Read Vowed Online

Authors: Liz de Jager

Tags: #Fairies, #Fantasy, #Fiction, #Magic, #Paranormal, #Romance, #Young Adult

Vowed

BOOK: Vowed
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Come away, O human child!

To the waters and the wild

With a faery, hand in hand,

For the world’s more full of weeping

than you can understand.

W.B. Yeats, The Stolen Child

Chapter One

Several Days Earlier

The boy sat up in his bed, his bedclothes pooled around his waist. The darkness in the room was absolute yet he had seen a shadow pass by the window outside. Which should not
be possible.

From somewhere he could hear music, which wasn’t that unusual, but this music wasn’t the usual kind you’d hear on the estate, where drum and bass and angry rap music ruled. It
was fainter, sweeter; the harder he listened for it, the more it felt as if it was slipping away.

His room was at the back of the flat, overlooking the play area with its broken swings, where no one really played any more. The flat he shared with his mum and older brother was six storeys up
and usually he could sit at his desk before bedtime and watch the lights of London in the distance.

He’d never seen anything go past the window before, especially not at two in the morning. With no trees nearby, and none that grew as high as six storeys, he couldn’t even cling to
his first thought – that he’d glimpsed a tree moving in front of his window.

The flat lay in hushed silence around him. He slipped out of bed, his easy stealth a testament to the many times he’d needed to get up in the past without waking anyone. He didn’t
pull on his slippers, instead crossing the floor in his bare feet, his toes curling upwards at the cold touch of the threadbare carpet. Pushing against the desk beneath the window, he leaned
forward until he could see out.

The little play area lay deserted. Deep shadows clung to the areas where the poor lighting couldn’t reach. The usual mob of hoodied kids who hung out at the end of the park weren’t
there either, probably doing mischief in the nearby underpass, terrorizing whoever was stupid enough to venture that way at this time of night.

The boy was about to pull back, still intrigued by the music he could hear so faintly at the edge of his hearing, when something caught his attention. He pressed his cheek against the cold glass
of the window and peered sideways, along the side of the block of flats. All the lights were off and so it was hard to see, but there was definitely something there, something that made his breath
hitch in his throat.

There was something hanging off the side of the building a few windows away. He couldn’t quite make it out, but the creature looked nimble and was dressed in a coat that hung around it
like torn wings.

The boy felt fear creep up his spine on soft kitten paws. He stood frozen, watching it press closer to the building, impossibly shifting through a solid wall and disappearing into the room where
he knew another boy, Arvind, slept. He would be tucked up in bed, fast asleep and utterly unaware of the monster trying to get into his room.

The watching boy opened his mouth to scream, to warn someone – anyone – but his throat constricted and a sound like a soft mewl came from him. He shut his eyes and drew a deep breath
to try and shake the terror. He knew he had to do something.

With an effort greater than he could ever have thought possible, he raised his hand and formed a fist. He thumped it against the window. It hardly made any noise. He hit it again, harder this
time. The sound was dull and muffled and he wondered if it would be enough to distract the thing and startle it to fly off into the night.

He did not expect the thing to turn so swiftly or move with such incredible speed; suddenly the creature was right there in front of him, its face pressed against the window, peering in at
him.

Monster and boy stared at one another for what seemed an eternity. The boy moved first, stumbling backwards into the chair and knocking over his wastepaper basket, scattering balled-up pieces of
paper and secret sweet wrappers across his floor. A part of his mind told him that his mum would be annoyed at the noise and the mess, but another part of his mind, the part that was trying to help
him survive, told him to run.

He turned to leap for the half-open doorway but something held him fast. He turned back to free himself. As he reached out to grab at the grey-skinned hand, with its strange pearlescent nails
gripping his arm in a death grip, he realized that the creature wasn’t actually trying to get into his room. It was trying to pull
him
through the wall. And possibly kill him.

That did it. The thought that this monster was trying to steal him away to eat him released the boy from his fear. Adrenalin spiked through him and he threw back his head and screamed at the top
of his lungs. He didn’t care that he would be waking his mum, who was working the early shift, or that his brother was studying for his exams and needed sleep. He screamed in terror and
annoyance; as he did so, he was pulled backwards and fell down hard, his bum hitting the floor with a loud thwack. The carpet rucked his T-shirt up, burning his back as he was methodically hauled
towards the wall. He scrabbled around, clawing at the carpet, trying to catch hold of something to prevent himself from being pulled out into the night. His questing fingers found his spiked
football shoe lying halfway underneath his bed. He grabbed it and spun around, using the spikes to hit the creature’s oddly papery skin.

The thing snarled at him through the window, revealing a range of small white teeth that tapered to sharp points. It spat at the window, and the spittle sizzled where it hit the glass. The
monster increased its pull on the boy’s arm and the boy fought, hitting the arm, scoring the skin with the spikes.

The monster tilted its head and focused on something behind the boy, cocking its head, listening. Then it pulled harder, using more force, and the boy was yanked upwards, several feet off the
floor, the creature now gripping his T-shirt. The boy heard the noise of someone behind him and called out, but the cry was cut short as he was slammed into the wall – once, then twice, with
violent force – before being dropped to the floor.

The boy collapsed, unconscious and bleeding, just as his bedroom light flared on.

As the older boy rushed into the room he let out a shout of his own, peripherally aware of the sound of far-off music, something sweet and soft, like a lullaby, and of
something
hunched
outside the window.

His gaze skittered away from the shadow and the impossibility of someone crouching there. He dropped to his knees next to his little brother, pushing his fingers to his neck, feeling for a
pulse.

Chapter Two

‘My lady?’

I bare my teeth at Strach, Petur’s youngest son, and growl at him in warning, but he brushes my behaviour away with a grin. He clearly hasn’t forgotten me telling him not to call me
that. Or any of the random titles King Aelfric bestowed on me, long months ago now, as I lay recovering from a multitude of cuts and breaks in the Citadel.

‘What?’ I ask him. ‘And don’t call me “my lady” again, under pain of severe death.’

Strach’s handsome face goes carefully neutral as he reports. ‘The team is in position.’

As he settles down next to me on his stomach I’m pretty sure I hear him say ‘my lady’ again and I decide to make him walk home from tonight’s raid. He props himself on
his elbows, bringing the binoculars to his eyes.

I turn my attention back to the two warehouses below. They look unremarkable and lie on the outskirts of a mostly residential South London suburb.

The warehouses are supposedly empty and the owners are deciding what to do with them. There are bids to rezone them and sell them to property developers. All very interesting – if
it’s your kind of thing. And it definitely isn’t mine. It’s all background I found out when I moved into the neighbourhood to keep an eye on these buildings a few weeks ago.

They’ve fallen into ruin pretty quickly after a few months of being empty, but we now suspect they are home to a group of Fae who are selling a drug called ‘Glow’. There are
traces of the stuff all around the premises and it’s a nasty mix of hallucinates and something else as yet unknown. Kyle’s been working with someone we know at a research facility to
try and figure out the drug’s components, but I’m not holding out much hope – not if the stuff we’re looking for comes from the Otherwhere.

The Fae High King of Alba, Aelfric, had an epic-scale fit when he found out that Glow had a link to the Otherwhere. His own investigations had shown it was someone from the Seelie King’s
Court peddling the stuff in clubs in London and around the Midlands. And after meeting with the Sun King and his Seelie advisers, when the Seelie King professed his innocence . . . things got a bit
heated.

Glow is a nightmare cocktail which seems perfect for clubbers. Similar to ecstasy, the stuff makes you alert and hyper-aware of sound and colour, giving you a high that lasts for far longer than
MDMA ever did. But the stuff is also far more potent and addictive than any other drug on the market. It’s far more fatal too. Someone’s baby sister, a girl of thirteen, popped some and
is currently lying comatose in a private clinic. The doctors are unable to determine if she’ll make it. If she does, they’re unsure if there’ll be permanent brain damage or not.
And she’s not the only one. Two clubbers got hold of some Glow and dropped into spasms on the dance floor, dying within minutes of ingesting the stuff. The police are at a loss because no one
can find any dealers, and users just babble about pretty fairies giving them Glow to use. For free.

It’s strong and crazy, and it’s taken the clubbing scene by storm.

Aelfric, once he was unable to locate the Fae culprits, called in the Blackhart family. Despite being the most junior member, I was handed the job as no one else was around to take it on. The
assignment came with a small team of Fae, made up of his grandson, Strachan, and a further three Fae who have been courteous to a fault in my presence, but coldly aloof. Feeling outnumbered, I had
called in Aiden Garrett, who was more than happy to play guard-wolf for me on this.

‘How long do you want to wait?’ Strach asks me, offering me the binocs. I shake my head: I can see fine without them.

‘Until they show up,’ I tell him. ‘It’s early still, not even midnight yet. Besides, it’s Halloween. What better time to walk among humans wearing their real faces
without having to worry about glamour?’

Strach grimaces and I notice him touch his ear selfconsciously. He lost the tip of it in the battle at Lake Baikal – against Eadric’s forces who had been hell-bent on bringing back
the Elder Gods. The damage to his ear was hardly noticeable but he covered it up, using a faint glamour to make it appear to have the sought-after Sidhe tip. It was a status thing and I
didn’t understand it.

BOOK: Vowed
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