Spirit Song, страница 1
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
Acclaim for Tessa McFionn
Look for these titles from Tessa McFionn
The Call of a Guardian Warrior
About the Author
Also by Tessa McFionn
More Romance from Etopia Press
~ Acclaim for Tessa McFionn ~
Praise for Spirit Bound
“Take the ingredients for a paranormal romance featuring immortals and create the most horrific enemy possible. Mix together with a spunky heroine and you have Tessa McFionn’s Spirit Bound, which is the second book in The Guardian series. The most appealing aspect of this story, aside from a fresh storyline, is the character development.” 5 Stars—The Romantic Reviews
“The world and character-building is terrific. Tessa McFionn wraps the story around you and doesn’t let go.” 5 stars—BTS Reviews
Look for these titles from Tessa McFionn
Spirit Fall (Book One)
Spirit Bound (Book Two)
Spirit Song (Book Three)
The Guardians Book Three
EBooks are not transferable. They cannot be sold, shared, or given away. The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is a crime punishable by law. No part of this book may be scanned, uploaded to or downloaded from file sharing sites, or distributed in any other way via the Internet or any other means, electronic or print, without the publisher’s permission. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000 (http://www.fbi.gov/ipr/).
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are fictitious or have been used fictitiously, and are not to be construed as real in any way. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales, or organizations is entirely coincidental.
1643 Warwick Ave., #124
Warwick, RI 02889
Copyright © 2016 by Tessa McFionn
All Rights Are Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
First Etopia Press electronic publication: September 2016
Creativity does not happen in a vacuum. To my friends and family, who never cease to support my special brand of insanity. To my husband, who will always be my hero.
Thank you for believing in magic and in me.
The Call of a Guardian Warrior
You have been chosen to take up the mantle of the Guardian Warriors.
It is an ancient honor, given to those who have sworn to protect the lives of others.
You were chosen for your skills and for your valor.
The world is a dangerous place, with many mysteries veiled from the eyes of man. Creatures of evil, bent of turmoil and destruction, hide within the souls of the Rogue Warriors. You have been called to do battle with your sword, your wits, and your soul.
To this arsenal, we give you an extended life in your current form and the ability to move with the wind.
You can hear the thoughts of any mortal and can heal with a touch.
Many miles will you travel and many lands will you discover.
No place will you call home for more than two score and ten years.
You will be drawn to your enemy across time and space.
Your enemy will hide within the heart of men and within the realm of the In-Between, the void betwixt the land of the living and the land of the dead.
They will influence dreams and move in shadows.
You will vanquish your foes, sending them back into oblivion.
You will fight until you find your spiritmate.
She will bring you balance and quiet your restless soul.
Once you have made her your own, you will choose to find another to take up the battle in your stead or to bring her into the service of the Guardians.
Do you accept?
Florence, Italy 1463
Bright and colorful ribbons cascaded from the high windows and draped over doorways of the Piazza del Duomo. Everywhere, revelers danced and laughed. Wine sloshed around in the large flagons held by richly dressed patrons, their cause for celebration unknown and unimportant. For those gathered in the square, it was another night to live life to the fullest and carouse until the early hours of the morning. Musicians strolled and weaved through the crowd, eager to catch any florins that fell from sloppy pockets while tambourines jangled and reed flutes piped out happy tunes in harmony with the cranked hurdy-gurdy.
Yet, as the festive parade spilled through the streets, Sebastiani Cristofano Lamberhetti, Protettore of artist Agostino di Ducci, kept his gaze wary, the thick black lashes shielding his topaz eyes as his gaze moved over the crowd. While his charge might be oblivious to all but the ample bosoms currently in front of his nose, not all of those enjoying the midsummer festival were of the noblest intentions. Bastian’s soft, leather-soled boots made no sound as he slipped easily through the dancing people, the deep, burgundy-draped chaperon blending seamlessly into the ebony doublet and dark carmine, tight-sleeved linen shirt. The short black cape tied under his armpit hid his hand as it rested on the heavy pommel of his razor-sharp rapier. His fashions were unconventional and a bit plain for such a thriving city, but his rigid stance coupled with the slender sword at his side served as enough of a deterrent for any curious inquisitions.
He swung his pensive stare with deadly accuracy, searching for the singular glint of silver of a hidden blade. Though the sun had gone down hours ago, he did not need the shining light to ferret out concealed weapons. He simply knew where they would be.
It was a gift, and one he used to his best advantage, making him the most sought after bodyguard—or if needed, assassin—in all of Northern Italy. His skills were coveted by the Borgias, but he preferred the company of the Medicis. Granted, both families reeked of illicit deeds and dangerous dealings, yet something about the Borgias always made his skin crawl.
The attempt on his life after refusing to help make Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia the Pope had cemented his distrust. He scrubbed his fingers across the ragged scar on his throat as he continued to scan the sea of faces. The attack damag
Scoffing harshly in incredulous retrospect, he redirected his focus to the bobbing wisps of white hair as they danced across the bared mounds of flesh spilling forth from the laughing gypsy girl’s soft white chemise. She held his face pressed tightly in place as she beckoned to her partner just two steps behind them. His gaze slid toward the silently approaching cutpurse, the thin stiletto in his fingers as he reached for the old man’s moneybag.
Bastian shook his head sadly as he latched onto the back of the young man’s neck with room to spare. Yanking the surprised boy off his feet, he jerked him about, snarling as his stare pinned the wide brown eyes.
“Go find another victim, monello,” he growled, the jagged tone paling the urchin’s cheeks until it matched the bright moon hanging low in the night sky. The boy’s feet pedaled uselessly in midair, while his head nodded furiously. With a resigned sigh, he dropped the panicking bundle, watching as the boy quickly vanished into the crowd. He locked eyes with his slack-jawed accomplice, her painted eyes blinking rapidly in disbelief. A toss of his head in the general direction of her fleeing companion was all the push she needed before she followed suit. Her hasty departure left his charge staggering for balance.
Bastian bit the inside of his lip to hide the smirk starting to bloom as he steadied the old man, careful not to grip too tightly on his spindly arms. For an artist who worked carving stone, the man had arms like twigs. Yet the fruits of his wizened hands were almost enough for him to believe in a higher power.
“Scusa, signore,” he stepped close, whispering roughly as he bowed his head respectfully. “Mayhap we should be returning to the rectory. It is late and I do not like the looks of the faces.” With a gentle but insistent hand, he guided the gentleman’s shuffling steps back toward his current dwelling within the walls of the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. The cardinal insisted that, as long as Maestro di Duccio was working for Piero de Medici, his head would rest in the house of God. The kind old man nodded his head and muttered under his breath, disappointed by the disappearance of his distraction.
As they neared the ornate brass gates of the cathedral, the hairs on the back of Bastian’s neck began to stand at attention. He tightened his grip on the sword’s hilt as he ushered the frail artist inside the vestibule, pushing him into the waiting arms of the brother watching for late night confessors.
“Stay inside, signore.” He swiftly shut the door before drawing his sword and sweeping the cloak from his shoulder in fluid and practiced ease. He narrowed his eyes and searched for the source of his disquiet, the dark unable to hid secrets from his focused scrutiny. Down a nearby alley, the telltale sounds of a scuffle met his ears, and he dashed toward the foray. There was something unusual about this street fight. A deep, unsettling tremor that could only be described as evil pervaded his senses even as he ran headlong to meet the skirmishers.
Three men, armed with strange weapons, surrounded a fourth, his tattered shirt stained red from deep slashes across his back and along his arm. The three ruffians fought with short, oddly curved blades, the narrow hooks glittered in copper and crimson as the assault continued. The central target brought his wide broadsword to parry one set of spinning blades, his left side open and vulnerable. Bastian watched on, his feet pounding nearer to the fray as one of those vicious points slid between the man’s lower ribs before a sharp elbow to the attacker’s nose stopped the blade from plunging hilt-deep.
Bastian’s razor-sharp rapier flashed and crimson sprayed from the lethal slash. The strange warrior’s head dropped back, a second mouth across his throat grinning from ear to ear and the body toppled in a heap as Bastian moved to engage the next foe. His back pressed against the other man, he held his sword in his unique, over-hand guard, the blade above his head, the tip dangerously poised for a deadly attack. The cloak in his left hand dragged on the ground at his feet, the innocuous fabric worked more as a snare than a shield. Soon enough, one of the remaining attackers took the bait, his foot landing on the velvet pool in his eagerness for a fight.
A wicked smile curved Bastian’s lips, and he snapped the trap shut. He yanked hard on the material an instant before his sword lanced forward. As the ground shifted beneath his would-be opponent, the man threw his head back, offering his exposed throat as a welcome sheath for Bastian’s downward thrust. A quick flick of his wrist and red sprayed the air, the crumpling body landing in a heap at his feet. His eyes scanned the darkness, and as he found no others eager to join, he turned his attention to the clash behind him.
He sensed the man at his back was weakening, his breathing labored as the man took an ineffective swing. The feeble attack took him off-balance and the man stumbled. Bastian hooked his arm in the crook of the man’s elbow, lending him the strength he needed to maintain his footing. The last of the three raised one of the small, knife-like weapons, scenting an easy kill in his wounded prey.
Too bad he was mistaken. Bastian spun off the back of his injured companion to face the arcing blade, his rapier blocked the coup de grace and delivered a killing blow of his own. The comical look of surprise melted as Bastian removed his point from the man’s chest, and a third corpse followed his friends into the Great Beyond. A strange red mist flickered along the edge of his vision, the distraction colorful but not dangerous enough to warrant any further consideration.
With the immediate threat of danger lying in a pool on the broken cobblestone walkway, he knelt to tend the wounds of the victim. The blade had done its job, and the man’s blood flowed without ending as Bastian eased the other man carefully to the ground.
“Rilassati, mio amico. You have been badly wounded. I will find a healer for you.” Bastian moved to rise when a hand grabbed weakly at his arm, halting him, and the man raised his head.
The piercing green eyes that met his were unlike any he had seen before. Pale blonde hair hung in long waves. If not for the Adam’s apple and lack of breasts, he would have taken the fighter for a female. Yet, even as pain furrowed the fair skin, the fine features held a regal bearing, straight white teeth stained red from the blood bubbling up with each agonizing breath. The man shook his head, his jaw clenched to hold back a groan.
“It is too late for me. There was much I still need to do. I am sorry.” A gasp slipped from ashen lips as breath rattled in his chest. The man’s tired voice rang with an unfamiliar cadence as Bastian continued to apply pressure to the seeping wound.
“You apologize for dying? Then how about trying to not die.” Bastian was no physician, but the man’s self-diagnosis did seem more and more accurate. “Why were those men trying to kill you, signore?”
The man didn’t reply, the growing silence leading Bastian to fear the worst. He sighed, dropping his shoulders as he turned his attention from his efforts to find the clear green gaze boring through to his soul.
“You fight with skill,” the wounded man said. “But do you fight for your money or for honor?”
Bastian blinked at the strange question. Why did he fight? What kind of a question was that? And from someone on their deathbed, no less. His voice rumbled in confusion as he returned to tending the man’s wounds.
“Why should my intentions be of any concern to you? I am trying to save your damned life, fool.” The bleeding had slowed down, but he couldn’t be sure if was due to his efforts or because the man had little left to lose.
Bastian snapped his free hand up lightning fast, sensing the close proximity of a physical presence. He grasped the man’s hand as it neared his cheek. The stranger mustered a weak smile, his eyes held a mysterious glow.
“I have little time and these things are important to me, kind sir.”
Bastian grumbled a warning, interpreting the man’s intentions to be of a softer variety. “I am not kind, signore. Do you want me to save your life or not?”
The man twisted his arm in a blink, and his bloodstained fingers tightened
“Perhaps I am here to save yours.”
The night exploded with the brightness of the noonday sun, and blinding pain dragged him away from the strange scene, but not before that mysterious voice echoed through Bastian’s head as blackness swallowed him whole.
Please. Finish what I could not.
Smoke filtered through the dimly lit club, hazing the yellow glare from the overhead lamps. Miranda Devalande stepped to the solitary microphone at center stage, the strains of the piano at her back beginning to fill the silence. A couple chords later and the drums and bass joined in, the recognizable strains of “Cry Me a River” bleeding through the swirling clink of ice cubes and the mumble of incoherent conversations. Her eyes slipped closed, her brain fabricating a happier scenario. In her mind, her dress was ruby-red silk, the light fabric whisper-soft as it hugged her curves and pooled around her feet. Her hair was tumbling loose around her shoulders, the thick auburn and chocolate curls set free about her shoulders to frame her pale face. Behind her, the full orchestra underscored her voice, building to the tumultuous applause from the capacity crowd at New York City’s famous Carnegie Hall.
Too bad when she opened her eyes, her dreams came crashing down. The pungent stench of cheap beer and stale cigarettes wafted up from the shadowy lounge two steps down from her. Her hand-me-down black sequined, one shoulder sheath dress had seen better days, the slit along her left leg reaching higher than her personal modesty would have liked. The same could be said of her scuffed black pumps, the stiletto heels cramping her calves.