The Sea Witch's Redemption - S.E. Smith - ebook
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She expected to die saving her world…. Magna's existence was once filled with laughter, love, and joy. Then a mysterious object fell from the sky into the ocean and she woke to find herself held captive in her own body. As the centuries passed, she became known as the Sea Witch—a creature feared and reviled. Her efforts to save the Seven Kingdoms and destroy the alien creature living inside her should have ended both their lives—instead, Magna wakes to find herself in a strange, new realm. Gabe Lightfoot and his best friend, Kane Field, have stood side by side through thick and thin. Brothers by circumstance, they have seen the darker side of life and lived to remember it, but when Gabe rescues a wounded woman in the waters off the coast of Oregon, they have no idea what’s in store for them.... Internationally acclaimed S.E. Smith presents a new action-packed story full of adventure and romance. Brimming with her signature humor, vivid scenes, and beloved characters, this book is sure to be another fan favorite! Main Content: 211 (6x9) pages, 70,515 words

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The Sea Witch’s Redemption

Seven Kingdoms Tale 4

S.E. Smith

Contents

Acknowledgments

Copyright

Synopsis

Seven Kingdoms/Cast of Characters

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Epilogue

Synopsis of A Warrior’s Heart

Sample of Hunter’s Claim

Additional Books and Information

About the Author

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank my husband Steve for believing in me and being proud enough of me to give me the courage to follow my dream. I would also like to give a special thank you to my sister and best friend, Linda, who not only encouraged me to write, but who also read the manuscript. Also to my other friends who believe in me: Julie, Jackie, Christel, Sally, Jolanda, Lisa, Laurelle, Debbie, and Narelle. The girls that keep me going!

And a special thanks to Paul Heitsch, David Brenin, Samantha Cook, Suzanne Elise Freeman, and PJ Ochlan—the awesome voices behind my audiobooks!

—S.E. Smith

Paranormal Romance

The Sea Witch’s Redemption:

A Seven Kingdoms Tale 4

Copyright © 2018 by S. E. Smith

First E-Book Published May 2018

Cover Design by Melody Simmons

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED: This literary work may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic or photographic reproduction, in whole or in part, without express written permission from the author.

All characters and events in this book are fictitious or have been used fictitiously, and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, actual events, or organizations are strictly coincidental and not intended by the author.

Summary: A Sea Witch, possessed by an alien creature, is cursed to destroy the world she loves unless she can discover a way to destroy it.

ISBN (eBook) 978-1-944125-34-9

ISBN (paperback) 978-1-717309-96-9

Published in the United States by Montana Publishing.

{1. Fantasy Romance – Fiction. 2. Paranormal Romance – Fiction. 3. Action/Adventure – Fiction. 4. Fantasy – Fiction. 5. Romance – Fiction.}

www.montanapublishinghouse.com

Synopsis

Sheexpected to die saving her world…

Magna's existence was once filled with laughter, love and joy, until a mysterious object fell from the sky into the ocean and she woke to find herself held captive in her own body. As the centuries passed, she became known as the Sea Witch—a creature who is feared and reviled. Her efforts to save the Seven Kingdoms and destroy the alien creature living inside her should have ended both their lives—instead, Magna wakes to find herself in a strange, new realm.

Gabe Lightfoot and his best friend, Kane Field, have stood side by side through thick and thin. Brothers by circumstance, they have seen the darker side of life and lived to remember it. When Gabe rescues a wounded woman in the waters off the coast of Oregon, they have no idea what’s in store for them.

It doesn't take long for Magna to learn that she is no safer in this new world than she was in her own. Fearful of endangering the two men who have taken her under their wing, Magna is torn between trying to return to her world or staying in this one.

The choice may be taken from her when strangers come to town searching for clues regarding a series of strange disappearances. Can Gabe and Kane protect her from those who would lock her up to study her, or will the curse of the Sea Witch destroy them as well?

Seven Kingdoms/Cast of Characters

The Seven Kingdoms:

Isle of the Dragons: Ruler Drago

Gift from the Goddess—The Dragon’s Heart

Drago and the dragons were created second.

Isle of the Sea Serpent: Ruler Orion

Gift from the Goddess—The Eyes of the Sea Serpent

They control the oceans and the creatures who live there.

Isle of Magic: Rulers Queen Magika and King Oray

Gift from the Goddess—The Orb of Eternal Light

Their magic is the most powerful on their Isle but begins to fade when they leave it.

Isle of Giants: Ruler King Koorgan

Gift from the Goddess—The Tree of Life

They are capable of growing to massive sizes when threatened.

Isle of the Elementals: RulersQueen Adrina and KingRuger

Gift from the Goddess—Gem of Power

The first created, they have power over the elements: earth, wind, fire, water, and sky.

Isle of the Pirates: Ruler The Pirate King Ashure Waves

Gift from the Goddess—The Cauldron of Spirits

Collectors of all things fine. Fierce and smart, they roam the Isles trading, bargaining, and occasionally helping themselves to items of interest.

Isle of the Monsters: Ruler Empress Nali

Gift from the Goddess—The Goddess’ Mirror

A haven for monsters thought to be too dangerous, rare, or unwelcome in any realm of the universe.

Characters:

Magna: half witch/half sea people. She is Orion’s distant cousin on his father’s side

Gabe Lightfoot – human – works for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife collecting data.

Dr. Kane Field – human – doctor.

Drago: King of the Dragons.

Carly Tate: Banking Associate from Yachats, Oregon

Drago Jr. (DJ): Drago and Carly’s oldest son, 4 years old

Stone: Drago and Carly’s second son, 3 years old

Jenny ‘Roo’: Drago and Carly’s daughter, 2 years old

Theron: Drago’s Captain of the Guard

Orion: King of the Sea People

Jenny Ackerly: School Teacher and Carly’s best friend

Dolph: Orion’s 8 year-old son from his first marriage

Juno: Orion’s 5 year-old son from his first marriage

Shamill: Orion’s first wife – deceased.

Kapian: Orion’s Captain of the Guard and best friend

Kelia: Orion’s elderly nursemaid

Coralus: Kelia’s husband, a royal guard & mentor to Orion and Kapian

Kell: Magna’s father

Seline: Magna’s mother

Ashure Waves: King of the Pirates

Bleu LaBluff: Ashure’s Second-in-Command

Nali: Empress of the Monsters

Gem: Princess of the Elements

Ross Galloway: Fisherman from Yachats, Oregon Mike Hallbrook: Detective for Yachats, Oregon Police Department

Ruth Hallbrook: Accountant and sister of Mike

Koorgan: King of the Giants

Marina: Witch

Isha: Captain of the Guard for the King and Queen of the Isle of Magic; Marina’s older brother.

Magika: Queen of the Isle of Magic

Oray: King of the Isle of Magic

Geoff: Marina’s younger brother

Erin: Marina’s younger sister

Gant: Koorgan’s Captain of the Guard and friend

Cyan: Female Cyclops: Boost’s mate

Boost: Male Cyclops: Cyan’s mate

Meir: Minotaur

Asahi Tanaka – CIA Agent investigating the

disappearances in Yachats, Oregon

Tonya Maitland – Undercover news reporter pretending to be an FBI agent investigating the disappearances in Yachats, Oregon.

Prologue

Centuries Ago:

Magna lay on the soft sand in the secluded cove that she, along with her cousin, and their best friend had found and claimed as their private fortress when they were younger. She released a contented sigh and stared up at the stars. It was truly a magical night. A warm breeze swirled around her, and she dug her fingers into the sand.

“Do you ever wonder if there is anyone else in the world besides us, Orion?” she asked, letting the sand trickle through her fingers

“I don’t know. I suppose so,” he murmured.

Orion gazed morosely out over the water. She turned her head to look at his frowning face.

“Lighten up, cousin. You are thinking too hard about the future again,” she teased, tossing a handful of sand onto his leg. “Accept that you’ll be king of all of this and be done with it. There is nothing else you can do,” she advised with a wave of her hands.

“I hope it is not for a very long time,” he said with a grimace.

Magna sat up. “What, is there more going on in that head of yours? Are you upset because Kapian couldn’t join us tonight?” she asked.

Orion shook his head and looked down at the sand. He picked up a handful and let it filter through his fingers before doing it again. She waited, barely containing a huff of impatience.

Finally, he sighed and spoke. “Kapian went with his father to the Isle of the Monsters,” he said in a distracted voice.

“The Isle of the Monsters! Oh, I would love to go there. We should have followed them. I heard the Empress has these wonderful birds that are made of lightning, and beasts so huge that they make even the Giants appear tiny in comparison. I think we should go there tonight,” she breathed, thinking of all the amazing creatures she had heard about while growing up.

Orion chuckled and shook his head. “Why am I not surprised you’d say that?” he retorted before he sobered.

Magna twisted and scowled at her cousin. “Why not? If we left now we could be there by tomorrow night. Our stags are the fastest in the ocean! I bet we could beat Kapian there. Can you imagine his expression when he sees us?” she said in excitement.

She stood and twirled around to look at Orion. Biting her lip, she gazed at him with a pleading expression that usually worked. Her smile faded when she saw the glum look on his face.

“I can’t go,” he said, rising to his feet to stand next to her.

“What’s wrong? You’ve been all moody tonight,” she complained.

Orion was silent for a moment before he shrugged. “Father and Mother have chosen my bride. I’m to be married,” he said.

“Married! But…,” she started to protest before her voice faded as the realization of what he had said sunk in. “Can’t you tell them you aren’t ready? There are so many things we planned to do still,” she murmured, gazing up at him in dismay.

“Those were childish dreams. It is time to grow up. We each have our responsibilities. Kapian told me yesterday that his father reminded him that I would one day be king. Servants and guards are not the friends of a king. They are there to serve him,” Orion stated in a tight voice.

Magna snorted. “Kapian’s father has a seaworm stuck up his butt. Just because you are a king does not mean you are no longer a person! Even a king needs friends. Besides, Kapian and I know too much about you to act like we never saw you covered in Sea Hares or helped you escape from Coralus when he insisted on extra training lessons, but you wanted to ride Sea Fire instead. Your father and mother are great rulers, Orion, but you will be an even better one because you have a genuine connection with your people,” she declared with a wave of her hands.

Personally, she wanted more from life than being tied down with the weighty expectations of others. She loved exploring the vast world they lived in. Her plans were to visit every kingdom and meet the people who lived there. She wanted to learn everything that she could about the wonders of their world until she felt like her brain would explode from all the knowledge.

Then, I will find new worlds to explore, she thought with excitement.

She wanted to fly like the dragons, do magic like her mother’s people, live in the clouds with the Elementals, and swim to the bottom of the oceans as free as the sea dragons. She was in love with the independence, the differences between the people, and the unexpected treasures that she found when she visited each place.

Orion chuckled. “How did you get to be so smart?” he teased, bringing her back to the present.

She tossed her long black braid over her shoulder, looked up at him, and grinned. “Why from my cousin, the future King of the Sea People, of course,” she retorted just before a light in the sky caught her attention.

She parted her lips in awe. Orion took his cue from her and looked up. A bright flash of light was cutting across the dark sky. They both turned, following the path it made across the sky until it disappeared into the sea with a tremendous splash, not far from the cove.

“I call it! It’s mine,” she yelled, playfully pushing him down onto the soft sand before she laughingly raced for the water.

“Not if I find it first,” Orion yelled after her, rising to his feet as he was overcome by her excitement and the challenge of finding the meteorite first.

Magna raced him to the water. With a loud whistle, she called to her sea dragon, Raine. Diving into the waves, she swam as fast as she could out into the water. Raine swam up under her once the water was deep enough. She grabbed the reins and glanced over her shoulder. Orion was a good two hundred feet behind her.

“Go, Raine!” she encouraged, clinging like a second skin to her sea dragon.

Magna loved the heady feel of the race. She really didn’t care who found the meteorite first – or even if they found it. It was the thrill of the adventure, the fun of riding as fast as they could through the ocean, and the joy of not worrying about things like getting married or becoming a warrior like Orion and Kapian.

Several miles out to sea, the ocean floor dropped from a sheer cliff into a deep canyon. Orion, Kapian, and she had explored the long narrow canyon a few times out of curiosity. Raine swept down along the cliff, turning in a tight spiral that left Magna laughing and slightly dizzy. Orion charged after her, swiftly closing the distance between them.

“Magna, wait up!” Orion called.

She glanced over her shoulder when she heard him. “I called it, Orion!” Magna replied. “This is my treasure.”

She turned back and focused on guiding Raine through the long, narrow crevices that ran along the ocean floor. They weaved through tall ghostly lava vents left over from the volcanoes that had risen up out of the sea to create the islands that would become the Seven Kingdoms. She swayed from side to side in unison with Raine as the sea dragon rounded the columns.

Up ahead, Magna could see a red glow illuminating the darkness. She knew that the canyon dropped again into an even deeper ravine. She had explored the deeper sections once before, but had found them dull and boring. There was not much down there except dark gray sand and volcanic rock.

“Magna, wait!” Orion demanded behind her.

Magna turned to see Orion reining in his sea dragon. She slowed Raine and patted the side of the young sea dragon’s elegant neck when it fought against her hold. She turned on her saddle and grinned at Orion. If he thought that she was going to be tricked into letting him race ahead of her, she and the young sea dragon would show him.

“It isn’t much farther,” Magna replied with a smile. “I can feel it, Orion.”

Orion shook his head and frowned. “I don’t like this, Magna. Something is wrong,” he said, glancing around at the tall, rugged cliffs not far from the drop-off. “The water doesn’t feel right.”

Magna shook her head and chuckled. Her eyes danced with merriment. She waved her hand through the water surrounding them. It felt the same to her.

“You aren’t afraid, are you?” she teased. “The water hasn’t changed.”

Orion shook his head again and pulled back on the reins of his sea dragon. “No, there is something very different about it,” he said in a slow measured voice. “We should go back.”

Magna’s face crumpled with disappointment, and she glanced back over her shoulder toward the dark crevice with a look of longing. While she wanted to see if they could find the meteorite, she knew that if Orion said the water felt different, then there was something wrong. Pushing aside her disappointment, she reluctantly nodded.

“Okay,” she muttered with a sigh of regret. “But, I still call it, even if we never found it.”

Orion laughed. “I’ll give you this one,” he agreed with a grin. “I’m still ahead though.”

Magna rolled her eyes. She was about to argue with Orion when a dark shadow rose up from the depths beneath him. Her eyes widened when she saw the mass of dark tentacles reaching for him. Without thinking, she kicked Raine’s sides and rushed toward him in a race to get to Orion before the black mass did.

“Orion, look out!” Magna cried in horror.

Orion yanked the reins in surprise to avoid colliding with Magna’s mount. The move startled his stag, and it bucked. Magna watched in horror as Orion flew over the neck of his sea dragon. His head struck a section of the rock face, and his body went limp. Terrified, she moved on instinct. She grabbed Orion around the waist as he began to sink and pulled him over the saddle in front of her.

“Go, Raine, go!” Magna urged as the tentacles began to close in around them. “Go!”

The young sea dragon, weighted down by two riders, fought in vain to rise above the reach of the creature coming up out of the abyss. Raine cried out in pain when one of the black tentacles grazed her hindquarters, leaving behind a long welt. The frightened sea dragon kicked back, but the ugly tentacles continued to reach for her.

Magna realized that if she didn’t immediately do something, they would all be lost. Sliding off of Raine, she slapped the sea dragon on her hindquarters. The sea dragon bolted upward and away.

A strangled scream of pain and terror slipped from her lips when a tentacle wrapped around her slender ankle. Searing pain exploded through her and began spreading up her leg. She struggled to break free, but more of the creature’s tentacles wrapped around her, pulling her struggling body down into the abyss.

She reached up, grappling for a hold on the rock wall of one of the lava vents. Her palms were shredded by the sharp rocks. Blood from her torn flesh mixed with the water. Anguish filled her when she realized that there was no way she would be able to break free. The grasp around the lower half of her body was slowly moving upward, consuming her.

“No!” she choked.

Despair filled her as she watched Raine disappear with Orion, still unconscious, on her back. The black sludge was rising higher and higher. She felt like she was on fire instead of surrounded by water. Fear gave way to a certain knowledge that all her dreams would never be realized, because she was about to die.

“Help me,” she whispered, stretching her lacerated hands upward in a silent plea even as her vision began to blur.

Magna twisted and was pulled deeper into the abyss. Shivers wracked her body. The water had never sent a chill through her before. As one of the sea people on her father’s side, the oceans were her home. Now, the frigid temperature of the water seeped into her bones. Whatever held her in its grasp was sliding beneath her skin, scorching the very core of her bones with a fiery cold. The pain burning through her was overwhelming. Her heart thudded violently as she desperately tried one last time to break free.

Please, do not let me die like this, she silently begged as her mind became cloudy and disoriented.

You will not die, a hollow voice whispered through her mind. We need you. We need your world and you will give it to us.

For a moment, Magna saw what the creature was and what it wanted. It would use her to take over not only the sea people but all of the kingdoms. It would spread like a deadly virus; taking, using, and destroying everything in its path until there was nothing left. The alien creature would feed on the misery of every species here. Only when it had used up all of its resources would it move on to other worlds.

“Never,” Magna whispered. “I will… stop you. I bind you to me. Neither you nor any of your kind may live inside another. Let this spell unite us and give only me the power to set you free.”

The spell she wove was powerful, born from fear and the determination to protect those who she loved. If the creature thought to destroy her, it would also destroy itself. She bound the alien to herself, trapping it inside her own body. She could feel the creature’s shock and rage at the unfamiliar magic that slid through her and wrapped around it.

Magna’s lips parted as agony ripped through her. As the spell continued to wrap around the creature, it tried to withdraw from her. Rage poured through the alien when the spell prevented it from leaving her body.

The creature’s tentacles shot outward in an effort to catch up with Raine when it realized what Magna had done. It thought to seek out Orion, to use his body as well. Barely conscious, she felt the recoil as it was jerked back toward her. The spell had held.

A sense of relief swept through her even as she felt the cold surround her heart. With one last effort at self-preservation, she tucked a small part of herself away. To protect that part of herself in a place where the creature could not find her, she used a touch of the ancient magic she had learned from her mother. She would bide her time, and when the creature was least expecting it, she would kill it.

Even if it means destroying myself, she vowed before she slipped away, and the creature took control.

Chapter One

Present day – Isle of Magic:

Relief filled Magna. It was a feeling she had not felt in so long that she almost didn’t recognize the emotion at first. Relief and a sense of peace – another sensation that she had not felt in over a century. Today, she – and the Seven Kingdoms – would finally be free. She had to believe that they would be, because this last shred of hope was all that was keeping her sane. The Goddess would give her the strength she needed, and they would all be free.

Her failures and successes – some new, some old, and some previously forgotten – flooded her until she felt like she was reliving them over and over again. Her heart ached when she thought of how Orion’s father had been forced to banish her to the depths of the ocean over a century ago, but it had gotten the alien entity isolated.

She had hoped that given enough time, it would die, and she would be free of its evil grasp, but that wasn’t what had happened. Instead, the creature had tirelessly plotted the destruction of her world.

When the Isle of the Sea Serpent was no longer easily accessible, the creature had searched her memories until it discovered her fascination with her mother’s home, the Isle of Magic. Tapping into her magical skills, it had forced her to return to the beautiful isle and betray her mother’s people.

The creature had wanted her to kill everyone who resisted. Instead, she had turned them to stone, convincing the creature this was a crueler punishment than death.

When the creature had used her to weave a spell that took the magic from the Isle of Magic’s residents every night, intending to harvest their magic for its own use, she had twisted the words at the last second to include herself – and by extension the alien – among those who would be powerless at night. Enraged by her blunder, the creature had come close to killing her. The only thing that saved her life was the alien’s need for her body.

Over and over again throughout the years, she had tried to take her own life or give others an opportunity to kill her. Each time, the creature had prevented her from destroying them both. Their lives were melded – it could not leave this world, nor could it exist without her.

But finally, her diligence and patience would pay off. Outside of the throne room, she could hear the battle raging. A malicious smile curved her black lips. She ran a trembling hand down her white gown. Deep inside, she could feel the alien’s growing frustration and rage.

The creature, in its thirst for power, had spread itself too thin, just as she had hoped it would. The attacks by the combined forces of Drago, Orion, and the other rulers of the Seven Kingdoms were weakening it, and the alien was beginning to realize that it was in mortal danger.

Magna took a deep breath. She would know when the time was right to strike the final, deadly blow. Almost a century of imprisonment had passed before she’d conceived of a way to defeat the parasitic creature possessing her body. The planning had taken time, and she’d had to wait in the shadows of her mind, carefully manipulating the creature until the pieces fell into place.

She had lost count of the times she had been forced to commit atrocities against the peoples of her world. Her acts of defiance had to be subtle, but they had preserved a small amount of hope that one day she could reverse her spells and free those she had turned to stone.

As the years passed, though, harboring the creature’s dark essence had drained her. Now, her body was frail from the constant stress of fighting the creature, but she fought to retain enough strength to ensure that her spell would be powerful enough to succeed. This would be her one and only chance to destroy the creature. If she failed, the Seven Kingdoms would be doomed.

Taking another deep breath, she mentally considered her plan. In order for everything to work, four things had to occur. The first three had been the most difficult to set up, but it was the last one that was the most important.

The first thing she needed was the magic of dragon-fire. Guilt-ridden grief struck her at the high cost to the Kingdom of the Dragons. The alien inside her had rightly feared that the dragons had the most potential to destroy it, and so a whole species was taken out of the war, all except one dragon.

Dragon-fire burned hotter than a normal flame, and none was more intense than that of Drago, the Dragon King – especially now, fueled by his all-consuming need for revenge. That was why she had refused to turn him to stone so many years ago.

The creature had railed against her, inflicting excruciating pain on her after she had briefly taken control and escaped into the sea. During it all, Magna had desperately tried to convince the alien entity that leaving Drago alone was the smart choice. She had told the creature that only the natural death of Drago would void the spells and wards protecting the famed power of the dragons – the Dragon’s Heart. She’d told it the King of the Dragons would suffer greater pain if they did not turn him to stone. He would retreat into his unbearably empty kingdom and die of loneliness and grief. When the spells lifted, she reasoned, she would safely be able to retrieve the Goddess’s gift to the dragons.

The creature had finally relented, but only because it could sense the tremendous pain and the piercing silence that had followed when Drago had retreated to his lair. She’d gotten lucky that Drago really hadn’t died of loneliness and grief.

She needed Drago’s aid to weaken and destroy the tentacles the alien had posted along the surrounding wall and huge portions of the palace itself, while she focused on the parasitic host that was her master. Only a fire created by a dragon’s magic could injure the alien creature.

Second, she needed the power of Orion’s trident. The electrical energy contained within the trident would disrupt the creature’s ability to communicate with, not only her, but also with the unnatural creatures it had created from itself with the help of her magic, like the Hellhounds and the living vines.

The third element she needed was a weapon not of her world. This had been the trickiest part of her plan. She had opened a portal between the Seven Kingdoms and another world using a spell she had discovered in King Oray’s library. The portal had allowed the arrival of Carly Tate which had resulted in a series of events that had led to today’s final battle.

The final element was the spell she had carefully crafted. The alien had to have a host to thrive. The only way to kill it was to release the bonds she had crafted so long ago, allowing the creature to leave her body. Currently it was incapable of leaving her body – unless she died, and then, she feared, the creature would merely find another host.

Timing was everything. She needed to release her bond on the creature inside her and utter the spell to kill it while the alien was still within a few feet of herself. At the same time, she needed the others to attack the alien, disrupting its powers and distracting it, while continuing to prevent the creature from finding another host. She had to do this while giving everyone else in the room enough time to escape. Anyone remaining with her and the alien would perish from the power of the spell.

There were so many factors which could go wrong that she was beginning to have serious doubts about being successful. She ruthlessly pushed them away. Each horrible thing she had been forced to do, each day of torture she had endured since that night so long ago, and each desperate ploy had led to today. She refused to give up and concede defeat.

She didn’t wince when the doors to the throne room exploded inward, the burning body of a Hellhound collapsing under the scorching heat. From where she stood in the shadows behind the throne, she saw two figures cautiously enter the room. She recognized the woman as a witch from the Isle of Magic, but it was the man with her who drew her attention. He was from the other world, the one that Carly Tate had come from, and the one who would unwittingly help her machinations succeed.

She lifted her chin and breathed deeply in an effort to quiet her eagerness. Orion and Drago were not far behind the man and witch. Inside her, she could feel the creature trying to command its minions to coalesce in the throne room. There were few remaining. Vast sections of its vines stationed outside and most of the Hellhounds had already been destroyed. The creature’s extensions who persisted inside the palace came closer to the throne room, covering the ceiling with a thin film of black ooze.

Prepare to attack, the malicious voice whispered in her head.

I am ready, she dutifully replied.

You will unleash all of your power on them. Our combined strength will not be defeated, the alien vowed. Without their leaders, the Kingdoms will be ours. It is time to destroy them all!

Yes, Magna agreed.

Do not fail me this time or the pain you feel will be unlike any I have given you before, the alien warned.

I will not fail, Magna quietly vowed.

The creature sensed the resolve inside her, unaware of the true reason behind it. The alien’s arrogance was a tumor, rapidly growing out of its own control, much like its tentacles. Keeping a tight grip on her own emotions, she patiently watched and waited for her opportunity. Her eyes drifted to the throne where King Oray, the King of the Isle of Magic, sat. His body was unnaturally stiff and frail; the spell he had cast to protect himself and the kingdom was slowly draining the life from him. Once again, a shaft of remorse swept through her at the pain and suffering she had been forced to cause.

Taking a deep breath, she waited until the witch and man neared the throne before she stepped out from behind it. She inwardly grimaced at the high-pitched laugh that escaped her and echoed throughout the room. Sliding one hand along the back of the throne, she drew a long, curved dagger from the sheath strapped to her waist.

The witch was the first to straighten when she saw her. Magna caught and held the woman’s intense gaze.

“Release him, Sea Witch,” the female demanded, her face and voice filled with fury. Magna’s head tilted to the side and a sardonic smile twisted her lips in a silent reply. “We are not alone. The Sea King and Drago have joined with my people to stop you.”

“I tremble at the mere thought,” Magna drawled sarcastically, looking at the woman with utter disdain.

She turned her head slightly to the side so that the witch couldn’t see the flash of grief in her eyes. She focused her attention on the bent form of King Oray. He looked ashen and listless. His continued fight against the alien had drained him of most of his power. It was time to free him and the others as well.

It shouldn’t be too difficult to convince the others to attack me, she thought with morbid self-loathing.

Taking a deep breath, she returned her gaze to the woman and raised the curved dagger. With a quick motion of her hand, she cut a thin, shallow line across the king’s throat. The alien inside her grew excited by her bold move. A soft hiss slipped from her parted lips when the creature surged forward for the next action.

Not yet, she murmured.

Kill him! He will be the first to die. I no longer need him, the alien entity ordered.

If I kill him, the others will have no reason to come closer. We must wait until they are all close enough before we strike, she insisted, keeping the swirling mass along the ceiling in her peripheral vision.

Magna released another shrill laugh before she addressed the witch. “The Sea King is bound by the laws of his people. He is weak and unable to harm me,” she goaded with a shrug of one slender shoulder.

“He might be, but I’m not,” a loud voice retorted from the entrance to the throne room.

Her eyes shifted to the doorway. Inside, she felt the alien recoil. She could almost taste the creature’s fear and craving for the overwhelming power of the dragon. She took in Drago’s massive form with a surge of satisfaction and anticipation.

Drago stood in the center of the now destroyed door frame, his face and body taut with rage. Magna bit her lip. The alien inside her was still too strong for her to release her bonds. Before Drago’s fire could be effective enough, she needed the last element of her plan – Orion and his trident.

“It is time to die, Sea Witch! I have waited far too long for this moment. You should be thankful that I will make it swift. I would love nothing more than to make you feel a measure of the agony that you have caused others,” Drago sneered as he stepped into the room.

His eyes blazed with a ghost of his dragon-fire. Vengeance burned so brightly within him that his chest glowed a dark, blood red through the fabric of his shirt. His features were hard, and his long black hair flowed around him as he strode toward her. The intent was clear in his eyes – death.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the movement of long threads of the black, thorny tentacles reaching downward to wrap around Drago. Her hand reached out in warning, and a cry slipped from her lips.

“Watch out!” she cried.

You defy me! the creature hissed inside her.

It was time. She could not wait any longer.

“Goddess, please… give me the strength I need to finish this,” she whispered.

Her eyes teared with the sudden intense pain that swept through her. Fire burned through her veins. Her lips parted in a scream of agony when another intense wave hit her, but she swallowed it. She had to do what she could to distract the alien so that Drago or one of the others could strike at her.

A shuddering breath hissed from her. “Yesssss! You will never be able to defeat Drago and Orion,” she whispered to the being inside her as she fought for control.

I will destroy them all. Then, I will take care of you, the creature inside her hissed in fury.

“I… will not… allow you to harm… them,” she vowed.

She fought, but the creature forced the hand holding the knife to rise. She knew exactly what it was intending to do – kill King Oray. She wrapped her other hand around the wrist of the hand holding the knife, pushing against the movement with both hands.

“No!” she screamed, her body twisting away from the King.

The alien creature sent shards of electrical charges through her body, and her body bowed, her heart stuttering. She straightened like a puppet on a string and the knife again headed for the king’s throat. At the same time, the sound of an explosion resonated throughout the chamber. Magna felt a mind-shattering pain rip through her left shoulder. The knife fell to the floor as the force of the blow violently jerked her body backward, forced to turn from the impact on her shoulder, and she collapsed onto the floor.

She lay dazed on the cold stone near the throne. She could feel the warmth of her blood seeping through her clothing and beginning to pool under her. As she panted, the alien strained to free itself from her body, and she instinctively tightened her hold on the spell binding it close to her, but the alien surged through the spell-less path which had been created with the weapon’s gaping wound.

She issued a long, pain-filled gasp and her body arched as the dark entity poured out of her body through the wound in her shoulder. A shudder ran through her and she watched as the black cloud rose above her in a swirling mass. She sank back to the floor as the last of the entity vacated her body. A strange feeling, as if there were a huge, cavernous void inside of her, left her feeling momentarily confused and weak.

The feeling was quickly replaced with one that was all too familiar – fear. It burned through her, leaving her fingers and toes numb with it and her lungs constricted when she realized that the alien was now searching for a new host. It was too soon for it to be unbound; Orion hadn’t yet hit her with the Trident’s power. The alien was still fully in control of all of its own power.

The creature turned its attention to King Oray. Lifting her right hand, she whispered the spell that had bound them. Her body jerked when the spell hooked the entity, compelling it away from the frail King.

On the other side of the throne, she heard her cousin’s voice. Tears filled her eyes at the sound of it. There was so much she wanted to tell him. She would give anything to be able to beg for his forgiveness for everything that she had been unwillingly forced to do.

“Fire on it,” Orion shouted.

Release me, the alien hissed, wrathfully twisting and turning as Orion and Drago attacked it. I will destroy you!

Magna ignored the threat, knowing that she would be the one doing the destroying. She held the slender thread of connection between herself and the alien that had controlled her for the last two centuries with an iron will born of hope, desperation, and grief.

Closing her eyes, she focused on that link, slowly wrapping a second spell around it. The spells would hold the alien suspended in place above the throne, preventing it from moving away from her while also stopping it from returning to her body. A shudder ran through her when she felt the touch of a warm hand under her chin. She opened her eyes and stared up at the man who had injured her with his strange weapon. Tears slowly trailed down from the corners of her eyes at his look of concern.

“Go!” she ordered, licking her dry lips. “You have to… go,” she repeated, forcing the whispered words past the tight lump in her throat.

The man shook his head. “Not without you,” he replied in a grim tone.

He started to slide his arm around her shoulder and lift her. Her face contorted at the intense pain threatening to drown her in its fierce waves. Her right hand reached up to push against the man’s shoulder. She shook her head in regret.

“What is your name?” she asked, needing to know.

The man gave her a startled look. “Mike Hallbrook. I have to get you out of here,” he replied with a frown.

Her gaze moved to the ceiling above them again. He turned his head to see what she was looking at. Now was the time to strike. The creature was being torn apart by Drago’s dragon-fire and the disrupting bolts of power from the tridents of Orion and his men. She would kill the alien creature once and for all.

“No,” she said with a slight shake of her head when he started to lift her again. “No, I know how to… how to kill it now. Go! What I have to do will kill you all if you don’t. Go, Mike Hallbrook. Save my king and the Isles. Take the others with you. There is no hope for me. I would be sentenced to death anyway. Let me at least have some purpose to my life,” she pleaded in a tired voice.

She watched Mike’s eyes darken with indecision. Fear and determination gave her the strength she needed to push him to the side. She unsteadily rose to her feet. Taking a deep breath, she pulled on the last dwindling ounce of her strength and lifted her head. She ignored the agonizing pain in her shoulder as she raised her arms above her head and began chanting in a clear voice filled with determination.

Magic flooded her body, and she could feel the energy from the Isle of Magic seep into her, giving her the added strength she needed to cast the final blow that would free them all. Bright red blood ran down from her shoulder, staining the front of her white gown. She ignored everything but the magic of the spell building inside her and the black swarm of the alien near the ceiling.

I will not fail, she vowed to herself.

In the background, she could hear the urgent sound of Mike yelling for Drago and Orion to retreat. Mike had King Oray over his shoulder and was hurrying toward the burnt-out entrance of the throne room. Drago and Orion stopped their attacks to leave with him, and the alien refocused all its remaining strength to fighting against her hold.

“Let the light of truth guide me and be my sword,” she chanted.

Bright light flared out from around her as the spell she cast ignited the air in the room. Surging waves of power rolled through the room like a thick fog, sucking the air out of it. She could hear the sizzle of the alien’s body as the power swept over it, igniting its body with the bright light.

The creature struck out at her, but the blinding power of the light radiating from her prevented it from reaching her. Magna felt her body rising above the stone floor. Closing her eyes, she thought of the vast ocean that was her home and wished its cool liquid was surrounding her, extinguishing the flames that were scorching her tired body. As the air around her blazed with power, she felt her body being ripped apart until the void of blackness finally gave her relief.

It is over, she thought. I am free.

Chapter Two

Off the coast of Yachats, Oregon:

Gabe Lightcloud powered his thirty-two-foot trawler along the rocky coast. He took a deep breath of the crisp salty air. Today had been a good day.

He glanced at the time on the depth finder. No wonder my stomach is protesting, he thought. It was nearly seven o’clock in the evening. Turning the wheel, he started the long trip back to the docks. He had left the house just before sunrise and had spent most of the day doing catch and release for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A new program at the University of Oregon had given him an opportunity to combine work with research. The University of Oregon’s grant was part of an on-going research program backed by the USFWS to study the migratory patterns of Chinook Salmon.

As far as Gabe was concerned, he’d been assigned the fun part of the research – tagging, releasing, and not having to deal with people. He enjoyed the peace and quiet of working offshore. The sound of the motor, the waves slapping against the hull of his boat, and the high-pitched cries of seagulls hoping for an easy meal were his companions. He preferred them above anything else. He rolled his shoulders, glad he had finished his last catch for the day.

He hadn’t had anything to eat except an egg sandwich and a thermos of coffee this morning. He grinned as he stared out at the water. A nice shrimp dinner sounded pretty good right about now. If he couldn’t snag any, he’d settle for a nice grilled halibut. His mouth started watering at the thought of them cooking on the grill. Either one would be a welcome treat and was just what he needed to quiet his rebelling stomach. Hell, he might even be nice and see if Kane wanted to come over to watch the football game.

He turned the wheel when he saw a school of fish on the depth finder and pushed the throttle to neutral. Stepping out of the wheelhouse, he released the lock on the winch and lowered the net into the water. He made sure it wasn’t tangled before he turned back to the helm. Checking the settings on the depth finder, he searched the bottom for any structures that might be an issue before he pushed the throttle forward. He decided he’d troll for half an hour before pulling everything in and heading back home.