Owen Wolfe thought they were safe. He thought that the trouble had passed. He was wrong. When Owen begins to see the souls of dead children walking the streets of Garden City, he knows that something terrible is coming.
Owen must learn something about himself. He is the subject of a prophecy, one who was foretold to protect The Realms and all who live within its magic. Owen will have to depend on those around him, and his lover Jace, if he and the people he loves are to survive.
The final battle is about to begin...
He would not stop crying.
The man tried to block out the sound of the boy’s sobs, but they had reached an ear-splitting pitch. He was now begging in blubbery, spit-filled words.
The man went to his workbench, discarded the old scalpel now covered in blood, and chose a new one. Picking it up, he took a moment to admire its beauty as it shone in the half-light of the room, letting the light shine on the scalpel’s surface like diamonds.
Satisfied, he turned his attention to his captive.
The boy was between eighteen and twenty. Dark, sculpted bangs fell to frame his oval face, and his eyes looked nearly black surrounded by so much pale skin. His blubbering grew louder when he glanced at the new scalpel in the man’s hand.
The man moved closer to the boy and ran a finger along the boy’s chin, leaving a thin trail of blood. “What is your name?” His voice was deep and filled with honey. It had been his voice that originally attracted the boy.
The boy tried to speak, tried to form syllables, but he was crying too hard. Spit falling from his mouth in long tendrils caught the light and seemed to twirl. The man reached out with the scalpel and, quickly, slashed a line along the boy’s cheek from jaw to chin.
The boy screamed when the man did this, though he would not have felt the cut. The scalpel was sharpened to such a fine edge that it would have cut metal with one strike.
The man watched the blood pool from the cut and drip onto the boy’s skin, ruby on a pale face. Sighing, the man held the scalpel up in front of the boy’s eyes so that the boy could see it, take in its beauty.
“Your name,” the man said. “What is your name?”
“A-Antho— Anthony,” the boy stuttered. “M-my name is A-Anthony.”
“Anthony.” The man let the name roll off of his tongue. It had a subtle beauty to it, a rhythmic cadence that was pleasing to the ear as well as to the tongue and lips. “Anthony.”
“Mister,” the boy sobbed. “Mister, please let me go. I promise I won’t tell anyone. I promise.”
If there was something the man hated more than anything, it was begging. He looked at Anthony as he was: chained to a wooden cross held in place partway up the wall, Anthony’s feet dangling in the air with only the chains holding him in place. Then he reached up and touched a finger to the blood dripping from the boy’s cheek. He placed the drop on his tongue and tasted the fear there, the terror. His cock grew hard, straining against the fabric of his jeans.
The man paid it no mind. This wasn’t not about sex. It was about a beginning.
“You should be honored, Anthony,” the man said, taking the boy’s chin in his hand, forcing him to look at him. “You have been chosen.”
“Ch-chosen?” Anthony asked, terror was evident in his voice. “Chosen for what?”
“As a sacrifice.” The word was like a caress. It sliced through his body like an orgasm, freeing a blast of warmth that filled his blood. He plunged the scalpel into the Anthony’s chest, piercing through skin, blood and bone. The scalpel lodged into Anthony’s heart, and he forced it deeper. Anthony’s blood poured out, over his hand, warm like water or dreams. The man smiled.
It had begun.
It seemed as though he spent a great deal of his time doing this lately, but it was necessary. After time, he would no longer need to concentrate so hard in order to invoke his magic. He tried to ignore the wind that rustled through the leaves in the trees, tried to ignore the feel of the grass underneath him.
Taking a few deep breathes to clear his mind, he chastised himself for letting his mind wander. He sighed and concentrated harder, feeling a tingle of flame run down his right arm.
Opening his eyes, he watched as the glow in his palm brightened. The quill tattoo that marked his palm pulsed under his skin. He let the magic warm his hand for a moment before pressing a palm to Tahaliwit’s pages.
There was a momentary surge of magic, a brightening of light, and then it was gone. Owen looked at the words that were written there:
Feathers like silk and black as night
It brings back those who have gone to light
It helps put unfinished business right
All under cover of darkest night
Owen watched as his words faded from the page as if they were seeping into the paper. The page was blank only for a moment, but then words he did not write appeared.
As you wish
There was a blinding flash of light and a loud, harsh sound. He blinked his eyes to clear them and stared at the crow in front of him. It did indeed have wings as dark as night. It regarded him with dark eyes and cawed at him.
“C’mon,” Owen said. “You can trust me.”
The crow hopped toward him and walked up his arm to his shoulder. It perched there and cawed softer this time, nesting its beak in Owen’s hair.
Tahaliwit, his book of magic, glowed briefly. Owen looked down at the page, knowing that she had something else to tell him:
There is a legend surrounding Crows. Some say they are the birds of the dead, guarding over the souls who have passed over. Others say that they will carry those souls who have been wronged back from the dead so that they may avenge their deaths and finish their unfinished business.
Those words faded, and Owen figured she had finished, but more appeared.
The Crow will trust you as she came from your magic. In turn, she came from you.
Owen stroked the crow’s feathers. “She, huh? You’re a girl bird?” The feathers were soft under his fingers. “So what should I name you?” He set the bird back down on the ground, marvelling at it. He wondered, as he always did at his magic, how he could create something out of words, something that breathed, that had substance.
He was shaken from his reverie by something he had never heard before. At first, he thought it was the wind through the trees again, or the breeze shaking the power lines, causing them to hum. But the sound didn’t diminish, didn’t go away. Instead, it grew steadily louder.
A thousand voices seemed to whisper inside of him, as if they each had something to tell him all at once, echoing as though he had wind inside of his veins. The only other sound he could hear above the voices was the beating of his heart and the loud caws of the crow. The bird seemed to sense something was wrong and flew to Owen’s shoulder, almost as if to protect him from danger.
Owen closed his eyes again and tried to block out the noise. He tried to concentrate on his magic, on Jace’s face, on anything to get the whispering to stop. But it would not abate.
When he opened his eyes, his breath whooshed out of him.
In front of him stood a young girl no older than fourteen or fifteen. Long blonde hair flowed past her shoulders and framed a face that held an expression so sad Owen’s own heart ached for her.
That wasn’t what had made him gasp. What did was the fact that he could see through her, as if she was there but wasn’t. She seemed to feel his gaze and turned to look at him with the bluest eyes he had ever seen.
“Do you know where my father is?” she asked. Her voice had a soft, lilting quality to it that reminded him of water over rocks. “I’ve lost my father. I don’t know where he is. He’ll be worrying about me.”
Owen let out a slow breath and closed his eyes. When he opened them again, she was gone.