Home > Noble (Night of the Dark Fae #3)

Noble (Night of the Dark Fae #3)
Author: Angela J. Ford

1

 

 

Shadowed Island

 

 

Maeve dove through the portal, purple lightning flashed around her. Legs burning, she scurried out on the other side, heart thudding in her throat. Her mind reeled with what she’d seen in the fae Underground. She’d succeeded in finding all seven shards, but Sandrine the Scholar had given up her life creating the Crown of Erinyes. The sight of her melting under a fatal blue fire had been horrific enough, but more so was the knowledge she, Maeve of Carn, the last defender, had doomed the world. She’d had the chance to snatch up the Crown of Erinyes and put it on her head, but thoughts of revenge and bloodshed gripped her mind, so she’d dived for the Sword of Justice. Now King Mrithun wore the crown and had used it to free the Dragon Queen. What else would he do with its power?

Bile filled Maeve’s throat as her thoughts flickered back to the monstrous black dragon who’d burst out of the fae Underground, seconds before Maeve dived into the portal to save her own life. Hot flames of fury rose within her, but it was useless. She’d failed once, but now all she had to do was fight through the fae, find the crown, and destroy it. Her hands went to her neck where the collar used to sit. That foul brand was gone. No more was she subject to the whims of the fae, no more would she bow down to their demands, or wait in fear for the night of the full moon. Waiting for them to abuse her to their own delight. She was free, stronger than before, and she vowed to kill them all.

A niggling sensation drew her eyes to her surroundings. She paused and turned around. The luminous purple portal had disappeared. But instead of the magnificent trees of the grove, and the castle she expected to see, there was nothing but rock and rubble under a dark red sky. Her fingers tightened on the hilt of her sword. Where was she? This was not the home of the fae. Had she gone through the wrong portal? Had they changed the location at the last minute? Her brow creased. Nothing made sense.

Rubble crunched beneath her sandals. The night sky glowed like the red eyes of a monster, without the familiar light of stars or moon—which she found odd, for it was the night of the full moon. Vague shapes dotted the shadowed landscape. A ripple of red lightning shot through the sky, illuminating the boulders that loomed like giants, their craggy surfaces chipped with holes, as though they might have eyes.

Shivering, Maeve racked her mind, even though it was useless. She’d never heard of a place like this, nor could she guess where she was. As far as she knew, she was standing on a shore of rocks, even though she did not hear water. Swallowing hard to hold her panic at bay, she whirled, searching for a path, a road, any indicator that might lead her out. Oh Divine One, she could not stay here. She had to make the fae pay and then find Imer and his secret home. Even before her death, Sandrine hadn’t given her any clues where to find the fire mages. And now this?

A shape moved behind a boulder. Maeve went still, pointing her sword in its direction. Memories of the Hunter rose. Fingers cold as death against her throat, evoking an ancient fear that made her want to run, not fight.

A wild cry echoed off rock, followed by the distinct smack of a body hitting rubble. A shape ran toward her on two legs like a human, but in the darkness Maeve made out a shadow with red eyes, and little else. As the shrieking creature drew near she took up her battle stance, legs apart, feet pointed out. She swung her sword in a wide arc, slicing at the creature’s waist. Her sword struck, hard and true, and with a wail of frustration, the creature disintegrated into dust.

Maeve stepped forward and tilted her head, listening for more cries. Again came the thump of feet slapping rock, and another shadow hurled out of the darkness, a hand shaped into a claw. It sliced at Maeve’s face, but she jerked back, almost tasting the wind as the claws missed. She drove her sword up hard into the chest of the creature, then yanked it out. Rock crumbled around her and a crescendo of shrieks rose.

Glancing over her shoulder, Maeve saw a blur of shadows, some scrambled down from the boulders, others thumped against rock. A flash of red showed her an army of shadow creatures behind her, and ahead of her loomed a mountain. Without waiting to be attacked again, Maeve sprinted across the rocky ground. If she could reach the mountain and gain high ground, perhaps even hide in a nook or cranny, she could fight off the creatures, one by one, until they stopped, or slept. Morning had to come in this damned place and she would find a way out. No need to panic.

Snarls echoed off stone, and shadows leaped in front of Maeve as she fled. She slashed with her sword, knocking the creatures back into the ground, shattering them to dust and rubble while she fled. Tiny stones kicked up, embedding themselves in her skin, stinging her bare legs and knees. But she cared not. Her breath came short and fast as she ran and then slowed down into a rhythm, keeping pace with herself. Her warrior training was all coming back, along with the newfound strength she was imbued with.

The mountain loomed above her, and as she drew closer a niggling sensation went down her spine. It looked familiar. And when the next streak of red lightning lit up the darkened sky, she knew why. It was no mountain, and she’d seen one before. The last quest she and Sandrine had taken was through a volcano, down into the heat where the path turned into liquid lava as they attempted not to get burned. The volcano had been inactive, and she hoped the same was true of this one. For she had no Scholar to guide her, to tell her what was truth and what was false.

Maeve parted her lips as she ran, and her breath whistled out. Her heart seized as she thought of Sandrine, surprised she’d grown used to her grumpy companion. Did she dare grieve for someone who’d played a hand in her misery over the past few months? If not for Sandrine, the fae would never have captured her and forced her on the dangerous quest to acquire the Seven Shards of Erinyes. But then, she never would have returned to Carn, discovered the magic that sang in her blood, and learned the truth about why her family, nay, her people were destroyed. And if not for Sandrine, she never would have met Imer, and fallen in love with him. Love. The word stung her, and she ran faster, pushing the thought to the back of her mind. Her insecurities and lack of confidence in love and how the Divine saw her could not distract her now.

Another shadow creature leaped from a boulder, and this time, Maeve wasn’t fast enough. Arms encircled her neck and dragged her to the ground. Maeve rolled hard, teeth gritted to keep from biting her tongue, and came up fast, even though the creature clung to her neck, biting down on her shoulder. With a scream, Maeve bent forward, flinging the creature off her back. It landed in the rubble; the breath knocked out of it. Two more ran up but Maeve slashed at them, returning them to stone and as she did so, she saw a pile of rocks rattle together and form another shadow person.

The pit of her stomach dropped. What was this accursed place where the very ground turned into warriors to fight against her? With all haste, she slashed at another creature and ran. If they could rebuild themselves, she’d be there all night, fighting until she was nothing left but an empty husk. She couldn’t help but think the fae had led her astray on purpose. Someone wanted her here and hoped she’d find her own ruin in this damned place. Was it an island somewhere near the kingdom of Contresea? She hoped so, for as soon as daylight broke, she’d swim for land. If she could survive the night.

The screams of the rock creatures echoed around her as she gained the base of the volcano and slowed her pace to an even trot as she moved uphill. With each streak of light she searched for a place to stand, to hide, to fight. But the walls of the mountain sloped upward, smooth and even, leading to the summit until Maeve was afraid there was only one place to hide. Within the very volcano itself.

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