Cursed by Andrea R. Cooper

Cursed by Andrea R. Cooper

Cursed

Legends of Oblivion, Book 1.5
by Andrea R. Cooper

Ebook ISBN: 9781311325259

Brock and Celeste must defeat prejudice and power to continue their journey and find Brock’s twin sister, Mirhana to fulfill the prophecies.

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Chapter One

Call me cursed, for that’s what I am.
I am Brock Rashwe, son of Lieves Rashwe, son of tree elves, and brother to the wind, earth, and water. Among my Elvin people, I became the Vaer—the Bringer of Death—an abomination unleashed from a vampyre’s bite. Yet, Celeste is my blessing through my curse, the light in my darkness.
Chills racked my body and I stifled a shudder. Despite draining a murderer’s kajh, life essence, with my power in the last village, the hunger still tugs inside me. Celeste confirmed he was guilty, but I tasted his glee whenever he’d taken a life and bathed in their blood. The vileness of his deeds seeped into me as though I had done the killings. The copper taint upon my tongue and the adrenaline coursing through me remind me of my actions.
Shadowdancer shifted under me and I pulled Celeste tighter to my chest. Even though he is the largest horse I have known, he acts more human than animal. Instinctively, he seems to sense when there is danger about, especially to Celeste.
Through the forest in the land of humans, we maneuver closer to the barrier of my Elvin home, Tamlon. As we move past a group of fallen logs, my gut clenched at the memories that flooded me. A year ago, the vampyre attacked me here. I gave him a hand to help him rise from the forest floor. I should have known he wasn’t human. His sallow face seemed to glow in the moonlight. Poking out from rags lay his arms and legs, which resembled skin stretched over sticks.
So cadaverous was his face, I’d have thought him dead if he hadn’t moved.
My fingers brush the bite marks on my neck. Now I am cursed from his bite, for neither food nor drink fills me. My lineage both Elvin and distant human tainted by a vampyre did not bring the thirst for blood, but for kajh.
Two days has passed since my last feeding. The hunger grows, soon to be unbearable. Any humans I drained never sustained me for more than a day or two. Other species like Elvin, or magical creatures sated my hunger for weeks. Yet, I am repulsed by the idea of draining one of my own species.
It is only Celeste whom I can touch and not drain out her life. I nuzzle her neck and breathe in her scent: lavender, musk, and a trace of the soapstone she used this morning during our bath.
Celeste, the witch the prophecies told me about, would be my redemption—although, at the time, I thought her death would not only bring my healing-but also rid my people’s land of the poison that choked it from our enemy—the Warloc. The true significance of the prophecy eluded me until after I made the decision not to harm her.
“Will the elders allow me into Tamlon?” Celeste glanced at me over her shoulder. “Aren’t humans forbidden in your land?”
“Your power heals the land breaking the Warloc’s frozen winter and blight corrupting the trees. Both should assure my Elvin elders acceptance of you.”
“Perhaps the rules forbidding contact with humans can be abolished as well.” She leaned back against me.
Summer heat prickled along my neck and flowers filled the land as if in celebration of our defeat of the Warloc.
“Do you think we’ll find much on the prophecies of the four Nivel told us about?” She let Shadowdancer have more lead and we slowed to a walk. “You said the scrolls were vague concerning you become the Vaer and finding me.”
“Yes.” The prophecies and Nivel told me to find the witch, pierce her heart, and draw her blood. Thank goodness I didn’t listen to either of them. “And we learned they can’t be interpreted directly.”
“Since Nivel won’t be with us, is there another elder or medicine woman or someone we could speak with?”
I shook my head. “No. Not that I know of Nivel is the oldest of us and is the only one with magic or prophesy.”
“You don’t have any prophets or even healers?” After she shifted in the saddle, she raised an eyebrow looking back at me. “What happens if one of you is injured?”
“Ah.” I chuckled. “We’ve healers, they just use herbs and such, not magic. As far as prophets … I guess that ability died out long ago as well.”
“But what if the prophesies are outdated or new ones needed? The Warloc’s progeny strives to restore the Warloc with anything she can.” She turned away pulling Shadowdancer’s reins to maneuver around thick underbrush. “You can be certain he’s giving her everything to help her succeed.”
If she does, the world will be thrown into darkness and slavery. And no doubt Celeste and I will be first on her list to kill. “After we visit Nivel’s vaults and make copies of the prophecies of the four, we’ll speak to the council to find out if they know anything. Then we’ll search the village of Vicsburg for Mirhana, my sister.” When Celeste didn’t make a comment, I hugged her and nuzzled her neck. “Don’t worry. We know that you, me, and my sister are three of the four destined to stop the Warloc and his offspring. We only need to discover the fourth.”
“As easy as finding a witch with a garnet dagger?” she teased.
“Easier, because I have you now.”
She patted my hands wrapped around her middle. “Hopefully, we’ll find your sister as soon as we travel to Vicsburg. Maybe she knows about this fourth person.”
My thoughts drift back to Mirhana, my twin. “I have no memory of her, yet the emptiness of having lost something has been constant for as long as I can remember like a missing color in a painting. Nivel said even though she’s Elvin, she has human features. I don’t know why he never told me before that she was alive and raised by witches.” I suppose time will allow me to forgive him.
Shadowdancer balked and slowed to a halt. Not paying attention, I jerked forward against Celeste’s back. “Why have we stopped?”
“Because of the cliffs.” Her fists clenched the reins.
“Cliffs?”
Celeste looked between Shadowdancer’s ears, the landscape ahead burst with clusters of oak, ash, willow, and pine trees blowing in the breeze. This far from the coast, there were no sounds of water. The sky teemed with robins and blue jays chirping at us.
“All is well.” I nudged Shadowdancer with my legs. Did Celeste daydream?
Her horse refused to budge. In fact, he took several steps backward.
This didn’t make sense. The cliffs broke off the land two days journey from here if Shadowdancer galloped without stopping and grew an extra pair of hooves.
I let out an aggravated huff. “Celeste, make this blasted animal move.” We had half a day’s ride to Tamlon, my tree city.
“Where?” She turned to stare at me. Her blonde hair fell in waves like sunlight almost to her shoulders. No longer did she need to wear the makeshift wig of my chopped hair as a disguise. Every day she became more beautiful. Though eighteen, her grey eyes shone with wisdom older than I. “There are cliffs and the ocean before us.”
“Are you dreaming?” I dismounted and stepped forward to the nearest oak.
When I turned to confront her about her illusion, I saw her lean forward in shock. I couldn’t hear her, but she appeared to be yelling my name.
In her hand, the garnet dagger flashed. Crimson light shot forward, blinding me for an instant.
The Elvin barrier kept humans away. She did not know I was safe. To her, it must have looked as if I’d fallen off the cliffs.
“Wait!” I shouted, but she did not end the garnet dagger’s radiant beam. Around me, the land trembled. Pine trees shot up into the air, with their roots hanging like waving fingers. If she did not stop, she’d destroy my people’s land. I forced my legs to walk forward against the wind howling around me. I was only five steps from her, but her power kept me off balanced. I gritted my teeth and trudge on. A willow tree snapped overhead and I dove forward onto my stomach. Half of my body pierced the barrier, the other half hidden.
“Brock?” Celeste screamed as she scrambled off Shadowdancer, with tears running down her face, she collapsed by my side. “What happened? I cannot cure you if you’ve no legs to heal.”
I shook my head at the absurdity of the situation. She thought my legs were gone?
“I should’ve made you stay with me.” Tears sparkled in her grey eyes.
“Nay.” I took a breath to calm my laughter. “What you do not see is the barrier. No human has crossed into our land for thousands of years.”
Her head cocked to the side. Her fingers brushed my forehead as if she checked for fever. Her power surged into me, then flickered, as it accepted her touch and fed on her healing energy. The hunger for kajh in me abated somewhat. But, like a sleeping ogre, it would awaken all too soon with a vicious appetite.
I pushed up on my hands and knees. “See? I’m whole.” Standing, I clasped her hand in mine. “Close your eyes.”
“What of Shadowdancer?”
“I’m not sure how the barrier was created, but I need you to trust me.” I glanced from her to the horse. “Obviously, the illusion affects you both.”
“Aye. I am nauseous every time I view the cliffs.” She released my hand.
“We’ll need to cover Shadowdancer’s eyes.”
With a nod, Celeste dug into her pack. She pulled out her robe from Father Morgan’s tower.
My eyebrows shot up at the brown wool. Celeste and I met as prisoners of Father Morgan and his torturous monks. I thought she’d want nothing to do with her memories there. The years she spent starved, tortured, and then her gift of healing twisted and used to heal those on the brink of death and release so the monks could begin the process again. Soon, the prisoners feared Celeste more than the monks.
“I kept it with me, just in case. Never know when either you or I may need to pose as a monk.”
She tied the material around Shadowdancer’s head. Again, she placed her hand in mine, the other clasping the reins. With a tight smile, she closed her eyes.
I led her forward, holding her free hand in mine. At my laugh, her eyes flew open.
“It’s like another world.” She inched ahead.
“It was better before your magic ripped these trees apart.”
She gasped at the fallen pine and willow. Even the oaks had branches snapped off and scattered across the rolling grass.
Though Shadowdancer’s reins came with her, the horse reared outside the barrier.
“Why can he not come?”
“I don’t know. Wait here.” I went back through the barrier. The monk’s robe lay trampled on the ground underneath his hooves.
At seeing me, he calmed down, but whinnied. I stroked his neck. Since we did not have horses in my land, perhaps the barrier restricted horses as well.
After all, horses meant humans.
He carried both of us easily. Or if necessary, I used my Elvin speed and race alongside them.
I put the monk’s robe over Shadowdancer’s eyes again, and he swished his black tail. I whispered soothing words, while I kept one hand on his neck and coaxed him through the barrier.
Perhaps physical contact maintained by my kind was necessary to bring someone across, as I had done by holding Celeste’s hand.
“There.” I gave the horse a pat and took off the robe. “Nothing to worry about.” I stuffed the robe back into the pack. “Celeste, the elders will punish me for what your magic did to the trees along here.”
She did not answer me. Dread filled me to the marrow of my bones, and I turned around. Only the forest greeted me.
My love was nowhere.

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