Authors: Lindsay Avalon
Breaking the Nexus
Copyright © 2012 Lindsay Avalon
Cover image by Miranda Stork, Copyright 2012
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without prior written permission of the publisher.
This book is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogue are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead is entirely coincidental.
For my husband, the love of my life,
who pushed me, encouraged me, reassured me, and always believed in me.
Special thank you goes first to my amazing husband for loving me, supporting me, and always believing in me. Thank you will never be enough. Love you forever!
This book would not be possible if not for the help of many people. Every person who has shared my journey on Facebook, my blog and Twitter helped make this amazing dream come true. I’d name you all if I could, but that would take up an entire book itself.
Thank you to Meghan for pushing me to do NaNoWriMo, and to Andrea and Phoebe for being the bestest friends I could ever ask for. Love to the rest of my family for always encouraging my love of reading!
Thank you to Tara and Miranda for your critiques that pushed me to better my writing. Kristie, you rock and always have my back. Trish, you make me smile no matter what may be happening in your life. Caroline, you are one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met. You’ve been invaluable as a beta reader *hugs* All of my beta readers are phenomenal and I love you all. Milly, you are a blast and I hope one day we can meet in Disney World!! Catherine, you are such a wealth of encouragement and friendship. Mary Sue, I love you sweetie. You never fail to cheer me up, even if you didn’t know I needed it. Cinta, you are so much fun and almost as crazy as me :)
Every one of my beta readers, thank you for reading quickly every time I’d send it to you. Jo, Caroline, Jennifer, Shadow, Teracia, and Carrie, you guys are awesome!
Thank you Vickie, Regan, and Kallypso, you guys were my inspiration to even take on this journey.
Miranda and Joni, words don’t exist for how awesome your artistic abilities are and your patience with me hitting you up for things. Love you both to pieces!!
A very special thank you to Carrie. You’ve been my personal cheerleader, butt kicker, and assistant. Chica, you have no idea how amazing it was to have you as I pushed the last few weeks to finish this book. Michaela, I know it’ll be a while before you can read my book, but I hope it lives up to your expectations. Thank you for your enthusiasm and ideas!
To all the rest of my lovelies, I’m sorry I couldn’t name each of you. I’m in awe of your support and friendship and without you, I’d have no reason to try to publish my work.
Fire leapt toward the sky as a massive explosion rocked the earth. For a few minutes chaos reigned while animals raced from the blast zone and the night air was filled with a cacophony of panicked cries.
“What the hell was that?” Luca looked more than a little shaken as he picked himself off the ground.
“If I had to guess, I’d say something went ‘BOOM!’ What’s the matter, Luca? You’re looking pretty pale there. Tsk, tsk, not the best look for a fearless bad ass.” Sha didn’t bother to hide her grin. To be fair, since he was Elven hailing from the southern regions, his olive complexion showed only the barest hint of pallor. But she’d just keep that to herself. No, it was much more fun to get a rise out of him while his moss green eyes were still wild with shock.
“Very funny. I saw you dive for cover just like me. Don’t try to deny you were just muttering a prayer for forgiveness to the Seven Founders,” Luca snapped. “You do realize that you have leaves stuck in your hair, right?”
“Crap.” She’d never admit it, but there might have been a moment when she considered making amends for past sins. And while she might have ducked down quickly during the explosion, she wouldn’t call it
for cover. Cursing, she struggled to untangle the leaves from her thick, golden hair. The streaks of ocean blue signifying her status as an Aquarum Sorceri were imperceptible beneath the crushed foliage. Wonderful. Just her luck, there’d be some sort of creepy bugs crawling around in there.
“Is that a spider I see?”
“What, where?” Her hands raced around her head, desperate to locate and eliminate
the hideous creature. It took her a moment to realize the asshole was now doubled over in laughter. “I hate you, you know that?”
“Sorry, couldn’t resist. Everyone knows how much you hate spiders so I—oomph” Breath whooshed out as she elbowed him in the stomach.
“Sorry, couldn’t resist. I think the blast originated in that clearing.” Glancing back, she was satisfied to see he still hadn’t regained his breath. Served him right.
“There’s a Gate…in that direction…isn’t there? Could it have come…from the Human Realm?”
Unlike Sha, Luca couldn’t sense the subtle vibrations emitted by the portals that connected the two realms, but he’d studied their locations during training so he could patrol the Nexus looking for weak spots. Lucky bastard, she thought as her head began to throb. Instead of steady pulsations, the energy was erratic, overwhelming her shields and driving into her brain like a knife. “Doubt it’s from the humans; it was too loud and bright. Mother Night, my head. I don’t know what’s going on with that Gateway, but we’d better go look.”
“We need to let the commander know what happened.”
“Don’t worry, we will. Besides, he’d have our heads if we didn’t ensure the entire forest didn’t go up in flames.” A sudden thought occurred to her. “Think we could make s’mores? I’ve always wanted to try them and I’ve heard they should be made over a campfire. Does that count you think?” She gestured toward the orange glow in front of them.
“Seriously? What is up with your fascination with all things human, Sha? It’s not natural. They don’t have gifts or magic or anything that makes them remotely interesting. They’re boring.”
She rolled her eyes. Her partner shared the opinion of most Mythrians. He was glad the Nexus had been erected millennia ago to separate the two realms. As far as he was concerned, the humans could live their quiet, little lives and continue believing their legends, myths, and fairytales had no basis in reality.
Shrugging, she continued in the direction of the apparent epicenter of the blast. “Considering it is our responsibility to make sure no one can get through the Gateways in the Nexus, I would think it’d be advisable to study the humans.” She snuck a glance at him, wondering if he’d bought the rehearsed speech and grateful it was a moonless night as she felt her cheeks begin to burn.
More times than she could count, she’d cursed the fact that she hadn’t inherited her father’s complexion. That would have made life so much easier. But no, she had to take after her mother with skin so pale that during training she had been nicknamed The Ghost. Well, until she’d flattened the other trainees with a flame surge. Her lips quirked at the memory. Never underestimate one of the Infernum.
“I know plenty about them. They have no magic, they have no idea there is any other realms besides their own, and they think we are nothing more than silly stories they hear as children.”
She took a moment to concentrate and formed a soft, glowing orb of light to illuminate their path. “Don’t you think it’s interesting that we have protected them for all these years and nobody really knows why?” From the day she had joined the Sentinels she had adored the archives, which housed everything Mythrians knew about the humans and their ever evolving technologies.
“I would say it’s more interesting that you care so much, but then I’ve always known you were a bit strange in the head.”
Sha pinned him with a withering glare that only resulted in Luca doubling over with laughter. “You better watch it, Lucarion. Otherwise I’ll be forced to tell Soren you’ve been shirking your duties.”
“Using my full name
vague threats? I’m scared, truly.”
“Remind me to blast you later.”
As they neared the clearing, Sha focused on picking up any trace magical signatures in the vicinity, leaving her partner to visually scan and communicate with nearby animals. She envied the Elves for their ability to speak to animals as well as their enhanced night vision. Not that she was afraid of the dark or anything, she just preferred being able to see everything around her. Especially things that could eat or pulverize her.
“You’re not still afraid of the dark, are you? You’ll give yourself a migraine concentrating so hard.”
For someone with telepathic abilities that supposedly only worked on animals, he had the most obnoxious ability to read her mind. “I am
afraid of the dark; I just happen to like seeing where I’m going. Besides, need I remind you of your fear of chickens?”
“I’ll have you know chickens can be quite vicious when pissed off. And you have a spider on your shoulder.”
Sha prided herself on her calm, rational reaction. Rather than slapping at her shoulder, she took a deep breath…and vaporized the offensive creature. Seeing that Luca had gone still, she frowned. “What’s wrong?”
The instant the words left her mouth, she realized the energies emanating from the Gateway had changed, growing stronger. There was an undercurrent of dark magic that troubled her, but before she could explore it further, alarms rang in her mind. “Shit, the Gateway’s destabilizing.”
His mouth settled into a grim line. “Call for backup.”
Trusting Luca to watch her back, she tried to locate the mental thread that ran to their commander. An invisible fist punched her mind, driving shards of glass into her brain.
Mother Night, that hurt.
“Sha!” The sharp tone penetrated the haze of pain and gave her something to latch onto long enough to come out of her stupor.
“Fine, I’m fine. Raging migraine to end all migraines, but it’ll pass.”
“I take it you couldn’t reach the commander?”
She bit back the bitchy retort that welled up. It had been a fair question after all. “Something just attacked, something strong to have gotten through my shields. I think we’re on our own for now.”
“Do we keep going or head back for reinforcements?”
“If that Gate falls, it will rip open part of the Nexus. Nothing like that has happened for centuries so it’s hard to predict the consequences.”
“I’m betting nothing good. Alright, I’ll send one of the wolves to headquarters instead. It’s not the best solution, but it should bring help, especially if one of the watch happens to be Elven.”
“Do it. I’ll see if I can shore up the Gate.”
Sha continued into the clearing, dread weighing down on her with every step. It made no sense that the Gateway could be this unstable; daily patrols ran every area containing portals through the Nexus since they introduced vulnerabilities in the barrier. There was no way it could have degraded to the point of collapse this quickly, at least not by natural means. Someone was working very hard to compromise it, but what the hell did they hope to gain?
Metal overpowered her senses, filling her mouth with the bitter tang, the scent of it enough to make her eyes water.
, blood magic! Seconds later, the world exploded.
Sha floated, surrounded by a cold, dark abyss.
This must be death
It was rather peaceful in a way and at least she didn’t hurt. The thought hadn’t finished forming when jagged shards of pain radiated through her body.
By the flame
; this was almost as bad as mage fire. She clenched her teeth, pride the only thing keeping her scream of agony locked in her throat. She wasn’t dead, though whether that was a blessing or a curse remained to be seen.
Forcing herself to steady her breathing, the deafening roar in her ears subsided to a low howl as she worked to push aside the pain. Backlash was brutal; the Gate must have collapsed, sending out a wave of raw energy that her mind had attempted to absorb. Talk about sensory overload, it was a minor miracle she still had her wits about her.