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Wild Hunt: The Gatekeeper's Fate Book 2 (Ebook)

Wild Hunt: The Gatekeeper's Fate Book 2 (Ebook)

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Book 2 of 3: The Gatekeeper's Fate


When Holly Lynn stopped the Wild Hunt from unleashing a catastrophe, it came with some alarming consequences. The Morrigan, Queen of the Death Fae, is missing, and her absence has brought a new kind of trouble in Faerie.

To top it off, the necromancer guild is dealing with an influx of ghosts refusing to leave the mortal realm. Holly is certain her own bargain with the Morrigan is partly responsible, but if the Unseelie Queen learns of her involvement, she'll wish the Wild Hunt had finished her off. This also proves inconvenient to her tentative alliance with Puck the trickster fae, who threatens to knock down the well-tended barriers around the unpleasant parts of her history.

Being the Winter Gatekeeper wasn't easy, but it'll take everything Holly has learned to solve the deadly dilemma before the wrath of the Unseelie falls upon her… and the rest of the mortal realm.

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Never turn down an invitation from a faerie.

I’d learned that lesson earlier than most people did, but accepting an invitation from a faerie is often as likely to be fatal as the alternative. Really, it was better to hope not to be contacted by a faerie at all. Not that everyone has a choice in the matter. I should know. 

I’d been waiting for the Sidhe to knock on the door of my brand-new rental house for almost two weeks when that day finally came one cold October morning. When I heard a light tapping on the front door, I peered through the gap in the living room curtains to see the outline of a tall, male Sidhe standing outside. From the blue-and-silver attire he wore, he must have been a delegate from the Winter Court, which meant he’d come to drag me before his Queen in order to explain why I’d been avoiding her for the past few weeks. Or however much time had passed in Faerie since my last visit.

Drawing in a deep breath, I opened the door. “Can I help you?”

“I hope you can.” The Sidhe’s bright blue eyes were undoubtedly Winter fae, but his phrasing didn’t sound like a noble’s. Up close, his clothes were a little too shiny. A glamour, and not a great one. He must be half-fae, not full Sidhe, which meant he hadn’t come from the Winter Court after all. 

A momentary rush of relief warred with a buzz of irritation at the universe for dragging out my fate as long as humanly possible. I knew the Unseelie Queen would raise hell when she finally learned why I’d been avoiding her, but sometimes I wished she’d get it over with.

“Well?” I said, with a little more impatience than necessary. “What is it you want my help with, then?”

“I’m Leyton, and I’d like to hire you,” he said. 

“Hire me?” I echoed. “If you’re looking for the Goodfellow Detective Agency, their office isn’t far from here. I’ve worked with them before, but I’m not an employee.” 

“I would prefer the help of someone who has experience with Unseelie fae,” he said.

Alarm bells rung in my skull. “You mean with the Court? Or with Winter magic itself?”


“Then it shouldn’t be a problem for you to ask the Goodfellow Detectives,” I said. “I’m still on call if they need my expertise, but it’s bad for my reputation to show biases in favour of Winter over Summer or vice versa.”

Puck might not be a certified detective as far as the mortal realm’s standards applied, but most half-faeries cared little for qualifications, and he had the paperwork to back up his status. He also didn’t have the threat of the Unseelie Court hovering over his shoulder like an axe waiting to strike. 

“If you’re sure,” he said doubtfully.

“I am,” I said. “I’ll go wake my assistant, and we’ll head to the office.”

How he’d got hold of my address was a question I’d have to ask later, once I’d persuaded Roseanne to vacate her room. I didn’t blame her for spending all her free time in what was likely the nicest bedroom she’d ever had in her fifteen years, though if I were her parent and not her entirely unqualified guardian, I might have had concerns about her not getting outside more.

As far as I was concerned, though, a teenage death faerie with some major trauma deserved every luxury I could give her. 

I rapped on her bedroom door with my knuckles. “Roseanne?”

“Come in,” came the sleepy reply. 

I pushed the door inward, revealing Roseanne sprawling on the narrow single bed in her cupboard-sized room. Since she’d moved in, she’d arranged the furniture so that the wardrobe blocked the window and gave the room a cave-like appearance, while random bits of junk like stones and leaves were strewn on the floor, along with a couple of books Ilsa had loaned her. When I’d found Roseanne, she’d hardly had any possessions to call her own. I didn’t have much of my own either, so I’d spent the last couple of weeks helping her with the essentials while trying not to burn through all the money I’d earned as a result of stopping the Wild Hunt from overrunning the city. 

“We have a client,” I told her. “He came to us first, but I suggested we’d get Puck and Hawk involved, since they’re the experts.”

Roseanne yawned. “What’s he want?”

“Not sure yet,” I said. “Something that requires an expert on the Unseelie, supposedly. Maybe he’s got a nest of redcaps in his house.”

“Fun.” Roseanne sprang off the bed and fetched a pair of serrated knives from a pile in the corner before sheathing them at her belt. Her clothes were as battered as mine, but she made her secondhand outfits look good, while I looked more like I’d raided a jumble sale. At one time, I’d been able to use glamour to make myself the best-dressed person in the room. But these days, I had to do my best with the limited options on offer. I didn’t have the natural stunning beauty of a half-faerie, either, unlike Roseanne, with her glossy hair, blemish-free skin, and long lanky frame. She shrugged into her tattered coat. “Hope he’s offering a bunch of money.”

So did I, considering how much I’d already spent on both the deposit on our new house and on my unexpected teenage charge. Still, I was the one who’d had the smart idea of taking the Morrigan’s daughter under my wing—in almost a literal sense, since her mother’s magic was still rattling around in my veins.

Hence the inevitable upcoming visit from the Unseelie Court. When I’d taken out a magical loan from the Morrigan in order to stop some defectors from the Wild Hunt from enacting a ritual to summon a death god, I hadn’t expected to keep that magic. Weeks later, though, it had yet to abate, while the goddess herself had vanished from the chains that bound her to her throne without leaving a single trace behind. I didn’t doubt for a second that I’d be the one the Sidhe blamed when they found her gone, despite preventing the Wild Hunt from using said death god as a sacrifice in exchange for gaining their immortality back, with the Courts as potential collateral damage. When in doubt, blaming the human was a reliable go-to strategy.

Especially when I’d denied the Unseelie Queen the chance to snag Roseanne as her own.

I headed back downstairs, hoping our client wouldn’t run screaming when he realised who my assistant actually was. Helping stop the Wild Hunt’s rampage had gone a long way towards repairing my reputation in the local half-faeries’ eyes, as well as towards their gradual acceptance of my teenage death faerie housemate, but that didn’t mean we hadn’t hit a few bumps along the way. The Morrigan was a source of terror both inside and outside Faerie, since even most Sidhe found the giant crow-shifter unnerving, while death fae in general were considered untrustworthy. As a result, I did my best to act as a shield between Roseanne and anyone who might judge her for her parentage. Given my own chequered family history, I had entirely too much experience in that area.

I entered the living room with Roseanne on my heels. “Leyton, this is my assistant, Roseanne.”

“Oh,” said Leyton. “It’s… a pleasure to meet you.”

His tone was a little wary but not overtly hostile. Being Unseelie, he’d be aware of the Death Kingdom as an entity within the Winter Court, but I doubted he’d ever ventured there in person. Few did, if they had a choice in the matter.

After leaving the house, we walked out of half-blood territory and made our way down the cobbled street to the nondescript office standing on the corner, marked simply with a sign that read Goodfellow Detectives. I didn’t bother knocking before pushing the door inward, revealing a sizeable office whose wood-panelled walls were decorated with paintings depicting landscapes reminiscent of the Summer Court. Puck and Hawk had added a couple more since my last visit, with images of vibrant flowers and trees surrounding grassy clearings and wildlife which actually moved in and out of the picture frames. The Aes Sidhe’s glamour was capable of creating images which looked realistic enough to be mistaken for the real thing—even by other fae.

Puck sat behind the desk when I walked in, idly twirling a pen in his hand. The half-Sidhe descendent of the notorious trickster Robin Goodfellow wore a smart-casual getup of a white shirt and a pair of dark trousers, while his hair gleamed in the shifting colours of autumn leaves with gold and red tints mingling with flaming orange and dark brown. Gold flecked his Summer-green eyes, too, while his brows rose at the sight of the tacky glamour our visitor wore.

“Hey, Holly.” He dropped the pen and rose smoothly to his feet. “Who’s this?”

“Leyton here says he wants to hire a detective,” I said. “I figured that description applies more to you and Hawk than to me.”

Leyton’s gaze travelled from Puck over to Hawk, who’d just walked out of the back room. “Aes Sidhe? You didn’t mention they were Aes Sidhe.”

“Should I have?” It wasn’t a big secret, or so I thought, but Puck frowned at Leyton, and so did Hawk. The second Aes Sidhe had medium-brown skin and wore his dark hair cut short, while he dressed in the same smart-casual clothing as Puck did. 

Hawk’s Summer-green eyes studied the newcomer. “Is there a problem?”

“Depends if you’re glamouring me or not,” said Leyton. His own glamour was glaring enough to be seen across the room, but he hovered near the door as if contemplating fleeing the office. 

“We’re not glamouring you,” Puck said. “We’re running a business here, and we don’t make a habit of putting spells on our clients. Tell me what you want to hire us for, and I’ll let you know if we can help you.”

“All right.” Leyton kept one eye on the moving paintings as he walked towards the desk. I hadn’t expected working with Aes Sidhe to be a deal-breaker, though they did have a varied reputation among the other fae. Most had believed them to have died out after their Court had split away from Summer when their leader had a falling out with the Erlking and gone into hiding underground. It made sense that their sudden reappearance would conjure a flurry of rumours. “There’s a fae in my house who’s causing trouble. I hoped you could get rid of it.”

“What kind of fae?” I asked.

Leyton’s attention fixated on me. “A dead one.”

“Death fae?” Oh boy. Beasts like the sluagh and death stealers weren’t exactly uncommon in this realm, post-faerie invasion, but that didn’t mean I was particularly keen to see another one after the Wild Hunt’s attack a few weeks ago. Unseelie magic in general was fuelled by death and decay, as opposed to the life energy which powered Seelie magic, but the death fae were considered unpleasant even by Winter’s standards.

Leyton shook his head. “Not a death fae. A ghost.”

Oh. “Have you asked the necromancer guild?”

“I didn’t think they could see faerie ghosts.” 

“Some can.” Though very few people had both the spirit sight and the ability to see through faerie glamour, since the latter was almost exclusively possessed by half-faeries. The sole human exceptions I knew about were my cousins, Ilsa and Morgan. “Can you tell me more about this ghost?”

“It won’t leave my house,” he said. “It froze all my water pipes and then took up refuge in the bathroom and won’t come out.”

Oh boy. If he’d been unlucky enough to end up with an Unseelie poltergeist in his house, I understood why he’d wanted my help, but there was nothing a non-necromancer could do to get rid of a ghost in a permanent manner.

“We can’t banish it,” I said, “but I might be able to convince the spirit to leave the house.”

Banishing the ghost permanently was beyond my capabilities, but if we drove Leyton’s spiritual squatter out of half-blood territory, then at least we wouldn’t have to deal with the other fae bitching at me for inviting my necromancer cousins into their homes. Roseanne had the ability to see the dead whether they were fae or not, but she wasn’t old enough to apply to join the guild herself, while Puck and Hawk would only be able to see the spirit if it chose to make itself visible to them. No, this was definitely a job for the necromancer guild, not us.  

“All right,” said Leyton. “Are you free to come over now, or do you need more time to prepare?”

“You guys can go ahead,” said Hawk. “I’ll stay behind and watch the office.” 

Hawk usually opted to stay behind when the rest of us ran dangers, since his own magical skills were limited to healing and glamour and he freely admitted that fighting wasn’t his forte. Puck, meanwhile, had the ability to transform into animals, flames, and piles of leaves, among other things—a by-product of his trickster fae heritage. A ghost ought to be easy enough for him to scare off if my powers of persuasion didn’t work.

I fell into step with him as we walked, letting Leyton overtake us and lowering my voice. “Why’d he think you were glamouring him?”

“Some Aes Sidhe can cast a glamour the instant they set eyes on you,” he replied. “The strongest can cast a powerful influence over others’ emotions and weave illusions so real that they’re indistinguishable from the magic of the faerie realm itself. I’m guessing he picked up on some of the rumours.”

“Does that mean your animal forms are glamour?”

“Not exactly. My animal forms are more than a regular illusion, though with the Aes Sidhe, there’s a more fluid division between glamour and reality than most fae are familiar with. The strongest can make illusions become real, and our Queen’s skill was so vast that she was even able to use her glamour to create an army of living, breathing soldiers.”

“Damn.” I vaguely recalled Hazel mentioning Queen Etaina’s army of creepy, perfectly obedient clones, but it’d somehow slipped my mind that she’d created them like some kind of mad scientist in a lab. The battle in the Summer Court had ended with most of the Queen’s forces laying their lives down for her in a literal sense, but the knowledge that they might never have had anything resembling free will made goose bumps trail down my spine. “No wonder the Courts felt threatened when the Aes Sidhe resurfaced.”

Faerie itself was formed of layer upon layer of illusions so deep that even the Sidhe didn’t know all its secrets, though that knowledge had likely died out along with their predecessors. The era of the Ancients had been centuries, if not millennia, before most of the current Sidhe had been born, and few had encountered the gods who’d once walked their lands.

Roseanne skipped over to join us. “We’re going ghost-hunting, are we? Need me to get some salt?”

“If you didn’t eat it all,” I said, earning a grin from Puck. “Salt’s more useful for getting rid of zombies than ghosts, though. If we can’t scare it into leaving, we’ll ask a necromancer to bring some candles for a proper banishment.”

“I thought Ilsa didn’t need to use candles,” said Roseanne.

“She doesn’t, but the guild likes things to be done the proper way,” I said. “I bet the other half-faeries will be less than thrilled at me for bringing anyone from the guild into their territory as it is.”

My cousin Ilsa wielded the talisman of the Gatekeeper of Death, which gave her a permanent link to the gates of the afterlife and the ability simply to shove any wayward spirit through if need be. Wraiths were trickier, being the spirits of long-deceased Sidhe, but even they weren’t a match for her. In hindsight, it shouldn’t have surprised me that Roseanne had taken a shine to Ilsa after she’d got over her nerves and introduced herself. I’d already known that Ilsa wouldn’t have any issues with her parentage, but Roseanne was naturally wary of meeting anyone new after being burned so many times in the past.

All the same, even Ilsa didn’t know I’d retained the Morrigan’s power long after it was supposed to have returned to its owner. Nor did she know the goddess of death had vanished and that I had a private suspicion that I might have played a part when I’d pushed her magic to its limits during the fight with the Wild Hunt. Specifically, when I’d thrown aside the usual laws on raising the dead and used her power to heal Puck from a fatal wound.

In fairness, the Morrigan’s magic wasn’t subject to the usual laws in this realm or Faerie, but even I hadn’t expected that forcing her formidable healing magic upon Puck’s bleeding, dying body would actually bring him back from the brink of death. Her regenerative magic was so immense that she healed instantly even when imprisoned in iron chains, but I’d never seen her use that power on another person. I’d acted entirely on instinct, out of desperation, and it wasn’t until I’d seen the empty throne where the Morrigan had once sat in chains that it occurred to me that the formidable queen of the death fae might have had a limit to her abilities after all.

She’d told me that the powers she’d loaned me had been a temporary favour, and she was as incapable of lying as any Sidhe of the Courts. I’d thought her invincible, one of the last true immortals in Faerie, and if the Sidhe found me guilty of her absence, I’d envy the humans whose rotting corpses filled the moat around the Morrigan’s empty lair.

I did my level best to shake off all thoughts of the Morrigan as Leyton opened the gate to half-blood territory and led us to a plain brick cottage with a neat garden. A familiar chill hit me the instant he opened the front door, the unmistakable cold aura of Winter magic coupled with the emptiness of the grave. Suppressing a shiver, I followed Leyton into the hall and up a staircase on the right. 

At the top of the stairs, he gestured through an open door. A layer of ice covered the entire inside of the bathroom, thickening around the bath and sink as the taps flowed with water which turned to ice when it hit the floor. A ghost hovered on the ceiling, his silvery hair transparent, blue eyes indicating his nature as a Winter fae. If the ice wasn’t enough of a clue, that was. He looked about the same age as Leyton, which meant nothing, because it was hard to tell with faeries. He might have been in his teens or his thirties for all I knew.

Then he spotted us, and a spark ignited in his blue eyes. “Get out, intruders!”

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