Book Four – The Risky Reunion

The Risky Reunion

Prologue

BLARJORD, DYRRHEIM – PRESENT DAY

The demon queen stood atop the stone fortress, surveying the vast expanse that was her desert kingdom.

“Their father’s demise was a necessary step to ensure our control of all three children.” Valdis turned toward her faithful minion. “Inez has more than proven her value by orchestrating that unfortunate event.” She reached out to stroke the massive brow of the brindled hell-hound seated by her side. “And now that she has been grooming Ethan these past two years, the time is right to introduce him to our world.”

“Yes,” Magda gazed with ardent fealty at her blood-thirsty ruler. “I believe the boy is ready to earn his stripes.”

She swiped a wisp of jet-black hair away from her face. The triple suns of Dyrrheim were just setting over the distant horizon, creating an evening breeze that was a welcome reprieve at this scorching time of year.

“But what of his younger brother? It’s obvious he is being prepared to assume his grandfather’s coveted role.”

“Yes, well,” Valdis inhaled deeply, the weighty silver chains draping her chest audibly clinking with the movement. “Jack must be dealt with.” She lifted a manicured hand beneath the ever-present black opaque veil covering the lower half of her face to tap her crimson lips. “Especially now that we know he has been communicating with my granddaughter, Lydia.” She turned and walked toward the stone staircase leading down into the castle. “Ethan is the eldest male, and as such, he is the rightful heir to Edward Mac Paidin’s lands and title.” She grasped the heavy leather lead attached to the dog’s muscled neck and tugged forcefully. “I am prepared to offer Ethan every advantage in this fight.” She glanced at Magda. “Including training and use of my dragons.”

Magda let out a high-pitched shriek of laughter. “Oh, the irony! That Ethan should wield the very beast that nearly killed his father, Ross.”

“The key, then, to bringing Jack into compliance,” Valdis cooed, “will be to draw Jack into our world so that Ethan can put him in his place.”

Chapter 1

Ethan, Inez, Magda, and Valdis

DUBLIN, IRELAND – PRESENT DAY

“What is this place?” Ethan asked as he and Inez materialized into the ancient burial tomb deep inside the earth.

“This is where I train with my mentor, Magda, a powerful, immortal sorceress who wants to meet you,” Inez replied, taking her 16-year-old nephew by the arm and leading him into the cavernous space.

The rock walls gleamed black with wetness from steaming pools and underground hot springs feeding the subterranean area. Ethan smelled sulfur and other musty odors emanating from the enclosure.

Before them, the shape of a woman was emerging from out of the mist. A raven-black cloak covered her from head to foot, obscuring the outline of her body. Only alabaster wrists and hands, with claw-like nails, were readily visible. The sorceress clasped a long, gnarled walking stick as she made her way across the expanse to where the two were standing.

“So, this is your gifted nephew?” The woman’s voice cracked as she came to a stop before them.

The teen dropped low into a sweeping bow in response, extending his right arm wide with a dramatic flourish.

“At your service, Lady,” Ethan said in a husky tone.

“Save your obeisance for the queen, boy,” Magda huffed, and Inez smacked him on the backside, motioning for him to stand upright.

“The queen?” Ethan asked, shoving a hand through his loose bangs and cocking one brow high on his forehead. “What queen would that be?” He squinted at the woman and pressed his lips together into a tight line.

The sorceress turned to glare at Inez. “Have you told him nothing?” She inclined her head and blinked pointedly.

“I thought I’d wait for you to join us,” Inez replied in a singsong voice that made Ethan think his aunt was somehow pleased with herself.

“Hmm..” The sound rumbled inside Magda’s chest, and she turned to once again face the boy.

“Your great-grandmother, Valdis, Queen of the Demons, has decided she would like to meet you.” The witch reached up and lowered the hood covering her head.

Ethan inhaled sharply, pursing his lips, and opening his eyes wide, surprised by the unexpected and youthful beauty of the woman.

“I told you,” Inez laughed, grabbing her stomach. “She’s immortal.” The two women shared a knowing grin, and Ethan stood taller, composing himself.

“My great-grandmother?” He jutted his chin at Magda. “I know nothing about any of my great-grandparents.” He flipped a lock of wavy black hair away from his face.

“That’s the point of our meeting,” Inez told the youth. “It’s time we make some introductions. Come.” The sorceress offered her arm and looked toward Ethan, expectant.

Ethan glanced from Magda to Inez and back.

“Where are we going?” He asked in a smug tone, making no move to accept the invitation.

“We are going,” Magda paused, grinning at her protege, then toward Ethan, “to meet your great-grandmother. She resides in another realm called Blarjord, on the planet Dyrrheim.” She glanced behind her, toward the opening from whence she’d come. “We’ll travel through an underground portal – a gateway between our worlds.”

Ethan’s brows shot up high on his forehead, and he turned to look at Inez, licking his lips and rolling them together.

“Satisfied?” Inez asked.

“Not even close.” His gaze was menacing. “Why should I accompany you into some strange world I’ve never heard of before? Seems pretty risky to me. Travel between dimensions? What’s that going to do to my DNA?” He paused, squinting at the two women. “I mean, what’s the upside? I get to meet some ancient relative. Who cares? She sounds like some kind of blood-sucking freak to me.”

Magda threw her head back and shrieked with laughter that echoed throughout the chamber.

“This one has spunk! I’ll give him that!” The witch spat.

Inez glowered at her nephew.

“Ethan, don’t be petulant. Do you think I’d bring you here if I didn’t believe your powers and abilities would increase substantially as a result?” Her aqua eyes could have pierced a hole through the young man’s forehead. “Taking you to meet Valdis in Blarjord will expand your skills in ways you can’t even begin to imagine.”

“If that’s so, Auntie, why don’t you enlighten me? It’s not that I don’t trust you.” He shifted his gaze to the other female in the space. “But I don’t know this woman in the least. What’s her motive for transporting me to this other world?”

“Nephew,” Inez bristled, “the instruction you have received at my hand only represents the foundation of your magical training. The things you will learn in your great-grandmother’s court will propel your knowledge and power to all new heights. And you’ll want that advantage if you ever expect to reclaim your father’s title and lands at Mac Paidin Manor.”

“I don’t understand.” Ethan began. “How will transporting to some other world help increase my standing and power here, on Earth?” He wagged his head.

Inez inhaled deeply, closed her eyes briefly, then opened them, exhaling slowly.

“As the Queen of Demons in Blarjord,” she whispered between clenched teeth, “your great-grandmother, Valdis, has access to many powerful sorcerers, wizards, mages, and other magic workers. Those with skills and abilities not even conceived of on this wimpy mortal planet.” She cocked her head at her teacher and raised her left brow.

Magda nodded at Inez, then looked at Ethan before speaking.

“And did I mention dragons?” A broad grin spread across her face, and her lashes fluttered.

Ethan’s eyes flew open wide as saucers, and he jutted his chin forward and to the side.

“Dragons?” A smirk began at the corners of his mouth, and his vibrant sapphire-blue eyes flickered with new interest. “Did you say dragons?”

“Oh, yes.” Magda sighed. “Valdis commands a massive army made up of some of the strongest and largest males found anywhere in the universe. Orcs, Trollocs, Undead, Vampires, and Fallen Angels all bow at her feet. And she maintains sole control of the only known dragons in existence.” She raised her arm to him again. “And as her great-grandson and a gifted Mentalist, I believe she has her eye on you to ride her prize beast, Malgore. A massive animal. She glanced down at her waiting wrist.

Shall we?”

Ethan scratched his jaw, shoved a hand into his jeans pocket, then reached out for the woman’s hand.

“Oh, why not? I suppose I’m up for an adventure.” He grinned, and Inez slipped her wrist through his other arm. Together the three of them strode toward a hazy-looking opening at the far end of the cavern.

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