Today we have an exclusive from Morgan Daimler and her book Murder Between the Worlds.
After work Wednesday she decided to visit an old friend so she stopped at the town’s Chinese restaurant on the way home to grab food to share. It was never a bad idea to show up to visit a creature of Fairy bearing a gift, and she knew this one had a weakness for sweet and sour chicken and pork egg rolls. Dynasty Moon was run by a pair of Hulijing, Chinese fox spirits, and it was widely agreed that they made the best take-out in town. They were pricey though, and Allie couldn’t eat there very often, but she felt like splurging a little, despite her worries over her anemic bank account.
After picking up her order she headed home in a better mood. She parked her little car in its usual spot and hiked around the house towards the woods behind the backyard with the bag of takeout in one hand. The wards on the perimeter of the property extended to cover the expanse of yard from the curb to the stone walls that bordered the other three sides of the lawn, but the property itself actually went back almost a dozen acres. It just wasn’t worth the energy and effort to keep wards up on the entire area all the time, so they didn’t bother. Reaching the stone wall that marked the back edge of the yard Allie climbed over easily, feeling the customary tingle as she crossed from the warded to unwarded side. Her shoes crunched in last year’s leaves and she whistled cheerfully, ducking low branches and weaving through the underbrush. There was no path to follow but Allie knew the way.
After several hundred feet she could see the open sky through the trees and the ground beneath her feet was noticeably softer. A dozen feet more and she was standing on the banks of the pond. The water stretched, black and still, as large as a football field, with the occasional clump of trees or half submerged log jutting up from the surface. She carefully sent out a tendril of focused magic to caress the surface nearest where she stood, like knocking on a door, and then waited. Within a few moments the still surface rippled, the dark, dripping head of a large horse emerging. Where the horse’s eyes should have been were dark concave hollows and he turned his head to stare at her from one of these eyeless sockets for a moment before the head disappeared beneath the water again. A moment later the surface heaved and broke as the entire fairy horse emerged, walking onto the shore to her left. The kelpie stood there, water dripping from his mane and tail, and Allie smiled widely, proffering the bag “Good afternoon Ciaran, I thought you might be in the mood for some excellent Chinese take-out.”
The huge form rippled and shifted like the surface of the water a minute before and as she watched the horse’s dark form changed into that of an equally dark haired man. Seemingly oblivious to the late spring chill and totally unabashed by his nudity Ciaran sniffed the air appreciatively.” Is that sweet and sour chicken?”
“And two pork egg rolls.” Allie agreed.
The kelpie smiled widely, “Nice to see you again Allie.”
“And you.” Allie had met the kelpie when she was wandering the woods as a child and although he normally could be quite a dangerous creature he seemed to have developed a rough sympathy for the lonely child over the years that eventually grew into a friendship. He often wandered the woods in the form of a large black dog, but he always hunted in his horse form; she had learned over the years that his humanoid form was a sign of trust with her, although she didn’t doubt he would also use it to seduce the unwary if it served his purposes. Allie had been very clear with the other people living in the house that no one else was to go back into the woods; she doubted their friendship would keep him from eating one of her roommates, and while it was unlikely that he would risk the consequences of such an action, she didn’t want to take the chance. These days the Elven Guard maintained order by ensuring none of the creatures of Fairy were allowed to harm humans. But in the old days Ciaran had fed on murderers and oath-breakers. Even as a child Allie had wondered if he occasionally still took human victims along with his animal prey and was just clever enough not to get caught, but she had never quite dared to ask.
“How have you been doing?”
“Not bad. Winter’s always a slow time though, nothing much to do, no good hunting.” He shrugged as she handed him the bag.
“Well I hope this helps a little, and you know anytime you want to borrow a book or five to read I’ll be happy to lend them.”
“That would be kind. I haven’t read anything new in ages. I’m not picky, anything will do as long as it’s a good story.” He pulled out the package of eggrolls and eagerly began devouring them in a way that she would have found disturbing if she’d let herself think about.
“Sure thing. I’ll try to get out here in the next week or two if I can, with some for you.” Allie made a mental note to go through and pick out a selection of books for him to try. She certainly had more than enough to share.
“Allie, be careful with yourself.” Ciaran said unexpectedly.
She cocked her head to the side “I’m always as careful as I can be Ciar. Unless you know something I don’t?”
He shook his head. “Not really, but there are rumors going around among the lesser Fey. Everyone’s agitated and with the Elven Guard out searching in the Borderland for someone, we should all be extra cautious. There is death in the air, and it would…pain me…to see harm come to you.”
“Well you’d certainly be seeing a lot fewer egg rolls,” Allie quipped, stalling for time.
She was touched that Ciaran cared enough to pass on any warning, since it was certainly not in his nature, and she was not at all surprised that the Guard were upsetting the Fey in the Borderland, many of whom lived in the Bordertown precisely to try to avoid the elves’ control.
“The Elven Guard has already spoken to me about their investigation. They want me to help them find out why these murders are being committed.”
The kelpie looked thoughtful as he chewed his chicken, eating it with his bare hands, “If you can help them, you should. That would put the Guard in your debt and that is not an insignificant thing. But be very careful Allie, very careful. It’s a dangerous game to play.”
She nodded “I will certainly take your excellent advice as always. Now, do you have time for a game of chess?”
Later, as she walked back through the woods to the house she found herself hoping that her part in this particular dangerous game was already over.
You can find the rest of this story and more of Morgan’s work on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Morgan-Daimler/e/B0047QW0WY/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1
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