Authors: Katie M John
Tags: #romance, #vampires, #urban fantasy, #adventure, #paranormal romance, #young adult, #college, #mythology, #forbidden love, #fairytale, #knights, #immortals, #mermaids, #arthurian legend
I laughed, hitting him on the
arm, “Hey, who you calling odd?”
Suddenly my side window was hit
by the heavy slap-sound of water; the ford, swollen with rain was
running higher than usual. The car spat and juddered to a halt,
sounding as if it had been choked.
“Shit!” Blake shouted out,
banging the steering wheel. “We’ve got a problem.” He turned the
key, willing the car to spring back into life but it wasn’t having
any of it; it sounded fed up and stubbornly damp.
“Water’s got into the engine.
I’ll have to call the recovery company. I am so sorry, Mina; so
much for a faster route home!”
We were miles from anywhere, in
the middle of absolutely nowhere. We hadn’t seen another car the
whole journey and it would take the recovery van at least an hour
to get to us, even if they set off straight away.
Blake riffled through the glove
box, retrieving his membership card and mobile, “Damn it, I can’t
get a signal. We’re in a valley; must be a black spot. I’m not even
sure where we are,” he said throwing his hands up in apology.
“Look, we’re going to have decide what we’re going to do. I need to
get to higher ground, try and get a signal but I really don’t feel
happy about leaving you here on your own.”
I looked round at the dark
forest surrounding us, nothing but various shades of blue and black
trees with spiky, scratchy looking limbs which I had a strong
suspicion, in my usually hysterical way, would take the opportunity
of me being alone to come alive and eat me.
“I don’t fancy it either. I’ve
seen far too many horror films to know it’s a schoolboy error to
leave the dippy bird in the car.”
“Always the same!” he said
“If we leave the car here in
the middle of the road, it’s an accident waiting to happen.”
“Don’t you have some hazard
boards?” I asked.
“Yes, but they’ll have to go at
the top of each hill or they’ll be useless.”
“You take one, I’ll take the
The slamming of the car doors
was barely audible in the downpour and within seconds of being out
of the car we were both drenched, water pouring down our faces.
Blake came out from under the boot holding two hazard signs and a
rucksack into which he had thrown several necessary items. He
handed me one of the signs.
“Just try to avoid any weird
“Too late,” I said winking at
“Yes. Very funny! Now run along
and try to avoid any
weird looking strangers,
especially if they look like they’re armed.”
“What – like this?” I waved my
free arm in the air.
“Just go!” He laughed.
The signs were up and we met
back at the car to begin our journey upslope together. On either
side of us, ancient oaks and ash trees towered. The woodland had
been here since medieval times. By day it was timelessly beautiful,
all soft greens, gentle lights, wild flowers and butterflies.
When we were children we would
play in the woods, making dens and playing Arthurian Knights. We
called it the Forest of Adventures and we had lavish feasts of wild
strawberries and nettle nectar, but we’d always come home before
the darkness came. Every child that grew up around these woods knew
that once the moon came up, the night creatures came out and the
unsettled dead walked in the shadows.
We spent our childhood
sleepovers scarring each other witless with stories of the headless
hunt, ridden by the ghosts of hunters and their demon dogs, who
chased their prey through the woods until its heart exploded, of
old hags that lived in the bottom of trees and ate children’s
fingers as if they were biscuits, of fairies that bewitched you,
trapping you forever in fairyland until you pined away becoming
nothing more than a shadow of your previous self. As we grew older,
the night-creatures lost their magical identity and changed into
the horror story characters of serial killers, drunks and perverts
that dragged teenage girls into the woods and did unspeakable
things to them.
Tonight, the woods seemed once
more the magical and haunted place of my childhood.
We continued through the trees
in silence, the rain drowning out any attempt at communication. I
followed Blake’s white shirt as if it were a beacon in the
darkness. My teeth chattered from cold and the irrational fear that
somehow everything had moved to put us both in this spot at this
time. Some primitive leftover instinct screamed that I was walking
What choice do I have?
I was soaked to the skin
and my bones felt like they were turning to ice. The rain began to
ease but there was still no signal and without any need for
discussion we left the road and went deeper into The Forest of
After twenty minutes of
walking, the rain at last gave up. Blake stopped, checking once
again for a signal.
“Sorry, Mina, no luck yet.
We’re getting closer to the top and there should be a signal
there.” He looked over at me as if he was seeing me for the first
time, concern rushed over his face, “Mina, are you alright? You
look frozen solid.”
He held out a hand, solid and
strong, pulling me into him, my head the perfect height for his
shoulders but his body offered no warmth; he was as cold as stone
I couldn’t stop myself from
shaking. Letting me go, Blake rifled through the rucksack and
pulled out a woollen jumper and a long woollen scarf, “Here! There
was no point giving them to you earlier they’d only have got wet
too. Take off your wet clothes if you want to feel the
Even though almost all of my
blood had retreated towards my vital organs, a small amount still
seemed to be reserved for blushing. He handed the small pile of
warm dry wool over and turned his back to me.
“No peeping, I promise,” he
said through a mischievous smile.
I was so cold already that
standing half naked in the woods didn’t make any difference but the
feel of the dry wool against my damp skin was a welcome relief. I
wound the scarf round and at last managed to feel a tiny spark of
“Better?” he asked.
I nodded and we walked on. When
we came to a fallen log, he held his hand to help me over and then
seemed to forget to let it go again. I was miles away, revelling in
the contact with his hand. I let my hand read his, imagining how it
would feel for other parts of our naked flesh to be pressed
Suddenly I was thrown behind
Blake’s back, protectively shielded from whatever it was in front
“Not here, not now. I’m not
alone.” Blake’s voice boomed through the silent woods.
“Bl..” I began, confused and
terrified all at once.
“Ssh Mina! Don’t speak. I don’t
want them to know you’re here.” I could hear the panic through his
whisper. “My Lady, what are you doing in the woods alone at night?
Where is your chaperone?”
“Sir Beldevier, I have been
sent out to tell you my Lady requests an audience.” Her voice
seemed almost to be singing.
“Name your lady,” Blake
“My Lady, Sir, is Morgan of
“Tell me whose shield it is
that you carry?”
“You mean to tell me that you
do not recognise your brother’s shield?”
“I recognise it fair enough my
Lady, I wanted to know if you did. Why do you have it?”
“My Lady desires to speak of’t.
You must come at once. Dangerous peril awaits your delay. Bring the
girl - my Lady is curious.”
I pinched myself to check that
I wasn’t hallucinating through some form of hypothermic episode. It
hurt. Still, I couldn’t match these events with reality.
“Blake. What the hell is going
on?” I shout-whispered under my heavy breath.
“Its fine, we’re in no danger
from Morgan, she’s sort of an old family connection. I’d better
warn you though she’s not that great with newcomers. I’ll explain
As he un-hid me, letting me see
who he’d been speaking with I gasped. Blake’s torch caused a flood
of white light that pulled everything forward into a stark black
and white focus. In front of us, leading us through the woods was a
lady dressed in a plain white fitted dress, shield in one hand and
lantern in the other. Her dress wasn’t old costume or modern
fashion but it was a timeless garment and beautifully made so that
it accentuated every contour of her figure. Her long fair hair was
held by a thick braid that stretched all the way down to the base
of her spine. Even though she didn’t have wings, she looked like a
fairy woman and I shook my head aware that I was probably on the
borderline of being seriously unwell.
We walked for about quarter of
a mile alongside the hill, moving further and further away from the
car and when at last we stopped, we were faced with a dreamscape.
It was a sight that at once confirmed my the belief that I had
stepped over into an imaginary land for in a small clearing of the
trees a blood-red pavilion had been erected and on either side of
the door stood two stunningly handsome men dressed from the neck
down in the shinning armour of a medieval knight, sword in one
hand, helmet in the other and shield resting against their leg.
I squeezed my eyes shut hoping
that when I opened them it would all have disappeared but it
didn’t. The lady in white moved through the folds of the fabric
into the tent to announce our arrival. She reappeared almost
immediately to signal us in.
Morgan was a goddess stretched
out on a low bed of fur throws. She wore a startling dress of
midnight blue, plunging at the front and gathered in at the bust.
It was the sort of dress that wouldn’t be out of place at a
glamorous celebrity party. Her long dark black hair was pinned up
with the impression of carelessness that took hours to achieve and
a thick, smoky application of eyeliner all added together to give
an impression that was at once irresistible and dangerous. No man
would be safe in her company.
I tugged self-consciously at
the hem of the oversized woollen jumper, feeling ridiculous and
decidedly un-shimmering. My usually bouncy auburn curls hung limp
with rain and clung to my face giving the impression that skinny
orange millipedes were running about all over it. The contrast
between the two of us was almost comical. The problem was, I was
“Morgan, a pleasure as ever my
Lady.” Blake’s voice had a sharp edge that did nothing to settle
the nerves dancing around in my stomach.
“Blake,” she gave him the warm
smile of a cobra about to strike, “Fancy you being out in the woods
on such a night and in the company of a
spat out the last part as if she were talking about filth.
Blake offered a well acted
smile, “To be fair my Lady, I had no intention of dealing with
Realm matters this evening. Why do you call for me?” A definite
tone of irritation laced his voice.
She toyed with the glass of
wine in her hand. She was the personification of power, “Blake,
don’t pout so. You know how it is with me when you get all dark and
“Really, please, can we get on
with it? I’m really not in the mood and we’re running very
“As you wish,” Morgan purred,
“but before you go, I need a small, incy-wincy favour, Blake, and I
really wouldn’t ask if I thought my boys could deal with it but
well quite frankly, they’re not
up to it
in the same way
that I imagine you are.” Her voice had a thickly suggestive tone
and I realised she was seriously attracted to Blake.
“What is it you want Morgan?”
His question came out like he was spitting out venom.
“There’s a man in town, calls
himself Fear,” she raised her eyebrows in condescension, “Yes. I
know - He’s nothing more than a petty criminal, drug dealing pimp.
He rides himself round in a monster black car, all blacked out
windows thinking he’s Mr Big. It’s just that he’s been making a
real nuisance of himself, not really playing fair. Not doing what a
good boy should.”
Blake looked incredulous and
angry, “Sorry, are you
asking me to deal with him
because he’s making your life a bit difficult
out of line Morgan; I’m not a thug for hire like those cretins out
there.” He nodded in the direction of the boys guarding the door.
“If you chose to hang around with low -lives, then you deal with
the consequences. Don’t bother me again unless it’s urgent. I
haven’t the time.”
Morgan showed the slightest
flinch at Blake’s rebuke. She was obviously used to men falling at
her feet and doing whatever she asked.
“No, you misunderstand me. He’s
come into a couple of…
in which we both have an
interest. It would be to our mutual benefit for you to take on this
quest and bring both things back to The Realm.”
“O.K, lets get to the point,
I’ve got a car that needs towing. What pretty trinket has he got
that you’ve got your eye on and what possibly could he have that
“I’ve heard that he has his
hands on the Sword of Avalon.”
I saw Blake suddenly falter,
surprised by her response.
“That can’t be possible. You
know that the Sword is a myth.”
She laughed and it reminded me
of the tinkling of glasses at a party, “Blake, darling boy, look
around - We’re all a myth.”
“But The Sword of Avalon, even
if the myth is real, was destroyed on Merlin’s death.”
“His imprisonment.” She stared
at him coldly before waving her hand, as if dismissing the point
she was about to make, “We don’t have time for story telling. If
it’s true that this man has the sword, you know what that means and
you know it means we need to act quickly.
Fear has a warehouse from which
he does his dodgy deals, trading in stolen artefacts, art, rare
breed animals et cetera; basically, anything you might want to get
your grubby little hands on but shouldn’t. One of his clients, a
very well-known and once wealthy man couldn’t fulfil his debt and
so last week Fear sent some of the boys round to the ancestral pad
to loot enough items to cover the outstanding debt. They’re hardly
a cultured lot and they have no real idea as to what it is they’ve
got their hands on.”