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The Gatekeeper's Curse: The Complete Trilogy (Ebook)

The Gatekeeper's Curse: The Complete Trilogy (Ebook)

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Ilsa Lynn has made it her life's goal to avoid the curse that binds her family to serve the Summer Court of Faerie. With her magically talented twin sister given the role of Gatekeeper, Ilsa is content to hide under the radar amongst the regular humans.

At least until a mysterious spell book falls into her possession, granting Ilsa with a sudden and inconvenient affinity with the dead, and dangerous magic that paints a neon target on her head. With her family's questionable past quite literally refusing to stay buried, the last thing Ilsa needs is an untrustworthy self-proclaimed faerie bodyguard, even if he does come with a deadly skillset of his own.

Dealing with zombies and fae assassins would be difficult enough on its own, but now someone's out to frame her for murder, too. While dodging enemies at every corner, Ilsa must get a handle on her new powers before the armies of Faerie invade Earth. She might just be in over her head…

This box set contains the complete Gatekeeper's Curse trilogy: Hereditary Magic, Hereditary Curse, and Hereditary Power. Also included is a free epilogue that isn't available on retailers.

Also available to buy at retailers here.

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I’d been having a great day right up until the omen of death appeared.

As I sat at my desk, chewing on the end of my pen over a particularly thorny essay question, the raven flew towards the house and landed on the windowsill of my room. I didn’t register the bird’s presence until the white stripe on its forehead caught my eye, marking him as Arden, the Lynn family’s messenger.

Oh no.

Tapping on the glass with his beak, Arden shuffled impatiently in a manner that warned me that if I didn’t open the window right away, he’d screech loudly enough to alert the other, all-too-human occupants of the shared house.

“What is it?” I asked, pushing the window open. “You can’t be here. There are people in this house who don’t know about… our family.”

With every word I spoke, another thread of the life I’d carefully cultivated over the last five years unravelled. It was nice knowing you, normality.

“Ilsa Lynn,” the raven said. “Your presence is urgently requested at the house of Lynn at the behest of the Summer Court of Faerie.”

“No, it isn’t,” I said. “Hazel’s perfectly capable of solving her own problems.”

My twin sister, Hazel Lynn, was Gatekeeper-in-training, chosen to succeed our mother as the single human peacekeeper between this realm and the Summer Court. As the non-magical sibling, I’d run as far as possible from the curse, but the breeze kicked up by the raven’s arrival carried an earthy scent that promised change—and not the good kind. Magic.

The house buckled, the floor tilting underneath my feet as a tremendous crash vibrated through the foundations. I grabbed the bedside table for balance, wishing I’d kept some iron handy. Yelling a warning to the other inhabitants, I stumbled from my room and ran for the stairs.

The house split in two. Floorboards splintered, walls fractured, lines zigzagging across the plaster. I pelted down the stairs, raising my arms to protect myself. Plaster rained down in fragments, flakes falling like snow. I sucked in a breath and slammed my foot into the door, pushing it open. Nobody waited in the garden, human or otherwise, and the smell of magic was already fading. The way the house had split in the exact centre was so precise, it could only be the result of a spell, but its caster was long gone.

Faerie magic, when aimed at me, bounced right off my defensive shield. So the conniving little shits had used their spell on the house instead. For beings that prided themselves on being well-mannered, you’d think the Sidhe would have the decency to ring the doorbell before unleashing the dramatics. I muttered a few choice curses under my breath, brushing plaster dust from my eyelashes, and glanced down to find a note lying on the doorstep. Words had been scrawled in an elaborate font: “You will find the heir, Lynn, or you will all suffer a terrible death.”

The note disappeared in a swirl of leaves, leaving nothing behind but the smell of earthy Summer magic. A smell I’d grown up with, and had moved several hundred miles away to escape. You will all suffer a terrible death. The Sidhe hadn’t even signed the note. Bastards.

If I’d had magic of my own, I’d have come up with an equally non-subtle way to tell them they’d got the wrong address. Ominous death threats and the word heir belonged firmly in my sister’s hands, not mine. My speciality was writing essays on obscure pieces of magical history for humans who’d barely come to grasp that the supernatural world existed alongside the one they thought they’d known. Twenty years had passed since the faeries exposed that hidden world for the humans to see, but they’d held my family in their grip for much longer.

I stood completely still for a moment, watching the spot where the note had vanished, then turned to face the house. “Are you guys okay?” I called to the others.

Several yelps in the affirmative followed, followed by a caw that sounded more like a cackle. Arden perched on the neighbour’s fence, a smug expression on his face. That damned raven had arrived too late with his warning on purpose. 

“Heir?” I said. “Isn’t that Hazel? Is she okay?” If she’d been a normal sibling, worry would have been my first reaction, but Hazel had been scaring the living hell out of her enemies ever since she’d come into her powers. And the Summer Gatekeeper had no shortage of adversaries.

“More than you are,” said the raven, fluttering his wings. “You’re bleeding.”

I touched my face. Red tinged my hand over its coating of plaster dust. “This is a mistake,” I said. “The Sidhe—how did they even know where I live?”

“Why is that raven watching you?” Faisal, my housemate, peered out of the ruined hallway.

“Because he knows I’m about to wring his neck,” I said heatedly. “I’m so sorry about the house. I’ll talk to the landlord… I’ve no idea if faerie damage is covered in our insurance payment, but there’s got to be a clause in there somewhere.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Wouldn’t be the first time the faeries destroyed something for fun, but I guess we can wave goodbye to our security deposits.”

No kidding. I’d grown careless over the last couple of years and let my guard down. But even an iron barrier on the door wouldn’t keep the Sidhe out of a place they wanted to get into. Despite the raven’s dismissive comments, maybe Hazel really was in trouble. She’d never come to me for help dealing with the faeries before… probably because it’d be like asking a piskie for directions. I dealt with the faeries by staying the hell out of the way.

I picked my way through the wrecked hallway to the stairs. The raven flew ahead of me into my room, still wearing that maddeningly smug expression as though the whole thing was hilarious.

“If I stay at a hotel tonight, I’ll wake up with fire imps dancing on my face, won’t I?” I rescued the least damaged textbooks from the wreckage of my bookcase, shoved them into my bag and zipped it closed. My laptop joined them. No point in pretending I’d ever come back. When Faerie called, you damn well listened. Even—no, especially—if you belonged to a Gatekeeper’s family. It was more than a job; it was a life commitment to keeping the peace between the Summer faeries and the inhabitants of the mortal realm. I’d signed no such contract, but the curse existed in the very name. Lynn.

I dragged my suitcase out from underneath the bed and tossed a pile of dust-covered clothes into it. “Great. Not like I needed anything to wear for work…” Oh, damn. I was supposed to be on the evening shift in an hour, but I wouldn’t put it past the faeries to follow me to the pub where I worked and turn the weekly student pub crawl into chaos and bloodshed. Pity, because if the house was anything to go by, I’d need a stiff drink or three to face whatever the Sidhe wanted with me.

“You have terrible fashion sense anyway,” Arden proclaimed, perching on the bed post.

“There’s nothing wrong with my clothes,” I said, glancing down at my hoody and jeans, which were also covered in plaster dust. Plain, unobtrusive human clothes couldn’t hide my identity, but they signalled to the faeries that I wasn’t one of their pretty mortal toys. “I’m lost on what I’m supposed to be dressing up for. If this is a hostage situation so they can probe my sister for a favour, they should probably have snatched me before I had the chance to grab this.” I picked up a jar of iron filings from the bedside table and pushed it up the sleeve of my hoody before checking on my phone. No calls, either from Hazel or Mum. I dashed off a vague message to my boss about a family emergency, resigning myself to being on my co-workers’ shit list for ditching them on the pub’s busiest night of the week. “If Mum wanted me to come and visit, she could have just called me.”

“Can’t,” Arden said, flapping his wings in an agitated manner. “Mother is gone.”

“Gone?” I echoed. “Oh, for god’s sake. Don’t tell me she went into Faerie without giving a time limit again.”

In Faerie, days turned into weeks, and minutes stretched into days. Whenever Mum went on one of her ambassador missions to the Summer Court, it was lucky if she returned within the same month. The Summer Gatekeeper’s power could only pass to one person, so when it came to twins, it was a matter of the fates flipping a coin. My sister got heads, I got tails. That meant Hazel would be in charge of the Gatekeeper’s affairs while Mum was gone, and some bright spark had decided to deliver her latest life-threatening mission to the wrong Lynn sibling. 

I zipped the suitcase closed. “Arden, tell me the truth. Is Hazel in trouble?”

Getting straight answers out of Arden was like arm-wrestling a man-sized carnivorous plant, while his advice was generally about as useful as flip-flops on a mountain hike. A shapeshifter faerie tied to our family by a curse as old as our own, he seemed to thrive off winding people up.

“Everyone is in trouble,” the raven proclaimed, which made no sense whatsoever. I swatted at him with the page of essay notes I’d been writing before his unceremonious arrival, and he fluttered out of the way. “Hurry up.”

“I don’t think so.” I stood, folding my arms. There was a horrible creaking noise from under my feet. I got the message. I threw the rucksack over my shoulder, grabbed my suitcase, and ran for my life.

I didn’t slow down until I’d reached the end of the road. This was a supernatural-free area of the city, which I’d chosen on purpose when I’d first applied to study at university. Now I’d finished my four-year degree course, I’d spent the last year coming up with creative ways to procrastinate on my PhD application. Hoping that if I stayed away from Faerie long enough, the curse would lift and I’d be able to leave forever. Instead, said curse had left me with two choices: stay in a hotel overnight and put more humans at the mercy of the faeries tailing me, or go to the Lynn house and get hold of someone else to handle the Sidhe’s impossible request. The note hadn’t carried the Summer Court’s official seal, but nobody else would have reason to believe they could wrangle obedience out of me by demolishing my house.

“So is Hazel there?” I asked Arden, who flew alongside me. “Or is she in Faerie, too?”


“Which question were you answering?” I adjusted my rucksack. “Seriously, Arden. Just tell me what the hell’s going on.”

“Caw. Mother and daughter are both gone.”

“Shit.” When we were teenagers, Hazel had tried to run away from her Gatekeeper duties at least once a week. I thought she’d got past that habit long before I’d left home, and that she liked her job, or had at least resigned herself to the position. I tried calling her as I rolled my suitcase down the road, but received only the sound of a dial tone in response. Damn you, Arden. I wouldn’t have thought he’d be messing with me if Hazel’s life was in genuine danger, but with the faeries, you never really knew.

Golden light gilded the hilltops overlooking the neighbourhood as the sun began its descent, and a shadow moved in the corner of my eye. Hey there, little faerie. Think I can’t see through your glamour? Faeries, Seelie and Unseelie alike, were given to pranking people, but they seemed to take my magical shield as a challenge. I slowed my speed, letting the four-foot-tall creature hurry along behind me, giving no signs that I’d heard its approach.

“I feel like something’s watching me,” I said aloud. I looked to either side, deliberately letting my gaze skim over where the creature was actually hidden. “I guess not, then.” 

Arden flew overhead with a disapproving screech, which I ignored.

When I reached the end of the road, the creature slipped out behind me. I could almost feel its brewing frustration. It wanted me to scream in terror, beg for mercy, flee from its magic. I grinned. The creature craved chaos, and I was driving it out of its tiny mind. It’d snap eventually.

Sure enough—

“Lynn,” murmured the faerie, fire crackling between its fingertips. The fire coalesced into a ball of whirling flames, and zipped at me with a whistling noise.

If I was as dramatic as my sister, I’d have faked screaming and running in circles, but it didn’t really work when you had no power to back up the act. I made a big show of turning around in slow-motion instead. As the fireball came within a metre of me, it bounced off the shield and sailed right back at its owner. Nice try. The fire imp hissed and ran into the shadows, the fire dissipating harmlessly into smoke. I didn’t try to chase it down. It’d become a game with the local faeries to try to land a hit on me, but they never succeeded. Our family’s built-in magic-proof abilities were nothing if not thorough. It was the only magic I’d ever have, so I’d take all the entertainment I could get.

“Was that necessary?” said Arden. “It’ll probably go and torch someone’s house instead.”

“Nah, I left a trail of iron all the way down the road.” I revealed the small container of iron filings hidden in my sleeve. “I’ve rid the neighbourhood of fire imp infestations for a few weeks.”

The raven made a disapproving tutting noise and continued to fly. I followed, wheeling my suitcase, then paused when Arden angled towards a path leading up to the peak of Arthur’s Seat.

“Couldn’t you have left a Path open on the ground somewhere?” I asked.

“Caw. Paths move where the Ley Line is.”

“Sure they do.” Not that I could actually see the invisible line that separated mortal and faerie realms. Most supernaturals tracked the Ley Line by its amplification of any magic in the general area. Sparks of green Summer magic shone on the hilltop where Seelie half-faeries had set up their territory on Salisbury Crag. But I was fairly sure Arden had deliberately picked this location for the Path to our house because he knew how much I loathed climbing hills.

From the high vantage point, the damage the faeries had wrought on the city was evident. Just over twenty years ago, a group of outcast Sidhe—the most powerful of all faeries—had broken through the veil between mortal and faerie realms, wreaking destruction across the globe. Civilisation as the humans had known it had crumbled as the Sidhe’s magic, amplified by the Ley Line, had killed millions and dragged a huge number of Faerie’s inhabitants into the mortal realm. As a result, all supernaturals had been forcibly exposed, Gatekeepers included.

With humans now rubbing shoulders with witches, necromancers, shifters and half-faeries, pulled into an uneasy truce under the regional Mage Lords, life went on. If you had no magic, you carried iron and salt, went nowhere unarmed, and kept your wits about you. The Lynn family’s magic had, much as I resented it, saved my life on more than one occasion. But that didn’t stop me from cursing their names as I wheeled my suitcase uphill.

“If you speak ill of the dead, they’ll come back and hex you,” Arden said.

I rolled my eyes. “I’m already cursed twice over. There’s not much the dead can do that the living haven’t already, trust me.”

I reached the edge of the rise, looking out across the city. The air shimmered, the only faint sign of the Ley Line’s current location. Arden flew over the cliff’s edge and disappeared from sight. A moment later, I stepped after him, into empty air. The world flickered and reformed itself, and my feet touched down instantly on the path outside the Lynn house.

The manor sat on a lane which looked like it belonged anywhere out in the countryside, except if you kept walking along the road, you’d never reach your destination. You’d just be eternally thrown round in circles. Ivy covered the walls of the house in thick curtains like an illustration from a storybook, while flowers bloomed at every corner. The house might as well have worn a neon sign, proclaiming “Realm of Faerie here. Single tickets only. No returns.”

The heat from the gate burned my hand, the metal baking under the blazing sun. The Sidhe rarely set foot on the Lynns’ property—luckily—but Summer magic shone out of every inch of the tall manor house and wide, green gardens. I didn’t blame Dad for not sticking around. This place was an eye-watering sight for someone without magic. Let alone allergies.

Surrounding the house, the forest was warm and inviting, sunshine pouring through perpetually green leaves. The flowers here never withered, even in winter, but at the other end of the fence, out of sight from this angle, the trees were shrouded in darkness, and frost coated every branch no matter the season.

And at the very end of our garden was the gate—the only known route into the Seelie Court in the mortal realm. It opened only for the Gatekeeper, so there was no way to follow and ask what in hell the Sidhe wanted with me. Admittedly, even my magic-proof shield probably wouldn’t protect me from the monsters beyond the gate, eager for a new pet human to play with. 

Most humans taken into Faerie didn’t come back the same, if they came back at all.

I unlocked the front door. Nobody waited in the thickly carpeted hallway. Portraits of the various Gatekeepers appeared to follow me with their eyes, as though judging me. Not unlike the real thing. From the state of the place, you’d hardly think Mum was absent. Not a speck of dust lay on the furniture in the living room, and not a single cushion lay out of place. Mum was dedicated to housekeeping spells as well as her job as Gatekeeper. As far as parenting went, though, she might have taken a few classes before my father ran away, leaving her to bring us up alone.

It wasn’t his fault. Our house—or, more accurately, the gate in our garden—was designed to repel anyone who didn’t belong to the Lynn bloodline, and he lasted a year before moving away. Mum didn’t mind. His only purpose, in her eyes, was to provide her heir to the Lynn legacy. Meaning my sister. I was the extra. As for our estranged brother, the less said about him, the better.

As I looked around the living room, searching for any signs of Hazel’s presence, a strange woman stepped out of the wall. 

I jumped backwards into the sofa. “Who the hell are you?”

“Don’t panic,” the woman said. She was a little older than I was, mid-to-late twenties, and she’d spoken with an English accent. Her long, brown hair was tied back in a ponytail and she carried a gleaming sword strapped to her side.

She was also, apparently, a ghost.

“I’m not dead,” she added, like she’d read my thoughts. “I’m travelling through the spirit realm, but my body is still alive. It was the quickest way to reach you. I’m Ivy Lane, by the way.”

“I—how did you get here?” Sure, some necromancers could detach themselves from their physical bodies and wander around as ghosts to freak people out, but even a necromancer shouldn’t have been able to find our house. Ivy’s muscular build and the sword at her side indicated she was either a mercenary killer or a bounty hunter—someone I really didn’t want to cross, ghost or otherwise. The blade was sheathed, but it appeared to glow faintly blue. A faerie talisman. Holy crap. “Nobody can come in here. Spirit, human, faerie, whatever. This is—”

“A liminal space,” said Ivy. “It’s taken me nearly a week to get around the bindings, but eventually, your pet bird helped.”

I gave Arden an accusing look to cover up my shock. “You took bribery? You should be ashamed.”

“I explained the situation,” said Ivy. “I’m a distant descendant of the Lynn bloodline, apparently. But it’s to do with your mother’s mission in Faerie. The king of the Seelie Court is dying.”

“And?” That was old news. From before I was born, even. As immortals, faeries didn’t actually die, but the Erlking certainly seemed to be dragging out the process as long as possible.

“You might need to sit down for this part.”

I’ve needed to sit down since you walked through the wall, to be honest. “You’re a strange ghost claiming to be alive who just walked through a magical boundary set up by the Sidhe as though it was nothing. Do your worst.”

I shouldn’t have said that. When would I learn not to tempt fate?

The hint of a smile touched her mouth. “You have a point. I was supposed to speak to the Gatekeeper, but I can’t cross into Faerie like this. And if you’re not the heir, you can get the message to her, right?”

I nodded. “I’ll be having words with my sister, believe me. So what’s the issue with the Erlking? He’s been dying for over a decade. At least. He’ll die, and then come back like they always do.”

Ivy shook her head. “No. I don’t know if you know how faerie immortality works, but it doesn’t. Not anymore. It’s a long story, and I don’t think I can stay here long enough to tell it. But believe me when I say—the Sidhe can die. That includes the Erlking. I’m told you’re peacekeepers between this realm and Faerie.”

“Yeah, we are.” My voice sounded distant. Our entire lives had been built around the assumption that the Sidhe lived forever. That’s why the family curse was permanent. When one Gatekeeper died, the title passed onto the next, while the Sidhe endured. If the whole arrangement collapsed, I knew exactly what would happen. War. “Hazel is…” I trailed off. There were no adequate words in any human language to describe how utterly fucked we all were if what she’d said was true.

“My time’s up,” Ivy said. Her body had turned more transparent, like ghosts did when they came close to passing on to the next world. “Really sorry about this.”

And she disappeared.

I stared after her. Hoping there’d been a mistake, and someone would come here and give me an explanation that made any sense whatsoever. The Sidhe were immortal. It was just… a fact. The idea of things being otherwise wasn’t comprehensible to me. Much less that the king of the Seelie Court, who’d lived for a thousand years at least, would soon disappear forever. Now magic was out in the open, who knew what would happen if Sidhe power struggles wound up here on earth?

Dammit, Hazel. Where had she disappeared to?

“So that’s what the note meant?” I said into the silence, glancing at Arden. “We—or rather, Hazel and Mum—are supposed to stop the Summer Court from tearing itself to pieces when the Erlking passes on?”

“And find the heir,” Arden said casually.

I gave a slightly manic laugh. “You what? The heir will be in Faerie, if they’re anywhere at all.”

“Didn’t you read the note?”

Find the heir. Not the heir to the Summer Court? Why would the Sidhe even consider giving a task like that to humans, even Gatekeepers? 

The door clicked open behind me. Hazel stood there—my not-so-identical twin sister. We’d shared the same brown eyes before Hazel’s had turned green from the Summer magic in the binding ceremony. And we had the same pale features, but my sister’s forehead was marked with a swirling faerie symbol designating her position as Gatekeeper-in-training. While my hair was dark brown, hers was sun-kissed and almost blond. When she was Gatekeeper, she’d wear a circlet that looked like a crown. I wondered if she still stole the spare one from Mum when she wasn’t looking, so that clients would take her seriously.

Her eyes widened. “Ilsa?”

One look at her expression told me she hadn’t known I was coming. Arden had lied to me.

“Hey,” I said. “You have a message from the Summer Court. Also, a ghost got into the house.”

“A ghost?” She gaped at me. “What trouble have you got into, Ilsa?”

“Him.” I jerked my head at Arden. “He implied you’d run away. And Mum was in Faerie.”

“He’s right about the last part,” said Hazel. “I’m in charge of handling business on her behalf. So… what does he want me to do?”

I took in a breath. “You might need to sit down.”

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