Home > Raised in Fire (Fire and Ice Trilogy #2)

Raised in Fire (Fire and Ice Trilogy #2)
Author: K.F. Breene

Chapter One

A light breeze ruffled Agnon’s oily black feathers. The being sat on a hillside, soaking in the pleasant heat of the afternoon sun. Below it, nestled into the golden hills of Northern California, ran a dull gray track. Metal boxes of all shapes and sizes moved along it, bending and twisting with the contours of the land.

Such stupid creatures, humans. Nothing but walking carcasses waiting for their expiration date.

Agnon closed its eyes and homed in on its duty. It had been sent topside for a specific purpose. Rumor had it the Great Master finally had an heir, a daughter powerful enough to rule the vast kingdom of the underworld in his stead—and if Agnon succeeded in validating the rumor, its superior would bestow a higher level of power unto it.

It was getting ahead of itself. It was mere hearsay. Silly babbling from the unworthy, who gained their pale knowledge from witches playing at magic.

Witches.

Delusional creatures. They thought their chalk and their books could contain someone as powerful as Agnon. They chanted and they danced, issuing commands they had no business voicing.

The being shuddered in annoyance and dug its claws into the soft dirt of the hillside.

Regardless, they served a purpose. The being would allow them their misguided conceptions of power. For now.

From the north flew a nearly solid blot of black, twisting and turning against the deep blue of the sky. The throng drifted apart for a moment, revealing the hundreds of individual birds that massed into a whole. It immediately regrouped and changed direction, heading Agnon’s way.

The being could feel the evil emanating from the inky mass, even from the distance. The aswang was old, and it was strong. At least the witches had gotten one thing right.

The birds thrummed by Agnon before altering course, circling.

“Go,” Agnon shouted. “You have your orders. Find Reagan Somerset. Infect her.”

The throng twisted again, now heading east.

The aswang thought it would be passing its evil to a new host. And maybe it would, if the girl Agnon sought was nothing more than a powerful human bound to this world. But if the aswang’s seed couldn’t take root, Agnon would have the first sign that its purpose topside was of utmost importance. That the Great Master had a capable successor.

It was well known that the Great Master longed for a disciple. Only once had it nearly happened, but the mortal elements of the son’s body had finally withered away. That would not be the case with this new find, or so it was whispered. The girl had the blood of gods on her mother’s side, as well as her father’s. That was the secret elixir. She could survive.

If she was genuine.

Rumors of this magnitude had surfaced before. Once in every few human life spans, actually. Mages more powerful than their peers. Humans with the unique ability to summon fire. To feel the pulse of magic. To unravel spells.

In each case, the Great Master had gotten his hopes up. Found the human in question. Taken him or her to the heart of the Dark Kingdom.

The result had always ended in mortal death.

Agnon had been sent to scout the truth of the rumor before the Great Master was informed of the possibility. It was better for all involved. If true, a select few would reap impossible rewards. If false, no detriment would ensue.

Pausing for a fraction of a moment to feel the sun warming its back, something that lasted an hour in human terms, Agnon spread its great wings and launched into the sky.

Below, in one of the cars winding along the California highway, a child looking out of a car window saw a great black bird sail above. “Look, Mom! What kind of bird is that?”

“What’s that, honey?”

But it was too late. The winged creature was already gone, beating the air with its magnificent wings, shedding blue magic in its wake. Waiting for the aswang to infect the girl.

Chapter Two

I dangled my hands to the sides of my chair and stared up at the beige ceiling. My gum popped as I chomped it, taking out my boredom on the watermelon Bubblicious.

“Reagan, we got something.”

I turned my head without raising it from the back of my chair. I wasn’t even slouching at this point—I was trying to lie down without actually dropping to the floor.

Clarissa, the healing witch employed by the Magical Law Enforcement office, or MLE, filled the entryway of my cube. Her frizzy blond hair had long since escaped the bun in which she’d tried to contain it. “We got something. Wanna come?”

“What is it?” I asked, my tone flat.

Her blue eyes blinked within black-framed glasses. She grinned and shook the sheet of paper clutched in her hand. “A partial beheading. They have no idea who did it.”

A jolt of fire ran up my spine, but I didn’t let it push me to sitting. Not yet. I’d been fooled one too many times by promises of magical mayhem wrapped in mystery, only to arrive on scene and discover the MLE agent had embellished the situation. More often than not, it would take all of fifteen minutes to solve the case, and then I’d have to loiter off to the side while the agent did paperwork. It was annoying, especially when the car ride was long and the agent was unnecessarily chatty. Like Clarissa.

Using the papers that Darius, the vampire whom I’d worked a case with a while ago, had made, saying I was a legal—though completely fictitious—person, I’d gotten a full-time job in the MLE office as a peacekeeper. I’d figured I would be out running around, dodging spells and fighting for my life.

Instead, I sat in this boring cube with a mountain of paperwork and an uncomfortable chair. Occasionally I got to get out of the office, sure, but we were encouraged to use our words to pacify the situations, not our fists.

What did I know about using words? That wasn’t my style at all.

What a bunch of hooey.

If it weren’t for the regular paycheck, which kept me from dipping into the stash of cash I’d earned from completing the job for Darius, I would’ve walked away by now.

Well, that, and getting my chance to show up Garret the douche, the single most annoying peacekeeper in the MLE. It was going to happen. I wanted to be the rightful king of the office, the agent everyone thought was the best.

I just needed that chance.

“Who was beheaded?” I asked, watching Clarissa for signs of lying. She was a wily one when she wanted someone else to do her work.

“An older witch. The human police on scene thought it might’ve been done by a sword.”

“What else?”

She hesitated. “What do you mean?”

“What else is there to the case? A sword attack is pretty tame. Was the victim held by a hook in his navel over a simmering pot of mysterious potion or something?”

Things I’d learned about myself during the two months on the job: I got really gruesome when routinely bored.

“Or maybe the aggressor is still on scene somewhere, waiting to strike again?” I continued. “Because that could be a good time.”

“Psycho.” My annoying coworker Garret’s voice carried through the gray cube wall separating our desks. It was my boss Captain Lox’s terrible humor to put our desks so close together.

My hands curled into fists despite my best efforts to remain calm. “I wasn’t talking to you, Garret.”

“Good. I don’t want your crazy rubbing off on me,” he said in an elevated voice. Someone in our cube farm of an office snickered. “You should just shove off. We don’t need your kind around here.”

“And what kind is that, Garret? Competent?”

“Vampire lovers, that’s what kind. You should go back out onto the streets where you belong.”

“I am not a vampire lover, you donkey. I am stalked by the buggers. Not my fault.”

“Whatever, freak,” he said.

“Sticks and stones, Garret. Sticks and stones.” I rolled my eyes. “Speaking of sticks, did you take my advice and head to the gym? I worry about you. One wrong move and a leg might crack. Feebleness has a cure, my dear boy. Movement. You should try it.”

“I move plenty, or hasn’t anyone told you who reigns as king around these parts?”

See? He always had that on me. It instantly invalidated every rebuttal.

“Anyway,” Clarissa said in a slightly shaking voice. The office personnel got a little on edge when Garret and I disagreed. Our past was fraught with…incidents. “There isn’t any potion or anything, no. But he might’ve shown signs of struggle.”

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