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Chapter 1 of White Witch- An urban fantasy novel
A good game of cat and mouse is an excellent way to start the night, assuming you’re the cat.
I peeked around the corner, holding back a giggle. There was just something about creeping about a mundane human residential neighborhood, in the middle of the night, on a mission that was giggle-worthy. I felt at any moment I was going to be tackled by a homemaker with a rolling pin.
The hardest part about tagging a naughty fae is the waiting. Or, maybe, it was the research. Fae are not really like Human. It seemed like there was an infinite variety. Even being half fae myself, I couldn’t keep track of every single species. I wondered if they made an app for that. We just took Darwinism to a whole new level where adaptation was a magical process causing dramatic shifts in creatures and nature. Given my relative youth, in the scheme of things, I was quite the specialist on fae races.
My shape-shifting cohort, Dillian, was watching the bungalow from a better angle than I had, behind some shrubbery I expected and had yet to signal. I had this image of him in panther form; crouched, tail twitching and ready to pounce that had my lips twitching again.
This side of the river had the standard Canadian bungalows seen in any mature neighborhood. The air seemed to have an almost metallic taste to it because naturally, I was sensitive to iron and its alloys even if I wasn’t anaphylactic shock sensitive like some. Let’s say I wouldn’t be hugging Iron Man anytime soon, or moving to any human-dominated cities in Canada. As per the Accords even on this side of the river city bylaws mandated building materials were controlled carefully and those that could not be altered were heavily spell buffered in order to not inflict any undue harm on the ‘locale inhabitants’. We had tracked our prey from a human nightclub and into the quiet residential area. That was quite the feat really. He hadn’t even had a hint of Dill or me. Say what you will, for a half-breed I had some epic glamour skills.
Another difference this side of the river was the wide paved streets rather than the narrower cobblestone ones. Then there was the lack of lush gardens. In other words, where mundane humans populated I found the areas to be stale, as in they lacked a little luster to them. It wasn’t just the residential areas either. The core of Newhaven was sleek glass and steel buildings and everything the fae abhorred in their environment. The place hummed with buffer spells. One day I expected it to just implode. Plant a freakin tree every space or so. Something. We operated better under conditions more favorable to our breed. Like all the Long-Lived races we also liked our urban environments to be aesthetically pleasing and there was a time when humans had too. Humans thought we were adverse to change and granted the Old ones really, really were, but then you would be too if you were allergic to what everything was made out of. Half-breeds and lesser fae, we had the best of both worlds really. Personally, being a half-breed I loved human technology and you’d have to pry my iPhone, computer, and whatnots away from me with aggressive force.
Frankly lingering on this side of the river made me irritable and edgy, which wasn’t the most comfortable state of mind to be in for a stakeout. Also, a little hungry, but that had nothing to do with the damn near itchy atmosphere on the north side. It had more to do with the abrasive nature of the earthly realm and the need to keep our sugar uptake very high to compensate for it. Such a hard thing to do. Forcing myself to consume loads of chocolate was damn near traumatic.
–Dill?– I telepathically sent. I had a mind link spell to all my employees to handle jobs just like this. Was it cooler than walkie-talkies? No. But they had vetoed my walkie-talkie suggestion.
–Our catch here is Peter Meadows, right? This is the same gancanagh we caught not even four years back? Getting it on with Bethany who worked at the Lantern? And Lily May? Also Rose Green I believe.-
I already knew the answer. While Peter was going by some other alias he was the only one of his species I had ever seen in the earthly realm. That only meant others were abiding the rules or out of my territory. Or no one had noticed some human had died because the life force was sucked from them and perhaps went with the ‘heart failure’ routine excuse for unexplained deaths. Now this guy, he got fixated.
–That’d be him. But he was hunting on our side of the river that time. This time he thought no one would care he was hunting in Newhaven.-
–Yeah, didn’t really care for him hunting in my city. A human goes down there and they damn well look for all causes of death, including fae or demon predators. There are always the most problems with the fae who kinda feed off humans. Not that I’d stop them. Everybody’s gotta eat. I prefer cheeseburgers, but whatever.-
In some cases what humans didn’t know didn’t hurt them and we kept rigid regulations to ensure they didn’t know and it didn’t hurt them. However, since we had been out in the open several breeds of demons and fae, the feeder groups, had been discovered to need to feed on emotions, sex, energy, of some sort from other beings, generally humans. We had gone proactive and demonstrated that all that was a renewable resource and the species that required it often gave some benefit in return. Often a benefit some human somewhere would willingly receive. And if there was willing consent there should be no legal reason for there to be a problem. The courts agreed with that one. They also agreed there should be a secondary source of food just in case, such as registered human donors, who would be paid to provide whatever it was said demon or fae needed for sustenance. This was after the vampires started up their registered donor act, which they needed because their donors needed to be psychologically certified. All in all, this said feeders had viable options. They didn’t need to hunt. They most definitely didn’t need to hit one target more than once, if they were a species that caused addiction, such as Peter. It would be different it was consensual and a one-time thing. Or even a one-time thing.
-Yeah, but they have to learn to feed on the down low. They could learn a thing or two from vampires.-
This wasn’t a job that I had plunked into my iPhone. This had come to Dill’s attention recently because the plethora of shapeshifters who worshiped the ground he walked on ratted out this fae predator. What was it about this month? Something had stirred up the malcontents and fae with nefarious dealings. Was someone going around spiking their faerie cocktails? I was getting tips from all my spies about some minor fae or another. It could be worse. It could be the Seelie fae causing troubles. They knew better, though. The Queen made them tow the line. My presence was really just for show.
I flicked my iPhone on and opened a file I had on Peter from the last time. More than a few shots of him from different angles and all of them distorted because of his fae energy. Then I scrolled down to my notes. I knew only the basics of their race as we didn’t have a colony of them living in Haven. Gancanagh looked quite human. Generally all slim, pale and with an ethereal beauty to them, but human enough in outward appearance to appeal to their food. Because they fed off sex I generally thought of them rather like incubi demons. That therein lay the problem. If I combined sex with food I would also be a glutton, but when gluttony could have an adverse reaction on the entire fae race it was an issue. Gancanagh had an addictive aphrodisiac toxin on their skin. It was fine if they limited it to one night stands, as was the unwritten law regarding such encounters. Hells, they were in high demand for one night stands. He’d been warned the last time he got someone addicted to him when the toxin got close to the lethal stage. This would be a strike two and that meant he was going back home. Playtime over.
–You may be a diplomat but it’s your job to tag these buggers so we can keep the fae image all media friendly. A crap job but someone has to do it. Maybe he thought by hunting across the river from Haven would mean he was out of your jurisdiction.-
–Oh, yes, the mighty Accords Council. Like one representative is going to keep all of us in line. And my jurisdiction is way larger than just Haven. Plus Haven is the highest density zone for our people, which means I have a lot more tags per month than any other diplomat. I have to watch the whole region of Seelie live-ins. It is hard to be tracking down every Unseelie who breaks the rules. I mean, breaks the rules so obviously. Technically, the human Inter-racial squad should be protecting Newhaven from anything that goes bump in the night.-
That may sound lazy like I was slacking on the job, but it was also quite true. Unseelie were barely a bleep on my radar, but when we did find out something that could be a potential media nightmare I had to do something about it. At my discretion. Not like my people really had much of a rule book. The golden rule was: do as you please until it was no longer fun. If there was a colony of that particular breed in the area I referred to the Elders to take care of business. Someone like Peter who was a traveling feeder fell to me.
–Look at it this way, Ray, if I’d not gotten that tip things would have been worse, possibly in the news, before Inter ever got you officially involved. They would‘ve called you in to confirm on it, you still would‘ve done the tag, but would also have to write a report for Inter and report the incident to the Queen.-
–Point taken. I do loathe reports. And the Queen.-
People expected a certain amount of devious or mischievous behavior from the Unseelie breeds, but we Seelie had to be seen as pristine. That is why my team handled everything else and I tagged fae offenders and handled Accords business. Besides, it was a rush. It was a great deal more amusing than sitting on the Accords Council for certain.
I lit a nice herbal smoke and took a long drag hoping the tag wouldn’t take too much longer. I had a werewolf informant to see and other more pressing concerns like grabbing a beer. I scrolled through my texts to ensure she had not sent anything to cancel on me, as she often did. Since my informant picked a human club as the meeting place I was wearing uncomfortable low-ride jeans and a skin-tight T-shirt that revealed some of my abdomen. I felt the jeans shifting down to places I didn’t want them to go. I should’ve rethought the whole underwear thing. The things I did to blend. Because I was on the down low I had a glamour designed to make me unnoticeable and bland. I wore it most of the time really. I left all the sparkle and glitter to the more media loving Seelie. I was going for low on the spell radar otherwise, I would’ve worn an illusion of jeans that were sliding down my hips. Was it sexy to be jerking your pants up all the time?
How long did it take this Unseelie fae to get his groove on? I was getting antsy in the pantsy, literally. I preferred to do most of my jobs in two phases. Phase one; target and stalk. Phase two; ambush and tag. This whole stakeout thing took too much of my precious, precious time.
He didn’t even sound the least bit annoyed with my pestering. How disappointing.
–Have you heard from Viv?-
-She sent a text and said that job for Vincent is a done deal.-
I mentally shrugged. –Good. One job down.- I hired my services and my staffs’ to anyone that helped maintain a balance. This made me money, connections and established a safe environment for the fae guests. Dillian ran the show on most of that. He liked playing detective. I had one vamp, a shifter, and one human psychic on staff. I liked to cover all potential job opportunities. Potentially I would expand and maybe hire some fae to help with some of our Accords jobs, but since I lacked ambition that was not going to happen in the foreseeable future. My company really just kept me in touch with different races and communities. There was plenty witch based agencies that took the load of paranormal investigations.
–She also said Simone wanted to talk to you. Something about Nemnae missing? She sounded concerned and said it was brought to her by her Nemnae‘s sponsor, which means her sponsor has already looked.-
-What the hell? Nemnae? That is deeply disturbing, Dill. I was just in the Warrens yesterday doing a tag when I heard stirrings about missing faelings, with nymph breeding. Faelings are very transitory so they could be on a walkabout and no one would much say one word about it to me, yet, but now a full nymph? They don’t just take a stroll off the District when they don’t have landed status yet, and she hasn’t earned hers. She was about a month away before I could certify her. She literally cannot be far from a Faerie portal because she hasn’t claimed any land.-
I didn’t like the sounds of that. Really fae who didn’t have land rights generally didn’t leave the District. If they did they had to have identification on them because they were not citizens. Those trying to get landed status had to go through a long process and had fae sponsors to guide them through the process. Once they were landed, for some fae, which literally meant they attached themselves to some piece of land, tree, or river on an essence level and wouldn’t be able to go far from it. Nymphs were that sort and they lasted at most a few weeks without touching Faerie without claiming a piece of nature for themselves.
–What happens if she doesn‘t get to a portal?-
He ought to know being an ancient panther shifter born in Faerie. But then this was earthside rules and those differed depending on the breed of the fae. Nemnae was a forest nymph and the only way for a forest nymph to bide earthside for any length of time they had to attach themselves to the earth energy that vibrated with them. Either she would claim a tree in an emergency situation or she would not survive.
I sighed and butted out my smoke. -Not the Fade, but she will diminish slowly and it is said to be extremely painful. Eventually true death. She wouldn’t have left of her own accord.-
–Not good. You know what this might mean.-
Yeah, I knew. Either we had some fae haters in the city attacking my people or we had slavers stealing them. If it were the haters they would leave some mark of it. They lived off publicity. Fae traffickers were like human traffickers. More common than the population realized and big money. It had been prolific in Haven when I first became the ambassador of fae relations. It had taken a year but I took them down. It would have taken a great deal less had I had the authority to deal with it on my own. We took care of our own. Unfortunately, I had no authority over humans, vampires or witches. If they were the ones doing the trafficking I had to go with Inter on it. I had to compile evidence they would accept and let them move at their speed. However, if no one knew about a new operation I could take them down before I needed to cooperate.
-Talk to Simone for me. Hit the streets and get in contact with some of our people. I want to know anything they have heard about it.-
-You got it.-
If it was slavers were they sneaking in and taking easy prey or had they already established themselves? I loathed the thought of them infecting my city, but Haven was a large sprawl of narrow streets and underground tunnels. Plenty of places to hide. If they had allies with any other breed they could easily hide in territory I wasn’t welcome in.
–I got movement.-
My heart rate sped up and I grinned. Game on.
-Bout damn time. Although, really, it just shows the boy has some skills.-
-I will take the front. You can come up behind him.-
Being in Newhaven I had to be a little more discrete in my bag and tag methods. Last time I had a chat with Peter I had caught him in the act, which had been remarkably easy.
–Got it. I‘ll paralyze him before he runs.-
-He’s coming out now.-
Dill had scoped Peter out a few times to make sure he was returning to the same woman. Actually, women. He got around. Quite the little man-whore. I peeked around the corner and saw him. Like most of his race, he could alter his appearance on a basic level. He could be blond and blue-eyed if his prey liked her man candy that way. This one appeared to go for a more chocolate hair and eyes version. He looked a little too thin and had effeminate features, but otherwise, he appeared quite human. Peter began to walk up the quiet residential street towards Dill’s spot.
“Occultistis exos turpise,” I whispered out a nice invisibility spell. Nothing grand. Just to hide me from plain sight if he happened to get nervous and look behind him. I started to follow him quietly as possible. I made dramatic stalking on tippy-toe movements stifling a maniacal laugh. What a blast it was to be so sneaky while my prey was oblivious.
–I’m moving,- Dill said.
I picked up my pace and hurried into spell range. I didn’t want Peter to make a run for it. His species of Unseelie had unusually fast reflexes and speed. Also since they altered their appearance on a physical level and not a magical one, they could blend right into a crowd. Totally below my radar. Some Unseelie, with magic in their blood and nature, could not be traced like the spell work of a witch or Seelie. This is why I planned to paralyze him before he even heard me utter the words.
Dill stepped in front of him and initiated conversation. Dillian looked intimidating even if he didn’t mean to. Any fae could sense he was a panther shifter and the fact his eyes remained kitty eyes pretty much meant anyone likely could guess. He wasn’t by any means a large man but he was lean with coiled muscles and packed a mean punch. From the way Peter froze into inhuman stillness I knew he was about to bolt.
I pointed at Peter’s back and said, “Habitum, etiam net permovis pareo.”
The spell spun out of my aura in a flick of light that smacked Peter in the back head. He tottered a bit and then fell over. Timber! Most Unseelie fae had some inborn resistance to some Seelie magic and so I needed to tag him with the spell that would bind him to Faerie for a century before he shook the paralyze. A binding oath spell couldn’t be broken and a hundred year term was the sentence for most crimes. In a hundred years no human would care if they came back.
I rushed over to them, dispelled my invisibility with a quickly uttered trigger word and gave Peter a stern look.
“Naughty boy. Peter, I swear we have had this conversation before.”
“She did, Pete, I was there,” Dill added.
“This is your second offense within the last ten years. You didn’t even try to wait until I forgot. You didn’t even move to another city. That’s dumb, man. Seriously. So you are recalled to Faerie for a sentence of a hundred earth years.”
I should’ve seen it coming, but in my defense, I assumed the spell would affect him fully. I think I was too astonished to move when he leaped at Dill and kissed him. I mean, he kissed Dillian. How could that not shock me for a moment? I might have giggled. Peter pulled away, smirked and then bolted. Obviously, my spell had slowed his speed since he was running at a human speed with a bit of a drunken stagger to it.
“Dill, you alright?”
Dill just gave me a dopey grin. Fantabulous. He was buzzed off the kiss. I was never going to let him live that down.
“We got a ruuunnner!” I yelled, waving one arm enthusiastically. “I’ll be right back.”