Fall of Eternity

The Aegean Immortals Series Book Seven

Prologue

Anowen Castle, Yorkshire, England 1600

Deep in the heart of the East Riding Forests, the mid-morning sun cast its rays across Anowen Castle, immersing its white-stone exterior in a golden glow. A pleasant summer breeze threaded through the trees, carrying the heady perfume of flowers and the musk of the woodlands across the courtyard and through the unfinished walls of the fortress.

When a scream tore through the castle, the breeze carried it away too.

Dorian Vaughn, the third eldest of the Immortals who called Anowen home, flung himself from his bed. His blood thrummed with the music that bound him to his family as confusion and fear rent through their weave.

As suddenly as the screaming began, one of the coven songs snapped into silence.

For a moment, their symphony quieted in his blood, as if their collective had drawn in a breath all at once and held it.

One of his sisters had fallen.

With the realization, fury rose across their bonds in a discordant cacophony that threatened to unbalance the Castilian as he stumbled for his weapon.

The castle was under attack.

They should have left.

Dorian grabbed for his rapier where it hung on display and found that its silver coating had nearly worn off in the passage of time the family had spent in relative peace.

Peace.

A low growl tore from his throat, and he threw the sword to the floor. Immediately thinking better of it, the Castilian ducked to reclaim it as he ran for the hallway.

Sunlight beamed into the halls from between shredded drapes, warming the growing scent of blood. The fourth floor housed the eldest of Lian Redmond’s Immortal offspring — he and his siblings — the only ones capable of surviving the sun. If the assailants had torn the drapes below, the younger children had no chance of escape.

Dorian was too late.

He should have trusted his instincts — shared the weight of his suspicions. Lian’s decision had sealed their fate with the Houses.

They should have been gone.

Dorian tried to bite down on the sense of rising panic he could feel and ran toward the suite of his Norse sister — Ayla, the queen he had claimed for a wife in the eyes of the mortal world.

A male Immortal he did not know cut his efforts short.

The stranger swung around to face Dorian, brandishing a knife that glittered with silver. With a hiss that dripped with spittle and eyes that flared with a red fire, the intruder erupted into motion.

Dorian lunged for the male.

The invader rolled away from the strike, and the Castilian’s rapier sank deep into the male’s shoulder instead of his throat.

In his blood and in the surrounding air, the screams of the coven grew louder. Then, another song vanished as a brother fell; followed by a second sister.

Dorian’s fangs distended as the beast beneath his skin tore toward the surface, and in the haze of darkness that overtook him, the scent of blood grew.

The skin of Dorian’s face was in tatters when he dropped the stranger’s body to the ground, but he reclaimed his blood-soaked rapier before barreling down the hall to Ayla’s room.

More songs were disappearing as the family began to die.

He had failed them all.

They should have left last night.

The coven would not survive if the eldest fell.

He could smell Ayla’s blood in the hall, but the body he found by her open door was not hers. Dorian felt relief  as his dark-eyed gaze passed over the stranger.

The body was headless and shriveled with the age that death revealed in Immortals. Still clutched in the invader’s fingers was a crossbow, but it was its arrows that held Dorian’s attention. Silver coated the broadheads and a trail of Ayla’s bloodied footprints led down the hall.

His brows furrowed, and the Castilian reached down to tear the weapon from the invader’s grip. He threw it into Ayla’s room, slamming the door closed before following her trail to the main stairwell.

The third floor was bloodier still and littered with the corpses of fledgling brothers and sisters. Dorian claimed the heads of two more invaders in retribution without allowing himself to stop or to feel the grief threatening to swallow him.

He found Ayla pushing more drape covered siblings into the safety of a hidden storeroom.

“Ayla, damn it, ye’re bleedin’!” Their blacksmith queen’s voice protested from beneath the cover, and under the flutter of the drape that covered the fledgling queen, he could see a flash of red hair that betrayed their youngest sister was there too.

“Which is why you should let us help,” the redhead ground out.

“Hush. Flee when it is quiet,” Ayla said.

As Dorian closed the distance, the Norse queen pivoted unsteadily on a bare foot to face him, lifting her sword. Ayla, taller than most men, with a length of black hair fluttering around her calves — Ayla, whose face was paler than he had ever seen it.

Her gaze flashed golden with the beast hiding near the surface of her skin, but Dorian’s focus had dropped to the bloodstain that was growing on the front of her nightdress — and the tuft of the crossbow bolt at its center.

As she registered who he was, some tension fell from the queen. Ayla turned to seal the hidden compartment, leaving no trace of a seam to give away the sanctuary behind the stone wall.

“Something is wrong with me, Marido,” she husked as he reached her side. Marido, husband in his language; a jest for all that their true relationship was that of siblings and dear friends. “I cannot hear you well.”

“Gently, Kona,” he whispered, touching his fingers to her shoulder. He could make out the point of an arrowhead where it protruded through her back to tear her gown. “Today you do not want to hear the music. Why have you not removed it?”

“Silver. It burned terribly. I had to push it through. I…”

He lowered his fingers to touch the bloodied feathers jutting from between her breasts, and she winced.

Silver.

The silver bolts in the stranger’s crossbow.

Near her heart.

In her heart.

It was why she had not withdrawn the bolt. Her heart would not heal for the silver; a death sentence during battle.

“There must be some silver there yet,” the queen murmured. “It hurts still, but less so with the quiet. I am still able to give to the family.”

“We should none of us need to give.” Dorian whispered, and the strain of his grief and regret caused a crack in the words.

He should have known. He should have said something.

Ayla’s pale face turned toward him, weary and empty.

Silent.

She lifted her hand to brush the back of her knuckles against his jaw where the skin had already healed.

“If I fall, be sure you are not beneath me. It will be like a tree, Marido.”

He managed a weak smile for her and offered no further protest when she fell into step at his side. Until neither of them could fight, they would salvage the rest of their family.

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