Sunday, October 21, 2018

*EXCERPT* Web of Truth by Cecilia Dominic


Morgan le Fay thought the last bounty-hunting job she'd do for the faerie queen would be easy. But the target, hapless vampire Philippe, has unexpected ties to her family, which means she'll have to deal with old wounds and risk her powers – and her heart - to secure her future.



Morgan studied the island through the pair of binoculars she'd packed in her bag. The boat rose and fell with the waves, but the motion didn't bother her. The water did.
The lake lay like a mirror, the gray sky a perfect reflection on its surface. She watched the boy try to skip stones, but he wasn't coordinated enough yet, and the stones sank rather than skipped. The water absorbed the ripples before they got too far, the liquid more like quicksand. The heaviness of the humid air didn't help the sense of oppressiveness and only confirmed what she'd been thinking—she needed to escape Avalon.
Morgan blinked the memory away. The past liked to intrude when she felt unsure of the present. The trick of the water had been Merlin's, and indeed, rather than the usual tumble of waves along the shore, the sea only lapped at the edge of the sand.
Getting past that would be her first challenge.
"There's a defense spell at the shoreline." She lowered the binoculars and looked at Elric. "Remind me what's so special about…?" She inclined her head toward the island.
Elric only shrugged. "Maeve wants him. That's all you need to know."
Morgan raised the binoculars again. She caught a glimpse of something moving in the foliage. They'd had the captain drop the anchor and shut off the engines and lights so no one would know they were there, but the tingling feeling at the back of her neck told Morgan they'd been spotted. A twin pair of red lights appeared.
"Crap, he's hungry." And there was no telling what a starving young vamp would do. But there was something strange about how he moved. He reeled, almost drunkenly, or that's how it appeared from the motion of the lights. She lowered the binoculars and shook her head. There was definitely something weird going on.
"I've inflated the raft." Elric gestured to the rubber dingy that now floated next to the boat.
"Right." Morgan put the binoculars back in her bag and walked to the rail. She dropped her bag into the flimsy-looking vessel and took a deep breath, ignoring the chemical-plastic smell. Next to still water, she hated small watercraft the most. "And I have to bring him back alive?"
"Yes." Elric's mouth had almost disappeared into a straight line, and a tiny muscle danced along his jaw. "You can't collect on a pile of ash."
"Damn." Flimsy boat, hungry vamp, secured island… What could go right?
She swung a leg over the rail, followed it with the other one, and then climbed down into the raft. The oars were inside. With a sigh, she took off toward the island.
After about ten minutes of rowing, the momentum of the surf took over, and she floated closer and closer to her target. Then the raft bumped into something that allowed the water to pass through, albeit in a muted fashion with smaller waves, but stopped her progress. An almost electric buzz hummed beneath her, and fog rolled in from both sides, obscuring her vision.
Ah, at least that felt familiar. Merlin had modernized his spell, but she guessed it was similar to what had protected Avalon. Not that Merlin had come up with that one—it had preceded him by centuries—but it hadn't taken long for him to figure it out and refine it.
Morgan whispered the Celtic phrase that had parted the mists at Avalon, but of course it didn't work. She needed a modern phrase for a modern spell. Merlin had always had an ego, so she searched her brain for phrases he would appreciate in reference to himself.
"Merlin, greatest wizard of all time." The fog rolled, but it didn't part.
"Merlin, he who must be obeyed." Okay, she didn't really think that one would work, but it was worth a shot.
"Merlin the Magnificent, advisor to kings and head of the Truth Seekers."
A keypad made of mists appeared in front of her. Aha, so she'd summoned the lock. What would Merlin use as his password? She thought about trying 1-2-3-4, but while she would've appreciated the irony, she didn't know how many shots she'd get. So she tried the one date Merlin would always cherish—the date of the coronation of Arthur, when Merlin had secured his own place of power. Calendars had changed, but Morgan had a good sense for when dates were and had been. She punched in the date, and the fog rolled away and allowed her little dinghy to proceed.
"One down," she muttered. The water guided her vessel to bump gently against the sand. She pulled a stake crossbow from her bag. She loaded it with what she called her baby stakes—non-consecrated wood and without a silver core. If the vamp charged her, she'd at least be able to slow him down without killing him. At least not before she could deliver him to Maeve. If he died soon after, she'd at least have met her part of the bargain.
The sound of crashing in the foliage just beyond the shoreline made her duck into the boat. Then she remembered it wouldn't provide much of a shield. She jumped out and ran along the sand so she'd at least not be in direct sight of whatever it was when it emerged.
She crouched behind a fallen tree and watched. A figure stumbled out of the forest and sprawled on the sand.
"Fucking birds with your fucking berries," a male voice slurred. The creature lifted its head and looked around, the dim red of its eyes illuminating the sand around it.

Morgan's jaw dropped. A drunken vampire? How in the world could that have happened? Then something smacked her in the back of the head.

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