Warning: A determined fairy, a banshee-in-distress, and a djinn that will only make matters worse.
Mythicals of Avalon, Book 1
Fairy-In-Distress team member Duncan Molar’s mission is as simple as it is desperate. Find his missing best friend, banshee Cara Wallace, before an assassin lights the magical fuse that will unlock her scream, wiping out the last merrow colony on earth.
Since the day he rescued her from a fishing net, the near-victim of her very first scream, they’ve been joined at the hip, he helping her with her telepathy, she helping him remember the beautiful side of being a fairy.
When he finds her, the crisis isn’t over, for the unreleased scream could kill her…unless he gets her to a remote location and figures out a way to release it safely. The solution blows them so far apart, Duncan’s back to square one. Doing whatever he has to—including sacrificing his job with the FID—in order to save her.
Because secretly, he’s been in love with her for a decade.
Thirteen years ago
Yes! Cara Wallace thought after she’d released her banshee cry.
The lights of the Merrow Kingdom glowed soft blue and green in the inky black underwater. Shockwaves from the cry shot like a sonic ray gun, aimed right toward the royal palace where the mermaids lived. The waves rippled out from where she swam, like little white circles in the deep, murky water. But the scream went right where it was supposed to go.
Fish darted out of the path of the cry, and in the distance, Cara saw merrow caught in the wave, knocked around from their paths. A few scrambled about, and she guessed that word was being sent to the king and queen of the merrow.
The royal palace wasn’t damaged—the cry wasn’t that strong—though the lights around it flickered for a moment as the wave of the scream pulsed in the water.
She’d released her cry all by herself. It was only her second banshee cry, and she’d come down into the water, found her way into the kingdom, and done it.
Her mother and father would be so proud.
She felt awesome. Well, sort of awesome, anyway.
Awesome to get the cry out of her chest—they hurt badly until they were released—but not so much because of what the cry meant.
A member of the royal family was about to die.
While Cara wasn’t sure who resided near death’s door, her instincts told her it was the dowager queen. Her husband, the king, had died a few months ago.
That had been Cara’s first ever banshee cry.
Quite a huge responsibility to a fifteen-year-old girl, but that was her lot in life—the destiny of the banshee. So far, her cries had been focused on the royal family. That didn’t mean she wouldn’t have a cry under other circumstances.
She didn’t know.
After all, this was just cry number two.
She could be down here every month. Every week. Heck, even every day, depending on what cries built in her. The only rule? They all were for the Merrow Kingdom. That was her area.
Her mom, sister and dad all had their own areas that were off the island. Except for family stuff—banshees could get cries for their own family stuff. When her grandmother died, her sister had screamed for that. It was the first time Cara had ever seen a cry up close and personal.
Especially the power—her sister had blown out the windows in the house because she hadn’t gotten outside soon enough.
So, while Cara respected the power of the banshee screams, she hated that she was stuck here on Avalon, waiting for her next cry.
Cara twisted in the water, adjusting the special mask on her face to allow her to breathe—all magic and enchanted and stuff—and glanced around. Very little light from above illuminated this deep down. The only light, really, was from the natural animals—algae and certain kinds of bioluminescent fish.
It took a bit of adjustment to see in the dark. Cara, fortunately, adapted well under water to the low light. Her heritage was a little twisted, having a grandmother who was a mermaid—but not just any mermaid, a Merrow princess. But Cara hadn’t gotten the full-on fish genes from Granny. Nope, she was banshee, with a little extra adaption for deeper water.
Probably why she was the one who was down here, screaming for the kingdom.
The kingdom, hidden by magic—the only kind of magic the merrow used—remained secret, except to those who had been shown how to enter. There was only one entry point, a deep cave that led to a sealed doorway. Only a few months ago had Cara been shown how to come in.
Even on the merrow side, it was hard to find the rock formations—at least for Cara. Maybe if she came down here more often, she could better identify the path, since the cave’s mouth was obscured by large rocky outcroppings.
She twisted in the water.
But wait, am I done?
She wondered if she needed to go down to the castle and speak to the king and queen. Was that protocol? Was it not? She couldn’t remember what her mother had told her.
Regardless, the deep cold of the water was starting to chill her. Biology made this decision for her—it was time to get out of here. She might be banshee with bonus merrow genes, but she still wasn’t made for long periods of time at this depth. She really needed to look into a wetsuit.
She twisted and turned, kicking her legs to propel her through the water. She glanced over her shoulder to make sure no one was on the way to meet her. Mom had told her sometimes the merrow would come out to talk to the banshees when the scream was released.
So far, no one seemed to be swimming her way. She gritted her teeth around the breather, repressing the urge to let them chatter.
The last time, her cousins, the royal princes, Keefe and Kealan had come out to meet her. Technically, her second cousins, since her grandmother was their grandfather’s sister. The two brothers were great—always stopped by when they were on the surface of the island she lived on, just to say hi.
And what girl didn’t like older boys hanging around, even if they were related?
So here she was, a banshee, in freezing cold water, trying to find her way back home, but she kept looking behind her, wondering if Keefe and Kealan were going to come out.
Of course, last time she screamed, they’d come so she could get a bit of a tour of the kingdom, help her be familiar.
She shivered. I need to get out of here. She swam a little deeper. I think it’s this way… She headed toward the rock walls where the cave’s entrance was. A slight glow illuminated the lower sections of the wall of rock, but she had to really focus to see it.
The rocks stuck out like jagged swords, ready to stab her if she twisted the wrong way to get to the nook.
One would think the merrow would mark the exit a bit better.
She slammed her leg into a rock on her left, then the right leg scraped on the other side. For a second, she wished she had a merrow tail. At least she’d be able to move faster in the water. And not bang into stuff.
She twisted around, glancing at her leg.
Lovely. Blood. Great, now I’m an all-you-can-eat shark beacon. Perfect.
She’d better get moving. An eel swam in and out of the rocks and she froze, hoping it wouldn’t come her way. Fortunately, it swam off, darting through as quick as a snake.
Her cousins moved like that through the water. It still dumbfounded her that they had such coordination. Granted, they lived here. They learned all their lives how to move through the water like it was nothing.
She, on the other hand, had never been the greatest swimmer, even with that little bit of merrow DNA.
Finally moving on, she stayed close to the wall of rock, and wished she really could move as easily as her half-fish cousins. Especially when she was freezing and ready to get back on dry land.
Even if it was just the island.
But that was a whole other depressing thing…
“Well, look who it is,” a voice said.
Cara spun around.
And tried not to grimace. Wasn’t I just thinking about eels and depressing things?
Of all the merrow in the water, the last one she wanted to see was her cousin Norton Lynch. With his pointy nose that always seemed a bit turned up, and his slender build, he reminded her of the eel that just swum by. Even the red, seaweed-like cohuleen druith that sprouted from the top of his head looked more like the slithery-fin of an eel.
She pulled away from him, half-expecting him to shock her with electricity.
Norton swam around her, circling as she struggled to keep herself somewhat upright.
“I’d have dressed better if I knew this was a family gathering,” Cara said, using her telepathy to communicate. She wasn’t very good at it—the only person who would practice with her was her mother.
And who really wanted to practice mind reading with their mother?
The only good thing about training—Mom taught her how to use mental shields. And the last thing she wanted was for her cousin to hear her innermost thoughts.
Nope, Norton didn’t need to know what she was thinking, since he tended to annoy her—and on some occasions—give her the willies.
Had he gotten more eel-like as he aged?
“Lovely, as always,” Norton said, reaching toward her.
Cara twisted away from him. “Did you need something, cousin?” She didn’t trust Norton not to fling her into a shark or something, just because he could.
He straightened up, tipping that pointy nose a little higher, and looked way too much like the snotty people at school. “Only to be of assistance. You look lost.”
“I’m fine. I was just leaving.” She glanced around, expecting him to have henchmen waiting in the wings like the self-important girls at school always did. Those types never traveled alone.
And Norton had always thought he was better than anyone else. Why, she didn’t know. He was just another distant relative of the royal family, like her, with no chance of ever ruling the Merrow Kingdom.
Not that Cara ever wanted to be tethered any more than she already was to this place.
“Well, let me show you the way.” His answer seemed a bit too smug.
Before Cara could object, Norton grabbed her wrist with a strength she didn’t expect, and hauled her toward the rock face much faster than she could swim.
“Norton! Stop it!”
But he didn’t heed her words.
He kept pulling, and Cara thought she’d be slammed into the rock wall again. She held out her arm, preparing for impact…
And Norton jerked her out of the way just before she would have hit the wall.
“Norton, you horrible jerk!”
His only response was a laugh that made Cara’s skin crawl. “Stupid girl,” he muttered. “I wouldn’t actually hurt you.”
For a second, Cara swore she heard his thoughts, and they sounded like: Not here, anyway.
That made her shiver. He jerked into a crevice, slamming her into another rocky outcropping. She rubbed her forearm, then realized he’d inadvertently—or intentionally, couldn’t be sure—shoved her into the entrance tunnel.
The cave, illuminated by greenish light, gave Norton a bizarre white-gray glow. Even his green tail fin looked an odd murky color. Though, when she looked, she realized her own hands had the same bizarre hue.
Wow, she looked like a dead body from TV.
“It is rather sad that you have no tolerance for these depths,” Norton said.
“Well, I’m mostly banshee,” Cara replied. “Just like you.” True enough—Norton was just as much a mixed breed as she was. Though Cara didn’t know which of his parents was full-blooded merrow, as her family didn’t spend much time with Norton’s. Bad blood way back there somewhere, but Cara didn’t know exactly what started it. Just that it had always been there.
Norton didn’t reply, but the look of disgust said volumes as they traveled through the cave that led to the entrance to the surface world. She expected him to ramble on about the merrow superiority.
He was rather obsessed about the topic.
They closed in on a spot where the rocks were sealed shut. Cara raised her hand to the wall, but Norton was faster. He angled his head, and the red cohuleen druith twisted in the water, kind of like it was alive, and pressed against the rocks.
Norton glared at Cara while the red cohuleen druith activated the stone mechanism to open so she could leave.
She caressed her woven bracelet, a remnant of her grandmother’s cohuleen druith that allowed her to pass into the kingdom and watched as the stones parted, much faster than they had for her and the tiny sprig on her wrist, fascinated with the magic.
“Amazing that all the merrow use for magic are these cohuleen druiths and the king’s trident. Boy, if I had magical ability, I’d use it all the time.”
“The king doesn’t have Neptune’s actual trident. He has a portion of it.” Norton said it with such disgust, Cara felt sorry for the king. “And the king will likely never use it, just like his father before him.”
His loathing of the royal family rubbed Cara wrong. After all, the royal family was their family. Sometimes, that was all you had—family.
“You know, you’re talking about family pretty rudely.”
“And?” Norton asked.
The rock walls had opened, and Cara started to swim through. She was pretty sure she could find her way out without her cousin’s help.
Still, Norton followed her.
“I can make it from here, thanks,” Cara told him.
“I will make sure you’re out of the rocky caves first.” Norton, however didn’t lead her out, just sort of swam at her side. The cave twisted and turned, and unlike the Merrow Kingdom side, this portion had very little illumination. It took Cara a few moments for her eyes to adjust to the dark surroundings.
Norton’s tail fin shone, like it had been coated in glowing algae, and while Cara appreciated that tiny bit of light, she wished he would just go back.
She was fine.
“You swim so slow. Though what should I expect, from your side of the family,” Norton said, swishing around in front of her.
“You know, we both have the same grandmother,” she answered.
He twisted and glared at her, his black hair sticking out like an eel on his head. It was getting creepy how much he looked like the vicious creatures. “Yes, we do. And that grandmother ruined all our lives.”
She decided arguing with Norton over this wasn’t worth the effort. He would have his opinion. She would have hers.
The family, crazy as it was, was what she had. What could she do about it? It wasn’t like she could go back in time and change it. She wasn’t a merrow. Fully. And she wasn’t a banshee. Fully. Which made her one of the weaker mythical beings on the island, as others at school constantly reminded her.
She couldn’t even fly like a normal fairy. What she would give to be able to stretch some wings and take off.
Especially when the girls in school started teasing her about whatever minor social infraction Cara had made.
That would show them. Just fly away, whenever…
What a pleasing idea.
Of course, some of those girls could fly away whenever they wanted as it was. Part of the joy of living on the island of Avalon. A refuge for mythical creatures of all kinds, Avalon remained home to all sorts of fairies—retired and still actively working. And then there were the corporeals who resided there—the vampires, dragons, werewolves, just to name a few. Even some merrow chose to live on the surface, because they, being of mixed blood, couldn’t remain deep underwater for long periods of time.
Norton was one of those merrow—he kept a place on land as well as in the water, alternating between the two.
And there was Cara, a banshee. She wasn’t the only banshee on Avalon, but she was the only one tethered to the island.
Which sucked so bad.
Every other banshee’s cry led them away from the island, including those in her own family. They could use The Portal—an arch that allowed magic-gifted mythicals to travel instantaneously anywhere in the world—and go to their place, release their cry, and come back.
Since Cara’s cries were for the Merrow Kingdom, she didn’t get to use The Portal. She remained here.
For as long as she lived.
No option to get out of being a banshee—both her parents being banshees pretty much secured her destiny. Adding in her grandmother’s mermaid genes was why Cara got Merrow Kingdom duty.
Though just once, Cara would love to use The Portal and get off the island, if only for a little bit. Not that The Portal was usable for personal business anyway, but it was a nice dream. To pop onto the Great Wall of China. Or to the Great Pyramids. Or the Eiffel Tower.
Even just over to London for a bit. On clear days, depending on where Avalon had appeared that day, she could see the coasts of Ireland, England or Scotland. And how she’d love to walk through the streets. To smell the markets, hear the waves crashing somewhere that wasn’t here…
Even her merrow cousins could swim to the English coast if they wanted, and have a weekend trip away from the Merrow Kingdom.
Cara, though, was stuck on Avalon, for fear a scream came, and she couldn’t return in time to release it. One of the bad sides of being a banshee—the scream must come out. Killing the banshee, if necessary, to release the powerful energy.
So, Cara didn’t leave. She was too afraid she wouldn’t get back in time. Stuck, kinda like her grandmother had been—a princess who didn’t want her crown.
At least, her grandmother had been brave enough to challenge her place.
“Falling in love makes people do strange things,” she told Norton. Her grandmother had lived a happy life on land with her banshee husband, even though she had to turn over the crown all those years ago to her brother.
Norton continued his rambling. “Certain things are not allowed to the Crown Princess. Falling in love”—he said the words with utter disgust—“is not an option for royalty. Even the British know that.”
Cara rolled her eyes. Whether she agreed with her cousin or not, it didn’t matter. Maybe Cara was a romantic, but she always thought Grandmother’s choice had been one she would have made, herself—choosing love over a life of solitude and duty.
It was so brave…
But if she argued with Norton, he wouldn’t leave. And she could make it the rest of the way on her own. In the distance, the water overhead began to lighten, a sign of sunshine above. She was almost home.
“Perhaps you’re right,” she instead replied. Not that she cared, but she just wanted him to shut up.
“I know I am.” Norton slowed a bit.
“You can go back now,” Cara said. Her body ached from all the swimming and the scream. She was more than ready to get out of the sea for a few years.
The next body of water she’d submerse herself in would be a bathtub. With clear water, bubbles and no eels.
And maybe that pink stuff that made her skin so smooth.
Norton shot out in front of her, twisting to the left to avoid a rocky stalagmite.
Cara swam right.
Into an inky black mess.
Norton slowly swam over to her. “Nope, you’re not a fish. Or you’d know how to avoid a net.”
“Help me!” The more she twisted in the net, the more it tangled around her.
Norton crossed his arms. “No. You figure it out. Banshee.” And he turned and left, swimming back toward the entrance to the Merrow Kingdom.
“Hey, Norton! Help me!”
Surely, he was kidding. He had to be messing with her. He had to be. He wouldn’t actually leave her in this net. This had to be some big joke, some merrow initiation or something.
Maybe her mother—or some of her other cousins—were around.
“Mommy! Mommy! Help!” She batted at the netting, but it was like quicksand—the more she twisted, the worse it became.
“Help me! I can’t get out!” The netting’s ropes caught her foot and her arm. As she tried to get out, the strings pulled and knotted against her…
And then was there tugging toward the surface?
She twisted, found herself upside down. The light was now below her feet. Bending over, she realized the light was getting closer.
Wait a second.
She paused, trying to see exactly what was happening.
Sure enough, the netting was moving.
She was moving. The netting had to be attached to a boat, because it hauled her toward the surface.
Was this a magical net or a mortal one? Everyone knew Avalon’s magical power—the ability to grow and replenish itself without the need to farm or fish. But if this was a mortal net, then it meant a human boat was near the island.
Humans couldn’t see Avalon. At least, they weren’t supposed to. She tugged at the ropes again, trying to scratch them with her miniscule nails to see if magic would scrape off.
She couldn’t tell.
Cara had to get out of there. She couldn’t be found, for a dozen reasons. If humans owned the net, she’d have a lot of explaining to do, what with only a fairy mouthpiece when a mortal had to have SCUBA gear to breathe underwater. Or more, how she’d gotten out here—as far as humans could tell, there wasn’t an island here, it was open water.
And if this was one of the magical nets that replenished Avalon, well, the embarrassment of being tangled in it would be as bad—if not worse—than humans catching her.
“Help! Help me!” She was really screwed now. She fought harder against the ropes, trying to pull her foot out, then her arms…
“Slow down. You’re never going to get out.”
Cara spun around.
And stared. At a man’s stomach. Not like a boy from school’s thin frame, this was a toned body. This was a man.
A beautiful man.
Immediately, her heart pounded for a whole different reason.
He hung in front of her. Upside down. So twisted, she had to look down so she could see who this was. Otherwise she’d be staring at his waist. And the area below it…
She went still as she glanced at his face. He wore the same kind of air-breathing mouthpiece she wore.
He was a fairy.
His dark hair floated like a brown mane, and he pulled out a sharp, green-glowing knife.
“Give me just a second…” He took the knife and started working at the strings and pulling at the netting until she was right side up with him.
She didn’t want to stare at his crotch.
The knife cut through the netting and he had half of it ripped open in a blink.
“Oh, thank you.”
If he noticed her sudden hero worship, he didn’t acknowledge it, instead remained focused on the netting.
She tried to pull her arms out, but some of the rope tangled around her. He shucked most of the netting away, then put his arm around her and pulled her free.
“Are you all right?” he asked.
He kicked off, and they swam toward the surface faster than she’d ever moved. His knife morphed into a fairy wand, and he cast a bright green spell just as they emerged from the water. Sure enough, a large human fishing boat was attempting to pull up the netting. Because of her rescuer’s cloaking spell, the people couldn’t see the two of them as they rose from the water.
Wings burst from his back, and the thump sent them high into the sky. The air wavered around them, like they had passed through mercury, and suddenly they were inside of Avalon’s magical cloaking spell.
Her savior spoke around his breather, but she couldn’t understand him. He hovered in the air, his wings moving behind them. He held her high over the island and looked out through the shielding. Stormy waters churned around the boat, and the human fisherman had barely gotten their net pulled in when the boat twisted around and started moving away from the island.
“That was close,” Cara thought.
“The Magistrates should check their shielding,” he replied telepathically.
Cara agreed—that could have wound up being very, very bad. Avalon had some defense against being discovered, but still, that was a close call.
As they soared, exhaustion started to kick in. Soaking wet and cold, she ached and part of her wanted nothing more than her own bed.
At least, she should have wanted that.
Instead, as they flew high over the coastline, she let out a squeal behind her mask. The shimmery green spell glowed around them like being inside a big bubble.
The beautiful rocks and greens below slammed together like a mismatched child’s puzzle, and Cara could not do anything but stare—well, stare and cling to her savior. The cold, the wind, the exhaustion all forgotten because of the beauty of this sight.
“I’m flying. I’m flying!”
If she wasn’t mistaken, he sounded like he snorted.
“Some of us never get to fly like this,” Cara thought.
He circled the land, his wings thrumming against his back, the air rushing around her. They didn’t fly as high as the clouds, but they got close as he twisted and turned, giving her a view of her home that she’d never seen before.
The small town she’d grown up in looked like a model set, and she reached for it, like she could touch it, but nope.
This was real.
She was flying.
They flew by the school, and she saw her classmates pour out of the exits, like a swarm of ants invading. She wished she had a water balloon.
She held out her arm like a super hero and laughed.
This time, she heard him laugh as well.
“No water balloons,” he told her through telepathy.
He headed for a small house that sat outside the nearby town. From this angle, Cara didn’t realize it was her home until he started to swoop down. The top of her house looked awkward and boxy, and she would have never guessed it was her home. Even the trees along the property’s edges looked like bad paint blobs on the ground.
As they landed, Cara wobbled, and he grabbed her arm.
“Are you going to be okay?” he asked as he tucked his air mask into a pouch on his hip.
Cara nodded and pulled hers off. “I think so.”
He released her, and Cara stumbled as she tried to take a step.
“Let me walk you inside,” he said.
She nodded, holding on to his arm. Before he moved, though, he rolled his shoulders, and his wings pulled into his body.
“Wow,” she whispered and peeked around his arm, looking for holes in his clothing. There were slits, but they looked like pleats. If she hadn’t seen the wings coming out of them, she would have only thought they were shirt decorations.
His shirt was almost completely dry. How’d he get so lucky? She still felt soaked to the bone. She touched the pleats on the back and must have made a noise, because he spoke.
“You’ve never seen a fairy?”
She walked around to face him again, her hand on his arm. Well, he was stable and not wobbly, like her legs were. “M-m-my parents are banshee…”
“Ahh.” He slipped his arm around her waist and led her to the porch. She leaned into him, and she told herself it was because she was so cold and he was so warm.
Didn’t have anything to do with how cute he was. Even if he was probably in his thirties.
When they reached the door, Cara held up her house key, but her hands shook.
“My k-key…” she muttered, shivering.
“Allow me.” He waved his hand before the door, and more green magic came out. The door unlocked and slowly opened into the little brick house she shared with her mother, father and sister.
The clock chimed—it was three in the afternoon. Each small ding punctuated their steps as they walked in.
He put his hand on her shoulder. “You need to shower, warm up.”
Cara nodded. “A bath.”
“A bath then,” he said. He escorted her to the couch, wrapped her in a quilt, and sat her down. “I’ll get you one started.”
Cara nodded, or tried to, as she shivered. In the back of her mind, she knew she’d need to wash this blanket, or at least hang it up to dry. She clung to the soft cloth and saw her hands had turned a whitish-blue.
Mom would be upset if she found her quilt so wet.
“Maybe I should call her,” Cara mumbled. After all, this was only her second cry. Mom had made such a fuss over the first one—maybe she’d want to be here now.
“I have your bath ready,” the man said.
Cara blinked at him, realizing how weird it was to have an utter stranger—a good-looking stranger, but stranger nonetheless—in her home. “Who are you?”
A bit of a smile passed over his face, at least for a second. “Duncan. I’m with the Fairies In Distress unit.”
“I’m not a fairy,” Cara said.
“Banshees fall under our jurisdiction. And you needed help.”
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