times in the last few years. “So you’re always aware of it?”

“In some way.”

The whole time we’d been together, he’d known. Not just in the sense that he was lying to me with every word, but via an actual link to the faerie realm. I swallowed down angry words, too tired and worn down to start another argument. I’d chosen to let him help us, and we’d deal with our issues once my family was reunited.

Eventually, a faint shimmering on the road ahead caught my eye, the only hint of the invisible line separating our world from Faerie and the space between. Hazel moved to take the lead. The circlet on her forehead—borrowed from Mum, but infused with her own inherited magic—glowed a little.

“This is it,” she said. “It feels… off.”

“Probably cause of that bastard’s spell,” Morgan said. “C’mon.”

We walked right into that shimmering light, Hazel in the lead, a green glow spreading from the symbol on her forehead beneath the circlet, marking her as Gatekeeper of Summer. As we moved in behind her, Edinburgh’s cobbled streets became a field running parallel to a long fence, circling a manor house.

Hazel staggered sideways into the fence. Then she gasped.

Clouds marred the usually perfect sky over the Summer house. No sunshine shone onto the flowers blooming all over the garden, the evergreen trees hunched together in gloomy clusters, and the smell of decay crept in, unheard of in our garden. The house itself looked… sad. Empty. It usually gave the impression of being packed with people even when only Hazel and Mum lived there now, and both were absent a lot of the time, because Summer’s magic kept it alive. Hazel tripped over the threshold, dropping the keys into a bush.

“Hazel?” I said. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah. I’m just—drained.” She lifted her head. “My magic should be functioning here. But it isn’t.”

“Something’s wrong.” I retrieved the keys and unlocked the door myself.

There were no humming noises, no signs of the ever-present magic which kept the house running. Just eerie silence, and the faint smell of decay. I switched the light on and found the source—several large house plants had died.

“I swear it was fine when I left.” Hazel made it to the living room, where she proceeded to collapse onto the sofa. I entered behind her, scanning the paintings of past Lynns, the bookshelves crammed with old trinkets. Normal… yet so quiet. At least the lights were working. The only time I’d ever seen the house’s magic fail was when the spirit barrier around Winter’s house had broken, causing their magic to spill into our territory. But if that were the case, it’d be colder. The house was mildly warm, same as usual.

Morgan stood awkwardly in the doorway then shuffled in, warily, as though expecting Mum to leap out from behind a door and turn him into a deer. Morgan had only just come back into our lives after running away eight years ago, when Hazel and I were fifteen and he was seventeen, and Hazel had barely forgiven him for that. It hadn’t entirely been his fault—his psychic sensitivity had been untrained and he’d never told anyone about it, leaving him vulnerable to ghosts convincing him to pursue ridiculous stunts. But his leaving had left a gaping hole in our family, and none of us knew how Mum would react to his sudden return.

I crossed the room to the bookcase and found the last picture of the three of us, lying flat where Mum had left it after that awful summer eight years ago. Blowing dust off its surface, I flipped it upright.

“Hey,” Morgan said from behind me. “I didn’t know Mum kept that.”

“She has the others in a box in the spare room.” I cast a brief glance at River, who remained by the door in his bloodstained coat. He’d once expressed an interest in seeing my childhood photos, though I was kind of glad that this was the only one on display. It’d been taken on mine and Hazel’s fifteenth birthday, and featured Morgan and me having an intense tug-of-war over the book I was reading while Hazel stole all the birthday cake. Morgan snickered and held it in front of Hazel’s face. She feebly lifted her head. “Good god, what was I wearing?”

“Mum’s best Court gear, I think,” I said. “She let you steal the circlet, remember?”

She gave a faint laugh and pushed herself onto her elbows. “Yeah. Forgot about that. You look just like her.”

“Who, me?” I said, surprised. Hazel was always the one people compared to Mum—probably because they saw the two of them side by side all the time. I didn’t even think we looked that much like twins, certainly not as much as we did as chubby, awkward teenagers in the photograph anyway. But it’d been so long since I’d seen Mum in person that my memories were blurred.

“Sure.” Morgan returned the photo to the shelf. “You look just like she does when she comes back from the Court ready to do some damage.”

“I feel more like a nap.” My whole body ached from being thrown around by ghosts. I’d healed my worst injuries using a witch spell, but blood stained my hand and arm where I’d cut it in a risky attempt at blood magic.

“No kidding.” Morgan removed his bloodstained necromancer coat and threw it over the back of the nearest armchair before sinking into it. He took after Dad more than Hazel or I did, though we shared the same Lynn dark brown eyes. He’d grown his hair out in the years since he’d left, and while he’d lost a lot of weight since he’d run away, he looked much healthier than he had when he’d shown up gaunt and sleepless on my doorstep a few weeks ago. “I’ll take a nap, you come up with a plan. Someone has to.”

“I’m going to shower, for a start,” I said, grimacing at my bloodstained arm. “Can one of you throw those rotting plants out?”

I walked upstairs to the bathroom, where I rinsed the blood from my hands in the sink before climbing into the shower, yelping when ice-cold water doused me from head to toe. Summer magic was entirely responsible for keeping the house heated, too, apparently. I scrubbed off the blood the best I could, then dragged a brush through my matted hair, scowling at my reflection in the mirror. My eyes remained dark brown, not tinted green with Summer magic, while my tangled hair was more or less the same shade as my eyes. Except for the mark on my forehead, which gleamed a little, but not bright silver like Hazel’s did. I’d kind of hoped having a faerie mark on my forehead might at least do a little to make me look magical and interesting. Instead, I just looked tired and pissed off.

I pulled my spare clothes on, looping the necklace-shaped spell around my neck. The mark on my forehead vanished, fading into the background. Ghosts could still see it, but nobody else could. Which suited me just fine.

I returned downstairs to find Hazel passed out cold, while River and Morgan sat in separate armchairs in the sort of uncomfortable silence of two people forced to interact who had absolutely nothing whatsoever in common with one another.

“I threw out the plants,” said Morgan. “Your boyfriend says there’s no Summer magic here at all.”

I opened my mouth to argue with the word ‘boyfriend’, then decided it wasn’t worth the energy and sank into the remaining armchair.

“Your defences are out,” River said. “However, the salt barrier is still intact, and there’s an iron barrier circling the house, too.”

I glanced at Hazel. “She must have set it up herself. I haven’t been home much since June. Guess she got the idea from you.”

He inclined his head. “It’ll keep out the dead, at least. This magical drain isn’t the result of a spell, otherwise I’d be able to detect it.”

“But Summer magic can’t switch off,” I said. “It’s supposed to remain in balance, no matter the season. Unless… no. It can’t be to do with Mum, either. Or Hazel. The magic depends on the Court, not the Gatekeeper.”

“Precisely why I think we should speak with the Summer Court,” River said.

“Hasn’t anyone found Arden yet?” I asked. “That’s not my job. I hate the little bastard, he isn’t going to listen to me.”

Morgan snorted. “You think he even knows who I am?”

Hazel lifted her head. “Shit. Maybe he’s serving Holly.”

She might well be right. Arden served both Gatekeepers, though he’d failed to mention that slight detail until he’d already passed on pertinent information on our family to the Winter Lynns, not to mention framing me for murder. Sure, he might be as much a slave to the faerie Courts as any of us, but I didn’t like the idea of depending on him for anything.

“Arden,” I called. “Oi, Arden. We need to send a message to the Summer Court.”

Silence. Suspicion brewed inside me. “You know… maybe I should go to Winter after all.”

Hazel pushed into an upright position. “Not without me.”

“Hazel, you need to recover your strength. Maybe go to the grove. I’m just going to look at Winter’s house. I can use my spirit sight to check who’s there without even walking up to the doors.”

“I’ll go with you,” River put in.

I pressed my mouth into a line. I didn’t want to be alone with him, especially now, but of the others, he was best equipped to handle anything we might run into. “Okay, then.”

“I’ll watch from the house,” Morgan said. “If there’s anything seriously nasty out there, I can come and help.”

“Sure. We won’t be long.” I already had the talisman in my pocket, but I added some knives, salt and iron filings to my weapon arsenal before leaving the house. River carried his own talisman, a faerie-made sword gleaming with runes carved on its hilt. Its silver sheen usually carried an emerald tint, but it didn’t now. “Is your magic working okay?”

“It’s difficult to tell,” River said. “I haven’t been using it as often as I should, and considering the presence of the dead sapped my magic, I’d have to get closer to Summer to check.”

His tone was polite. Non-confrontational. That was the worst part about his betrayal—we’d had no time, and there’d been too many people around, for us to confront the matter head-on. Besides, there was nothing more to say. He’d had his orders and obeyed them. It wasn’t like he’d never disobeyed a faerie vow before, and if he’d honestly wanted Hazel and I to know the truth, he’d have found a way to tell us. Okay, we’d have probably gone charging off into the Vale to rescue Mum despite her supposedly not needing to be saved, but still.

For now, I’d hold him to his word. Forgiveness would come in time, if at all. The important matter was dealing with the house—and finding out if Winter was responsible.

The fence alongside our garden didn’t stop when it reached the forested area at the garden’s end, hiding the gate to the Seelie Court. As the trees thickened, there was a shift where they turned from evergreen to snow-covered, and our territory became Winter’s. The shape of the Winter house appeared on the other side of the fence, facing away from us. The house had been abandoned for nearly four months, and I’d begun to worry her daughter, Holly, wouldn’t return before the Winter Sidhe’s deadline. But if the wrong Gatekeeper had come back, we were in serious trouble.

River strode on, blade in hand, pausing out of sight of the house. I took in a breath, and tapped into my spirit sight. Greyness flooded the world, bleaching out all colour, as I searched for signs of life. Living spirits shone bright, dead ones were paler. In cities, it was confusing to tell them apart, but out here, the only living beings within reach were the two of us. I pushed outward with my mind, extending my awareness in the direction of the Winter house. Within, there was an unmistakable glow. I moved closer, my heart beating fast. 

The glow… I took a few steps forward in the waking world, honing in. Definitely a living spirit.

This time, there were no spirit barriers, and no Winter Gatekeeper—aside from Holly Lynn, my cousin. But was she friend or foe this time?

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