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SEEKING MERCY

By AprilALuna All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Romance

Blurb

Please note, this is an excerpt of a novel, only. The Dráèek Kingdom, 1815. Mercy Hall, a member of the Gargouille Codex Clan, is forced to watch the execution of her brethren. Injured, she flees from blood-thirsty soldiers and crash-lands in the woods. Mercy climbs a tree, seeking solace in its limbs. In the blink of an eye, she ends up a captive in the middle of a war in the West Region of the IV Kingdom, 1715—a hundred years in the past. Stranded amid danger, Mercy discovers her only chance of survival lies in a human named Ambrose Drak II. But the dark, soulful music Ambrose composes both frightens her as well as speaks to her soul. Mercy finds herself torn between two irreconcilable lives and Ambrose, The Just King of the Tagnikźur Kingdom.

Chapter 1

Mercy Hall

The Dráèek Kingdom, 1815

The imminent threat of danger.

It keeps the senses keen and blood pumping.

“Keep up, Whelp.” Graysen’s voice, deep and throaty, rumbles inside the tunnel. “Stay alert.”

Mercy’s twin hearts thump, vibrating against her ribs as if trying to escape.

“Comin’.” The cold slick stone makes it hard to grasp a handhold. She sucks in a ragged breath of air. “I’m right behind you, brother.” Grip slipping, her fingers slide over the dank surface. No. No. No. Not now. Please hold.

Being hunted like common prey in the bowels of the castle makes one feel as insignificant as a buzzing mosquito. It’s not how Mercy had planned to spend her birthday. Nay. A bit of solitude along with a lone expedition fit her taste much better.

In truth, time with her meddling mother and overbearing sire seems preferable to the present alternative—fleeing from guards. But that’s all behind her now, and she can’t turn back time.

Sharp pain stabs at her hearts. Hot tears blur her vision.

Pull it together, she scolds herself. There’ll be more than enough time to grieve, to seek retribution, once clear of the royal grounds.

A jagged edge of a rock catches her index finger, tearing the nail well past the quick. Wonderful. That’s just great. As if there’s not enough going on.

Searing heat shoots down her injured digit, stopping a few inches shy of her elbow.

A thick slime covers her palms.

“Dammit.” She slides several more feet. Fantastic. Can the day get any worse?

“You okay down there?” Graysen offers a hand. “I smell blood.” His fingertips brush against hers. “Are you injured?”

“Nay.” She plunges further into darkness. “Just broke a nail.” Frustration gnaws at her, souring her already blue mood.

Legs stretched outward, her feet skim over the grooves in the hollowed-out shaft. Stop. Stop. Come on. Stop.

Thwack. Mercy’s head slams against the stone. Her ears ring. Blinking in rapid succession, the dim lit tunnel spins before her.

“Holy hell.” Her arms feel like string. Concentrate. Focus. Just keep moving.

She must push forward or risk apprehension.

“Whelp?” The space between them falls silent for several seconds. “Need some help?”

“Nay.” Her descent slows. When she stops, the fabric of her trousers strains against the unnatural split of her legs.

Better pants than a dress.

Hell, if it had been up to her sire, Baltos, she’d be wrapped tight in several layers of petticoats. Moreover, topped off with a pink, lacy dress and matching corset. A demon’s contraption to squeeze the life out of women everywhere, human or gargouille.

“Ya need me to retrieve you?” The base undertones of his voice vibrate in the stone under her palms.

Help. Really? The mere suggestion makes her blood boil. “I’m all right.” In truth, falling into a sinkhole sounds better than showing weakness. “I don’t need help.” She’d be more inclined to ask the Gods for aid before allowing a single plea to pass her lips for any male to hear, much less her brother. And him, she likes.

“Stop horsin’ around.” He resumes his climb.

Mercy wedges her fingers into a fissure. She pulls herself several inches. “I’m not—” A piece of stone crumbles loose. She drops deeper into the bowels of the fortress.

Really? By the Gods, both new and old, if it weren’t for bad luck . . .

Calling on the eyes of her inner gargouille, the restless beast within, she stares at the jagged rocks. Below her, sewage pools like a swirling sludge of death.

“Seriously?” She shakes her head. “That’s not gonna happen. Not today.” Nay. This isn’t the end, it’s only the beginning.

Her twin hearts thump, vibrating against her ribs as if trying to escape. Talon-shaped nails on each hand flex then slice into stone.

With every ounce of strength, she has left, she digs deeper into the shaft wall. Stop. Damn it. Stop.

Mercy sucks in air, which expands her burning lungs.

Escaping the holding cell and freeing Graysen had posed more difficulty. So, why does climbing the tunnel offer more resistance?

Come on. Push forward. Don’t stop until the deed is done. Slowly, she forces her way through the narrow tube.

A sliver of light snakes across the stone overhead.

Good. The end, at last.

Mercy crawls out. She lands face first into a mixture of soot and urine-infused soil.

She gags. “By the Gods.” Hot, toxic bile creeps in the back of her throat.

“Are you praying, Whelp?” Graysen stoops. He brushes some dust off her shoulder.

“What?” She wipes her cheek with the inside of her leather vest, which only smears the grime across her face. “Are you seriously asking me that?”

Graysen weaves his fingers through her locks, shaking several strands loose. “We don’t have much time.” Hair falls over her face, obstructing her vision.

“Stop that.” She punches his arm. “For your information, I’m not a whelp.” The impact of the sturdy blow sends a tingling shock wave of discomfort to vibrate in her funny bone. “I’ll be twenty-one when the sun sets.”

A grin spreads across his face. “Perchance.” The dimples in his cheeks give him a boyish quality. “But, you’ll always be a whelp to me, little sister.” He studies the tunnel in front of them as well as behind. “Help me look. It can’t be far.”

Mercy stands. She sweeps debris off her pants. “Thought you knew where you were goin’.” She pushes deeper into the tunnel in search of the exit. “How much time before they’re upon us?”

“I’ve yet to hear the bullhorn.” Graysen slides his hands over the bricked-in walls. “It’s only a matter of time.”

A high-pitched squeak echoes in the confines of the small space.

Mercy’s ears perk then twitch. “Meelo?” Her mouth goes dry. She spins around on the balls of her feet.

A pair of glowing eyes peers out from under a crack in the floor. They belong to a two-toned polecat. Those same unblinking, orb-like buttons now focus on Mercy.

She waves the critter onward. “Come.”

Relief washes over Mercy’s battered body, for she’d thought her pint-sized friend lost to the underworld with the rest of her family.

Without hesitation, Meelo, the masked bandit, scuttles across the stone floor then waddles to Mercy.

“Really?” Graysen ducks to avoid a dislodged piece of stone. “You’re taking the fleabag?”

“Aye. He’s a better companion than you.”

“Fine. The vermin will make a right tasty stew to fill our bellies. Especially, with a few potatoes.”

“Don’t listen to him.” Mercy strokes the critter’s head then scratches under his chin. “I thought I’d lost you.” With an unsteady hand, she scoops Meelo up and slides him into the leather pouch on her hip.

“Think I found it.” Graysen taps the smooth, buffed wall once, which produces a solid knock. A second time generates the same result. “We mustn’t delay.” The third rap makes a dull thud. “Aye. It’s here.” Graysen wedges his fingers into a crack. He outlines a door.

Indistinct voices murmur.

“Shh. Wait,” Mercy’s words catch. “Where are they coming from?” Dread weighs her body, making it as heavy as iron. Imprisonment isn’t an option. At least, not one she cares to entertain.

Mercy’s ears twitch. Her inner beast claws for release.

No. Please. Not now. She struggles to maintain control. Don’t do it. Don’t transform. The warmth of her pink skin shimmers then takes on a silvery coloration, signaling her inner beast is already upon her.

She hears the king’s guards on the other side of the stone wall.

One voice stands out, Tanager’s. The mere chortle of the human’s speech grates on her last nerve.

Listening, Graysen cocks his head. “Behind us? Perchance.”

“Find them,” says Tanager from the other side of the wall. “The male traveling with her is expendable. The girl, no one touches. Understand?”

Mercy struggles to reel in her beast. “You sure about that? He sounds close. Too close.”

“Aye.” Graysen nods. “I’m sure of it.”

Her brother’s wings drape over his shoulders. They fan out behind him, casting shadows to streak across the walls. Long canines protrude from his mouth.

A raging fire grows in the pit of Mercy’s gut. She’s not alone in her anger. Nay. Her brother’s reactive transformation leaves little to the imagination.

There’s no love lost between her and Tanager. She hates the human with every fiber of her being.

Mercy didn’t trust the slimy human when they were kids. She sure as hell doesn’t trust him now. Nay. Especially, after he revealed where she and Graysen were hiding.

If it’s the last thing she does, she’ll make him pay for his willful betrayal.

“He can’t get to us.” Graysen brushes hair out of her face. “He’s on the other side of the wall in the long hall.” He draws her into a brotherly hug.

“Lucky for him.” Mercy reluctantly withdraws from the comfort of his arms. “Because when I encounter him, he’ll rue the day he ever met us.”

The trapdoor springs open, revealing a lavish room. The king’s quarters.

Fine tapestries, of the lords and ladies of the past, line the walls. Hand-carved ornate furniture, covered in deer skins, graces the chamber.

Mercy zooms in on a thick, brown-pelted rug that contains the head of a bear. “They call us animals.” Empty glass orbs for eyes stare at her.

“You’ll not enter.” Graysen stops her forward momentum. “Not like that.” He shoves her into the sodden tunnel. “Change. Now.”

“Why?” Mercy, hands on her hips, defiantly stands. “You’re transformed.”

“You know why.”

“Because of the blood prophecy?” Her nose scrunches in disgust.

“Aye.” Graysen adjusts the sword on his hip. “Never let the humans see your beast.”

“I don’t put much stock in that children’s fable. Neither should you.”

“Whelp. Don’t argue. Do it.” A throaty growl of a warning rumbles in his chest.

“You’re not my sire.” The words roll from her lips before their meaning registers in her brain.

“Now.”

Wings drape her like a cloak. “Fine.” Mercy transforms into her human form. “Only because I want to.” Avoiding his gaze, she sheds a tear for her fallen sire, their father.

She wipes the moisture from her eyes. Tipping her head from side to side, she works out some of the kinks in her tense muscles.

Graysen grabs the hood of her cape and covers her head. “You know, you look more like her with each passing day.” His hand slides over a lock of her hair. “Right down to her fiery tresses.”

“I shall never be like her. Mother’s weak. Was weak.” Mercy slaps his hand away from her face. “No one will ever treat me like a trophy.” The tip of her canines pierce her upper gums, and she welcomes the pain. “Never.” The distinct taste of blood, earthy with a hint of copper, coats her tongue.

“You have her temper, as well.” Black hair slides over his face, covering his dark eyes. “However, I’d wager, you’re more pigheaded than she.”

“I’m nothin’ like her. Nothing.” She observes her brother’s form. “I’ll never allow a male, human or beast, to strip my will or steal my freedom with such ease. Love. Who needs it?”

“So, you say, now. But remember, one should never spread doubt when love is involved.”

A flash of her sire, Baltos, comes to mind. Her brother carries their father’s darker looks and height; whereas, she’s shorter in stature—fair like their human mother, Arden. “Nay. Love. It’s a useless human emotion.”

“There’s far worse things than showing one’s humanity.”

“Such as?”

“Possessing a lack of empathy or humility.” Graysen steps out of the tunnel and into the room. “Come.” He waves her on. “The path is clear.”

Mercy slips past him. She sniffs. Her body stiffens.

“Wolfsbane.” The scent stings her nose and makes her eyes water.

“What?”

“We’re not alone.” Mercy crouches. She sets her hand on the hilt of her dagger.

The king’s guards march out of the shadows.

Graysen steps between Mercy and the humans.

“I see you found your way through the tunnels.” Tanager enters the chamber. “Flank them.” He motions to three guards. “Remember, no harm befalls the female.”

Mercy takes in the opened doorway seven paces away. “There are only four of you and two of us. So, it seems you’re at a disadvantage.” The corners of her lips tug upward. “I’m going to enjoy this.”

“Oh, he is not alone.” King Alexander’s bear of a frame emerges from the hall and blocks the opening. “For the dragon slayer is here.” Armor covers his body from head to toe.

She turns her attention to the king but keeps Tanager in view. “You’re no dragon slayer, my Lord.” Of course, he’s not alone. Tanager never is. “You are the murderer of innocence. Women and children are your prey. Not by your hand. Nay. You leave the dirty work to others.” Mercy opens her stance. “Which is why you travel with your guards like a common dung beetle.”

“There’s the mouth I’ve heard so much about.” The king holds a steel-fisted hand shoulder level as his guards shift behind him. “Wait. Advance only on my order.”

The guards stand at attention.

Humans and blind faith. It’s something she’ll never understand. “You’ve trained your pets well.”

A glimmer of light draws her attention. An opportunity for freedom, ripe for the pickin’. Only, Tanager blocks their route to the balcony, to liberation.

“Stand down, my brother and sister.” Tanager grips the handle of his sword. “There’s no need for additional bloodshed.”

“He’s not your brother,” Mercy hisses. “I’m sure as hell not your sister.”

“Well, now,” Tanager says, “that hurts my feelings.”

“Feelings? Really? We both know you have none.” Mercy draws a dagger. “Besides, you’d have to have a heart for that.”

Graysen holds Tanager’s steely gaze. He asks, “How much did they pay you to betray me—us?”

“More than I’ll get for you, dead or alive.” A grin slithers across Tanager’s lips. “Now, for her, they’ll pay a king’s ransom.”

Mercy lunges forward. She drags the edge of her dagger across Tanager’s ribs, slicing through his tunic. A shallow furrow of blood surfaces and seeps into the off-white fabric.

Tanager draws a hand over the wound. “I’m going to make your brother pay for that one.” He sticks a crimson-colored finger inside his mouth and sucks the blood off. “Close in.”

Two guards swing double-sided swords overhead.

Both Graysen and Mercy duck. Together, they sweep the men’s legs out from under them.

The guards crash to the ground.

With swift movements, Graysen breaks the neck of one man. He turns around to slash the throat of the other.

A red stream of liquid oozes across the floor.

Her brother slips. He lands on the wet stone underfoot. His limbs twist and tangle with the guards. He’s snared into a blood-covered ball of arms and legs.

Two more humans, dressed in the king’s colors, close in.

One holds a spear over her brother’s chest.

Mercy’s heart sinks.

Graysen’s bloody hands wrap around the base of the pointed tip. He struggles to push the slick weapon away. “Run. Whelp.”

“Stand down.” King Alexander opens his fisted hand.

The guards relax their stance. “Surrender. Now.” He waves to Tanager, who readies his weapon. “And I will release your brother.”

She glances at Graysen then back at the king. “Like you released the others? Like my family?” Mercy skims a hand over her leather shoulder belt. “They trusted you. All of them.” Her fingers trace the outline of the blowpipe. The four poison-tipped darts her sire carved graze her fingertips. “I trusted you.” Tears brim her lower lids. “Have you no shame?”

“Concede.” King Alexander waves an open palm. His guards take a step forward. “I will not ask, again.”

Graysen shoves the weapon away from his body. He rolls out from under Tanager’s sword. On the ground, he releases a five-inch throwing knife from his ankle and plunges it into the spear-wielding guard’s flesh.

“Whelp. I said, run.”

The weapon pulses in the man’s chest, keeping beat with his heart.

Mercy ignores her brother’s words. She knows this isn’t a fight he can win alone. Palming the blowpipe, she inserts two darts. Lips around the hollowed-out reed, she blasts two quick bursts of controlled air.

The small barbs sail through the air.

One strikes the side of a guard’s arm, the other digs in deep and embeds itself in the king’s neck.

King Alexander removes a steel glove.“An attack on your king.” He retrieves the dart. “You leave me no choice.” Rolling it between his thumb and index finger, he examines the small object. “Do it.”

Tanager thrusts his arm forward, plunging his sword into Graysen’s gut. He drives the weapon to the hilt.

“Argghhh,” a throaty growl rips loose from deep inside Graysen’s chest.

“Nay,” Mercy screams. Her knees buckle.

She’s drawn into the king’s arms.

Mercy claws for release. She struggles against the bonds restraining her. One thought fills her mind, freeing herself from the king’s grasp. She must reach Graysen. Her brother, he can’t leave her. Not now. Not like this.

“Shh. Brother.” Tanager catches Graysen before his body hits the ground. “You should have listened. You all should have.”

“End him,” King Alexander orders. “Now.”

Tanager’s hand hovers for several seconds. He twists the blade, side to side. Two-handed, he slices Graysen from the navel to sternum.

Mercy twists free and takes several steps. She’s forced back into the king’s clutches.

“Still yourself.” The king tightens his grip. His fingers bite into her flesh.

“Tell me.” The sting of released rage bores a hole through her heart. “Why did you do it?” She struggles to stem the hot release of emotions streaming down her face. “My mother. My sire. Now, my brother. Why? Why did you kill my kin?”

“I am king, no one refuses me.”

“I don’t understand.” She fights to control her inner beast. “We’ve always served you and the land. My family. We’ve denied you nothing.”

“That is where you are wrong.” The king stands toe-to-toe with her. “By refusing to turn you over, they failed to uphold the terms of a treaty between humans and your kind.” King Alexander slithers a hand across her cheek.

“What are you talking about?”

“The prophecy.” He catches a tear on the tip of his finger and studies the reflective, clear fluid. “My bloodline was promised an heir a hundred years ago.” He whistles a bird call.

A guard closes the door and locks it.

“What does that have to do with me?”

“Everything.” King Alexander’s hot breath creeps over her skin. “Have you not heard the stories?” It makes her stomach churn. “You’re the first female born to your clan. Under the treaty, you belong to me.” The king staggers but regains his footing. “Make no mistake, you will bear me an heir.”

“Nay. I won’t.” The dullness in the king’s eyes signals the effectiveness of the dart’s sedative, milk of the poppy.

“You will.” The king’s hand slides down her arm.

“Don’t touch me.” Mercy rips free of his grasp. She pulls a dagger from the king’s waistcoat and swings the blade at his face.

The king raises a steel-covered arm. He blocks her attack. “In time, you may even grow fond of being here.”

“Touch me again, I’ll gut you like a fish.”

King Alexander laughs. He lunges forward, wrapping a hand around her wrist. “I shall enjoy taming you in and out of bed.”

Mercy, dagger in hand, slices the blade across the man’s exposed palm. She plunges the weapon between the armor slits covering his shoulder and bicep.

Pivoting on the balls of her feet, she runs to the balcony.

She calls on her inner gargouille. Her skin turns a light shade of silver. For the first time in her life, she transforms in front of humans. She faces the king.

“So, it is true.” King Alexander wraps a cloth around his bleeding hand. “You are both beast and human.”

“What I am is of no concern of yours.”

The king shouts, “Retrieve her. Remember, I want her alive, unharmed.”

Her wings uncurl and expand. She takes one last look at her brother’s body.

His eyes, so dark and full of life moments ago, now appear as lifeless and empty as the boneless bear sprawled on the floor.

Sure-footed, Mercy perches on the rail of the balcony. She leaps into the air. Wings outstretched, she captures a gust. Her body twists, and she glides within an arm’s reach next to the stone building. Spinning, she rotates, seeking a new wind current to sweep her way.

An arrow whines next to her ear. A second one soon follows. Its pointed tip sinks into her shoulder below her collarbone.

A hot, searing heat rips through her flesh.

“Hold your fire,” Tanager shouts.

Catching the wind, she steers away from the castle but glances at the king. The motion pulls the skin taut over her back and arm.

The red feathers on the arrow draw her attention to the embedded weapon. She pulls and the shaft snaps in two.

Escape. It’s the singular thought spinning a web in Mercy’s mind. Don’t stop. She glances over a shoulder. Keep flying. Live to fight another day.

King Alexander leans over the balcony. “I know what you are. You will be mine.” He turns to a guard, snapping orders, “Track her. Bring her to me before dawn’s light.”

The king’s voice fades into the darkness.

Below her, a band of guards tracks her movement.

Mercy veers left, heading for the tree line. With luck, she’ll lose them in the forest.

A gust of wind pushes her upward.

The sharp movement sends a shock wave of pain shooting through her shoulder, down her arm, and into her back.

Mercy loses altitude as the guards giving chase draw closer.

A deep-rooted pain rips into her thigh. The shaft of another arrow fills her vision.

“Hold your fire, you idiots,” Tanager yells. “The king wants her alive.”

She struggles to stay in flight. Once she clears the edge of the forest, she manages another fifty yards before she tumbles to the ground.

A soft squeak sounds.

Mercy, still on her back, opens the pouch. “Meelo. Are you okay?”

Meelo chirps. He lightly nibbles on her fingertips.

In the distance, the steady cadence of the horses’ hooves pound against the ground. The howl of the hounds on her scent sends a shiver through her body.

“I’m sorry, little one.” Mercy closes the flap. “We can’t stay. It’s not safe.”

Mercy rises. She grabs the stalk lodged in her thigh. Pain engulfs her body. She girts her teeth. With a huff, she pulls the arrow free. Her vision blackens, but at least this time, the weapon remains intact.

A steady trickle of blood oozes from the shallow wound.

Don’t falter now. Freedom equates to avenging the wrongs, or so her brother would say. She slows her breathing. Aye. Death won’t come easy for those who spilled the life essence of blood. Nay. She’ll see to it personally.

Shoulders back, she flexes her wings.

Mercy launches into the air. A low-lying current shoots her upward. She fights to stay airborne.

A canopy of interwoven tree limbs rush to meet her. Nay. This isn’t happening. Wake up. It’s just a dream.

Squaring her shoulders, she spins to miss the trunk of a tree. Her foot clips a branch.

She’s sucked into the thicket below. Vines bigger around than her fingers ensnare her.

Meelo peeks from the pouch at her hip then scurries out. He chirps while clinging to a thin branch.

Mercy claws at the vegetation. Vine by vine, she liberates her body. Once released, she freefalls.

She slams into the leaf-covered soil.

A solid pop, followed by a jolt of pain in her shoulder, takes her breath away.

Okay. Perchance, it wasn’t the brightest idea.

Rolling onto her back, she stares at the night sky.

Traces of the blood moon peek through the interlaced crown of trees. Fleeing from the king’s guards isn’t how she’d envisioned the evening of her birthday.

Mercy draws in a deep breath. She skims a hand over her shoulder, wet with blood.

“Well, at least, nothing’s deformed or out of place,” she says, half-heartedly to Meelo, who chirps, again.

Mercy rotates her arm. Winces. Pain dulls her vision. Her surroundings spin. She falls to her knees.

Decaying leaves squish under her. Moisture seeps into the fabric of her pants, chilling her legs.

Focus and breathe. Come on. You can do this.

After taking several deep breaths, she grabs the trunk of a sapling. Slowly, she hauls herself to her feet. Head spinning, she quickly drops to her knees.

By the Gods, can it get any worse?

The forest doesn’t sound right.

Her ears twitch then perk. It’s quiet, too quiet.

She calls on her inner gargouille. Her hearing intensifies tenfold.

A rabbit in the bushes stops gnawing on a parsnip. In the tree overhead, a perched white owl grooms its feathers.

In the distance, horse hooves pound the ground. Men on foot pulsate in her ears. They’re gaining ground.

“Get up,” she says, barely above a whisper.

Overhead, Meelo chirps a series of high-pitched warnings.

“Okay. I hear you.” Rising, Mercy cradles her arm to her chest.

The yelp of dogs carry on the wind.

“Great. Just what I needed. Hounds.” She huffs hair out of her face then makes her way up an incline.

At the top of the muddy mound, the entrance of a cave comes into view. Hand over hand, she climbs the rocky formation, ignoring the throb in her shoulder. Slowly, she makes her way to the opening.

She stares at the blood-tinged mud covering her hands—her blood.

The hounds. It won’t take them long to sniff out the scent of fresh blood. It’ll lead them straight to her. She can’t stay. And she can’t fly, not with her injured arm.

Mercy glances at the vegetation, which offers little in the way of sanctuary. The water, crimson from the blood moon, shimmers in the darkness. Drawing in a deep breath, she plunges into its dark depths.

A fixed sting pulses at the site of her shoulder wound. Ignore it—it’ll go away, she tells herself. But the nagging sensation continues to grow with each stroke.

The undertow drags her to the bed of the channel.

She struggles against the current for several seconds before turning around. Downstream will produce better time. Plus, it’ll place less stress on my shoulder.

About every fifty yards, Mercy surfaces for a breath. She samples the night air for humans.

The narrow channel opens, and the undertow pulls at her body. Breaking the surface, she makes her way to the bank. She grabs a vine to pull herself out.

Mercy trudges along another incline. Her feet sink into a mixture of mud and leaves. Each step produces a slurping, sucking sound. Her progress slow.

On top of a small hill, in a clearing, stands an old tree next to a small watering hole.

A wave of vertigo hits. She staggers into the knotted and twisted trunk. Holding onto the bark, she tries to expel the fuzzy sensation swimming through her brain.

The tree. It’s warm under Mercy’s chilled hands.

She skims her fingers over the knotted bark. It’s pitted, yet smooth to the touch.

A fracture in the trunk draws her attention.

Peering into the fissure, she finds the opening runs from the first main branch to below the surface of the water and measures more than five feet around.

Mercy slips inside the crack. Floating, the cool liquid embraces her weightless body. Her skin takes on the silvery blue coloration surrounding her. She stares out into the forest.

A small head pops up. Two button-sized eyes hold her gaze.

“There you are, my little fur ball.” Mercy’s vision doubles. The trees, vegetation, and water, all swirl around her. “I thought I’d lost you, too.”

Meelo zips into the crack. He curls around Mercy’s neck.

“Don’t worry. I’ve got you.” She focuses on calming her pounding twin hearts. “I won’t let anyone hurt you.” Her eyes brim with tears. “I promise.”

Wildlife chirps in her ears like an orchestra.

The heavy-laden steps of King Alexander’s guards trample the ground. Every movement they make pounds in her head. She cups her ears and wills the sounds to dissipate.

They won’t quit searching. The king won’t stop.

The coppery aroma of blood fills her nose. It’s not just hers. Nay. She can smell her brother’s life essence mixed with hers. Images of her mother, sire, and brother flash through her mind. Tears emerge from the corners of her lids.

“Please. Gods of the new and old.” She skims a hand over the smooth surface of the tree. “I don’t know what to do.” Tears stream across her cheeks.

Words whisper in the recesses of her mind, ‘Are you sad? Be you lonely?’ They’re foreign, but offer a sliver of comfort in the darkness. ‘To my words, listen ever so closely.’


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Alkira Joan: I omg I am honestly speechless I couldn't stop cry it's so sad I wish it had a better ending and they would all be happy and the end is their going to be a second book?thanks for the amaZing story xoxox

deniserudolp: Breath of fresh air.....reading so many story's and wonderful writers. ...A story comes along as this that had me frustrated. ..hurt. ...In love. .and overjoyed all into one book ....wonderful story...that you can read over and over....and nd enjoy every time.

Krupa Kataria: the detailing is really awesome ....the characters, ur plots jst too Awsm ,m waiting for the further chapters please do complete it ...like m really craving for those ones ...great job with words too ..please complete the further parts ...

annie08c: I really like this story, I can relate to it a lot and with how she feels, the boyfriend and the events that happened but I'm a little bit younger. It was really good plot, really liked how you stuck to the topic and you had a new title for every chapter making me guess what's going to happen. Ma...

jessiehs: This was absolutely amazing. I loved how it went back and forth between perspectives. I actually cried at the end I was so happy. This was amazing. I can't even think of another word to describe it. Thank you for writing his.

Dessie Williams: loved the book. the plot the characters all just great.I think it's a must read. once you start this book it's hard to put down. hope it gets published....I think this book is a must read.great job!!!!

emmaneal74: I loved this booked. Would definitely buy it when published and read it again. The story flowed in such a way I just couldn't put it down. I was never confused about the characters or their roles in the story which can happen sometimes with so many lead. I'd recommend this to anyone wanting to r...

daneliacapote116: This was one of my favorites! When you start reading you want to continue I can't wait for the rest of the novel!! The characters where awesome! Everything was great. I encourage you to read this novel, your going to love it it and want to read it more and more !!

Alex Rushmer: This was not what I expected, but I enjoyed it a lot Malfoy was always one of the characters that I liked a lot, so I like that a lot of this happens between him and Colette. I read the first couple chapters, and I enjoyed your writing style and am excited to see where you take this story. My com...

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zoheusher20: What more can I say? The writing style and little details drew me into the book and for the entirety of the story I was Juliet. I felt her turmoil and emotions and every trouble or triumph as they arrived. This story was very different and had quite a few little but unexpected twists that made it...

263Adder: Okay so I adore this story. I only knocked one star off plot for historical inaccuracies because I'm a bit of a stickler for that. The ending broke my heart though, considering you already changed history couldn't you (SPOILER) change it a bit more and have them together!!!! I want an alternative...

Sabrina Ettey: The story plot is great. I loved it. Just the grammar punctuation and writing style was kind of distracting. But with the smooth polishing, it may shine like a pearl. :)

littlebunnypoopoos: Omg this was so amazing! The ending was a little bad and predictable. But otherwise, I need a second book or I'll die :D The character development was excellent and the whole romance, action, and suspense was superb

Marimar Amieva: I just can't believe the story! I absolutely loved it, all of it. The characters and their chemistry between them, and the fact that they are relatable. The story also has some sick plot twists, which I never saw coming. I loved the fact that it is an adorable love story but has its mystery touc...

ernbelle: When I first started this story I was a little unsettled by all of the information that appears in the prologue, and wasn't sure if I would continue. However, I am very glad I did. The plot was very well thought out and really interesting. There were not any page breaks or markers to acknowledge ...

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