Home > What Lurks Between the Fates

What Lurks Between the Fates
Author: Harper L. Woods



One of the twin moons flickered as my mate blinked rapidly. She swayed in place as stars shot through the darkness, cruising toward the earth as if the Primordials themselves wept upon all of Alfheimr. My nails dug into the flesh above my heart, feeling the snake that coiled around that beating flesh pull tighter. Mab’s gaze sat heavy upon me, her command bearing down on my soul as I pushed myself to my feet.

I did not feel the pain of the wounds already inflicted upon me—only the pain of that flickering bond between Estrella and me. Her consciousness faded slowly as I watched. The pain blooming at the side of her head made my own throb in response.

Mab squeezed her fingers tighter, driving me back to my knees with a strangled roar. For centuries, I’d suffered beneath her hand, compelled to obey her whims and commands. I’d always thought them a burden, a torture unique to the Queen of Air and Darkness.

But nothing could compare to the pain of kneeling helplessly as Ophir lifted Estrella into his arms, then hoisted her over his shoulder like a sack. Her eyes connected with mine for a brief moment before they went hazy, and I knew the woman I loved could not see me any longer as the darkness pulled her under. Tears pooled in the shocking green of those unseeing eyes, the color all the more vivid for it, before they shuttered and she was lost to me completely.

The bond snapped shut between us, like the closing of windowpanes in the harsh winter breeze. I stared at her temple where Ophir had struck her; the bruise blooming darker as I watched. I pushed against that metaphysical window, hoping to throw open the shutters and feel through the chasm between us for any sign of life. It lingered there, her mind trapped in the total darkness that only unconsciousness could bring, but her heart still beat in tandem with mine.

She would sleep for a time but wake soon enough. I couldn’t determine if that was a blessing or a curse, knowing what awaited her in the Court of Shadows with the queen who would use her to punish me for the secret I’d kept.

Mab summoned the shadow realm once again, allowing Davorin to step through with Fallon. She didn’t make a move to fight as he walked into the shadows with her. Her gaze connected with mine for only a moment before she looked back at Estrella, her face twisting with regret.

We’d all been so fixated on Estrella being Mab’s daughter, so convinced by the evidence of her powers, that we’d never stopped to consider the alternative. I couldn’t imagine what was racing through Fallon’s mind, what she must be feeling with the sudden realization that she was the very thing we’d feared for Estrella.

And she didn’t have a bit of magic to show for it—that we’d seen, anyway.

Several of Mab’s children chained my wolves, snapping muzzles around their mouths while she used her control over them through me to force them still. I growled low in my chest, feeling more wolf than man as the cwn annwn were pulled through the shadow realm.

Imelda looked at me, her eyes filled with regret. We’d both failed them. Both failed to prepare them for what was coming and failed to deliver them to safety, as we’d promised. She closed her eyes for a moment, forcing herself to step away from where Fallon had stood. She went to where Estrella’s mother wept silently, holding the wound on her face with quiet resignation. Whatever her experience had been in Mistfell, she never moved to fight for her daughter.

She knew it would be pointless and would only lead to her death. A death that Estrella and I had only just managed to distract Mab from claiming.

Imelda took her, wheeling her chair through the snow to put some distance between the Queen of Air and Darkness and the only one of us who had any chance at freedom.

“Take her to my mother,” I whispered as she passed me to stand with Holt and the Wild Hunt. Her nod of affirmation soothed the frayed part of me that hadn’t been able to save my mate.

At least I could give her human mother a safe place to live out her life, even if Estrella never saw her again.

“Do try not to have too much fun without me, boys. I need him alive still,” my stepmother said, her lips curving upward as her dark eyes shone with malice.

Mab stepped through the shadows next, disappearing into Tar Mesa as Malachi lingered at the edges of my vision. He didn’t demand my attention in the final moments where I could see my mate before his brother led her through to the Court of Shadows, allowing me to fixate on the sight that would forever stain my memories.

“Ophir!” I roared, flinching back from a kick to my face from one of Mab’s more enthusiastic children. Malachi scolded him for interrupting the moment, but the blow had never landed in truth anyway, only skimming my nose. “I will feed you your own intestines if you hurt her. Mab cannot always be there to protect you.” I coughed, spitting blood from the previous beating on the snow. From the injuries that would blend into new ones shortly enough.

“Perhaps you should be more concerned with what I have planned for you. Mab won’t hurt your mate just yet. She likes her victims aware when she plays with them,” Malachi said, chuckling beneath his breath as he closed the remaining distance between us.

He and his twin brother, Ophir, had been the fascination of Alfheimr when they’d been born all those centuries ago. Twins were unheard of among the Fae with the witch’s curse upon us. Naturally, Mab had felt compelled to add them to her collection, a rarity she needed to own for herself. Whereas many of her children were decent Fae—twisted by the bond forced upon them as children—the twins were demented, cruel things. They didn’t require Mab’s bond to behave in ways that should have horrified any living creature, because they enjoyed it.

Ophir stepped through the shadows, vanishing with the love of my life as the rest of Mab’s guards ushered the Fae Marked and humans who had joined us on our journey to follow. They struggled as they were led by their chained hands, being treated as prisoners in ways we hadn’t allowed.

They’d always thought of us as captors, and we were, to some extent, but not all villains were created equal. Some thrived off of suffering and lived to hear their victims’ screams.

There was only one creature in this world who could force me to do harm, and one more who could motivate me to do anything if it meant keeping her safe.

Neither could make me enjoy the suffering of innocents.

Malachi stepped forward, closing the distance between us as he pulled his iron blade from its scabbard. He ran his thumb along the sharp edge as he stared at me. “What should I do with you? It is so rare that Mab allows me to be the one to remind you what happens when you disobey her.”

“I think you’ve already made your point,” Imelda said from behind me, ignoring Holt’s attempts to quiet her.

It comforted something in me to know that my best friend would protect the witch, keeping her from interfering in things she could not change. I glanced back at her, watching as he grasped her around the waist and pulled her struggling frame against his side.

“Quiet, Witch,” he warned, his voice dropping low as he leaned down to murmur the words against the side of her head.

Imelda shuddered, squirming in his grip to get free. “Unhand me, Huntsman.”

“You don’t know Caldris very well, do you?” Malachi asked, touching the edge of his iron blade to my neck. My skin heated beneath the touch, melting away until his blade touched the sinew of muscle. “No, I think something much more severe is in order for his treachery in keeping this secret from our queen.”

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