Series: SoulShares (#7 of 9)
Release Date: July 19, 2016
Publisher: Riverdale Avenue Books
Cover Artist: Insatiable Fantasy Designs, Inc.
Rhoann Callte, Rhoann Half-Royal, is an impossible Fae. Shape-shifter, he carries the blood of Fae water elementals and has a once-in-a-generation healing gift. Which is his blessing, or his curse, depending on how you look at it – his gift is needed among the exiled Fae of the Demesne of Purgatory, and he’s coerced from his beloved solitude and sent on a one-way trip to the human world.
Vietnam veteran Mac McAllan has been through hell in the last few months, and not just because his new C-leg isn’t performing up to spec. He and his partner of thirty-four years, stocky bald muscle bear Lucien de Winter, were working at Purgatory when what the owner said was a gas explosion collapsed the building – and put Lucien into a coma back in August. Now it’s October, and an impossibly handsome stranger says he can heal Lucien. But there’s always a price…
A Fae who wants only to be left alone, SoulShared with a human who’s already found the love of his life… and the Marfach testing their incomplete bond, seeking the key to its watery prison. What could go wrong?
Rhoann’s aching fingers trembled, so fiercely did he try to grip the cracked and crumbled stone on which he lay. Moments ago, a whirlwind had hammered him through a different stone floor, a floor laced with silver-blue light. Light that had become blades, and when the traitor stone had vanished, those blades had severed soul from soul.
And world from world.
Rhoann didn’t need to open his eyes to know how different this place was from the place he had left behind. The smell of dirt, and of something burned — and still burning — seeped into his lungs even when he held his breath. It was dark, but somewhere off to one side of him a bright, raw light source glowed through his closed eyelids, turning some of the darkness a throbbing blood red. Which sorted perfectly with the memory of agony still quivering down his every nerve.
And the noise... Rhoann had nothing to compare it to, no way to understand it. Roaring, like animals, but never pausing for breath, always at a distance, coming closer and then drawing away. Sometimes punctuated by shrill, harsh sounds, and volleys of shouted curses.
The curses, at least, he could understand. Aine had promised him that he would understand every human language — not quite the gift of Air, to understand and speak every language carried by the air, but surely enough for him. And enough for him to be sure the roaring was, at least, no human language.
I have to see.
Rhoann opened his eyes.
He lay on what looked like grayish stone, shot through with the faint and delicate crystal structure of living magick. A crack in the stone ran almost directly under his face, smaller cracks spidering off as if a giant had stepped on the stone.
Aine said nothing about giants.
Alarmed, he raised his head, gasping as abused nerves and muscles protested.
He lay on the floor of a ruin, a square sunk into the floor of a larger pit. Parts of walls sketched out a small room around him; to one side, a gouge in the earth rose up, the height of several tall Fae, only to disappear into darkness. Rubble was scattered across the floor; some looked like stone, some looked as if it might have been other things. The light he had sensed was off to his other side, and was nothing he could look at directly; it was as if a small sun stood on a pylon, humming softly to itself and shining its rays off in yet another direction, to glance off raw earth and broken stone and show him the walls of the larger pit, and a rough earthen ramp angling down into it.
And beside him…
Foam rose up from the earth, crystal and air and smoke and mist, and something very like magick. And there was a faint, glowing tracing on the stone, near one clutching hand, echoes of the light, the blades he had left behind. The skin of that hand felt tight, stretched, burned instinctively, he drew that hand in, sheltered it under his body. Edged himself away from the silver-blue tracery, as far as his aching body would allow.
What there was not... was water. No scent of it, no sight of it, not even the touch of mist on his skin. He had been warned that this would be so. And he had been assured that he could survive. That he would survive; a water elemental could live out of water, just as a fire elemental could live without the kiss of flame. And he, himself, was only half Royal, half Water.
He would survive. Even if something had gone wrong with his transition, as Aine had said it did with all of them. The pain of transition would end. He had a purpose, his healing gift was needed. And once he had found the two he had been sent here to help, he could seek out some lake, some pool, some stream, on this side of the Pattern, and try to find again what he had lost. Surely even humans had quiet waters where a Fae could make a home.
He had spent most of his life alone. This was no different.
Yet it was. It was different.
This way of being alone, this was different.
And it always would be.
Rory Ni Coileain majored in creative writing, back when Respectable Colleges didn't offer such a major, so she designed it herself - being careful to ensure that she never had to take a class before nine in the morning or take a Hemingway survey course. (As a result, she was not introduced to Hemingway kitties until comparatively recently, and is now owned by one, given that nobody warned her.) She graduated Phi Beta Kappa at the age of nineteen, sent off her first short story to an anthology being assembled by an author she idolized, got the kind of rejection letter that puts therapists' kids through college, and found other things to do, such as nightclub singing and volunteering as a lawyer with Gay Men's Health Crisis, for the next thirty years or so, until her stories started whispering to her. Now she's a legal editor, the mother of a budding filmmaker, and amanuensis to a host of fantastic creatures who are all anxious to tell their stories. And who aren't very good at waiting their turn.