Merry Christmas! As Christmas Gift, I decided to post the first chapter from Daughter of the Dark. It is been edited by me, but not by an editor. So it will probably be different when the book is released in Spring 2014.
Standing in the shadows, I watched the house on the other side of the street. The imposing brick house with its walled garden looked like the rest of the houses in this neighborhood. But that was just the surface, beneath the surface I sensed the wards. If I activated the sight, a rainbow of colors would meet my gaze.
I winced in sympathy. Unlike most of the realms, this realm’s had very low of Elemental magic. In other words, using Elemental magic for spells hurt. A lot. The owner had put a lot of effort in the magic defenses. Why? Why would someone ward a residence?
Unease slithered down my spine. Maybe it is the wrong house.
I dug into the pocket of my tunic, and got out the wrinkled paper scrap. I squinted at Toni’s uneven writing.
Loraine Street 14. I glanced at the street sign. The letters gleamed silver in the moon light.
Yep. That’s here.
I froze when the eeringly familiar howls echoed in the distance.Calm down, Jenny, I told myself. It isn’t Dhu Annwi. Not here.Still, I couldn’t shake off the clawing instinct that it was the Dhu Annwn. All tales about the Dhu Annwi had one thing in common: No one survived their bite.
I shook off the unease.You cannot loiter in the shadows all night, Jenny girl. Get in, deliver the message, get out.
I looked up when I heard the heavy thread of boots against stone. I cursed softly when I saw the Watchman that was approaching.Too late. At least the Dhu Annwi will not be able to get me if I’m in the arrest. It was a faint comfort.
I smiled wanly at him.
“ I wasn’t doing anything,” I said and did my best to look innocent.
The guard grunted, and grabbed my wrist.His hand slid down to his belt. I held my breath. Please don’t cuff me. The cuffs gleamed silver in the moonlight.Steel or silver didn’t matter, they would burn my skin.
Relief filled me when he didn’t unhook his cuffs.. The relief turned to confusion when he escorted me across the street. The tall gates opened when we approached. The moment we stepped through the gates, the house lit up.
Stunned, I stared at it. My mind boggled at how much shamanic magic they must have used, to create an illusion like that. Shamanic Magic was as powerful as Elemental Magic, but it could be fickle.
The wards tingled against my skin, when we entered the building.
I looked around wide-eyed in the foyer. It was filled with people, some going, some coming.What is this place? It clearly wasn’t the residence Tony had claimed it was.The guard stopped in front of a curved desk, made of gleaming dark wood.
“ The Drow that the Director wanted to see is here,” he told the blonde behind the desk
My heart stopped. There were only one person in all the realms that was called the Director. IDB. Tony helped them. Tony helped them.
I choked down the bile that rose in my throat.Why, Tony? I forced myself to take a deep breath.If I felt betrayed, it was nothing compare to how betrayed his employer would feel if they found out.
” Wait here. I’ll check. What’s your name?” the blonde asked me.
” Jenny McNeill.” After all these years, it felt natural giving the alias I used, when I dealt with, well, everyone.
Every Drow was taught names are power from childhood. . Because of this, I had opted to take another name during my exile. If not, my mothers assassins would have found me within hours.
I looked up when I heard footsteps approaching. The man coming towards me was dressed in a dark brown doublet and trousers, both made of finely woven wool.I knew that the wool was expensive. Very expensive. The money I would get if I sold it, would feed me and Rhiane for months, maybe even a year if we lived frugally.
“ Jenny McNeil?” The man asked, a trace of impatience in his voice.
“ Follow me. The Director is waiting.”
Filled with apprehension, I followed him. We walked up curved stairs, the dark wood in the bannister gleamed in the lamplight. Our footsteps were muffled by the carpet. We passed by exits to other floors. I assumed they contained offices, and interrogation rooms. My heart started to beat harder, the higher up we came. When we reached the top floor, it was beating so fast that I thought it could be heard by the whole building. As we walked down the hallway, I stared at the plain door in the other end. It looked like it led to a closet. I knew it wasn’t. It was the inner sanctuary of IDB. The room where their most important decisions were made.
Aren’t you proud? A mere runner are being allowed inside. I choked down the hysterical laughter bubbling in my throat. Runners weren’t criminals. Not exactly. But we weren’t picky about the jobs we accepted either.
The man knocked on the door.
“ Enter”, a male voice called out.
A chill offoreboding, crawled down my spine. I wanted to weep when I felt it. I had felt it twice before, and both times my life had changed profoundly.
In that moment, I wished I could turn around and flee to Thyria. Which was a sign of how nervous I was. Normally, I avoided Thyria best I could. Thyria… isn’t the best place for mages, no matter how minor. I pushed away all thoughts of running away and stepped inside.
I swallowed nervously when I heard the door closed behind me. The roomwas deceptively plain. The shelves lining the walls looked like they were made of Mountain fir. Hard to get in the south.Come to think about it, hard to get in the north too. Carpept had the vivid abstract patterns that signified dwarven carpets. I glanced around, and spotted a sword from the elves, and a hammered shield. He has something from all the realms. Does he has something from Dhurig too?
When I reached the desk, I realised that he had something for Dhurig. Himself.Oh, he wasn’t a full-blooded Dhur elf. He was too bulky, his features too square. I also knew that the Archpriestess wouldn’t have permitted a male to reach such a powerful position. And even if she didn’t find out, the elves would have sent out assassins.
“ Sit”. The director gestured at the chair. I eyed the chair. It looked like it would break if I sat down on it. I shrugged. The worst that could happen was that it broke. I sat down gingerly, holding my breath. When it didn’t break, I let out a relieved sigh.
“ I have wanted to meet you for a time, but you have been elusive.”
I forced myself to calmly meet his gaze. Inwardly I cursed my bad luck. I had done everything in my power to avoid attention, since my and Rhiane’s life depended on that.. “ Are you really a drow?”
I stared at him. I had excepted anything but that.Most people I met assumed I was half-elf, since elves didn’t have dark hair. .
” Yes. I am a Drow.”
The Director looked sceptical.
My temper flared.
“ Do you want me to summon the shadow of Gwynfar to prove it?” I added before I could stop myself.
The Shadow of Gwynfar was a gruesome summoning, that killed everyone in a limited area.
” It isn’t necessary,” he hurried to assure me.
I hid my relief. The ritual was dangerous, and required more knowledge about the Scripture than I had.
The director glanced at the papers in front of him.
” The reason for my inquiry is that I have a job for you,” the Director explained.
I gave him a suspicious look.
” What kind of job?”
” I am in need of a runner,” he hedged.
I choked back a snort. Even an IDB agent can manage to deliver a message.
” It isn’t as if it is a hard job, so why don’t you ask an agent,” I suggested
The Director shook his head.
” Normally I would do that. But in this case, this isn’t an option.”
Unease filled me. The IDB had jurisdiction in all the realms. It might be a grudging jurisdiction, but they had it.
” Why?” I forced out.
He hesitated briefly.
“ I need a package delivered to Dhurig”, he said.
My jaw dropped.
Why? Why is he sending a messenger to Dhurig? The questions burned on my tongue, but somehow I managed to swallow them. I also knew that I would never accept his offer. Even if the Dhu Annwi had found me, death by their bite would be painful but quick. Unlike the one planned by my- the Arch-priestess.
“I’m sorry, but I’ll never return to Dhurig”, I said flatly.
” I’ll make it worth your time”, the Director offered.
I hesitated. Confronting the Arch-priestess would mean that I would be able to stop looking over the shoulder all the time. No. It isn’t worth being indebted to IDB. Not in the long run. I had other options if I needed protection. Tony would help me. Or Eric. Pain flared at the thought of Eric. Even if our relationship ended badly, I knew he would help me.
“ No. I am sorry, but I’ll have to decline.”.”
The Director nodded and scribbled something on a card. .
“ If you change your mind, you can reach me on this number.”
I stared at the tiny card he handed me. A series of symbols were printed on it. It is his private scrying rune, I realized. There were a number of persons that would pay me a lot of money for this information.
I shook off the temptation, and pocketed the card. I stood up, and nodded curtly. When I stepped outside, my escort was waiting for me.I wasn’t surprised. We walked downstairs to the lobby. When we reached the lobby, he stopped and turned to me.
” You will change your mind about the Director’s offer”, he said calmly.
I gave him a wary look. What does he know that I don’t? He is an IDB agent. He knows a lot of things that you don’t.
“ I doubt that will happen,” I told him.
Before he could answer, I walked away. A part of me expected him to follow me across the lobby, but he didn’t. I opened the doors, and stepped outside.