Authors: Madison Adler,Carmen Caine
Tags: #teen, #Young Adult, #teen romance, #YA, #fae, #Paranormal, #Contemporary, #Romance, #Fantasy, #faerie, #chick lit, #fairy, #mythology, #urban fantasy
Behind The Mirror
The Return of the Ancients Series
Bento Box Books - First Edition
Bento Box Books
Copyright © 2011 by Madison Adler
Bento Box Books Edition License Notes
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Behind The Mirror
The Queen of the Dark stood on the edge of the cliff, her arms spread wide to embrace the violent storm sweeping over the land as her counterpart, the Queen of the Light, dispassionately watched the churning waves of the sea far below them.
They were both beautiful and dangerous, each possessing eyes that could skewer your soul like a dagger.
“Are we chaining Earth, or freeing it?” The Queen of the Dark cried above the raging winds.
The Queen of the Light bowed her head and answered her counterpart in a mind-whisper, “I pray it is freedom, dear Sister.”
“Then call Rafael,” The Queen of the Dark’s husky voice echoed softly in reply. “Let him walk the path of his destiny, and let us pray he is strong enough to resist temptations that would lead all to ruin. Let us begin this treacherous dance with Fate!”
The Queen of the Light lifted her face to the wild storm and closed her eyes. To send Rafael to Earth was a leap of faith for them all. But there were few choices left to them now. Raising her voice in a keening call above the high winds, she spoke the fateful words. “It is time!”
The Queen of the Dark dropped her arms and bowed her head, murmuring. “Yes, dear Sister. It is time.”
* * *
Rafael, Fate Tracker to the Queen of the Light, stood before his mirror, staring deeply at his reflection. Oblivious to his tall, athletic physique, strong jaw, and shoulder-length blond hair, he focused on his eyes, gray eyes rimmed with a healthy dose of black eyeliner.
Mirrors had many uses, but proper concentration upon the eyes allowed Fate Trackers to see reflections of their souls, enabling them to read the Threads of Fate.
After a moment, a smoky haze appeared on the mirror’s twenty-foot surface, followed by a series of images. The familiar form of a dark-haired girl with bright green eyes shimmered through the mist. No, she wasn’t really a girl any more but a young woman on the verge of adulthood.
“Sydney,” he murmured and frowned.
He wasn’t surprised to see her. Of late, she was always there. He knew exactly what it meant. It wasn’t a comforting thought, and it was enough to make him lose focus.
The image abruptly vanished.
A soft chime interrupted his thoughts and he tensed. Sliding a graceful finger over the mirror’s surface, a new picture revealed the unexpected guest to be his mother, Zelphie.
Rafael’s frown deepened.
His mother rarely visited.
Leaving his mirror, he strode into the adjoining room where his Doberman, Ajax, snoozed on a red circular couch. He paused and smiled at the animal fondly.
The ability to communicate with animal minds was the only thing he enjoyed about being a Fate Tracker. The rest of it was more of a burden than a gift. It was not a pleasurable thing to stand by and watch as other’s fateful choices led to suffering. He sighed, grateful that his own fate, at least, remained veiled from his eyes.
The chime sounded again, shaking him from his reverie, and he moved to stand next to a soft gray wall. Under his light touch, a small hole appeared to widen into a door, and his mother entered. She was blonde, gray-eyed, and tall. He had inherited her looks and unusual height.
“My dear child,” Zelphie greeted him with a distracted kiss on the cheek. “You are summoned.”
“Summoned?” Rafael knit his brows. He glanced down at the thin golden bracelet circling his wrist. He hadn’t received any messages.
“A verbal request only,” Zelphie explained, reading his confusion. “The Queens, both of them, have ordered that you be sent to Earth.”
Rafael caught his breath.
Ajax leapt from the couch on full alert. The fur along the ridge of his back rose as his black eyes widened.
“You cannot go to Earth.” Rafael heard the animal’s voice deep in his mind. “Remember Melody’s last words to you and Jareth!”
Rafael drew his lips in a thin line.
Dispatched some three years ago to Earth on a secret mission, Melody, his mentor and the most learned Fate Tracker of them all, had given him a strict order never to follow her. He could still hear her shrill warning as she had addressed him, along with his fellow student, Jareth, Fate Tracker to the Queen of the Dark.
“Rafael, Jareth, I must leave now to seek a Blue-Threaded girl on Earth. Never have I seen such a fate line on any creature. Her fate could bring the ultimate disaster upon us all!”
“Would it be better if she does not live?” Jareth had asked in his dark way.
Rafael had sent him a disapproving look and said, “You know well that as a Blue Thread, her fate is a double-edged sword. While she may bring disaster, she could also bring about the ultimate triumph. You cannot dispose of her simply because her fate is blue!”
“Silence!” Melody had cut in. “Enough of this competition between the both of you! The two of you must now work together! We are on the threshold of strange events. This Blue Thread is highly unusual … Her fate has reached us now, and especially you, Rafael, you must be cautious!” Melody had gripped his hand tightly, so hard that her nails had dug into his flesh. “Her blue line entwines with yours, and I’m sure it means that the two of you must never meet. Do you understand? If you phase-shift to Earth, we must all tremble, for our destiny will have taken a turn toward disaster! Remember, Rafael, you know what we protect here. You cannot love a human!”
“What is it, child?” Zelphie’s quiet voice broke into his thoughts.
“I cannot go to Earth.” He shook his head resolutely. “I will tell the Queens that I must refuse.”
* * *
“You have no choice,” the Queen of the Light informed Rafael coldly. She stood high above him on the marble dais, clothed in flowing white silks bedecked with jewels, and myriad of seed pearls studded the blonde cascade of curls falling down her back. She glistened like the stars as she paced before him.
“You cannot refuse.” The Queen of the Dark’s eyes flashed dangerously as she rose swiftly from her throne, the silver-spangled black velvets of her skirt swirling about her like a cloud. “We order you to leave at once!”
Rafael clenched his jaw. Remaining on bended knee, he repeated, “I cannot. The danger would be too great. You must send another.”
A long silence fell in the Great Hall of the Queens, a hesitation that Rafael found unusual. The Queens were usually quick and decisive. He waited patiently.
At last, the Queen of the Light said, “There are no more Fate Trackers left to send. There has been … an accident.”
Rafael jerked. His gray eyes widened in alarm. “An accident?”
The Queen of the Light turned away from him as the Queen of the Dark took her place. “The other Fate Trackers are dead. Only you and Jareth remain. And now that we have received Melody’s distress signal, you must join him on Earth to find her. She does not have long to live.”
Astounded, Rafael rose unbidden to his feet. “This cannot be!”
“It is!” the Queen of the Dark replied harshly.
“But if so, then it is imperative that I remain to protect you both!” Rafael shifted his focus quickly in order to read the Queens’ fate lines.
Like all living creatures, there were many white fate lines flowing through them—lines that only Fate Trackers could see, lines that changed with each decision made. Reading someone’s fate was nearly impossible as the intricate tapestry of possibilities often proved endless.
But their lines were astounding. The Queens had always walked a perilous path with fate, but something had recently changed. The twisted lines of danger surrounded them now, closing in about them. Startled, he gasped, “How can I even think of leaving you? I must—”
“You must go!” the Queens ordered in unison. And then the Queen of the Light returned to stand before him.
“You and Jareth are both very young,” she said. “But we have no choice.”
Rafael frowned. They clearly had choices. He could see the lines flowing around and through them, but they were apparently choosing to walk the dangerous path. Why?
At once, both Queens turned upon him. “Cease the intrusion!” they ordered as one. “You may not read our fate!”
Hastily, Rafael averted his gaze. Something was not right. It was his place to assist them, protect them from danger, but they seemed intent upon sending him away.
“Jareth cannot find Melody alone.” The Queen of the Dark’s husky voice broke into his thoughts. “His search has proven fruitless. You must find her, and you have little time.”
Thinking of Melody’s warning, Rafael took a deep breath.
At that, both Queens turned their eyes upon him.
They were Mind Whisperers, possessing the ability to sift through thoughts. Already, he could hear their voices inside his head. “What do you fear, Rafael? Do you fear what Melody saw in her mirror? Do you fear the human girl that could undo us all?”
He swallowed, stepping back, refusing to let them remain in his mind. He could not let them see that he already knew where and who the human girl was.
They would give the order to destroy her.
In his heart, he knew that this human girl, Sydney, was a key, the key to Melody, certainly, but a key to something bigger. Her fate line, though blue, was strong and powerful, leading to a destiny that he had not been able to follow yet. He had been hiding this knowledge and her identity for years, since the moment he had found her himself, the day before Melody had left for Earth. He still didn’t know why he had kept it secret.
“What do you withhold from us?” The Queens’ voices seared through his mind.
Firmly, Rafael refused them further entry and countered, “Why send me? Give Jareth more time.”
Leaving his mind, the Queens’ soft voices echoed in the audience chamber. “We cannot lose the information that Melody carries within her. You must hurry. What she knows is more important than any danger we may face here without you.”
He stared at them standing before him, regal, imposing and powerful. They were watching him suspiciously now, obviously wondering why he refused to let them sift through his thoughts. He
stay now. They would search his mind and find Sydney, and upon finding her, they would not hesitate to order her demise.
Yet, could he ignore Melody’s dire warning?
Could she have been mistaken? And if she weren’t, could he change the outcome that she had foreseen? Could he be strong enough to change the tides of fate?
Sydney’s face flashed through his mind. He knew her fate line had already entwined with his. There was no other explanation for her continual appearance in his mirror. He just hadn’t wanted to admit it. At this point, setting foot on Earth would probably make little difference.
“Let us see into your mind, Rafael.” The Queens’ voices once again whispered through his thoughts.
Rafael staggered back.
He could not let them kill her.
not let them kill her.
Drawing himself to his full height, he mounted the steps to the dais and towered over the Queens. “I will do as you order, my Queens. I will go.”
They were pleased.
Both of their lips opened to form the imperious reply, “Then leave at once!”
* * *
Rafael walked slowly back to his quarters, lost in thought and feeling more than a little shaken. What had he done? Had he made the worst of errors?
As he stepped through the door, Ajax took one look at him and lifted his lip, snarling. “This is foolish!” The dog’s growl filtered through Rafael’s thoughts. “Why risk all for a mere human girl? Jareth was right. She should have been disposed of immediately!”
“Enough, Ajax!” Rafael frowned.
“I would know why you risk us all. It is a fair question,” the Doberman insisted. His lip had curled back in displeasure, revealing his white teeth.
“Because I see something different in her Threads of Fate,” Rafael replied tightly. “I cannot explain it, but there are lines there that could be chosen, for the
of us all! How dare we forget that simply because of the danger?”