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Faerie Blood

Faerie Blood

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Faerie Blood

ratings:
4/5 (1 rating)
Length:
363 pages
5 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Jul 2, 2012
ISBN:
9781609440602
Format:
Book

Description

Kendis Thompson of Seattle thinks she’s as normal as the next computer geek, and up till now, she’s been right. But her world is about to turn on its ear, for she is the daughter of a Seelie Court mage and her mortal husband–and her faerie blood is awakening. Suddenly the city she’s known all her life is transforming before her eyes. Trolls haunt the bike trails. Fairies and goblins run loose in the streets. An old woman who is not what she seems and a young wanderer running from his past stand ready to defend Seattle–and Kendis–from magical assault. She will need those allies, for the power rising within her is calling her fey kin to the Emerald City to find her. And kill her.

Publisher:
Released:
Jul 2, 2012
ISBN:
9781609440602
Format:
Book

About the author

The very first thing Angela Korra’ti ever wrote, at age 8, was a short story about a girl spirited away to rule over the leprechauns for a day. She progressed rapidly to pretending to take notes in class when she was actually writing novels, and writing fanfic before she had any idea what fanfic was! Music has been a part of her life almost as long, thanks to six years playing flute and piccolo in school band and an adulthood dabbling in flute, guitar, bouzouki, and mandolin. Music is likely to make an appearance in anything she writes. Particularly music that involves Elvis, bouzouki-playing Newfoundlanders, or Quebecois trad. Angela (Anna the Piper to her friends) lives in Kenmore, Washington, along with her wife and their housemate, two cats, and a whole heck of a lot of computers and musical instruments. Despite the fact that she is a mild-mannered former employee of a major metropolitan newspaper, rumors that she is a superhero are exaggerated. (Even if she did pull the door off a refrigerator.) As Angela Korra’ti, she writes the Free Court of Seattle series and other works in the Warder universe. As Angela Highland, she writes the Rebels of Adalonia trilogy for Carina Press. You can find out more about all of her works under either name at angelahighland.com.


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Faerie Blood - Angela Korra'ti

happen!

Chapter One

I was on my way home from work, biking along the Burke-Gilman trail, when a troll decided to eat my face.

Now I know what you’re thinking: wait a minute, a troll? You’re kidding, right? But if you’ve seen the inhabitants of Seattle the census-takers don’t track—and I’m not talking about the homeless—then you’re wondering what I was doing biking under a bridge in the first place. Yeah, I know. Going under some of the bridges in Seattle is pretty much like going through the drive-through at a troll restaurant, except you’re the incoming food.

The Burke-Gilman trail goes over and under multiple bridges on its course around the city, but for the record, I was nowhere near a bridge at the time. I live in the Sand Point district, near where the trail swerves in close to Lake Washington and gives bikers and hikers a great view of the water. I’d already crossed the bridge along that part of the trail when my old, temperamental bike slipped a gear on the way down a slope in the trail. Ten miles an hour on a bicycle may not seem like much, but you can still break a limb if you hit something. So I squeezed down on my handle brakes to dump speed, but not before I bumped across the shards of a shattered bottle on the gravel just beside the paved part of the trail.

I found one huge slice through the back tire, three smaller punctures in the front one. To add insult to tire injury, I’d forgotten to restock the patch kit I carried on the bike’s back storage rack; I had only enough patch material for one tire, not both, and that lent a bluer vigor to my swearing. I’d already had a hell of a week, burning overtime hours to help my department at work get our latest software release out the door, keeping my cat Fortissimo from disemboweling the vet at his annual exam, and fighting off an inexplicable headache that’d been nagging me for the last three days. This blowing both my tires thing? Not helping.

Through gritted teeth I cursed whatever thoughtless idiot had left broken glass on the trail, then plucked the fragments out of what was left of my tires and stalked to the trashcan I’d passed twenty feet back. On the way I weighed my options: fix one tire now, or fix both later. The latter won out. I wanted to trade my backpack and sweat-scented biking gear for a T-shirt, shorts, and comfortable bare feet. And though I still hadn’t forgiven Fort for the scratches he’d left on my elbow as retribution for the vet excursion, feeding the cat his dinner sounded a lot better than crouching on a bike trail, pumping and patching a tire while the dusk got darker and I got hungrier for a dinner I wasn’t having. Besides, I was almost home. If I had to, I could carry the bike the rest of the way.

It was too early in the evening for proper darkness, but clouds lent strength to the growing twilight, and heavy moisture pressed in on the air. Seattle’s reputation for constant rain is unjust during the summer—usually. Today August had decided November was right on with the gray, gloomy, and drizzly look. Not long before I’d started the commute home a shower must have swept over this part of the trail; the asphalt that paved it as well as the grass and gravel on either side were still damp, and the scents of wet mud and wet grass tangled thickly around every breath I took. With them came the smell of wet refuse as I reached the trashcan and pitched the bottle fragments into it.

The wind shifted as I headed back to the bike for the rest of the broken bottle, and slapped me in the face with a pungent, musky odor that made me wince and wonder if something had died in the bushes. A possum, maybe, or a raccoon. I couldn’t get a bead on what or where it was; the stench was too thick, and it aggravated my headache until it stabbed at the insides of my eyes, prickling, like needles.

But it was no raccoon rustling through the undergrowth on the far side of the trail. I heard it coming as I paused about a yard shy of the bike and massaged the bridge of my nose, trying to fight the headache off, and paying the noise no mind until the ugliest creature I had ever seen in my life sprang out of the greenery. ‘What the hell is that?’ became the theme song of my shocked brain as I dodged out of its path.

It wasn’t as tall as me, three and a half feet tops, but breadth and bulk more than compensated for what it lacked in height. Shoulders twice as wide as mine sported a cinder block of a head, with close-set beady eyes, a flat, squashed nose that looked like it had collided with a wall at ninety miles an hour, and a broad slash of a mouth with wickedly curving, three-inch tusks. It was squat. It was hairy. With arms far too long for its short, stubby body, it looked like a cross between a tiny linebacker and a mutant gorilla. The musky, muddy scent I’d noticed before flooded from it in a choking wave, and just like an attacking Doberman, it growled and charged straight for me.

Instinct flung me at and onto the bicycle, but instinct had forgotten that I’d just sliced open both tires. With all my strength I pumped at the pedals. But rather than launching me off at top speed as I’d hoped, the bike jolted for a foot or two, with a dull, painful scraping of damaged rubber and metal, and skidded onto the gravel beside the trail.

Flat tires, idiot!

I had just enough time for that single thought before the thing closed the remaining distance between us. Its arms flailed out with paws that looked big enough to squash my head between them, grabbing the bike with one—and me with the other. Somewhere in the scuffle I felt my cell phone fall out of my pocket, much to my alarm. But there was no time to retrieve it before the thing’s heavy feet stomped it flat, with a crunch of plastic and glass, taking out my first and best method of calling for help.

So I punted to plan B, and screamed. What can I say? I was Kendis Thompson the software tester, not Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Fighting a monster wasn’t in my job description.

Didn’t stop me from trying, though. I wriggled, kicked, and punched, anything to break away from the hairy, stinking creature that had seized me. The headache behind my eyes spiked up as I struggled, and along with the fear flooding my system in a hot wave, it seemed to fuel my every blow. I didn’t pull off much, but I did land one unthinking kick, somewhere sensitive enough to make the creature hiss in indignation. And, more importantly, let go of me and the bike.

That won me only a second or two of reprieve, nowhere near enough time to run. Instead I flung myself back off the bicycle, heedless of gravel and grass burns along my knees and elbows as I hit the ground. Then I leapt up again and took my turn to seize the bike, hoping that if I couldn’t use it for escape, I could use it for attack instead.

Good idea—bad execution. A bicycle is not exactly a graceful weapon, even if you’re trying to use it as a club. I got in one blow with it before the monster tackled me to the ground. The impact drove every scrap of breath from my lungs; for an instant I could do nothing but lie there, with the bike in a tangled heap on top of me, and struggle for air. But there was no time for that either. The only barrier between the thing and my throat was the bike’s fragile frame, and that began to bend alarmingly as those paws, which looked bigger and bigger with every passing second, tugged at it, hard.

Panic? Hell yeah. But even as I freaked, I remembered three vital things: it wasn’t dark yet, it was summer, and therefore somebody else would probably be coming along the trail any second now. So I screamed again, loud and long, even as I wrestled in desperation with the thing that had me pinned.

I lucked out. From somewhere farther along the trail, footsteps broke into a pounding run and a male voice shouted, Hang on! I’m comin’!

By sheer virtue of timing and the relief of knowing assistance was imminent, my rescuer’s entrance should have been spectacular—a tall, brawny young man rushing into the fray, with a thick wooden walking stick hefted high in his hands. But all I could see from where I squirmed between bike and monster was a shadow falling over me, and the bottom end of the staff cracking across that cinder-block head. And I didn’t know it at the time, but clobbering even a small troll over the head is pretty much only going to make it mad.

Which is exactly what happened.

With a howl of protest the thing turned to face the new, unexpected threat, lumbering off me to spring at the man who’d come running at my call. My arms collapsed with the sudden absence of weight, and for a few moments I lay shaking, unable to push the bike off of me, much less get up and run for my life. But I did raise my head and get a glimpse of what was going on.

The creature had the reaction time of a drunken sloth. My rescuer practically danced around it, his staff swinging this way and that as he belted any part of the thing he could reach. It looked like some sort of nightmare version of golf, minus plaid pants, plus the world’s biggest, toothiest golf ball.

Yeah, that’s right, you ugly little bastard, he bellowed as he swung, and the back of my mind registered a deep voice and a lilting accent. It could have been Irish or Scottish, but something about it didn’t sound quite like either, and in the grip of my panic I couldn’t figure out why. Think she’s a tender piece, do you? How about a piece o’ this?

Then he spun to face me in mid-swing, and a gaze burning somewhere between green and gold bored into mine. As if I were as much of an irritant as the thing he harried, he shouted at me, Are you foolish, girl? Get goin’!

If there isn’t a handbook for would-be heroes, there ought to be. And in the chapter on hand-to-hand (or in this case, staff-to-paw) combat with refugees from Where the Wild Things Are, the following tip should be included:

Never let yourself get distracted by yelling at the damsel in distress until the distress is dispatched.

Okay, fine, critiquing your rescue party is easy when you’re the distressed damsel. But if my self-elected knight in faded blue jeans and a black flannel shirt hadn’t been busy yelling at me, he might have seen the troll’s big paws grab hold of the end of the staff and yank at it the same way it had yanked at my bike.

It couldn’t have planned it. I’d realize that later. The thing had no conscious calculation in its tusky face, and the grab was the purely instinctive, annoyed reaction of a wild animal to something hurting it. But it was enough. The man’s eyes went wide, and a startled curse burst out of him as his surprise attack turned into an impromptu, vicious tug of war. One that, I abruptly guessed, the creature was going to win. My rescuer had the reach to match his height, but the thing’s arms were as long as his and half again their diameter.

Mustering all my remaining energy, I pushed the bike off of me and dove for the cargo bag that still clung to its storage rack. The patch kit and my other repair tools wouldn’t be much good, but what I wanted was my Swiss Army knife. It wasn’t much more of a weapon than a bicycle; it wasn’t intended to be. I had it for tech-chick credibility, taking apart and reassembling bicycles and computers, and an excuse to make MacGyver jokes. But it was the only thing remotely close to a weapon I had, and at that moment in time I was experiencing a need hitherto unparalleled in all of my twenty-eight years to get something sharp and pointy into my hands.

My rescuer hadn’t had to tell me twice. As I tore into the bag and snatched up my knife my only other thought was to run like hell for the nearest source of additional help, and I’d take anything from a passing jogger, to a kid on a skateboard, to a little old lady in a wheelchair. I didn’t care what kind of help I found as long as it involved a portable missile launcher, or at least another phone.

But as I scrambled up off the ground the creature won the tug of war, ripping my rescuer’s weapon out of his hands with enough force to make him stumble. Before he could regain his balance, the troll—who had learned by example—decided that the staff was now its very own personal battering ram. Without grace or control but with plenty of power, it drove the top end of the staff into the man’s chest and sent him flying backwards off his feet. On his way down a second blow caught him across the head, slamming him into the ground. Most of him hit the asphalt that paved the trail, while his head and shoulders landed on the gravel-strewn grass at the trail’s edge.

Something swept over me then, though I didn’t notice it much, not while I was in panic mode. My headache crackled like storm-charged ozone, sending lightning through my blood rather than the air. I couldn’t pay it any more attention than that. I had none to spare. I was too transfixed by the sight of the troll, snarling and gurgling like a drowning mountain lion, whipping the staff back over its head in the universal gesture for ‘Hulk SMASH!’

Shit, I squeaked. Then I shrieked in mounting terror at the man sprawled on the trail, Get up!

He stirred. His eyes flickered, urgency warring with grogginess in his bearded features as he clued in that he was now up the proverbial creek, unequipped with paddle. But he couldn’t seem to make himself get out of the troll’s way, even when its next strike with the staff missed his skull by scant inches and pounded a hole into the grass instead.

Since he couldn’t move, I did.

Attacking a pissed-off troll with a Swiss Army knife was probably not the wisest thing I could have done. No, scratch that, it was definitely not the wisest thing I could have done. But wisdom wasn’t high on the agenda right then. What I saw before me was a guy getting the crap beaten out of him because he’d answered my scream for help—which made said beating my fault. And that bothered the hell out of me. I couldn’t leave someone to get his head split open like a piñata on my account without at least trying to do something to assist.

So I flicked open the knife and threw myself in a headlong rush at the creature. I’d like to say that a flash of brilliant inspiration gave me the best possible place to hit the troll with my laughably miniscule blade, and how to tackle it to knock it off of my downed rescuer. But I can’t. I can’t even say that I knew what to call the monster, much less how to fight it. My charge had all the finesse of an intoxicated farm boy trying to tip an armed and all too dangerous cow. I almost knocked myself out when I barreled low into my target, catching the staff between it and me before it could take another whack at the stranger.

Blindly I stabbed out with my little knife. I couldn’t tell where I connected; I could barely tell that I’d connected at all, thanks to almost gagging on the troll’s stench and trying not to faint as I got my other arm around it and held on for dear life. But the tip of my blade caught somewhere along its hide—caught and sank in and stayed there.

With another gurgling howl the troll let go of the staff, nearly choking me in the process as the carved wood jammed up against my throat, and started pawing frenetically at the place where I’d struck. It writhed violently, knocking me sideways, away from the tall figure spilled along the trail. And as it writhed, it began to change.

Color leeched out of its form, turning greenish-brown skin, black tufts of hair, and tusks the stained yellow of old ivory to an overall rocky gray. Flailing arms and paws began to slow, their motions increasingly sluggish, till the troll fell over onto me with one fist still reaching for the knife and the other jabbing clumsily against the ground beside my head. One great foul blast of breath from its maw nearly made me retch before that maw, too, began to freeze up and change color inside as well as out. Its screeches of pain dwindled down to a few burbling gasps, then cut off with an unmistakable finality. Before I grasped what was happening, the weight pinning me to the earth had transformed from monster to monster statue.

The troll had turned to stone.

Chapter Two

People in novels talk about how, in a crisis, a few seconds can stretch into hours, a lifetime, an eternity. You can feel like you age ten years in a heartbeat, or that the world around you has just progressed into the next century when no more than a few chaotic, tumultuous minutes have truly passed.

I’d never believed in that phenomenon until a petrified troll damned near crushed my chest on the Burke-Gilman trail. From that moment on, though, I was sold. It couldn’t have been more than a minute or two that I stayed there flat on my back, panting, tears of shock and panic blurring the face of the frozen horror just above me, but it felt like decades. My mind fired off incoherent, random thoughts with dizzying speed, and in those impossibly elongated moments, each thought jangled inside me like an insane doorbell.

What the hell is this thing?

What in the name of God just happened?

It just turned to stone, things don’t turn to stone, not even monsters!

Holy crap, a monster, a real monster, it was going to kill me, it was going to kill that guy!

Oh God.

The man who’d tried to help me was hurt.

Time snapped back to its normal rate as I shoved the brand new statue off of me, an effort that left me sweating and trembling, every muscle in my arms seemingly afire. Part of me wanted to giggle at the sight of my Swiss Army knife sticking up out of its back as it toppled over onto the ground, but I recognized the impulse for what it was—hysteria—and wrestled it down. I had to get to my rescuer.

He was still down but not entirely out, and as I skittered on hands and knees to his side he tried to turn his head in my direction. Mistake, that. His face twisted with pain, and though I’d never had a day of medical training, I didn’t need any to figure out that the swelling, bleeding bump along his hairline where he’d been clocked with his own staff was the cause of his expression.

Take it easy, buddy, I blurted, striving to level out my voice and blink the tears out of my eyes as I leaned over him. I tried to hide my wince at the bump, too. It looked nasty, like it ought to be Exhibit A in a textbook on Knowing Your Concussions, Great and Small. That thing just about walloped you into next week. You got a real bad knock on the head, okay? I’m going to get you some help, but you’ve got to take it easy.

The urgency of the fight had faded beneath a growing glaze over his eyes, and from the way he squinted uncertainly up at me I suspected he saw two or three of me rather than just the one. Troll, he muttered, his already accent-slurred voice blurring further as he struggled to sit up. What happened to the…

So that’s what it was. That same hysterical corner of my brain gibbered at the prospect of reality containing something that could be labeled ‘troll’. Unconvinced that the stone shape lying nearby wouldn’t reanimate and try to rip my head off, I forced myself to keep ignoring it. A guy with a head injury was sprawled before me; I didn’t have the luxury of freaking out. And even one little glance at the troll statue was a panic fit waiting to happen.

Stick it on top of a skyscraper, it’ll make a great gargoyle! I piped, plastering on a smile and praying the stranger was too stunned to notice how it wobbled. Don’t worry about it. Just lie still and I’ll see if I can get—whoa, hey, what part of ‘lie still’ aren’t you getting?

I grabbed the guy, for in spite of my warning he hauled himself up onto his elbows, apparently determined to tackle something way too adventurous for a man in his condition: getting up. My arms got in his way, and he couldn’t seem to summon the strength to elude them; instead he sagged back against me.

That much was okay. He was far lighter than the troll, both before and after petrifaction, a reassuringly warm and human-shaped weight. And he smelled a lot better, too. But as he slumped against me that little prickling I’d felt before came back, and this time it was stronger. It thrummed through the man I held, gathering at the place where his head drooped against my shoulder and spreading out from there into me, like electric current following wires out from a socket.

Shock, I decided. Weird things happened to people in shock. This, however, was weird enough that just for a second or two my mind went entirely blank except for the sense of that current humming between us.

Then I shook it off. The stranger looked about to take a jaunt into unconsciousness land, and that threatened to call back my panic. I had no idea how to help a man with a head wound, aside from finding the nearest phone and calling

911

No, I corrected myself, not one head wound. Two. Blood oozed out of the bump at his hairline, reddening his dark disheveled hair, but that didn’t explain the dampness where his head now rested against me.

Nor did it explain, as it soaked through my biking shirt onto my skin, why that place was where the prickling was strongest.

Focus, girl! I hissed at myself, and glanced at the grass. There was a patch of scarlet there, too. Had he smacked his head on the back as well as the front when he’d hit the ground? I could buy that. The troll had hit him hard enough.

Great. Just great.

Hang in there, I begged then, fighting down the urge to shake him to keep him awake, fighting to stay calm and block my own strange, shocky reactions out of immediate thought. If he fainted, no way I’d move him; he was too big.

But was it safe to leave an injured man anywhere near the former troll?

That clinched it. I didn’t want to stay near that thing for another second, and on the off chance it stopped being a gruesome lawn ornament and resumed being a troll, I didn’t want to leave my rescuer in its proximity either. So I started to move, curling his arm around my neck so I could pull him up with me as I stood. We’re getting out of here, pal, I said, so help me out. Stay with me. You’re going to have to hang onto me, and you’re going to have to walk!

As I hauled the stranger to his feet I spotted the staff—a weapon. I liked that idea. A lot. So I seized it along with its owner, and lurched upright with both. It took doing, with one arm looped around my companion’s waist and the other hand clutching at the sturdy wood—both for reassurance and for support to get up.

But I did it. As we rose, he came around enough to peer bemusedly at what remained of the creature that had attacked us. Turned to stone, he croaked, his brows knitting together. Stone… cold iron… how’d you know…?

Too busy with getting us mobile, I only half-heard him. Steel Swiss Army knife, I chirped, far more blithely than I felt. Especially when my bike was pretty much destroyed, and the contents of my patch kit were still strewn around it. But it couldn’t be helped. I’d have to come back for the bike’s remains later. Not all that cold. C’mon, big guy, move it! We can’t stay here!

You saw it? The troll… saw it for what it was?

Less talk. More move. Come on!

I stand about five foot six. The man had six, maybe eight inches on me, and while he wasn’t Schwarzenegger in the build department, he wasn’t a scarecrow either. As we stumbled along the trail he nearly pitched me to my knees several times with the awkward effort of keeping him moving. But I kept up a half-hobbling, half-trotting pace even when my every nerve screamed for me to run home as fast as I could go, lock all the doors, and not come out for the next six years. I overruled my nerves by scolding them that the hurt stranger wouldn’t pull off three steps without me, and it was my fault that he was now a card-carrying member of the concussion club in the first place.

This was what I got for having a conscience.

Stupid conscience.

I avoided thinking about what we were leaving behind, and how a monster which should not exist—and which should not, if it did exist, under any circumstances turn into a rock model of a monster—was lying back there in open view and broad though waning daylight. My aforementioned conscience argued that some other hapless soul might stumble across the troll. Since I had no way of knowing whether its current state was permanent, I was running the risk of someone else getting hurt.

But I ignored both my conscience and my nerves, unable to do anything more to satisfy either shrieking portion of my psyche. I would by God make it home, because I had no other option. I’d help this man who’d tried to help me. One hurt person at a time was all I was able to handle.

That was just going to have to do.


By bike, the spot on the trail where the troll had ambushed me was less than two minutes from my house. On foot and with a wounded man slowing me down it was closer to five, but it seemed to take more on the order of three or four years. There were closer houses than mine, and yeah, I probably should have gone to one of them for the sake of getting the fastest possible help. But with the fight part of the emergency over (I hoped), flight mode had kicked in, and my feet didn’t want to stop till I got somewhere certifiably safe. Since I lived so close to the trail, my head was willing to humor my feet and let them aim for my phone rather than a phone. Ergo, home.

My street doesn’t particularly stand out from any other in Seattle, especially near the lake. Its houses are renovated duplexes, its yards multi-layered sculptures of flowerbeds, wood shavings, and rain-nourished grass shaded by Japanese maples and conifers. Trellises, twined with climbing roses and ivy, adorn sidewalks and driveways alike. Everything looked as it should as I hauled the stranger along with me to the duplex I shared with friends, a male couple in their forties: peaceful in the summer evening, blessedly monster-free. No further trolls leapt out of the bushes (which would have been bad) and no further helpful passersby crossed our path (which would have been good), and we made it to my front porch without incident.

My rescuer swayed alarmingly as I helped him up the two shallow steps to my door. I didn’t blame him; I was on the verge of collapse myself. But I propped him and his staff against the nearest wall, fumbled my keys out of the smallest pocket of my backpack, and got the door open so we could get inside. C’mon, buddy, I encouraged him, dimly aware that my voice came out high and strained, but unable to do a thing about it. Just in here now… this is my place… here, careful. Lean on me. There you go!

Once we crossed my threshold, the scrabble of heavy feline paws gave me about two seconds of warning before Fortissimo galloped in from the kitchen and plowed straight into my ankles. Apparently he’d gotten over his snit

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