The bombardment to his senses slowly pulled Eoghan back to consciousness. He dug his fingers into the cool grass and dirt. The soft rush of a breeze over his face cooled his flesh and caused a strand of hair to tickle his cheek.
He remained on his back and took it all in. The beast that had chased him was gone, left behind on that horrendous realm of darkness. It was the music that had lured Eoghan to freedom.
His eyes snapped open as he recalled the woman. He stared at the stars above him in the night sky as he remembered how she had pulled him through the portal. It was by sheer luck alone that he managed to close the portal before the beast got out.
He sat up and looked around. His gaze clashed with the broken dolmen. There were few portal stones left intact – and for very good reason. They were exactly as they were named. Thanks to a few Half-Fae who used what magic they had, mortals had begun crossing into other realms for centuries.
Most were never seen or heard from again.
Eoghan’s thoughts returned to the woman. His head swiveled as he searched for her. Spotting something shining in the grass, he pushed to his knees and leaned forward to grasp the item. He lifted it, staring in confusion at the black cat face earring.
He stilled as he felt something behind him, a stir in the air that sent a warning through his body. He rose to his feet and spun around, his magic ready to launch at his enemy.
But the petite woman standing before him in a black dress with full skirts halted his movements.
“Eoghan,” she said, a slow smiling pulling at her lips.
He dropped to his knees and bowed his head in deference.
A slim finger lifted his chin so he was staring into her lavender eyes. Her long black hair was pulled over her left shoulder into a fishtail braid. “We’ve been searching everywhere for you. I felt powerful magic and came to investigate. I’m delighted to find you. But how did you return?”
He glanced back at the dolman before returning his gaze to Death. There was something different about her. Almost as if she were…diminished.
Her smile was sad as she dropped her hand, her gaze holding his. “I’m dying. Bran is stealing not just my magic, but my life force as well.”
Fury ripped through Eoghan as he got to his feet. How could he have forgotten about Bran? He had to find the other Reapers so they could finish him once and for all.
Erith’s hand on his arm stopped not just his body, but his thoughts as well. He frowned as he looked at her, waiting to hear what she had to say.
Death blew out a soft breath and released him. “I know it was what happened in your past that made you take a vow of silence. You’ve been an invaluable warrior for me and the other Reapers. I don’t know how much time I have left. I no longer have the energy to keep everything going. I have need of you, Eoghan.”
He frowned, not liking her words or her tone. But he waited for her to continue. He owed Erith much, and serving her for eternity was just a small part of it. After his betrayal and death, she gave him life and a reason to continue.
He nodded, letting her know that he was listening.
“I never pushed you to do more than you were willing,” she said. “You were a general in the Light Fae army. You – just like Cael – were born to lead. And that’s what I need you to do now.”
Eoghan shook his head. There was no way he would push Cael out of being leader of the Reapers. Besides, Eoghan had no desire to lead.
“You misunderstand. Cael’s position isn’t in question.” She briefly closed her eyes. “I allowed you and your team to believe you were my only Reapers. Over the years, I’ve been accumulating more betrayed warriors. They work in the shadows as my spies and to back the seven of you, if needed.”
Eoghan was so shocked that he took a step back.
“These Reapers need a leader. They are very good at what they do, but they lack a cohesiveness to work as a group. What they need is you,” she stated.
It was the first time in years that Eoghan wanted to talk. The words jumbled in his head in a mass as he tried to sort out a way to get them out without speaking.
“Bran is about to win,” Death continued in a harsh tone. “I can’t stop him from taking my magic. He’s going to eventually assume my position. And he’s going to wipe out all the Reapers. For now, he has no idea of the other group. I’ve kept them hidden because of this. He believes you’re gone. With you leading the others, you have an advantage over Bran that could stop him.”
How could Eoghan refuse? But not to return to his brethren was going to kill him. Cael and the others were his brothers, his family.
As if reading his mind, she said, “Find Cael. Tell him what you’re doing.”
Eoghan gawked at her. Him? Why wasn’t Death going to fill Cael in?
Her face fell, a flash of regret passing over her features quickly. “You saved Cael from Bran’s magic, but the battle didn’t end. Bran turned Neve’s brother who betrayed and killed her.”
Eoghan nodded in understanding. Talin had fallen hard for the Light Fae, and with Neve’s betrayal and death, she had taken Eoghan’s spot with the Reapers.
“Your brethren have never stopped looking for you. They need to know you’ve returned.” Death gave him a smile. “I knew you would find your way back.”
In the next instant, Erith was gone. Eoghan stared at the spot she had been in for several minutes thinking over all Death had shared – and wondering what she left out.
He fisted his hand that held the cat earring, the back poking into his palm. There was a deep, profound longing to hear the music that had called him back to Earth. Was it the woman who pulled him through the portal that played the music?
He’d only gotten a quick look at her before passing out. Shoulder length blue hair, sienna brown eyes, and a tiny diamond stud in her nose. But even with that brief glimpse, he’d recognized her as a Halfling.
A frown formed when he recalled that he’d spoken to her. He told her to run. And it appeared as if she had done just that. It was for the best. She was much better off far away from him and the war.
Eoghan began walking. It didn’t take him long to realize he was in Ireland. He briefly thought of going to Inchmickery, the small isle off the coast of
Scotland near Edinburgh that the Reapers used as a base, but he wasn’t ready to be among them just yet.
Instead, he veiled himself and teleported to outside of the Light Castle in a copse of trees. And he watched the castle. At one time it had been a beacon for him, a place that he believed would outshine the Dark Fae in all ways. It didn’t matter if it was the castle on Earth or the one on the Fae Realm that was destroyed.
Just because a Fae was Light didn’t mean they couldn’t turn Dark. His wife was a prime example. How had he ever been so blind as to not see that she wanted power? His position had given her just that, but it wasn’t enough for her.
The pain of her betrayal no longer cut as deep after so many thousands of years. It was a dull ache now. But it would never leave him.
Perhaps it was time to put aside his silence. He couldn’t lead the Reapers if he didn’t talk. Damn. This was going to be harder than he thought.
He was about to teleport away when he spotted Rhi off to his left hiding in the trees not far from him. The infamous Light Fae who fell in love with a Dragon King was of interest to Death. So much so that Erith had Daire follow Rhi.
Yet, as Eoghan sought a glimpse of his friend, there was no sign of Daire. A Reaper could see any Fae – veiled or not. Without a second’s thought, Eoghan dropped his veil. Immediately, Rhi’s head jerked to him.
“Eoghan,” she said as she released her veil and walked to him. She looked him over, a grin forming, as she tossed back her long black hair. “We didn’t know what happened to you.” Her smile froze when she looked into his eyes.
He frowned, wondering what caused such a reaction.
“Look, hunky, I’m not a mind reader. I know the human adage of ‘silence is golden’, but not in this instance. I need you to talk to me.”
Eoghan hesitated. He swallowed twice before he asked, “What’s…wrong…with…me?”
“You’re eyes. They’re silver but…different.”
He formed a mirror in his hand and looked into it. Rhi was right. His eyes were silver, but no longer did he have a pupil showing. All that he saw was metallic silver staring back at him.
Rhi wrinkled her nose. “You might want to think of using glamour or wearing sunglasses when around humans.”
He made the mirror vanish and gave her a nod.
“Are you going to tell me how you got back? Where were you?”
“Tonight. Not sure.”
Rhi sighed dramatically. “Well, I guess I should be happy that I’m getting answers. Have you seen the others?”
Eoghan shook his head. “Where’s Daire?”
She shrugged indifferently, but she couldn’t quite hide her pain. “I don’t know. One day he was following me, and then he wasn’t.” Rhi suddenly put her hand on his arm. “I’m glad you’re back. Cael and the others have been beside themselves with worry.”
He didn’t get a chance to reply because she teleported away. Eoghan blew out a breath. It was time he spoke with Cael. He teleported to a cliff on the east side of Ireland and said his old friend’s name.
Within moments, Cael was standing before him. Their gazes met. The relief on Cael’s face made emotion well up in Eoghan’s throat. He’d never had a brother, despite wishing for one. The Reapers were his family, but Cael was like a true brother in every sense of the word.
They embraced before Cael grabbed his shoulders and stepped away to look at him. There was a slight frown when Cael saw his eyes. “Where have you been? How did you get back? When did you get back?”
“One at a time.”
Cael’s smile vanished as he dropped his arms and stared in shock. “You’re speaking?”
“Death said I must.”
All emotion was wiped from Cael’s face. “She spoke with you?”
Copyright © 2018 by Donna Grant in Dark Alpha’s Hunger and reprinted by permission of Swerve.