Release: 30 December 2020
eBook ISBN: 9781393907596
eBook ASIN: B08QGB1V7Q
A Tale of Vikings, Elves & Gods
(The Cursed Elves Series #5)
Choice is a luxury.
Those born to immortality and power must rise up eventually.
A few are forced to power, some fated, yet others willingly accept the obligations and the burdens.
But an eternity seized by power brings consequences for all. Their loved ones die, friends recoil in disgust, and sometimes the most trusted even betray.
Can the powerful Elves and Gods find ways to balance love in their lives, trust in their friends, and safety for their family?
*** The books in this series DO NOT stand alone, they are intended to be read in order. If you are new to the series, please begin with Book 1: Cursed by Furies. ***
Content Warning: This book is written for adults and contains adult content to include violence, murder, gore, cursing, sex, and adult intimacy (bisexual / gay / straight relationships and polyamory).
This is the 5th book in The Cursed Elves series. The preview may contain spoilers if you have not read the previous books.
2:00PM CST, 15th of August, Our Lady of Hope, Dallas, Texas
“It was the strangest thing. This young girl walks in and asks me if this is ‘a safe place.’ Just like that. ‘Is this a safe place?’ Obviously, I was concerned she was in trouble. You know, we get a lot of young women looking for sanctuary here.”
“And you told her?” Jonah prompted the priest.
“That it was a safe place for her and her baby, of course. Then I asked if she was hungry, and she said she was. So I invited her to follow me to the rectory lounge, and suggested she sit on the couch while I went to the kitchen. She did just that, and I don’t even think she said a word. But when I returned, she was gone and the baby was on the couch. Though, she didn’t leave him there carelessly, he was surrounded by throw pillows so he couldn’t roll off.”
Jonah nodded. “I think even in her altered mental state, she sought to protect the child. I believe enough of her mind still comprehended that she was in danger, and she wanted to keep him safe. No matter how confused she was, that instinct stayed strong. Just to be sure, is this the girl you saw?” He showed the priest a picture on his cell phone.
“Yes, that’s her. What happened to her, if I might ask? She seemed genuinely concerned about safety.”
“She’s an abduction victim, missing for over two years. We have her in our care now, but the level of trauma is significant, and it will take a lot of therapy to unwind exactly what happened to her. She has a lot of memory gaps,” Jonah explained.
“There won’t be charges pressed, I hope? For leaving the child here. It clearly wasn’t done with malice,” the priest said, concern etched on his wrinkled brow.
“No, no. She’s a victim, and she’ll receive all the care she needs and be reunited with her child — under supervision, until she’s better.”
The priest reached down to stroke the sleeping head of the baby in the carrier. “It was nice having a baby around again, even if it was only for a couple of days.We called him Ángel, he seemed to like it. Ángele Dei, qui custos es mei.” Angel of God, my Guardian Dear.
Jonah added smoothly, “Me tibi commissum pietáte supérna. Hodie illúmina, custódi, rege et gubérna.” Ever this day, be at my Side. To light and guard, to rule and guide.
“Amen,” the priest finished, wide-eyed. “My, your pronunciation is excellent. Did you learn the Guardian Angel prayer as a young boy?”
“I was born in Italy, so Latin prayers were very common, but it was a favorite. I had a dear friend I thought of as my Guardian Angel for a long time. She died some years back.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. Friends like that can leave a deep hole when we lose them.”
“Very true. Father Garza, I can’t thank you enough for contacting us so quickly when you heard about the missing child.” Then Jonah extended his hand and placed it over the priest’s, adding a mental command, “And you can rest assured that the child and girl will both be completely safe and cared for, due to your actions. You need not speak of this with anyone outside the Church.”
“I was glad to be of service and pleased that our holy sanctuary could offer even a little protection for this troubled girl and her little boy.” The priest smiled as Jonah rose and picked up the baby carrier, then followed them to the door and held it open.
Jonah settled the baby in the car seat, then climbed in behind the wheel and looked into the back seat. “All right, Ángel, it’s time to get you back to your mother. And next, we’ll start working on getting your mother back to herself.”
3 Months Later – 4:00PM EST, Hotel Room, Nassau, Bahamas
“It’s taking a lot longer than we expected to undo the damage James caused,” Jonah told Priscilla as she held the baby in her arms.
“But there’s some progress?”
“Not so far. Every time we think she’s given us new information to track her brother down, we get there and find the place abandoned ahead of our arrival. They know every location she saw, and they’re disconnecting from it all.”
“I meant Regina’s progress,” Priscilla clarified.
“Oh. Yes, she’s remembering, but I don’t know if I would say she’s getting better. Every time she remembers something negative that she did while working with James, it causes her to backslide. And when she has moments of clarity where she knows that Neal’s still missing… it’s bad,” he said with a sigh.
Priscilla nodded and stroked the baby’s head while she looked off to the side.
“I know that look, Prisca. You can tell me what you’re thinking.”
“It’s just… I’ve been through trauma before. We both have. And not everyone can make it through to the other side of it the way we did. Your wife… anyway, I don’t want to dredge things up. But is it really worth it to hunt for James through her memories? Especially when he knows she’s gone and is cutting ties with all the places she knew. Maybe it would be kinder for her to forget it all forever.”
Jonah’s face had gone tense, and he spoke low, “Don’t you think Adeline has been on my mind every moment we’ve had them here? I know Regina has been protective so far, but she’s on the edge of sanity. I’m terrified one of these sessions with Eione is going to pull the wrong memory and send her into a state where she hurts that child, the way Addie tried to kill you and…” He let the words trail off, shutting his eyes and taking a deep breath.
“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have mentioned her,” she said softly.
“Trust me, I have the same fear Regina won’t be sane at the end of this. I want to make her forget everything and give her a fresh start without the broken mind from all the compulsions. But it’s not that simple. Say we take her memories away of everything James did. Rewind back to when she was staying in Nassau with Martine and her mother and her brother. So she wakes up and wants to know where they are. What happens when she finds out that the only clues were buried in her mind and we took them away forever?”
Priscilla blew out a breath and nodded. “She’d hate you. And probably try to recover the memories somehow anyway.”
“That’s the only thing stopping me. I don’t want to traumatize her by trying to help her,” Jonah said, then gestured around. “At least being on the island again is helping. Her anxiety dropped off when we got here, probably because she has good memories of being here.”
“How’s Martine handling it?”
“Diving in with both feet, unfortunately. I’m worried about him too, he’s practically adopted them both. I can’t let myself get close. Not to her or the baby, I just can’t risk it. If she does something…”
“I know. And there’s nothing wrong with that. You’ve been through enough.” Priscilla stood and set the baby in the nearby crib, then returned and curled up with Jonah. “But I do want to know one thing. Why haven’t you contacted her next closest relative in the Palmer family?”
He groaned and leaned back against the couch, letting his arm come up around her back. “I don’t know.”
“Of course you do,” she said gently.
“I’m afraid Martine would hate me for doing it,” he admitted with a sigh. “They’re so attached to each other, he’s her only good anchor. She doesn’t know any of the other Palmer family, not even the grandparents. A couple of years ago I did a background check on the mother. They basically disowned Crystal when she was a brand new Elf and got married to a Guardian. She had no training, Martine was going to teach her. And now she’s gone, almost certainly dead. Nerissa killed their father in your backyard, and her kids are orphans because of us. Everything that’s happened to Neal and Regina is because we failed to find James, and I feel responsible for fixing it.”
Priscilla looked into his eyes and asked directly, “You and I both know Regina may never recover. So tell me what you need to have in order to contact the Palmers and hand the situation over to them. Including Regina and the child.”
“I’d like James’ head. But need? I think the bare minimum we need is to get her brother back, and at least have some idea of what happened to their mother.”
She said, “That’s reasonable. And it’s possible the Palmers may have some issues with resources that we don’t. Such as access to witches like Eione. Providing some ongoing support and compensation is something else I think I’d want to arrange.”
Ángel began fussing in the crib, and Jonah slid out from under Priscilla to go pick him up. As he bounced the baby lightly, she said, “You know, forty or fifty years never seemed long until I think about it from the perspective of having a child who isn’t a full Elf for that long. So many decades of worry.”
He laughed. “Isn’t that the truth? Thankfully, a problem we’ll never have to worry about since ours will grow up quickly and be a demi-God.”
Priscilla smiled faintly. “You hadn’t mentioned it in a long time, I didn’t want to assume.”
“Darling… there’s just been so much going on. That’s all it is. And things in your world have been shaken up quite a lot. Speaking of decades of worry… Jarl is getting close to the start of that, isn’t he?”
“She’s due in one more month. He moved in over there a couple of weeks ago after our kids had their final growth spurt.”
“How are you handling that?”
“In my normal, confused way. Even though I have more reason to be angry at you and Martine for not telling me I was born a full Elf, I’m not very upset with you. And although I didn’t tell anyone about being Fated to Varyn, I’m still upset that Jarl kept this Human relationship from me,” Priscilla explained.
“I know I’ve said it already, but I really am sorry. I didn’t know how much that had hurt you, and that you would think you were abandoned by a Human parent never crossed my mind. I would’ve done everything I could, even manufactured a fake family if I had to, in order to convince you otherwise.”
“It’s OK. As I said, I’m not upset with you, it just leads to a lot of other questions about where I come from. But I’m also disappointed in myself. I thought finding out I didn’t have a Human parent to be resentful of, would make my dislike of Humans vanish. Take away the reason for it all.”
Jonah smiled slightly. “Let me guess… you’re still waiting for the magic act to finish that particular trick?”
She nodded with a small sigh.
“Don’t be so hard on yourself, little Goddess. I’ve never been abandoned by a Human parent, and I still dislike them. So how did the kids take the news about Jarl’s other family?”
“Well, largely they were unsure how to respond. Obviously upset that they were only just finding out about it, but they adapted quickly once they saw that I was OK,” she explained.
He teased, “Putting those acting skills of yours to good use, I see.”
Priscilla shrugged noncommittally.
They both heard the elevator ding and Martine’s familiar voice in the hallway.
She rushed to her feet and pressed a quick kiss to Jonah’s lips, whispering, “Stay strong, love. I’ll do what I can to help.”
“I’m sorry you can’t stay, I miss you,” he said sadly. “But I don’t know how to —”
“I miss you too, and it’s not your fault she reacts badly to me,” she whispered, then envisioned a location and walked through her mental portal to arrive at the end of a familiar pier.
Looking around briefly, she walked up to Eione’s shop and stepped through the door.
The witch glanced up from her desk where she was writing on a tablet, and the pen fell from her hand. “Priscilla,” she said on a gasp. “Goddess,” she amended, getting to her feet and bowing awkwardly. “I didn’t know to expect you. Please, sit anywhere.”
Priscilla nodded and took a seat on the couch, waiting for the anxious Eione to come over.
“Can I get you some tea? Coffee?” Eione asked, nervously.
“That would be nice, thank you. I’ll take whatever you have ready, don’t go to any trouble.”
A couple of minutes later, Priscilla was sipping on an island juice drink she had never tasted before, and smiled at Eione. “I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m here, so I won’t draw it out. I need to ask you some things about the God trap you made for Poseidon. You know, the one intended to be used on me.”
5:00PM EST, Coast off Nassau, Bahamas
“I feel like we’ve been here before,” Triton said, his tone laced with dry humor.
“It’s making me very uncomfortable.”
“You don’t think it’s a good idea for your new girlfriend and your old one to be spending time together? What a surprise.”
His father continued to watch Eione’s shop in the distance, so Triton spoke on, “The most recent report indicated that the seams torn during Apep’s destruction have nearly been repaired.”
“Good. I’m glad Gaia’s improving.” He paused before asking, “Do you think they’re talking about me?”
His son rolled his eyes. “And I have been receiving reminders to pass along to you. It is my understanding that your list of unfilled obligations is reaching a new high. There are a couple of disputes that require settling, although I handled the critical ones already. You have dozens waiting for your physical attention, and at least three who made it onto the list for assistance with impregnation.”
“I’ll handle the disputes, but you should deal with the others. It’s past time you took over for me,” Poseidon said seriously.
Triton folded his mottled cerulean and golden arms across his chest. “How many times do I have to refuse before you understand that I don’t want it?”
“I understand, I just don’t care. Someone has to step up and show themselves capable of leading, and you’re the only one who ever has. How is it possible to have so many children, and yet none are capable of allowing me to ever step down from ruling?”
“I’ll say this once more,” Triton began, turning to face his father. “I have no interest in mating with those I feel nothing for. I will not engage in those behaviors, no matter how unhappy you are with yourself for making the rules you now regret.”
Poseidon waved a dismissive hand. “Then change the rules. You’d be the new King and able to fix such mistakes without causing offense. They would expect you to make things your own. Besides, they know you, and I doubt they would expect it since you’ve made your view on it clear.”
Triton watched the way his father gazed off in the distance, felt the lack of concern in his words, and frowned. “You really want to step away, it’s not a fleeting whim?”
“Humans have a word they use for it. Retire. I should think I’ve reached the point where I can at least begin to think about how to pass my legacy on to the next leader.”
“You don’t plan to leave us forever though?” Triton asked, his tone shifting to concern.
“Not permanently, Son. Don’t worry. Just more often. I’ve spent so much time in my domain that I’ve missed a great deal of what else this plane has to offer. Simple things, and so many of them. A latte, this creamy sort of coffee I especially like when it’s flavored with cardamom. Movies on television. Soft clothes, a crackling fireplace, and warm beds. And music. Such a treat to hear the variety of sound carried in such a way that you never hear below.”
“So it’s not only Priscilla.”
“No. But she matters too. And I don’t want you to just take my place and make the same mistakes. You need to find love, real love. If you hate frivolous sex, don’t have it. If you want to come up and breathe the air and listen to the music, do that. I spent too long doing what I felt I had to in order to keep everyone alive. That’s important, and it still is. But there’s more to living.”
Triton remained silent, scanning the surface of the water while he tried to think of how to respond to his father. He didn’t want to lead, but in his mind leading had always meant switching places with his father. He’d often thought of things he would change, but assumed his father would never want him to change anything. Of course, it was one thing to say you want to give someone control, and another to really do it.
“Perhaps those urges to explore the upper world are because you are not restricted to the sea as I am,” he finally said.
“I gave you something to let you go on land ages ago, but you never wear it,” Poseidon huffed. “Besides, I’d expect someone who can’t go on the land easily would want it even more.”
Triton’s muttered, “Walking was harder than I expected.”
“One day, your pride won’t matter as much as something you want on land. When that happens, you have the pendant. I hope you’ll seriously think about what I said. Who else is there who can lead? Jarl? I can’t imagine you taking orders from him.”
Uncharacteristically, Triton let out a small chuckle.
“Mmmhm. Exactly. I’m going to go look at the list of disputes that need handling.” With that, Poseidon disappeared below the surface.
Triton gazed off into the distance, and with his father’s words about experiencing the upper life in his mind, he decided to swim around Nassau. At the surface. With a thought, he summoned the necklace his father mentioned, and when he slipped it on, his tail disappeared, replaced by legs. He began to sink.
Using his arms and legs, he pulled himself back up and started to swim as a Human. His father didn’t know he’d been practicing this, occasionally, for years. But he was nowhere near as strong this way. Despite that, he’d reached the point where he could make it all the way around the island, though it took him many hours to achieve. He wasn’t sure how many miles that was — he guessed something around thirty, not that it mattered.
Almost an hour had passed before he reached the shallow beach east of his next milestone, Bonefish Pond. Waves broke in the distance, and he observed a small seal move through the water toward land. He slowed to watch, noting that it was a tan spotted seal, less common in the area than the darker brown ones.
Not spots. They’re rings!
The seal changed, and a curvaceous woman with tan colored hair emerged from the shallows to walk naked onto the beach. She wrapped herself in a robe waiting on the sand, then strolled toward the small cluster of homes near the mostly uninhabited area.
Stunned, his breath finally came to him in a gasp, and he pulled off the necklace so his skin and hair would better blend in with the water as he quickly sped closer, tracking her until he saw which house she entered.
He pulled back further into the deep, his mind whirling with excitement and worry. The Selkies were the greatest assassins and spies of the Kingdom. Indistinguishable as different, to man or God, except during the brief moment of transformation.
The ring pattern marked her as a member of a specific family of Selkies.
And they were all supposed to be dead long ago — his father had insisted on it.
End of preview.
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