Home > Shadow Lands (Savage Lands Book 6)

Shadow Lands (Savage Lands Book 6)
Author: Stacey Marie Brown

 

 

Brexley

 

 

The dying branches wailed from being snapped under my boots, each one a spine I cracked, a bone I broke, a life I took. They became a symphony in my head, a sonnet of sorrow and pain. Mixing with the bass of my heartbeat and the thunk of the box I carried drummed at my ribs, they sang with the guilt I bore with every step

I didn’t feel Warwick through our link, but I somehow sensed him out there, vibrating the earth with his anger, howling his hurt in the dark. His emotions lashed out at me like invisible whips, telling me to stop. If I did, I know he’d convince me to stay, to turn right back around into his arms.

I couldn’t.

The only safety for everyone was for me and the nectar to disappear. We were powerful separately but devastating together. Too many people wanted to use us, willing to hurt those I love—and worse, innocent bystanders—to get to me.

Trust became a precarious line when power and control were at stake.

And the person I feared the most was… me.

How many more would I hurt? Kill? Blood coated me, seeping through my skin to my soul.

Tad was dead. I murdered the most powerful Druid in history because he was trying to save a child.

From me.

It was like thinking you were the princess in the fairy tale only to wake up and find you were the evil queen the whole time.

The Villain.

It was why I continued to run. My legs grew weak, stumbling over streams and uphill, through dark sleeping towns, and across motorways, keeping to the shadows of night. I didn’t stop.

I ran until the sun kissed the earth, returning for a new day, my body crumbling to the ground, no longer able to take another step.

Get up! Keep going. I struggled to push myself up, my arms and legs giving out next to a stream, my face thudding into the mud, my lids shutting with exhaustion.

And I let the darkness swallow me whole.

 

 

Chapter 1

Warwick

 

 

It was cold as fuck.

We had been out here so long my balls resembled ice cubes, clanking like bells every time the bitter wind snapped off the river. I hunkered down against the wall; my breath billowed in condensation, steaming up my binoculars.

“This is not good,” Ash muttered next to me, peering through his own.

Frowning, I rubbed the blurry glass over the fabric of my coat and pressed them up to my eyes again. Lights glared off the Danube from across the river, and the entire fae palace was lit up. Hundreds and hundreds of figures moved around the citadel. Furniture was being carried indoors; servants and guards, terrified of their new patron, bustled in and out like there was a ticking time bomb under their feet.

Dragging my view over, I took in the quick construction on the far wing of the palace, already half rebuilt. The section that was blown up by the very same people moving in. Chance and quick thinking were the only reasons my sister and nephew lived. And they were most of the reason I stayed, why I hadn’t fully gone over the edge.

“Fuck that bitch,” I snarled.

“Think Killian will fight you to kill her first.” Ash huffed out a thick cloud of breath, tucking his chin farther into his collar. It had to be past midnight, and the temperatures in the first week of December were already dipping below thirty degrees. “She’s going old school with those uniforms.”

Through the eyeglass, I could pick up the general details of the guards’ uniforms. Black leather-like pants and shirts with long sleeves and an embroidered emblem on the front, which I couldn’t make out from here, but I got the gist of who she was copying.

“Very similar to Queen Aneira’s military.” He shivered. Not sure from saying her name or from the bitter temperatures.

“Well, Sonya is a product of that time,” I replied. “She idolized that psycho bitch.” I scanned the area, taking in everything I saw. The armored cars, military trucks, servants, guards. Sonya was making herself at home in Killian’s palace. Taking over the empty seat before he could come back. Majority of the people still thought he was dead anyway, so they welcomed their new leader without any fuss.

Budapest was in a strange limbo. Like a cartoon I saw once of a coyote hanging in the sky after running off a cliff until he realized he was standing on air, and then he fell. We were like him, hanging in the air. Waiting. Soon we’d realized we, too, were standing on nothing.

People in Savage Lands went along with their day, trying to simply survive, while rumors of General Markos’s disappearance grew louder. Lieutenant Henrik Andor, his second in command, was trying to act like nothing was wrong and it was business as usual, but you could feel it in the air. The holding of breath before everything was about to crumble. When you merely survived day to day, escaping gangs and death, starvation, and people willing to kill for a coin in your pocket, your senses became honed. You could feel a slight shift in the air. Something was off.

Wrong.

This city was all sorts of wrong.

Or maybe it was me.

Nothing had been right with me for weeks now as if I were on the precipice of falling.

“We better get back before I freeze my nutsack off out here.” Ash got to his feet, grumbling at his stiff muscles.

“I’m sure you’ll find someone to warm them up later.” I shot at him, my eyes still on the palace.

“Who said it would be just one?” He smirked.

I wagged my head, dropping the binoculars and climbing to my feet. “Are you actually admitting there are two?”

“You mean my two hands?” Ash couldn’t fight the grin hitching the side of his mouth as we strolled to our motorcycles. We both knew it wasn’t his hands that were getting him off almost every night. You’d never know by how they acted during the day, but two people were slipping into his room at night, and shit got loud. It only grated my nerves and added to the anger and venom swimming in my blood, deteriorating the slight barrier I tried to keep up between me and the Wolf.

It had been just a little over two weeks since the night she left—since everything went to hell, and the Wolf was being held back by a thin thread. He wanted to hunt her down. Claim his vengeance. Exhibit his wrath. Devour his prey.

Violently. Brutally.

Make her pay.

Swinging our legs over the motorcycle, Ash and I tore off through the quiet streets. The only people out now were deadly and dangerous.

But most feared me.

The roar of our bikes recoiled off the buildings, the frigid air snapping even harder at my frozen skin. We zigzagged through the Savage Lands, making sure we weren’t followed and stopping far enough away from where we had secured our new base, Vajdahunyad Castle, which wasn’t a real castle in the technical sense. Copied from Corvin Castle in Romania, it was part of a Millennial Exhibition, built in an old park to show off the mix of romantic architecture of the time: Romanesque, Gothic Renaissance, and Baroque styles were highlighted in the Romanesque cloisters, mock drawbridges, moats, gates, carved portals, and spires. These were stunning back in the day, but the building had been left in ruins after the Fae War, ignored, neglected, and forgotten. Wildlife grew around it, concealing the gem in foliage, decaying over time.

Ash and I hid our bikes in the brush behind an old outbuilding on the east side of the park, slinking through the darkness across the large, overgrown common grounds, our senses at the quick for wild animals and enemies.

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