The last adventure and one last memory for Elly, as she and her friends find themselves in the thick of shaky alliances, an impossibly powerful troll, and the fate of the entire city.
Elly and Shade are confronted by der Hort, an old nemesis with a height problem, but plenty of magic to spare. When his attempt to steal Elly’s ability goes awry, Shade is the one who pays the price. That price tag comes with the blessing, and the curse, of his losing his memories. The blessing is Elly’s fiance is returned to her. The curse is there’s a deadly catch, and one that each moment brings closer to them.
Together with allies old and new, they must find der Hort and retrieve Alec’s powers. Their shaky alliances, however, are nothing compared to what’s going on behind the city scenes. Ward wants der Hort removed as well, and enlists his underlings to push them along. That includes not only Helen but the Sisterhood of the Serpent and the Matron herself. All that trouble comes to a head as Elly races against time to save not only her lover, but herself from destiny’s cruel grasp.
A bright, sunny day with only a small blemish. That blemish was a troll.
I wasn't referring to anything found in the dungeons of the online world, but a real, honest troll, though it wasn't honest, either. But I'm getting ahead of myself. The day started out as normal as any of my days started out: with trouble.
"Hold on!" Blackbeak shouted as he flew along beside me.
"I don't think I have a choice!" I snapped. I ducked to prevent myself from becoming a few inches shorter on the top.
The choice I didn't want to make was to jump off, but at this height and speed that wasn't a good idea. I leaned over the side of the feathered beast I rode and winced as the ground flew past us. People leapt out of the way and more than one panicked shopper screamed as I went careening past them.
Why was I careening past anyone?
Because I'd somehow managed to topple onto the back of a bird the size of a KFC sign, but without all the delicious home-cooked goodness to go with it. That, and a side of mashed potatoes.
I dared to stretch my neck upward and nearly lost it to another sign. "Where's Shade?"
Blackbeak shrugged and lost some of the ground between us. "He said he was coming!"
He was coming. That's what he said two blocks back after the bird had escaped from the netting of his trap. I'd foolishly tried to grab one of the ends of the net and fallen overboard onto my feathered jet liner.
The bird finally took notice of its terrified passenger as one of its bright golden eyes darted up to me. I sheepishly grinned at it. "Um, hi? Could you maybe put me down and stop terrorizing the city-hey!"
My yelp came about when the bird pulled up and flew over the tops of the shops in Flower Pot Alley. A few of the patrons of the potions masters brought out their newly bought bottles of magic and I saw their lips move. Fireballs shot out of the containers and singed the feathers of my ride. Some of them caught the tips of my flapping hair, so I ducked low against the bird's back.
Blackbeak flew in front of the fools and snatched their bottles from their open hands. "Knock it off, you stupid humans, or you'll catch the whole place on fire!"
Something on the rooftops caught my attention to my right and I turned my head in that direction. My heart leapt as I caught sight of Shade sprinting along the uneven rooftops. As he ran his cloak billowed out behind him, and the next moment his leathery wings burst out behind him. He reached the end of a block and leapt into the air, taking flight and swooshing over to me.
"Duck!" he shouted at me.
I pressed myself against the monster a second before Shade crashed into its side. The bird let out a loud squawk and snapped at him with its powerful beak that had already ripped a man in two. It was his family who had hired us to rid Senexitas of this feathered foe.
The push shoved us downward and into the middle of the street again. I looked up and watched the people scream and scatter. All except one.
A short man hardly up to my waist stood in the middle of the dirt road. He sported a sparse mess of hair on his head and a crooked, bulbous nose on the front of his warty face. The strange little man wore an outfit like a leprechaun, complete with jacket and the rounded shoes. He raised one of his fat hands and his stubby fingers twitched. A huge ball of fire, greater than I'd ever seen Pawn create, burst out of his palm. He drew his arm back, and I swore he winked at me before he threw the burning ball at my ride and me.
Shade swooped down and dipped his arms under mine. He lifted me off the bird's back and to the far side of the street only a second before impact. The flaming orb struck the bird and the creature had only enough time to let out a screech before it was incinerated. The heat of the falling body scorched the fronts of the wood buildings and shattered the window glass.
Shade swooped back and we landed a few yards from the mass of burning meat. A scent of chicken filled the air as the people crept out of their hiding spots.
Blackbeak landed on my shoulder and wrinkled his nose. "Nothing more annoying than a bird who gives the rest of us a bad name."
I snorted. "I think it's more annoying to be the victim of that bird."
The noise came from behind us, and as I turned I saw something fly at me. Instinct forced me to throw up my hands and I caught the tiny object in my cupped palms. I looked down and saw that I held a Heaven Stone. The dormant rock burst to life in my unique hold.
A slow clapping forced my eyes upward, and the strange man I'd seen in the middle of the street approached us. He was the one with the congratulations, and his eyes twinkled as he looked me up and down. "Bravo! Wonderful!"
Shade stepped in front of me and nearly blocked my view of the man. I could feel the tension radiate off my dragon lover and his gauntlet-covered fingers were splayed out, twitching in anticipation of trouble.
The crooked nosed man paused and folded his arms together. His bushy eyebrows wagged at Shade. "Well well, if it isn't the shadow serpent himself. I thought I might find you with this treasure."
"Leave," Shade growled.
The man threw back his head and laughed. "You and your sense of humor! Always telling me off when you know you love me so much you want me to stay." Shade flexed his fingers. The move did not go unnoticed by our new acquaintance. His humor died on his face and he sighed. "You know you can't stop me. Not when I've a mind to get what I want, and-" He leaned to one side to get a better look at me and grinned. "-I want her."
Shade shot forward and took a swipe at the short man. He merely raised one hand with the palm facing Shade and a brilliant wall of light in the shape of a shield appeared in front of him. Shade's clawed hand struck the shield and sent a tremor through the shield that reverberated down his foe's arm.
The man stumbled back and frowned at Shade. "You've grown stronger since we last met."
Shade crossed his arm over his chest. "If you remain here then I'll show you how strong I've become."
The man chuckled. "There's no need. What I desire will only take a moment to acquire."
He raised his other hand so the palm faced upward and drew it against his lips. A jumble of sparkles appeared on his palm. The man blew a soft kiss over his hand and the sparkles floated like dandelion petals toward me.
Shade leapt in the way, but they flew around him like a school of fish and darted at me. I threw up my arms, but Blackbeak flapped his wings hard and created a small storm of wind. The gust blew the sparkles toward Shade, but he dodged to the right. Unfortunately, the sentient glitter moved the same direction and the two collided.
Shade's eyes widened as the lights disappeared into his chest. He opened his mouth in a soundless scream before he collapsed face-first into the dust. His wings vanished into his back and he lay still.
"Shade!" I shouted as I made to move forward.
"Wait!" Blackbeak yelled at me.
I froze as I saw what he saw. The sparkles floated out of his back and whooshed over to the short man. He stumbled and threw up his hands in front of himself. "Stop, I say! Stay-" The glitter struck him in the chest.
The little man's eyes bulged out of his head and he wrapped his arms around himself. A garbled scream escaped his pale, pursed lips as he staggered backward. A soft glow of purple light surrounded his body and his eyes took on the same eerie color.
That's when he turned to face down the street. I blinked, and the man had vanished.
Shade was still lifeless where he dropped. I rushed up to him and flipped him over. He was still breathing. I grabbed his shoulders and gave them a shake. "Shade! Can you hear me? Shade!"
I breathed a sigh of relief when Shade's eyes flickered open. He looked up at him and furrowed his brow. "Elly?"
Tears pooled in my eyes as I flung myself around him in a tight hug. "Oh Shade, I'm so glad you're okay."
Shade frowned. "Who's Shade?"
My heart froze before I drew myself away to look down at him. "You are. You're name is Shade."
"What are you talking about, Elly? My name's Alec."