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Defender of Magic

Champion of the Sidhe #3


Raiders have attacked Danu’s temple, slaughtering its defenders. The artifacts that are the last hope for the survival of the fey are in danger. With Changelings out to kill him, and goblins determined to abduct him, Lugh’s on a quest to find a stronghold for those treasures. Perhaps he should have thought twice before seeking a safe haven in the territory of shape-changing, fire-breathing dragon.







Excerpt


 

Chapter 1


With fingers hesitant with longing, Lugh stroked the porcelain cheek of the Sidhe who was once worshipped as the moon goddess. Such a precise likeness, this statue of Rhiannon captured her features in frozen perfection. Crafted with such careful attention to detail, Lugh almost expected the statue to move. More than once he thought it actually breathed. A trick of the light made the statue’s chest seem to lift with shallow breaths. He gazed into the white eyes and felt himself beholding Rhiannon herself.


So painfully beautiful, Lugh fought the sting that blurred his vision. His palm caressed the statue as if he might lift her face toward his. He could not resist the temptation to place a light kiss to the chilled mouth that did not yield to his affection. Drawing back only enough to speak, he murmured, “Return to me.” The statue refused him even the least of encouragements, and that, more than any other evidence of his senses, proved that this sculpture was not his Rhiannon.


His Rhiannon always succumbed to him, just as the moon reflected the light of the sun. She could no more deny him than the fey of the Mounds could resist the dominion of the All-Mother. Although Unseelie by nature, Rhiannon transformed when Lugh’s magic infused her with his influence. When he Touched her, she glowed like the hunter’s moon, full of light and gilded glory. With him as her escort, she thrilled to the dance of the Seelie Court. With her onyx tresses and night-ocean blue eyes set off by her milk-cream skin, she was a rare, dark jewel among the fair Seelie. Alas, she could not sustain his persuasion perpetually. Her phases required Lugh to relinquish his sway over her and surrender her to Crom. As Lugh was the lover who lured her to wax with the purity of the light, Crom was the paramour who seduced her back into the waning depths of the dark.


The sound of Willem clearing his throat parted the veil of fantasy in which Lugh indulged himself. He backed away from the porcelain figure, the daydream broken and fading. The hollowness of longing remained. In all their travels they’d discovered not one Sidhe.


Not one.


In all the temples throughout all of Ireland, not even the slightest evidence that any Sidhe, save Lugh, yet lived. Never in his many millennia had Lugh endured such a span of time deprived of the Touch of another of his kind. The bonding of magic was essential. It refreshed and renewed. The Touch was a basic requirement for health, as much as nourishment, sleep, and copulation. The depletion of his magic in the wake of the Collapse certainly heightened this perception of yearning.


Lugh pivoted toward the Scribe, only peripherally aware of his hands wiping down his chest, as if closing the window to the pain within, shrouding it once more from himself and others. Lugh loved his people above and beyond all things. His compassion knew no measure, even for the Unseelie with whom he found so little common ground. Above all else, he was Sidhe. There was nothing he would fail to do, no service he would fail to perform for his people. The very notion that all others, with the exception of himself, may have perished pained him beyond the telling of it.


Embracing both denial and pride as his armor, Lugh fixed his expression into a calm composure. If even one other Sidhe yet lived, they deserved Lugh’s full focus and dedication. What emotions lay buried in the treasure chest of his heart, he’d effectively secured and suppressed. When he regarded the Scribe, nothing but confidence showed. Of this Lugh felt certain, for in that moment it was true. Such self-deception was a Seelie talent that required centuries of practice to master.


The diminutive Scribe angled his neck to address Lugh, who was nearly twice his height. His irrepressible grin blossomed as he presented Lugh with a pair of hair combs of polished ivory. Lugh recognized them. The cameo figures carved into the handles would settle into the flowing waves of Rhiannon’s midnight hair as if they were sprites dancing in the night sky. Lugh reached out to collect the delicately crafted combs, which hardly showed any evidence of wear. “These are from the first realm of fey?”


“Most assuredly.” Willem passed the vial of magicraft over the combs as Lugh inspected them. The vial blazed with magic as the gold flecks within spun in a tight vortex. The Scribe blinked up at Lugh, innocent excitement in his bright, fey eyes.


“But no indication that anyone has dwelled here since the Collapse?” Lugh’s fingers worried over the smooth teeth of one of the combs. Rhiannon left her temple furnished. She’d not abandoned the remnants of her past as a deity to the humans, as most of the Sidhe had done.


Willem nibbled on his lower lip, cast down his gaze and shook his head.


Lugh relinquished the combs to Willem, who stashed them in the satchel with the other artifacts from the first realm. He indicated that the Scribe should precede him from the room with a graceful wave of his hand. The gesture, though polite, served a greater purpose. Lugh tarried at the threshold. Upon the wall to the east of the door, Lugh traced a Celtic knotwork symbol for the sun. His signature. He infused the tracing with Glamour and sunlight, so that it would glow upon the wall for months to come, unless someone dispelled it. One last time, he glanced back at the statue, which passively watched him depart.


 


The adventure continues in Defender of Magic - Champion of the Sidhe #3