Authors: Eliza Tilton
he fastest way to Luna Harbor was down the main trade route that paralleled the Great River. With soldiers and war about, the rode would be packed with both friend and foe. Keeping my cowl tight, and my great sword visible on my back, I rode the horse as hard and fast as I could without running him dead.
Three long days it took to reach the seaside village. I had only visited the harbor once, as a boy. My father had to deliver a delicate order that he refused to send with a carrier. I remembered visiting Harold’s shop near the beginning of town. The years hadn’t done much to change the place. The windows were cluttered with more displays of beaded necklaces and sparkling bracelets, but the old wooden sign that read open matched exactly.
I tied my horse to a rail outside and entered. “Hello?”
A man with red hair and pale skin walked out from the back. Too young to be Jeslyn’s grandfather.
“I’m looking for Jeslyn.”
“Who are you?” He eyed me with caution.
“Derrick Blackstone. Here at her father’s bidding. She hasn’t sent word home in weeks. He wanted to make sure she was okay. Is she here?”
“I’m Beckett.” The man flipped the wooden sign to closed and waved me away from the door. “She’s been missing for weeks.”
“And you didn’t think to tell anyone?”
He held his hands out, urging me to lower my voice. “I returned from our last run, and they were both gone. At first, I thought Harold had left for another voyage and took Jeslyn with him. She’s been begging to go for months, but when I asked Ms. Gen—”
“Who’s Ms. Gen?”
“The baker. She and Harold are close. She said Jeslyn left with a boy named Edward.”
I shook my head. If that were true, I wasted all this time. Once again, Jeslyn didn’t need saving. “I’ll let her father know.”
“Wait. I don’t think she did, and I think something happened to Harold.” Beckett scratched his head and squinted. “After a week or two, I decided to come in here. Harold wouldn’t have let his granddaughter go off with some boy, and he wouldn’t leave the shop closed without telling me. It didn’t sit well.”
“What do you think happened?”
“I checked upstairs and found a small bloodstain on the floor in Jeslyn’s room. Since then, I’ve been reaching out to my contacts—not a word on either of them.”
Lucy was right.
“I need to close shop and return home. You’re welcome to stay the night. We can talk more in the morning.”
“Thank you, but I’m going to stay at the inn. Someone must know something.”
Beckett nodded. “Goodnight then.”
I left the shop, questions chasing each other in my mind. Where would they have gone? Jeslyn cared about her family, and she wasn’t reckless. She never would’ve run off, especially after her kidnapping.
“Believe me now?”
Lucy leaned against the building, her dark cloak hiding everything but her wicked smirk.
“What are you doing here?”
She pushed off the wall and walked beside me. “Looking for my brother.”
“Why don’t you use magic?” I wanted this witch away from me.
have a handy locator spell? If not, I’m stuck searching the more traditional way.”
“We should speak with the baker.”
“Whether you want to admit it or not, ‘we’ are on the same path. No reason to fight it.”
The piercing blue in her eyes shimmered beneath the moonlight. Deceptive, dangerous, and too beautiful for her own good. “Why would you need my help, shifter?”
While she styled herself as a stunning girl with raven hair, she was a trickster, a shapeshifter—a creature to be killed,
regarded as an ally, however temporary the status.
“Because this little mission is a secret. I can’t have certain people finding out. Plus, traveling alone is so boring.” She patted my chest. “Go sleep and take a bath. You smell like a mule.”
As she sauntered toward the inn, I sniffed my shirt. I did stink.
I woke just before dawn in hopes of outrunning Lucy, but when I walked outside, she was propped up against a tree, chomping an apple.
“Morning.” She winked.
“Don’t do that.”
“Do what? Are you hungry?” She tossed me an apple, and I caught it with my left hand.
“Don’t act like we’re friends.”
She pouted. “We’re not?”
“I don’t have time for this. Jeslyn could be in danger.”
“I thought she wasn’t your problem anymore.” Lucy smirked, and I shoved past her.
“Baker is over there.” She pointed down the street.
Which she was—and opening the door as we came near.
“Good morning,” she said. “What can I get you two?”
“I’m a friend of Jeslyn’s,” I said before Lucy could—I didn’t like the way she eyed Ms. Gen. “Come from Lakewood for a visit. Do you know where she is?”
“She’s with that boy, Edward.”
“What does Edward look like?” Lucy asked.
“About your height, dark hair, and the brightest blue eyes I’ve ever seen.”
Lucy raised an eyebrow at me. From what I recalled, Lucino was blond, and I couldn’t remember what his eyes looked like, but why did that matter?
“Where were they going?” Lucy glared at the woman, stepping closer.
The baker’s eyes glazed over. “They went on a trip.” She recited the words more than spoke them.
“She’s under Lucino’s charm spell,” Lucy whispered to me. “Tell me everything about the last time you saw Jeslyn. From when she walked in until she left,” she sang, and Ms. Gen blinked.
My tattoo pulsed, heating my chest and neck. The tattoo covered my left side and traveled over my shoulder, the image of a black, withered tree, dripping blood. My father had no idea I had stolen a few of the blood crystals. The pain made up for it, quite unlike anything I’d ever felt or would feel again if I were lucky, but I was protected. No one would trick me with their voice or bend me to their will. So was the hope. I didn’t know how immune I was since Lucy was the first magic user I encountered, but I prayed to The Creator I’d be protected from all of them.
“Jeslyn and Edward came in the morning,” Ms. Gen said. “Right before I opened the shop. She said Harold had been kidnapped, and they were going after him.” A tear slid down her cheek. “Edward warned me not to tell anyone, and if anyone asked, just to say that they had gone on a voyage. Oh Harold.” She clutched the rag in her hand and cried.
“Thank you,” I said. “We’re going to find them. Promise.”
We left the baker, and I kicked a stone by the shop.
“How could Jeslyn go after Harold alone?” Was she that reckless?
“She’s not alone. If she’s with my brother, she’s more protected than most humans.”
I raked my hands through my hair. It was getting too long. A close crop was what kept it out of my eyes while smithing.
“Go speak with the man in the shop again,” Lucy said. “Find out why anyone would want to kidnap her grandfather. I’ll ask around the inn.”
I nodded. It was the best lead we had.
ucy had better luck at the inn than I did with Beckett. He said Harold knew the location of a valuable gem, but nothing more. Lucy found out mercenaries had crossed through the town at the same time Jeslyn went missing. These weren’t just hired men; they worked for The Nomad King—the man leading the mage rebellion.
If the mercenaries took Harold, and Jeslyn went after him, it meant we were traveling west, and straight to war.
Going on Lucy’s knowledge of a shortcut that would save us days of travel, we rode through the day, heading for an old shabby inn shoved into the forest, off the main route. Gooseglass Inn had been scribbled in bright yellow paint above the entrance. I hooked my horse to the rung and followed Lucy inside.
“Two rooms, dear.” She smiled at the fellow manning the bar, frizzy red hair sticking out of his oversized hat.
“Lucy!” He passed the mugs to a customer and reached for her hand to kiss. “It’s been a long time.”
“Yes, but now I’m back. Lugar, meet Derrick.”
I nodded and he tipped his hat at me, then reached underneath the bar. “I’ve kept your room. No one but the maid has gone in.”
Lucy grabbed the key. “Thank you. I’ll need one for my friend.”
“Here.” Lugar handed her a second key. “The room is two doors down from yours.”
“Wonderful! I can’t wait to take a bath. Call up the maid for me, dear?”