by Laura DeLuca
Release Date: 11/08/12
Summary from Goodreads:
Shuffled from place to place in the foster system, Morrigan doesn't know the meaning of home. Plus, she is different. She has power over fire, the ability to move objects with her mind, and glimpse into the future. Just when she believes her life can’t get any stranger, she discovers her true identity.
Filtiarn, a knight with a dark past and a surprising secret, has been tasked with guiding the heir of Tír na NÓg through countless perils to be returned to her family. Once Morrigan has been reunited with her mother and grandmother, their triad can save the forgotten land of magic from being devoured by an ancient evil.
“Guardians!” A low snarl emanated from the back of his throat. “What are you doing with Guardians?”
“Stop it! Sit down!”
Morrigan wasn’t sure who she was addressing, the man or the animals. Luckily, they both obeyed her command. She stepped in between them to avoid any further confrontations. The cats took a seat on either side her legs, but their posture hardly relaxed. They still glared warily at the newcomer, even though their hisses died down to an occasional soft growl.
“Dirty, filthy beasts!” Tiarn snarled as he climbed to his feet. “I hate Guardians.”
“They’re just little cats,” Morrigan told him. “What’s the big deal?”
“Just cats! Hah!” He was standing at a careful distance, even though they had started licking their paws nonchalantly. “They are much more than simple cats! Though even those I find distasteful.”
Morrigan narrowed her eyes. “What do you mean?”
“Never mind. It does not matter.” Tiarn dismissed her question with a wave of his hand. “They are not coming with us.
“They most certainly are coming!”
Tiarn growled again. “I beg to differ with you, Your Highness. They would only get in the way. Possibly even get killed.”
Danu raised her head from her grooming to hiss at him again, as though she had taken that last statement as a personal threat. The strange reaction of her faithful sidekicks made Morrigan wonder again just how much Tiarn could be trusted. She also wondered why, when she wasn’t sure she could trust him, she still felt the undeniable urge to wrap her arms around his neck and kiss him.
“If they stay here alone, they’ll definitely get killed or at least sent to the pound,” Morrigan told him. “I can’t let that happen. So, they’re coming. End of story.”
Tiarn’s eyes flashed dangerously, and he looked like he wanted to argue, but thought better of it. “Very well, Princess. Bring your mongrel felines. Just keep in mind that Guardians and lycans do not mix well.”
“Lycans?” Morrigan repeated.
A sick feeling started to settle in her stomach, as the truth of his words sunk in. It all started to make sense—his hairy arms and chest, his reaction to the cats, even his earlier comment about smelling her out. Her dark knight had a much darker side than she had ever seen in her dreams.
“Why yes, Your Majesty. Did you not realize? You are a witch and a sorceress. And I, your faithful traveling companion, am a lycan—a werewolf.”
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Morrigan took out a white candle and a stick of dragon blood incense, and set them up in the corner of the room. She sat cross-legged, and leaned forward to light them. No matches were necessary. No lighter either. She simply touched her finger to the end of the wick, and with an iridescent spark, the candle flickered to life. It shone at first with a bright blue flame that gradually settled into a more normal orange. It was the same with the incense—another reason why she preferred not to have an audience.
She stared into the candle for a moment, and took a few deep breaths to clear her mind of all thoughts but those of the magic she intended to perform. Danu and Dagda sat on either side of her, instantly falling into silence, as though they knew she needed her complete concentration. Their energy beside her only seemed to add to the growing sense of power that charged the room.
Morrigan closed her eyes and began to shuffle the cards. As she did, she allowed her breathing to become more even. A silence filled the room as the rest of the mortal world fell away. Soon the only sound she heard was the light thump of her own heartbeat, echoed by the quicker, fast paced beat of the cats’ hearts. She wasn’t sure how much time passed as the cards slipped through her fingers. It might have been minutes. It might have been hours. When she allowed herself to fall into a trance, time became insubstantial, irrelevant.
The tarot cards were so old; the designs on the back were almost completely worn away. She had to shuffle gently to keep them from crumbling to pieces in her hands. Yet they held a power that she knew no newer cards could offer her. As she shuffled them, she focused her energy into them, silently requesting to be given the answers she was seeking. She allowed the image of her mother to fill her mind. When she finally felt the cards had fallen into the order they were meant to be in, she placed the deck face down on the floor, and cut them with her right hand. Then, taking one last, calming breath, she lifted the top card from the pile. With a trembling hand, she laid it down and read it.
“Wheel of Fortune,” she said aloud.
In the center of card was a wheel. As she stared at the picture, that wheel seemed to turn clockwise. The movements made her feel slightly dizzy. The bedroom around her became more and more surreal. The scene on the card became her reality. The figure of the sphinx that sat on top of the turning wheel looked so very real. It might have turned its head to look at her. Its lips may or may not have moved. Morrigan swore she heard a deep, resonating voice whispering the meaning of the card into her ear. Destiny approaching. An unexpected and sudden change was coming—change that could lead to good fortune.
It was the card of fate and karma returned. It meant that she needed to be prepared—to expect the unexpected. Morrigan knew the cards were telling her something was going to happen—and soon. Her destiny, whatever it was, was about to be realized. Even if it did bring fortune, it still scared her to death. She considered packing up the cards right then and there. Her rational mind had every intention of doing just that. Her hands didn’t get the message her brain was sending. Before she knew what she was doing, she had already flipped over the second card.
“The Empress,” she whispered. She exhaled deeply. “My mother.”
It was the only interpretation imaginable. Even as she said it, the pregnant woman, crowned with stars and adorned in a gown decorated with pomegranates, turned to her and smiled. She was no longer a vague featureless stranger, but the same woman Morrigan had sketched earlier that day—a face that mirrored her own. It was an older version of herself, which she saw in the reflection in the nearby full length mirror, had turned chalk white.
The Empress was a symbol of maternal power—of strong feminine influence. But could it mean that her mother was returning? She had never allowed herself to consider such a possibility. To dwell on something so unlikely would have been too painful. But now, with just the flip of a card, she found herself daring to dream. There was only one way to find out for sure. She had to keep going with the reading.
“Six of Cups.”
The third card in the spread represented her past, and even her immediate present. The six of cups specifically symbolized childhood, and she was, technically, still a child. But she had a feeling that her childhood was about to end quite abruptly. The cups in the picture were lined up across a high stone wall, each cup holding the memories of her past.
Her past. It was nothing but a childhood filled with longing—longings which were perhaps about to be fulfilled. She visualized herself taking each cup down from the wall, and pouring the troubling memories away. It was time to start fresh. A new world was about to open up for her. She had known it as soon as she had seen the image of her mother’s face. But what would that world be like? What was waiting for her in the future?
Morrigan turned over the fourth card.
“The Knight of Wands.”
The man on the horse carrying the staff had her baffled. Not because she didn’t know its normal meaning, but because as she stared at the card, it began to take on the physical attributes of the knight in her drawings. He had the same long dreadlocks, the same bewitching stare, even the same cocky smile. The familiarity did not cancel out the meaning of the card. The knight of wands was representative of a dark man filled with a kind of honey-tongued charm. He was also fiery and arrogant, a man with a definite possibility of a dark side. If the knight of wands was coming into her life, she knew she needed to proceed with caution.
She thought she was done with the fourth card, and was preparing to move on to the next, when once again, she found she had lost control of her body. This time, her hands refused to move, while her eyes forced their way back to the knight in the card. She watched as the long haired stranger began to move forward—wandering over various landscapes, some high mountains, some meadows and fields ripe for the harvest. He kept looking back over his shoulder, as though he were speaking to someone. He was on a journey, and he wasn’t alone. Morrigan didn’t need to see his companion to know who it must be.
So, her journey would soon begin, and she wouldn’t be traveling alone. She would have a guide. Whether or not that would be a good thing was another question best left to the cards to answer. The next card told her nothing she didn’t already know.
“The Moon,” she said. “Caution.”
It was a scary card. It warned of tricks and illusions. The two howling wolves that stood under the moon looked back at her menacingly, growling, showing their pointed fangs in a snarl. For the first time since she began the reading, Danu and Dagda made their presence known by lifting their heads and hissing threateningly in the direction of the beasts.
Even the cats sensed it. The journey she was about to embark on wouldn’t be all fun and family reunions. There would be obstacles and deceit, most likely from people she thought could be trusted. The moon was a sign that danger was certainly awaiting her. In was an ominous omen.
She hushed the hissing cats, and gave them each a gentle stroke to try to settle them down, though she was far from settled herself. Again she felt the urge to stop the spread. Her instincts were telling her that no good was going to come out of this reading. She was only going to scare herself. She should never have done it in the first place. When would she learn that sometimes it was best to let life play out without interference or prophetic warnings? Then again, she knew that to be forewarned might be her only advantage. So with more bravery than she felt, Morrigan flipped over the final card.
“No . . . .” she gasped when she looked down at the terrible, skeletal face. “Oh no.”
She should have known. She thought a part of her did know even before she glanced down at the gruesome scene—a skeleton with a scythe in a field of body parts. With the divination going in the direction it was, what else could be the final outcome?
“Death,” she whispered. “Death.”
She knew that in most cases, the death card was a symbol of personal transformation rather than literal death. But a deeper sense of understanding told her that this time the card was meant to be taken literally. She saw only glimpses and shadows in her mind. Brief flashes of faces, some familiar, like her mother and the knight—some still strangers, like a beautiful, almost angelic blonde woman in a flowing white gown. But around them all, including herself, she saw the shadows of death.
Morrigan felt decidedly shaky as she gathered up her tarot cards. She placed them securely in the bottom of her bag just as she heard the door downstairs slam shut. The reading hadn’t made everything as crystal clear as she had hoped, but one thing was certain. Her whole life was about to change.
About the Author:
Laura "Luna" DeLuca lives at the beautiful Jersey shore with her husband and three children. She has been writing stories for as long as she can remember. Old high school friends would tell you she was always scratching in her notebook instead of paying attention in class and the children she used to babysit for always loved to hear her scary stories at bedtime. In addition to writing fiction, Laura is also the sole author of a popular review blog called New Age Mama. She is an active member of her local pagan community, and has been studying Wicca for close to eight years.
Smudge stick with abalone shell, snake necklace, tumbled stones, incense, natural stone pendant and wood trinket box. (US only)
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